Top-200 NFL Players: 176-200 (2014)

This 8-part series counts down the top-200 players in the NFL. 200 might sounds like a lot, but with 53 players on 32 teams’ rosters, that’s 1696 players. Count guys on the practice squad, guys on the PUP or the IR, and guys who are free agents, but still on teams’ radar. That’s probably 2000 players. These guys are the top 10%. Positional value doesn’t matter because if it did, this list would be too quarterback heavy.

176. DT Malik Jackson (Denver)

Jackson doesn’t get a lot of recognition, even on the defending AFC Champions. The 2012 5th round pick didn’t do much as a rookie, playing 120 nondescript snaps. However, he played 601 snaps and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 12th ranked 4-3 defensive tackle in 2013. He’s still a one year wonder, but he’s an obvious asset with the versatility play defensive end in base packages and defensive tackle in sub packages. The 6-5 284 pounder played a fair amount of defensive end in college at Tennessee and will continue being a significant asset on the defensive line for the Broncos, even if he isn’t “technically” a starter.

Last year: NR

177. WR Percy Harvin (Seattle)

The Seahawks clearly had big plans for Percy Harvin when they traded a 1st and 3rd round pick for him last off-season and gave him a 6-year, 67 million dollar deal. Those plans were derailed when Harvin hurt his hip and missed all but 20 regular season snaps. He made an impact in the post-season, but Harvin’s injury history is impossible to ignore. He’s missed 25 games in 5 seasons, including 22 games over the past 2 seasons. When on the field, he’s dynamic, averaging 2.45 yards per route run in his first 4 seasons in the league in Minnesota despite less than stellar quarterback play. That’s impressive even if he was being targeted on 28.75% of route run. He also adds value as a return man (115 kickoff returns for 3241 yards and 5 touchdowns) and a ball carrier (683 yards and 4 touchdowns on 107 carries). He just needs to stay healthy.

Last year: NR

178. TE Jordan Cameron (Cleveland)

Jordan Cameron broke out in his 3rd year in the league in 2013, after being drafted in the 4th round in 2011, catching 80 passes for 917 yards and 7 touchdowns. He played on one of the pass heaviest teams in the league, running 622 routes, giving him an average of 1.47 yards per route run. That’s pretty middle of the pack, but considering what he had to work with at quarterback, it’s impressive. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 15th ranked tight end in pass catching grade, though he struggled mightily as a run blocker, grading out 11th worst at his position in that aspect.

Last year: NR

179. C Dominic Raiola (Detroit)

Raiola is going into his age 36 season, and he looked done as recently as 2010-2011, when he graded out below average on Pro Football Focus in both seasons, including 5th worst among centers in 2010. However, he’s put together back-to-back strong seasons over the past two seasons, grading out 13th and 2nd among centers in 2012 and 2013 respectively. At his age, he doesn’t have much time left, but he could easily have another strong season left in the tank.

Last year: NR

180. DT Damon Harrison (NY Jets)

The man affectionately known as Snacks, Damon Harrison is a massive 6-4 350 pounder. The 2012 undrafted free agent cut down on the snacks a little bit last season and moved to feasting on offensive linemen and running backs. He was easily Pro Football Focus’ #1 ranked defensive tackle in terms of run stopping grade and only JJ Watt had a higher run stopping grade at any position. He doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher, with 1 sack and 9 hurries on 226 pass rush snaps, a 4.4% rate, grading out below average, but it didn’t matter that much. He was still Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked defensive tackle last season on 510 snaps and no one played fewer snaps and graded out higher. There might not be a better two-down player in the NFL. He’s still a one year wonder, playing just 22 snaps as an undrafted rookie in 2012, and his history of weight problems is concerning, but he could easily have another strong year against the run.

Last year: NR

181. DT Star Lotulelei (Carolina)

Star Lotulelei had a fantastic rookie year after the Panthers drafted him 14th overall in 2013, earning some Defensive Rookie of the Year consideration. He was Pro Football Focus’ 16th ranked defensive tackle. Lotulelei wasn’t that well-rounded, struggling as a pass rusher and excelling against the run. The 6-2 315 pounder might just be a pure two-down player (though an excellent one, grading out 5th overall against the run). That’s a concern because run stoppers are less valuable than pass rushers in the NFL. That being said, he was a first round pick just last year so he could easily become at least a decent pass rusher and allow himself to stay on the field in every situation. He’s not done developing, only turning 25 in December.

