76. OT Nate Solder (New England)
Nate Solder will continue to start at left tackle for the Patriots. The 2011 1st round was Pro Football Focus’ 17th ranked offensive tackle in his first year as a starter in 2012 and then took it to the next level in 2013, grading out 9th. He was abused by Von Miller, but there’s no shame in that and he was very good the rest of the season. The Patriots have already picked up his option for 2015 and he’s one of the best young blindside protectors in the game.
Last year: 127
77. G Jahri Evans (New Orleans)
Jahri Evans has been a starter for the Saints for 8 years since they drafted him in the 4th round in 2006 and he’s missed just 2 games over that 8-year span. He’s also their best offensive lineman, dominating throughout his career. Those 2 games he missed were last season, when he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 17th ranked guard. That’s actually the 2nd lowest he’s ranked in his career, which is a concern, when coupled with his injury and the fact that he’s going into his age 31 season. He could be declining. However, he was so good in his prime (grading out in the top-30 in 7 straight years and the top-9 in 5 of those 7 years, maxing out at #1 overall in 2009), that even a declining Evans is one of the best guards in the game.
Last year: 48
78. DE Muhammad Wilkerson (NY Jets)
Many saw Wilkerson as having a breakout season last year, as evidenced by his 11 sacks, but he was actually better in 2012, when he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked 3-4 defensive end. In 2013, he was “only” 15th at his position. In 2013, he had 11 sacks, 9 hits, and 32 hurries on 636 pass rush snaps, a rate of 8.2%. In 2012, he had 5 sacks, 10 hits, and 22 hurries on 472 pass rush snaps, a rate of 7.8%, which is comparable, and he was also much better against the run. Still, he’s one of the best young defensive linemen in the NFL and has been for two seasons. The 2011 1st round pick has really panned out and had his option picked up for 2015.
Last year: 29
79. TE Vernon Davis (San Francisco)
In 18 games with Crabtree in the lineup and Kaepernick under center, including playoffs, Vernon Davis has 43 catches for 679 yards and 8 touchdowns and he has 38 catches for 623 yards and 9 touchdowns in the other 10 games he’s played with Kaepernick under center. The 49ers haven’t passed enough in the past for both Davis and Crabtree to put up big numbers, but that could change this season. Even if he doesn’t get a ton of targets, he’s still an efficient pass catcher and a valuable run blocker on the edge. He’s graded out above average in 5 of the last 6 seasons overall and in all 6 seasons as a run blocker. His best overall season was last season, when he graded out 6th among tight ends overall. He was also 9th in 2010 and 7th in 2012. He’s one of the better tight ends in the league overall, even if he isn’t the focus of the passing offense.
Last year: 146
80. WR Keenan Allen (San Diego)
Even though he didn’t play at all week 1 and didn’t move into the starting lineup until week 4, Allen still caught 71 passes for 1046 yards and 8 touchdowns as a rookie. Rookie wide receivers aren’t supposed to get it this quickly. Since 2005, 31 receivers have gone in the 1st round. They’ve averaged 41 catches for 558 yards and 3 touchdowns per season. Allen blew those numbers out of the water and he was a 3rd round pick. Allen did all of this despite “only” running 510 pass snaps and seeing the bulk of the defense’s attention as a #1 wide receiver as a rookie. He averaged 2.06 yards per route run. And it wasn’t like the Chargers were forcing him the ball. Allen’s 101 targets were 31st in the NFL (he caught 70.3% of them) and Philip Rivers had a 118.1 QB rating throwing to Allen.
Last year: NA
81. S Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh)
He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 5th ranked safety last season, including 2nd in coverage grade. The issue is he’s going into his age 33 season and he’s always been injury prone. He played all 16 games last season, but only 7 the season before and he’s missed 22 games in the last 5 seasons combined. When he’s on the field, he’s great. I mentioned how well he played last season, but he was also Pro Football Focus’ 12th ranked safety in 2012, despite being limited to 402 snaps in 7 games. He was Pro Football Focus’ #1 safety in 16 games in 2011 and #5 safety in 14 games in 2010. He’s graded out above average in every season dating back to 2007. However, he’s very injury prone and now, going into his age 33 season, it’s tough to know how much they can count on him.
