Four Patriots wedged their way on to Pro Football Focus’ list of the top 101 players from 2019. But the fact Stephon Gilmore didn’t check in until No. 22 was an eyebrow-raiser.
The other Patriots on the list were LB Kyle Van Noy (59), safety Devin McCourty (84) and right guard Joe Thuney (91).
Gilmore — the AP Defensive Player of the Year — ranked outside the top 20 players across the NFL according to PFF’s Sam Monson who compiled the list, Gilmore wasn’t even the top corner in the league.
Richard Sherman checked in at 13.
Lists like this invite pushback and both PFF and Monson invite the conversation. So it wasn’t long before Monson was asked on Twitter what in God’s name he was thinking in regards to Gilmore.
Around 2500 players played in the NFL this year. To be ranked 22nd overall among them puts him well into the top 1%.— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) February 6, 2020
Despite getting lit up by DeVante Parker.
But yes, the disrespect is real.
Monson was referring to the final game of the regular season when Dolphins wideout DeVante Parker had eight catches for 139 yards with Gilmore on him most of the game.
When it was pointed out to Monson that, just last week, Sherman gave up a back-breaking reception to Sammy Watkins in the Super Bowl (and the PFF format for the list did take postseason into account), Monson replied, “Sherman had 9 games this season in which he gave up 1 or 0 catches. NINE."
The fine print on that bit of data? Sherman — unlike Gilmore — never matched up on the opponent’s top wideout for every snap as Gilmore did throughout 2019.
This was something Darrelle Revis gleefully pointed out after the NFC Championship Game.
“Every snap every play,” Revis said on social media. "The fact that (Sherman) doesn’t travel as a cornerback is lame. [Accept] the challenge as the best and shut [Davante] Adams down the entire game. Do it for the game of football. Stop hiding [in] a cover 3 zone.
“All y’all think I’m throwing shade,” Revis added. “I’m not. Just stating the man is not a pound-for-pound, man-to-man corner. If you know the game of football, he plays in a Cover 3 Scheme. He does not travel but traveling with a receiver is not for every DB. It’s a few on the corner list who can.”
In the end, Gilmore will gladly take the hardware and accolades of being named the Defensive Player of the Year as opposed to winding up the second-best corner in the NFL on the PFF list for the same year.
As with any list like this, there will be some quibbles. It’s an exhaustive process to narrow down the best of the best and order them. Hats off to PFF for having the time, patience and capacity for caffeine intake to do it. No shade.
If you ask me, Julian Edelman and Dont'a Hightower both could have been included in the Top 101. Allen Robinson and A.J. Brown are on the list and neither have the offense running through them as Edelman does. Tyler Lockett — a brother from another mother to Edelman — checked in at No. 77.
Meanwhile, Tom Brady missed the list for the first time. On one hand, hard to argue given the labors the Patriots offense went through. On the other hand, PFF plumbs a little deeper for their analysis, so the cause and effect that led to Brady’s down season maybe should have been taken into account.
Again, no blood, no foul and all good conversation fodder.