Last year: NR

182. DE Jason Pierre-Paul (NY Giants)

JPP didn’t miss that many games last season, missing 5, but he was a shell of his normal self with back and shoulder problems, grading out just about average on 583 snaps, grading out below average as a pass rusher and above average as a run stopper. Jason Pierre-Paul has 9 sacks over the past 2 seasons combined, after 16 sacks in 2011, but he’s only had one down year. In 2012, he had only 7 sacks, but he also had 4 hits and 45 hurries, giving him a solid 10.7% pass rush rate on 523 pass rush snaps. He was even better against the run and overall, grading out 3rd overall on Pro Football Focus among 4-3 defensive ends. That’s actually better than his 2011 breakout year, when he graded out 6th at his position. He wasn’t as good against the run and he only had a 9.7% pass rush rate, with 16 sacks, 14 hits, and 26 hurries on 580 pass rush snaps. JPP is expected to be 100% this season and, only going into his age 25 season, he has a very good chance to bounce back and be a top defensive end again.

Last year: 44

183. DE Charles Johnson (Carolina)

Charles Johnson signed a gargantuan 6-year, 76 million dollar deal with the Panthers following a breakout season in 2010 in which he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked 4-3 defensive end. That was his first season as a starter, so the Panthers were paying for a one-year wonder and it hasn’t quite paid off. That isn’t to say he’s been bad, as he’s been a strong pass rusher, grading out 18th, 2nd, and 11th in pure pass rushing grade in 2011, 2012, and 2013 respectively. However, he’s graded out below average as a run stopper in all 3 seasons and has overall not proven himself to be the player he was in 2010.

Last year: 69

184. G TJ Lang (Green Bay)

TJ Lang had the best season of his career in 2013, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 15th ranked guard. He’s inconsistent though. A 3-year starter with the versatility to play any position other than center if needed (but he’s best at guard), Lang graded out below average in 2012, but ranked 22nd in 2011. Last season was his first full year at right guard and that might just be the best spot for him, so he could easily have another strong year, but his history of inconsistency is worth mentioning.

Last year: NR

185. OT Anthony Collins (Tampa Bay)

Many fans might not have heard of Anthony Collins, but the NFL sure knows who he is. He’s been the Bengals’ swing tackle for years and he’s always shown well when given the chance, grading out above average on Pro Football Focus in limited action in every season since 2009. In 2013, he was given his biggest chance yet, with Andrew Whitworth moving to left guard in place of the injured Clint Boling and Anthony Collins taking over at left tackle. Collins played a career high 592 snaps and didn’t allow a sack or quarterback hit all season, finishing as Pro Football Focus’ 23rd ranked offensive tackle despite the limited action. He got a well-deserved 5-year, 30 million dollar deal from the Buccaneers this off-season to be their left tackle.

Last year: NR

186. WR Kendall Wright (Tennessee)

2012 1st round pick Kendall Wright broke out in his 2nd year in the league in 2013. Wright only averaged 11.5 yards per reception and only scored twice and in his career he only averages 10.8 yards per reception and only has 6 touchdowns, but he gobbles up underneath targets and dominates that part of the field. Wright caught 94 passes on 134 targets (70.1%) and totaled 1079 yards on 539 routes run, an average of 2.00 yards per route run, 21st among eligible wide receivers. He also had more than half of his yardage after the catch, as he totaled 583 yards after the catch and averaged 6.2 yards per catch after the catch. That was 10th at his position among eligible wide receivers. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 18th ranked wide receiver and he could easily be better in his 3rd year in the league, a common breakout year for wide receivers. He can become a more complete receiver by catching more passes downfield.

Last year: NR

187. OT Zach Strief (New Orleans)

A late bloomer, Zach Strief has only been a starter for 3 years in his career and he’s already going into his age 31 season. He’s also missed 10 games in 3 seasons and struggled through injury in 12 games in 2012, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 52nd ranked offensive tackle out of 80 eligible. He’s also only a pure right tackle, which isn’t quite as valuable as someone who can play on the blindside. However, he’s been dominant in his other two seasons as a starter, grading out as Pro Football Focus 12th ranked offensive tackle (6th ranked right tackle) in 2011 and 9th ranked offensive tackle (1st ranked right tackle in 2013).

Last year: NR

188. G Justin Blalock (Atlanta)

Blalock was the only Falcons’ offensive lineman last season to make more than 10 starts and grade out above average, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 23rd ranked guard. This is nothing new for him as he’s made every start but 2 since his rookie year in 2007, including 100 straight dating back to 2007, and he’s graded out above average in each of his last 4 seasons, maxing out at 12th among guards in 2010.

