Ranking the Best Active NFL Players By Uniform Number, 50-99
As promised, here is the rest of the jersey numbers 50-99, ranking the best players in the NFL to don each number. I would say that the second 50 will turn out to be more controversial than the first.
There are certain numbers that are stacked more than others, but I definitely had a harder time making decisions on the second half of my list.
No. 50 - Ernie Sims
Right out of the gates, I have a really tough call between two standout NFC North linebackers-Ernie Sims of the Lions and the Packers' AJ Hawk.
This year could be the differentiator as Hawk is making the transition from 4-3 base to 3-4 and Sims will be looking to help the Lions bounce back from the dismal O'Fer of 2008.
For No. 50, I'm going with Sims this year. He's is a tackling machine who has way less talent around him than Hawk has in Green Bay. The Lions have given some help to Sims this year, adding Larry Foote and Julian Peterson to their linebacker corps.
I would like to see more sacks from him, but I don't know if that's more due to the scheme or the player.
No. 51 - James Farrior
I'm starting to think the 50s are going to be one of the hardest groups to determine the best players at, which is great! I love a good controversy. In terms of No. 51, I'm going with Farrior.
This will be his eighth year leading the defense in Pittsburgh and, at age 34, is showing no signs of slowing down. Farrior narrowly edges out Barrett Ruud for this spot. Ruud needs to build a bigger track record before I can give him the nod over Farrior.
No. 52 - Ray Lewis
Look at the names who wear No. 52: Jon Beason, D'Qwell Jackson, Kirk Morrison, Chad Greenway, Patrick Willis and, of course...Ray Lewis.
Honestly, I've never been a Ray Lewis fan, but the fact that he's still playing at a top level at his age, with the way he throws his body around is nothing short of amazing. Like LaDainian Tomlinson, I can't disrespect Ray by not naming him here. He may be end up being the last Raven to ever wear No. 52.
No. 53 - Keith Bulluck
Keith Bulluck is one of those linebackers who is a joy to watch on the football field. He makes plays all over the field and always seems to be around the ball.
He hasn't had the same number for the past two years that he had earlier in his career, but he is still supremely talented and a leader on that vaunted Titans D. He'll need to step up again this year with the loss of Albert Haynesworth.
No. 54 - Brian Urlacher
Being a Vikings fan, I've never liked Brian Urlacher and I've always felt that he's overrated. Unfortunately, the numbers don't really lie and the more time that goes on, the more this guy impresses me. He just keeps leading that defense and making plays.
No. 55 - Joey Porter
I've changed my mind twice on this number because there are three guys who are all talented enough to be considered here—Porter, John Abraham and Terrell Suggs. In the end, I'm going with Porter and his 17.5 sacks last year and I'm going to leave it at that before I change my mind...again.
No. 56 - Shawne Merriman
Merriman is one of the most dangerous pass-rushers in the league, once again, when healthy. He's never started all 16 games in a season and he's now coming off of reconstructive knee surgery to repair torn PCL and LCL tendons.
It may take some time, but look for Merriman to bounce back with a vengeance this year.
No. 57 - Bart Scott
Entering his first year without Ray Lewis, I mean, with the Jets, Scott will need to prove he can do things on his own. Fortunately for him, he'll be under the same scheme in New York as Rex Ryan will be running the show in Jet-land and he has some impressive talent around him.
No. 58 - Karlos Dansby
After being a major part of the Cardinals Super Bowl run last year, Dansby was designated as their franchise player for the second straight year. With over $9 million guaranteed for one year, it's not a bad job if you can get it.
Though not spectacular in any area, Dansby is a versatile player who is good in coverage, tackles well and rushes the passer effectively.
He narrowly edged Giants MLB Antonio Pierce.
No. 59 - DeMeco Ryans
Ryans exploded into the league piling up 155 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and an INT in his rookie year, earning himself the Defensive Rookie of the Year trophy.
Though he hasn't matched that year statistically, he has still been a tackling machine in the heart of the Texans defense. It's hard to believe he's only going into his fourth year.
No. 60 - Shaun O'Hara
I'm going to forewarn everyone reading this, numbers 60-79 are going to be very subjective as these are predominantly offensive lineman who don't have stats.
Kicking things off is Shaun O'Hara, the anchor of the Giants offensive line, which is arguably the best in the league. O'Hara and his linemates just continually get the job done every week of the season.
