Argument: The fact that Peppers was rated 10th in this list only two years ago should show you how darn effective this guy is. Julius Peppers was the original Jared Allen, for lack of a better phrase.
Before the league became enamored with Jared Allen in the 2007 season, Julius Peppers was the premier Defensive End that got it done against the run, could rush the passer, and could drop into coverage from 2002 until 2006.
In 2007 Peppers had an absolutely horrid season, which you can blame on various reasons, whether it was battling knee injuries or he was just unmotivated, and there were mumbles around some circles that his career might be over or he was on the downside of his career.
Well, Peppers shut those people up, by returning to his old self, well somewhat, and producing in all three of the aforementioned aspects. When motivated, Julius Peppers is a top 10 player on this list, but unfortunately he’s an NFL player and there should be no motivational factor needed.
Even when you factor in his horrid 2007, Peppers averages 10.2 Sacks, 3.85 Stuffs, 3.5 Forced Fumbles, and 5.85 PDs per season.
49. Pat Williams, Defensive Tackle, MIN(48,NR)
Impact: Far And Away The League’s Best Run-Defender
Argument: I know I’m going to sound a little out of line here, but I honestly think that Pat Williams is an eventual Hall of Famer. While numerous Nose Tackles, both 3-4 and 4-3 come into the league and play at a high level for a few seasons, Williams has been doing it for 11 Seasons.
Williams, unlike most Nose Tackles, however, manages to, not only blow up running plays, but to get to the ball carrier as well. This decade Williams has lead all Defensive Lineman in Stuffs a ridiculous five times! He’s finished with seven or more Stuffs against the run in a season an outstanding eight times!
However, the largest accolade to his career might be that, since joining the Vikings, he has turned the run Defense into one of the best in the history of the NFL, and that is no exaggeration...They have the numbers and records to back that up.
Everyone likes to talk about Kevin Williams, but Pat’s ability to occupy two or three blockers on every snap that he takes helps make Kevin, and even Jared Allen look good in their one-on-one matchups.
48. Shawne Merriman, Outside LineBacker, SDG(56,35)
Impact: The League’s Premier Pass-Rushing 3-4 Outside LineBacker/The Heart And Soul of His Defense
Argument: With all due respect to James Harrison and DeMarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman is the premier pass rushing LineBacker in the NFL. Why? Because he’s asked to rush the passer more than the other two individuals are, and creates more pressure as a result.
Merriman is a force, that on first and second down will come at the Quarterback standing up and put fear into them, and then on third down will play the Defensive End position and rush the Quarterback some more. Therefore, Merriman must always be accommodated for by the Quarterback pre-snap.
However, you can also find Merriman’s impact in the pressure he provides and how it effects the other members of the Back Seven in San Diego. Quinten Jammer, an elite Cornerback, struggled last season.
Antonio Cromartie, a guy whom I protested against last season, was absolutely horrid. Shaun Phillips, moved to Merriman’s spot, couldn’t generate pressure and was lost. The other members of the Back Seven were lost last season without Shawne.
47. Kevin Williams, Defensive Tackle, MIN(HM,HM)
Impact: The League’s Premier Under Tackle Capable Of Stopping The Run And Sacking The QuarterBack At An Elite Level
Argument: I have to say that I’ve made a tremendous error in leaving Williams off this list two years in a row. While I don’t feel he deserved the 50 player list, he almost assuredly deserved the 80 player list.
While I feel that Pat Williams means more to what the Vikings look to accomplish than the other Williams “twin”, I can’t deny Kevin’s versatility that adds more to the Vikings Defense. With Kevin playing next to Pat, the opposition is hard pressed to run up the middle.
But Kevin provides the ability to get to the Quarterback making it hard for the Quarterback to remain in the pocket beyond the average three to five seconds needed to get the ball off.
Williams may be the best UT to play the position since Warren Sapp. Williams averages six Sacks per Season, as well as 4.5 Stuffs per Season, making him good for 10.5 Plays behind the Line of Scrimmage a season.
Williams also has the ability to get his hands up and knock passes down, which has lead to interceptions for him as well as his teammates.
46. Charles Woodson, CornerBack, GNB(46,NR)
Impact: The League’s Second Best Cover CornerBack/Best Playmaking CornerBack
Argument: It sickens me when I see that people think young guys like Darelle Revis or Corey Webster are better than Charles Woodson. Woodson is a stout coverage CornerBack that will allow in the area of 300 to 600 Yards and one or two Touchdowns a season, and this season was no different.
In fact, from the Cornerback position(he played SS from Weeks 13 to 15) I don’t recall Woodson allowing a full Touchdown on his own. However, that’s not why Charles Woodon is so high.
Woodson is placed this high because he’s the penultimate playmaker at the CornerBack position. While Asante Samuel pulls in nice Interception totals, Woodson’s numbers rival his (having one less Interception since coming to Green Bay).
But Woodson has done more in that span, including scoring 5 Touchdowns, 4 Sacks and 4 Forced Fumbles for a statline of 187 Tackles, 46 Passes Defensed, 5 Stuffs, 4 Sacks, 4 Forced Fumbles, 19 Interceptions and 5 Touchdowns over the past three seasons in addition to being a top five coverage Corner.
45. Karlos Dansby, LineBacker, ARI (NR,HM)
Impact: A LineBacker Capable Of Playing Almost Every LineBacking Position
Argument: The fact that he is listed as a “LineBacker” with no other specifics listed should let you know how darn good Mr. Dansby is. However, the only person that ever talks about him, including in the Cardinals fanbase, is our MVP Khodder.