Last year: NR

189. WR Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona)

Fitzgerald has gone under 1000 yards receiving in each of the last 2 seasons. His 71/798/4 line in 2012 was understandable because he had supremely terrible quarterback play, but even with better quarterback play, he only caught 82 passes for 954 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2013. That’s obviously still very solid, but this is the guy who averaged 94 catches for 1309 yards and 10 touchdowns per 16 games from 2005-2011, even though he never really had great quarterback play, except for those couple Warner years. Now in his 30s, going into his age 31 season, he’s simply not the same player any more. He’s still really good, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 11th ranked wide receiver last season (though just 25th in pass catching grade), catching 63.6% of his passes for an average of 1.59 yards per route run, but he falls down this list.

Last year: 47

190. S Donte Whitner (Cleveland)

He is an inconsistent player who graded out slightly below average on Pro Football Focus in each season from 2007-2010 in Buffalo and who allowed 12 touchdowns in regular season and post-season combined in 2012 on a 49ers team that allowed just 26 total passing touchdowns in the regular season and post-season combined. However, he graded out 8th among safeties in 2011 and 6th among safeties in 2013. He seemed to fix his coverage problems last season, grading out 5th in that aspect, and we’ll see if that continues.

Last year: NR

191. MLB Brandon Spikes (Buffalo)

Brandon Spikes was Pro Football Focus’ 6th ranked middle linebacker last season, but that’s a little misleading. That was fueled solely by his run play as he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ first ranked middle linebacker in terms of run grade by a mile, but he ranked 38th out of 55 middle linebackers in terms of coverage grade. He also played only 694 snaps as a part-time two-down player. He’s a pure base package player in a league that’s devaluing pure base package players, though he’s an excellent one at that. This isn’t a new thing for him. In 2012, he graded out 9th among middle linebackers, including 1st as a run stopper, playing just 742 snaps. In 2011, he graded out 18th among middle linebackers, 19th in run grade, and played 364 snaps. In 2010, he graded out 9th among middle linebackers, 4th in run grade, and played 356 snaps. He also has a history of injury and issues with the coaching staff. All this being said, he is phenomenal at what he does.

Last year: NR

192. CB Brandon Boykin (Philadelphia)

Brandon Boykin is a 5-9 182 pounder who can only play the slot. However, the 2012 4th round pick was Pro Football Focus’ 12th ranked cornerback last season on 635 snaps, with no one playing fewer snaps and grading out higher. He was even better in pure coverage grade, grading out 2nd in that aspect. He also graded out above average on 526 snaps as a rookie. He’s played a combined 107 snaps not on the slot over the past 2 seasons combined and he’ll have to remain purely a slot cornerback this season, but he’s the best pure slot cornerback in the NFL.

Last year: NR

193. WR Eric Decker (NY Jets)

Eric Decker is going to get a massive downgrade at the quarterback position going from Peyton Manning to Geno Smith. The last time he played with a quarterback other than Peyton Manning, he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 82nd ranked wide receiver out of 115 eligible and averaged just 1.28 yards per route run, 65th out of 95 eligible. That was in 2011 with the combination of Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton, which is comparable to what Decker will be dealing with in New York. That being said, it’s unfair to suggest that he’s not an improved player since 2011. While much of his increased production since then was due to the arrival of Peyton Manning, he’s still an improved player. He’s averaged 1.80 and 2.03 yards per route run over the past 2 seasons respectively, grading out 36th and 11th in those two seasons respectively among wide receivers on Pro Football Focus, peaking in his contract year. The 2010 3rd round pick not a true coverage changing #1 receiver, he’s not overly explosive, and he drops too many passes (29 drops compared to 216 catches over the past 3 seasons). However, he is going to be easily the Jets’ best wide receiver this season and he’s incredibly reliable around the goal line (32 touchdowns in the last 3 seasons, including 8 even in 2011).

Last year: 186

194. WR Anquan Boldin (San Francisco)

The 49ers’ leading receiver last season was Anquan Boldin, who caught 85 passes for 1179 yards and 7 touchdowns on 123 targets (69.1%) and 462 routes run, an average of 2.55 yards per route run. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 6th ranked wide receiver overall last season. The issue is he’s going into his age 34 season. There’s still a good chance he doesn’t show serious decline this season, in spite of that. He didn’t show any decline last season. In fact, he had one of the best seasons of his career, going above 1000 yards for the first time since 2009. He also doesn’t have a significant injury history and has only missed 4 games over the past 5 seasons combined. On top of that, he’s never been someone reliant on his athleticism, dominating with his ability to make contested catches first and foremost, and that’s not something that’s going to go away with age as fast as athleticism might. He won’t be as good as last season though.

