Ranking the Best Current NFL Player for Each Jersey Number
The NFL is littered with players at every jersey number who make spectacular plays and help their team win games.
When you have arrived, they don't care how old you're or what you did in college. They care about how good you are.
As we go through Slides 1-99, we will take a look at who the best players are for each jersey number. There is no minimum years of service or anything like that, it's who the best player is right now wearing that jersey number.
For example, No. 1-9 can be worn by quarterbacks, punters and kickers. If you're looking at number four, just know that there might be a kicker or punter who is more deserving than Kevin Kolb (which there is).
Let's get started.
Cam Newton had one of the best rookie seasons ever, as he set just about every rookie record imaginable.
Throwing for 4,051 yards, running for 706 yards and scoring a combined 38 touchdowns will surely go down as one of the most impressive seasons in NFL history.
Since entering the league in 2008, Matt Ryan has been one of the most consistent and durable quarterbacks in the league.
He's only missed two starts in his career, and has amassed an impressive 43-19 win, loss record. It's safe to say Ryan will go down as one of the best.
While Carson Palmer is not the same quarterback he once was early in his career, the Raiders hope his level of play will build off where it was last year at the end of the season.
Palmer's best start came in Week 17, as he piled up 417 yards against the interdivisional rival Chargers.
Has there ever been a better kicker to ever play the game?
Jason Hanson has shown longevity and sustainability for a Lions franchise that has lacked it over the years. Hanson currently ranks as the fourth leading scorer all-time, with 2,016 points. Another impressive record—the most 50 yard field goals kicked in a career, with 50.
Before Joe Flacco came to Baltimore, the Ravens hadn't had a quarterback since...well ever in Baltimore.
Yes, Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl, but that is more of a credit to how amazing their defense was. Flacco is still young, so there's no doubt he could have a title of his own by the time it's all said and done.
Cutler led the Bears to an incredible 7-2 start last season before getting hijacked by injury.
Everyone felt Caleb Hanie would at least win a couple games, and the Bears would be a shoe in for the playoffs. Their inability to win down the stretch showed just how important Cutler is to this team and how much better they are when he plays.
It was a tough decision on who to put at number seven.
It was either Big Ben or Michael Vick, but when it comes right down to it, Roethlisberger is a top five quarterback and Vick is not. Two Super Bowl victories and three appearances in eight years is quite an impressive feat, no matter how good your defense is.
The Houston Texans could have really used Matt Schaub down the stretch last year.
T.J. Yates played admirably as a rookie, but I feel the Texans would have had an even better chance of beating the Ravens and moving on to the AFC Championship game. Some are predicting Houston as early AFC Super Bowl favorites. They are loaded on offense, and they just need to stay healthy.
The 2011 season was a memorable one for the former Purdue Boilermaker.
He set the all-time record for most passing yards in a season, and broke one of the most long standing and historic records in NFL history.
It will be interesting to see if he has the same success in 2012. Sean Payton and Brees are attached at the hip, so it will be interesting to see if his absence hurts his performance.
Is there a more under appreciated player than Eli Manning?
He has brought two Super Bowl championships to New York in five years, and he is still one of the most criticized players yearly. Some franchise's would die to have one Super Bowl victory, not to mention two. Just remember you can't spell elite without Eli.
There are very few receivers that have been able to put up the kind of numbers Larry Fitzgerald puts up with an ever changing revolving door at quarterback.
In his eight seasons for the Arizona Cardinals, he has only failed to reach the 1,000 yard mark twice. Without a doubt Fitz will go down as one of the best wide outs of all-time.
Terrific Tom, as many would call him, has a lasting legacy at the New England Patriots and in the entire NFL.
Brady holds numerous team and NFL records as a starting quarterback. One of the most jaw-dropping ones to me was how fast he got to 100 regular season wins in only 131 starts. It's safe to say his ticket to Canton has already been punched with seven Pro Bowl appearances, three Super Bowl championships and two MVP awards.
After being drafted in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL draft, Johnson has made a name for himself as an up and coming player in the league.
