Well, it is that time of the year again…
During the off-season, things get incredibly boring. If it weren’t for two separate Brett Favre fiascos in June over the past two seasons, there would barely be any football to talk. Perhaps that is why three years ago, I decided to start writing up a piece in hope of both recognition and creating discussion.
The piece ran for three years under the title “The 100 Most Impactful NFL Players”. It was mainstreamed on Football’s Future’s NFL forum as well as featured on various other forums including IGN and Helmet2Helmet to name a few.
However, with any list dealing with the ranking of NFL players, there was always controversy. Every year, there were at least a couple of people that argued that “x” player was better than “y” player. These people did not realize that the list didn’t mention which players were better than others. Rather the list was meant to highlight the 100 players that made the biggest impact on the field for their respective teams.
Tired of the constant controversy surrounding mentioning the “most impactful” players I’ve decided to continue with the piece but with one major alteration; this year’s rendition is simply “The 100 Best Active NFL Players”.
That’s right. If a player is on this list, it’s not because they make a bigger impact than any other player. It’s simply because they are one of the league’s best players regardless of position.
Some of these players are arguable, while others are inarguable. Some of these players are aged veterans that might decline soon, while others are young players with immense potential. Some of these players are well known superstars, while others are virtual unknowns. Regardless of how different all of these players are, one thing is for certain: in my mind, they are all the best of the best.
As I stated earlier, any list dealing with the ranking of NFL players is going to be ripe with controversy. I expect this to be no different. Through watching as many games as I can, frequenting forums to find the viewpoint of players from impartial fans, and analyzing various metrics sites, I have come up with what I think is the best list. Therefore this list is heavily based on the opinion of one man… a man that is clearly not perfect.
Basically I am compiling this because I am tired of the so-called "experts" producing top 10 lists(or even Prisco's annual top 50 list) and never validating their opinions with anything other than a two sentence blurb.
By the way... just because some teams are loaded with players on here and some only have one or two players, it doesn't mean anything. As we all know, elite players don't win championships alone. Great teams do.
Finally… if you simply just don’t like it, then I challenge you to do better and write-up a piece like this that will appease everyone while still having all the players that deserve to be on here.
The Honorable Mentions
Matt Schaub, Quarterback, HOU
– Need another good year out of him.
Jay Cutler, Quarterback, CHI
– Has to learn to make better decisions/correct reads.
Eli Manning, Quarterback, NYG
– Took steps last year, but the question still remains if he can carry a team.
Santonio Holmes, Wide Receiver, NYJ
– Needs to build consistency. Cannot have years like 07 and 09 in between decent ones like 06 and 08.
Steve Smith, Wide Receiver, NYG
– Need another year out of him as an elite WR.
Chad Ochocinco, Wide Receiver, CIN
– Is he on the tail end of his career?
TJ Houshmandzadeh, Wide Receiver, SEA
– Can a possession receiver of his type truly be a top 100 player in the NFL?
Chris Cooley, Tight End, WAS
– Fred Davis’ success last season leads one to question how good he really is.
Zach Miller, Tight End, OAK
– Skill set falls just short of him qualifying.
Jake Long, Left Tackle, MIA
– Not bad in the least, but not exactly elite or dominating.
Jason Peters, Left Tackle, PHI
– Temporary brian lapses result in bad games keeping him from playing up to potential.
Jordan Gross, Left Tackle, CAR
– Can he rebound from injury and show his own fans he’s as good as he used to be?
Shaun O’Hara, Center, NYG
– The importance of the center position is slowly dwindling.
Aaron Smith, 3-4 Defensive End, PIT
– Loses a spot due to injury and age; a deadly combination for a once top player.
Justin Smith, 3-4 Defensive End, SNF
– Turned it on last year but can he keep it up. He’s quit before in the past.
Darnell Dockett, 3-4 Defensive End, ARI
– Can he be more than a pass rusher. He’ll need to play the run effectively.