No. 61 - Casey Rabach
Another really solid, if unspectacular center (forgive my spelling, I'm from Canada), Rabach has only missed one game over the past five years, four of them with the Redskins. You can't put a price on the value of continuity like that.
No. 62 - Todd McClure
Talking about consistency, McClure has started every game for the Falcons for the past seven years. I thought Justin Hartwig might have been the guy here, but no, McClure surpasses him simply by being on the field and playing at an above-average level for his entire career.
This guy deserves more credit than he's been given.
No. 63 - Justin Blalock
Blalock has started 30 straight games since getting his shot three games into his rookie season. The mauling left guard out of Texas was a big part of Michael Turner's breakout year last year and figures to be a big part of the Falcons line for the next decade.
No. 64 - Samson Satele
Honestly, I'm not too sure why the Dolphins like Jake Grove over Samson Satele, but I'm going to take Satele over Grove. The big Hawaiian started 32 games in two seasons with the Dolphins before they signed Jake Grove from Oakland to be their starting centre this offseason.
Miami then shipped Satele to Oakland for a sixth rounder and a swap of fourths. Once again, I have no idea why, but I'm not a pro scout by trade either.
No. 65 - Andre Gurode
Likely the biggest starting centre in the league, Gurode's not just a big body who can play the middle of the offensive line. He's been to three straight Pro Bowls after his head ended up on the other end of Albert Haynesworth's cleat during the 2005 season in one of the ugliest incidents in recent NFL history.
No. 66 - Alan Faneca
Despite his age, Faneca is still considered to be one of the top guards in the league. He's been to eight straight Pro Bowls has been named a first-team All-Pro five times. Faneca is likely a future Hall of Famer.
No. 67 - Dan Koppen
Although he has been to only one Pro Bowl, Koppen is still one of the top centers in the league. Just ask Tom Brady, he'll tell you how valuable Koppen is to the Patriots offense.
No. 68 - Kevin Mawae
Not only is he one of the best centers in the NFL, he's also President of the NFLPA. Mawae has been around a really long time as he was drafted in 2004, but he is still capable of paving the way for a couple of pretty good running backs in LenDale White and Chris Johnson.
No. 69 - Jared Allen
One of the most feared pass-rushers in the game, Jared Allen is also one of the biggest characters in the NFL today. From donning fur hats in interviews to his wild mullet, nothing Allen does should surprise anyone.
No. 70 - Jammal Brown
After winning the Outland Trophy in 2004 as a senior with the Oklahoma Sooners, Brown has been an outstanding left tackle for the Saints. He's been to two Pro Bowls in four years, but more importantly has helped keep Drew Brees on his feet and out of the training room.
No. 71 - Walter Jones
Walter Jones has been one of the best tackles in the league for over a decade. The nine-time Pro Bowler is not the same as he once was, and my list was based on this year alone, I might have gone with Jason Peters or Michael Roos.
However, I'm going with the a future Hall of Famer here, who probably deserves this spot until he retires.
No. 72 - Osi Umenyiora
I had a hard time finding a picture of this guy, but he's definitely worthy of this spot. Although the Giants defense was still impressive without him last year, it will be that much scarier with him back this year.
Look for him to return to the double-digit sack club despite recovering from an ACL tear.
Matt Light is an honorable mention here.
No. 73 - Joe Thomas
Although Thomas elected not to take part in the draft day festivities in New York, instead he went fishing on Lake Michigan, once he arrived in the NFL, he quickly became the talk of Ohio.
Thomas was so good as a rookie that he even received some Offensive Rookie of the Year votes over Adrian Peterson! Going into his third year, this guy is already on the path to the Hall of Fame.
No. 74 - Aaron Kampman
It took Kampman some time to develop, but the Iowa native is fully established as one of the top all-around defensive ends in the game.
He's making the from RDE in a 4-3 to OLB in a 3-4 this year, which he made very clear he wasn't pleased about, but he's such a good football player that he should transition just fine.
No. 75 - Levi Brown
Taking Brown over Adrian Peterson is probably one that Cardinals GM Rod Graves would like to have back. Unfortunately for him, that can't happen. However, Brown is still developing as a player and may still turn out pretty good.
Although he's far from Pro Bowl status at this point, he is still the best name to wear 75 as far as I can tell.
I almost decided to put a rookie on here - Eugene Monroe of the Jaguars - but decided Brown has done enough to keep this spot... for now.
No. 76 - Steve Hutchinson
Hutchinson is the best inside lineman in the league. He has the attitude, knowledge, strength and technique all packaged into one guy.