Why is Dansby this high over the likes of some of the more well-known guys? Well, plain and simple, because Dansby is one of two LineBackers in the NFL that can play the 3-4 ILB, 4-3 OLB, and 4-3 MLB at a high level, the other being Bart Scott.
However, unlike Scott, Dansby has a complete skill set that allows him to play the run and the pass very well. If Dansby were ever to hit the Free Agency market he’d be a hot commodity, as he is scheme diverse which would allow him to be an attractive offer to every team out there, regardless of who their personnel are.
But it’s not just Dansby’s diversity that have him ranked so high...it’s the fact that he is also one of the bigger playmakers at the position since becoming a starter, with a stat line as follows; 444 Tackles, 25.5 Stuffs, 24.5 Sacks, 11 Forced Fumbles, 26 Passes Defensed, 9 Interceptions and 2 Touchdowns.
44. Antonio Gates, Tight End, SDG(53,NR)
Impact: An “Instant” 900 Yards And 10 Touchdowns
Argument: People have listed Antonio Gates as one of the best Tight Ends to ever play the game after only six seasons in the NFL...I completely and totally disagree, but that should tell you the type of impact he has. Why do people feel this way?
It’s because of his career averages. His rookie year aside where he was still learning nuances, Antonio Gates averages 900 Yards and 10 Touchdowns Receiving on 75 Receptions.
What is most impressive about this is the fact that most of this was done when Gates was the primary receiver because the Wide Receiver Corps in San Diego wasn’t anything to write home about.
While that changed last season, it doesn’t negate how strong of an impact Antonio Gates had in the passing game in San Diego from 2004 to 2007, which aided in the resulting emergence of top-five Quarterbacks Drew Brees and Philip Rivers.
While they’ve gone on to prove they no longer need him to produce at an elite level to be elite, you’re kidding if you don’t think he was instrumental in their development.
43. Roddy White, Wide Receiver, ATL(NR,NR)
Impact: Franchise Wide Receiver Of A Young Franchise With An Elite Trio
Argument: With all due respect to Matt Ryan, the reason he isn’t going to make this list is because I feel as if the presence of players 43 and 83 are two of the huge reasons for the comeback that the Falcons experienced last season.
I feel that Ryan could very well make this list next year with a good year, but as it stands right now, it looks like Ryan, White and Turner will be the future “Elite Trio” in the NFL, hence White’s placement on this list as he is the only member to have done it more than once.
White has produced two 1,200+ Yards Receiving seasons in a row, as well as 13 Touchdowns to go along with it, and yet he’s not a household name. White provides the franchise Quarterback with an opportunity to fit tight balls into tight spaces, and his ability to fight for the ball in the air, at this point, is only bested by Jennings, Smith and Moss.
But why you’ll find him here and not Greg (Sorry) is because, prior to the Gonzo trade, there was no one to take the heat off him in his Receiving Corps.
42. Philip Rivers, QuarterBack, SDG(NR,NR)
Impact: An Elite QuarterBack With Strong Leadership Skills
Argument: Despite the fact that they immensely underachieved by going 8-8 last season, I have to admit that last off-season I predicted the Chargers to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. That’s because Philip Rivers, unbeknownst to most, is one of the better leaders in the NFL both in the huddle and through his play.
Philip Rivers has deadly accuracy and a beautiful deep ball. In fact, to quote Khodder, “Rivers lead the NFL in Touchdown Percentage, Yards per Attempt, Adjusted Yards Per Attempt and Quarterback Rating.
Since 1990, only four other QB's have achieved that feat in a single season. They are Manning and Brady in their TD Record years, Kurt Warner in 99 and 01, and Steve Young in the years 92-94. That is some pretty elite company.” That is impact.
But the thing about Rivers that differs from those other guys is his lack of an elite Wide Receiver like the other four QuarterBacks had. Elaborating what I mean further is that Rivers didn’t have an elite Receiver but his pinpoint accuracy has helped turn Chambers and Jackson into a good WR Corp as opposed to an underachieving one.
41. Champ Bailey, Cornerback, DEN (16,5)
Impact: Still A Top Three CornerBack That QuarterBacks Question Targeting
Argument: Honestly, this is, quite possibly, the last time Bailey will make this list… which isn’t bad for a Cornerback to have made it three years in a row. But he, like Newman, could very well be done next year based on age, injuries and varying other factors taking a toll.
Anyway, with that said, despite only playing for nine games last season, Bailey was only thrown at 20 times and allowed 215 Yards and a Receiving Touchdown.
Averaged out, that is being thrown at a little under two times per game, and allowing about 24 Yards Per Game. Realistically, that would’ve been one of Bailey’s better seasons if extrapolated over an entire season to read thrown at 35 times for 382 Yards and 1 or 2 Touchdowns...
That’s a Nnamdi Asomugha-esque season. Bailey still has it. Hell, he even still gets his nose wet against the run, recording 23 Tackles against ballcarrying HalfBacks and that includes a stuff and a forced fumble. Champ Bailey is still a top four Cornerback in this NFL, and I would argue that the placement of the No. 2 spot is solely between him and Charles Woodson.
40. Jason Witten, Tight End, DAL(58,NR)
Impact: Largest Non-QuarterBack Contributor To The Dallas Offense
Argument: Last year Terrell Owens got placed ahead of Jason Witten based on the virtue that common sense dictates that Owens leading the league in Routes Run Deep spread the field for Witten.
Well, last season, Owens was a deep threat, but nowhere near the level recorded in 2007, and Witten still produced at an elite level, and did so with numerous injuries to his body last season, plus all the drama. For the guy who was the faster player, ever, to reach 400 Career Receptions, it’s no coincidence that he is a guaranteed 79 Receptions per season.