Last year: 89
82. OLB Robert Mathis (Indianapolis)
Robert Mathis tied for the NFL lead with 19 sacks last season. He’s a very talented player, but I’m going to pick him apart a little bit. While he had 19 sacks last year, he only had 5 hits and 39 hurries. That’s impressive, but not nearly as good as someone like Robert Quinn, who also had 19 sacks, but totaled 21 hits and 54 hurries. It’s for that reason that I didn’t think Mathis deserved Defensive Player of the Year consideration. Still, Mathis was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked 3-4 outside linebacker last season. However, he’s going into his age 33 season and actually graded out below average in 2012. He’s unlikely to play as well in 2014 as he did in 2013, in what was one of the best years of his career. On top of that, Mathis is suspended for the first 4 games of the season for performance enhancing drugs, which will not only cost him 4 games, but could really put him behind the 8-ball this season. He’s good, but we can’t just blindly look at sack totals.
Last year: NA
83. DT Dontari Poe (Kansas City)
Dontari Poe’s 1004 snaps played led all defensive tackles and he did it in 15 games, despite being a monstrous 6-3 346. Only 5 other defensive linemen played that many snaps last season. The nose tackle stayed on the field for almost every single sub package snap, which is incredibly rare and incredibly impressive. He played every single snap in 5 games and missed 63 snaps all season, excluding the week 17 game in which the Chiefs rested their starters. In the playoff loss to Indianapolis, he dominated, while playing 59 of 67 possible snaps. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 10th ranked defensive tackle. He excelled against the run, but also played well as a pass rusher, despite his massive size. In his 3rd year in the league, only his age 24 season, he could be even better. He’ll probably be more efficient at the very least if they can get him a few more breathers, though he’s not exactly someone you want to take off the field.
Last year: NA
84. S Eric Berry (Kansas City)
The 5th overall pick in 2010, Eric Berry was overrated for a while, undeservedly making the Pro-Bowl in both 2010 and 2012. Berry played well as a rookie in 2010, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 17th ranked safety, but he wasn’t Pro-Bowl caliber. He could have broken out as Pro-Bowl caliber in 2011, but he tore his ACL 5 snaps into the season. He was solid again in 2012, upon his return, grading out about average on Pro Football Focus, but he still wasn’t Pro-Bowl caliber and still didn’t appear to be reaching his full potential. In 2013, his 4th year in the league, Berry did reach his potential, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked safety and deservedly making the Pro-Bowl. Now completely healthy with 1 game missed in his other 3 seasons (a meaningless week 17 game last year), Berry is going into his age 26 contract year and should have another solid season.
Last year: NA
85. DE Carlos Dunlap (Cincinnati)
Dunlap has graded out above average in every season he’s been in the league since being drafted in the 2nd round in 2010 and he’s played an increasing number of snaps in every season, going from 287 snaps to 423 snaps to 601 snaps to 949 snaps last season. His best season was 2011, when he graded out 4th at his position despite only playing 423 snaps. No one graded out higher and played fewer snaps. He was 8th in 2012 and 9th in 2013 and should have another strong season this year, provided he doesn’t miss talented ex-defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer too much.
Last year: 150
86. OT Michael Roos (Tennessee)
Roos is going into his age 32 season, but he’s been a quietly dominant left tackle and a huge asset for the Titans since they drafted him in the 2nd round in 2005. He’s graded out above average on Pro Football Focus in every season since 2007, maxing out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked offensive tackle in 2012 (he was also 4th in 2008). He graded out 16th last season and has been a top-16 offensive tackle in each of the last 3 seasons, something only Joe Thomas, Andrew Whitworth, and Eugene Monroe can also say. He’s also missed just 1 start since 2007.
