The accolades keep coming for one of the Chicago Bears’ best players.
Before all eyes shift to the 2018 NFL season, Pro Football Focus has started to roll out its list of 101 best players from the 2017 campaign. We don’t know how many Bears players will make the list when it’s all said and done (they’ve only gotten through the first 50 names), but we know of at least one.
Defensive end Akiem Hicks checks in as Pro Football Focus’ 87th-rated player. It’s the latest post-season accolade to come Hicks’ way since the Bears’ season wrapped up (Bleacher Report’s team of NFL scouts previously called Hicks the league’s best 3-4 defensive end).
Before we get into it, know that PFF’s list is based solely on a player’s performance in 2017, meaning nothing from a player’s past or what their future might hold matters. Additionally, the site created the list with the idea that all positions carry equal value, so we won’t see a list full of quarterbacks even though it’s the most important position in the sport.
Also, considering the breakout years had by safety Adrian Amos and cornerback Kyle Fuller, Hicks might not be the only Bears representative in the top-100 when the rest of the list is rolled. Especially if it’s still based solely on 2017 production (which it is). In fact, it would be a disappointment if both were left off PFF’s top players list when all is said and done.
As for Hicks, he is one of four players at his position who crack PFF’s list in the 76-101 range. Joining him are Malik Jackson of the Jaguars (94th), Mike Daniels of the Packers (89th), and Grady Jarrett of the Falcons (84th). This is Hicks’ first appearance on Pro Football Focus’ annual list, but it probably won’t be his last.
And as for what PFF had to say about the Bears’ top defensive lineman, Hicks earns a favorable comparison to New York Giants defensive lineman Damon Harrison. Only Harrison (34) had more tackles in the running game that gained two yards or less than Hicks’ 31. Further, just one other interior defender had more than Hicks’ 37 total run stops. The traditional metrics were kind to Hicks, too. Arguably one of the biggest Pro Bowl snubs of 2017, Hicks followed a career year in 2016 with a better one in 2017, posting career-best numbers in sacks (8.5) and tackles (39) while playing the third-most defensive snaps (899) on the team.
Before the season, Hicks signed a hefty contract extension that kept him in Chicago and ensured he wouldn’t reach free agency. So far, it looks like a wise investment as Hicks has grown into a leader on the field and in the locker room. Once the Bears turn around their record, the notoriety for Hicks and his teammates will follow.