Rankings Pro Football Focus Top 101 players from the 2017 NFL season

Top 101 players from the 2017 NFL season

Dec 3, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsThe 2017 season is now entirely consigned to the history books, and while we reflect on one of the greatest Super Bowls in league history, we can also begin to reflect on the performances of all the players that didn’t make it that far.

It’s time to release the Pro Football Focus Top 101 – the 101 best single-season performances regardless of position – and credit the best players from this year.

At it’s heart, PFF is a site for player evaluation, and the 101 is our chance to acknowledge and praise the best players and performances from the 2017 season (including the playoffs).

Here is a quick reminder of our basic criteria:

  • This list is based solely on 2017 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 the 2017 NFL season.
  • This list is created with an “all positions are created equal” mantra. So, you won’t see 32 quarterbacks heading the list — even though that is the game’s most valuable position. Instead, we take a look at how guys played relative to what is expected from their position.
  • Unlike PFF’s awards, the 101 factors in the postseason, so some players who won PFF awards may find themselves jumped in the 101 by rivals who had a playoff run worthy of a change in ranking.
  • Disagree with the players we’ve included here? Let us know on Twitter (@PFF).

1. Aaron Donald, DI, Los Angeles Rams

Top 101 appearances: 4

Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams, PFF Top 101

The best player in football this season when you include the postseason was Aaron Donald, whose unrivaled pass-rushing skills also earned him PFF’s best pass-rusher award. Donald generated 91 total pressures, which led the entire league, and he did that while rushing from an interior alignment (where pressure is harder to generate) and missing two games over the season. Needless to say, Donald had the league’s best pass-rushing productivity score of 14.8, and in the playoffs he had one of the most spectacular halves of football you will ever see, generating 10 total pressures before the Falcons completely changed their gameplan at the half to try and take his influence out of the game. Donald’s dominance changes games, and he rightfully takes his place atop the PFF Top 101 for the second time in his career.

PFF Elite Stat: Donald led all interior defenders with 91 pressures in the regular season. That figure was so dominant that Geno Atkins, who ranked second with 70 pressures, was closer to eighth-highest Fletcher Cox (50) than he was to Donald.

2. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

Top 101 appearances: 8

Tom Brady, New England Patriots, PFF Top 101

Tom Brady’s playoffs were routinely dominant. The Patriots ended up coming a play or two short in the Super Bowl, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that Brady was once again excellent, and did so with such ease that it just seemed routine and expected. Even in the Super Bowl, arguably his biggest negative play was in failing to catch a pass thrown his way on a track play from Danny Amendola. Brady this season was the game’s best quarterback by some distance, and did so at the age of 40. Brady led the league in passer rating under pressure at 95.8, even including the playoffs, more than 10 points higher than any other passer. In fact, Brady was around 10 points better than the league average in passer rating on all throws.

PFF Elite Stat: Brady led all quarterbacks with a 96.6 passer rating when under pressure in the regular season, more than 12.0 points higher than the next highest quarterback.

3. Harrison Smith, S, Minnesota Vikings

Top 101 appearances: 3

Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings, PFF Top 101

The winner of PFF’s Dwight Stephenson Award for the best player in the regular season regardless of position, Harrison Smith drops a couple of spots in the list due to the playoffs, as where others were spectacular, Smith struggled (like the rest of the Vikings defense) against the Eagles to end his season. That shouldn’t take away from how spectacular he was in the previous 17 games though, as he was the game’s best safety and the joker that allowed the Vikings defense to be so multiple schematically and so good overall. Smith played all over that defense, making plays as a strong safety, deep-lying free safety and a slot corner, giving the Vikings a legitimate matchup weapon on defense.

PFF Elite Stat: In the regular season, Smith was top-15 among safeties in run-stop percentage, tackling efficiency, yards per cover snap allowed and pass-rushing productivity.

4. Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks

Top 101 appearances: 4

Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks, PFF Top 101

Bobby Wagner was one of the few players whose play jumps off the screen when you watch tape for most of the season for the Seahawks. With injuries ravaging that defense, Wagner was the one player bringing it all together in the middle and keeping them playing well despite everything. He didn’t miss a tackle until the final three weeks of the season, when he played through injury and then missed three in three games to end the year, but his dominance when healthy was unrivaled. Wagner was in real contention to top this list until he picked up that late injury that depressed his play over those final three games, but over the season overall, he was the game’s best linebacker and one of the best players to see the field.

PFF Elite Stat: Wagner was a top-10 inside linebacker in run-stop percentage, pass-rush productivity, tackle efficiency, and in average cover snaps played per reception allowed.

5. Casey Hayward, CB, Los Angeles Chargers

Top 101 appearances: 3

Casey Hayward, Los Angeles Chargers, PFF Top 101

Casey Hayward may be the game’s most underrated player, and has been almost from the get-go in his NFL career. His rookie season was one of the most phenomenal performances we have seen from a rookie, and his expanded role with the Chargers has only seen him take his game to another level. Hayward was the highest-graded corner in football by a distance, with an overall PFF grade of 96.4, more than four points higher than any other player at the position. Hayward allowed just 42.7 percent of balls thrown his way to be caught this season, the best mark among starting corners, while intercepting four passes and breaking up another 15.

PFF Elite Stat: Hayward tied for fourth among cornerbacks with an average of 17.7 cover snaps played per reception allowed, and every player ahead of him was targeted at least 15 times less than he was.

6. Cameron Jordan, Edge, New Orleans Saints

Top 101 appearances: 4

Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints, PFF Top 101

If any player was robbed by the Minneapolis Miracle, it was Cameron Jordan, whose dominant second half performance in particular was the driving force behind the Saints stifling the Vikings’ offense and putting them in position to advance, but Jordan had done that all season long, cementing his status as one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. Jordan pressured the quarterback 13 times over two playoff games, including eight in that Vikings game, to go along with 74 total pressures over the regular season. He was the highest-graded edge defender in the league, ending the year with a mark of 96.2.

PFF Elite Stat: Jordan was eighth among edge defenders with 74 total pressures during the regular season.

7. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Top 101 appearances: 6

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers, PFF Top 101

Antonio Brown has been rivaled at times for the title of the game’s best receiver, but he reinforced his claim to that crown this season and was incredible for the Steelers all year, earning MVP talk before he went down hurt against the Patriots in Week 15. Brown led the league in receiving yards despite missing the final games of the season and also made multiple spectacular plays over the season, ending the year with an overall PFF grade of 93.9.

PFF Elite Stat: Brown was second among wide receivers with 2.87 yards per route run.

8. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

Top 101 appearances: 6

Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots, PFF Top 101

There may be no more unstoppable force on offense than Rob Gronkowski, who became the single biggest focus of opposing defenses trying to slow down the Patriots for most of their biggest games down the stretch and into the playoffs. Gronkowski was the player that destroyed Pittsburgh’s new man-coverage game plan when the two best records in the AFC met late in the season, and he was the player that the Titans couldn’t match up with in the playoffs. In the Super Bowl, Gronkowski was handled relatively well, and still caught 9-of-15 targets for 116 yards and two touchdowns.

PFF Elite Stat: Gronkowksi led all tight ends in yards per route run (2.40) during the regular season.