With those Receptions come 917 Receiving Yards, and 5 Receiving Touchdowns annually. However, why Witten is so high on this list is because he is one of only two Elite Tight Ends that can give you a near-1000 Yard Season and elite Run Blocking.
Additionally, in the passing game, Witten is a freak of nature on third Down and against the Blitz, and his production throughout all four quarters is virtually even, which is a rarity for any position, let alone a Receiving position.
39. Brad Meester, Center, JAX(40,NR)
Impact: Premier Run-Blocking Center In The NFL/Key Figure In Offensive Scheme
Argument: When Brad Meester was already out for the first six Games of the Season it looked bleek for the Super Bowl hopeful Jaguars. When three more Jaguars Linemen went down, it looked like the Season was just over, even with Meester scheduled to return.
That’s because that is the impact that the Jaguars’ interior line has on their entire offense, and at the center of that interior offensive line is Brad Meester. The Jaguars had trouble moving the ball when Meester was out, but eventually had success, posting numbers of 3.92 Yards Per Carry Up The Middle for 361 Yards on 92 Carries and 5 Touchdowns.
Those numbers are impressive, until you realize that there were 3 42+ Yard Runs by Jones-Drew and Montell Owens in which a lot of the work was done by these two guys. If you take those numbers away, the team averages a under 3 Yards Per Carry and had two close-ranged rushing Touchdowns.
With Meester returning to the lineup, the Jag’s HalfBacks put up 405 Yards on 121 Carries and an additional 4 Touchdowns, all close ranged. Meester makes the difference in the run game.
38. Joey Porter, 3-4 Outside LineBacker, MIA(NR,NR)
Impact: Versatile 3-4 LineBacker Capable of Dominating In The 3-4 Scheme And Covering In the 4-3 Scheme
Argument: When Joey Porter left for Miami, despite the huge contract, it looked like a good signing under the assumption that he’d be playing 3-4 OLB opposite reigning Defensive MVP Jason Taylor, but the Phins went with a 4-3 Scheme placing Porter as a 4-3 Weakside LineBacker where he saw moderate success, but didn’t really dazzle.
After all, the coaching staff told Porter to simply play lots and lots of coverage and predominately ignored his primary skillset. Despite this, Porter was capable of racking up a few Sacks and would make a few plays on the ball in the air.
However, his most impressive feat that season was being top three amongst all 4-3 Outside LineBackers in run stuffs. Moving back to the 3-4, Joey Porter had a resurgent season, being an instrumental part of the Dolphins’ resurgence, putting an end to many Fourth Quarter Comeback attempts by the opposition (nine Sacks).
Additionally, as Jetsfan4life would say, Porter created 9 “Virtual Turnovers” with 8 3rd Down Sacks (four Forced Fumbles) and one fourth-down sack.
37. Bobbie Williams, Right Guard, CIN(25,NR)
Impact: Bobbie Williams IS The Bengals Entire Running Game
Argument: I’m just going to repeat what I wrote last season, and then add the
impressive numbers this season. In 2004, 33% of Rudi Johnson’s Rushing Yards and 7 of his Touchdowns came running Right Guard Trap. In 2005, 38 percent of Rudi Johnson’s Rushing Yards and 3 of his Touchdowns came running Right Guard Trap.
In 2006, 36 percent of Rudi Johnson’s Rushing Yards and 9 of his Touchdowns came running Right Guard Trap, this time on 4.6 Yards Per Carry. In 2007, when Johnson was “done” due to injury, Kenny Watson replaced Johnson and the two of them ran for a collective 7 Touchdowns running Right Guard Trap.
Finally, Williams showed that it was no fluke in 2008 even with a HalfBack stable consisting of Cedric Benson, Chris Perry and Kenny Watson, and the QuarterBack Ryan Fitzpatrick accounting for a considerable portion of the rushing yardage.
He accounted for 28.5 percent of their Rushing production, and added an additional 5 Rushing Touchdowns. That is 31 Touchdowns running Right Guard Trap between 2004 and 2008.
35b. Tony Romo, QuarterBack, DAL(NR,NR)
Impact: The Cowboys Can Only Go As Far As Romo’s Leadership And Play Lead Them
Argument: 1-3 Without Romo is all that needs to be said to support this argument. I mean, let’s be honest, Brad Johnson is not a horrible QuarterBack, though he somewhat played like it last season, and despite the massive amounts of talent on that roster, the Cowboys went 1-3 over the span that Romo was gone.
No, but seriously, Tony Romo provides a Dallas offense that isn’t as talented as its production would suggest, especially now with Owens gone, with a leader (using the term loosely) that makes the smart plays more often than not.
His mobility in the pocket is what provides the Offense with a chance to look elite, because he extends the play and finds Witten, Williams or (formerly) Owens on a big play that can move the chains.
Perhaps why Romo is capable of doing this is because he is capable of distributing the ball evenly all over the field with touch, which backs Defenders off to allow Choice, Barber III and Jones to find such success. Did you honestly think those HalfBacks were THAT good?
35a. Donovan McNabb, QuarterBack, PHI(60,13)
Impact: The Eagles Can Only Go As Far As McNabb’s Play Takes Them
Argument: I would have hoped that the lot of Philadelphia Eagles fans that continue to blame McNabb for the team’s ineptitude would’ve learned their lesson last season, but as I sat and watched the NFC Championship game in an apartment filled with Eagles fans, I began to see that it will never change.
Despite the unnecessary crap that goes on from his own team’s fans, McNabb shows up and just plays. He was solely responsible for the Eagles Offenses’ success (over 70 percent of Offensive Production each year) from 2000 to 2004.
