The NFL's Top 100 Players: Where Does Your Favorite Player Rank?
As another incredibly entertaining NFL season roars towards its conclusion, it's time to put things in perspective. Who are the top 100 players in the league, and why?
I'm throwing everyone into the mix, skill players and linemen alike, and only readership will determine if this list is a comprehensive success or monumental disaster.
A couple of important notes: 1. The emphasis will be upon the current season, but the previous two years will receive some consideration, and 2. I'm only providing one sentence per player because I'm not getting paid for this.
That being said, bring on the debate...
100. Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets
Say what you want about this kid's peripheral numbers; all I know is that he's been in the NFL for two seasons, his Jets have reached the AFC Championship both times and he plays his best ball in the playoffs.
99. Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots
His run as a superstar receiver is over, but he's still the best receiver on one of the top passing teams in the NFL.
98. Robert Mathis, DE, Indianapolis Colts
He may be a bit overrated at this stage of his lengthy and successful career, but Mathis is a proven pass rusher who teams with Dwight Freeney to form an intimidating duo.
97. Stephen Tulloch, ILB, Tennessee Titans
One of the most under-appreciated players on either side of the ball, Tulloch finished second only to Jerod Mayo in total tackles.
96. Trent Cole, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
A consistently good, veteran pass rusher who has also shown the ability to drop into coverage against tight ends (when necessary).
95. Jordan Gross, LT, Carolina Panthers
This persistent competitor is so good that the Panthers were still able to run the ball off his end with their third-string quarterback and running back playing simultaneously.
94. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
This deceptively quick playmaker has fully established himself as one of the top WR2s in the game.
93. Osi Umenyiora, DE, New York Giants
Welcome back to prominence, Osi: 12 sacks and the Giants' pass rush was feared again.
92. Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I was highly impressed by this rookie receiver, and it's overtly clear that the future is bright for the Bucs and their one-two passing punch.
91. Devin McCourty, CB, New England Patriots
Another of this year's outstanding rookies, this kid has all of the tools necessary to be a top-tier cornerback for a long, long time.
90. Matt Cassel, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
This normally efficient quarterback backdoored his way into the Pro Bowl, but his embarrassing playoff performance against the Ravens is hard to sweep under the rug.
89. Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers
After a breaking out in a big way a year ago, this enigmatic tight end was quietly one of the most effective and productive at his position this season.
88. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants
This relentless rusher led the NFC in yardage for much of the season, but his consistent fumbling issues keep him out of serious contention for my top 50.
87. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, LT, New York Jets
This former first-round selection does a better job on "The Blind Side" than Sandra Bullock.
86. Lance Briggs, OLB, Chicago Bears
This LB with appropriate initials has been causing havoc alongside Brian Urlacher for quite some time now.
85. Mario Williams, DE, Houston Texans
He played only 13 games, and I wish he'd be better against the run, but "Super Mario" still fired off the edge for nine sacks.
84. Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
I originally had this gunslinger at No. 38, but then I watched him leave the Bears' hard-fought season in the hands of Todd Collins (and then Caleb Hanie) without batting an eye.
83. Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints
I love that he's out of Hofstra University, but I consider this guy more of a "system" WR1 than a pure WR1.
82. Tamba Hali, OLB, Kansas City Chiefs
How did this beast get left off the AFC Pro Bowl roster after a 15-sack season?
81. Andre Gurode, C, Dallas Cowboys
This absolute mammoth is well respected and quite simply one of the premier centers in the world.
80. Jason Babin, DE, Tennessee Titans
This hard-working pass rusher is a warrior, and he's not flying under the radar anymore—not by any means.
79. Chad Clifton, LT, Green Bay Packers
This reliable and irreplaceable big man is slated for a start in the Pro Bowl, but something tells me he's more concerned about that other Bowl.
78. Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings
The expectations are so high for this electric end that his 11-sack season was seemingly dismissed.
77. Santana Moss, WR, Washington Redskins
This veteran speedster had a sensational season (93 receptions, 1,115 yards) despite the Donovan McNabb/Rex Grossman flux in Washington.
76. Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Finishing the year with 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions, this kid is quietly becoming one of the most trustworthy quarterbacks in the business.
75. John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons
He never seemed to stay healthy for his old team, the Jets, but they certainly could have used his relentless pass rush this season (13 sacks).
74. Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys
This cerebral on-field leader has lost some explosiveness over time, but he makes up for it with multifaceted value and an unparalleled understanding of his craft.
73. Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans
After leading the NFL in passing yards last year (with a whopping 4,770), Houston's gunslinger quietly amassed 4,370 yards this season, good for fourth overall.
72. Chris Snee, RG, New York Giants
Protects well for Eli Manning but is best known for his ability to spring both Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.
71. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Here's a quarterback whose arm strength I find to be severely underwhelming during live action; I'm sorry, but all I see is a better version of Chad Pennington in his prime.
70. Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans
He missed four games due to injury, but this physical, well-rounded threat is a nightmare for corners in one-on-one situations, and the sky is the limit for his career.
69. Asante Samuel, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
I think he gambles too often at times, but he finishes plays, and there's no denying the Eagles' severe defensive drop-off when he's sidelined by injury.
68. Brian Urlacher, ILB, Chicago Bears
This venomous veteran has surely lost a step, but he remains a playmaker and is the heart and soul of the Bears' high-quality defense.
67. Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben's big-play burner finished fifth in receiving yards (1,257) and added 10 impressive touchdowns.
66. Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns
This bulky back was a fantasy football darling this season (13 total TDs), but he fumbled eight times and lost five.
65. Vince Wilfork, DT, New England Patriots
This monster in the middle of Bill Belichick's defensive line continues to suffocate the run and age like fine wine.
64. Tramon Williams, CB, Green Bay Packers
A phenomenally athletic playmaker, "T-Will" was one of the most improved defensive players in the NFL this season.
63. Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys
The emergence of rookie Dez Bryant hindered Austin's production to some extent, but the latter is still an explosive receiver with impressive ability.
62. Adrian Wilson, SS, Arizona Cardinals
A pro's pro who deserves all of the praise he receives from teammates, coaches, commentators and—believe it or not—opposing players around the league.
61. Jahri Evans, RG, New Orleans Saints
Another well-deserved Pro Bowl selection for Drew Brees' best friend on the field.
60. Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens
Surprisingly poised and efficient, this young quarterback finished with a 25/10 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a higher passer rating than stars like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan.
59. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Unfairly viewed as one of this year's fantasy football disappointments, this versatile back actually finished with 1,200-plus rushing yards (without a fumble), 63 receptions and 556 receiving yards.
58. Nick Collins, FS, Green Bay Packers
With big names like Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews on his defensive unit, Collins flies under the radar as one of the top players relative to his position.
57. Cameron Wake, OLB, Miami Dolphins
This animalistic speed rusher came out of left field to compile 14 show-stopping sacks, good for third in the NFL.
56. Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
Talent-wise he's still the premier tight end in the league, but I naturally have to wonder if he'll ever be healthy again.
55. Kevin Williams, DT, Minnesota Vikings
A perennial Pro Bowler who teams with Pat Williams to control the Vikings' consistent rush defense.
54. Ray Lewis, ILB, Baltimore Ravens
I suppose some would consider this ranking a Career Achievement Award, but this maniac in the middle remains one of the best against the run.
53. Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers
This consistent veteran played in just 11 games this season but somehow managed over 1,300 total yards and displayed that he's still one of the top two-way backs in the game.
52. Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets
After a four-game suspension to open the year, Holmes emerged as the Jets' WR1 and continued to show why he's considered one of the premier pressure receivers in the NFL.
51. Brandon Marshall, WR, Miami Dolphins
This troublemaker is one of the most naturally gifted players in the league, but it was difficult for him to showcase his skills with Chad Henne or Tyler Thigpen calling the signals.
50. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Head coach Mike Tomlin prides himself on power rushing football, and this strong, aggressive runner fits the bill perfectly.
49. Jerod Mayo, ILB, New England Patriots
The NFL's leading tackler is the MVP of the Patriots defense that improved dramatically during the second half of the season.
48. Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears
Arguably the most underused weapon in the NFC, Forte was amongst the league leaders in yards per carry but was only called upon 237 times by pass-happy OC Mike Martz.
47. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions
This seemingly unstoppable rookie force is going to be one of the top players in the world for quite some time.
46. Brandon Lloyd, WR, Denver Broncos
Lloyd is so predictable; before the season we all thought he'd lead the NFL in receiving with 1,448 yards, right?