Terrell Suggs, 3-4 Outside Linebacker, BAL
– Hurt by a down year and three arguably more important defensive players on his team.
Joey Porter, 3-4 Outside Linebacker, ARI
– Is he at the tail end of his career especially working with a new team?
Jonathan Vilma, Middle Linebacker, NWO
– Career has been somewhat inconsistent/needs help from bigger bodies to play effectively.
Pat Williams, Nose Tackle, MIN
– Can only take about 50% of his snaps on his defense now.
David Harris, Inside Linebacker, NYJ
– There’s just something holding him back.
Cortland Finnegan, Cornerback, TEN
– Had a good season all things considered but not good enough.
Jabari Greer, Cornerback, NWO
– Has strung together two great half seasons… can he string together one good whole season?
Michael Griffin, Free Safety, TEN
– Had a good season all things considered, but not good enough.
Darren Sharper, Free Safety, NWO
– Was last year a fluke? Or were his years in Minnesota a result of bad coaching?
Brian Waters, Left Guard, KNC
– Had the worst season of his career last year and was outshined by Albert.
Percy Harvin, Specialist, MIN
– Honestly if there weren’t so many Vikings already on the list, he probably would have made it. I do need another year out of him though.
Leon Washington, Specialist, SEA
– Horrible leg injury last season makes me question if he will still have it.
Reggie Bush, Specialist, NWO
–Needs to be thought of more for his football rather than his dating.
Darren Sproles, Specialist, SDG
– Needs to do a little more overall.
Logan Mankins, Left Guard, NWE
– Has been underutilized his entire career until last year.
Jonathan Babineaux, Defensive Tackle, ATL
- His production has been nice, but are they the result of not being gameplanned for?
Brandon Albert, Left Tackle, KNC
- Possibly League's Best Run Blocking LT. Needs to get better at pass blocking.
Brandon Flowers, Cornerback, KNC
- Easily the most consistent young cornerback after Darrelle Revis.
Elvis Dumervil, 3-4 Outside Linebacker, DEN
- Great pass rusher but limited to just that from what I've seen.
Jonathan Joseph, Cornerback, CIN
-Clearly the better Cincinnati cornerback to me. Needs to string together to consecutive years rather than a good 2007 and 2009.
Sidney Rice, Wide Receiver, MIN
- How much of 2009 was him and how much of it was Brett Favre?
Vernon Davis, Tight End, SNF
- All of that untapped potential rose to the surface last year. Is it here to stay or just a temporary geyser?
100.) Brian Cushing, Outside Linebacker, HOU
Brian Cushing’s placement as the 100th best player overall in the league comes with two bits of irony.
The first is that this position is usually reserved for a player—usually a rookie—with one year of success, because we are unaware of whether or not they can replicate their success. Despite this, I feel comfortable in saying that Brian Cushing will most certainly be on this list for years to come.
The second irony in Cushing’s placement is that at this point last year, I thought that Cushing would be a bust if drafted by a team that runs the 4-3 defense. Just one year later, I find myself arguing the exact opposite and doing so with ease.
It’s easy to argue that Cushing will have success for years to come from simply watching game film on him from his rookie campaign. Although he was a rookie on a defense filled with questions, Cushing managed to become a deserving Pro Bowler and a second-team All-Pro.
In a position that is finding itself dwindling in terms of recognition, Cushing managed to make plays all over the field. In doing so, Cushing is helping to bring the 4-3 outside linebacker back to prominence.
As a rookie, Cushing managed to play the second most snaps out of all outside linebackers and didn’t waste a single one. He totaled a ridiculous 12 plays (five sacks, seven stuffs) in the backfield. Though not having the numbers to be considered a sideline-to-sideline linebacker, Cushing came about as close to being one as possible.
In coverage, few receivers and tight ends were capable of separating from him to get excess yardage and none of them managed to beat him for a touchdown. Cushing’s coverage was so good that he managed to snag four interceptions including a game-sealer against Cincinnati.