After that he has had some weapons, but despite that, McNabb’s play has determined how well the rest of the team, sans Brian Westbrook has played. When McNabb has been off, the Receivers have looked erratic, the Offensive Line lost, and the team in and of itself just is mired. Want an example?
Look at the infamous Baltimore Ravens game of last season, and then look at how McNabb carried the team into the post-season after that. Allow me to point back to the magical QB Rating of 85, in which over the past two seasons the Birds are 13-1 when he posts a rating over and 3-11-1 when he doesn’t.
32c. Clinton Portis, HalfBack, WAS(36,NR)
Impact: You Can’t Ask For Much More From A HalfBack Than His Production
Argument: I don’t think many people notice this, or at least didn’t until this year, but Clinton Portis has only gone under 1,700 Yards From Scrimmage twice in his career; one time was his injury shortened 2006 campaign and the other was when he went for 1,550 his first year in Washington.
Additionally, Portis has only gone under double-digit Touchdowns three times in his career. Once in his injury shortened 2006 campaign, and two other times in which he scored 7 and 9 Touchdowns respectively. When you average this out, per season it comes to 116 Yards From Scrimmage Per Game over a seven-year career and .8 TDs per season.
What does this mean? It basically means that for every game that he plays Clinton Portis will give you 124 total Yards and a Touchdown except for 1 or 2 games where he won’t score. In only 7 short seasons in the NFL Portis has produced an outstanding 11,108 Yards From Scrimmage and 76 Touchdowns From Scrimmage, and he’s only 27.
It’s very realistic that, at the end of his career, Portis could finish with both Emmit Smith’s Rushing Yardage and Jerry Rice’s Scrimmage Yardage Records with another seven-plus years. I hate this saying, but barring injury Portis is a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
32b. Frank Gore, HalfBack, SNF(34,NR)
Impact: A HalfBack That Single-Handedly Wills His Team Into Games
Argument: The guy that will draw comparisons to Portis for as long as they both remain in the league due to being in the same backfield in college before injuries struck, Frank Gore is no slouch himself, proving why he was going to usurp Portis for the starting job once Clinton left for the league before his knee injury struck.
While he hasn’t enjoyed the fan success that Portis did due to his quick emergence, Gore is no slouch himself, and while not on a Hall-of-Fame pace due to injuries and an absolutely average, at best, offense around him, Gore has some comparable numbers to Portis on a per-start basis.
Clinton Portis averages 124 Yards From Scrimmage Per Start over his 95 Career Starts. Frank Gore, over his true starts in which he was the No. 1 HalfBack, averages 124 Yards From Scrimmage Per Start. When you don’t just factor for starts, he averages 162 Yards From Scrimmage Per Start.
Gore only has 26 Touchdowns to his name, however, which keeps him from recognizing the fame that Portis has achieved globally. Gore, however, has had to single-handedly will his pathetic team into games, where as Portis has been on some average to good teams.
32a. Steven Jackson, HalfBack, STL(35,6)
Impact: A HalfBack That Single-Handedly Wills His Team Into Games With His Production
Argument: Steven Jackson, like Frank Gore and Clinton Portis, is a freak of nature HalfBack with production out of the “hoo-ha” that people need to learn how to respect.
Just like Portis and Gore he averages well over 100 Yards From Scrimmage Per Start with 154, and even tops the 100-Yard Mark in terms of games played, with 105 Yards From Scrimmage Per Game played in.
Additionally, Jackson averages a very considerable 8.8 Touchdowns Per Season over his career as well, which is very strong given that he has only played two full seasons. Jackson is more than production though.
Jackson has an incredible blend of power and speed that allow him to succeed even when the Rams Offensive Line has been bad, which is the last two years, as evidenced by the fact that, even excluding his Pro-Bowl and All-Pro worthy seasons, in which he averaged 112 Yards From Scrimmage and had 14 Touchdowns.
31. Jeff Saturday, Center, IND(24,23)
Impact: The Second Most Important Piece In The Historic Colts Offense
Argument: The fact of the matter is that the Colts offense is up there with some of the more elite ones throughout history such as Kelly’s K-Gun and Walsh’s 1980WCO.
I mean, it’s not a new offense that was created out of nowhere, and it borrowed heavily from both, but it also produces akin to both of them over numerous seasons, which is what makes it so darn historical.
And since 2000, the second most important aspect of that offense has been Jeffrey Bryant Saturday, even when the likes of Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison were there. Saturday has been the secondary signal caller for that offense, given full control over the blocking scheme coinciding with Manning’s audibles at the Line of Scrimmage.
Despite this immense responsibility, Saturday has only afforded a career 7.25 Sacks, and has been responsible for a considerate portion of Edgerrin James and Joseph Addai’s production, and soon Donald Brown’s. Want Saturday’s impact?
Look at the Cleveland game in which it required a Defensive TD to win the game because on the Cleveland Goal Line, with Saturday out due to injury, on third and 4th-and-1, the Colts couldn’t push it in. With Saturday in their YPC rose a full 1.2 Yards.
30. Adrian Wilson, Strong Safety, ARI(18,33)
Impact: A Threat Downfield And Behind The Line-of-Scrimmage
Argument: Adrian Wilson had somewhat of a down year… and still produced like a top 10 Safety and still played like one. That should about let you know how darn good the guy is.
I’ve said it in the past and I’ll say it again...Wilson is the best Blitzing Safety in the NFL (4.5 Sacks in 19 Games last season), and is, quite possibly, the hardest hitting based on his size alone. Don’t believe me?
Ask Trent Edwards who Wilson didn’t even hit with everything he had, yet Edwards became concussed simply from Wilson falling on him.
While I have called Yeremiah Bell the best pure Strong Safety in the Box, Wilson is a step above that with his ability to play within the Box just as effective as Bell (32.5 Stuffs over the past five seasons), if not better, but Wilson can step back and play coverage with the best of them.
