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100.) David Harris, MLB, Jets – He is the Ray Lewis in the Jets’ defense, not Bart Scott. He has sideline-to-sideline speed, comes off blocks well, and can rush the passer at good efficiency. If he can improve a little bit, the Ray Lewis comparisons might have merit based on play too.
99.) Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys – His best days are behind him, which is why he finds himself barely in the top-100. He has lost the explosiveness that he used to has. Good possession tight end, though.
98.) Dominique Rodgers–Cromartie, CB, Cardinals – With the shine wearing off from the other Cromartie, DRC has risen above his namesake. His ball skills were always good, as was his speed. His coverage is now meriting inclusion in the top-10 corner discussion, if not top-5.
97.) Brian Orakpo, DE, Redskins – Lost in the mess that was the 2009 Redskins, was Brian Orakpo’s amazing rookie season. Without much help from the other side, Orakpo piled up big plays as a rookie.
96.) Jarius Byrd, S, Bills – The 9 interceptions look nice, but that will definitely not happen again. However, his play being consistently good and his positioning being consistently around the ball will, and considering there is little else in Buffalo, that is more than enough.
95.) Lance Briggs, OLB, Bears – He is at the age where he is what he is: a solid, but not great player. He was one, and his reaction speed is still there, but he is not the physical presence he once was. Having Peppers in front, and Urlacher back beside him will help though.
94.) Andre Gurode, C, Cowboys – The real star of the Cowboys’ o-line, the man once known as the face that met Haynesworth’s cleat, is now turning heads with great play anchoring the Cowboys’ o-line. He might not have the notoriety that his linemates do, but he’s better.
93.) Shawntae Spencer, CB, 49ers – Nate Clements makes the money, but Shawntae makes the plays. He finally stayed healthy, and his play skyrocketed with that renewed physical health. He’s a physical corner with the speed to run stride-for-stride with anyone.
92.) Aaron Kampman, DE, Jaguars – He is coming off an ACL injury, plus he is anything but young, but playing back in his familiar 4-3, Kampman will be able to finally put bite in that Jaguars’ pass rush.
91.) Nick Barnett, MLB, Packers – His great play as a central linebacker is what allows Clay Matthews and Brady Poppinga to not worry about the run. He has been consistently good for half a decade now.
90.) Robert Mathis, DE, Colts – He might not be able to carry the pass-rush without Freeney, but he can certainly be the best complementary pass-rusher in the league. The best at the strip-sack in the NFL as well.
89.) Osiomogho Atogwe, S, Rams – He is now overrated. It is pretty easy to get tackles as a safety when your front seven cannot stop anyone. However, if he ever gets the chance to play for a competitive team, he might be able to justify the hype.
88.) Chad Ochocinco, WR, Bengals – He might be undervalued since Carson had no one else to throw to in ’09, but with TO in the fold as the possession guy, he might just see an uptick in his explosiveness.
87.) Eric Wright, CB, Browns – On a defense with no-names (David Veikune?), Eric Wright stands out. His cover skills allow the Brown to not be consistently blown out. Just think, when was the last time any receiver had a huge day against the Browns?
86.) Michael Roos, T, Titans – There is a reason Chris Johnson can grate out yards. Sure, he has the explosive speed, but he also has a pair of great tackles, the first being Mr. Michael Roos. He wasn’t as good in 2009, but a lot of that has to do with Kerry Collins being immobile early in the season.
85.) Darren Sharper, S, Saints – There is almost no way he puts up the same takeaway/TD numbers this year, but he still has the instincts to break up plays and serve as a great last line of defense. His play also lifts the other members of that defense.
84.) Domata Peko, DT, CIN – After Antwan Odom blew out his knee, many pundits saw the Bengals d-line going to hell. It didn’t and the hairy Samoan named Peko is the primary reason why. His play was great, and now getting Odom back should just make him better.
83.) Aaron Smith, DT, Steelers – He also missed major time last year, and it was his injury that coincided with the Steelers free-fall late last year. The Steelers really missed his presence in run support, as he gets great penetration.
82.) Michael Turner, RB, Falcons – With the ‘Curse of 370’ finally off him, we can expect him to stay reasonably healthy, and what is scary is that the partially injured Turner put up good numbers last year.
81.) Jeff Otah, T, Panthers – He played really well last year at RT, and really well in 2008 at LT, and I would guess that put him at guard and he would still open gigantic holes for DeAngelo and J-Stewart.
80.) Terrell Suggs, OLB, Ravens – In year one of his big contract, he was a small disappointment. He still is great against the run, but his pass-rushing hasn’t been the Suggs that once terrorized the league from 2006-2007. The Ravens Defensive Coordinator pledges to blitz more, which could see Suggs take off.