He's posted back to back 1,000 yard seasons, which earned him a new contract on March 5th, 2012. Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick are attached at the hip, so it will be interesting to see if their production jumps for the third straight year.
This slide was a tough one. I was trying to decide between Andy Dalton and Ryan Fitzpatrick, but ultimately sided with Dalton because I feel he has more upside.
As a first-year starter, Dalton led the Bengals to the playoffs and earned himself a trip to the Pro Bowl. As Cincinnati continues to add weapons, look for their offense to become even more explosive than it was in 2011.
The quarterback, wide receiver duo put up some pretty impressive numbers together in Denver, and they might see some more wins this time around with a defense to compliment their offensive attack. Let's just hope things don't end the way they did in Denver.
It's been awhile since we've seen double-digit return touchdowns from the specialist, but that doesn't mean the end is near for Joshua Cribbs.
I expect him to have a bounce-back year, just like he did in 2009. He currently holds the record for most career kickoff return touchdowns with eight.
Philip Rivers might end up being one those quarterbacks who puts up huge numbers and wins every individual award, but he may never win the big one.
He owns quite a few of the Chargers franchise passing records, and will look to keep building on the ones that are in reach. If he hits the 4,000 yard mark season, it will be his fifth time in five years.
Peyton Manning has the ability to go down as the best quarterback to ever play the game.
I'm not quite sure if he has etched that in stone yet, but if he can come back from the horrific neck injury better than ever, he has the chance to break just about every passing record known to man. The list of records he holds now is unreal, click here to take a look.
In 2009, Miles Austin was given the chance to show off his skills, and show off he did.
He only started nine games, but finished the season with 1,300 plus yards. The 2010 season saw a little bit of drop in production, but the 1,000 yard mark threshold was still passed. Look for a more in shape, better conditioned Miles to return as Tony Romo's favorite target in 2012.
One of the greatest ballhawks of all time checks in at No. 20.
Ed Reed's consistent and steady play has earned him eight Pro Bowl and eight All Pro selections over the course of his career. Not to mention the Ravens franchise records for most career interceptions, interception return yards, return touchdowns and passes defended.
Ed Reed might be the original ballhawk, but since Charles Woodson came to Green Bay he might have perfected the term.
Since joining the Packers he has had 37 interceptions and 14 forced fumbles, which figures out to be one turnover forced every 119 snaps. Quite the impressive number.
With the Bears giving Matt Forte a four-year, 32-million-dollar deal, they locked up one of the best running backs they've had in team history.
Forte is one of the most elusive and shifty backs that does a great job of catching the ball out of the backfield. He's forced 41 missed tackles as a receiver out of the backfield. He's a running back who serves a multi-threat.
This spot could have easily went to Devin Hester, considering he is the best return man of all-time, but what Arian Foster has done over the last two seasons is quite impressive.
And look for Foster to only get better. Over these past two years, we have seen him pile up 4,061 yards from scrimmage and 30 touchdowns.
Revis Island...no opponent has really escaped with a victory. Maybe you could count one of Stevie Johnson's games a win, but other than that not many get off alive.
Is it hard to argue that Revis may go down as the best cornerback to ever play the game? Not with stats like opposing quarterbacks rating when throwing in his direction, 45.6. Or the fact that he only allowed 35 completions on 85 attempts.
Is there a more perfect fit for Andy Reid's west coast offense that LeSean McCoy?
He can run and catch, plus he's a touchdown scoring machine. Six multiple touchdown games, and only two games all season where he was held out of the end zone all together—it was a great 2011 season for McCoy. He's still very young and improving.
If Beanie Wells could stay healthy, he might have had a better start to his young career.
By crossing the 1,000 yard threshold for the first time in his career last season, he marked the possible start to consistent production. This was what the Cardinals were looking for the first two years of his contract. It would be nice to see him become more involved as a receiver as well.
I call Ray Rice the human cannonball because of his small, thick stature.
His production as a pass catcher and runner has helped himself establish an identity as one of the top running backs in the league. Rice is entering his fifth season in 2012, and out of those five seasons, he has crossed the 2,000 yards from scrimmage plateau twice. All his impressive effort earned him a five year, 40-million-dollar deal this offseason.
