Football has many descriptions. Some call it the ultimate team sport, others call it a game of inches. The NFL game, however, takes on another role: a game of intimidation—and there are plenty of scary players to go along with it.
While, for all intents and purposes purposes, I'm going to stick to a pure instinctual intimidation model, fear doesn't always have to be described by "thug-appeal." Intimidation can also mean the kind of fear a certain player instills in his opposition from a game-changing standpoint so much so that the other team will gameplan around said player.
That being said, this list will feature both players of a physically dominating and skillfully dominating background.
Here's a look at the NFL's top 25 scariest players.
At times, Larry Fitzgerald can seem unstoppable. He's clearly one of the best receivers in football and has provided some of the nicest catches in this era.
Fitzgerald certainly warrants a double-team almost any time he's on the field—he's that good.
The thing about Fitzgerald is that he's probably one of the nicest guys in the league and his smile could melt even Bart Scott's heart. There's no doubt that he's one of the classiest guys in league history, but that's not what this list is about.
Fitzgerald may be one of the most physically gifted receivers to even put on pads, but he doesn't possess elite speed and his production has taken a nose-dive without Kurt Warner throwing him the deep ball.
The Arizona Cardinals are definitely Fitzgerald's team, but that team is 1-5.
Fitzgerald is always a threat, but he's not intimidating enough to make the top 25.
Not only is Antonio gates one of the most skillfully sound TEs in the National Football League, he also possesses the sheer size and explosiveness to make this list.
Gates was one of the first of his kind: a hybrid. He has both the size and power of an offensive lineman and the speed and hands of a receiver. He can catch balls on you all day and run right through you to get in the end zone—and then tell you about it afterwards.
Tight ends like Gates create headaches for opposing defensive coordinators and Gates is the best of his kind.
Troy Polamalu looks the profile of one of the biggest bad-asses in the entire NFL. While he is definitely one of the most physically gifted safeties to play the game, it is his hair that represents perhaps one of the most intimidating players in recent years.
Polamalu can do it all defensively. He can intercept passes, take the ball into the end zone, force fumbles with his big hits, get after the quarterback and most importantly, almost never makes mistakes. No. 43 not only does his job, but he almost compensates for when his teammates don't do theirs. He's the kind of guy a QB will always keep his eyes on, and most of the time that ends up being their downfall.
The reason I rank Polamalu so low on this list is because of how soft-spoken he is off the field. Polamalu has been described as a family man, and his interests include "surfing, growing flowers, making furniture and playing the piano." So while he is one of the scariest players on the field, he's as snuggly and cute as Barney the purple dinosaur off the field.
Nonetheless, Polamalu's contribution to the fear of QBs everywhere has earned his a spot on this list.
Nnamdi Asomugha is one of the most technically sound corners to ever play the game. QBs rarely throw at him, and when they do it usually ends badly.
The Philadelphia Eagles payed a hefty price for arguably the best CB in the league (and he's not, Revis is), but it hasn't helped them much this season.
Asomugha is used to played for bad teams, though, and has still locked down almost any receiver opposing teams could throw at him.
While his play is certainly intimidating for opposing offenses, he's one of the more mild-mannered players in the league and probably one of the nicest guys at that. While he'll shut you down all day long, he probably will still let you do all of the talking.
He's certainly one of the league's most intimidating players, but he doesn't have the kind of moxie to be ranked in the top 20. Still though, he deserves to be recognized in the top 25.
A healthy Andre Johnson can beat you deep on any play. He not only has tremendous size at 6'3", 230lbs, he has probably the best hands of any receiver in the NFL.
For the last five years, Johnson has been considered in the top three, if not the best wide receiver in football.
This guy's size doesn't just come in handy for catching passes either. Just ask Cortland Finnegan how hard Johnson hits.
As potentially the best receiver of this era, Johnson is certainly a force to be reckoned with. The only reason he's been ranked this low is because he is somewhat injury-prone.
Either way, he's one of the NFL's scariest players.
Being in Oakland, Darren McFadden has a certain degree of underrated-ness about him. He definitely deserves to be considered in the top five RBs in the NFL and shows that every Sunday.
McFadden is the most consistent player the Raiders have right now, and is perhaps one of the most consistently productive players currently playing the game—and that's despite how much of a passing game the NFL has become.
McFadden has elite speed and the size to match it. His arms are the size of tree-trunks and he could probably stiff-arm his way right through your head.
Whether he's giving your DC headaches, or he's just plain getting past you, you can't deny the intimidation that McFadden can have on his opponents.
