Over the past few years, Pro Football Focus has made a meteoric rise to the forefront of football analytics. They have rapidly evolved from a niche site for football diehards to a large proprietary tool that many NFL teams rely on for unique data. While their “premium” content hasn’t been available to the public for the past couple seasons, PFF still provides their player grades on a 0-100 scale to give you an overall feel of how players were graded in their system (albeit with less detail).
After each season, PFF announces their top 101 players based solely on performance from that year. They create the list based on their analysts’ play-by-play grading and don’t give preference to any particular position. They create their ranks and lists based on how players did “relative to what is expected from their position.”
The Vikings sputtered to an 8-8 finish after an impressive 5-0 start and they didn’t have a ton of great season-long individual performances, so you probably wouldn’t expect PFF’s Top 101 list to be littered with Vikings. But after looking at their list, you might be surprised at how few Vikings made the cut.
Few, as in only one. And the one that made the list might surprise you.
It might surprise you because he is the oldest defensive player in the NFL.
None other than cornerback Terence Newman was the only member of the Minnesota Vikings to crack PFF’s top 101, coming in at #76 with an 86.4 grade. Here’s what Pro Football Focus had to say about his season:
What Terence Newman was able to do this season at 38 years old should not be possible. Only Richard Sherman gave up a reception less often in terms of coverage snaps per catch than Newman, who allowed a total of 31 yards after the catch all year. He did miss some time, but he was responsible for only 245 receiving yards all season, and with only four penalties to his name, there isn’t a whole lot of hidden yardage there disguised as penalties. Newman allowed just one touchdown all season and a passer rating of 62.0 when targeted.
There is no denying that Newman had an excellent season for a cornerback of any age, but his play got some big assists from Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn. Rhodes moved into the upper echelon of cornerbacks in 2016 and shut down some pretty formidable receivers throughout the year. If Newman was forced to cover the opponents’ #1 receiver more often, his sterling statistics would have likely been much worse. Munnerlyn’s play in the slot along with the improvement of Trae Waynes in his second season also helped. Newman is deserving of the accolades but his teammates and Mike Zimmer’s defensive system also put him in a position to succeed.
Last year there were there were four Vikings players ranked in PFF’s top 50: Anthony Barr (20), Harrison Smith (22), Joe Berger (40), and Linval Joseph (48). Barr fell off a cliff performance-wise in 2016 and Berger was decent among an otherwise terrible offensive line, so their absence is understandable. However, Joseph and Smith still played well enough where one could assume they deserved to be on the list again. The omission of Rhodes seems pretty ridiculous too given that he was named the league’s best corner by NFL.com.
So what do you think of Mike Zimmer’s favorite site* including only one Viking on their Top 101? Who was the biggest snub? Let us know in the comments.
* Not really.