Big Play Threats: The Top 10 NFL Playmakers

JP FrederickCorrespondent IMay 18, 2011

Big Play Threats: The Top 10 NFL Playmakers

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 09:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles drops back against the Green Bay Packers during the 2011 NFC wild card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 9, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Nick Lah
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    The equalizer. The field-leveler. The playmaker.

    The game-changer.

    All words used to describe Ex-Lax.  But you didn’t click on this link to read about Ex-Lax, and if you did, you’ve clearly got some form of ESP and should be working with the cops right now to hunt down and find lawbreakers for a new reality television show that I’d call Psychic Police.

    Although I now own the copyright for that show, so don’t forget to cut me a piece of the pie. Or I’ll sue.

    Serious. I have Gloria Allred on speed-dial. Yeah, I’m that guy.

    Those words are also used to describe the Big Kahunas of the NFL, though. The Vicks, the Petersons, the DeSeans. The players who make Chris Berman go into his spiel about bumbling and stumbling and then he makes that high-pitched noise which makes dogs howl. You know the one; sounds like a Banshee having a violent orgasm.

    Who are, to use tired but apt clichés, the best of the best? The crème de la crème? The Alphas? Arnold Schwarzenegger’s illegitimate child?

    Wait, no, we know that last one. And with the maid, Arnie? That is clichéd. Not as clichéd as Jingle All The Way, but still.

    Here’s a list of the 10 best playmakers, remembering that in a galaxy far, far away, we once had something called the NFL.

    Now, we just have the National Litigation League. Boom, roasted.

    Take that, Roger Goodell.

10) Mike Wallace

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 14:  Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers attempts to run from Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots during the game on November 14, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Gett
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    In just two seasons, Mike Wallace has become one of the premier deep threats in the NFL. He was first in the league in yards per reception his rookie season with 19.4 yards per catch and improved upon that in his second season with 21 yards per catch (finishing second to DeSean Jackson’s slightly more inhuman 22.5 yards per catch).

    Using his scorching 4.3 speed, Wallace routinely gets past the secondary; he had six 40-yard receptions his rookie season and led the league with 10 40-yard receptions last season. In addition, Wallace also led the league with 26 20-yards receptions last season.

    If he continues to be this kind of difference maker, he could one day overtake 60 Minutes' Mike Wallace in Google's search engine.

9) Greg Jennings

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    ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  Greg Jennings #85 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates scoring a fourth quarter touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers  during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Rob Carr/G
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    In the past four seasons, Greg Jennings has caught 27 40-yard receptions, the most in the NFL. Surprising, right? It is quite the convoluted statistic, the kind-of narrow statistic only someone trying to prove a point would bring up. But it's true.

    Jennings can catch a short pass and break or elude tackles, or he can run past the secondary for a deep post. He is an all-around receiver who just has a knack for making a big play. Though he is overshadowed by more prominent names in the NFL lexicon, and while he's not the burner Wallace is or the physical specimen Andre Johnson is, Jennings is as productive and dangerous as anyone.

    Larry Fitzgerald told me that having Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball probably doesn't hurt. Then he stood outside Kurt Warner's window with a boombox blaring "Take Me Home Tonight."

    Weird song choice, sure, but it's the meaning that counts. Do we have a picture of that?

Poor Larry Fitzgerald

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    His head is huge!

8) Arian Foster

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    HOUSTON - JANUARY 02:  Running back Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texans rushes past linebacker Daryl Smith #52 of the Jacksonville Jaguars and  Terrance Knighton #96 at Reliant Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Im
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    It is possible that Arian Foster was a one-year wonder, a 1989 Dalton Hilliard if you will.

    Don’t know who or what a 1989 Dalton Hilliard is? I forgot, too; it's either one great season from an otherwise forgettable back or a poorly made car from Ford. Hey, maybe it's both, like how aloha means "hello" and "you're making a scene."

    Either way, Foster had one great season last year; league leader in rushing yards (1,616), touchdowns (18), and yards from scrimmage (2,220)—the 18th most single-season yards from scrimmage in NFL history. Combining rushing attempts and receptions, Foster had 18 touches go over 20-yards and four go over 40 yards. Now, Foster just has to prove it wasn't a fluke and do it again.

    He should be able to.

    It's like Larry Fitzgerald once told me, "Foster really ties the offense together, does he not?"

Angry Larry Fitzgerald

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    Fitzgerald dabbled in pacifism once. Not in 'Nam, of course.

7) Andre Johnson

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    HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 13:  Wide receiver Andre Johnson #80 of the Houston Texans comes scores as he get's his foot down in the endzone in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Reliant Stadium on December 13, 2010 in Houston, Texas. Baltimore
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    In his eight years and 115 games, Andre Johnson has caught a 40-yard pass 31 times, or one every 3.7 games. Johnson can use his body to shield defenders while catching a jump ball downfield or simply fly past them on the fly route. He can break a screen pass or a quick slant for a long gain. He can run by or through the opposition. There is, simply, nothing Andre Johnson can’t do.

    Except throw the ball to himself or stop father time.

    Or solve the deficit.

    Or find a mass transit system that works for Helena, Montana, figure out the correct PH balance needed to grow artichokes, read braille, properly bribe a cop at two in the morning, give birth and get Jim Carrey the Oscar he deserves.