Last year: 67
87. OLB Elvis Dumervil (Baltimore)
Dumervil had a fantastic year last year. He only was a part-time player, playing 574 snaps, but he was an incredibly efficient pass rusher. He had 10 sacks, 11 hits, and 40 hurries on 332 pass rush snaps, a pass rush rate of 18.4%. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked 3-4 outside linebacker last season, with no one grading out higher and playing fewer snaps. He was also #1 at the position in pure pass rush grade. He was only a league average 4-3 defensive end in 2011 and 2012 with the Broncos, but, the last time he was in a system in which he didn’t have to play pure defensive end, he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 4th best 3-4 outside linebacker in terms of pure pass rush grade, back in 2009. He’s never been a good run player no matter what system he’s played in, but he can get after the quarterback in the Ravens’ system and he serves an incredibly valuable part-time role for them as a result.
Last year: NA
88. C Jason Kelce (Philadelphia)
The Eagles got a breakout year from 3rd year center Jason Kelce, who graded out as Pro Football Focus’ #1 ranked center last season. He’s still a one year wonder though, which is especially concerning considering he was just a 6th round pick in 2011. He struggled mightily as a rookie, grading out 33rd out of 35 eligible among centers. In 2012, he flashed on 139 snaps in 2 games before going down for the season with torn ACL and MCL. This is obviously nitpicking and he’s a very good player obviously, but expecting him to be as dominant as he was last year is a little short-sighted.
Last year: NA
89. QB Russell Wilson (Seattle)
Russell Wilson, a 2012 3rd round pick, has proven to be one of the greatest draft steals in NFL history. Obviously he got a lot of help from his supporting cast en route to winning the Super Bowl in his 2nd season in the league, but he did a lot of it on his own, completing 63.6% of his passes for an average of 8.09 YPA, 50 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions in 2 seasons in the league (100.6 QB rating). He’s also added 1028 yards and 5 touchdowns rushing on 190 carries (5.41 YPC) in 2 seasons. He was Pro Football Focus’ 6th ranked quarterback in 2012 and 4th ranked quarterback in 2013. Only going into his age 26 season, his 3rd year in the league, he might not have even peaked yet and he’s put himself among the NFL’s top quarterbacks.
Last year: 157
90. DT Randy Starks (Miami)
Starks is an underrated, under-mentioned player who has graded out above average in each of the last 6 seasons from 2008-2013 since becoming a starter, maxing out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked 3-4 defensive end in 2009 and 7th ranked defensive tackle in 2013. He has scheme versatility at 6-3 312 and can play both 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 and defensive tackle in a 4-3. He’s also equally good as a pass rusher and run stopper. He was the only defensive tackle to grade out in the top-7 in both run stopping grade and pass rushing grade last season. Even though he’s going into his age 31 season, he’s coming off one of the best seasons of his career.
Last year: 145
91. MLB Karlos Dansby (Cleveland)
Karlos Dansby was Pro Football Focus’ 5th ranked middle linebacker last season. Dansby might never have another year as good as last season again, as he’s going into his age 33 season, and as he had never been a top-10 middle linebacker on Pro Football Focus prior to last season, but he graded out 12th in 2010, 11th in 2011, and 13th in 2012. Dansby should still have a strong season.
Last year: NA
92. G Ben Grubbs (New Orleans)
At the left guard position, the Saints have Ben Grubbs, who they signed to a 5-year, 36 million dollar deal after the 2011 season, replacing the departed Carl Nicks. Grubbs has been worth that, grading out 7th at his position in 2012 and 11th in 2013. Grubbs, a 2007 1st round pick, broke out in his 3rd year in the league in 2009 and has been a top-16 guard in 5 straight seasons on Pro Football Focus. Only Green Bay’s Josh Sitton can also say the same.
Last year: 96
93. CB Alterraun Verner (Tampa Bay)
Verner has never been spectacular, maxing out 10th overall in 2011 (he graded out 13th last season). However, he’s made all 64 starts since being drafted in the 4th round in 2010 and he’s graded out in the top-25 on Pro Football Focus in all 4 seasons, something only Joe Haden and Jason McCourty can also say at the inconsistent cornerback position. The common opinion is that Verner broke out last season, when he had a career high 5 interceptions, after a combined 6 interceptions in his first 3 seasons in the league, but that’s the danger with just looking at interception numbers. He’s been a solid player in entire career in Tennessee’s zone defense and will be a cheaper, better scheme fit in Tampa Bay’s zone defense than Darrelle Revis would have been.
