Pro Football Focus released its list of Top 50 players in the NFL and there were four former Notre Dame players on the list. The Irish tied Ohio State for the most PFF50 players among all college football programs.
Indianapolis Colts guard Quenton Nelson checked in as the No. 4 player in the entire NFL. The former Notre Dame All-American has been a dominant player from the moment he arrived in the league. Here's what PFF wrote about the former Irish great:
"According to PFF WAR, Nelson was the most valuable offensive lineman in the NFL last season. And the season before that.
"Nelson plays offensive guard, a significantly less valuable position than tackle, but that tells you just how good he is at his current position. Nelson has now allowed just three sacks in his three NFL seasons and finished 2020 with 15 total pressures allowed across the full regular season and wild-card game. If anything, Nelson is an even better run-blocker, making him one of the best players in the game, period." - PFF
Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin ranked as the No. 13 overall player. Most analysts agree that Martin and Nelson are the two best guards in the NFL at this time.
"The Dallas offensive line fell apart last season, but Martin was still playing his best football right up until getting injured, even when he kicked out to right tackle. Martin earned a PFF overall grade of 91.3 at the time of his injury, allowing just 13 total pressures across 10 games. He has now allowed just one sack in two years for the Cowboys." - PFF
Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith checked as the No. 32 overall player in the NFL. Smith has earned five Pro Bowl berths and was named to the All-Decade team by Pro Football Focus not many years ago.
"Smith remains one of the best and most consistent safeties in the league, and while he isn’t coming off his best season, the same is true for most members of the Minnesota defense.
Smith has elite versatility to play any safety role within any coverage shell the Vikings dial up, giving them the ability to play a little bit of every type of coverage in the book. The Vikings didn’t line up in any single coverage shell more than 17% of the time last season, and a huge part of that diversity is because of Smith’s ability to move around and fill any missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle. He should bounce back in 2021, too, as the Vikings defense looks far stronger on paper." - PFF
Despite missing a big chunk of the 2020 season with a knee injury, former Notre Dame All-American and current Baltimore Raven left tackle Ronnie Stanley was ranked as the No. 46 player in the NFL.
"Stanley may be the best pass-protector in the entire NFL at any position. He has back-to-back PFF pass-blocking grades of at least 90.0 (albeit in an injury-shortened year in 2020). He has surrendered just 16 total pressures across his last 719 pass-blocking snaps, allowing his quarterback to be hit or sacked just three times in that period.
"Stanley’s run blocking has improved throughout his career, but it’s his pass-blocking prowess that powers him to this ranking. What separates him from a player like David Bakhtiari is a combination of longevity at that level and the undoubted effect Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore offense has on the ease of his job as a pass protector by comparison." - PFF
Although Ohio State had just as many Top 50 players as Notre Dame, the Irish had two players ranked higher than the highest ranked former Buckeye, which was Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa at No. 21.
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