Punch Drunk Wonderland

Top 100 Graded Defensive Players of 2014

With the 2014 regular season now in the rearview mirror it’s time to start delving into analysis of the season that was. Between statistical production, game impact, and fantasy production for IDPs there is a surprisingly wide spectrum to exam in order to analyze how well a defensive player performed in a given season. One of the better metrics out there is the grading system used by Pro Football Focus. The folks at PFF have teams of experts who pour over game film (digital video from NFL.com’s GameRewind actually) and grade each player at each respective position in an effort to compile a clear, concise, and complete assessment of player production in each game (check out the details of grading here). It’s not the end-all-be-all and there are plenty of aspects of the grading that are subjective and potentially flawed, but it’s one of the very best resources available.

Here’s a look at the top defenders based on grades from 2014 (a table of the Top 100 is below).

J.J. Watt (DE/OLB – Houston Texans)

PFF Grade: 107.5

jj-watt-2014-01Yet again Watt was a defensive monster. If his performance in 2014 can’t earn him an MVP nod, then we need to just acknowledge that defensive players aren’t eligible for the award. Watt is by far the most disruptive defensive player in the game today and he has become even more of a threat now that he’s been worked into the offense as a tight end. He did it all in 2014 and his PFF Grade of 107.5 is likely the highest season grade they’ve ever given out. Of course, that grade slightly edges out his previous two seasons…

Khalil Mack (OLB – Oakland Raiders)

PFF Grade: 55.3

khalil-mack-2014-01Mack made a very strong case for Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2014. Fellow rookies C.J. Mosley and Aaron Donald saw a great deal of fanfare, but don’t sleep on Mack. His season was excellent. He finished out the season as the top graded rookie and the second highest graded overall defensive player. His stats are good but not great, but his game impact and efficiency was off the charts as he found ways to make an impact on an Oakland team that suffered through injury all season.

Von Miller (OLB – Denver Broncos)

PFF Grade: 54.0

von-miller-2014-01Miller bounced back in 2014 after spending too much time last year injured. The combination of a healthy Miller and new addition DeMarcus Ware was a huge boon for Denver’s defense this season. His presence as a disruptive force is huge and more or less unrivaled in the league by anyone not named J.J. Watt. Much like Mack, Miller posted very solid OLB rusher numbers but his actual game impact isn’t properly represented by the stats. Fortunately, it is by his 2014 PFF grade.

Justin Houston (OLB – Kansas City Chiefs)

PFF Grade: 51.1

justin-houston-2014-01Houston has been solid every season of his career, but 2014 has been his best in terms of overall grade at his position. He closed out the season with 40 solo tackles, 8 assists, a whopping 22 sacks, 8 QB hits, and 56 QB hurries. Those are big numbers for a 3-4 OLB. In terms of PFF grade, he was one of only four defensive players to tally an overall grade above 50 (In fact, the next best grade below him is 39.9).

Sheldon Richardson (DE – New York Jets)

PFF Grade: 39.9

sheldon-richardson-2014-01Both defensive ends in the Jets’ defense are dominant at their position. You typically don’t see 3-4 DEs pile up attractive stats that make box scores and fantasy rosters look good, but when you can perform the job like these guys it makes a real game impact. Richardson closed out another season as a dominant presence both in pass rush and run defense.

Aaron Donald (DT – St. Louis Rams)

PFF Grade: 34.4

New Orleans Saints v St. Louis RamsAnother big candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year, Donald emerged as a big piece in a St. Louis defensive that is turning into a very strong unit. Game impact is the currency of success for defensive tackles.  There aren’t too many box scores or fantasy lines that will show the impact of the big men in the middle, but game impact by being stout in run defense and providing pressure up the middle in the pass rush is what make DTs elite. In 2014 the rookie Donald showed that he’s going to be a big name among defensive tackles for years to come and found himself sitting pretty as the top graded DT in the league.