This was a coup for the Vikings using the 'poison pill' technique to bring in Hutchinson as a free agent after Seattle foolishly used their transition tag instead of their franchise tag in 2006.
No. 77 - Kris Jenkins
Jenkins has long been considered one of the top talents at defensive tackle in the NFL. He seems to have put his injury issues behind him and is performing at a Pro Bowl level as the Nose Tackle in the Jets 3-4 defense.
Look for that to continue this year under Rex Ryan.
No. 78 - Ryan Clady
Like Joe Thomas the year before, Clady was a standout tackle almost immediately. Along with Ryan Harris, whom I considered at No. 74, Clady is one half of arguably the best pair of young offensive tackles in the game.
These two guys give the Broncos hope that maybe their offense can function sans Cutler. If they can duplicate last year's performance, Kyle Orton's not going to know what to do when drops back because he won't be running for his life or throwing the ball away as he was accustomed to in Chicago.
No. 79 - Mike Goff
Goff has been a mainstay on the Chargers line for the past five years, starting every game for them over that span. The Chargers opted not to bring him back this year, but he was quickly grabbed by Scott Pioli in Kansas City.
Not a real special player, but a more than capable guard that the Chiefs will be pleased to have as he rarely makes costly mistakes.
No. 80 - Andre Johnson
Andre Johnson is arguably the most talented wide receiver in the league. Though that debate is always subjective in nature, this guy can do it all better than almost everybody else.
He catches a ton of balls, is tough to bring down after the catch, has the speed to go deep and isn't afraid to cross the middle of the field. Easily the top guy wearing No. 80.
No. 81 - Randy Moss
843 catches, 13,201 yards, 135 TDs and still going strong at age 32... Moss will go down as one of the best ever to play wide receiver in the National Football League. Although he wears No. 81 for the Patriots now, I'll always think of him as No. 84 in purple and gold.
I will mention that I chose Moss at No. 81 over Torry Holt and Calvin Johnson, which was a difficult choice.
However, Holt is nearing the end of his career and although I think Johnson has the potential to be a Hall of Fame receiver, he's only going into his third season and it will take more than one big year to unseat Moss.
No. 82 - Jason Witten
He isn't the most athletic TE in the league, but he's an all-around talent who can run, catch and block very well. It doesn't matter who the No. 1 wide receiver is in Dallas, because everyone knows that Tony Romo's top target is Jason Witten.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Witten put up the best numbers of his career this year with the Cowboys thin at receiver.
No. 83 - Wes Welker
When I first looked at some of the names to wear No. 83, I thought Welker was a lock for this spot, but when I looked at his stats, he's really only had two big years - both of those years with the Patriots.
Another No. 83 Lee Evans, for example, has better career numbers that Welker.
However, Welker is the best 'possession' receiver in the league. He has caught over 110 balls for two years running and that success is likely to continue. If Evans and/or Vincent Jackson has another big year, this number might be changed for 2010.
No. 84 - Roddy White
I'm bucking my trend of going with older guys over younger here in taking Roddy White over TJ Houshmandzadeh and it's not because I'm a bitter Vikings fan whose team was spurned by TJ this spring during the free agent season.
It's simply that I think White is easily the better player.
Housh is a steady receiver who can move the chains, but his career avg YPC of 11.2 is less than exciting and he only has two 1000 yard seasons in eight years.
Meanwhile, White has had two years of over 1200 yards receiving and he's become a major threat in the rejuvenated Falcons offense. I think if you polled GMs in the league, the majority would agree with me and take Roddy White of TJH if they were given the choice.
No. 85 - Antonio Gates
Gates has been giving opposing defensive coordinators fits for over five years now due to his athleticism and the matchup problems he creates. A converted basketball player, if Gates can continue his production for another five years, he may find himself enshrined in Canton someday.
PS: Gates narrowly edged out Greg Jennings here due to longevity.
PPS: I'm so stoked I could finally get a shot of those SWEET powder blue jerseys in here!
No. 86 - Hines Ward
Hines Ward is a football player in every sense of the term. You can just tell by watching him, this guy LOVES to play football and he's pretty damn good at it too. Already with 800 catches, Ward will surpass 10,000 career receiving yards this year.
He's also a punishing blocker (just ask Keith Rivers) and the emotional leader of the Steelers' offense.
