Four Denver Broncos Named To Pro Football Focus' Top-101 Players of 2016

Pro Football Focus tossed a little love Denver's way, featuring four Broncos in their top-101 Players of 2016.

NFL Network's "Top-100 Players" is fun to watch. NFL players look forward to it each year, hoping to get a little added recognition for the work they put in the year before. 

However, Pro Football Focus' version is better, because it's actually based on how the players produce on the field, rather than letting lesser-deserving guys get the recognition for having more famous names. PFF's Top-101 Players of 2016, four Denver Broncos made the list. 2016 was a disappointing season for the 9-7 Broncos, as they finished third in the AFC West and missed the playoffs for the first time in the John Elway front office era. 

They did send six players to the Pro Bowl. And that's important to the guys who made it. But when it comes to advance football metrics and analytics, believe me when I say, NFL players also covet high grades, especially from PFF. 

Here are the four Broncos who were among PFF's top-101 highest-graded players in 2016. 

28. Matt Paradis, Center (unranked in 2015)

The development of Matt Paradis is another of the stories of the 2016 season. He had been solid a year ago, but there was no sign of what was to come this year: his emergence as one of the best centers in the game. Paradis was a run-blocking monster for the Broncos, but his pass blocking was far from weak, as he allowed just three sacks or QB hits all season, with 14 additional hurries to his name and only four penalties.

Best performance: Week 1 vs. Panthers, 89.6 grade

Key stat: Paradis recorded seven perfect games of pass protection this season.

Analysis: I was of the opinion that Paradis was deserving of the Pro Bowl. He was a first alternate but wouldn't have been able to play even if one of the centers ahead of him had to bow out. 

Paradis recently had surgery on both of his hips, which adds another level of respect to his 2016 body of work. He played at a very high level for his team — the only bright spot on Denver's O-line — while playing injured throughout most of the season. 

With a new offensive system coming to Denver, and the expectation that the Broncos will move more toward a power scheme, it remains to be seen how well Paradis will fit in. But as a zone center, it doesn't get better than Matt Paradis. 

19. Chris Harris, Jr., Cornerback (ranked 36 in 2015)

It’s hard to believe that Chris Harris Jr. was once an undrafted free agent, because he has put together strong seasons every year of his NFL career since, earning himself a starting spot by the end of his rookie campaign and never looking back. Harris allowed an average of only 8.9 yards per reception in 2016, and 126 total yards after the catch, despite being targeted 84 times. Harris has the versatility to play inside and outside within the Broncos’ defensive scheme, and has consistently been one of the game’s best defensive backs, making PFF’s All-Pro team this year in the newly designated “defensive back” position.

Best performance: Week 13 vs. Jaguars, 92.8 grade

Key stat: Harris notched 28 defensive stops on the season, two more than any other cornerback.

Analysis: Harris has firmly established himself among the elite cornerbacks of the NFL. Not only can he shutdown opposing receivers, but he's physical for his size, and willing to stick his nose into the muss and make a tackle. 

For the first time in his career, Harris was named a first-team All-Pro, to go along with his third consecutive Pro Bowl selection. He made second-team All-Pro in 2014 and 2015. 

18. Aqib Talib, Cornerback (unranked in 2015)

Aqib Talib has always had the potential to be the game’s best cornerback, but in the past, we have only ever seen it in flashes, or for brief stretches before he lapsed and we saw him surrender big plays. 2016 was the first year he put it all together, and went the entire year without surrendering a touchdown. Talib allowed just 53.0 percent of passes thrown his way to be caught, for a passer rating of only 49.5, and for much of the year, quarterbacks were statistically better off just throwing the ball away than they were testing Talib in coverage.

Best performance: Week 4 vs. Buccaneers, 92.6 grade

Key stat: Talib didn’t surrender a catch longer than 26 yards all season.

Analysis: Aqib Talib, after a tumultuous offseason, stepped into 2016 with a vengeance. As PFF intimated, when he puts it all together, nobody in the NFL is better than Talib. He was deserving of his first-team All-Pro selection. 

He has the prototypical size and measurables to go along with an elite skill-set. What often gets overlooked when analyzing Talib is his football acumen and film room expertise. How do you think he's managed to return nine interceptions for a touchdown in his nine-year career? 

14. Von Miller, Edge, (ranked 4 in 2015)

Any concerns that Von Miller’s play would cool down in 2016 after getting a monster contract from the Broncos following his Super Bowl year were wide of the mark. Miller was once again a beast this year and recorded multiple game-changing performances. He ended the season with 24 combined sacks and hits, with 55 additional hurries also to his name. It’s his run defense, though, that may be the most under-appreciated aspect of his game. Miller led all edge defenders this year with 53 defensive stops, nine more than any other player. He may not be the biggest player in any defensive front, but Miller will impact the run game in exactly the same way as he does the passing game: with quickness and agility.

Best performance: Week 12 vs. Chiefs, 93.0 grade

Key stat: Miller recorded 79 total QB pressures over the season, as well as 53 defensive stops (the most defensive stops among all edge defenders).

Analysis: Von Miller's 2016 campaign was dominant, once again. And he had to do most of the heavy lifting with Malik Jackson gone and DeMarcus Ware sidelined by the injury bug for most of the year. 

He was in the running for Defensive Player of the Year, but fell just shy to Khalil Mack. Had Miller not disappeared to a degree down the stretch (didn't register a sack in the final four games), I have no doubt he would have followed up his Super Bowl MVP award with the DPoY. 

Regardless, the Broncos are certainly getting their money's worth from Miller. He remains the most explosive — and complete — edge player in the game. 

Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.

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