Three players from the New York Giants have been named to the top 101 players of 2022 by Pro Football Focus. Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence (No. 15), left tackle Andrew Thomas (No. 16) and running back Saquon Barkley (No. 62) were all honored by PFF after the Giants went 9-7-1 and reached the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs.
Following is what PFF said about each player, with some of my thoughts.
Unfortunately for Lawrence, his worst game of the season came in the playoffs against the best offensive line in the game (Philadelphia), but outside of that performance, he was virtually unstoppable. His domination of Minnesota the week prior is a big reason the Giants made it to the Eagles game. Lawrence racked up 70 pressures, including the playoffs, and 42 defensive stops.
Lawrence told me during an exclusive interview last summer that “I just want to wreck games.”
He certainly did that. In his fourth season, Lawrence had career highs in sacks (7.5), tackles (68), tackles for loss (7) and quarterback hits (28). He also played a career-high 82 percent of the Giants’ defensive snaps, totaling 864 snaps played for the year. Lawrence was voted second-team All-Pro.
It’s hard to believe that Thomas was a liability as a rookie left tackle for the Giants. This year, he was consistently one of football’s best tackles, finishing with 81.0-plus PFF grades as both a run blocker and pass protector.
Indeed, Thomas’s transformation has been amazing. Thomas was one of only three NFL tackles to finish with a Pro Football Focus grade above 90.0. Trent Williams of the San Francisco 49ers was at 91.7, Christian Darrisaw of the Minnesota Vikings earned a 90.4 grade, and Thomas checked in at 90.3. Thomas’s 89.9 PFF pass-blocking grade was third among tackles and his 81.0 run-blocking grade was ninth.
Barkley had a career year this past season and was one of the leading candidates for Comeback Player of the Year. Behind a terrible Giants offensive line, he was able to record more than 1,400 rushing yards and score 12 touchdowns. He broke 41 tackles overall and helped propel the Giants past the Vikings on the road in the playoffs.
You can slice and dice the analytics to make whatever argument you want about Barkley. Think he is a superstar? You can find numbers to support that conclusion. Think he’s a below replacement level running back? You can find advanced analytics to support that conclusion, too.
What I know is that as constructed the Giants do not reach the 2022 playoffs without Barkley’s contributions.
There are five running backs listed ahead of Barkley based on 2022 performance. They are Josh Jacobs of the Las Vegas Raiders (No. 10), Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns (No. 22), Christian McCaffrey of the San Francisco 49ers (No. 31), Tony Pollard of the Dallas Cowboys (No. 49) and Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans (No. 57).
You might be surprised to see Pollard there, but I can’t really quibble much with that group being ahead of Barkley.