The NFL's 100 Best Current Players: Players 40-31

Matt ShervingtonCorrespondent IIJune 14, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 16:  Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals runs for yards after the catch against the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Louisana Superdome on January 16, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints won 45-14.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Go Back To Players 50a-41

40.) Adrian Wilson, Strong Safety, ARI
I really wish that I could label Adrian Wilson as the league’s best pure in-the-box safety. Seriously, I really wish that I could. The problem here though is that if I did that than I would be shortchanging the greatness of Adrian Wilson.

Admittedly Wilson is the league’s best safety in the box, but he differs from traditional strong safeties because his range isn’t limited. Sure there are guys like Roman Harper and Erik Coleman who throw around their weight in the box almost as effectively, but once you move those guys 10-plus yards back they become liabilities. That is not the case for Wilson.

Although I have been praising Wilson for being more than just safety that thrives in the box, allow me to highlight his abilities in the box since they’re clearly his strongest asset.

Adrian Wilson is an absolute freak when in the box, and it all starts with his size. At 6'3" and 226 pounds, he is one of the biggest physical specimens to ever play the position. Wilson has certainly learned how to use it to become the quickest defensive back to reach the 20/20 club in NFL history.

Wilson’s annual sack totals add further testament to Wilson’s abilities in the box. He has recorded at least one sack in every single season in which he has been a starter—except for his injury shortened 2007 campaign. In 2005 Wilson set an NFL record for defensive backs with eight sacks in a season. Wilson has knocked several quarterbacks out for a series due to his colossal frame coming down on them.

On top of Wilson’s blitzing ability he also knows how to stuff much bigger halfbacks. Since entering the league in 2002 Wilson has an astounding 41.5 stuffs. This is top three amongst safeties over that span. These 41.5 stuffs include a ridiculous 10 in 2004 and 7.5 in 2005.

It really isn’t close between Wilson and the next guy in terms of level of play within the box.

As alluded to earlier, Adrian Wilson is not one-dimensional. What prevents him from being just another traditional strong safety is that he can play coverage and enforce passing zones with big hits. He may not be an elite coverage safety, but Wilson does not get lost when asked to play zone or man like other players of his ilk. He is usually capable of holding his own and preventing the big play.

Highlighting Wilson’s abilities to prevent big plays are his cast of cornerbacks over the past two or three seasons. Wilson has consistently had a gambling cornerback play next to him. When these gamblers—first Rod Hood and now Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie—guess wrong, they leave Wilson out to dry. Wilson usually has to clean up the cornerback’s mess and succeeds quite often at doing so.

Once a safety with his fair share of shortcomings, Adrian Wilson now has an immensely well-rounded game. He is not without his flaws—such as downfield man coverage—but he knows how to effectively mask and minimize them while on the field. This is what makes him an elite safety and a top 100 player in the NFL.

With fellow list member Kerry Rhodes now in town it is scary to think what defensive coordinator Billy Davis has in plan for the NFC West.

39.) Ryan Clady, Left Tackle, DEN
If ever there were a player that thwarted the "What have you done for me lately?" stance by highlighting its idiocy, it is Ryan Clady.

As a rookie, Ryan Clady came out and took the world by storm. In then head coach Mike Shanahan’s infamous zone blocking scheme, Clady did not allow a single sack as a rookie. Due in part to his raw athleticism and Shanahan’s bootleg-heavy offense, Clady tied a rookie record of not having allowed a whole sack.

As you would imagine due to his high level of play, many people were high on Clady. Some people undertook the “what have you done for me lately” stance and quickly anointed him the league’s best left tackle as he had arguably the best season at the position.

Fast forward one calendar year, and Clady had a new head coach, starting quarterback, offensive system, blocking scheme, and revolving door at left guard.

All of these factors heavily contributed to a "decline" in play from Clady as he allowed eight sacks on the season. A lot of the same people that were quick to anoint him as the league’s premier left tackle after his astounding rookie season turned tail. Those same individuals applied that same "What have you done for me lately?" stance and claimed Clady wasn’t that good.

As you would imagine this complete shift in perception created a storm of hypocrisy, redundancy, idiocy, and overall ridiculousness. How can a guy go from being the "best" to one of the "worst" in just one season of such a short career?

While I do not think that Ryan Clady is the guy from 2008, I certainly do not think he’s the guy from 2009 either. I believe that the real Ryan Clady exists somewhere in between these two seasons.

