NFL: Top Dog, the League's Best Player at Each Position
As is the case with every opinionated NFL ranking or list, not everyone will agree with these picks. There will never be a perfect list, but that is why these can be very entertaining.
Obviously some fans wear their emotions on their sleeves, and will react like you just slapped their two-year-old in the face for no good reason. For those of us that understand what these lists are all about, here is another one to debate.
I try not to take myself too seriously when it comes to these things, so hopefully nobody will pop a vein or go through some sort of depression over this. These are just my opinions, so feel free to disagree with whatever you would like to. All I ask is that you have a good explanation of why you think player A is better than player B. I don't think that is too much to ask.
It should also be noted that I did not include any offensive linemen in this slide, as it is basically just the skill position players. I know field goals and punts require certain skills, but to be honest, I just didn't feel the need to go through them.
All statistics and records are current, as we (hopefully) head into the 2011-2012 season.
Defensive End: Jared Allen
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I think this one was very close; there are so many people worthy of being at the top of this list. Justin Tuck, Justin Smith, Mario Williams and Dwight Freeney are all big-time playmakers on defense.
While going over all of the statistics, Jared Allen just seemed to stand out. In 2007 he had 15.5 sacks in 14 games. He had 14.5 sacks in both 2008 and 2009, and had a "down year" last year with 11 sacks.
In the last seven years, he has missed a total of three games, making him very durable.
Defensive Tackle: Vince Wilfork
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There are some great young defensive tackles coming along in the league. Guys like Haloti Ngata and Ndamukong Suh look like they will be the future stars of this position.
However, guys like Pat Williams and Vince Wilfork are ready to prove they still have what it takes to be the top dog. Wilfork isn't exactly old (age 29) but he does have seven years and 106 regular season games under his belt.
His durability and reliability to stuff the run make him the best at his position in my opinion.
Linebacker: Patrick Willis
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Yes, the modern day Ray Lewis. Like every other linebacker his age, Willis was a huge fan of Ray Ray growing up, and tried to pattern his game after his. Not only is he built like Ray, but he plays with the same style and intensity.
He seems to be all over the field, playing with no regard for safety, but he always seems to be under control.
It sounds insane to say that there is a player better than the likes of James Harrison, DeMarcus Ware, Clay Matthews, Ray Lewis and LaMarr Woodley, but the San Francisco 49ers star really is.
Cornerback: Nnamdi Asomugha
I can see just as many people that will disagree with me on this one, as will on the Brady-Manning debate. This is not a knock on Darrelle Revis at all. While I think Revis is a hair below Nnamdi, I think the supporting cast for each team tells the story.
The overall defense that the Jets have is extremely good, all the way around. You can't say the same thing about the Raiders. The Jets can really cause problems with their pass rush, and their defensive schemes. Nnamdi will basically take out the number one receiver, no matter which side of the field he lines up on.
If you are going to throw to his side of the field, get ready to run your defense back onto the field. Could you imagine if the Jets could somehow grab this free agent? That defense would be virtually impossible to score against.
Safety: Ed Reed
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Now things are getting interesting. Hard to imagine someone could take this spot from Troy Polamalu, but Ed Reed is just the man for the job. Is there a better ball hawk and playmaker in the secondary?
This guy has been making highlight reels his entire career in Baltimore. While he is now 32 years old (Troy is 30) I still think Reed has the edge over the safety in Pittsburgh. With Reed, you can play a safety in the box all game and still have the ability to stop the deep passes.
Reed has played one more year than Troy, and actually 21 more games due to Troy's injuries. Perhaps the best stat is the interceptions category. Troy has 27 career picks, while Reed has exactly twice as many, with 54.
Tight End: Antonio Gates
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I had this one as a toss-up between Gates and Dallas Clark, like I would assume most people would. I chose to go with Gates on this one because of the injuries we saw with both of these guys last year.
Gates was hurt most of the year with foot and ankle problems, and even managed to play despite them. Clark was out for a significant time as well, but his replacements came in and put on a show in the Indianapolis offense.
When it comes to defensive game plans, I think more teams spend time trying to figure out how to stop Gates.
Wide Receiver: Andre Johnson
I don't think this one is as close as people think. Sure there are many great receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, Roddy White, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Marshall and DeSean Jackson, but Andre really is bigger and better than them all.
He is one of the most physical players in the league, and his athleticism is scary. While he may need to work on his mental strength (see Cortland Finnegan), that is about the only weakness he has.
He is truly the most elite and complete receiver in the game today, without question.
Running Back: Adrian Peterson
This one clearly comes down to AP and Chris Johnson. Johnson has some incredible speed to go with his agile moves, but the overall product I see from Peterson gives him the edge in my opinion.
Peterson is a brick wall that can run over you like Brandon Jacobs, run by you like LaDainian Tomlinson, and run around you/embarrass you like Barry Sanders. Not only is he fantastic when it comes to the running game, but he has really become a good receiver out of the backfield as well. Peterson has everything you want in a running back.
An unmatched combination of size, strength, speed, shiftiness and hands gives him the edge in my book.
Quarterback: Tom Brady
This one pains me to admit, especially being a fan of the Colts here in Indy. While I appreciate all that Peyton has done for this city and the franchise, I still can't put him in front of Brady, at least until he gets another ring.
This is probably the biggest debate out there, but it just seems to me that Tom is just slightly better in clutch situations. I know Mr. Rodgers just won the Super Bowl, but I don't think he has made this a three-person debate just yet. The obvious statements such as Manning has had better receivers, Brady has done more with less, and their playoff record all speak for themselves.
Sadly, as a Colts fan, I can honestly say if I had one drive to win the game with two minutes to go, I would put Tom under center.