Theres a reason that there have been a rash of CornerBacks in Arizona that have had success. Arizona has the offensive players to win games, but without Wilson and Dansby on the Defensive Side of the Ball there’s no way in hell they would’ve reached Super Bowl XLIII.
29. Ray Lewis, Middle LineBacker, BAL(44,14)
Impact: The Penultimate LineBacker Capable Of Taking Over Whole Games
Argument: Don’t believe me that Ray Lewis is still the best LineBacker in the game? Just look at the fact that he takes over games. A lot of LineBackers are capable of taking over games, but few actually do it.
Even less actually do it multiple times a season like Ray did against Cleveland, Tennessee (twice), Houston and Washington. Ray Lewis is a freak of nature and a sure-fire Hall of Famer who makes plays at the Line of Scrimmage and downfield.
I don’t know if there was a better LineBacker against the run than him last season, evidenced by his whopping 65 Tackles against the run last season.
Additionally, Lewis was a Sideline-to-Sideline Backer that made plays along the Sidelines, 27 Tackles, 1.5 Stuffs and a Pass Defensed. But you can look at statistics, and then you can watch someone play...if you saw the way Lewis slid through holes at the Line of Scrimmage you’d realize exactly how much better than the other guys he was and why, until week 12, he was the runaway Defensive Player of The Year.
28. Calvin Johnson, Wide Receiver, DET(NR,NR)
Impact: A Wideout That Single-Handedly Willed His 0-16 Team Into Any Game They Were In
Argument: You’re probably aware of my “Young + Good =/= Great” campaign in which I argue young players with seasons/stats comparable to veterans don’t majestically surpass them. Well there are few people that make me alter that stance and, alongside Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson is one of them.
Why is Johnson one of the exceptions? It’s because he single-handedly willed a pathetic Lions team into games that they had absolutely no business being in. For instance, in Week Two when the Lions were down 24-3 to the Packers, Johnson single-handedly caught passes and made plays after the catch to get into the End Zone to temporarily give the Lions the lead until their QuarterBack coughed the game away with two Fourth-Quarter Pick Sixes.
Against Washington he did all he could in the Fourth Quarter to bring the Lions back, but the Defense was too inept. Despite having no business being in a game with the Colts, Johnson single-handedly kept the Lions in the game, getting the Lions in the Red Zone in the second, scoring in the second and getting them to the one in the fourth (being robbed of a TD) and getting the game to a 21-21 score.
27. Steve Hutchinson, Left Guard, MIN(22,41)
Impact: The Viking’s Run Game’s Clutch
Argument: Plain and simple, Hutchinson is amazing. Hutchinson was a lead block on an absolutely 30 Touchdowns from 2004 to 2007, which is ridiculous. What this means is that, Hutchinson being on your Offensive Line allows for 45 Points throughout every season. That alone is impact.
As I stated last season, The Seahawks and Vikings from ’04 to ’07 had run Left Guard Trap for 2,018 Yards, or roughly 504 Yards Per Season, making him responsible for about half a thousand yards per season. This continued last season as well with Peterson and Taylor running for 456 Yards when running Left Guard Trap last season.
Additionally they ran for an additional four Touchdowns running Right Guard trap. As I stated on last season’s list, Hutchinson’s HalfBacks have averaged 6.5, 4.4, 4.4, 5.0 and now 3.8 Yards Per Carry.
However, despite the low number this year, Hutch was responsible for 29 First Downs this past season in comparison to a mere seven Stuffs for a ridiculous four to one Ratio while being the second most run behind Lineman last season in Minnesota.
While Hutch might be on the decline in his career, he’s still an elite Guard. Hutch is still an awesomely composed Lineman though, not committing a single penalty for the 3rd time in his career.
26. Chris Snee, Right Guard, NYG (54,HM)
Impact: Despite How Elite Their Offensive Line Is, Snee Is Their Entire Run Game
Argument: I love today’s NFL. Positions like the Guard, once considered a “filler” position that had no real effect on the game are now almost, if not just as, important, as the Tackle position.
Truly Elite NFL Guards like Snee, Hutchinson, Dielman and Williams are asked to be the foundation for an entire team’s run game and succeed. Over the past two seasons, the Giants have proven how important it is to have an elite Guard to establish a Super Bowl-caliber Run Game.
This is why, during Super Bowl XLII I was lobbying for Chris Snee to receive some MVP votes until Eli through up that prayer.
The Giants ran for 7 Touchdowns running Guard Trap Right in 2007, and in 2008 they ran for 5 more. In addition to these 5 Touchdowns were 644 Yards Rushing and 36 First Downs vs. a mere 16 Stuffs on 153 Carries for an Average of 4.2 Yards Per Carry.
Chris Snee is, far and away, the best Right Guards in the NFL, and as long as he’s the premier Lineman on the team Giants HalfBacks will continue to put up elite totals like Tiki, Jacobs, Ward and Bradshaw have. He’s also a complete Lineman as he’s good in Pass Blocking, too.
25.Ben Roethlisberger, QuarterBack, PIT(NR,NR)
Impact: He. Just. Wins. Games.
Argument: When I posted last year’s edition of this list a fellow Steelers fan argued with me that Ben Roethlisberger should have been on the list above all other Steelers, and that his lack of placement was a travesty.
I countered with the argument that the Steelers’ team was so talented that, without Roethlisberger they were still a Playoff caliber team. Well, it would seem that we were both right, as the Steelers are a playoff caliber team without Roethlisberger, but with them they’re a team capable of winning a Super Bowl...and that’s the end-all, be-all.