No. 87 - Reggie Wayne
Peyton Manning's go-to-guy is a superb talent on his own, but the Manning-Wayne combination is one of the best in the league. With Marvin Harrison's play fading over the past two years, Colts fans have been spoiled with the emergence and consistency of Wayne.
Now Wayne's going to have to continue to produce because he's going to be pushed by another emerging player in Anthony Gonzalez.
No. 88 - Tony Gonzalez
It was a tough call between two future Hall of Famers here in Tony Gonzalez and Isaac Bruce. Though both are phenomenal athletes who continue to produce at a high level in their 30s, I'm giving this honor to the man who revolutionized the tight end position.
Never known for his blocking, Gonzalez is the all-time leader for receiving yards by a tight end. He'll be looking to add to that total this year with Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons.
No. 89 - Steve Smith
A threat to score every time he touches the ball, Steve Smith is a rare talent with the agility to run like a running back, but the speed and hands of an elite receiver.
Smith is also a real emotional player who will not hesitate to punch you in the mouth if you tick him off, regardless of whether you are on his team or on the opposition.
No. 90 - Mario Williams
This one will be the first of four in a row that should cause some controversy...
I'm feeling all Charley Casserly here taking unheralded Mario Williams over the consensus pick Julius Peppers. Like Casserly, I don't care what the consensus says.
I'm a huge fan of Williams and I think that if Antonio Smith can provide some form of a consistent pass rush at LDE this year, then Williams could put up some massive numbers.
No. 91 - Justin Tuck
I'm taking Justin Tuck over Tommie Harris. Tuck has proven himself to be an elite defender in a very short period of time. Harris has proven that he's an excellent tackle when he's on the field and healthy, which is rare.
Tuck has accumulated double-digit sacks for two consecutive years even though last year was his first year starting in the NFL. The Giants move him around all over the defensive line as he bring the heat from any spot on the line.
At 26, he's still got room to improve and lots of time to build on his already promising career.
No. 92 - James Harrison
James Harrison over Albert Haynesworth. Haynesworth is one of the best defensive tackles in the league when he's on the field, but unfortunately, he's never played more than 14 games in his 7 year career.
The NFL's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, James Harrison is one helluva linebacker. He really only has two years of playing at a Pro Bowl level but, those were two pretty good years and his stock is on the rise as far as I'm concerned, even at age 31.
No. 93 - Kevin Williams
In my opinion, Kevin Williams is the best defensive tackle in the league. As proved by his seven sack/year average over his career, he can get to the quarterback from the three-spot on the line. On top of that, he helps anchor the NFL's best run defense three years running.
No. 94 - DeMarcus Ware
An equally-deserving candidate for Defensive Player of the Year last year, Ware finished second to James Harrison in voting, likely due to his team missing the playoffs more than anything else.
Ware is a special player and the Cowboys need to lock him up with a contract for the remainder of his career...Yes, he's that good.
No. 95 - Shaun Phillips
Another opportunity for those sweet powder blues, Shaun Phillips is another major part of the Chargers mutli-pronged pass rush attack. I'm not ecstatic about this pick, but there weren't many options either. He's averaged 9 sacks/year over the past three years, which isn't too shabby.
No. 96 - Adalius Thomas
Thomas is not the same player that he was in his time with the Ravens, however he is still a talented 3-4 OLB who can rush the passer effectively, tallying five sacks in only nine games last year.
Coming off a season-ending arm injury, Thomas should be able to return to form with the Patriots this year.
No. 97 - Patrick Kerney
Kerney is another pass-rushing beast who just needs to be on the field to be effective. Though he only played in seven games last season, he managed five sacks in those games.
On top of that, he's only one year removed from a 14.5 sack season, his first with the Seahawks. Back to full health this year, Kerney will once again be looking to lead the 'Hawks defense to another NFC West division title.
No. 98 - Robert Mathis and No. 99 - Jason Taylor
Unfortunately, my slide show was capped, so I have to stick the last two names on my list on the last page. If you'll notice, I did use Taylor on my first page in order to not leave him out.
No. 98 - Mathis is not the biggest end in the game, but he makes up for it with quick acceleration and pure speed. Mathis is also paired up on the Colts defensive line with Dwight Freeney to form the fastest combination of ends in the league.
Having said that, Mathis is very capable on his own, averaging 10 sacks/year over the past five years.
No. 99 - Taylor is one of the top pass-rushers of the past decade, averaging 10 sacks/year for his career. Likely in the twilight of his career, Taylor will try to bounce back with the Dolphins after a disappointing season in Washington.