Pro Football Focus ranked the top 101 NFL players from the 2010s on Thursday, and three former Pitt players made the cut. Aaron Donald was ranked No. 2, Darrelle Revis was ranked No. 23 and Larry Fitzgerald was ranked No. 47. All three of the Pitt alums also made the PFF All-2010s team in April, but the analytics site went into greater detail with the ranking.
The past six years have been phenomenal for Donald, as he has excelled in the NFL, earning Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2014, first-team All-Pro honors the next five years, and Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 and 2018. The only surprise about Donald’s inclusion was that he was placed second overall instead of first. However, Sam Monson of PFF noted that the reason for that was Donald’s late start, as he missed the first few years of the 2010s.
No matter how good you think Aaron Donald is, you’re likely underselling it. And only the fact that he entered the league in 2014 is keeping him from being the top spot on the entire list. Donald has been utterly peerless since his second season and redefined what we thought possible — he owns all five of the highest single-season pass-rush grades since PFF has been grading and by far the highest pressure rate and pass-rush win rate of any interior defender over the decade. He is one of only two players ever to amass more than 100 total pressures over a season, and every time you run pass-rushing numbers, he exists on his own anomalous island of data. Aaron Donald is the best player in the NFL and the second-best player over the entire decade.
Like Donald, Revis also may have risen higher on the list if not for poor timing. As Monson noted, his best NFL season came in 2009, when he came up with a career-high six picks and led the league with 31 pass breakups. That did not factor into his statistics for the 2010s, which saw him gradually decline. But even with his best years behind him, Revis was able to outplay the vast majority of players at his position and finished as the third-ranked NFL cornerback of the decade.
Revis is one of the greatest cornerbacks the league has ever seen. And while his 2009 season is still the greatest coverage season PFF has ever witnessed, that season doesn’t make it into the evaluation for this past decade. This decade features what most people would think of as Revis’ more disappointing play or his ‘mercenary years’ in the league. Wandering from team to team for the best payday he could find, Revis found himself in situations that weren’t nearly as good for him as his first stint with the Jets. Nevertheless, it shows just how good he was that — even with those years rolled up — his play results in a PFF grade that puts him among the best players of the decade. Only Revis and Richard Sherman allowed a completion rate under 50 percent for the decade.
The only Pitt alum of the three to play the entire decade was Fitzgerald, and because of his ability to take the field year after year with the same energy he possessed when he entered the league, he has climbed up the NFL's leaderboards and ranks second only to Jerry Rice in career receptions, with 1,378, and receiving yards, with 17,083. Now, Fitzgerald’s efforts have earned him a seventh-place ranking among wide receivers and recognition as a top-50 NFL athlete in the 2010s.
Few players in NFL history can even argue that they have better hands than Larry Fitzgerald. Over the entire decade, he had just 27 dropped passes from 1,347 targets, and he recorded more than 10,000 receiving yards despite regularly suffering substandard quarterback play. But for a brief respite from Carson Palmer in the middle of the decade, Fitzgerald has had precious little help from his quarterbacks over the past 10 years, yet he still produced with the best receivers in the game and even transitioned to the slot and back without even a hiccup in his game. Even with the decade capturing just the second half of his career, he still ranks as one of the best players of the past 10 years.
At this point, Revis is no longer in the league, as he officially announced his retirement in 2018, and Fitzgerald’s career appears to be winding down as well. However, Donald is still going strong with the Los Angeles Rams and could go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game by the time his career is over. In addition, more recent Pitt alums like Tyler Boyd and Avonte Maddox are making their mark in the NFL, and current Pitt standouts like Jaylen Twyman and Paris Ford appear to be bound for the professional ranks. So Pitt may well have some additional alums in the running for all-decade honors come 2030.