Now I hate the “He’s a winner” argument, but there’s no denying what Roethlisberger does. Eighteen Fourth-Quarter comebacks in his short NFL Career, and two Super Bowl championships in that span speak volumes about how important it is to the Steelers to have him under center.
Sure, some other QB might be able to take snaps for the Steelers and they’ll win games, but few QuarterBacks in the NFL will win the critical games the Steelers need in order to contend for a championship. Why? Because Ben is the best at what he does...extending plays and making big throws downfield.
24. Tony Gonzalez, Tight End, ATL(29,NR)
Impact: The Best To Ever Do It
Argument: I recently got to watch the NFL Network’s Countdown of Top 10 Tight Ends all time, and I was very disappointed about two things...that Antonio Gates got onto the list, and that Tony Gonzalez was only ranked two spots ahead of him at eighth...
Now I understand the list was compiled before Tony owned every record at the position ever, but they had to realize he was going to get them anyway barring a career-ending injury.
While I respect John Mackey, Ozzie Newsome (even more so for being a great GM too), and Kellen Winslow, I just feel that once you reach the summit at a position like this where not everyone’s careers are cut short, you’re the best.
Furthermore, Gonzalez has been both a premier Pass-Catching Tight End in the NFL, as well as a premier Run-Blocking Tight End in the NFL, as well as both at the same time.
Alongside Shannon Sharpe, who was fourth on that list, Gonzalez was part of the '90s generation of Tight Ends that helped bring back the popularity of the position that we now see with guys like Witten, Gates, etc.
Gonzalez averages 83 Receptions, 1,011 Yards and about 7 TDs per season, and should look to greatly improve the Falcons in 2009 due to the connection he’ll develop with White, Ryan and Turner. And Sorry Chiefs fans… I compiled the list before he was traded, and therefore you lost your only player on it.
23. Brian Westbrook, HalfBack, PHI(5,16)
Impact: Despite His Age He Is Still One Of The 5 Biggest Offensive Matchup Problems For Defenses
Argument: Let’s simply ignore the numbers for a second and focus on the single aspect that Brian Westbrook is still, quite possibly, the biggest matchup problem in the NFL. Few, if any LineBackers can remain in Man Coverage on him, and few if any Safeties in the NFL can recover in time once they come into the Box trying to meet him.
As a result, despite the fact that the Birds live and die with McNabb, the Birds also rely equally on Westbrook since his emergence outside of the Three-Headed Monster of 2003.
It is because of Westbrook that, despite their lack of quality Receivers lately, they’ve still gotten it done through the air, because their Wideouts are able to see easier matchups with him being keyed on.
Over the past five seasons Westbrook has averaged 1,621 Yards From Scrimmage and an accompanying 10 to 11 Touchdowns per season.
While those numbers should diminish with the arrival of LeSean McCoy, who might posses a superior skillset to Westbrook when he was at the stage in his career, he should see a decline in play time, as well as his age and recent string of injuries saw him with a 19-spot drop.
Argument: I’m not much of a fan of players who tend to get lots of Interceptions because I’m under the understanding that, when this happens, the majority of them are on poorly thrown balls.
However, I can’t take away from Ed Reed’s impact just because of this, because as guys like Sheldon Brown and Ike Taylor have proven… you still have to catch the ball, and Reed can do that. 43 Times in a seven-Year Career to be exact, or roughly six times a season.
Ed Reed is a freak of nature, because even if the ball is thrown well, he has a chance to pick it off on almost every single play, and unlike any other player in the NFL, when Reed gets that ball, he’s searching for the End Zone, which makes him different from all other Ball-Hawking players.
Since 2002 Ed Reed has found the ball in his hands as he enters the End Zone a ridiculous 11 times. What this means is that, once about every four times that Ed Reed gets the ball in his hands, he manages to reach the End Zone.
Reed may not have the range of other Safeties, but he doesn’t need to because other Safeties can’t do what he does… and to think the last two years, he underperformed.
21. Steve L. Smith, Wide Receiver, CAR(31,12)
Impact: The Difference Maker For His Team
Argument: Everything I said about Calvin Johnson can be appointed to Steve Smith as well. What do I mean exactly? Well Smith can single-handedly will his team into games.
For instance, when the Panters were playing Green Bay in one of the best games of the season, in the Fourth Quarter Jake Delhomme tossed up a prayer against one of the best secondaries in the NFL and Smith went up between two Defenders and caught the ball on a crucial third down, placing the Panthers in field goal range, allowing them to go on an win the game.
In the Season Finale that could’ve sent the Rival Falcons to a 1st Round Bye, trailing by 1 with a little over three minute left, Smith broke the game open with a 38-Yard catch and run. Steve Smith was the only Wide Receiver in the NFL last season to average 100 Yards per game, having 1,421 Yards Receiving in 14 games.
What makes that so impressive is that it was virtually 13 games given how Nnamdi Asomugha held him to 1 Reception for 9 Yards when they met up. All things considered, last year was better than his triple crown season, given that his presence made things easier for Williams and Stewart.
20. Kris Dielman, Left Guard, SDG(21,36)
Impact: A Run Game In And Of Himself
Argument: I kinda feel bad for using Steve Hutchinson’s impact from last year here, word for word, but as it stands, Kris Dielman on your offensive line guarantees that your HalfBacks are going to get some considerable production.
As I said last season, despite starting for one less year than Hutchinson over the five-year criteria for Guards that I examine, Dielman is only one Touchdown as a Lead Block behind Hutchinson as both were responsible for 4 TDs this season.
Additionally Dielman attributed another 400 Yards Rushing for the Chargers when they ran Right Guard Trap last season for an outstanding 4th season in a row.
