FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons have at least two of the top 101 players in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, and there is a strong chance they add several more to that list in the near future.
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.
Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and quarterback Matt Ryan are the first two Atlanta Falcons to be named in PFF's countdown, which is currently up to No. 51 of the 101 players to be named.
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."
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. The next set of names will be announced on Wednesday, Feb. 7, with the culmination of the countdown occurring on Thursday, Feb. 8.