Bernard Pierce probably played better last year, and certainly down the stretch, than the Baltimore Ravens‘ NFL Top 100 picks so far.
The list of top players after 2012, voted on by the NFL players themselves, is now barreling down to the brink of the 30s and has already received plenty of representation from the reigning Super Bowl champs. This is all well and good, but the players being chosen are the wrong ones. I’m not saying Pierce necessarily deserves to be on this list, but he serves as a microcosm of what got Baltimore kick-started in January and headed on their way to a championship: young, virtual-unknowns making up for underwhelming play from stars that are typically a lock for these types of top 100 lists.
Out of Dennis Pitta (100), Jacoby Jones (88) Bernard Pollard (87), Terrell Suggs (56) and Haloti Ngata (42), maybe only Suggs deserved to make the grade based on the effect his presence began to have as he grew healthier towards the end. Ngata is typically great but hit a snag with injuries last year. Ray Rice will probably eventually make this list, and I’m not saying that’s wrong, but Pierce came up huge at many points this year when Rice started to struggle a bit, especially when the postseason rolled around.
Pro Football Focus broke down Pierce’s rookie-season contribution: “Pierce averaged 1.12 more yards after contact per carry than Rice. Simply put, he did more than Rice beyond the help of their offensive line and, all in all, was a better pure runner. The problem for Pierce is that he needs to work on the other aspects of his game and improve enough that the Ravens can trust him on the field regardless of the situation. That would allow him to see even more touches offensively and grow into a much bigger part of the Ravens’ offense.”