Kris Dielman in your lineup guarantees that your team is going to at least get 400 Yards rushing running Right Guard Trap and in some way your HalfBacks will put up at least 46 Points on the board throughout the season.
What differs him from the others (at least Hutchinson) is that he’s a good pass blocker as well, evidence by his .5 Sacks allowed over the past 31 Games.
19. Haloti Ngata, 3-4 Defensive Lineman, BAL(37,NR)
Impact: The Ultimate 3-4 Defensive Lineman
Argument: It’s absolutely ridiculous what Haloti Ngata can do for a Defense. A few years ago, despite still having a passion for the game Ray Lewis was contemplating retirement because the lack of a big body up front in Baltimore, and respecting his wishes the front office went out and got him one...Ngata.
Since then the Ravens Defense has been dominant, and it’s 2006 incarnate and 2008 incarnates have been the best the team has ever had since the infamous 2000 squad. It’s no coincidence that it coincides with Ngata’s arrival.
Ngata is the premier 3-4 END, with the ability to stop the run like Baltimore loves, but his athleticism allows him to be an effective Defensive Lineman capable of employing Zone-Blitz looks. What this means is that when teams expect Ngata to hold blockers up, he’s capable of dropping into coverage with the HalfBack in the flat, and does it well.
Moving over to the NT position this season due to Kelly Gregg’s injury, Ngata proved his rumored versatility by anchoring down the Run Defense, proving that he can play the 3-4 DE, 3-4 NT, 4-3 NT and 4-3 UT positions, all at a high level.
18. Kerry Rhodes, Strong Safety, NYJ(12,HM)
Impact: An Elite Safety Who’s Defense Will Probably Be Built Around Him
Argument: Did you really think that I was going to drop Kerry Rhodes into the mid-50s or even off the list as the result of a single down season? Rhodes had his worst season as a professional and was still better than a good 70 percent of the starting Safeties in the NFL.
Rhodes is the reason you will not find Darelle Revis on this list. While Revis is a good Coverage Corner, in the whole Jets games I watched I noticed that I would consistently see half of Rhodes body on the screen on replays when a pass was completed against Revis...meaning Rhodes was there to help.
Not all the time, but an amount worth noting in my book. While the rest of the Jets secondary was horrible outside of Rhodes and Revis, the fact that he still showed up as a force to be reckoned with outside of a botched assignment here or there tells me that, under Rex Ryan, this guy will probably be in the top 10 on this list next season.
With his ability to play Man Coverage, Blitz the QuarterBack and Stuff the run, Rex Ryan has to be salivating right now...he just needs to react faster in Zone Coverage.
17. Jammal Brown, Left Tackle, NWO(42,NR)
Impact: A Pass Blocking Force For A Pass-Heavy Offense
Argument: 1,841… Do you know what that number represents? That is the number of Pass Attempts that Drew Brees has undergone since coming to New Orleans three years ago.
It takes about a good four or five Seasons for some QuarterBacks to reach that total. Almost equally as impressive is that Jammal Brown has taken snaps for about 1,750 of those pass attempts, and yet only afforded seven Sacks over that span, and prior to last season did it with an average amount of Holding Penalties.
So what this means is that, while the Saints go as far as Drew Brees takes them, they also go as far as Jammal Brown can protect Mr. Brees.
Jammal Brown could very well be the consummate Left Tackle in the NFL by the time it is all said and done in his career, judging from how he’s learned to take on power rushers whom he once struggled with.
However, before he achieves that feat he needs to learn to become more disciplined and rid himself of both the False Start and the Holding penalties.
16. Randy Moss, Wide Receiver, NWE(4,NR)
Impact: Even At His Age He Still Dictates What Defenses Will Do, Regardless Of His QuarterBack
Argument: Like Brian Westbrook, a motivated Randy Moss is one of the premier non-QuarterBack skill position players that is a matchup problem for any Defenders...Do you want to know why Wes Welker has made this list two years in a row?
Because of the little term we like to call “product of a system” with said system being Randy Moss drawing roll over coverage and Welker slipping underneath the said gap left open.
Additionally, there’s a reason that Matt Casell, who hadn’t actually played a down of football in a meaningful game in what seemed like forever, is suddenly a hot commodity that people think can be a top half of the league QuarterBack...
Randy Moss and the coverage matchups that he creates. For Moss to put up 1,000 Yards and 11 Touchdowns on 99 Targets (125 minus the overthrows, underthrows, wide throws, miscomunications and Line of Scrimmage bat downs) is ridiculous.
What this means is that, out of catchable passes, Randy Moss caught a little under 70 percent of them and made the most out of them, despite having a no-name average guy throwing the ball, all while being keyed on by Defenses due to the lack of a Run Game in New England.
15. Michael Roos, Left Tackle, TEN(45,NR)
Impact: The Best Pass Blocker In The NFL
Argument: Michael Roos finds himself on the this list for a second year in a row, but making a 30 spot leap because he established himself as more than an excellent pass blocker; He established himself as a dominant pass blocker, and even established himself as a decent run blocker...at least more than he’s been given credit for in the past.
Roos was a key reason for the Titan’s offensive success, keeping entirely average Quarterback Kerry Collins upright and never having to worry about his blindside, making his job much easier.
However, Roos also was capable of getting out in space from time to time in order to be an impact blocker for rookie sensation Chris Johnson.
However, what sets Roos apart from the other elite Tackles in the NFL that tend to be pure Pass Blockers is Roos’s discipline that prevents him from drawing any more than one Holding penalty a season (two career) meaning even if one were to use “Adjusted Sacks”, Roos has, on average, allowed an adjusted 4.125 Sacks per season...that’s tops in the league behind Clifton.
