Pro Football Focus recently released a list of the top-101 players in the NFL. Shockingly, not all of them are Cincinnati Bengals players -- we're sent an email. In the meantime the crew listed Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers at No. 1, followed (chronologically) by San Francisco defensive end Justin Smith, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson and New York cornerback Darrelle Revis at No. 5. But who cares about that, right? You just care about the Cincinnati Bengals. That's kind of the reason you come here, kind of theme we've had running for six years. So let's get down to it.
Andrew Whitworth ranked at No. 82, with PFF writing:
Likely would have finished higher but for a mid season knee knock that really seemed to impact his run blocking going forward. While that led to some subpar work in the running game, his pass protection was exceptional throughout. He graded negatively just twice all year, and only one left tackle finished with a higher grade in this department. Just a shame the run blocking and penalty count (eight) let him down, but a true franchise left tackle.
Geno Atkins ranked at No. 19, with PFF writing:
The sophomore defensive tackle was as good this year as people thought Ndamukong Suh was last year. Emerging as an every-down defender, Atkins graded positively in both the run game and with his pass rushing. His +21.3 grade in the pass game was the best of all defensive tackles, aided by 23 quarterback sacks and hits. That shouldn’t take away from his work in the run game where he finished in the Top 15 with 20 defensive stops. Got the nation’s attention with a dominant display in the Bengals’ playoff defeat to the Texans.
Those are the obvious players that any common sense top-100 (or 101 in this case) list would identify. That's also the complete Bengals roster on their undebatable top player listing. Since I'm an optimist -- the type of guy that says going to the playoffs and losing is better than not going to the playoffs at all -- two players is better than none, right?
Now A.J. Green is the most noticeable (or high-octane) omission from a Bengals perspective, maybe even Carlos Dunlap. However an injury disposed him for four games and it remained a nagging injury throughout the rest of the season.
But A.J. Green?
The lowest-ranked wide receiver was Mike Wallace at No. 63 and enthusiastically promoting our balanced perspective (who are we kidding, we hate the Steelers), Wallace and Green had similar seasons. Now PFF will traditionally weigh their ranking system with their overall grades, which benefits Mike Wallace far more.
Penalties, man. Penalties account against the overall score (maybe a bit much) and Green was flagged nine times (three false starts, three illegal formations, offensive pass interference, offensive offsides and offensive holding). On the other hand Wallace was flagged only three times (taunting, false start, illegal formation). Maybe if there was a category for redonkulous receptions against triple coverages, he'd fair better. But what do we know.
Anyway it's not important to take PFF list with too much heart or too literal. It's their opinion, using their grading scale and there's more than enough question marks on the players they picked and where they're ranked.