Final Rankings of the Top 100 Players of the 2012 NFL Regular Season
Before we head into the NFL playoffs, we must first truly put the regular season in prospective.
There were both many surprises and disappointments by teams and players this season. Some players broke out to become household names—or close to it.
The following is a list of the top 100 players from the 2012 regular season.
These players were ranked based on individual performance, play relating to other players at the position and by importance of position (there's a lot of quarterbacks at the top of the list and some running backs are lower than the average fan thinks they should be).
After compiling a list of over 150 players by using standard statistics, advanced stats, Pro Bowl rosters, then ignoring Pro Bowl rosters, and my Trade Value rankings in the year as a base, the field was cut down and ordered into the top 100 you will find here.
100. James Laurinaitis, LB, St. Louis Rams
Sixth in the league with 142 tackles.
99. Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
Although a drop off from last year, still an above-average season.
98. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
Rare bright spot on the Eagles offense and much better than teammate Nnamdi Asomugha.
97. Mario Williams, DE, Buffalo Bills
Not the huge year expected after a free-agent contract, but still had 10.5 sacks and two forced fumbles
96. Jerrell Freeman, LB, Indianapolis Colts
145 tackles for a defense that needed all 145 of them.
95. Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers
1,214 yards rushing.
94. Mike Iupati, OG, San Francisco 49ers
A good reason for Gore’s 1,214 yards rushing.
93. Ronde Barber, S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Four interceptions and 91 tackles in his move from corner to safety.
92. Sheldon Brown, CB, Cleveland Browns
Good coverage with and filling in for teammate Joe Haden.
91. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions
Another season with more questions about things other than on-field production, but on-field production is still there.
90. Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers’ team MVP.
89. Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans
Did enough running offense to make Houston the top AFC team for most of the season.
88. Steven Ridley, RB, New England Patriots
Remember when the New England backfield was going to be a committee?
87. Daryl Washington, LB, Arizona Cardinals
134 tackles, nine sacks and two forced fumbles.
86. Janoris Jenkins, CB, St. Louis Rams
Returned two of his three interceptions for touchdowns.
85. Greg Hardy, DE, Carolina Panthers
Eleven sacks on a sneaky good Carolina defensive line.
84. Muhammed Wilkerson, DT, New York Jets
One of the few constants for the Jets this season.
83. Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons
More yards than his receiving partner, but not as much production overall.
82. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
If Newton played the first half of the season like his second half, the Panthers would be a wild-card team.
81. Andy Levitre, OG, Buffalo Bills
Robbed of a Pro Bowl spot, though that’s not saying much.
80. Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks
Had 140 tackles as a rookie in the middle of a dominant Seattle defense.
79. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Might have been higher if given the ball more.
78. Stevie Brown, S, New York Giants
Eight interceptions and two forced fumbles while filling in for an oft-injured secondary.
77. James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers
League-leading 14 touchdowns despite only 64 receptions.
76. Chris Myers, C, Houston Texans
Rock in the middle of solid Houston offensive line.
75. Calais Campbell, DE, Arizona Cardinals
Had 6.5 sacks, six deflected passes and a blocked kick.
74. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
Averaged only 89 yards per game, despite leading the league in carries.
73. Antonio Cromartie, CB, New York Jets
Stepped up after the loss of Darrelle Revis to a torn ACL.
72. Chris Snee, OG, New York Giants
Most consistent offensive lineman for the Giants.
71. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Less receptions than White, but significantly more yards after the catch.
70. Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Even with lasting image of final game, played at a high level all season.
69. London Fletcher, LB, Washington Redskins
Fletcher is the Tony Stark of NFL defenders.
68. Owen Daniels, TE, Houston Texans
Dependable receiver for Matt Schaub when Andre Johnson was covered.
67. Cortland Finnegan, CB, St. Louis Rams
Had 101 tackles, three interceptions, a forced fumble and a touchdown.
66. Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland Browns
Helped make Trent Richardson’s job easier and kept Brandon Weeden alive.
65. Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
No one is questioning his decision to re-sign with the Colts this past offseason.
64. Jerod Mayo, LB, New England Patriots
Fourth in the league in tackles in addition to four forced fumbles.
63. Elvis Dumervil, DE, Denver Broncos
Dumervil is sneaky good at sharing sacks with Von Miller.
62. Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A big reason for Tampa Bay’s league-best run defense.
61. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A 1,400-yard rookie season won’t be the last we see from Martin.
60. Casey Hayward, CB, Green Bay Packers
Six interceptions for the rookie on an injury-ravaged Green Bay defense.
59. Michael Johnson, DE, Cincinnati Bengals
Making 11.5 sacks might be slightly easier on a line with Geno Atkins.
58. Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Slightly scarier on offense than Alex Smith.
57. Chad Greenway, LB, Minnesota Vikings
Third in the league in total tackles.
56. Jahri Evans, OG, New Orleans Saints
Made the departure of Carl Nicks a little less noticeable.
55. Jaruis Byrd, S, Buffalo Bills
Five picks, four forced fumbles.
54. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Probably wishes he was fired from Kansas City on Black Monday.
53. Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears
Another double-digit sack season for the defensive end.
52. Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
You’re welcome, Josh Freeman.
51. Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco 49ers
Had 120 tackles and is the leader of the 49ers defense.
50. Chris Clemons, DE, Seattle Seahawks
The same number of sacks as Peppers, but more tackles, passes defended and forced fumbles.
49. Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers
His 97 tackles might be the highlight of the Chargers’ season.
48. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Had 790 yards and 11 touchdowns. Imagine if he played 16 games?
47. Trent Williams, OT, Washington Redskins
The Redskins needed at least one good offensive lineman for their run-heavy offense.
46. Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots
Had 118 catches and a league-leading 619 yards after them.
45. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Season-long "Beast Mode."
44. Duane Brown, OT, Houston Texans
The best offensive lineman on the best run-blocking line in the league.
43. Champ Bailey, CB, Denver Broncos
Only two interceptions, but that was caused by not being thrown against.
42. Charles Johnson, DE, Carolina Panthers
Had 12.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles.
41. Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins
Are we surprised Mike Shannahan found another low-round running back to be successful?
40. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
He might have been better after he fractured his finger.
39. Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals
Truly became an elite cornerback, shutting down opposing No. 1 receivers.
38. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
Funny how everyone in the preseason thought Eric Decker would benefit the most from Peyton Manning.
37. DeMarcus Ware, LB, Dallas Cowboys
Making 11.5 sacks may seem underwhelming, but there was no one else to block on Dallas’ defense.
36. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Please don’t retire, Tony.
35. Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings
(See: Ware, DeMarcus)
34. Vince Wilfork, DT, New England Patriots
Still a dominating presence up the middle.
33. Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans
Almost 1,600 receiving yards is impressive, considering the rest of Houston’s passing options.
32. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
No quarterback taken first overall led their team to a winning record. The Colts are 11-5 and in the playoffs.
31. Ryan Clady, OT, Denver Broncos
Was there anything more important in Denver this season than keeping Peyton Manning on his feet?
30. Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks
The only member of Seattle’s secondary under 6’0” but don’t tell him.
29. Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints
A great receiver fits well with New Orleans’ pass-heavy offense.
28. NaVorro Bowman, LB, San Francisco 49ers
Taking over for Patrick Willis as the dominant on-field performer in the Niners’ linebacking corps.
27. Ed Reed, S, Baltimore Ravens
It’s nice to see Ed Reed still be Ed Reed as the other older pieces of Baltimore’s defense fall apart.
26. Max Unger, C, Seattle Seahawks
The one center on the NFC Pro Bowl roster who deserves to be there.
25. CJ Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
Football Outsider’s No. 1 rated running back on a per play basis.
24. Cameron Wake, DE, Miami Dolphins
Had 15 sacks and three forced fumbles.
23. Tim Jennings, CB, Chicago Bears
League-leading nine interceptions while teams were throwing away from Charles Tillman.
22. Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys
Set an NFL record for receptions by a tight end in a season with 110.
21. Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks
Can we get the nickname Optimus Prime to stick?
20. Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
He might be the most exciting player in the NFL.
19. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Had an unstoppable stretch during the season with nine straight games with a touchdown catch.
18. Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos
Six forced fumbles to go along with 18.5 sacks.
17. Russell Okung, OT, Seattle Seahawks
A breakout year as a dominant run- and pass-blocker.
16. Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears
Able to achieve 1,500 receiving yards while being Jay Cutler’s option A, B, C, D and E.
15. Justin Smith, DT, San Francisco 49ers
It’s no coincidence Aldon Smith’s production dropped after Smith got hurt.
14. Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers
Led the league with 164 tackles as a rookie.
13. Joe Staley, OT, San Francisco 49ers
The best offensive lineman in the league.
12. Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati Bengals
Made 12.5 sacks from the defensive tackle position. He can’t go unnoticed for much longer.
11. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
A career-high 4,719 yds and 32 touchdowns in an underrated breakout season for Ryan and the No. 1 Atlanta Falcons.
10. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Tied Peyton Manning's rookie record of 26 touchdown passes in a season—throwing to Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin.
9. Aldon Smith, LB, San Francisco 49ers
Production dipped with the loss of Justin Smith, but no one is going to complain about 19.5 sacks.
8. Charles Tillman, CB, Chicago Bears
Forcing fumbles is a skill (as opposed to luckily recovering fumbles). Ten forced fumbles is an incredible use of that skill.
7. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
NFL-record 1,964 receiving yards in a season.
6. Drew Brees, QB. New Orleans Saints
Only quarterback to have back-to back seasons with 5,000 passing yards. One of those seasons was done without a head coach.
5. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Brady’s season doesn’t seem spectacular because we’ve come to expect stats like 4,800 passing yards and 34 touchdowns.
4. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
The same goes for Rodgers if you judge this against his MVP season last year, but 39 touchdowns against eight interceptions is pretty good.
3. JJ Watt, DE, Houston Texans
With 20.5 sacks and 16 passes defended, Watt seemed to be playing defensive end and cornerback at the same time.
2. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
A year ago, he was sitting out because of four neck surgeries. He only came back to throw for 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns and lead the Broncos to the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
He is the MVP.
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