9. Calais Campbell, Edge, Jacksonville Jaguars

Top 101 appearances: 6

Calais Campball, Jacksonville Jaguars, PFF Top 101

No new acquisition made a bigger impact on his new team than Calais Campbell, who helped transform the Jaguars’ defense into one of the game’s most formidable units. Campbell was an interior player entirely for the Cardinals, playing more 3-technique than any other position, but for the Jaguars he transitioned to an edge defender primarily and generated 73 total pressures and 28 defensive stops in the run game. Campbell was dominant throughout the season and had the best season of his career in a new environment.

PFF Elite Stat: Campbell tied teammate Yannick Ngakoue with dual pass-rush productivity scores of 12.8, but Campbell (28) severely out-produced Ngakoue (5) in run stops.

10. Von Miller, Edge, Denver Broncos

Top 101 appearances: 7

Von Miller, Denver Broncos, PFF Top 101

The Denver Broncos were largely an afterthought in 2017, failing to contend with a disastrous quarterback situation, and that’s led a lot of people to overlook Von Miller, who was as good as ever. Miller led all edge defenders with 83 total pressures and was narrowly edged into second place by DeMarcus Lawrence in pass-rushing productivity when a per-snap measure is factored in. As always, Miller isn’t just an edge rusher, and actually had the highest PFF run-defense grade (94.4) of any edge rusher, thanks in part to 31 run stops, the second-most at the position.

PFF Elite Stat: Miller was third among edge defenders in pass-rush productivity (14.5) and was first in total pressures (83).

11. Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers

Top 101 appearances: 5

Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers, PFF Top 101

Luke Kuechly remains one of the game’s best linebackers and best defenders period. 2017 wasn’t the best season of his career, but it was still one of the best seasons of any player in the game, and that’s a testament to just how good he is. The average NFL linebacker gives up a passer rating of 104.0 when thrown at, but Kuechly was over 30 points better at just 73.5, thanks to snagging three interceptions, breaking up another three passes and allowing just one touchdown from 62 targets. He also notched 51 defensive stops and wasn’t beaten for a reception longer than 25 yards all year.

PFF Elite Stat: Kuechly was second in run-stop percentage (11.3) and ranked tied for eighth in yards per cover snap (0.75) during the regular season.

12. DeMarcus Lawrence, Edge, Dallas Cowboys

Top 101 appearances: New entry

DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys, PFF Top 101

There were several major breakout seasons throughout the NFL, but none were more spectacular than that of DeMarcus Lawrence, who became one of the most dominant edge rushers almost from nowhere. Lawrence sacked the quarterback 15 times and notched 79 total pressures, the second-best mark among all edge defenders while actually leading the league in pass-rush productivity – a measure of that pressure on a per-snap basis. He timed his best play for a contract season, and on the basis of this play richly deserves a big-money deal.

PFF Elite Stat: Lawrence led all edge defenders with at least 200 pass-rush snaps in pass-rush productivity (14.8).

13. Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars, PFF Top 101

Jalen Ramsey flashed ability over his rookie season and ended the year on a hot streak before carrying that into his sophomore campaign and playing like an All-Pro cornerback for the entire year. Ramsey allowed just 51.1 percent of passes thrown his way to be caught and he was targeted plenty, with 92 balls coming his way over the regular season alone. Ramsey also came up big at the most important moments, picking Ben Roethlisberger off the first time the two sides played and then sealing the win against Buffalo in the playoffs with a key interception and allowing a passer rating of just 18.8 in that game.

PFF Elite Stat: Ramsey ranked 13th among cornerbacks in passer rating allowed (63.9) in the regular season.

14. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

Top 101 appearances: 2

Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints, PFF Top 101

Saints receiver Michael Thomas was spectacular as a rookie, but he was raw and just beginning to scratch the surface of his NFL potential. This year we saw him elevate his play even further and become one of the game’s best weapons. His playoff performances were spectacular, catching eight of the nine passes thrown his way against Carolina for 131 yards before beating up on one of the game’s better corners in Xavier Rhodes in the divisional round on his way to a pair of touchdowns. Thomas ended the year with the second-best overall PFF grade (93.0) among wide receivers, just 0.9 grading points away from the game’s best – Antonio Brown.

PFF Elite Stat: Thomas ranked fifth among wide receivers in drop rate with a mark of 1.89 during the regular season.

15. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Top 101 appearances: 5

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons, PFF Top 101

There is no more physically gifted receiver in today’s NFL than Julio Jones, who has the capacity to just overwhelm defensive backs athletically in a way most receivers just can’t. Jones was also the most productive receiver in football when it comes to yardage, gaining 3.08 yards per route run this season, the most in the league and the only receiver to top the 3.0 barrier. Jones was impressive all season and even carried that into the playoffs, even if he ultimately couldn’t make one of the biggest plays when the Falcons needed him to in the back of the end zone.

PFF Elite Stat: Jones averaged 3.08 yards per route run in 2017, leading all wide receivers.

16. Zack Martin, G, Dallas Cowboys

Top 101 appearances: 3

Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys, PFF Top 101

David DeCastro won PFF’s Bruce Matthews Award for the best offensive lineman in the game over the regular season, but his playoff struggles were enough to allow Zack Martin to edge past him overall in the Top 101. Martin ended the season with an overall PFF grade of 92.2, and surrendered just 11 total pressures over 16 games for the Cowboys. The Dallas offensive line had various struggles over the season, but Martin was the one player not to miss a beat all season.

PFF Elite Stat:  Martin led guards with a pass-blocking efficiency of 98.4

17. David DeCastro, G, Pittsburgh Steelers

Top 101 appearances: 2

David DeCastro, Pittsburgh Steelers, PFF Top 101

Pittsburgh’s David DeCastro was a first-round draft pick, so the expectations were always high and he has been a good player for a number of years, but this was the third consecutive year he improved his grade and the first time he has topped an overall PFF grade of 90.0, ending the year at 91.7 despite struggling a little against Jacksonville in the playoffs. DeCastro didn’t allow a sack all season, and was only responsible for two knockdowns and 14 additional hurries over 17 games, while continuing his dominant run-blocking baseline.

PFF Elite Stat: Among guards, only Brandon Brooks and David DeCastro played at least 589 pass-blocking snaps without allowing a sack.

18. Lavonte David, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Top 101 appearances: 3

Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, PFF Top 101

2017 was a season of renaissance performances from several star players, and another to come back to their best was Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David. The 94.2 overall PFF grade actually edges David’s 2013 season as the best year of his career, and he had the third-best run-stop percentage of all linebackers at 11.2 percent, just 0.2 percent behind the league leader (Reuben Foster). David notched 53 defensive stops and had a knack of making big plays, forcing five fumbles, the second-most in the league.

PFF Elite Stat: David ranked tied for third among linebackers with a run-stop percentage of 11.2.

19. Fletcher Cox, DI, Philadelphia Eagles

Top 101 appearances: 4

Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles, PFF Top 101

Fletcher Cox was good enough in the postseason to leap above Geno Atkins in the rankings overall this season. Cox was the most dominant player on the Eagles defense in their biggest games of the season, giving them a mismatch in the middle of the line that neither the Falcons nor Vikings could cope with. In the Super Bowl, the Patriots fared better thanks to their offense as a whole, but Cox still generated six total pressures, giving him 16 total for his three-game postseason. Strong enough to make even powerful guards look overmatched, Cox can destroy run and pass plays.

PFF Elite Stat: Cox ranked eighth among interior defenders with 50 total pressures.

