Cleveland Browns trio makes PFF’s Top 101 list


Aug 23, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joel Bitonio (75) and tackle Joe Thomas (73) block St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn (94) in the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns placed three players on the Top 101 of 2014 list at Pro Football Focus.

In putting together the list, the site looks solely at the performance of players during the given season — and only that season. So no one makes the list just because they are a big name (“cough, Troy Polamalu, cough”).

In addition, the site used the following criteria for selection:

  • This list is created with an All Positions Created Equal mantra. So you won’t see 32 quarterbacks heading the list even though that is the most valuable position, instead seeing how guys played relative to what is expected from their position.
  • A repetition because it’s often the most misunderstood; this is not a list about talent or a lifetime achievement award. It is solely, 100 percent based on what happened between the opening kickoff of the 2014 regular season and the final snap of the Super Bowl this past February. Anything outside those dates does not matter.

Now that we have the rules cleared up, let’s get on to the Browns’ players recognized.

The highest-ranked player is left tackle Joe Thomas at No. 20. According to the site, the eight-year veteran’s “couple of shaky games aside (by his standards), Thomas was at his imperious best. The picture of consistency since entering the league, he graded positively in all but three games. As ever, with Thomas it’s his pass protection that really stands out, but there’s no denying that the introduction of Kyle Shanahan got him in a run blocking scheme that really played to his strengths.”

The site targeted the Week 10 victory over Cincinnati as Thomas’ best performance of the season, grading him at +4.9, and noted that Thomas posted a positive grade in pass protection all on but one game last season.

Thomas is joined on the list by the man to his right, guard Joel Bitonio, who came in at No. 47. The rookie out of Nevada “didn’t take long to show how NFL ready he was, with only a couple of negatively graded games in the latter weeks of the season preventing him finishing higher. The second-round pick was a boon to an already strong offensive line, fitting in seamlessly with his stellar run blocking catching the eye in particular.”

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The site targeted the Week 5 comeback victory against Tennessee as Bitonio’s best performance of the season, grading him at +4.3, and noted that Bitonio was the only offensive guard to score a +10.0 or higher grade for his pass protection and run blocking.

Closing out Cleveland’s representation on the list was 12-year veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby at No. 95. According to the site, “Dansby was exceptional in coverage where he had the second-highest grade of all inside linebackers. Slipped a little as he made less of an impact against the run than in 2013 (he only had 26 run stops) but when you’re as good in the passing game as Dansby you’re always in contention to get end of season awards.”

The site listed the Week 7 game against Jacksonville as Dansby’s best, grading him at +4.8, and noted that Dansby’s 0.33 yards per snap in coverage number was the lowest of all inside linebackers.

The most notable names missing from the list are center Alex Mack, who most certainly would have been the Browns’ third offensive lineman if he hadn’t broken his leg; cornerback Joe Haden, who made his second consecutive Pro Bowl appearance last season; and linebacker Paul Kruger, who had a career-high 11 sacks in 2014.

Is there anyone else on the Browns that you think deserved to make the list?

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