All-Day Adrian Peterson—what a nickname for one of the most violent running backs.
He makes people miss and hits the hole with authority. Over the past two seasons, he has rattled off 27 runs that exceeded 15 yards or more. A strong number, considering he had an injury-shortened season in 2011.
Hopefully, Peterson can come back stronger than ever in 2012.
Thomas earns this spot as the young, roaming free safety that mans the Seahawks defensive backfield.
Thomas has been as good as advertised his first two seasons in the league. He had some growing pains in his first year, but really took that leap into stardom in year two. He plays the run as well as he plays the pass, and can give quarterbacks fits on the rare snaps when he rushes off the edge.
As a hybrid player in the backfield, John Kuhn can give you snaps at either halfback or fullback, whichever you prefer.
He was selected to his first Pro Bowl this year, and also made the All Pro team for the first time since coming out of Shippensburg College as an undrafted free agent. Being a fan favorite in Green Bay never hurts, as fans yell out "Kuhn" whenever he touches the ball.
As Cortland Finnegan packs his bags and heads to St. Louis, he is coming off one of the most impressive personal seasons to date.
Quarterbacks had a tough time throwing against him, as they only could muster up a quarterback rating of 81.1. He only allowed two touchdowns to get by him all season long. Finnegan heads to St. Louis as a player who they have been desperate for in their secondary.
MJD is currently on hold-out watch at Jaguars camp, but that doesn't take away from the things he has accomplished up to this point.
He holds quite a few of the Jaguars single season rushing yard records, and is closing in on a few of the franchise ones. From 2009-2011, Jones-Drew has rushed for over 1,300 yards every single season. Jacksonville would be lost with out him for the length of a season.
The burner's time is coming to an end or he has lost a step, I've heard it all this offseason, but by looking at his numbers from 2011, I don't think he's going anywhere.
Out of his 318 total touches last season, he forced an incredible 67 missed tackles. That by far was the highest number in the league. Plus, he led the league with 21 runs of 15-plus yards.
DeAngelo Williams makes up one half of smash-and-dash, the nicknames given to running backs Jonathan Stewart and Williams.
In 2010 and 2011, his production has dropped off from where it was in 2008 and 2009. That's not to say he isn't as effective, but with the addition of Cam Newton and now Mike Tolbert, there are less touches to go around for Williams. If he tops 1,000 yards in 2012, it will be the third time he has done so in his career.
As I mentioned in the slide before, Mike Tolbert is the latest addition to the Carolina Panthers backfield.
As if they didn't already have an impressive array of talent that carries the ball, they just got that much better. Tolbert comes over from San Diego, where he has arguably out performed first round draft selection Ryan Mathews.
Stephens-Howling is of the most explosive players in the NFC when he gets the ball in his hands.
The only problem is the limited amount of touches he truly gets in Arizona. He generates some buzz on special teams, and will land a few carries if Beanie Wells is out. II think he is a very under utilized resource in Arizona. He plays scrappy, and can make people miss in the open field.
Safety George Wilson has had a bit of an up-and-down career, and he has bounced in and out of the lineup from time to time.
He did put together a nice 2011 campaign, where he played the run well and stopped the opposing running backs dead in their tracks. His high number of stops resulted in a failure for the offense.
Williams started the season strong this past year, but needs to do a better job at keeping the momentum as his play tailed off at times down the stretch.
That doesn't take away from his production and quality of play. He still managed to intercept four passes and knock down 12 more. Quarterbacks only completed 58.6 percent of their passes against him, a pretty average number.
SJ39, as many call him, is truly a dying breed—one of the only powerbacks left to play the game.
St. Louis is one of the few teams left that deploys a single back backfield. Jackson has carried the ball 2,138 times in his eight year career. Seeing a running back carry the ball 300 plus times is rare in today's NFL, and Steven is one of the few who still shoulders the load and carries the team on his back.
After blowing up in 2010 and landing on the Madden cover, it seemed like things were all downhill from there on out.