As previously mentioned Ryan Clady went his entire rookie season allowing only half a sack. This meant that at no point did he get beat straight up for a sack during his rookie season. He proceeded to follow his rookie season up with four more games not allowing a sack against the likes of DeMarcus Ware, Antwaan Odom, and Richard Seymour. This gave him an NFL-record 20 games without allowing a sack to start a career.

Despite the eight sacks Clady allowed, if you watch the footage you’d know he wasn't that bad. At times his new quarterback, Kyle Orton, fell down and got sacked or didn’t get rid of the ball. Clady was also learning new offensive and blocking schemes and, due to injuries, played with various players lining up next to him at guard.

A criticism of Clady in his rookie year was that he could not run block without a tight end next to him which was a valid argument; however, he took many strides towards become a great run blocker last season. In fact, he was their best run blocker last year.

the Broncos backfield ran the ball 65 times off-tackle left—behind Clady—for 342 yards and four touchdowns. They also ran for 22 first downs and were tackled in the backfield only five times.

If the real Ryan Clady truly is somewhere in between his 2008 and 2009 campaigns, you can expect him to be elite for quite some time. Hopefully his recent off-season knee injury won’t affect him too severely.

38.) Bobbie Williams, Right Guard, CIN
There are just some things in this world that I do not get. One of those things happens to be why Bobbie Williams is so criminally underrated.

Over the back half of the previous decade, all of the pundits and analysts have continued to overlook Williams. There are guys that Williams has been just as good as such as Steve Hutchinson, Chris Snee, and Kris Dielman, and all three of those guys have multiple Pro Bowls and All-Pro nominations. Williams has none.

Heck even guys who have been steadily declining or rising and thus haven’t been as consistent as Williams over the past couple of years have experienced more recognition than Williams. Jahri Evans—a quick riser—and Alan Faneca—a quick decliner—have experienced more All-Pro and Pro Bowl nominations than Williams has over the past four years. I honestly just do not get it.

Perhaps I should lay out Bobbie Williams’ case in order to support my stance?

In 2004 Rudi Johnson was the premier halfback on the Bengals’ roster. That year he ran the ball right guard trap 133 times. Those 133 rushing attempts resulted in a ridiculous 487 yards and seven touchdowns. This accounted for 33 percent of Rudi Johnson’t toal production. These numbers were some of the best in 2004.

In 2005 Rudi Johnson ran the ball right guard trap 135 times. This year his yards per carry jumped up while his touchdowns faltered. He garnered 566 yards rushing and an accompanying three touchdowns. This was 38 percent of Johnson’s production and again it was some of the best numbers in the league.

During the Bengals’ 2006 campaign Williams may have had his best season as a lead blocker. He plowed the way for Rudi Johnson running right guard trap to the tune of 103 rushing attempts for 476 yards. What was most impressive were the nine touchdowns that Johnson ran for while doing so. At the risk of sounding redundant this was 36 percent of Johnson’s rushing output and again some of the best numbers in the league.

In 2007 Williams just kept on trucking. While running guard trap right Johnson and teammate Kenny Watson ran the ball 116 times for 409 yards. They also ran for a combined seven touchdowns on the season. Once again these were some of the better numbers on the season with the exception of the yards per carry.

In 2008 with a runningback by committee type thing going on Williams proved that it was indeed him and not the halfback that made the difference. An injured and declining Rudi Johnson, Kenny Watson and first round bust Chris Perry ran the ball a combined 115 times. Their output was only for 379 yards and only four touchdowns but it was 28.5 percent of their total rushing output on the season. For the first time these weren’t some of the best numbers in the league.

Last season Williams proved that he is just a flatout beast. Everybody was praising Cedric Benson but it’s no coincidence that Benson revived his career last year. It was because he was running behind Williams. Benson and company ran the ball 128 times right guard trap for 510 yards and three touchdowns.

For those that aren’t good with math that is 730 rushing attempts for 2,827 yards over the past six seasons. In addition to those numbers are the 33 rushing touchdowns as well.

Give the man some credit!

37.) Ed Reed, Safety, BAL
I have a tendency to downplay the interception and the errant belief that most interceptions are skill plays. I am in no way trying to downplay what an interception brings to the table, but there are a lot of guys who just happen to be in the right place at the right time. Examples of guys who made a living off of being in the right place at the right time are Jairus Byrd last season and Antonio Cromartie in 2007.