20. Geno Atkins, DI, Cincinnati Bengals

Top 101 appearances: 5

Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals, PFF Top 101

Geno Atkins is one of the most devastating interior pass-rushers in the league as only Donald gained more total pressures among interior defenders than Atkins’ 70 combined sacks, hits and hurries. He also had the second-best pass-rushing productivity score (11.8), again trailing only Donald. Atkins has freakish leverage and the ability to win in a variety of different ways. His run-defense is the less spectacular side of his game, but still impressive enough to earn a PFF grade of 85.5.

PFF Elite Stat: Atkins was second among interior defenders with a pass-rush productivity of 11.8.

21. Tre’Davious White, CB, Buffalo Bills

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Tre'Davious White, Buffalo Bills, PFF Top 101

There were other rookies that received significantly more recognition than Tre’Davious White, but the Bills’ rookie had an incredible debut season in the NFL and was named PFF’s rookie of the year. White allowed just 50.6 percent of passes thrown his way to be caught in the regular season and allowed no receptions at all from three targets in his one playoff appearance. He has four picks and 12 pass breakups over the full season counting that playoff game and did all this while being thrust into the No. 1 cornerback role for the Bills from day one after the team traded away Ronald Darby.

PFF Elite Stat: White led rookie cornerbacks in average cover snaps played per reception allowed (15.8).

22. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams, PFF Top 101

There may have been no greater beneficiary of the coaching regime change with the Rams than Todd Gurley, who came back from looking lost a season ago to being a viable MVP candidate. Gurley led the league in overall PFF grade among running backs at 91.9, one of just two backs to creep over the 90.0 barrier. He only missed out on the rushing title because of being rested in Week 17 when the Rams had little to play for. He gained 2.15 yards per route run over the season, parlaying 76 targets into 788 receiving yards.

PFF Elite Stat: Gurley ranked fifth among running backs with 2.15 yards per route run this season, more than doubling his mark in this metric from 2016.

23. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

Top 101 appearances: 2

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans, PFF Top 101

There may be no receiver better at succeeding with a bad quarterback situation than DeAndre Hopkins, who had rookie Deshaun Watson taken off the board too soon due to injury and had to play the rest of the way with Tom Savage and T.J. Yates throwing him the rock. Hopkins gained 2.39 yards per route run this season, the fourth-most in the league among wide outs, thanks in part to leading the NFL in targets at 164.

PFF Elite Stat: Hopkins caught five deep touchdown passes, tied for third-most among wide receivers.

24. Melvin Ingram, Edge, Los Angeles Chargers

Top 101 appearances: 2

Melvin Ingram, Los Angeles Chargers

The development of Melvin Ingram into one of the game’s best edge rushers went into overdrive in 2017. Ingram posted his third-consecutive career year, and finally elevated past the 90.0 barrier in overall PFF grading (91.9). He notched 76 total pressures over the regular season, the fifth-most among edge rushers. Ingram got pressure in every single game this season, and had at least three pressures in all but one games.

PFF Elite Stat: Ingram’s pass-rush productivity of 12.3 was ninth among edge defenders.

25. Jason Kelce, C, Philadelphia Eagles

Top 101 appearances: 2

Philadelphia’s offensive line finished the season as the No. 1 ranked unit in the league, even after losing LT Jason Peters to injury after just seven games. A big reason for that was the bounce-back season from Jason Kelce at center. Kelce came back from a disappointing 2016 season and posted the best run-blocking grade we have ever given a center over 12 years of grading. His ability to take care of his assignment, whether that was a lineman or a linebacker at the second level, was second to none, though his pass-blocking was average over the year, as he surrendered 22 total pressures from 19 games.

PFF Elite Stat: Kelce paired a stellar run-blocking grade with a pass-blocking efficiency of 97.5, 20th among centers.

26. Kawann Short, DI, Carolina Panthers

Top 101 appearances: 3

Few players were as consistently dominant on defense as Kawann Short for the Panthers, who was a major threat against both the run and pass over the season. Short sacked the quarterback 10 times from his defensive tackle spot, but also had nine hits and 32 additional hurries as well as topping 30 defensive stops. He didn’t have a bad game over the season and had some of his best performances against the better offensive lines he faced.

PFF Elite Stat: Short ranked eighth among interior defenders with a pass-rush productivity of 9.2

27. Brandon Graham, Edge, Philadelphia Eagles

Top 101 appearances: 4

Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles

For the first time in his NFL career, Brandon Graham got enough sacks over the season to get some of the credit he has deserved for years and ironically enough, he was even better the previous year when his play went largely unnoticed because he didn’t have those sacks. Graham had 60 total pressures over the regular season and was impressive during the playoffs before making maybe the single biggest play in Super Bowl LII, stripping Tom Brady of the football late in the game and helping to seal the win for the Eagles.

PFF Elite Stat: Graham’s run-stop percentage of 13.7 led all edge defenders in the regular season.

28. Joey Bosa, Edge, Los Angeles Chargers

Top 101 appearances: 2

Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers

Joey Bosa is one of the game’s most dominant edge rushers already, at the end of just his second NFL season. Bosa had 75 total pressures over the season, the seventh-most among edge defenders and just eight shy of the league lead. He had three relatively anonymous games over the year, but was as good as anybody over the middle of the year, notching eight sacks in six games and collecting 36 additional pressures over those games.

PFF Elite Stat: Bosa ranked seventh among edge defenders with 75 total pressures.

29. Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans Saints

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints had a phenomenal rookie class, with impact seasons from multiple rookies on both sides of the ball. Marshon Lattimore transformed the Saints defense with his play, proving to be a shutdown corner almost from his first snaps on the field. Lattimore was good enough to be entrusted with shadowing the game’s best receivers as a rookie, didn’t surrender a touchdown all season and allowed a passer rating of only 45.3 when targeted. His play in Year 1 was remarkable.

PFF Elite Stat: Lattimore led rookie cornerbacks with a passer rating allowed of 45.3.

30. David Bakhtiari, T, Green Bay Packers

Top 101 appearances: 2

He may have only played in 12 games due to injury, but David Bakhtiari was the best pass-blocking tackle in the game and one of the best pass blockers in all of football, period. Bakhtiari allowed just 12 total pressures over those 12 games, five of which came in one tough outing against Everson Griffen and the Minnesota Vikings’ defense. Bakhtiari did that while blocking for a pair of quarterbacks that don’t help their pass protection for differing reasons. This was also the best run-blocking season of his career.

PFF Elite Stat: Bakhtiari led all tackles with a pass-blocking efficiency of 98.0.

31. Khalil Mack, Edge, Oakland Raiders

Top 101 appearances: 4

Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders

Khalil Mack took a step back in 2017, much like the rest of the Oakland Raiders who, as a group, under-performed this season. Mack’s overall grade of 92.1 was still incredible however, and even if it falls short of the standards he set over the past two years, was still one of the most dominant seasons in the league. Mack had 78 total pressures over the season and led all edge defenders in defensive stops with 53, six more than any other player at that position.

PFF Elite Stat: Mack ranked sixth among edge defenders in run-stop percentage with a mark of 11.2

32. Adrian Amos, S, Chicago Bears

Top 101 appearances: New entry

An extremely underrated player this season, Adrian Amos was excellent for the Chicago Bears all year even if his play was more consistently solid than spectacular. Amos had impressive PFF grades in coverage and against the run and was consistently in the right place at the right time for the Bears, making very few negative plays. Amos missed just six tackles all year from 76 attempts and notched just two fewer defensive stops than Minnesota’s Harrison Smith from 300 fewer snaps on the field.

