Pro Football Focus released its 101 top players of the 2020 NFL season list on Monday. The list is based on their evaluation metric, The criteria are solely based on 2020 play (no past or future considerations), does not weigh positions more than others (i.e. quarterbacks are worth more than linebackers, etc.), and postseason play was also factored into the list. The top ten isn’t too much of a surprise:
- Aaron Donald, DL, Rams
- Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
- Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
- Tom Brady, QB, Buccaneers
- Davante Adams, WR, Packers
- DeShaun Watson, QB, Texans
- Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs
- Derrick Henry, RB, Titans
- T.J. Watt, EDGE, Steelers
- Kahlil Mack, EDGE, Bears
Two New York Giants landed on the list, both on the defensive side of the football. Cornerback James Bradberry was ranked at 84 and defensive lineman Leonard Williams was ranked at 97. The Giants' offense was far from desirable in 2020, so it makes sense that no offensive player for Big Blue made the list.
Five cornerbacks made the list over Bradberry. The Rams’ Jalen Ramsey (64) and Darius Williams (81), the Broncos’ Bryce Callahan (61), the Dolphins’ Xavian Howard (26), and the Packers’ Jaire Alexander (12).
Bradberry had 3 interceptions, 14 passes defended, and a completion percentage of 56.4%. He also ranked 10th in their coverage metric grade. All the corners ahead of Bradberry on the list had a lower completion percentage allowed; Bradberry had the most passes defended of the six. Howard had 10 interceptions on the season and Darius Williams had 4. James Bradberry had a breakout year with the Giants and he’s vaulted himself into a serious top-five contender at his position.
Williams is the 10th defensive lineman on the list at 97. Here’s the list of defensive lineman ahead of him:
- Aaron Donald, Rams
25. Chris Jones, Chiefs
28. DeForest Buckner, Colts
29. Cameron Heyward, Steelers
42. David Onyemata, Saints
63. Jeffery Simmons, Titans
77. Quinnen Williams, Jets (listed as DE)
89. Grady Jarrett, Falcons
92. Folorunso Fatukasi, Jets
Williams ranked second at the position with 13 sacks (PFF doesn’t do half sacks) and third at the position in pressures with 62. He was the primary generator of pressure for this Patrick Graham led defense.
One would imagine that Williams’ rush defense-grade must be low because his success as a pass rusher was evident, but that’s just not true. According to PFF’s own rush defense metric, Williams was the fifth-ranked run defender on the defensive line this season. So why is he ranked 10th? Well, PFF ranked Williams as the 45th best pass rusher at the position, despite the statistics.
Due to that contentious pass-rushing grade for Williams, he ranks behind several players who don’t have pass-rushing statistics that are close to being equivalent to Leonard Williams. I’m a big Folorunso Fatukasi fan; I think he’s one of the most underrated players in the NFL ... but to have him above Leonard Williams is a bit peculiar (Fatukasi had 12 pressures and 2 sacks on the season).
I could say the same thing about a few more of these defensive linemen on the list, especially with Leonard Williams’ run defense grade being so high ... it’s just a bit odd. I was curious to see why Blake Martinez failed to make the ranking, but only five linebackers cracked the list: San Francisco’s Fred Warner (31), Seattle’s Bobby Wagner (53), Minnesota’s Eric Kendricks (70), New Orleans’ Demario Davis (85), and Tampa Bay’s Levante David (93). It’s difficult to argue against a list that consists of these five players.