Muhammad Wilkerson (DE – New York Jets)

PFF Grade: 33.7

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York JetsSee the comments on Sheldon Richardson above. These two guys continue to be two of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the league. Wilkerson was once again excellent in stopping the run in 2014 and finished with a excellent overall grade of 33.7. Only four 3-4 DEs were graded out with an overall grade above 30 this season, and two of them played for the Jets.  I guess too bad for Rex that didn’t translate into wins…

Cameron Wake (DE – Miami Dolphins)

PFF Grade: 32.2

cameron-wake-2014-01Catching the trend. Pass rushers and defensive ends graded out very well in 2014.  Wake’s performance may be a bit one sided since he serves as such a dominant force in the pass rush but lacks a bit when it comes to success in run defense. He closed out the season with 12 sacks and posted the third highest pass rush grade in the league with 36.3. Sure, he was in the red for coverage and run defense grading, but he continued to show that he is a pass rush threat to be reckoned with.

Calais Campbell (DE – Arizona Cardinals)

PFF Grade: 31.1

calais-campbell-2014-01Campbell was a pass rush force on 2014’s very surprising Arizona defense. We all knew Campbell would produce, but this team was decimated by injury and circumstance. No one expected that defense to have the season that they had. Campbell finished out with 7 QB sacks and put up another season of very solid run defense and pass rush presence.

Fletcher Cox (DE – Philadelphia Eagles)

PFF Grade: 30.5

fletcher-cox-2014-01Not often discussed in IDP circles and flying securely under the radar, Cox had a very nice 2014 season. He piled up an excellent 61 total tackles as a defensive end and served as a great asset in Philadelphia’s defense of the run. He closes out the top ten top graded players of 2014 and was the last player graded at 30+ for the season.

 

You can find the full table of 2014’s Top 100 Graded Defensive Players below. (The table is sortable)

 