Cushing is a playmaker that can make tackles all over the field, pick off passes, sack the quarterback, and not come off the field. The term “motor” is overused frequently by football fans but Cushing is one player that definitely has one.
I think that Brian Cushing, avoiding injury, has the potential to be one of the greatest to ever play the position. I understand that that is high praise based on one year, but Cushing’s football instincts and motor displayed last season reeked of a natural football player. I believe that you can expect to see Cushing on this list for years to come as he represents the future of his position.
99.) Vince Wilfork, Defensive Lineman, NWE
I have often said that Vince Wilfork is the staple of the Patriots defense. A defense that —for all intents and purposes—had gone underrated since the departure of Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weiss because the offense had easily overshadowed it. When Bill Belichick allowed for longtime Patriot Richard Seymour to be traded away to the Oakland Raiders, my aforementioned belief about Wilfork was confirmed.
When Seymour was released, it was essentially an admission that the Patriots no longer had the personnel to run the 3-4 defense which they had run for the entirety of the decade.
Seymour was sent packing while the man known as “Big V” was allowed to remain in town. In fact, “Big V” was just recently given a contract extension despite the fact that the Patriots still don’t have 3-4 personnel and will need a considerable draft in order to run it effectively.
Wilfork was allowed to stay in town because although he has been a 3-4 nose tackle for his entire NFL career, he has the athleticism to be a good 4-3 nose tackle as well.
You can allude to the fact that the Pats didn’t place in the top 10 run defenses for the past two seasons—the only times during Wilfork’s NFL career—as a means to demean Wilfork, but you would be wrong in doing so.
It is not Wilfork’s fault that the overall amount of defensive talent around him is not as good as the overall statistics would indicate. Even the most die-hard non Patriots fans will have trouble trying to tell you who the other six guys in the Patriots’ front seven are, excluding Jarod Mayo and possibly Ty Warren. On top of that, most people only know of Mayo because of his Defensive Rookie of The Year Award in an overall weak class.
Despite this overall lack of talent on the defensive side, the Patriots finished just outside of the top 10 for rush defense at 13th. In fact, if the Pats had allowed just 50 less yards, they would have been in a four way tie for the tenth best run defense. This is all despite the fact that Wilfork lacked a lot of help up front.
Stuffing the run isn’t the only impressive aspect of Wilfork’s game. Unlike many 3-4 nose tackles, Wilfork can also make individual splash plays with his athleticism.
Wilfork displayed this by recording nine unofficial pressures in just thirteen games and getting his hands up to bat down an additional three passes.
Normally when a team moves from a 3-4 alignment to a 4-3, the nose tackle is either shipped out or generally struggles at a noticeable level. Neither of these two possibilities has happened with Wilfork, and you shouldn’t expect them to any time soon. Such is the case with Wilfork because he is the staple of the Patriots defense which ranked fifth overall in points per game.
98.) Asante Samuel, Cornerback, PHI
There is absolutely no question that Asante Samuel is the league’s best ballhawking cornerback.
While I have always believed that the interception is one of the most overrated stats in the NFL, if not the most overrated one, there is no denying that Samuels’ ability to intercept the ball is amazing.
Sure, Samuel won’t lock his man down in coverage. On top of that, Samuel will not go a season without allowing a few scores to go against him because he gambled. Strangely enough, I am not going to hold that against Samuel despite my history of doing that for cornerbacks. I believe that Samuel’s ability to read and jump routes overshadow his deficiencies in man coverage and as a tackler.
The interception may be overrated but it does make a splash and while Samuel may not be en elite coverage corner, he is better at what he does (jumping routes) than a lot of cornerbacks are at what they do (coverage). Therefore, I feel that I can still call Samuel a top 10 cornerback and a top 100 player in this league.
Samuel’s ballhawk ability is unparalleled at the cornerback position. His league-leading 29 interceptions over the past four years should prove that as the only cornerback in the league with similar turnover numbers is Charles Wooodson.
It’s easy to assume that Samuel’s ballhawking ability is due in part to playing a simple guessing game, but it is way more than that.