When you look at the numbers for those two, they were some of the best players in the league. When you look at their game tape you see how average their play really was. You see that they were often beat by receivers, but because of pressure up front, quarterbacks made bad throws that ended up right in their hands.

I will admit that Ed Reed has brought in quite a few of his career interceptions from bad throws caused by pressure. Hell, I would wager that just over half of them have resulted from errantly thrown passes. The thing is that Ed Reed differs from these other guys because it’s no fluke that he is in the right place at the right time for an errant throw. You don’t land in the top 10 in interceptions every year of your career that you are healthy by accident.

Ed Reed differs from all of these other players for quite a few reasons.

Ed Reed doesn’t just get beat and get lucky. Ed Reed understands timing and anticipation of balls whether thrown correctly or errantly. He knows how to undercut hard bullet passes as well as outrun receivers to overthrown passes. Ed Reed might be the best anticipator in the history of the league.

He is undeniably is the best zone coverage safety of all time. In fact there are various ways to measure his impact in zone coverage.

You can take a look at the aforementioned interception totals and realize he knows how to sit back and wait, but I don’t think that that does him justice. What I believe does Reed justice is looking at how the Ravens’ secondary has performed over the past couple of seasons.

Despite a bevy of injuries, inexperience, miscues, and a lack of talent, the Ravens secondary still managed to finish eighth (2009) and second (2008) in pass defense. This is because Reed has consistently covered up the mistakes and inexperience of the Ravens cornerbacks. Without Reed there is no way the Ravens’ defense finishes top 10 over the past two seasons.

What truly sets Reed apart from other players though is his ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. When Ed Reed catches or picks up a ball, he is looking to take it all the way into the endzone and nothing less.

Last year Reed scored yet another touchdown, bringing his career total to a ridiculous 13 over his eight-year career. Reed has returned three blocked punts, two fumbles, seven interceptions, and a punt for touchdowns.

To put it in one word… Amazing.

35b.)Tony Romo, Quarterback, DAL
I know this may create some controversy, but in my opinion Tony Romo is the league’s most underrated quarterback. In fact, I would say that it’s not even close between him and the next guy in terms of how undervalued and overlooked they are.

Some people might find this notion insane because a lot of people have called him overrated throughout his time as a starter in Dallas. Let be honest, though…in what way is Tony Romo overrated?

Is he overrated because he was arguably the league’s most saturated player throughout the media when he dated Jessica Simpson?

That doesn’t make Romo overrated. It just means that more people need to learn about their football players through their play on the field rather than by who they’re dating. That is oversaturation.

Is Tony Romo overrated because he is the face of the Cowboys?

I mean I know they’re not "America’s Team" anymore, but being a Cowboy doesn’t instantly make you overrated. Almost all quarterbacks are the faces of their respective franchises, so why aren’t others overrated? It must be because he has a merchandise deal. If only I were impressed by Starter. They’ve been irrelevant since losing the right to sell NFL jerseys to Reebok in 1999.

Maybe it’s because Romo was prematurely labeled a "choker?"

I fail to see how Romo has done anything more than other good quarterbacks in this league to be labeled a choker. What makes his lack of postseason success different from Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco, and other young quarterbacks? Heck with his career postseason rating, Philip Rivers should be on that list. Yet not one of those four other guys gets the same criticism.

Now that we’ve established that Romo isn’t overrated, let’s establish why he’s underrated.

Ever since Tony Romo became the starter, he has quietly put up amazing numbers. I say quietly because nobody seems to acknowledge them.

Since becoming the starter a quarter through the 2006 season, Romo has the fifth-best completion percentage among active quarterbacks—sixth if you include Aaron Rodgers' numbers from the past two seasons. Romo’s 15,045 passing yards is fourth over that span. Romo’s 107 passing touchdowns ranks third over that time as well. Finally, his 55 interceptions are comparable to what Manning, Brady and Brees have done during that time.

However, numbers do not tell the entire story as we all know.

Perhaps displaying his impact even more so than his numbers is the complete turnaround of the Cowboys since Romo came under center. Formerly reeling as a team desperate to get back to contending, the Cowboys have been a serious contender to reach postseason contention every year under Romo. The ‘Boys are 39-19 under Romo.

So can somebody tell me why is it that despite having top-five numbers over the past four years Tony Romo is rarely considered as top-seven quarterback?

How about despite the fact that he’s a winner, Romo never gets any credit and always gets labeled a "choker" and others don’t?