Rank Name Team Pos. Snaps Overall Rush Cov. Run QB Sk Tks Ass
1  J.J. Watt HOU DE 1069 107.5 91.9 -0.5 17.8 21 10 50
2  Khalil Mack OAK LB 1034 55.3 7.6 0.2 46.9 4 3 61
3  Von Miller DEN LB 926 54 33.6 1.8 22 15 2 35
4  Justin Houston KC LB 1057 51.1 37.6 1.4 8.1 23 5 40
5  Sheldon Richardson NYJ DE 835 39.9 24.7 0.5 19.2 9 2 35
6  Aaron Donald SL DT 724 34.4 16.8 1.5 15.7 9 2 31
7  Muhammad Wilkerson NYJ DE 739 33.7 11.5 3.5 19.2 7 5 36
8  Cameron Wake MIA DE 768 32.2 36.3 -2 -1.9 12 1 23
9  Calais Campbell ARI DE 800 31.1 11.3 1.5 16.6 7 1 41
10  Fletcher Cox PHI DE 962 30.5 9.6 2 18.9 4 1 50
11  Gerald McCoy TB DT 688 29.7 36.2 1 0.1 9 3 18
12  Luke Kuechly CAR LB 1015 28.4 2.2 15.8 10.8 3 122 25
13  Chris Harris Jr. DEN CB 1004 28.4 -0.3 27.2 0 1 49 2
14  Ndamukong Suh DET DT 875 27.5 14.8 1.5 18.1 8 3 37
15  Dont’a Hightower NE LB 850 27.1 7 8.9 12 8 64 17
16  Michael Bennett SEA DE 851 26.4 21.3 0.5 15.5 6 0 27
17  Pernell McPhee BAL LB 540 26 23.1 0 3.2 8 2 17
18  Marcell Dareus BUF DT 708 25.6 4.7 2 20.7 10 1 32
19  Cameron Heyward PIT DE 876 24.6 17.4 3.5 3.1 8 4 33
20  Malik Jackson DEN DE 578 24.2 12.1 2.5 12.8 4 3 31
21  DeAndre Levy DET LB 1072 23.9 4 -1.8 21.1 3 0 121
22  Brandon Graham PHI LB 524 22.8 17.7 -1.3 6.5 6 0 30
23  Jamie Collins NE LB 942 22.1 9 1.9 10.9 4 90 21
24  Sharrif Floyd MIN DT 584 22.1 9 0.5 14.8 5 1 27
25  Vontae Davis IND CB 839 21.8 0.5 16.5 4.4 1 37 6
26  Terrell Suggs BAL LB 877 21.4 12.7 1.1 12.5 14 1 27
27  Jurrell Casey TEN DE 931 21.2 21.2 0.5 1.5 5 0 54
28  Chris Borland SF LB 487 20.8 2.1 1.8 16.2 1 82 10
29  Jay Ratliff CHI DT 474 20.5 10.4 1.5 7 7 0 21
30  Junior Galette NO DE 812 20.3 29.1 -3.5 -6.3 10 0 27
31  Kyle D. Williams BUF DT 744 20.2 19 0.5 0.2 8 1 23
32  Johnathan Hankins NYG DT 700 20.2 8.8 0 12.1 8 3 27
33  Ryan Kerrigan WAS LB 1000 19.3 19.9 1.1 -3.3 13 0 39
34  Bobby Wagner SEA LB 671 19.2 2.9 2.5 12.7 2 74 18
35  Mychal Kendricks PHI LB 787 19.1 9.5 9.5 0 4 72 11
36  Eric Weddle SD S 1047 18.9 0 12.9 6.4 0 82 9
37  Brandon M. Marshall DEN LB 883 18.9 4.9 10.1 4.2 2 0 89
38  Mike Daniels GB DE 696 18.8 10.8 -0.5 9.4 6 0 32
39  Haloti Ngata BAL DE 546 18.4 9.3 1.5 8.9 2 4 22
40  Thomas Davis CAR LB 949 18.3 7 10.1 0.7 2 0 83
41  Richard Sherman SEA CB 989 18.2 -0.2 11.1 5.7 0 51 9
42  Kawann Short CAR DT 600 18.2 9.5 -0.5 8.3 4 2 27
43  Harrison Smith MIN S 1097 17.9 1.7 3.8 10.8 3 81 21
44  Darrelle Revis NE CB 1032 17.7 0 15 1.2 0 43 7
45  Elvis Dumervil BAL LB 626 17.7 24.2 -0.5 -2 19 0 13
46  Ezekiel Ansah DET DE 683 17.6 8.5 0.5 10.1 10 0 34
47  Robert Ayers NYG DE 386 17.6 18.8 0.5 -3 5 0 18
48  Jason Hatcher WAS DE 518 17.1 18.3 0.5 -1.2 8 1 15
49  Sean Smith KC CB 1062 17 -0.8 16.1 0.1 0 46 5
50  Jason Pierre-Paul NYG DE 981 16.9 5.6 1 11.9 13 4 49
51  Julius Peppers GB DE 825 16.9 14 2.5 -1.1 8 3 23
52  Everson Griffen MIN DE 993 16.8 11.4 3.5 7.9 11 2 44
53  Justin Smith SF DE 715 16.6 2.1 1 13.2 5 1 24