PFF Elite Stat: Amos was 19th in tackling efficiency among safeties this season with a mark of 12.7.

33. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

Kareem Hunt saw more playing time and carried a bigger load, but nobody was more dynamic than Alvin Kamara for the Saints this season. Kamara was neck and neck with Kareem Hunt during the regular season and played well in two postseason outings to jump him in the 101, and was one of the game’s biggest matchup problems all season. Kamara led the league with 29 broken tackles in the receiving game, five more than any other back and he had an average of 3.8 yards per carry after contact.

PFF Elite Stat: Kamara led all running backs in PFF’s elusive rating at 108.5.

34. Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Kareem Hunt was the highest-ranked offensive rookie for his performance during the regular season, even if that race was incredibly close and he was ultimately jumped in the 101 by Kamara, who had a better postseason performance. Hunt led the league in rushing, but also in yards after contact with 839, an average of 3.1 yards per carry after first contact.

PFF Elite Stat: Hunt forced 61 missed tackles in the running game, most in the NFL.

35. Deion Jones, LB, Atlanta Falcons

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Continuing his form from his rookie season, Atlanta’s Deion Jones has developed into arguably the game’s best coverage linebacker. Jones had the best coverage grade among linebackers, and it showed up in all the biggest games of Atlanta’s season with Jones making key plays to secure wins against division foes New Orleans and Carolina late in the year. Jones has outstanding athleticism and range but also instincts and the ability to play in space and lock down receivers like few linebackers can.

PFF Elite Stat: Jones ranked seventh among linebackers in yards allowed per cover snap (0.74).

36. Ndamukong Suh, DI, Miami Dolphins

Top 101 appearances: 7

There are few defensive linemen more disruptive than Ndamukong Suh in Miami. He will forever be tied to the monster contract he signed, but he’s come as close to living up to it as could have been expected. Suh earned an overall PFF grade of 91.0, his second grade above 90.0 in three seasons. Suh was a monster rushing the passer and in the run game, but once again his biggest negative was discipline, as he led all interior defenders with 13 penalties.

PFF Elite Stat: Suh ranked 13th among interior defenders with 43 total pressures.

37. Travis Frederick, C, Dallas Cowboys

Top 101 appearances: 4

Travis Frederick was once again one of the game’s best centers, and probably the most balanced between pass protection and run-blocking. Frederick didn’t allow a sack all season and surrendered just 12 total pressures across more than 1,000 snaps. He was also one of the game’s best run-blockers, anchoring the middle of that Dallas offensive line and helping the Cowboys generate rushing yardage even without star back Ezekiel Elliott.

PFF Elite Stat: Frederick didn’t allow a sack on 555 pass-blocking snaps this year, among centers, only he and Matt Paradis accomplished that feat.

38. DeForest Buckner, DI, San Francisco 49ers

Top 101 appearances: New entry

DeForest Buckner, San Francisco 49ers

DeForest Buckner has played a crazy amount of snaps over the past few seasons between NFL and college, but the 49ers dialed back his workload a little in 2017, and coincidentally or not, he produced his best season as a pro.  Buckner generated plenty of pressure and while he only sacked the quarterback four times over the season, he led all interior defenders with 19 quarterback hits and was top six in combined sacks and hits. Buckner finished his 2017 season with impressive grades both as a pass-rusher and run defender.

PFF Elite Stat: Buckner ranked fifth among interior defenders with 53 total pressures.

39. Damon Harrison, DI, New York Giants

Top 101 appearances: 4

There is no greater run-stuffing force in the NFL than Damon Harrison, the Giants’ defensive tackle. Harrison won PFF’s best run defender award again this season, and has made run stops and run-stop percentage a statistic owned by him alone. Harrison again topped 40 run stops this season, third time in his career, or two more times than the rest of the league’s interior defenders have managed since 2006. The run game has never been less important in the NFL, but Harrison is good enough to be an exception to that rule.

PFF Elite Stat: Harrion’s 40 run stops led all interior defenders. He’s led all interior defenders in that statistic each of the last three years.

40. Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

Top 101 appearances: 2

Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

The best two wide receivers in the game are Julio Jones and Antonio Brown, but the race is wide open to be the third name on the list, and the Chargers’ Keenan Allen is one of the names in the discussion. Allen was behind those two in yards per route run, but when targeted, he produced a wide receiver rating of 107.3, the seventh-best mark in the league, ahead of both Jones and Brown.

PFF Elite Stat: Allen ranked third among with receivers with 2.55 yards per route run.

41. Jabaal Sheard, Edge, Indianapolis Colts

Top 101 appearances: 2

The Colts’ defense was far from good this season but it did have a couple of standout performers, even if injuries took their toll on that small group over the year. Jabaal Sheard was their best player and one of their most durable, racking up 900 snaps and a pretty monstrous 67 total pressures. Sheard also graded well against the run, with 38 total defensive stops to his name. The only caveat to his grade is that by far his best game came against the league’s worst offensive line in Week 9 against the Texans.

PFF Elite Stat: Sheard was 13th in total pressures (66) and fourth in total run stops (30) among edge defenders.

42. Gerald McCoy, DI, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Top 101 appearances: 5

As is always the case, Gerald McCoy was the most dominant force in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ defensive front. McCoy has freakish quickness for a defensive tackle and can consistently penetrate into the backfield. That lends itself obviously to pass-rushing, and McCoy notched 47 total pressures across the season, but it also makes him a nuisance in the run game, where his PFF grade of 85.0 was still good enough to rank 21st among all interior defenders.

PFF Elite Stat: McCoy ranked 10th in both total pressures and pass-rush productivity among interior defenders this year.

43. Andrew Norwell, G, Carolina Panthers

Top 101 appearances: 2

Andrew Norwell has been a very good guard for a long time, but now enters free agency off the back of a career year in which he was one of the best in the game. He didn’t allow a sack or a hit all season, while surrendering just 15 total pressures across 1,140 snaps and 17 games including the playoffs. Norwell was excellent in both run-blocking (as is typical throughout his career) and pass protection this season, and though he may be a relatively unknown name, he is a phenomenal player to anybody watching enough tape.

PFF Elite Stat: Norwell ranked second among guards with a pass-blocking efficiency of 98.3 this year.

44. William Jackson III, CB, Cincinnati Bengals

Top 101 appearances: New entry

If you compile half a dozen advanced coverage statistics, William Jackson had the finest statistical season of any cornerback over the past 12 years of PFF grading, which is all the more remarkable since he wasn’t starting for the team and saw 698 snaps as their third corner. Let’s begin with his performance against Antonio Brown over two games: Seven targets, zero receptions, four pass breakups. That is unrivaled coverage against the game’s best wide out, and his numbers elsewhere were spectacular. He allowed just 34.9 percent of passes thrown his way to be caught, the best mark in the league by a good margin, and 2018 will be an exciting season to see if he can build upon his success this year.

PFF Elite Stat: Jackson led cornerbacks in average cover snaps played per reception allowed (26.4).

45. Patrick Robinson, CB, Philadelphia Eagles

Top 101 appearances: New entry

The play of Patrick Robinson for the Eagles this season was one of the surprises of the year, and one of the major reasons this team was able to secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC and ultimately go all the way to a championship. Robinson moved to the slot this season and that saw a career year in PFF grade at 89.8, more than 10 points better than his previous career best. He also made key plays, including a pick-six in the NFC Championship game to turn the game against the Vikings.