45. Jay Ratliff, DT, Dallas Cowboys
This rambunctious and ruthless beast is, in my opinion, the second-best defensive tackle in the game today.
44. Logan Mankins, LG, New England Patriots
You've seen those plays when Tom Brady drops back and has enough time to read War and Peace; Mr. Mankins deserves much of the credit in those instances.
43. Patrick Willis, ILB, San Francisco 49ers
Effective against both the run and pass, Willis has consistently been one of the best at his position since entering the league in 2007.
42. Terrell Owens, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals were a collective disappointment, but "T.O." certainly didn't disappoint; despite missing two games, he had 983 receiving yards and nine touchdowns and was Cincinnati's best player.
41. Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore Ravens
Ngata is the class of his position, a unique two-way interior lineman who stuffs the run but also pressures the quarterback.
40. DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
He's clearly pissed about the loss to the Packers, but Jackson is likely the fastest player in the NFL and an impressive, naturally gifted athlete.
39. Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants
This raw and physical receiver was the cream of the crop at times this season, but injuries "limited" him to 1,000-plus yards and 11 TDs.
38. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
As a rookie he was indecisive and lacked explosion, but this season he was the most improved running back in the league: quick, shifty, versatile and dangerous.
37. Terrell Suggs, DE, Baltimore Ravens
Run for your life if it's a sure passing down; this guy will eat your children.
36. Nick Mangold, C, New York Jets
Not only is this big fella the stabilizing force of the well-balanced Jets; he's also the finest center in the NFL.
35. Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
At times it was a sloppy season for "The Other Manning," but the Giants' signal caller still finished with over 4,000 passing yards and 31 touchdowns.
34. Justin Tuck, DE, New York Giants
"JT" is an elite pass rusher who swats passes at an alarmingly high rate and also contributes against the run.
33. Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders
It was a breakout season for the injury-prone McFadden, who exploded for some jaw-dropping performances and showed that he can be a truly elite running back.
32. Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers
Pictured with his partner in crime, Jennings is a steady sidekick and outstanding big-play receiver.
31. Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams
"Jax" is an exceptional pass catcher out of the backfield and a persistent, physical runner, but his 3.8 YPC stat is a bit off-putting.
30. Joe Thomas, LT, Cleveland Browns
This monster transformed Peyton Hillis from a third-stringer to a superstar, and hey, the best offensive lineman in the world has to be a top 30 player, right?
29. Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis Colts
This ferocious pass rusher has battled injuries throughout his career, but he's a beast whenever he's between the lines.
28. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
He was strangely inconsistent and seemed to amass most of his gaudy stats over a five-game span, but there's no denying that "D-Bowe" was one of the top WR1s in the game this season.
27. Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Some say Old Reliable has lost a step, but he finished with a career high in catches and found a way to get it done against every corner but Darrelle Revis (a worthy adversary).
26. Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Oakland Raiders
Similar to the superstar at the No. 11 overall spot, Asomugha is consciously avoided by (even the best) quarterbacks.
25. Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons
The NFC Pro Bowl starter is an incredibly reliable bowling ball of a back.
24. Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay Packers
A rapidly rising star, Matthews is a fierce, persistent and nearly unstoppable pass rusher.
23. Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans
Considered by many to be the premier wide receiver in the league, Johnson's history of injuries is a frustrating red flag for me.
22. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
A jack of all trades at the running back position, "MJD" stays compact and low to the ground, making him a repetitive nightmare for opposing defenders.
21. Troy Polamalu, SS, Pittsburgh Steelers
Polamalu may over-pursue the ball at times, but he's a legitimate playmaker who forces offensive coordinators to prepare for his hyper-aggressive and disorienting style of play.
20. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
I think he's the most talented wide receiver in the game, but his production was understandably limited by the Cardinals' UFL-level quarterbacks and constant double teams from the opposition.
19. Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears
Not only is he consistent from season to season and game to game, but "Sergeant Peppers" is also the most well-rounded defensive end in the league.
18. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
Whether it was Matthew Stafford, Shaun Hill, or Drew Stanton, "Megatron" made his quarterback look like a capable performer this season.
17. Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay Packers
This ageless wonder continues to showcase his unparalleled all-around ability in different looks, schemes and packages for the incredibly talented Packers.
16. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
This versatile breakout burner finished with more rushing yards than Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Michael Turner, Maurice Jones-Drew and Steven Jackson and did so with only 230 total carries (6.4 YPC).
15. Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons
He may not be the most gifted wide receiver in the game, but he's tough, durable, consistent and makes "Matty Ice" look better than he actually is.
14. James Harrison, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
This absolute animal and Pro Bowl starter was the only player in the league with double-digit sacks (11) and 100-plus tackles.
13. Ed Reed, FS, Baltimore Ravens
Ho-hum, the best safety in the world led the NFL in interceptions...again.
12. DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas Cowboys
This physical freak led the NFL in sacks and is likely the most explosive defensive player in the league.
11. Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets
Deion Sanders is the best playmaking cornerback I've ever seen, but in terms of pure coverage Revis is the messiah.
10. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Perhaps the best pure rusher in the league, "AD" or "AP" lacks the third-down, pass-catching ability of the two RBs I rank ahead of him.
9. Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans
"CJ" was the premier player at his position a year ago, but the running back at the No. 8 overall spot is bigger, stronger, runs equally as well and is superior in the passing game.
8. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
Foster established himself as the premier all-around RB in the NFL, leading in rushing by over 140 yards with 600-plus receiving yards and 18 total touchdowns.
7. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
The Chargers were a collective disappointment this season, but their fiery quarterback is a statistical monster and the model of consistency.
6. Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
The Michael Vick Bandwagon crumbled to pieces rather quickly after the Eagles' first-round exit, but the Packers' explosive defense was a tough draw, and No. 7 is still one of the most unstoppable players in the game.
5. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
His stunning postseason performance against the Atlanta Falcons made one thing perfectly clear: Mr. Rodgers has no mechanical weaknesses at the quarterback position.
4. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
"Big Ben" is everyone's least favorite person off the field, but on the field he's a relentless warrior who elevates his level of play as the stakes increase.
3. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
He wasn't able to match his jaw-dropping production from the Saints' feel-good Super Bowl run, but "Cool Brees" continued to make defensive preparation a near impossibility.
2. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts were decimated by injuries this season, and only a quarterback of Manning's Hall of Fame caliber could have carried them into the playoffs.
1. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
He's understandably disappointed about the crushing playoff loss to the Jets (as you can probably see), but this miracle worker led a team without a legitimate RB1 or WR1 to an outstanding 14-2 regular season.
Breakdown By Position
In numerical order:
QB (15 total): T. Brady, P. Manning, D. Brees, B. Roethlisberger, A. Rodgers, M. Vick, P. Rivers, E. Manning, J. Flacco, M. Ryan, M. Schaub, J. Freeman, J. Cutler, M. Cassel, M. Sanchez.
RB (15): A. Foster, C. Johnson, A. Peterson, J. Charles, M. Jones-Drew, M. Turner, S. Jackson, D. McFadden, L. McCoy, M. Forte, R. Mendenhall, F. Gore, R. Rice, P. Hillis, A. Bradshaw.
WR (21): R. White, C. Johnson, L. Fitzgerald, A. Johnson, R. Wayne, D. Bowe, G. Jennings, H. Nicks, D. Jackson, T. Owens, B. Lloyd, B. Marshall, S. Holmes, M. Austin, M. Wallace, K. Britt, S. Moss, M. Colston, M. Williams, J. Maclin, W. Welker.
TE (3): A. Gates, J. Witten, V. Davis.
LT (4): J. Thomas, C. Clifton, D. Ferguson, J. Gross.
LG (1): L. Mankins.
C (2): N. Mangold, A. Gurode.
RG (2): J. Evans, C. Snee.
DE (11): J. Peppers, D. Freeney, J. Tuck, T. Suggs, J. Abraham, J. Allen, J. Babin, M. Williams, O. Umenyiora, T. Cole, R. Mathis.
DT (5): H. Ngata, J. Ratliff, N. Suh, K. Williams, V. Wilfork.
OLB (6): D. Ware, J. Harrison, C. Matthews, C. Wake, T. Hali, L. Briggs.
ILB (5): P. Willis, J. Mayo, R. Lewis, B. Urlacher, S. Tulloch.
CB (6): D. Revis, C. Woodson, N. Asomugha, T. Williams, A. Samuel, D. McCourty.
FS (2): E. Reed, N. Collins.
SS (2): T. Polamalu, A. Wilson.