Peyton Hillis fizzled out from there, but in a new city and an offense that fits him well, things are looking up. Being paired with Jamaal Charles never hurts, and averaging 4.2 yards per carry for your career is no fluke. I'm predicting Hillis bounces back in a big way this year.
As a second round draft selection out of Alabama in 2006, Roman Harper has seen a steady increase in performance the last few years.
It seems like he always leads the Saints defense in turnovers, which in turn rewards him with Pro Bowl appearances. He's made appearances in both 2009 and 2010. Being a gambler can get you burned at times, but it can also reward you, which is the way Harper likes to play.
I just did an article on some of the most underrated and overrated players in the league. If anyone knows how reliable "the law firm" is, he's definitely on that underrated list.
In his 510 carries for his career, he has never fumbled, which makes so much sense as to why he was appealing to Bill Belichick. Belichick likes players he can count on. Cincinnati should treat Green-Ellis well, as he will see an uptick in carries.
Love or hate the Steelers, it is hard to argue with Troy Polamalu's level of play.
There aren't many players who do a better job than he does, as his resume stands for itself. He is a seven time Pro Bowl selection, as well as a five time All Pro. Not to mention the two Super Bowl victories and the honor of being named to the NFL all decade team for the 2000s.
It seems like the New York Giants always had a time share at running back with the likes of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.
Both are very good players in their own right, but it always seemed like you got a little bit more out of Bradshaw. His most productive season as a pro came in 2010, where he had over 1,500 yards from scrimmage and scored eight touchdowns.
Another piece to the New York Giants backfield, Henry Hynoski.
In an age where quality fullback play is becoming a lost art, there are a couple who still get the job done. And Hynoski is a guy who can get the job done. He saved his best stretch of play until the play offs, and saved his best game for the Super Bowl. He paved the way on the ground for Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.
Since Jim Harbaugh came to town in early 2011, he has praised Delanie Walker every way possible and figures out ways to use him in his west coast offense.
Walker was a sixth round pick out of Central Missouri. He has a fast skill set that makes him a matchup problem for linebackers. He would probably see more snaps, but with an All Pro like Vernon Davis in front of you it's hard to justify taking him off the field.
Before 2011, Chris Cooley was seen as a mainstay in the Redskins lineup.
Only playing five games this past year has put his time in Washington in doubt. Fred Davis has taken over the number one tight end spot, but I can think of a few tight end needy teams who could use some help.
Let's not be quick to forget a pretty impressive six-year stretch from 2005-2010.
It seems as if No. 48 isn't very popular in league circles, because not many players choose to wear it.
However, there are a few long snappers who have graced the number. Currently, Danny Aiken of the New England Patriots rocks it, and has done a nice job as their long snapper. He was picked up in 2011, and has impressed enough to stay on in 2012.
Like No. 48, No. 49 is one of the less popular ones. That doesn't mean there isn't someone who offers quality play at that number.
Rashad Johnson comes to mind as someone who impressed in limited snaps. He only logged about 500 snaps of the season, but in sub packages he did a really nice job in coverage.
Sean Lee is quickly becoming one the best inside linebackers in the game.
As a rookie in 2009, he played strong in limited opportunities. His first year as a starter was when things really took off. He offers up a ton of support in the run game, and made strides toward the end of the year in coverage. As a pass rusher he was effective in limited snaps, and will probably see a bump in pass rush opportunities this year.
The Patriots experimented a little bit last year with a 3-4 defense and a 4-3 defense. They ultimately went back to the 3-4 for the playoffs, but what impressed me was their ability to perform at a high level in both defenses.
One of the most impressive players was Jerod Mayo. He piled up 88 solo tackles last season, and really imposed his will in the run game. Mayo was an All Pro selection in 2010, as well as a Pro Bowl selection.
Let me ask this question, is there a better linebacker in the game today?
I think not.
Patrick Willis has been an absolute force since entering the league in 2007. From then until now, he has accounted for 692 tackles and 17 sacks. That's almost 140 tackles a season on average.
It's safe to say Ray Lewis has relinquished his spot as the top inside linebacker.