Samuel puts in more time in the film room than any other cornerback out there, and it shows on plays that don’t go onto the stat sheet. A perfect example of this is an Eli Manning interception in Week Eight of last season.
Manning wanted to go to his first read in Steve Smith, but Samuel had placed himself where the ball was intended to go before Smith had even made his break in the route. As Manning turned his head, he realized this and attempted to hit his second read deeper down field. As a result of the last second change on this quick timing route, the ball flew errantly into the hands of Eagles’ safety Quintin Demps.
Samuels’ ability to make quarterbacks adjust or make them pay if they don’t isn’t his only positive aspect though.
Despite his tendency to allow more big plays than other cornerbacks, Samuel is a decent coverage corner when you look away from the gambling plays. Samuel usually does not allow the big play to go over his head when playing zone coverage unless he misses a jumped route.
Samuel is a guaranteed four to eight interceptions per season and doesn’t give up as many plays as other cornerbacks of his nature. He also comes up big in the post-season. It is for that reason, and his abilities to come up big in the post-season, that Asante Samuel finds himself as one of the 100 best players in the league.
97.) Yeremiah Bell, Strong Safety, MIA
Yeremiah Bell is another one of the “Lunch pail” type players in the league. In fact, Bell might be the poster boy for “Lunch pail” players.
“What is a "Lunch pail" player you might be asking?
Simply put, a “Lunch pail” player is a guy who embodies the blue-collar every day worker but does it on the football field. A guy who shows up to work every day, plays hard, and as a result, makes a difference but largely goes unnoticed by the overwhelming majority of people.
Even though Bell is a “Lunch pail” kind of player, something tells me that he would not want it any other way.
Last year when I called Bell one of the league’s most impactful players, I stated that he was “the league’s best pure in-the-box safety.” At the time that might have been true, but as it stands Bell has transcended that label—bestowing it to Roman Harper—and became a complete safety worthy of being called one of the best overall safeties in the league.
Sure, Yeremiah Bell won’t give you the seemingly unlimited coverage range of an Ed Reed.
And admittedly, Yeremiah Bell won’t give you the all-over-the-field playmaking ability of Troy Polamalu.
Though Yeremiah Bell doesn’t bring to the table what those guys bring, he understands how to utilize his skill set to the fullest. Bell loves to make contact in the box with halfbacks in trying to establish the Dolphins as a tough presence against the run. He also loves to defend the pass against tight ends and slower slot receivers.
Bell has been a force against the run entire career.
In the three seasons in which he started at least half of the games, the Dolphins have finished as a top 10 rushing defense for two of them. For the third season (2009-10), Bell was asked to play more deep zone coverage, and in doing so, he showed the world that his skill set was no longer limited to that of a traditional strong safety.
Bell was asked to play more deep zone coverage because he was playing alongside two rookie cornerbacks (Sean Smith and Vontae Davis) and was helping them make the adjustment to the NFL game speed. Few safeties would be able to compensate and have a better season than the previous one, but Bell managed to do just that.
Bell has done the improbable by amassing over 100 tackles for both of the last two seasons and has thrown in an impressive two-and-a-half sacks, three stuffs, 19 passes defended, and three interceptions over the past two seasons.
96.) Kris Jenkins, Nose Tackle, NYJ
Lost in all of the New York Jets hype last post-season was the fact that their seemingly impenetrable defense lost what many had considered its best player in Week Six.
Perhaps some people forgot about Jenkins because his backup, Sione Pouha, had a respectable season while replacing him, but I know that I didn’t.
The thing lost on most is that while Pouha had a good season, he lacked the ability to command a double team on every snap he took. He also lacked the ability to throw those double teams aside and make a push for the quarterback. These are the abilities that Jenkins had shown every week he played last season.
While Kris Jenkins was a deserving All-Pro during the 2008-09 season, the fact of the matter is that he looked even better during the first six games of the 2009-10 season. Few linemen could block Jenkins when he was playing this year, and both he and they knew it.