Charles Woodson is widely considered the third best corner in the game (behind Revis and Asomugha), and even then he's underrated.
While the 14-year veteran nears the twilight of his career, he is still punishing QBs on a weekly basis and his presence can always be felt on the field. On top of that, he's one of the biggest defensive leaders for the current best team in football.
That said, the best team in football doesn't necessarily have the best secondary in football—this year anyways. In fact, at this point they are statistically the worst defensive secondary in the NFL allowing an average of 289 passing yards per game.
That drop isn't all Woodson's fault either, but the fact that he has become more injury-prone with age definitely indicates that he is moving downhill at this point in his career.
Lost steps or not, he still intercepted Christian Ponder twice last week and probably could've done it a few more times too.
He is still one of the best in the game and still one of the most intimidating.
Michael Vick is an iconic QB in NFL history; nobody has ever played the game like him. He has the athletic tools to beat you both on the ground and through the air.
In 2010, Vick re-emerged into the NFL as one of the most prolific and dynamic offensive players to take the field. To the delight of fantasy football owners everywhere, Vick posted one game against the Washington Redskins with six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing). In that game, Vick surpassed Steve Young with the second most rushing yards by a QB of all time.
While staying calm and collected, Vick has the uncanny determination to simply put the ball in the end zone—by any means necessary.
While Vick is perhaps still one of the most offensively intimidating players in the league, 2011 hasn't been as nice to him. His Eagles are 2-4 and he's seen some issues with injury. It's not so much that defenses have figured him out as it is that the Eagles just can't get it together this year while being absolutely plagued by injury during the opening stretch of the season.
Nonetheless, Vick always makes you hold your breath from the minute the play starts until after the whistle blows. Offensively he is one of the scariest players in the NFL.
James Harrison isn't, technically speaking, the best linebacker in the NFL, but he could very well be the meanest. The Steelers ILB doesn't lead the NFL in any meaningful statistical category, but he does lead the NFL in fines.
Harrison likes to put his helmet in the helmet of the QBs hes lining up across from. I'm not going to speculate whether he's a "dirty" player or not, but he does have a certain notoriety that is not possessed by any other player currently in the NFL.
Despite still being one of the hardest hitters in the NFL, Harrison's best days are behind him and he is not the enforcer he once was. If this was 2008, Harrison could be in the top five, but it's 2011 and he's starting to look aged.
Either way, inside the top 20 scariest players is still pretty good.
Cameron Wake is a freak. The former CFL pass-rusher is now known as one of the most feared OLB/DE hybrids in the NFL.
The 6'3" 250lb monster has been terrorizing QBs for the past three seasons and is only gaining more attention with each game. After only two seasons in the NFL, Wake has already recorded 89 tackles, 22.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.
Emerging from the BC Lions, Wake is probably one of the CFL's biggest success stories in recent memory.
Wake has the size and explosiveness to crush any passer. Only time will tell the longevity of his intimidation, but as of right now he's one of the league's scariest, for sure.
In 2010, Clay Matthews emerged as one of the most feared pass-rushers in the NFL. The "Claymaker" as he's known to Packer fans, gained a reputation for taking QBs out of the game with unbelievably punishing hits.
Matthews' career has seen its success because of the chip on his shoulder that started when he had to walk on at USC. After a stellar college career as a Trojan, Matthews has made more of an impact for the Packers defensively than any other draft pick in the last 10 years.
2011 hasn't been as kind to Matthews, however, and while it could be the number of double-teams he's receiving, his production has seen quite a nose-dive this season.
There's no questioning the kind of intimidation this guy creates, but his lack of production this season makes him seem a lot more tame than Packer fans want to believe.
Nonetheless, Matthews is relentless and is very scary in his own right.
DeSean Jackson isn't necessarily a top receiver in the NFL, but his speed and versatility allows him to definitely be considered one of the most explosive playmakers.
I'm not trying to take away anything from Jackson as a receiver either, but his true value emerges on special teams. Jackson can definitely beat you on a deep route, but the New York Giants know exactly how scary he is as a kick/punt returner as well.
Jackson's jaw-dropping speed is enough to instill fear into any team he faces. To quote a movie about comparable speed, "he's so fast, he make fast people look not fast."
I realize that I sound ridiculous in saying that, but is there any better way to accurately describe how game-changing this guy's speed actually is? If so, please enlighten me.
While Jared Allen has traditionally been considered one of the most immature players in the NFL, his production on the field speaks for itself. Yes, he is perhaps one of the silliest players around, but on the field Allen is all business.
