As the NFL offseason pushes on, Pro Football Focus has used their scoring system to project the top 50 players at this time heading into the 2021 season.
Without further ado, I have to give my typical PFF disclaimer. While many look at their grading system as the best available to evaluate NFL players, others feel their scoring has a lot to be desired. The validity of Pro Football Focus is completely up to you as we are just merely reporting their rankings.
Now that this is out of the way, we can look forward to see that Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt landed as the number 11 player in their top 50.
As previously reported, Watt was not alone in the top 50 list when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers as Cameron Heyward checked in at number 31.
As for Watt, some feel maybe he should have been a top-10 player. Here is the breakdown from PFF and you can decide for yourself if his ranking is appropriate:
Watt has been right on the verge of Defensive Player of the Year levels over the last two seasons and may well have won one by now if not for the perennially absurd play of Aaron Donald. Over that same period, Watt has earned the highest overall PFF grade among all edge rushers (92.6) as well as the best pass-rushing grade (92.2). He leads all edge rushers with 12 batted passes and even has three interceptions to his name. Watt has become a dominant force on the edge for Pittsburgh and consistently looks to be one of the very best players in the league.
While it’s difficult to compare offensive and defensive players, it should be noted Watt was the fourth defender on the list. Those ahead of him were defensive tackle Aaron Donald (1), outside linebacker Khalil Mack (6), and linebacker Bobby Wagner (8). These rankings really come as no surprise as PFF has continued to place Mack as their top edge rusher following the 2020 season based on their rankings even though he did not earn All-Pro honors or reach double-digit sacks.
It should also be noted that Watt is the third-highest ranked player from the AFC only behind Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes (2) and Travis Kelce (3). Watt was the highest-ranking player from the AFC North with the next highest player being Myles Garrett (25) of the Cleveland Browns.
While it is great to see the Pittsburgh Steelers represented on the list, seeing a finalist for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the last two seasons fall outside the top 10 is a little puzzling. But PFF made their list based on their rankings and projections for 2021 as explained in their article:
The ranking below is a projection of what we think will happen and not necessarily a reaction to a spectacular or underwhelming 2020 season. Additionally, positional value is not considered here, so safeties, guards and even running backs have just as good a chance to rank highly as quarterbacks, who would dominate the list if positional value was heavily factored.
When looking at PFF scores, the next closest player for the Pittsburgh Steelers who had a chance to make the top 50 based on their 2020 scores would have been Tyson Alualu with an overall score of 86.6. Alualu only ranked less than three points behind Cameron Heyward (89.5) who came in at number 31. In fact, Alualu’s 2020 PFF score was higher than all but one of the players ranked 41-50. But as stated earlier, their ranks are based on their projections.
So what do you think? Was T.J. Watt placed appropriately on the list by PFF? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.