As I mentioned in the previous slide, Patrick Willis has taken over the spot as the top inside linebacker.
His counterpart might just be second. NaVorro Bowman was given the chance to start after Takeo Spikes departed, and he made his impact felt immediately. Bowman actually graded out as Pro Football Focus top inside linebacker. He was graded seven points higher than Patrick Willis.
Another mainstay at the middle linebacker position is Brian Urlacher.
His level of play is not where it once was early in his career, but he still plays at a ridiculously high level, and can cover just as well as he always could. His pass rush ability has fallen off, but he is a very good if not great run stopper at the age of 34.
Urlacher's linebacking buddy Lance Briggs could have been mentioned for No. 55, but it's hard to beat out the pass rushing nightmare, Terrell Suggs.
It seems as if Suggs has been wreaking havoc off that edge forever. He is scheduled to miss the 2012 season with a torn achilles tendon. If would have been able to play, he would be going for his third-straight double-digit sack season. He ended 2011 with a career high 14 sacks.
Brian Cushing is the centerpiece to the Texans defense.
His play last year in Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense was key in their turnaround. In 2010, they were ranked almost dead last, and in 2011 they finished second overall.
Cushing might be the most complete linebacker of all—he's phenomenal against the run, he can rush the passer and he can cover.
In 2011, the Jets defense as a whole dropped off.
That did include Bart Scott. While his drop off was noticeable, it wasn't that significant.
Scott has always been a run stopper first and foremost, and he had a few more missed tackles than he was used to in years past. But at the age of 31, he still plays at such a high level and thrives in Rex Ryan's defenses.
Von Miller played like a ten year season veteran his rookie season. Heck, some players don't even reach his level of play ever.
For those of you who didn't get to see him play, you may ask which areas he excelled in. Well to be honest, all of them. His high level of play earned him a rookie of the year award, an All Pro selection and a Pro Bowl selection.
London Fletcher is quite possibly the most underrated player of all time and the best undrafted player ever to play the game.
In his 14 year career, there have only been two seasons where he hasn't eclipsed the 100 plus tackle mark, and yet he has only been invited to the Pro Bowl three times.
In 2011, he was nominated to his first All Pro team. I was second team, but I'm sure it was still an honor he had been waiting for. At 37, his high level of play is remarkable.
Ferguson is one of the absolute best offensive tackles in the game. He is a three time Pro Bowl selection, and has started every game he has appeared in. Even though his play dropped off a bit in 2011, I expect things to return to form for Ferguson this upcoming season.
Nick Hardwick enjoyed a nice finish to the end of the 2011 season, as he put together some solid performances.
Based on his play in years past, Hardwick really excelled in pass protection. It could easily be said that he was the best pass blocking center in the league last year.
Even though the Rams were atrocious in 2011, Harvey Dahl's play was invaluable. It seemed like he played every position on the line when they needed him to in a pinch, but he is best suited at right guard. Hopefully, for St. Louis' sake that's the only position he will have to play this year.
Long-time veteran Jeff Saturday is packing his bags after 13 seasons in Indianapolis.
The Colts are headed in a new direction with their youth movement, but that doesn't mean Saturday can't play anymore. He was the Colts best offensive lineman by a long shot last year, and will do just fine in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the gang.
If you don't know who Zach Strief is yet, get to know the name.
The Saints have plenty of talent along the offensive line, but Strief is one of the more unknown talents. He helped New Orleans run the ball well, especially down the stretch. Pro Football Focus had him graded out as a top ten tackle in 2011.
From one of the best right tackles in the game to one of the best centers. Sullivan experienced some disappointments early on in his career, but turned things around this past season. He only allowed a total of ten quarterback pressures and is now in the elite company of Nick Mangold and Chris Myers for best center in the NFL.
With Jeff Saturday headed to Green Bay, Samson Satele comes over from Oakland to take the reins.
Satele is an underrated player who will further help the development of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. The two could really build a nice bond together.
Another center graces our countdown at No. 67.
Ryan Kalil is the big brother to newly drafted left tackle Matt Kalil. Ryan has established himself as one of the best interior offensive lineman in the game by being selected to three Pro Bowls. His first All Pro selection came in 2011, after allowing only three sacks.
