Arizona Defensive Linemen Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell
Seattle Defensive Tackle Brandon Mebane
St. Louis Center Jason Brown
San Francisco Nose Tackle Aubrayo Franklin
St Louis Middle Linebacker James Laurinaitis
Arizona Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell seemed to switch places in terms of talent last year. Because on the Cardinals deep playoff run Dockett was the guy to worry about on the defensive line, but last year Calais stepped up and made Dockett look like a lot less. So taking the average performance of these guys, they are both just short of the intended mark. Dockett's run defense went down from last year, so if he can pick that back up he's probably a good contender, and Calais just needs another year like last to prove he isn't a fluke.
Brandon Mebane is a player who isn't talked about because he doesn't look the part. You don't see him dominating the offensive line like a Kevin Williams or Albert Haynesworth, or clog like a Vince Wilfork, but if you see what the linebackers behind him do, you'll notice that he does let them make the plays they need to. It's not pretty, and I don't think it's enough to crack the top 10, but he does deserve some love.
Aubrayo Franklin got a lot of love from me because San Francisco had such an impressive defense last year. However, when you consider how little he was actually on the field, it's hurt his chances here. He played really well, but he was a cog player in a good defense who overachieved because of the guys around him. If he wasn't playing beside Justin Smith and in front of Patrick Willis he'd be easily taken care of.
Jason Brown is an good young center, and he might be the best interior linemen in the NFC West, but that really doesn't say much about him as a player. He's actually a really good pass blocker, but he's not a force of nature like a Nick Mangold or a Shaun O'Hara is.
James Laurinaitis is a good young middle linebacker for the Rams, but he needs to work on his consistency if he wants to build himself up as a threat. Add to the fact that he's on a bad team and it's really hard to do good when everyone around you sucks. He's probably a better linebacker than I'm giving him credit but he doesn't really have a defense around him, I'm sure if he did he'd be a force to be reckoned with and a much bigger threat.
Cromartie is the last guy I'm talking about for a reason. That's because he's pretty much 10A to me. I couldn't really decide between him and number 10, but I chose number 10 for two reasons. His impact is greater on the game, and he did a little bit more with a little bit less. Cromartie is an excellent cover corner with a really good defense around him, but number 10 is...