PFF Elite Stat: Robinson allowed a reception on average every 12.1 slot cover snaps, a mark that was good for 11th among cornerbacks.

46. Kevin Byard, S, Tennessee Titans

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans

Titans safety Kevin Byard developed into one of the league’s best deep-lying free safeties in his second year in the league. He led the league in interceptions for most of the season, and the two he snagged in Week 17 vaulted him back into a share of the league lead to end the regular season. In the postseason, he was unfortunate enough to be the one player on defense the Titans felt might have a shot of covering Rob Gronkowski, but that he was seen as the best option itself speaks volumes to his ability, as it was not even close to his regular assignment.

PFF Elite Stat: Byard allowed 0.52 yards per cover snap last year during the regular season, fourth among safeties with 35 targets.

47. Jurrell Casey, DI, Tennessee Titans

Top 101 appearances: 6

Jurrell Casey has been a consistently formidable interior defensive linemen for the Titans for a number of seasons now and 2017 was no different. Only Damon Harrison and Akiem Hicks had more defensive stops than the 42 Casey managed among interior defenders, and he notched a total of 53 total pressures over the regular season. Casey also boosted himself up the rankings with a strong postseason, recording an identical five total pressures and two defensive stops in each game.

PFF Elite Stat: Casey ranked 13th in both total pressures and pass-rush productivity among interior defenders.

48. A.J. Bouye, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Top 101 appearances: 2

A.J. Bouye, Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville’s defense was phenomenal this season, and while the defensive front earned them the nickname ‘Sacksonville,’ the coverage on the back end may have been even more impressive. Jalen Ramsey broke out into a stud, but free agent acquisition A.J. Bouye proved that last season’s breakout year was no fluke. He was targeted 84 times this season and his passer rating allowed was eight points lower than if the opposing quarterbacks had just thrown the ball at the dirt 84 times instead.

PFF Elite Stat: Bouye led cornerbacks this year with a passer rating allowed of 31.6.

49. Alex Mack, C, Atlanta Falcons

Top 101 appearances: 3

Over the past couple of seasons, a trio of centers has emerged in the NFL as the best at the position and since his move to the Atlanta Falcons, Alex Mack has been able to establish himself as one of that trio. Mack was one of the best run-blockers in the game this season at the heart of the Falcons rushing attack and allowed just 15 total pressures across the season.

PFF Elite Stat: Mack’s pass-blocking efficiency of 97.9 was tied for 14th among centers this year.

50. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

Top 101 appearances: 2

There may be no better evidence for the impact of Travis Kelce than what happened to the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs against Tennessee from the moment he left the game. Kelce is one of the game’s true matchup problems on offense, and once again was a dynamic receiving weapon for the Chiefs, with Alex Smith’s newfound aggressiveness perfectly tailored to take advantage of his ability to beat coverage. Kelce led all tight ends in broken tackles with 16, six more than any other player at the position.

PFF Elite Stat: Kelce ranked third in yards per route run (2.03) among tight ends.

51. Everson Griffen, Edge, Minnesota Vikings

Top 101 appearances: 2

Everson Griffen, Minnesota Vikings

The ending was ugly for the Minnesota Vikings defense, but before the NFC Championship game, this was the league’s No. 1 defense and their best edge rusher was Everson Griffen. He notched 61 total pressures over the regular season, adding another five in the playoffs across two games. This was the best pass-rushing season of his NFL career, while his run-defense remained above average.

PFF Elite Stat: Griffen ranked sixth among edge defenders with 55 total pressures from the right side of the defense during the regular season.

52. Lamarcus Joyner, S, Los Angeles Rams

Top 101 appearances: New entry

The play of Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner has improved each year of his NFL career, but 2017 was the true breakout season that showcased elite ability. His overall PFF grade of 90.3 was the third-best mark among safeties, but also more than 10 grading points better than his previous NFL high of the season before. Joyner’s coverage was excellent, and he had three picks and five pass breakups while allowing just 42.9 percent of targets sent his way to be caught.

PFF Elite Stat: Joyner was ranked fifth among safeties with at least 400 cover snaps with only 49 yards after the catch allowed during the regular season.

53. Brandon Brooks, G, Philadelphia Eagles

Top 101 appearances: 2

Brandon Brooks, Philadelphia Eagles

Brandon Brooks had an excellent season for the Philadelphia Eagles, exactly matching his career-best overall PFF grade from a season ago with a second-straight 88.0 mark this year. He saved one of his best games of the year for the Super Bowl, where he didn’t allow a single pressure – the ninth perfect game in pass protection of his season – and was an impressive run-blocker against that New England defensive front.

PFF Elite Stat: Brooks tied for seventh among guards during the regular season with a pass-blocking efficiency of 97.9.

54. Cameron Heyward, DI, Pittsburgh Steelers

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Another player whose season ended in ignominious circumstances in the playoffs, Cameron Heyward nonetheless had a career year overall and was phenomenal up until that point. Heyward led all interior defenders this season in sacks with 14, but also had nine quarterback knockdowns and 39 hurries for the Steelers.

PFF Elite Stat: Heyward was third among interior defenders in pass-rush productivity (11.3) during the regular season.

55. Linval Joseph, DI, Minnesota Vikings

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Another dominant force in the middle of the Vikings defense, Linval Joseph backed up his impressive 2016 campaign with another strong season. He ended 2017 with an overall PFF grade of 88.7, giving him an average of 88.1 over the last three seasons. Joseph had 35 defensive stops, tied for sixth-most among all interior defenders and had 30 total pressures over the regular season.

PFF Elite Stat: Joseph’s run-stop percentage of 10.7 was ninth among interior defenders this season.

56. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

Top 101 appearances: 8

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

This season may have been the finest supporting cast that Drew Brees has had in his entire NFL career. Consequently the Saints didn’t rely on him to carry the team as much as they ordinarily do but he showed in the playoffs that he was still well capable of answering the call if they did need it. Brees has two strong playoff outings even if the second one ultimately came up short thanks to the Minneapolis Miracle, and he ended the season with an overall PFF grade of 88.6, trailing only Tom Brady over the season.

PFF Elite Stat: During the regular season, Brees led the NFL in adjusted completion percentage with a mark of 80.7.

57. Telvin Smith, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Jacksonville’s Telvin Smith realized his athleticism this season and was one of the league’s best run defenders over the course of the year. Smith topped 50 defensive stops in the regular season, adding another 14 in the three playoff games. His coverage was solid if not spectacular but his PFF run-defense grade of 94.1 led all linebackers.

PFF Elite Stat: Smith was 13th among linebackers with 33 total run stops during the regular season.

58. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

Top 101 appearances: 6

Matt Ryan‘s statistical regression from his MVP season of 2016 was inevitable, but what was notable was just how small the regression in actual play was. Ryan was the victim of some brutal bad luck, throwing significantly more interceptions than he had ‘turnover worthy plays’ over the year, which goes a long way towards explaining why his overall PFF grade slipped just four points to 88.6, which was still good enough to tie for second-best in the league.

PFF Elite Stat: Ryan had an adjusted completion percentage of 79.3 when kept clean during the regular season, eighth-best among quarterbacks.

