As is the case every year, the PFF Analysis team gets together to discuss who they think were the best players in the NFL last season. The end result is a list of the Top 101 best players in a process that strains friendships, features many banging against tables and ever so occasionally sees some obscenities thrown out.
You see our analysts take pride in what we do and aren’t just going to put something out in a flippant fashion. This is our awards show where we do our best to acknowledge the performances of NFL players that deserve recognition.
Now before looking at the list there are some important things to understand regarding the criteria for selection:
– This list is based solely on 2014 play. Nothing that happened in previous years or may happen in the future is accounted for. This isn’t about class or talent, it’s about performance throughout 2014.
– This list is created with an All Positions Created Equal mantra. So you won’t see 32 quarterbacks heading the list — even though that is the most valuable position — instead seeing how guys played relative to what is expected from their position. You might disagree with this for doing a Top 101 list, which is your right, but this is how we’ve done it for the past four years and will continue doing it so that every player has a fair shot at getting the respect they deserve.
– A repetition because it’s often the most misunderstood; this is not a list about talent or a lifetime achievement award. It is solely, 100% based on what happened between the opening kickoff of the 2014 regular season and the final snap of the Super Bowl this past February. Anything outside those dates does not matter.
90. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts (92nd)
Hilton started the season like a man possessed, but tailed off a little as the weeks went by, with 64.4% of his yards coming in his first eight games of the season. Still the Colts' top target had a fantastic year as the go-to guy for Andrew Luck, ending with seven games of triple digit yardage including the playoffs, with an ability to take the top of a defense.
Best Performance: Week 6, IND @ HST, +4.3
Key Stat: 528 deep yards were fifth in the league.
89. Orlando Scandrick, CB, Dallas Cowboys (Unranked)
There are higher draft picks and more costly free agents on the roster than Scandrick, but no cornerback on the Cowboys played as well as the former fifth-rounder out of Boise State. Despite missing the first two games of the year, Scandrick had a career season on his way to allowing just 9.9 yards per reception while picking up two interceptions and five pass break-ups.
Best Performance: Week 3, DAL @ SL, +2.5
Key Stat: Didn’t allow a single touchdown all year.
88. Joe Staley, OT, San Francisco 49ers (54th)
Staley continues to be about as good a run blocking tackle as there can be, with his grade bettered by only one. That isn’t to discredit his pass blocking which remains a cut above the majority of the league where he only graded negatively four times all year. The troubles in San Francisco shouldn’t take away from another top year for the eight-year pro.
Best Performance: Week 5, KC @ SF, +6.8
Key Stat: Graded in the green (+1.0 or above) in nine of his games.
87. Robert Quinn, ED, St. Louis Rams (2nd)
A big fall for Quinn who couldn’t replicate his monstrous 2013 season. That would have been some achievement, but Quinn was still able to bring plenty of pressure on his way to the sixth highest pass rushing grade of all 4-3 defensive ends. He wasn’t as consistent as we’ve seen him be but there’s no reason to think he hasn’t got it in him to push back up the list next year.
Best Performance: Week 11, DEN @ SL, +4.6
Key Stat: 49 quarterback disruptions were 32 less than in 2013 but still 13th most of 4-3 defensive ends.
86. Charles Johnson, ED, Carolina Panthers (Unranked)
Johnson is back on this list after missing it in 2013. He had to up his game with Greg Hardy suspended and so he did with the fourth-highest pass-rushing grade of all 4-3 defensive ends. The interesting thing about Johnson is how good he was in the second half of the year. He had 26 QB disruptions in the first half of the season and 37 in the second half, with his latter performances resembling his best.
Best Performance: Week 15, TB @ CAR, +6.4
Key Stat: His 72 quarterback disruptions were the most of any 4-3 defensive end.
85. Ryan Kerrigan, ED, Washington Redskins (Unranked)
The often overlooked Redskin makes a debut appearance on this list with a year that deserved more praise than it got in some quarters. He was far from destructive against the run but he was incredibly consistent rushing the passer, earning a positive grade in all bar of the games he played in as another injury for Brian Orakpo forced him to be relied upon once again.
Best Performance: Week 6, WAS @ ARZ, +6.1
Key Stat: Only two edge defenders had more quarterback disruptions rushing the passer than Kerrigan.
84. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts (Unranked)
It still holds true for Luck that no player has quite the extremes in terms of what their highlight reel and lowlight reel produces. Indeed it’s a testament to just how good he can be at times that despite an adjusted accuracy percentage that was only 16th in the league his ability to make the big time throws and play pushed him up to ninth overall in our passer grades.
Best Performance: Wild Card, CIN @ IND, +5.7
Key Stat: 1,365 yards on passes aimed over 20 yards in the air were most of all quarterbacks.
83. Shariff Floyd, ID, Minnesota Vikings (Unranked)
This is the kind of player the Vikings were expecting when they spent a first round pick on him in 2013. Floyd only played 587 snaps yet did enough with those snaps to earn the fifth highest overall grade of all 4-3 defensive tackles. Particularly impressive against the run, it’s worth noting that Floyd scored a positive grade rushing the passer to show himself a fully complete player.
Best Performance: Week 11, MIN @ CHI, +5.8
Key Stat: Graded positively in all bar four games.
82. Jurrell Casey, ID, Tennessee Titans (27th)
Casey remained productive despite the Titans scheme shift, even if he couldn’t quite match his phenomenal 2013 effort. The former third-round pick showed, though, that his third year in the league was no fluke as he continued to bring the heat as a pass rusher, with his 44 quarterback disruptions fifth most of all 3-4 defensive ends. Regardless of front, he’s a lynch pin of any defense.
Best Performance: Week 1, TEN @ KC, +6.9
Key Stat: Had the third highest pass rushing grade of all 3-4 defensive ends.
81. Glover Quin, S, Detroit Lions (Unranked)
Quin continues to be everything the Lions had hoped since they lured him away from Houston. A versatile safety, it’s his excellence in coverage that really helps him stand out where he earned the third-highest coverage grade during the regular season of all safeties. In addition to this his positive in run defense highlight a guy who can do it all.
Best Performance: Week 16, DET @ CHI, +3.5
Key Stat: Seven interceptions were most of all safeties.
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