Allen is currently the NFL's leader in sacks with 11.5 sacks after only seven games so far this season. If you want to talk relentless, No. 69 should be the first name that comes to mind.
With the kind of production Allen is already having this season, he's on pace to break Michael Strahan's record for most sacks in the regular season. This past week against Green Bay, Allen even broke a Minnesota Vikings record for recording a sack in nine consecutive games.
Though Allen can be a goofball, he is an avid outdoors-man and is also very into hunting. That, in combination with the kind of production he shows on a weekly basis, certainly merits a top 15 ranking for the scariest players in the NFL.
With Calvin Johnson's performance thus far this season, he's dispelled any notion that he isn't the best receiver in the NFL. Through seven weeks, Johnson has 41 receptions for 679 yards and 10 touchdowns.
While the Lions are not immortal by any means, nobody can honestly say that Johnson's ability doesn't make them nervous.
Even in double-coverage, Johnson can jump higher and fight harder than anybody on the field for the ball. In fact, Johnson can utilize his speed and jumping ability to realistically cover roughly the same amount of space as a two-car garage.
While Johnson is hands down the NFL's best receiver at this point in time, his game-changing ability is limited, as is any other WR, to what his QB can get him.
In essence, Johnson can catch almost any ball you get within six feet of him, but that means you have to get the ball within six feet of him.
Johnson is elite, but his position limits his ranking and keeps him out of the top 10 scariest for opposing defenders.
Adrian Peterson is the best RB the NFL has seen since Walter Payton. Analysts try to find players that they compare A.P. to, but in reality, he sets a standard all his own. Instead of calling him the next Payton or Brown, they should really just consider him the only Adrian Peterson.
Peterson demands such respect from opposing defenses that they constantly leave eight men in the box just to make sure that he doesn't put up 150 yards on them—and most of the time that doesn't even work.
I wanted to add a highlight video to this slide, but there really isn't a video anywhere that truly encompasses Peterson's ability.
His fellow players voted him the No. 3 player in the entire NFL behind only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The Vikings rewarded him with the largest RB contract in history—much to the dismay of Chris Johnson who held out quite some time for his raise.
From the first time Peterson stepped on an NFL field, he's been pursuing greatness. With each game he gets closer and closer and has definitely earned the reputation as one of the most feared offensive players in the game.
On top of that, Peterson is rarely seen without a serious look on his face. He's not the kind of guy to run his mouth, but he will punch you in the mouth on his way to the end zone.
Nobody can seem to figure out if Haloti Ngata is a defensive tackle or a defensive end. I'm here to tell you that it doesn't matter, he's going to put you in the ground either way.
While the faces of Baltimore's defense are very much still Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, Ngata is quickly becoming one of the most recognizable intimidating forces in the NFL.
Ngata is an athletic freak, the kind that separates good players from great ones. He is massive and still has the speed and lateral ability to both stop the run and get to the QB.
At only 27-years-old, Ngata has a lot of time to continue to terrorize QBs. Even with such a young age, he's one of the most intimidating presences in football.
Tamba Hali's ability has gone unnoticed in Kansas City. While the Chiefs have a relatively strong defense, Hali doesn't get the recognition he deserves as one of the league top pass-rushers.
The intimidation that Hali creates is representative of some kind of berserker that the NFL hasn't seen from another linebacker in some time. The visor on his helmet only adds to the intimidation factor.
He is a perfect example of what is means to be scary in the NFL, and Hali rounds out this list at No. 10.
The Chicago Bears have always had a history of great middle linebackers. With greats like Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary to live up to, Brian Urlacher has exceeded expectations and has long been considered one of the best linebackers in the game.
Urlacher is not only elite from a tackling standpoint, he is perhaps the best Tampa-Two MLB in the game today—and at 33 years old, he's even totaled 21 interceptions over the course of his career.
Additionally, Urlacher has always made it difficult for opposing offenses to move the ball. The Bears have always been able to stop the run, but any pass over the middle of the field is a potential liability with Urlacher sitting back in his zone.
Even as his production has started to slow, his presence is still as noticeable as ever. Above all else, Urlacher commands respect, both from his teammates and his opponents. Even at 33, he's still one of the most feared players in the league.
At this point in time, DeMarcus Ware is the Dallas Cowboys.
The OLB/DE hybrid is one of the most feared pass-rushers in the NFL and could very well be the best at his position.
Not only is Ware smart, he's explosive, massive and hard-hitting—just about anything you could ask out of a defensive captain.