A testament to this is an infamous internet .gif floating around forums in which Jenkins tosses the Houston Texans’ center and right guard to the floor—both with one of his arms—and proceeds to make Matt Schaub run for his life.
If you truly want to know how dominant Jenkins was this year, look no further than the matchup between the Titans and the Jets this season. In this game, the Jets were one of only four teams to hold Chris Johnson to a “respectable” game.
Johnson did not cross the 100 yard threshold that day, nor did he score. To accomplish one of these things was respectable this season, but to do both was miraculous. This “miracle” of holding Johnson to such a “poor” outing—in comparison to the rest of his season—was because Jenkins manhandled Kevin Mawae and Leroy Harris for every single one of the 36 snaps he took that game.
Last year I stated that while Jenkins was no Haloti Ngata, he could be revitalized by Rex Ryan, and Jenkins was most certainly that.
Whenever the Jets would line up in a 4-3 allignment to either bring or mask a blitz, Jenkins was at his best, as he was capable of simply throwing his man to the side. I said that Jenkins would make an impact as a pass rusher and run stopper under Ryan, and he did for those six games that he played.
In the end, the only reasons that Jenkins falls this low are his second major knee injury in his career and the questions about recovery, the amount of talent around him, and the fact that Pouha had good success while replacing him.
95.) Owen Daniels, Tight End, HOU
If the criteria to make this list were the same as in the past, then Owen Daniels would probably have lost his spot to Zach Miller for a second consecutive year.
In fact, it is because of guys like Daniels that I decided to make the shift from “most impactful” players to the flat out “best”.
The back half of the top 10 tight ends in the NFL is littered with players. Of these players—Owen Daniels, Heath Miller, Brent Celek, Vernon Davis, Zach Miller, Chris Cooley, Jeremy Shockey, Greg Olsen, and Jermichael Finley—I think that the only one guaranteed to be on this list is none other than Daniels and that he should be on any and every NFL fan’s top 10 tight ends list.
Daniels’ production isn’t merely that of a system player, and it has been proven over numerous occasions.
During the various times that Matt Schaub has gone down with injury, Owen Daniels has maintained his production. When Sage Rosenfels was the Texans’ quarterback for a few sets of games on two separate occasions within the past three years, Daniels still managed to have strong statistical outputs. Daniels continued to put up 50-plus yard games. Also proving that Daniels is not a product of the system is Joel Dreesen’s 2009-10 campaign as Dreesen didn’t even come close to Daniels’ production in the same amount of games.
Daniels’ most compelling attribute doesn’t show up in the stat sheets as much as all of the other things that have people impressed by his play. Daniels has some of the best hands in the league. They are so silky smooth that he rarely drops anything. Daniels has been thrown at 253 times over the past three seasons and yet has only dropped seven passes over that span.
Admittedly, Owen Daniels does not spread the field with great speed but in the Texans’ offense he doesn’t have to.
Daniels is excellent at finding holes in the zone and sitting in them. In fact, he is possibly better at it than every other tight end in the league. As a result of this, Daniels is incredibly tough to account for defensively between eight and 20 yards down the field especially when Andre Johnson is on the other side.
Daniels is more willing than able in the run blocking department but is a very capable pass blocker. He picked up edge rushers and extra blitzers with ease. Being able to do this is something that many fans overlook when evaluating tight ends because receiving and run blocking ability are more important.
With everything that Daniels provides to the Texans, it is no coincidence that Dreesen was incapable of replicating Daniels’ success in the second half of the 2009-10 season. I hope that Daniels can fully rehab his knee and get back to treating us with his presence on the field.
94.) Kellen Winslow Jr., Tight End, TAM
Do you remember this guy?
You know, the son of that Hall of Fame tight end from San Diego?
After all, it was just two years ago that the overwhelming majority of NFL fans believed that Winslow Jr. was a consensus top five tight end. Now, for some reason, there are people that do not believe him to even be a top 10 tight end for some asinine reason. But then again I guess that is what happens when Derek Anderson is your quarterback, then you get a staph infection, and finally, you are traded for being “disorderly.”