Like John Sullivan, Jared Veldheer's success wasn't immediate, but his turn around in production has come quick.
After an awful rookie season, Veldheer took time during the lockout to really work on his craft, which helped him continuously improve. He needs to now focus on his penalty number, as 11 is way too high.
The sack master himself, Jared Allen. Allen recorded an incredible 22 sacks last season, 0.5 short of Michael Strahan's NFL record. His career has been fascinating up to this point, he's only had two seasons where he hasn't had double digit sacks and there has only been one season where he didn't force at lease on fumble. 105 career sacks is pretty impressive.
As a fourth round selection out of Eastern Michigan in 2009, Lang didn't see much of the field right away.
Last season he was given a shot to man the left guard position, and it couldn't have worked out better. A total of 14 pressures was all that hes surrendered in 1,157 snaps. The only real area of improvement is in the run game, but that's not only him, as the Packers need to shore up that in its entirety.
Back-to-back Packer guards on this list proves how strong Green Bay's offensive line was last season.
There were very few weak spots along their offensive line, and Sitton was easily their best lineman. Like Lang, he allowed very few total pressures and is more of an all-around player. His run blocking and pass blocking are equally as good.
Osi Umenyiora is part of a formidable Giants defensive line that has left their mark as one of the most dominant defensive lines in the past decade.
Umenyiora has tallied 69 sacks in his eight year career, and has proved that he is worth every penny New York has paid him. They just worked out his contract this past offseason, so look for a more content player in 2012.
As far as right guards go, there may not be a better player than Yanda.
His strong performances in 2009 and 2010 earned him a five-year, $32-million-dollar contract. The money didn't seem to go to his head, as he had his best season to date in 2011.
Since Pro Football Focus started their grading in 2008, Nick Mangold has either finished No. 1 or No. 2 in their positional rankings. It's hard to argue that their is a more consistent player in the NFL. He's a four time Pro Bowl selection and three time All Pro selection.
Over the past eight seasons, Vince Wilfork has been the anchor to the Patriots defensive line.
Wilfork has seen success mostly as a cog in the run game. His pass rushing ability has declined in recent years, but it was never anything to write home about anyway.
Veteran left tackle Duane Brown is the key piece to the Texans offensive line. He is the key to keeping Matt Schaub upright and providing protection.
Houston couldn't stand to lose him, as he has started every game he has appeared in.
The No. 1 overall selection from a few years back has been battling injuries the past couple seasons, but you would never know it as his play has remained elite.
Since entering the league in 2008, Long has not missed a Pro Bowl, and has been an All Pro selection twice.
I'm not sure if it was the curse of Tim Tebow or the style of Denver's offense in 2011, but this past season wasn't his best by any means.
Regardless, one season doesn't off set his track record of production. His true test will come this year, as he has to protect Peyton Manning's surgically repaired neck.
Herremans started his career on the interior offensive line, but has since moved to tackle.
Wherever he is asked to play usually pans out, considering he has had success all along the line. His first season at tackle was this season, so look for improvement next season.
Andre Johnson is an absolute monster, and has been one of the best wide receivers in the NFL over the past few years.
Even though injuries have slowed him at times, he is always amongst the league leaders in catches, yards and touchdowns. A full season of a healthy Schaub and Johnson could give opposing defenses fits.
"Megatron" signed an 8-year extension worth $132 million this past offseason, and it was well deserved.
Johnson posted a 96 catch season that resulted in 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns. Having Matthew Stafford at full strength will continue this kind of production. Just image what a run game could do for this team.
While Jason Witten may have fallen out of the top tight end spot with guys like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham taking over, it doesn't mean he's not one of the league's best. He posted a career high in yards per reception at 11.9. At 30, there's no doubt he still has a few good season's left.
When you play with a quarterback like Tom Brady, your odds of succeeding have to be relatively high.
In 2007, Welker found out just how effective he could be by registering a 112 catch, 1,100 yard season out of nowhere. Since then Brady and Welker have hooked up numerous times. They've only had one season where they didn't post 100 plus catches and 1,000 plus yards.