    So there is actually a lot Andre Johnson can't do. My mistake.

6) Jamaal Charles

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    SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 28:  Running back Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs rushes against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on November 28, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Jamaal Charles just gets yards.

    In his three-year career, he’s averaging six yards per carry, including 22 twenty-yard rushes and eight forty-yard rushes. Charles is also adept in the passing game, with 12 20-yard receptions and two 40-yard receptions.

    Last season, Charles came within two-hundredths of a yard from breaking Jim Brown’s single season yards per carry record. The only thing stopping Charles from more yards and accolades and records is coach Todd Haley, who, for reasons unknown, gave 15 more carries to Thomas Jones last season, an older back who should only be used in short-yardage situations.

    Nobody knows why Haley hates Charles, though there are theories and rumors. Some say Charles didn't invite Haley to his birthday party, some say Haley was invited but instead went to a production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Some say Haley borrowed some of Charles' clothes and has yet to return them, and yet others say Haley is a nudist who hasn't worn clothing in private since 1997. Others say that Charles and Haley were once best friends, inseparable and loyal, but had a falling out over a game of Jenga. 

    (Nobody said any of that.)

5) Chris Johnson

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    SEATTLE - AUGUST 14:  Running back Chris Johnson #28 of the Tennessee Titans smiles prior to the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on August 14, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Chris Johnson might be the fastest player in football, blessed with 4.2 or 2.4 speed, depending on if you believe a clock or your eyes. 

    Johnson already has a 2,000 yard season, and the yards from scrimmage single-season record to his name. In his three seasons in the league, CJ2k has 44 rushes over 20 yards and 14 rushes over 40 yards. There probably isn’t a more dangerous player coming down the tracks in an open lane. If Johnson has space, a step, he’s gone. 

4) Adrian Peterson

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28:  Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings runs against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Adrian Peterson is a bull in a cyclone, bouncing and spinning until he shoots out, head first at helpless objects. That would also explain his, uh, slight fumbling problem (21 in four years), though he was much better last season with only one fumble.

    In his four seasons and 61 games, Peterson has 52 rushes over 20 yards and 14 rushes over 40 yards. On top of that, he has 13 20-yard receptions (including five in each of the past two seasons) and three 40-yard receptions in his career.

    These two runs illustrate just how impressive and vast Peterson’s arsenal is; he can make them miss, he can stiff-arm them, he can juke them and he can just flat-out outrun them.

    Sometimes he’ll do that all in the same play.

3) Michael Vick

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 09:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles drops back against the Green Bay Packers during the 2011 NFC wild card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 9, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Chris Tr
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Vick beats opponents through the air and on the ground, just like an eagle. And he plays for the Eagles! It’s…sorry. I’m sorry. That was weak. Paper-mache in a sandstorm-weak, you’re right.

    Vick wasn’t always beating defenses through the air, though. Not until he got to Philadelphia and Andy Reid’s tutelage.

    Last season, Vick completed a career-high 62.6 percent of his passes, almost a full six percentage points above his previous career high. He also set career-highs with 3,018 yards and 21 touchdowns and had the lowest interception percentage of his career. Vick also maintained his reputation as the most dangerous running quarterback the game has seen, managing a career-high nine rushing touchdowns to go along with 676 rushing yards and 6.8 yards per carry.

    Vick did that all in only 11 games.

    Health has always been a concern for Vick and it’s the only thing keeping him from the top of this list. But if he stays healthy, and if he keeps improving with Reid’s help, Vick will be the ultimate football weapon. 

2) Devin Hester

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 26: Devin Hester #23 of the Chicago Bears celebrates a touchdown catch against the New York Jets at Soldier Field on December 26, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Jets 38-34. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    What can you say about a 28-year-old who is the all-time leader in return touchdowns (14) and punt return touchdowns (10)? A five-year veteran who has scored 27 touchdowns on 485 touches, a touchdown every 17.9 times he has the football? Like when Barry Bonds was stalking the batter’s box, and he wouldn’t see a hittable pitch for several games, Hester might not get a returnable punt for several games. But then that one pitch, that one punt and they both capitalized like basically no one had before.

    And I’m not accusing Devin Hester of taking steroids with that reference; I’m accusing him of being other-worldly. Just like Bonds was, even though….moving on.

1) DeSean Jackson

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 09:  DeSean Jackson #10 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs down field against Desmond Bishop #55 and Nick Collins #36 of the Green Bay Packers during the 2011 NFC wild card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 9, 2011
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Words can’t explain why DeSean is number one as well as this can.

    Jackson is lightning, here and gone in the blink of an eye. In his three-year career, he has scored a touchdown every 13 times he’s touched the ball (24 touchdowns on 317 touches). That includes four punt returns and three rushing touchdowns. That includes a league-leading 22.5 yards per catch last season. That includes 60 20-yard plays and 21 40-yard plays from scrimmage—in addition to six 40-yard punt returns.

    Here’s a 10-yard hitch he turned into a 91-yard touchdown. Here’s a highlight of of a 67-yard end around tochdown, which also has a 57-yard touchdown reception from the same game for good measure.

    Jackson is a lethal triple-threat who can change the course of a game, can change fortunes, in the blink of an eye. Isn’t that definition of a playmaker?

    Nevermind, Wikipedia says this is the definition of playmaker.