What about the fact that he has pressure from Jerry Jones looming over him annually and still just runs an elite offense despite it having a high turnover in players every year he’s started?

Some people may not, but I’m going to give Romo the respect he is long overdue.

35a.) Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, GNB
If I had to wager on whether or not you knew who Aaron Rodgers is, I’d take money on the former option. In fact, I’d double down that bet if you told me you had a Packers fan for a friend. I mean with the way that the Packers faithful praise, Rodgers you would think that he was the second coming of Brett Favre or something…oh, wait.

All joking aside, Rodgers has proven that he is deserving of a spot on this list. After going through the ridiculousness of "Favre-gate '08," it would have been very easy for Rodgers to disappoint. He could have collapsed under the weight of the pressure and lead the Packers to losing records or not produce statistically.

Rodgers didn’t come out of the gate winning games in his first season but he did produce from the first day he stepped on the field as the starter. He continued this success in 2009 as he became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,000-plus yard in each of his first two seasons.

Rodgers is a statistics machine. What is most impressive about Rodgers' statistics are the time and situations upon which his statistics truly shine.

I would say that Rodgers has surpassed Ben Roethlisberger as the league’s surest quarterback in the redzone. He simply does not turn the ball over when he is in the redzone and is money on third down.

Over the past two seasons, Rodgers has gone for 85-for-142 for 538 yards in the redzone. Along with those numbers, he posted a ridiculous 36 passing touchdowns and nine rushing touchdowns against just one single turnover. That is a 45-1 TD-to-turnover ratio in the redzone.

On third down over the past two seasons, he has some impressive numbers, too. He has 209 completions on 318 attempts for 3,037 yards. Additionally he has 28 passing touchdowns and three more rushing touchdowns. He only has five interceptions on third down—all of which came in his first year starting.

However, as you know by now statistics do not divulge the entire story.

They don’t tell you that Rodgers hits way more than his first two targets and that he does it all over the field. More than seven Packers receivers had at least 30 targets last season, and five of them were targeted at least 50 times.

Another thing that statistics don’t show you is Rodgers’ toughness.

A perfect example is Week Four in 2008 against Tampa Bay. When he was told that he could very well have a separated shoulder Rodgers, re-entered the game. He immediately threw a touchdown pass between two defenders to Greg Jennings. Also highlighting Rodgers’ toughness is the overall beating he took this past season while tying for the league lead in sacks taken, which led to injuries to his feet and ribs.

Finally what stats don’t show is that Rodgers does not give up on games. When the game seems out of reach to everyone else Rodgers keeps on churning, and that is when he is at his best. Examples of this are Weeks Four, Eight, 11, 15 and Wildcard Weekend.

What is scary is that Rodgers has a few flaws—checking down, occasional slow starts, and "clutchness"—that I’m pretty sure are going to be gone within the next couple of seasons. When they’re gone, who knows what he can produce and what games the Packers can and will win.

34.) Reggie Wayne, Wide Receiver, IND
When Reggie Wayne first arrived in Indianapolis, the stance on him was that he was simply the guy to complement future Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison. Who cared that he was a great player in and of his own right because few people saw him beyond that.

When Wayne was compiling amazing seasons, they were always being overlooked despite the level of production. From 2004 to 2006 Wayne produced the fourth most yards in the league amongst receivers. Despite this he constantly found himself on the outside looking in on top-five receiver lists. This was because Wayne was always considered what Chris Berman has titled a "Yeah…But."

"Yeah Reggie Wayne has elite production, but on his own team he comes in second and he’s the third-most important offensive piece."

That was a commonplace argument against Wayne, and to be quite honest it was valid. Although one could formulate a decent argument against the stance, it was very hard to do without being incredibly subjective. Although Wayne was not considered a top-five receiver with his production, he still would have made this list in the past. He just would not have been as high up.

The fact that Wayne’s overall positioning on this kind of list has drastically shifted over the past two or three years is indicative of how much perceptions have changed about him. People haven’t changed their viewpoint on his skill set but rather what he brings to the table as an overall football player.

Since becoming the flanker in Indianapolis, Wayne has only really produced a few more yards and receptions than the aforementioned three-year span from 2004 to 2006. Yet Wayne is a top-six wide receiver without question now where as he wasn’t before.

So why the drastic change in perception? Why is it that Wayne moving from split end to flanker—and that is just from an on-paper standpoint—makes such a difference in how people view him?

