FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Pro Football Focus' list of the top 101 players from the 2017 season has been fully revealed, and wide receiver Julio Jones was the last and highest-ranked Falcons player announced.
Recapping the 2017 season, PFF is counting down its list of the top 101 players based solely on their play during this season. They also make a point to say in their list of criteria that although quarterbacks are inherently the most valuable position in football, they are going with an "all positions are created equal mantra" and that they evaluate performance relative to what is expected at each player's position.
The Falcons had a total of five players on the list: Jones (No. 15), linebacker Deion Jones (No. 35), center Alex Mack (No. 49), quarterback Matt Ryan (No. 58) and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (No. 84).
Julio Jones PFF RANK: 15
One of the premier stars in the NFL, Jones continued his high level of performance in 2017 despite facing constant double- and triple-teams. He is the only player in the history of the league with multiple games of 250-plus receiving yards, recording his third such performance in Week 12 against the Buccaneers, in which he caught 12 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. In total, Jones caught 88 passes for 1,444 yards and three touchdowns this season, adding another 18 catches for 195 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs.
Here is what PFF had to say about Jones:
"There is no more physically gifted receiver in today's NFL than Julio Jones, who has the capacity to just overwhelm defensive backs athletically in a way most receivers just can't. Jones was also the most productive receiver in football when it comes to yardage, gaining 3.08 yards per route run this season, the most in the league and the only receiver to top the 3.0 barrier. Jones was impressive all season and even carried that into the playoffs, even if he ultimately couldn't make one of the biggest plays when the Falcons needed him to in the back of the end zone."
Deion Jones PFF RANK: 35
Jones enjoyed a breakout season in 2017, his second in the NFL. The speedy middle linebacker was all over the field for the Falcons and came through with several big plays over the course of the year. Jones led the team in combined tackles for the second year in a row, racking up 138 stops, 10 tackles for a loss, nine passes defensed, three interceptions and one sack. Here is what PFF had to say about Jones' first appearance on their list: "Continuing his form from his rookie season, Atlanta's Deion Jones has developed into arguably the game's best coverage linebacker. Jones had the best coverage grade among linebackers, and it showed up in all the biggest games of Atlanta's season with Jones making key plays to secure wins against division foes New Orleans and Carolina late in the year. Jones has outstanding athleticism and range but also instincts and the ability to play in space and lock down receivers like few linebackers can."
Alex Mack PFF RANK: 49
Mack has started every single game for the Falcons since signing with Atlanta as a free agent in 2016, including battling through a broken leg to play in the Super Bowl. He's been named to the Pro Bowl in each season and has continued to assert himself as one of the best centers in the NFL. Here is what PFF had to say about their selection of Mack, who is making his third appearance in their top 101:
"Over the past couple of seasons, a trio of centers has emerged in the NFL as the best at the position and since his move to the Atlanta Falcons, Alex Mack has been able to establish himself as one of that trio. Mack was one of the best run-blockers in the game this season at the heart of the Falcons rushing attack and allowed just 15 total pressures across the season."
MATT RYAN PFF RANK: 58
Ryan, the NFL's MVP in 2016, was named during the second round of players announced by PFF, claiming the No. 58 spot. Ryan has been named to PFF's list of top 101 players five times prior to this year's selection, and the evaluators at the site were quick to point out that the surface statistics of Ryan's 2017 season didn't tell the whole story.
"Matt Ryan's statistical regression from his MVP season of 2016 was inevitable, but what was notable was just how small the regression in actual play was. Ryan was the victim of some brutal bad luck, throwing significantly more interceptions than he had 'turnover worthy plays' over the year, which goes a long way towards explaining why his overall PFF grade slipped just four points to 88.6, which was still good enough to tie for second-best in the league."
In 2017, Ryan completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for 4,095 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
GRADY JARRETT PFF RANK: 84
Jarrett earned recognition at No. 84, marking his first appearance on PFF's top 101 countdown. In his third season, Jarrett finished with 55 total tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 13 hits on the quarterback and four sacks.
Here is what PFF had to say about Jarrett:
"Grady Jarrett was given a new role in the Atlanta Falcons' defense this season with the arrival of Dontari Poe as a free agent. Jarrett had been the nose tackle but was now given more license to rush the passer as more of a 3-technique defensive tackle. His overall PFF grade of 87.1 marked a career-best, as did his 39 total pressures."