Pro Football Focus released their 2021 Top 50 players in the NFL list over the last few days. The purpose of the list is not to react to how a player performed in 2020, but rather attempt to project how he will play in 2021. They also stress they did not provide positional weight to a player’s projection, basically meaning a quarterback does not get over up the ranking based on the position he plays.
Where does 2020 First-Team All-Pro, 2020 and 2018 interceptions leader Xavien Howard land on the list? Well, like every other Miami Dolphins player, he does not.
The Dolphins are a young team looking to take the next step forward. They should have players like Tua Tagovailoa, DeVante Parker, Will Fuller, Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki, Jaelan Phillips, Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis, Jerome Baker, Andrew Van Ginkel, Brandon Jones, and Jevon Holland developing into potential members of the list. The Dolphins have to prove themselves worthy of landing on a list of the top players in the league.
Except Howard. He has done enough to be a two-time Pro Bowl selection, led the league in interceptions in two of the last three years, led the league in interceptions over the last four years combined (22, four more than Kevin Byard in second place), and was the top selection for the Associated Press’ First-Team All-Pro team last year.
Somehow, he is not in the top five cornerbacks in PFF’s 2021 projections.
Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers (14th); Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams (16th); Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore Ravens (29th); Bryce Callahan, Denver Broncos (36th); and James Bradberry, New York Giants (47th) all made the list over Howard. Ramsey was a First-Team All-Pro selection last year alongside Howard, while Alexander and the Buffalo Bills’ Tre’Davious White were the Second-Team selections.
Understanding PFF’s statement that the 2021 Top 50 players list is about how they project the player to perform in 2021, not how they played in 2020 - but Howard did not have a breakout season and suddenly thrust himself into the discussion. He has been performing like this since 2017. He has proven to be among the elite cornerbacks in the league. He should be on this list. It is clearly a snub from PFF.