Last year: NR

195. C Travis Frederick (Dallas)

Frederick was a surprise pick as the 31st overall pick in 2013, but he impressed as a rookie, grading out 7th at his position. He struggled in pass protection, grading out 32nd out of 35 eligible in that aspect, which is unfortunate considering pass protection is more important than run blocking, but he was Pro Football Focus’ #1 ranked run blocking center and he could be even better in his 2nd year in the league in 2014.

Last year: NR

196. TE Marcedes Lewis (Jacksonville)

Lewis’ raw pass catching totals don’t seem that good (206 catches for 2577 yards and 20 touchdowns since 2009 in 73 games), but he’s averaged 1.58 yards per route run since 2009, including 1.37 yards per route run last season. He’s limited by the way the Jaguars utilize his skill set limits his pass catching production (in addition to poor quarterback play. Since 2009, he has 1 pass block snap for every 3.53 routes he runs, which means he pass blocks more often than almost any tight end. The Jaguars also very rarely line him up off the line. Since 2009, only 31.7% of his routes run have come on the slot, which means he lines up off line as infrequently as almost any tight end in the game. He’s graded out above average every season since 2009 and he was a top-10 tight end in every season from 2009-2012, maxing out at #2 overall in 2010. Much of that is run blocking grade for the punishing 6-6 261 pounder, but he graded out above average as a pass catcher in 3 of those 4 seasons. He didn’t do so last season and he only graded out slightly above average overall and also missed 5 games with injury. That’s a concern as he heads into his age 30 season. However, he should remain an asset for them as long as he stays on the field and the 2006 1st round pick only missed a combined 3 games from 2006-2012.

Last year: NR

197. WR Randall Cobb (Green Bay)

A 2011 2nd round pick, Cobb caught 25 passes on 31 targets (80.6%) for 375 yards and a touchdown on 174 routes run as a rookie, an average of 2.16 yards per route run. He then had a breakout year in 2012, catching 80 passes on 102 targets (78.4%) for 954 yards and 8 touchdowns on 422 routes run, an average of 2.26 yards per route run. He was Pro Football Focus’ #11 ranked wide receiver that season. He looked on his way to a similar season in 2013, but injuries derailed that, limiting him to 6 games. He caught 31 passes on 40 targets (77.5%) for 433 yards and 4 touchdowns on 209 routes run, an average of 2.07 yards per route run. Going into his contract year this year, without much of an injury history, he should have another year similar to 2012, but he is still a one year wonder.

Last year: 141

198. RB DeMarco Murray (Dallas)

DeMarco Murray had the best season of his career in 2013, rushing for 1121 yards and 9 touchdowns on 217 attempts, an average of 5.17 YPC. He also added 53 catches for 350 yards and a touchdown through the air. He was Pro Football Focus’ 9th ranked running back overall and had the 7th highest elusive rating last season with 53 broken tackles on 270 touches and 2.71 yards per carry after contact. I’m skeptical whether or not he can repeat that kind of season, given his injury history. He’s been banged up dating back to college, even missing 2 games last season, and missing a combined 11 games in 3 seasons in the league. He’s never played more than 14 games in a season and the 270 touches he had last season blew his previous career high of 196 out of the water.

Last year: NR

199. OT Anthony Castonzo (Indianapolis)

Anthony Castonzo essentially played every snap at left tackle last season, 1088 out of 1093 possible. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 27th ranked offensive tackle, well above average.He was a 2011 1st round pick and is now going into his 4th year in the league. The Colts picked up his 5th year option for 2015 this off-season. He’s graded out above average in all 3 years he’s been in the league, improved every year, and has missed a combined 5 snaps over the past 2 seasons combined.

Last year: NR

200. TE Jordan Reed (Washington)

Reed, a 3rd round rookie last season, missed 7 games with concussions, but still graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 7th ranked tight end last season despite playing just 384 snaps. He was very well-rounded too, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 10th ranked pass catching tight end and 13th ranked run blocking tight end. Reed caught 45 passes on 60 attempts (75.0%) for 499 yards and 4 touchdowns on 228 routes run, an average of 2.19 yards per route run, 3rd in the NFL. If he stays healthy, he could have a breakout year in 2014.

Last year: NR

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