Roddy White's first few seasons in the league proved to be a struggle, as he could never get on the same page with Mike Vick.
Once Matt Ryan arrived so did White, and he has been an annual Pro Bowl selection ever since. As the 2012 season approaches, there is an opportunity for him break every major Atlanta Falcons team record for receiving touchdowns and receptions.
Greg Jennings was probably just as deserving of this spot as Anotonio Gates, so I boiled it down to consistency. As an undrafted player out of Kent State, Gates has put together one of the most impressive careers out of any tight end. He is only one of seven tight ends who have caught 500 balls in their career.
No. 86 was a hard number to lock down, as it doesn't offer many quality options. Heap didn't play a full season by any means in 2011, as he battled injuries, but when he did play he was effective. His pass catching ability is on the decline, but he made his impact felt in the run game.
When talking about the gold standard of tight ends, this guy is it. Every single-season tight end record fell last year, due to Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.
It's doubtful he will have the same record-breaking season with the addition of Brandon Lloyd. To see his records, check them out here.
Most were curious as to whether Nicks would live up to his first round draft status, mainly because he had some off the field problems in college.
But it's safe to say he is well on his way to a solid career. Nicks has posted back to back 1,000 yard seasons, even though he has yet to play in all 16 regular season games.
The veteran's career was revived once Cam Newton came to town, as the both of them leaned on each other last year.
Smith averaged 17.6 yards a reception last year, the second highest number of his career. He also posted the second longest catch of his career with Cam Newton under center. They at least have a couple of good seasons left together.
Like Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul is the newest addition to their defensive line. And he might just be the better of the big three.
Tuck and Osi are good, but Pierre-Paul is excellent. He really ramped up the pass rush in the Super Bowl, as the second half pressure seemed to be too much for Tom Brady.
The son of Howie Long was off to a slow start at the beginning of his career, but has ramped up production in recent years. Long recorded his first double-digit sack season in 2011, and over the past two seasons has 21.5 sacks.
Haloti Ngata is the type of player you think of when you think of the Baltimore Ravens defense. Ngata has represented his team well by being selected to three Pro Bowls and four All Pro teams. For his career, he has 311 tackles and 17 sacks.
One of the original members of the Williams wall is now the only member, but his play is almost equivalent to those of two defensive linemen. His incredible 54.5 sacks for a defensive tackle is rarely seen, which overshadows his ability to play the run even better than he rushes the passer. His play seems to be strong, even as he enters his tenth NFL season.
Ware's record of 99.5 sacks over seven seasons is no easy feet. Having that many sacks seven years in gives him an outside shot at the all-time sack record. Averaging over 14 sacks a season is almost unheard of, given that most players have trouble reaching double digit sacks, let alone 14. There's no doubt DeMarcus Ware is an exciting pass rusher.
Even though his play fell off a bit in 2011, Kyle Williams like Kevin is a very disruptive force at defensive tackle. The Bills are making a full-time switch to the 4-3 defense, which will only help Williams build on his lone all pro selection and two Pro Bowl appearances.
One of the more underrated players checks in at No. 96. Dunlap and Geno Atkins have been two of the most disruptive players for the Bengals over the past couple seasons. Dunlap hasn't been recognized for his disruptive pass rushing, but this year might be the year if his snaps are increased.
The Jets had a real lacking pass rush last season outside of Calvin Pace. Aaron Maybin chipped in at times, but Pace was the most consistent of the bunch. He finished the season with 44 quarterback hurries, five quarterback hits and five sacks.
Over his three first seasons in the league, Brian Orakpo has just gotten better year by year. He was initially seen as just a one trick pony pass rusher, but over the past couple years he really has improved against the run and in pass coverage.
When you talk about taking the league by storm, watch how Aldon Smith did it in 2011 and you have your model for how it should be done. He finished his rookie season with fourteen sacks and two forced fumbles. The fourteen sacks was good enough to help him land a 49ers franchise rookie record, impressive for a situational rusher.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!