59. Reuben Foster, LB, San Francisco 49ers

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Reuben Foster, San Francisco 49ers

Injuries aside, Reuben Foster was spectacular as a rookie and if he had more playing time, he could have featured significantly higher on the list. Foster looks like he is continuing the recent tradition of standout 49ers linebackers, and was visibly playing at a different speed than most linebackers. His overall PFF grade of 90.7 was one of the best grades in the league, and he did it on just 553 snaps.

PFF Elite Stat: Foster’s run-stop percentage of 11.2 was tied for fifth among inside linebackers this season.

60. Glover Quin, S, Detroit Lions

Top 101 appearances: 2

Glover Quin was another player to put together a career year and vault himself into the PFF top 101 for 2017. The Detroit Lions safety was a force both in coverage and against the run for the Lions, setting a career-high in defensive stops with 27 over the year. Quin allowed a passer rating of just 55.4 when thrown at in primary coverage, surrendering just 7.1 yards per reception on those plays.

PFF Elite Stat: Quin was seventh among safeties with 0.19 yards per coverage snap allowed.

61. Joe Staley, T, San Francisco 49ers

Top 101 appearances: 5

A season ago, Joe Staley looked like age might be catching up to him, but he was able to reverse that in 2017 and get back to some of his best play. He didn’t quite hit the highs of 2012, but his overall PFF grade of 87.4 was the best grade he has had since 2014. Staley allowed 24 total pressures all season while maintaining his excellent run-blocking standards.

PFF Elite Stat: Staley’s pass-blocking efficiency of 96.7 was 10th among tackles this year.

62. Darius Slay, CB, Detroit Lions

Top 101 appearances: 2

Somehow Darius Slay‘s season flew largely under the radar, despite some eye-popping coverage numbers. Slay allowed a passer rating of 55.6 when targeted and was not beaten for a pass longer than 37 yards all season. He also had 21 combined interceptions and pass breakups, which led all corners by two over the season. In doing so, Slay also tied for the league lead in interceptions.

PFF Elite Stat: Slay was sixth among cornerbacks with a passer rating allowed of 55.6 this year.

63. Jadeveon Clowney, Edge, Houston

Top 101 appearances: 2

With injuries hitting the Houston Texans defense hard, Jadeveon Clowney had to graduate in a hurry from complementary piece to the most important player on that defensive front. He responded well and recorded his second-consecutive career-best overall PFF grade, an 88.3 that narrowly edges the season before. Clowney finished the season with eight sacks, 14 hits and 42 additional hurries, along with 40 defensive stops.

PFF Elite Stat: Clowney was tied for 14th in total pressures among edge defenders with 64.

64. Chris Jones, DI, Kansas City Chiefs

Top 101 appearances: New entry

The Kansas City Chiefs nailed their draft pick when they selected Chris Jones in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft. Jones went from strong to quite strong in his second season, improving on what was already a strong rookie performance against both the run and as a pass-rusher. He notched 38 total pressures over the season and had games during the year in which he was nearly unblockable, elevating himself into the realm of the best linemen in the game.

PFF Elite Stat: Jones was 18th among interior defenders with a pass-rush productivity of 7.5.

65. Sean Lee, LB, Dallas Cowboys

Top 101 appearances: 3

Arguably the most important centerpiece on the Dallas Cowboys defense, only playing time keeps Sean Lee from being higher on this list. Injuries have been a major issue throughout Lee’s career and he was limited to just 622 snaps this season. When he was on the field, Lee was excellent, notching 42 defensive stops and missing only 7-of-111 tackle attempts over the year.

PFF Elite Stat: Lee was 12th among linebackers with a tackle efficiency of 15.9.

66. Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks

Top 101 appearances: 4

There are few players that impact a scheme as much as Earl Thomas does in Seattle, as his range and acceleration allows the Seahawks to deploy players in unusual ways but still be covered on the back end. The Seahawks lost playing time from multiple players in the secondary, with Thomas himself missing some time, but when he was on the field he was once again excellent, despite seeing less help around him from teammates.

PFF Elite Stat: Thomas’ average of 46.5 cover snaps played per reception allowed was fourth among safeties with at least 500 coverage snaps.

67. Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers

Top 101 appearances: New entry

The Chargers’ tight end line of succession appears to be in a very good place given the performance of Hunter Henry in 2017. Henry played 596 snaps this season and while he only gained 579 receiving yards, he caught 75 percent of passes thrown his way and made some spectacular plays throughout the season as a receiver. Henry also had an excellent grade when blocking for the run, giving him the potential to be the all-around player that Antonio Gates was never able to be.

PFF Elite Stat: Henry ranked second among tight ends with 2.05 yards per route run.

68. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Top 101 appearances: 6

Ben Roethlisberger appeared to have been toying with retirement for a while and his level of play seemed to be waning along with his desire to play, but he has already confirmed his intention to play in 2018 off the back of a major bounceback season. Roethlisberger ended the year with an overall PFF grade of 88.4 and for a lengthy spell in the middle of the year was the best quarterback in the game.

PFF Elite Stat: Roethlisberger had a passer rating of 114.7 when using play action during the regular season, sixth in the NFL.

69. Kenny Clark, DI, Green Bay Packers

Top 101 appearances: New entry

As a rookie, Kenny Clark flashed ability, particularly late in the year and into the playoffs where he began to really show the kind of player he could be. In Year 2, he really broke out, playing significantly more snaps and earning strong grades as both a run-defender and pass-rusher. Clark was a little inconsistent this season – absolutely destroying the Vikings offensive line and backing that up against the Saints the following week before struggling to end the year against the Lions – but his highs were spectacular.

PFF Elite Stat: Clark joins his teammate Mike Daniels as 1-of-5 interior defenders to rank in the top-21 in both run-stop percentage and pass-rush productivity.

70. Landon Collins, S, New York Giants

Top 101 appearances: 2

Landon Collins, New York Giants

A year ago, Landon Collins had a defensive player of the year kind of season and while 2017 wasn’t quite at that level, it was still an excellent year and reinforced his quality, especially given the disaster of the season that unfolded around him. Collins notched 37 defensive stops this season, nine fewer than the year before, but he also played significantly fewer snaps due to injury and saw the rest of the defense collapse around him.

PFF Elite Stat: Collins totaled 20 run stops in 2017, tied for fifth-most among safeties with at least 113 run-defense snaps.

71. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Top 101 appearances: 3

Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

Le’Veon Bell‘s production dipped a little in 2017, but he was still one of the game’s most dynamic playmakers when he was in form and was able to handle a monstrous workload for the Steelers all season. He broke 61 total tackles between carries and receptions and had 406 combined touches from scrimmage. Bell dropped just 4-of-89 catchable targets this season.

PFF Elite Stat: Bell forced 44 missed tackles on his 321 carries, ranking fourth among all NFL running backs.

72. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Top 101 appearances: 2

The emergence of Tyreek Hill helped transform Alex Smith and the Kansas City offense into a difference beast in 2017. Hill may be the fastest offensive threat in the game when true football game speed is considered and was able to generate huge plays against even the league’s best corners this season. Smith had a passer rating of 130.5 when throwing Hill’s way in 2017, the best mark in the league by more than 10 points.

PFF Elite Stat: Hill led the league in yards gained on deep passes (20-plus air yards) with 628.

73. Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots

Top 101 appearances: New entry

The entire New England secondary had a rocky start to the year with coverage busts blighting their season until they got everybody on the same page but Stephon Gilmore found his feet quickly and was one of the game’s best corners down the stretch and throughout the playoffs. In the Super Bowl, Gilmore allowed just three catches for 19 yards and was able to take Alshon Jeffery out of the game once the Patriots started to use him to track a player that had been doing damage up to that point.

PFF Elite Stat: Gilmore was tied for 25th among cornerbacks in cover snaps per target (7.4) during the regular season.

74. Kendall Fuller, CB, Washington Redskins

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Kendall Fuller, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins

Good news for Chiefs’ fans and bad news for Washington Redskins‘ supporters, Kendall Fuller wasn’t just a makeweight in the trade to secure Alex Smith, but was one of the league’s best defensive backs in 2017. Fuller had a real breakout season, earning an overall PFF grade of 90.0 and allowing less than 10 yards per reception in coverage. Fuller allowed a passer rating of just 56.7 when targeted, giving up a catch on 56.3 percent of targets.

PFF Elite Stat: Fuller allowed a passer rating of 55.0 into his coverage when in the slot this year, the second-best mark among cornerbacks

75. Trey Flowers, Edge, New England Patriots

Top 101 appearances: New entry

New England’s defense this season wasn’t nearly as good as it has been in the past but Trey Flowers maintained his excellent play on the defensive line all season. He continued that into in the Super Bowl, even if it wasn’t as obvious as the sacks he racked up in the previous Super Bowl against Atlanta. Flowers ended the season with 77 total pressures and 39 defensive stops including the postseason and did so playing all over the defensive line from an alignment standpoint.

PFF Elite Stat: Flowers ranked 19th among edge defenders with 59 total pressures during the regular season.

76. Dion Lewis, RB, New England Patriots

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Dion Lewis, New England Patriots

An impending free agent, Dion Lewis had a fantastic season for the New England Patriots, including working his way into the role of featured back despite standing just 5-foot-8 and weighing significantly less than 200 pounds. Lewis gained 3.0 yards per carry after contact including the postseason, breaking 45 tackles on 213 carries.

PFF Elite Stat: Lewis ranked third in PFF’s elusive rating (73.2) among running backs with at least 81 attempts last season.

77. Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings

His season will be remembered for the Minneapolis Miracle – the miracle walk-off play to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and keep the Minnesota Vikings postseason run alive – but Stefon Diggs was remarkable overall this season. He led the NFL in contested catch rate at 64.9 percent, despite being a relatively small in stature receiver and was extremely productive when healthy.

PFF Elite Stat: Diggs finished 2017 with the seventh-highest mark in passer rating when targeted (120.4) among wide receivers with at least 41 targets.

78. Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Top 101 appearances: New entry

If there is one player that can rival Doug Baldwin for the best release in the game, it’s Adam Thielen, the Minnesota Vikings‘ great underdog success story at wide receiver. Thielen also had a top-5 contested catch rate and tied for the second-best production rate in the slot. Thielen gained 2.11 yards per route run inside, trailing only Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster.

PFF Elite Stat: Among wide receivers with at least 120 routes run from the slot, Thielen finished tied for second with an average 2.11 yards per route run.

79. Chandler Jones, Edge, Arizona Cardinals

Top 101 appearances: 2

With Calais Campbell departing for Jacksonville in the offseason, more pressure was put on the shoulders of Chandler Jones to be the Arizona Cardinals‘ primary source of pass-rush. He responded with 17 sacks, 18 quarterback knockdowns and 41 additional hurries, notching 46 total defensive stops over the year in a remarkable pass-rushing season. Jones was a stud for the Cardinals despite little significant help.

PFF Elite Stat: Jones led all defenders with 65 pressures from the right side of the defense.

80. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Top 101 appearances: 3

Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks

The player usually on the end of the miracle Russell Wilson plays this season was inevitably Doug Baldwin, who remains one of the league’s most underrated players. Baldwin may have the best release off the line of any receiver in football, and though he didn’t top 1,000 receiving yards, he did score eight times and catch 67.0 percent of the passes thrown his way over the year for the Seattle Seahawks.

PFF Elite Stat: Baldwin ranked fourth in drop rate (1.32) among wide receivers with at least 41 total targets last season, dropping just one of his 76 catchable targets.

81. Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

Top 101 appearances: New entry

A torn ACL robbed us of the conclusion of a truly spectacular breakout sophomore campaign from Carson Wentz, but the Philadelphia Eagles at least were able to overcome that and continue their run as the No. 1 seed in the NFC all the way to a Super Bowl championship. Wentz was mind-blowing on third down this season, with the minor caveat that he was far from special on first and second down, earning an overall PFF grade of 87.6, a jump of almost 10 points from his rookie year.

PFF Elite Stat: Wentz led all quarterbacks with at least 150 play action dropbacks in passer rating on play action passes (104.1).

82. Myles Garrett, Edge, Cleveland Browns

Top 101 appearances: New entry

The No. 1 overall pick had an impressive rookie campaign, even if injury limited him to perhaps a smaller role over the season than the Cleveland Browns would have been hoping. When Myles Garrett was on the field, he was dominant, generating 37 total pressures from 300 passing snaps. Garrett’s pass-rush productivity of 10.2 was top-20 among edge defenders.

PFF Elite Stat: Garrett was third among rookie edge defenders in total pressures (37) and pass-rush productivity (10.2).

83. Daryl Williams, T, Carolina Panthers

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Though he didn’t have the same postseason run as Lane Johnson, Daryl Williams was arguably even better in the regular season for the Carolina Panthers, proving to be one of the true breakout players of 2017 for the Panthers. Williams had an overall PFF grade of 86.5, the third-best among all tackles and the best among right-side tackles.

PFF Elite Stat: Williams tied for 33rd in pass-blocking efficiency among offensive tackles with at least 178 pass-blocking snaps in 2017.

84. Grady Jarrett, DI, Atlanta Falcons

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Grady Jarrett was given a new role in the Atlanta Falcons‘ defense this season with the arrival of Dontari Poe as a free agent. Jarrett had been the nose tackle but was now given more license to rush the passer as more of a 3-technique defensive tackle. His overall PFF grade of 87.1 marked a career-best, as did his 39 total pressures.

PFF Elite Stat: Jarrett ranked 15th among interior defenders with 39 QB pressures.

85. Lane Johnson, T, Philadelphia Eagles

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Capping off another fine season with a Super Bowl championship, Lane Johnson was one of the best right tackles in football once more in 2017. Johnson was impressive in the Super Bowl for the Philadelphia Eagles, keeping a clean sheet in pass protection, marking the sixth game this year that he did not allow a pressure at all. His run-blocking was also excellent, and he was a vital member of an Eagles offensive line that ended the season as PFF’s No. 1 ranked unit.

PFF Elite Stat: Among offensive tackles with at least 178 pass-blocking snaps, Johnson ranked sixth in pass-blocking efficiency (97.2).

86. Justin Houston, Edge, Kansas City Chiefs

Top 101 appearances: 4

Justin Houston at his best is one of the best defenders in the game, and while he wasn’t quite at that level this season, we did see glimpses of it throughout the year for the Kansas City Chiefs. He had five games over the year with five or more total pressures and generated 44 defensive stops over the season, including two in the wild-card game against the Titans.

PFF Elite Stat: Houston’s pressure total from the left side of 51 was top-10 among all edge defenders.

