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Donald Named PFF’s Top Player of 2017

Posted Feb 8, 2018

Rams DT Aaron Donald was named the best player in football by Pro Football Focus for 2017.

With Super Bowl LII officially consigned to the history books, so too is the 2017 NFL season. And as such, now seems like the perfect time to reflect on the best player performances of the year.

Pro Football Focus is kicking things off with the release of its Top 101 — detailing the 101 best single-season performances, regardless of position. And Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald capped a stellar 2017 with the No. 1 spot.

Donald was named the best player in football this season for a campaign that included a league-leading 91 total pressures, 11.0 sacks, and five forced fumbles. The Pittsburgh product, who was also named the AP Defensive Player of the Year, had the league’s best pass-rushing productivity with a score of 14.8.

But Donald’s defensive dominance extended to the postseason as well. He had one of his most impressive performances during the Rams’ Wild Card loss to the Falcons — generating 10 total pressures before Atlanta had the chance to adjust to his game-changing abilities.

This is the second time in Donald’s career that he has taken the top spot among the PFF Top-101 list.

Joining Donald were two of his Rams teammates, running back Todd Gurley and safety LaMarcus Joyner, who were listed at No. 22 and No. 52, respectively.

Gurley came back from a dormant 2016 season to put together an MVP-worthy campaign in 2017. He led the league in overall PFF grades among running backs at 91.9 and ranked fifth with 2.15 yards per route run this year — more than doubling his mark from 2016.

Joyner also experienced significant year-to-year improvement under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Throughout the season, the safety recorded three interceptions and five pass breakups while allowing just 42.9 percent of targets to be caught. Plus, in just one season, the Florida State product improved his overall PFF grade by 10 points — registering the third-best mark among safeties with a 90.3. 

The 101 grading criteria is based solely on 2017 play and is created with an “all positions are created equal” mantra. For that reason, the staff has placed players relative to what is expected for their position. Plus, unlike traditional PFF awards, the Top-101 factors in the postseason.