DeMarcus Ware received a nice honor by being named the third-best player in the NFL by CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco in his list of the top 100 players. The Dallas Cowboys pass-rusher is the highest defensive player ranked on the list. Cowboys fans must wonder whether Ware deserves to be ranked that high.
To know whether Prisco decided correctly, one must weigh the ranking based on how he judged players for the list. Prisco gave a bit of explanation by saying "it's based on eyes (mine), ears (listening to scouts) and watching hours of tape. ... This is based on actual football evaluation heading into the 2012 season."
To some degree, NFL fans can make what they will of Prisco's list, depending on whether they generally agree with his opinions.
If Cowboys fans are looking for an outsized number of players on the list, they'll be happy. Besides Ware, there's Tyron Smith (No. 38), Jason Witten (No. 43), Brandon Carr (No. 67) and Tony Romo (No. 78).
Telling from many of the comments Prisco made on players, he measured players to a large extent on impact and production. Prisco spoke of Aaron Rodgers' 2011 MVP award, the difficulty of covering Calvin Johnson and Darrelle Revis' ability in man coverage.
Prisco said of Ware, "This explosive pass-rusher has to be accounted for on every play. He missed out on the sack record, but not by much."
Ware is certainly one of the most productive pass-rushers in recent history. He has been in the top three in sacks in four of the last five seasons, leading the league in 2008 with 20 and 2010 with 15.5. In 2011, he was second with 19.5 after leading at midseason with 14.
He had a career-high five multi-sack games. In a Week 8 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Ware had four sacks.
Also, he has a tremendous impact on both the Cowboys' pass rush and opponents' game plans. He had 46.4 percent of the Cowboys' sacks. No other Cowboys defensive player had more than six.
Opponents surely recognize that the key to shutting down the Cowboys pass rush is to block Ware. Blocking Ware can lead to an easy time for the passing game. Conversely, failing to keep Ware at bay can lead to the quarterback taking a bit of a beating.
In comparison to Revis, who is ranked No. 5, Ware is inherently a bigger difference-maker. All a team has to do to take Revis out of the game is to have the quarterback not throw the ball in his direction. Teams must often watch for Ware rushing the quarterback, a practically unavoidable task as Ware can rush from various angles, whether in his normal position on the outside or any spot between the defensive ends.
Some might argue Jared Allen is a better pass-rusher than Ware. Despite having 2.5 more sacks than Ware in 2011, Allen's 77.5 sacks in the last five years is 2.5 less than Ware's 80.
Ware is currently at the top of the pile, and with a couple more years at the top of his game, he could hold the mantle as the top defensive player in such a ranking for another two years. Prisco was well in reason to rank Ware No. 3, considering Ware's impact and production.