To me this is simple. Wayne is no longer seen as the "second option" in Indianapolis, and therefore everything he was doing before is now highlighted.

Running impeccable routes, never dropping passes, and making ridiculous catches in traffic or along the sidelines were all overlooked because Marvin Harrison could do it all as well.

If Reggie Wayne only dropped two passes that season, Marvin Harrison only dropped one. If Reggie Wayne ran a perfect route, then Marvin Harrison somehow ran it better. If Reggie Wayne made a ridiculous one-handed catch, then Marvin Harrison made a catch between his legs while falling down.

Sometimes it is hard to escape the shadow of a teammate who always seems to be one-upping you. This is especially hard when that teammate is considered one of the best of all time. Unfortunately this happened to Reggie Wayne.

It is my belief that during his touchdown in Super Bowl XLI, Reggie Wayne officially crept out from under the "little brother" label he had for many years.

Wayne now finds himself playing the "big brother" to Austin Collie and Pierre Garçon, who had good rookie seasons. In drawing coverages away from him they looked good, which is what people used to say what Harrison did for Wayne.

At the end of the day, it is clear Wayne is an excellent player who has been underrated throughout most of his career and continues to get overlooked.

33.) Steve L. Smith, Wide Receiver, CAR
I just don’t understand why people continue to overlook Steve Smith.

Hell I wonder how anybody who watches him doesn’t have Steve Smith as a unanimous top-five receiver in his mind. Then again Smith is no stranger to being underrated, undervalued, and understated in the NFL community outside of 2005.

Steve Smith has always been told that he isn’t "big enough" his entire lifetime. Some of the so-called NFL "experts" and pundits out there thought that Smith was too small to be a good NFL receiver. In fact, these same "experts" still believe that Smith is not "big enough" to be an elite NFL receiver.

These "experts" adhere to the clearly extinct belief that an NFL receiver has to have a certain body type. It was once believed that good NFL receivers had to be at least 5'10". In addition, they were expected to be at least 200 pounds as well.

It is because of guys like Steve Smith that this belief is no longer an unspoken rule.

As I have stated throughout this article, it is important that a receiver can take over a game in order to be considered elite. While some of these other guys have done it a couple of times, Steve Smith is the king of taking over games at the receiver position. Even in his down year last season, he still managed to take over some games.

I think the premier example of Smith taking over games is the 2003 and 2005 postseasons where he set single postseason records.

During the 2003 postseason Smith was the difference maker in one of the best postseason games ever. It was his ability after the catch that resulted in the game-winning score in the second overtime. He followed it up three weeks later in the Super Bowl by having his way with the Patriots secondary.

Just two years later, Smith balled all over the Chicago Bears defense, which was supposedly the best in the league. Smith compiled 12 receptions for 218 yards and two touchdowns against a bracket coverage for most of the game.

What continues to make Smith’s play amazing is that he still continues to take games over even beyond the age of 30.

During the 2008-09 campaign Smith took over games and was an integral part of why the Panthers got a first-round bye.

In Week 13 against the Packers in a tightly contested game, it was Smith’s big-play ability that made the difference between a win and a loss. In the fourth quarter, Jake Delhomme tossed up a prayer on third down. Smith went up between defenders and nabbed the ball, placing the Panthers into go-ahead field goal range. During the season finale, had the Panthers lost the rival Falcons would have had a bye. Trailing by one with a little more than three minutes left, Smith broke the game open with a 38-yard catch and run.

Just last season during the 2009-10 season, Smith took over yet another game.

On national television, Steve Smith single-handedly dominated the Vikings secondary during Week 15. Smith embarrassed the entire Vikings secondary in primetime and backed up his infamous trash talk.

Plain and simple there isn’t a single receiver out there that takes over games as often as Steve Smith does.

32.) Brett Favre, Quarterback, MIN
When I originally compiled a list for this offseason, it was once again a “100 Most Impactful Players” list.

While I was doing so I realized that there isn’t a single NFL player with a larger impact—both positive and negative—on the field than Brett Favre and thus ranked him 20th.

After restructuring the list to conform to being simply the 100 best players I realized that perhaps Favre didn’t deserve to be at 20 under this criteria. On the same token, Favre certainly did not deserve to be on the back half of the list or even off of the list completely.

Should not Favre be a top-100 player overall if his impact on the field was considered 20th under the former criteria?