As a result of Winslow being unfairly slapped with that tag because he voiced his displeasure with the Browns’ organization’s lack of professionalism, he was shipped off to Tampa. With this, I guess that he suddenly became a lesser player simply for being traded. How that works I will never know. What I do know is that Cleveland’s lost is most certainly Tampa Bay’s gain.
Winslow—or “K-2” as he is known in some circles—is a machine when it comes to working the bottom half of a defense. He can run any short and underneath route in the tree to perfection and as a result is a quarterback’s and a receiver’s best friend. It is no coincidence that Braylon Edwards and Derek Anderson suddenly regressed to the point of becoming ex-Browns once Winslow was no longer in Cleveland. This is because Winslow draws coverages from safeties and linebackers which frees up other receivers for routes across the middle and down the field.
Winslow is an aggressive route runner, and this allows him to cause the aforementioned defensive adjustments in coverage. These adjustments make quarterback reads a heck of a lot easier. A sentiment that I am sure Buccaneers’ quarterback Josh Freeman would agree with.
Josh Freeman’s four best games (Green Bay, at Miami, at Atlanta, and at Seattle) of his rookie season all came when Winslow offered a significant contribution to the offense. When Winslow played below this level, Freeman showed the obvious signs of being a rookie quarterback.
What Makes Kellen Winslow Jr. a clear cut member of this list is the fact that he is a complete player. He is more than just a pass catching tight end.
Winslow is very willing and very capable in the run blocking department and loves to do the dirty work. There are few tight ends in the league with a better combination of receiving ability and blocking abilities in the National Football League.
As it stands at this point, the only thing holding K-2 from moving up this list is his history with injuries and immaturity.
93.) Tanard Jackson, Free Safety, TAM
Tanard Jackson’s career to date has been somewhat of an enigma for me.
In his rookie season, he was a force to be reckoned with that could have very well won the Defensive Rookie of The Year Award. In fact, I gave him that honor over Patrick Willis in 2007 due in part to the overall positive shift in numbers that his defense had that season. At no point was his impact any more clear than when he went down in the wildcard round against the Giants and they began to move the ball easier. As a result he found himself on my “Second Annual Most Impactful Players List”.
The next season Jackson found himself “regressing”.
It would have been easy to say that this was because of the lack of tutelage from Monte Kiffin—who had mentally checked out halfway through the season—but that would be a lie. There was just something wrong with the Buccaneers’ defense as a whole, and Jackson was no different.
When Jackson was suspended for the first four games this season for violating league rules, he dropped into my doghouse. Perhaps it is while he was suspended that he reevaluated things, as after a bad first week, he returned with three powerhouse performances. The third of these performances was good enough to make Aaron Rodgers look silly and help the Buccaneers get their first win of the season.
Jackson has shown incredible range through his entire NFL career as he has shown himself to be the prototypical Tampa Two safety.
In his first year outside of that system, he also showed that he is capable of being a playmaking and game changing safety as well.
Jackson has shown himself to be a very capable leader and one of the league’s biggest difference makers’ at the position. All you have to do is examine how well the Buccaneers’ defense has played with and without him over the past three years. When you do this, it becomes clear as night and day that they are a different defense without Jackson in the lineup.
Jackson is entering his second season in a defense in which he isn’t simply expected to read and react in a Tampa Two defense. Due to this, you should look for more playmaking to be done by him in route to becoming a household name.
It is clear that he and Michael Griffin have established themselves as the cream of the crop from the heralded 2007 safety class.
92.) Casey Hampton, Nose Tackle, PIT
I just do not understand how and why people continue to doubt the abilities of Casey Hampton.