Argument: Usually, at least in today’s NFL, Right Guards are guys that couldn’t make it as a Left Tackle because, while a good Pass Blocker, they’re a slightly better Run Blocker. Of the 32 starting Left Tackles in the NFL, I can only think of two that happen to excel at Run Blocking...Bryant McKinnie and Chris Samuels.
However, unlike McKinnie, Samuels can Pass Block at an elite level, and as a result is the only Left Tackle in the NFL that Pass Blocks and Run Blocks at an elite level.
Chris Samuels had another great season Pass Blocking, though he did have a few extra holds than normal, but what made it so darn impressive was his mauling ability in the Run Game.
Clinton Portis was the league-leader in MVP voting for the first half of the season because he was running away with the rushing title, and who do you think that can be attributed to?
Mr. Samuels was leading Clinton to daylight, again, and once Chris went down with a torn triceps, Portis’ production took a sharp nose dive… go ahead check it out if you don’t believe me. It’s no coincidence that the Skins’ HalfBacks ran for over 400 Yards running Off-Tackle Left...AGAIN.
13. Jared Allen, Defensive End, MIN(9,NR)
Impact: A Defensive Weapon Matchup Problem For All Offenses
Argument: Let me put it this way… Jared Allen produced the following statline; 54 Total Tackles, 14.5 Sacks, 6.5 Run Stuffs, 3 Forced Fumbles, 2 Safeties and 3 Passes Defensed on a bad knee...and he underachieved. Jared Allen underachieving is akin to the best season possible for some so-called elite guys. That alone is impact.
Allen guarantees double digit plays behind the Line of Scrimmage, with a career average of 18.5 Negative Players per season throughout his 5 year career! When one includes his 28 Career Passes Defensed(or 5.6 Per Season), it means that Allen makes 20+ Splash players per season, meaning at least one per game. Why is this?
Because Jared Allen is a matchup problem for every Left Tackle in the NFL in terms of his pass rushing, and it’s not even a debate. His ability to play the run is of an elite level as well, and Allen always gets his hands up to defend the pass, as well as can drop into short zone coverage making him a triple threat that leaves Offensive Coordinators in fits.
12. James Harrison, 3-4 Outside LineBacker, PIT(NR,NR)
Impact: A Defensive Player That Can Absolutely Take A Game Over
Argument: Prior to the 2007 season when the Steelers released Joey Porter because James Harrison was in the wings, we Steelers fans didn’t feel there would be a large fall-off and production wise we were correct.
However, I did not think that James Harrison would be a force that Joey Porter never was (at least as a Steeler) capable of taking over games. Glad I was wrong.
I somehow was fortunate enough for the second time in my life (the first being the 2006 season as reigning champs), was capable of watching all 16 Steelers games in a season, and it allowed me to watch James Harrison very carefully.
What I saw of James Harrison was inhuman! I saw a man fighting through triple teams every game and still winning. I saw a man getting held numerous times, with no call and still winning. Harrison’s 16 Sacks in 15 games were good, but the fact that he led the league in Sack Yardage is even better.
His 16 Forced Fumbles over the past 2 seasons means he’s a turnover creating machine, and the fact that opposing Linemen were flagged 7 times for holding show his impact.
11. LaDainian Tomlinson, HalfBack, SDG(3,1)
Impact: Even when Injured, Tomlinson Is Still An Elite Offensive Weapon
Argument: Let’s set the record straight here… LaDainian Tomlinson has been injured for the past couple of seasons and still won a rushing title and put up 1,500+ Yards From Scrimmage on 4.46 Yards Per Touch, and an additional 12 Touchdowns From Scrimmage...
That is an elite season, regardless of the 3.8 Yards Per Carry running the ball, and he did all this with injuries.
Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that he only fumbled the ball once. So it’s pretty intriguing that reports show that Tomlinson has returned to camp at about 90 percent health and should be 100 percent before the start of the season.
Tomlinson’s career averages aside, which are some of the best of all time, the fact remains that, like Philip Rivers, Tomlinson’s presence has been a contributing factor in the development of Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson, Chris Chambers, as well as Philip Rivers for the first two seasons as a starter in his career.
While Tomlinson may no longer create the Offensive matchup problems that Westbrook and Moss do due to slowing down, he’s still an elite offensive weapon, and no...these new one-year wonder guys are not better than him.
10. DeMarcus Ware, 3-4 Outside LineBacker, DAL(8,27)
Impact: Is Single-Handedly The Cowboys Defense
Argument: What? Ware over Harrison? I’m not a homer people! Remember the criteria for this list and then tell me how James Harrison could be higher. DeMarcus Ware IS the Cowboys Defense. I’ve never seen, nor do I ever think that I ever will again see a guy carry an entire Defense the way that Ware did.
The Cowboys Defense is not as talented, at least at getting to the QuarterBack, as their statistics would indicated, and yet they finished with an asinine 60+ Sacks last season. Even if you were to take out Ware’s 20, that leaves the rest of the team with 40, few of which came from 12-Sack man from 2007, Greg Ellis.
So where did these Sacks come from? I’ll tell you… team’s overcompensating for Ware’s ability to rush the passer. Elaborating further, team’s were overcompensating for Ware’s ridiculous first step, which was falsely flagged at least seven times as a False Start last season, because Ware can time a Snap better than anyone else in the league.
However, DeMarcus Ware is a 3-4 Outside LineBacker that is capable of dropping into coverage fluidly and running with some of the better and more athletic Tight Ends in the league, making him a complete Defensive player. He is the Brian Westbrook or Reggie Bush of Defenders...he creates matchup problems.
9. Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver, ARI(NR,NR)
Impact: An Difficult Matchup For Any Si
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