54  Mario Williams BUF DE 818 16.1 8.9 -0.5 6.8 16 3 23
55  Brandon Williams BAL DT 569 15.6 -0.9 0 16.7 1 0 38
56  Ray McDonald SF DE 713 15.2 6.4 -0.5 7.8 3 0 33
57  Daryl Smith BAL LB 1077 14.9 5.1 4.3 4.9 1 93 16
58  Derrick Morgan TEN LB 1029 14.6 13.6 4.7 -5.3 7 3 41
59  Glover Quin DET S 1064 14.4 -0.1 10.8 3.1 0 66 9
60  Robert Quinn SL DE 809 14.4 18.3 1 -2 11 4 27
61  Reshad Jones MIA S 767 14.4 5.9 1.4 6 2 79 6
62  Stephen Paea CHI DT 709 14.4 18.2 0 -6 5 2 24
63  Karlos Dansby CLV LB 835 13.9 -0.8 10.4 3.2 3 71 18
64  Rolando McClain DAL LB 654 13.9 2.5 5.3 6 1 74 11
65  Earl Thomas SEA S 981 13.6 0.4 9.3 2.3 0 75 17
66  Desmond Trufant ATL CB 1099 13.5 -0.3 9.1 3.1 0 58 3
67  K.J. Wright SEA LB 774 13.5 2.2 4 6 2 1 70
68  Jason Babin NYJ LB 470 13.5 6.7 0.7 8.2 3 0 18
69  James Harrison PIT LB 439 13.2 8.9 -0.3 5.1 6 0 26
70  Terrance Knighton DEN DT 528 12.7 -0.2 1.5 11.2 2 3 20
71  Alterraun Verner TB CB 880 12.3 -0.1 -0.8 11.9 0 60 11
72  Charles Johnson CAR DE 805 12.3 18.9 -3 -2.3 8 2 23
73  Antoine Bethea SF S 1064 12.2 1 10 -0.4 1 83 16
74  Tyrone Crawford DAL DT 536 11.9 12.5 0.5 -1.6 4 1 22
75  Mike C. Adams IND S 1034 11.7 -0.2 11.6 -1.3 0 76 12
76  Jason Worilds PIT LB 998 11.7 11.9 -0.7 0.1 8 1 43
77  Chandler Jones NE DE 505 11.7 11.2 -0.5 -0.7 7 2 25
78  Devin McCourty NE S 1018 11.6 -0.7 5.9 5 0 56 10
79  Damon Harrison NYJ DT 496 11.5 -5.8 0 16.8 0 0 39
80  Henry Melton DAL DT 433 11.5 15.8 1.5 -7.3 6 4 8
81  Dan Williams ARI DT 427 11.5 1.3 -1 11.7 1 1 22
82  Corey Graham BUF CB 706 11.4 0 9.3 2.1 0 56 8
83  C.J. Mosley BAL LB 1101 11.3 2.3 -3 12.4 3 107 20
84  Tamba Hali KC LB 999 11.2 5.8 3.2 1 6 0 44
85  Lawrence Timmons PIT LB 997 11.2 2.7 -4.4 12.3 2 102 18
86  Casey Hayward GB CB 434 11 0.4 8.7 2.7 0 28 7
87  Dawan Landry NYJ S 970 10.9 0.1 5.2 4.2 2 70 15
88  Orlando Scandrick DAL CB 885 10.9 2.6 9.4 0.5 1 51 5
89  Sen’Derrick Marks JAX DT 739 10.7 10.5 1.5 -2.7 9 2 28
90  Vince Wilfork NE DT 766 10.4 -7 0 15 1 1 31
91  Tashaun Gipson CLV S 787 10.3 0 8.5 2.7 0 35 8
92  Lavonte David TB LB 944 10.1 -0.4 3.2 7 1 0 120
93  William Hayes SL DE 555 9.9 0.4 -1 12.4 5 0 31
94  Paul Kruger CLV LB 919 9.8 11.4 0.1 0.5 12 2 35
95  Cliff Avril SEA DE 736 9.8 16.4 -2.5 -1.9 7 1 12
96  Nick Fairley DET DT 297 9.8 8.1 0 5.7 2 0 10
97  Jerry Hughes BUF LB 807 9.7 7.6 1.5 9.7 12 0 32
98  Donte Whitner CLV S 1177 9.6 -0.9 3.4 5.5 0 76 20
99  Kareem Jackson HOU CB 785 9.5 -1.8 9.6 1.6 0 46 5
100  George Iloka CIN S 1136 9.4 1.3 3.9 3.6 0 54 11

K. Smelser About K. Smelser

Kelly Smelser is Owner/Senior Writer for Punch Drunk Wonderland and PDFantasy Sports. Architect of the PDW fantasy football world and general spinster of NFL and Fantasy Football news and analysis. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, and other such niceties are also fine…

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