Despite a one-game improvement on paper, the 2009-10 Minnesota Vikings were drastically better than the previous year's version according to many. So then how could I not place Brett Favre high on this list if he can make such a difference on the field?

The simple answer is that I cannot omit him. You have to be an elite an amazing player to change a locker room the way that Favre did last season.

Without alluding to his glory days in the green and yellow—as that would take me days—allow me to elaborate on Favre’s abilities over the past two seasons which make him a lock for this list.

Last year, Favre took a team with arguably the most talented—but possibly the most underachieving—roster and finally helped it fully realize that talent. Sidney Rice and Visanthe Shiancoe suddenly became viable receiving options after years of mediocrity. What I think went most overlooked about Brett Favre last season was what he did for Adrian Peterson.

Favre, being the competent passer that the Vikings had been missing during the Peterson regime, expanded the running game. Peterson suddenly evolved from being a one-dimensional runner to a halfback now involved in the passing game as both a blocker and receiver.

In 2007, Favre helped turned the Jets into viable contenders. Under his lead, the Jets went 9-7 in one of the tougher divisions that season. If Favre didn’t get injured late in the season, who’s to say how good the Jets could have been.

Ignoring the final five games of the season—as Favre was playing with a partial tear in his shoulder—the Jets had eight wins and three losses. That record was good enough to have a shot at a bye at the time. Perhaps the Jets were playing so well because Favre had a 92 quarterback rating with a completion percentage of 70 percent. Favre had three Jets receivers with over 500 yards receiving as well.

The reason that Favre suddenly developed great chemistry with the Jets and Vikings’ receiving corps is his most overblown attribute: his ability to have fun out there.

The media loves to highlight how Favre is playing "backyard football" when making ill-advised on the fly adjustments. They highlight them so much that by now most of us ignore it. However, these adjustments either result in huge plays or really bad ones. When it’s the former, Favre makes everyone around him better and that’s what makes him a great player and a different maker.

As he is such a huge difference maker, I have no idea how I could exclude Brett Favre from this list even under the new criteria.

31.) Ray Lewis, Inside Linebacker, BAL
At the risk of a potential off-topic argument I am going to say that I believe Ray Lewis to be the greatest of all time at his position.

That is right. I believe that Lewis is the greatest inside/middle linebacker to ever put on a helmet and play.

I should note that my stance might be primarily due to ignorance. I have not seen the other guys that are capable of making a claim for this title play. The largest bits of information I have on these players are inaccurately recorded statistics and small amounts of stock highlights. So to be fair I cannot make an intelligent guess as to how they compare to Ray Lewis.

I may not know a lot about some of the other all-time great linebackers to play, but I do know about Ray Lewis’ greatness.

Since 1996, Ray Lewis has been a dynamic defensive force with no equal. To put it in simpler terms Ray Lewis has been unrivaled in terms of defensive impact during his career. Sure there have been guys that have had a good season here or there. Some of them might have even had a better season at some point than Lewis on paper. However, the reality is that they simply did not compare to Lewis.

What the paper numbers do not show is that those guys never led the type of defenses that Lewis has and still does.

The 2000 Ravens defense, which is arguably the greatest defense of all time?

The ever-impressive 2006 and 2008 Ravens defenses that have gone overlooked by the football masses?

Those defenses, like every other one in Baltimore Ravens history, were commanded by Ray Lewis. Every Ravens defense has been led by Lewis’ high level of play on the field as well as his passionate vocals which might be unrivaled at an all-time level. Obviously these defenses all had other great players besides Lewis, but if you were to ask those same players who the key cog in these defenses were they would all say Lewis.

Excluding his two injury-shortened seasons, Lewis has averaged 139 total tackles, three sacks, 7.5 stuffs, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, eight passes defensed and 2.5 interceptions per season.

Most linebackers patrolling the middle would kill to have the aforementioned numbers, so averaging them over a career is an astounding accomplishment. What makes this even more impressive is what does not show up in the numbers: Lewis’ well-rounded and complete skill set.

Lewis’ ability to do it all is why the people who believe he is regressing continue to be proven wrong. Lewis is excellent at coverage, is one of the few actual sideline-to-sideline linebackers in the league, can navigate through traffic, and simply has no weaknesses. The closest thing Ray Lewis has to a weakness is his age, which hasn’t affected him yet.

I am one of those people that think that Lewis is going to eventually have to decline due to age. That is the only reason he finds himself here at spot number 33 as opposed to rightfully in the top 20.

Continue On To Players 30-21


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