Each year, the great football minds at Pro Football Focus put together their list of the top 101 players in the NFL for the 2013 season. Unlike the NFL's Top 100, which is compiled thanks to player voting, the PFF list is an objective, stats- and analysis-based look at the players who performed best in 2013. Thus, the lists look drastically different from each other.
A few days ago, we found out that Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy were ranked in the 80's on the NFL's list. It should not be a surprise that the two of them, along with guard Josh Sitton, were the three Packers mentioned on the PFF list.
Sitton led the way among all Packers, coming in at the #25 spot. He was the second-ranked guard, coming in behind only Evan Mathis of the Philadelphia Eagles, who ranked 7th overall. Sitton had the best Pass Blocking Efficiency of any guard, and PFF had this to say about his play:
His 2013 season saw him finish second overall in our guard rankings with him strong in the run game and exceptional in pass protection where his grade was best of all. That’s what tends to happen when in 648 pass blocking snaps you give up just one sack and seven hurries.
Next up down the line was wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who came in at 39th overall and as the fourth-best receiver (behind Brandon Marshall, Antonio Brown, and Calvin Johnson). Nelson's versatility was one of the biggest reasons he was ranked as highly as he was:
Nelson has developed into one of the most well rounded receivers in the league, able to operate all over the field and run the entire route tree with great efficiency. That’s why he can lead wide outs in yards on quick outs while also finishing fourth in terms of "Go Route" yardage. Incredibly, Nelson had just one negatively graded game (and a -0.4 at that) all year.
The third and final Packer on the list was running back Eddie Lacy, whose rookie year landed him 70th on the list. Like Nelson, he was also the fourth-ranked player at his position, with LeSean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch, and Jamaal Charles ranking ahead of him (and all three of them in the top 11 overall). As for Lacy, PFF had this to say:
A physical runner who added a much-needed dimension to the Packers’ rushing attack, it’s hard to imagine the team would have made the playoffs without him stepping up in the absence of Aaron Rodgers. Really carried his load and then some...His 56 forced missed tackles were fourth-most of all running backs.
Frankly, it's pretty impressive that the Packers could play without Aaron Rodgers for half a season and still have three offensive players (at three different positions) grade out as highly as they did. This is a testament to the talent level that the Packers have built around Rodgers, at least on the offensive side of the ball, and it also speaks to how impressive those three players' efforts were on their own without Rodgers.
Nelson's ranking also shows why the Packers need to lock him up in a long-term contract before the season - because he's only getting better.