We've been here before, not too long ago. It was just a month ago we were discussing why Pro Football Focus was wrong about excluding Ezekiel Ansah from their top 101 players of the 2015 season. The reasons seemed obvious. Ansah led the NFC in sacks, he was constantly making huge plays, like forcing four fumbles and stopping running backs in the backfield, and he was only going to improve. The analytics site defended their decision by discrediting most of Ansah's sacks:
Of his 14 sacks, six of them were clean-up plays, and another three of them were entirely unblocked.
Well, PFF is at it again. This time analyst Sam Monson decided to project the top 101 players of 2016. Again, the methodology valued all positions equally. So that is how PFF rationalizes having a guard over a guy like Tom Brady. But regardless of this fact, Ansah was again left off the list completely. And he wasn't left off because of a lack of respect for the defensive end position, the list featured 14 other players at the position (and that doesn't even included pass-rushing outside linebackers like Von Miller and Justin Houston, who were both on the list, and both had fewer sacks than Ansah last year).
Here are the 14 defensive ends that made the list over Ansah: J.J. Watt, Michael Bennett, Fletcher Cox, Mike Daniels, Cameron Jordan, Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, Malik Jackson, Olivier Vernon, Leonard Williams, Jurrell Casey, Robert Quinn, Cameron Wake and Calais Campbell.
If PFF wants to say Ansah wasn't one of the top 101 players by their measures in 2015, I'm fine with that. It's their measuring methodology. If you are arguing about one of their choices, you are basically arguing against their entire system. But what the site seems to overlook in this most recent list is not only the impact Ansah has already had on the field, but the massive amount of improvement of which he is still capable. Ansah may already be 27-years-old, but the game of football is just seven years young to him. Heck, his first year as a starter at any level of football was just four years ago. He's still learning the game, and that should be very, very scary to players around the league.
The entire list features just one Lions player: Darius Slay at No. 71. Interestingly enough, NFL Network continued their list of the top 100 players of 2016 on Wednesday and Ansah remains the only player on the list, as voted by players. So far, the list has revealed players 31-100 and it appears Ansah will be the only Lions player to make the list, having landed at No. 43. Slay still has a chance to make the list, but it is hard to imagine he'll be ranked over guys like Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, and Marcus Peters. Earlier in the week, Slay admitted both Talib and Harris were better than him.