Last year: NA
94. OT Cordy Glenn (Buffalo)
Cordy Glenn, a 2012 2nd round pick, has developed into one of the better blindside protectors in the game. After a solid rookie year in 2012, when he graded out 33rd at his position, he ranked 13th in 2013. He could be even better, going into his 3rd year in the league, in 2014. He had a mysterious off-season illness, but he seems to be recovered now and should be 100% for week 1.
Last year: NA
95. WR AJ Green (Cincinnati)
Green has been Pro Football Focus’ 22nd, 8th, and 14thranked wide receiver in pass catching grade in his first 3 seasons in the league respectively. Green has averaged 2.25 yards per route run in his career. He’s only caught 59.0% of his career targets and had 26 drops, 19 penalties, and 22 interceptions when thrown to throughout his career, so he has some issues that don’t show up on a traditional stat sheet, but he’s still one of the better wide receivers in the game. The Bengals already picked up his 5th year option for 2015, which was a no brainer. Expect a lucrative extension soon.
Last year: 19
96. OLB Trent Cole (Philadelphia)
Trent Cole had a revival year last year in his first year in a 3-4, as the 6-2 260 pounder graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 7th ranked 3-4 outside linebacker. I call it a revival year because he struggled by his standards in 2012, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 22nd ranked 4-3 defensive end. That was his worst season since 2007 as he had graded out in the top-6 among 4-3 defensive ends in every season from 2008-2011, including #1 in both 2010 and 2011. That was a concern because Trent Cole is an aging player, which remains a concern even after his strong 2013 season. He’s going into his age 32 season.
Last year: NA
97. DT Brandon Mebane (Seattle)
Brandon Mebane was Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked defensive tackle last season. That’s the best season of his career as the 2007 3rd round pick had never graded out higher than 5th (2008) and he’s only graded out above average in 4 of 7 seasons in the league. I don’t expect him to be quite that good again, but he could easily have another very strong season.
Last year: NA
98. OT Ryan Clady (Denver)
Clady went down for the season week 2 after 146 snaps, tearing ligaments in his foot. Clady was Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked offensive tackle in 2012. He won’t necessarily be that good again as he’s coming off of injury and that’s easily the best season of his career. The 2008 first round pick was Pro Football Focus’ 30thranked offensive tackle in 2008, 16th ranked in 2009, 9th ranked in 2010, but 63rd ranked in 2011. However, having him back on the blindside is an obvious positive for the Broncos.
Last year: 49
99. DE DeMarcus Ware (Denver)
The Broncos signed to DeMarcus Ware to a 3-year, 30 million dollar deal this off-season. That deal was an overpay, especially since the first two seasons are completely guaranteed, as he’s a declining player going into his age 32 season. While Ware is declining, that’s only because he was a top-4 3-4 outside linebacker on Pro Football Focus in every season from 2008-2011. He “only” graded out 8th among 3-4 outside linebackers in 2012 and 8th among 4-3 defensive ends in 2013. Those days of being an elite player are probably gone, as he goes into his age 32 season and after missing the first 3 games of his career last year, but he should still be a well above average starter and an asset, especially on passing downs.
Last year: 64
100. WR Andre Johnson (Houston)
Johnson missed valuable time with a new quarterback and head coach thanks to an off-season holdout. He’s also going into his age 33 season, which makes that holdout even more concerning. Johnson’s 12,661 yards are 17th all-time and he could easily be Hall-of-Fame bound when it’s all said and done. However, even the average top-20 receiver (in terms of yardage all-time) has his last 1000 yard season at age 34-35, averages 48 catches for 594 yards and 3 touchdowns for 2 more seasons after age 34-35, and is done playing by age 36-37. Johnson isn’t quite there right now, but he’s at the point in his career where is age is becoming a concern. He probably won’t be as productive as last season, when he caught 109 passes for 1407 yards and 5 touchdowns on 176 attempts (61.9%) and 613 routes run, an average of 2.30 yards per route run.
Last year: 90