87. Akiem Hicks, DI, Chicago Bears

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Akiem Hicks, Chicago Bears

Anytime you can rival Damon Harrison for run stop numbers, you are doing something special, and that’s exactly what Akiem Hicks did this year for the Chicago Bears. Hicks tied Harrison for the league lead among interior defenders with 44 defensive stops, and he generated his fair share of pass-rush with 49 total pressures.

PFF Elite Stat: Hicks finished second in run stops (37) among interior defenders.

88. Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Golden Tate, Detroit Lions

Golden Tate had another outstanding season for the Detroit Lions, earning an overall PFF grade of 86.4, which actually sets a new career-high for him. Tate led the league in broken tackles among wide receivers, with 22 players missing tackles on Tate once he had the pass in his hands.

PFF Elite Stat: Tate ranked second in yards gained from the slot (761) and tied for third in touchdowns from the slot (five).

89. Mike Daniels, DI, Green Bay Packers

Top 101 appearances: 4

There may be no stronger position group in the league than the defensive interior, and Green Bay‘s Mike Daniels had another excellent year even as the Packers struggled to remain in contention without Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Daniels had 33 total pressures and 32 defensive stops and was once again one of the best players on the Packers defense that didn’t exactly cover itself in glory overall.

PFF Elite Stat: Daniels was one of just five interior defenders to rank in the top-21 in both run-stop percentage and pass-rush productivity.

90. Joel Bitonio, G, Cleveland Browns

Top 101 appearances: 2

The Cleveland Browns‘ offensive line looked like it had the potential to be one of the best in the game heading into the season, and while that didn’t quite pan out, Joel Bitonio was excellent all season. Bitonio allowed 24 total pressures over 16 games but was blocking for a quarterback that invited more pressure than most. His run-blocking and pass protection were both good enough to earn top-20 PFF grades among guards.

PFF Elite Stat: Bitonio tied for 19th in pass-blocking efficiency (97.1) among guards with at least 170 pass-blocking snaps in 2017.

91. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Top 101 appearances: 5

Larry Fitzgerald’s excellence is taken for granted in most NFL seasons, but this year it deserves a little more recognition because of the quarterback situation he and the rest of the Arizona Cardinals dealt with for half of the year. When Carson Palmer went down injured, Fitzgerald was forced to make do with a combination of Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert trying to get him the football. He still caught 71.2 percent of passes thrown his way and gained more than 1.78 yards per route run, a top-15 mark.

PFF Elite Stat: Among wide receivers who ran at least 112 slot routes in 2017, Fitzgerald ranked ninth in yards per route run from the slot at 1.93.

92. Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Had Alex Smith avoided a midseason slump for the Kansas City Chiefs, he would have been much higher this list, because his play to begin and end the year was spectacular and the best he has played in the NFL. Smith ended the season with an overall PFF grade of 87.2 despite that midseason lull and led the league with a passer rating of 131.4 on deep passes.

PFF Elite Stat: Smith’s passer rating on deep passes in 2017 was 131.4, which stood 19.8 points higher than any other signal-caller in the league and was by far his career-best.

93. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

Top 101 appearances: 5

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

As much as 2017 was a disappointing season for the Seattle Seahawks, and even for Russell Wilson at times, he was still excellent overall. Wilson ended the year tied for sixth in PFF’s grades with a mark of 87.2. Wilson was under pressure more than any other quarterback in the game, and while some of that is a problem of his own manufacture, all too often Wilson (to the aforementioned Baldwin) was the only positive thing about the Seahawks offense.

PFF Elite Stat: When kept clean, Wilson earned a passer rating of 109.6, ranking seventh among quarterbacks with at least 167 total dropbacks in 2017.

94. Malik Jackson, DI, Jacksonville Jaguars

Top 101 appearances: 3

Calais Campbell was the big-money free agent move last offseason for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the play of Campbell and A.J. Bouye got a lot of press, but last year’s big spend was also having an excellent season in the shape of Malik Jackson. He ended the year with 64 total pressures, including three playoff games in which he generated multiple pressures in each game.

PFF Elite Stat: Jackson ranked 10th in PFF’s pass-rush productivity (9.1) among interior defenders with at least 140 pass-rush snaps.

95. Jordan Poyer, S, Buffalo Bills

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Jordan Poyer, Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills‘ safeties were overhauled in the offseason, and a new defensive scheme only maximized their impact in Year 1. Jordan Poyer had an outstanding year for the Bills and made the PFF Team of the Week two times. Poyer had five interceptions and six pass breakups over the year, earning an overall PFF grade of 87.6.

PFF Elite Stat: Poyer missed only four tackles on 572 snaps in pass coverage.

96. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Top 101 appearances: 5

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals‘ offense this season was a mess, and it resulted in almost everybody suffering a decline in performance, but A.J. Green remained one of the best receivers in the game and was almost immune to the decline. Green still gained more than two yards per route run, a top-10 figure among all wide receivers.

PFF Elite Stat: Green averaged 2.09 yards per route run, ranking 10th among wide receivers with 41-plus targets.

97. Micah Hyde, S, Buffalo Bills

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Another player to benefit from the Buffalo safety revamp and scheme change, Micah Hyde came over from Green Bay in the offseason and immediately upgraded the Bills’ secondary. Hyde ended the year tied for the fourth-best coverage grade among all safeties at 89.8 thanks to five interceptions and five pass breakups.

PFF Elite Stat: Hyde allowed 80 yards after the catch, eighth-fewest among safeties with 500-plus cover snaps.

98. Demar Dotson, T, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Injury robbed him of a higher spot on this list, but 11 games from Demar Dotson were good enough to deserve a spot given how impressive he was for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dotson allowed just 14 total pressures across 11 starts for the Bucs, playing 715 snaps of action over the year and earning the second-best overall PFF grade of his career at 85.0.

PFF Elite Stat: Among offensive tackles with at least 178 snaps in pass protection, Dotson ranked fourth in PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency (97.6) in 2017.

99. LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills

Top 101 appearances: 3

LeSean McCoy had another excellent season for the Buffalo Bills, a team that found itself unexpectedly in playoff contention and ended up making it all the way to the final minutes of the wild card round against the Jaguars. McCoy had an overall PFF grade of 82.3 and broke 33 tackles on 287 carries.

PFF Elite Stat: McCoy totaled 16 explosive (15-plus yards) runs in 2017, which was tied for the second-most among all NFL running backs.

100. Aqib Talib, CB, Denver Broncos

Top 101 appearances: 2

Aqib Talib, Denver Broncos

Not quite as spectacular as a season ago, Aqib Talib still backed up the best season of his career with the second-best – it just went relatively unnoticed because the Denver Broncos overall were so much worse. Talib allowed just 250 yards all season and 54.3 percent of passes thrown his way to be caught. He wasn’t beaten for a pass longer than 32 yards all year.

PFF Elite Stat: Talib ranked third in yards allowed per coverage snap (0.57) among cornerbacks with at least 166 snaps in coverage in 2017.

101. Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Top 101 appearances: New entry

Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens

Despite languishing on the practice squad as late as mid-September this past season, Alex Collins had a breakout year for the Baltimore Ravens and had the highest pure rushing score of any back at 89.7. Collins averaged 3.0 yards per carry after contact, breaking 34 tackles on 212 carries. He was a weaker player in the pass game, but those carries were spectacular.

PFF Elite Stat: Among the 53 running backs with at least 81 attempts in 2017, Collins ranked 10th in PFF’s elusive rating at 55.7.

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