clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Four Cowboys Make Pro Football Focus' Top 101 Players Of 2015

New, comments

The Cowboys had a bad 2015 season, but a group of players actually stood out.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

In a ranking of the Top 101 players of the 2015 season, you might expect the Dallas Cowboys to make a poor showing. With a 4-12 record, it's not likely a team has a lot of standouts. Pro Football Focus recently released its Top 101 based on their grading system, that's a little different metric than what you get from polls like the NFL Networks Top 100 which is influenced by legacy rather than just the 2015 season.

For instance, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are obviously among the Top 101 players in the NFL, but in 2015 they weren't. Injuries robbed them of the season and they are no where to be found in PFF's Top 101. Also missing was Jason Witten, who is experiencing a slow decline, but is still a valuable tight end and among the best at that position. Of course not having Romo throwing passes his way hurt his production in 2015.

So who did make it? Three offensive players and one defensive player. Any guesses? Well, you can just cheat and keep reading. Starting from lowest to highest.

58. Sean Lee, LB, Dallas Cowboys (last year: unranked) It’s no secret that when healthy, Sean Lee is one of the best linebackers in football, and for once we got to see the proof, as he held up for (nearly) the entire season. Lee has the range and instincts in coverage to match the best linebackers in the league, and is also a solid run defender. He also deserves a certain amount of kudos (or ridicule, depending on your viewpoint) for choosing to sit out a game rather than struggle through injury to secure himself a significant seven-figure bonus for hitting the required snap-count target.

Best performance: Week 2 at Philadelphia: +6.7

Key stat: Lee wasn’t beaten for a reception longer than 24 yards all season, allowing just one touchdown on 57 targets.

Two points on this. One, we sometimes forget how good Lee is because of all the injury issues in his career. If he was one of those iron men that never came off the field, we'd probably be talking about one of the best ever to play the position. Second, we tend to think of Lee as a great run stopper, with great instincts to find the ball, avoid the wash and knife through for a tackle. But we often forget how good he is in pass coverage.

54. Zack Martin, G, Dallas Cowboys (last year: unranked) As part of the best run-blocking line in football, Zack Martin allowed just one sack all season and 13 total pressures. He may not have been the best guard in any one area, but was very good in all of them, forming part of a dominant line that made Darren McFadden look like a Pro-Bowl caliber runner, despite having shaky QB-play for half of the season.

Best performance: Week 7 at New York Giants: +5.9

Key stat: Martin surrendered just one sack and 13 total pressures in 2015.

The only comment here: Thank you Stephen Jones for reigning in your father and choosing Martin over Johnny Manziel.

35. Travis Frederick, C, Dallas Cowboys (last year: 56) Travis Frederick was pushed all the way for the All-Pro spot at center by Minnesota’s Joe Berger, and actually trailed the Viking in run-blocking grade, but his pass-protection set him apart and earned him the nod both there and on this list. While Berger surrendered 17 total pressures, Frederick was beaten for only 10 over the entire year, and did not yield a sack. He was also one of the best run-blockers in the league, trailing only Berger in that regard among centers, and is now the standard by which the position measures itself.

Best performance: Week 7 at New York Giants: +5.9

Key stat: Frederick didn’t allow a sack all season, and surrendered just 10 total pressures.

Remember when the whole world said the Cowboys reached, and reached far, when they drafted Frederick in the first round? I won't exempt myself from that, at the time I thought the Cowboys had gone bonkers. Guess we need to give credit where credit is due.

And the top Cowboy from 2015?

13. Tyron Smith, LT, Dallas Cowboys (last year: 54) There is virtually nothing to separate Joe Thomas from Tyron Smith over the 2015 season, so it’s fitting that they appear back to back in this list, with each among the best 15 individual seasons we saw. Smith was the best run-blocking tackle in the game, but couldn’t match Thomas in pass protection. He surrendered a total of 22 pressures over the season, but was able to distance himself from any other tackle when it came to run-blocking, and was part of an offensive line that was able to get Darren McFadden to 1,000+ rushing yards, actually generating Pro-Bowl levels of production from the RB in the games in which he saw a significant workload.

Best performance: Week 8 versus Seattle: +6.6

Key stat: Smith posted the highest run-blocking grade among OTs (96.8), more than three points better than his closest peer.

Just further proof that the Cowboys have the best offensive line in football. Ezekiel Elliott must be smiling somewhere.