Ware can change games with the way he gets into the backfield. He is a constant source of anxiety for opposing offenses and still has a lot of career left in him to continue doing his thing.
Ware is No. 8 on this list and will only get higher as he continues to play at the same high level he's been for the past few years.
Ed Reed is currently the best safety in the game. Everything the guy does can change the course of any given game.
He can, pure and simple, get to the ball. While he's definitely a sure-tackler, the term ball-hawk was pretty much created for Ed Reed. His ability to intercept passes has earned him nicknames like the "Bermuda Triangle," because the ball just disappears when it gets to close to Reed—most of the time it reappears in the other end zone.
Ed Reed can hurt an offense in so many different ways. The way he changes the game just by being on the field definitely earns him a spot near the top of this list.
Patrick Willis is on his way to being one of the best linebackers in the NFL—if not the best.
Willis is perhaps only behind Ray Lewis as the best MLB in the NFL right now, and with the way Willis emulates Lewis, he will likely be on that same level some day.
Willis is clearly the leader on a very good San Francisco 49ers defense. The presence that he has on the field is enough to make any QB uneasy. The punishing hits has lays down on opponents definitely get him recognition as one of the best in the game.
The cold stare that you will receive from Willis is the only sign that you will get that he coming, and he's going to hit you right in the mouth.
His size, explosiveness and ability to rally his team around him make him an extremely scary player, but the fact that he's only 26 years old makes him that much more intimidating as a competitor.
Perfection is the only word that can be used to describe Aaron Rodgers at this point in the season. His 7-0 Green Bay Packers can thank him for contributing his seven-straight games with a passer rating over 110.
I'm not going to sit here and start an argument about who the best QB in the league is, but Rodgers is the closest thing to a godsend the state of Wisconsin has ever seen.
It really seems like the guy can do no wrong. He consistently shows that he is superior to whomever his opponent happens to be that week. The way he dissects a defense is practically an art form. He is far and away the league's scariest offensive player.
The one thing that Rodgers doesn't have that his superiors on this list possess is a dominating personality that can truly instill a sense of primal fear in opponents, like the kind that makes you fear for your personal safety.
That is the kind of personality that only a defensive player could have.
Despite already being labeled a "dirty player" in the NFL, Ndamukong Suh is pure and simple the most fearsome and aggressive defensive lineman in the game today.
Rage is the only word that comes to mind with the way Suh attacks his prey. He doesn't just beat his opponent, he punishes him.
Suh's fury doesn't discriminate; he has one speed: kill.
Even Suh's name is intimidating. In his mother's native language of Ngemba (the native language of Cameroon), "Ndamukong Suh" means "house of spears."
Are you serious? This guy was born to intimidate.
The intimidation that Darelle Revis' ability creates has Earth-creating properties. That's correct, Revis Island is a place that you do not want to be.
When Revis is on the field, as a QB you only have one half of the field to work with. Anything thrown in his direction ends up going the other direction.
Darelle Revis is the best corner in the NFL today and could potentially become the greatest of all time. There is not a defensive back in the history of the game that has seen more infamy for his ability to shut down receivers other than maybe Deion Sanders.
Even Primetime himself would say that Revis is destined for greatness.
The way Revis leaves entire offenses high-and-dry truly puts him in consideration for one of the scariest players in the NFL. Who knows, someday he could be No. 1.
The Chicago Bears are still very much Brian Urlacher's team. Julius Peppers is, however, the more frightening of the two.
This 6'7" 285lb behemoth has been intimidating the opposition since his debut for the Carolina Panthers in 2002. No matter who he seems to match up against, Peppers is able to strike fear and dominate his competition.
Peppers has the same cold stare as many others I've already described. The difference with Peppers is how difficult it is to get up after this guy hits you.
Even if Pepper's numbers aren't as great as they once were, his presence is enough to make QBs hear footsteps.
Peppers' size, explosion and ability to dominate anyone in his way make him near the top of this list. Only one player was fit to truly top the list of scariest players in the NFL.
That player is Ray Lewis.
Ray Lewis has long been not just the best linebacker in the NFL, but arguably the best defensive player, period.
Lewis has an aura about him that makes him more god-like than man. Lewis will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and even though he's currently in his 16th season in the NFL, he's not slowing down.
There is no player that can explicate, motivate and dominate the way that Ray Lewis can. Lewis is football immortality and will go down as not just one of the greatest, but the most intimidating force in NFL history.
Thanks for reading.