The world champion New England Patriots ended the 2018 NFL season as the last team standing, a testament to the team’s ability to overcome its inconsistencies — and also to its overall talent in all three phases. It is therefore no surprise to see that the Patriots are one of the best-represented teams on the list of Pro Football Focus’ best 101 players of the past season: six members of the team made the cut, tied for fourth-most in the league.
Overall, the following men have made PFF’s top-101:
7. QB Tom Brady
9. CB Stephon Gilmore
21. DE Trey Flowers
52. OG Shaq Mason
83. DT Lawrence Guy
93. FS Devin McCourty
Seeing Tom Brady as the highest-ranked among the Patriots players comes as no surprise. Despite posting not quite the same outstanding numbers as he did the last three seasons, the greatest of all time was still marvelous amidst a changing cast of supporting characters. According to PFF, Brady is now the only quarterback to rate in the 90s every season since 2015. The 41-year old also ended the year with a clean-pocket passer rating of 100.0 or better for the fifth year in a row.
Coming in behind Brady is a pair of New England’s defenders: Stephon Gilmore and Trey Flowers. Gilmore, who ended the season as Pro Football Focus’ top-rated cornerback, earned his second overall appearance on the Top 101 list after an outstanding 2018 season that saw him perform at an All-Pro level and per PFF’s statistics come up with a combined 24 pass disruptions (either interceptions or breakups).
Flowers, meanwhile, earned the #21 spot after also producing his best season to date. He finished the year with a PFF grade of 89.7 and ranked second among all edge defenders with 78 total quarterback pressures — all while playing multiple spots along the line: on 24.5% of his snaps, the 25-year old lined up either over the center or the guard. Needless to say that Flowers will be an attractive option if he hits the open market.
At #52, we find right guard Shaq Mason. After signing a five-year, $50 million contract extension in August, Mason makes his debut on the Top 101 list as Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded guard: his 85.0 grade is noticeably higher than the next closest, the Dallas Cowboys’ Zack Martin who posted a 78.6. Mason performed at a high level as both a pass protector and a run blocker in 2018, and heads one of the league’s best interior offensive lines — a unit that features no starting player over the age of 26.
The next Patriot to appear on the list is defensive tackle Lawrence Guy at #83. While New England’s defensive interior was not always at its best in 2018, Guy had a solid second season with the club against both the run and the pass: finishing with an overall grade of 90.3, he played a key role in solidifying the team’s front against the run late in the season and into the playoffs.
The sixth and final Patriot to appear on the Top 101 list is safety Devin McCourty. Making his seventh appearance on the list, the team captain finished as “only” the 16th best safety in the NFL with an overall grade of 79.5. However, McCourty was a top-10 tackler and missed only five of his 77 attempts over the course of the season — a key ingredient to playing the deep field role in any defense.
Only three clubs have more players represented on the list than the Patriots — and the team has beaten all three of them over the course of the season: the Los Angeles Rams lead the list with eight players on it, followed by the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Bears with seven apiece. New England, of course, beat the Rams in the Super Bowl two weeks after knocking off the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.