Every single year, the pundits claim that there are better nose tackles out there. These nose tackle shave included Vince Wilfork, Jamal Williams, Abrayo Franklin, Kelly Gregg, and Kris Jenkins at some point during Hampton’s career. Despite new hats being thrown into the arena every year, it is Hampton’s Steelers that continue to be one of the league’s best defenses against the run.
These pundits claim that because Hampton plays next to Aaron Smith—who is an honorable mention for this list—that he doesn’t have to do as much as these other nose tackles. To this I simply reply with the question of “how do you explain the fact that Hampton anchored the Steelers run defense alone this past season?”
This leads me to another question; “How can anyone say that Casey Hampton isn’t one of the league’s three best run defenders, if not the best?”
After all, let’s examine some key statistics:
Since Hampton has arrived in the NFL, his Steelers have finished first, first, thirteenth, third, third, third, second, and third against the run. Only once did the Steelers run defense anchored by Hampton not finish within the top three run defenses in a respective year. You can make all the arguments you want, but production and consistency like that doesn’t lie.
Now, it would be simple enough to say that because Hampton had an elite linebacker like James Farrior behind him for a good amount of time, which made his job easier. There is in fact some semblance of truth to that. However, shrouding that small semblance of truth is an even larger truth.
What most people do not know is that since 2001, six different guys have started at the inside linebacker position for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Regardless of who has been there, the run defenses have remained one of the league’s best with the exception of one year. This is because Hampton is anchoring the Steelers run defense and absorbing double teams for these linebackers on numerous snaps.
I think that it goes without question that the Steelers ran the premier 3-4 defense for the past decade. Hampton was there for every one of those seasons except for 2004.
That defense was so good because the nose tackle, which is the most important piece, was such an effective force year in and year out. There is no other defensive linemen that occupies both A-gaps as effectively as Hampton does.
Hampton only finds himself so low on this list because at this point in his career, he can only stay on the field for about 50% of the snaps. Even with Hampton taking such a low amount of snaps, he has retooled his game to make more plays for himself such as stuffs and sacks rather than funneling halfbacks into the arms of a linebacker.
91.) Marques Colston, Wide Receiver, NWO
Practically the “Mr. Irrelevant” of the 2006 NFL Draft Marques Colston has shown that he is one of the best overall players taken in that draft.
Colston has been an instrumental part in the turnaround of the New Orleans Saints from bad franchise to current world champions. In fact, I would wager that Colston—after Sean Payton and Drew Brees—that was the biggest catalyst for change in New Orleans.
Many people argue that you can insert just any old person into the Saints offensive lineup at the skills positions and it wouldn’t matter. That obviously couldn’t be further from the truth.
Sure, Drew Brees can and does utilize all of his eligible receivers, but it is abundantly clear that his favorite target is Marques Colston. Not bad for a former Division I-AA tight end turned into an elite NFL wide receiver.
What makes Colston such an impressive player is the fact that he is one of the league’s better chain movers all while not being a deep threat. Colston has only caught two passes thrown over 40 yards in his career. Additionally he has only caught three more passes thrown over 30 yards in his career. 54 percent of his career receptions have occurred between one and 10 yards down the field, and then an additional 29 percent between 11 and 20 yards. He is the very definition of a chain mover.
Everybody thinks of the Saints offense as a high-flying quick moving offense that scores in bunches through the air. You would be right in believing that, but it is Colston and his underneath work that makes all the other receivers capable of doing what they do. This was especially true from 2006 to 2008 when the Saints had a very abysmal rushing attack.
Many people look at Drew Brees’ 2008 campaign and marvel because of the high yardage totals, but few realize he would trade it for his 2006 or 2009 campaigns which were more impressive.
Why were they more impressive?
Well I hate to use this argument, but they were more impressive because they resulted in wins. There were more wins because Colston was around to move the chains to keep the Saints in games early on. As a result, Brees wasn’t throwing 40 times a game to keep the Saints in games.
The average season that Colston has had since he was drafted has been 71 receptions on 113 targets for 1,018 yards, 51 first downs, and eight touchdowns. Those numbers are—without a doubt—amongst the best over that period.