79.) Wes Welker, WR, Patriots – He has been cleared to practice fully, but I still fear him getting anywhere near 100% Wes Welker in 2010. His game was built almost entirely on precise, quick cuts, which will really test that knee. Tom Brady needs him, though, as his passer rating in 2009 without Wes was 65.7.
78.) Lofa Tatupu, MLB, Seahawks – He was injured for almost all of last year, but it was not as serious at that would seem. He was after his rookie season a perfect Tampa-2 MLB. He still is, but Carroll will use him differently.
77.) Brett Favre, QB, Vikings – Since expected future performance is part of this, and it is unreasonable to expect another 33/7 TD/INT season since he hasn’t done that ever before last year, I think it is safe to say that year-2 in Minny won’t be as pretty as year one.
76.) Will Smith, DE, Saints – Terrorrizing pass rusher, who can crush weaker tackles, but does struggle slightly against the premier tackles in this game. Health and age are concerns.
75.) Aubrayo Franklin, DT, 49ers – He is the unsung hero of the 49ers defense. Patrick Willis is a tackle machine, and it is because Franklin requires double teams, and is arguable the top space eater in football.
74.) Jared Gaither, T, Ravens – The Ravens seemingly wanted to get rid of him, which raised questions about his work ethic and the like, but no question was raised on his ability. He had giant shoes to fill, and has filled them quite admirably. I do not think Michael Oher will do a better job as the LT.
73.) LaMarr Woodley, OLB, Steelers – LaMarr Woodley bided his time on the bench, learned the trade for a couple years, and when he got his degree from LeBeau U, he got on the starting lineup, and has beasted ever since. Has great pass-rushing technique.
72.) Jonathan Joseph, CB, Bengals – One half of the league’s best CB tandem, Jonathan Joseph is the slightly less impactful but slightly more steady of the duo. His major strength is his ability to read and react to route development.
71.) Justin Tuck, DE, Giants – The man who was cast in gold for blowing up Logan Mankins back in Super Bowl XLII, Justin Tuck is still a fearsome pass rusher, but he doesn’t have the support around him to leave him single-blocked.
70.) Donovan McNabb, QB, Redskins – Mike Shanahan knows how to coach older QBs, and although the fit between a historically un-West Coach Offense McNabb and Coach Shanny seems to not gel, John Elway was never the most accurate QB in the league either.
69.) Harvey Dahl, G, Falcons – The Falcons “dirty” guard is arguably the most underrated interior lineman in the league. His ability to hope holes through the middle, as well as keep the pocket clean up the middle for Matt Ryan, arguably makes him the Falcons’ most underrated as well.
68.) Logan Mankins, G, Patriots – Despite his aforementioned beating in Super Bowl XLII, Mankins has been a quality player from day 1. He’s not going to make any huge mistakes, and on a line that is getting older and, quite frankly, less good, his stability is what anchors the Pats up-front.
67.) Ray Lewis, MLB, Ravens – In 2009, he was back to normal Ray, but I hate that the media thinks this is a Ray Lewis resurgence. They said the same thing in 2006 and 2008. Enough already. Just chalk Ray Lewis playing great to Ray Lewis being an all-time great.
66.) Karlos Dansby, MLB, Dolphins – He did yoeman’s work for the Cardinals, bolstering a very transient lB corp, and he fits perfectly in the middle of the Dolphins’ 3-4. Parcells loves him, for good reason.
65.) Steve Smith, WR, Panthers – He played well last year with Matt Moore as the QB, and is just two years off from a 1400 yd season. The explosiveness is still there. Durability is a slight question, as is that ever-lingering question of will he ever get any real receiving help.
64.) Antoine Bethea, S, Colts – Arguably the best low-draft selection by Polian, Bethea has become an all-pro free safety, period. With Bob Sanders in and out of the lineup, he is know the most crucial player in the Colts secondary.
63.) Antwan Odom, DE, Bengals – He was a monster before his injury last year, and reports are that he is tearing it up in camp again. He will greatly benefit from the rest of the d-line being better now than what they were when he piled up 8 sacks in 6 games.
62.) Elvis Dumervil, OLB, Broncos – He was able to end up doing something that few other could do in Denver: play well after their 6-0 start. As the team crashed and burned, he rose his play. Of course he doesn’t play the run all that well, but my God can he rush the passer.
61.) Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals – When he needed to be, he was pretty good in 2010, leading fourth quarter comebacks against the Steelers and Ravens primarily through the air. The biggest concern is that elbow of his, but if he stays healthy, with new weapons, he can have a nice rebound year.
60.) Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers – It will be interesting to see in the first three games if he was a product of Rivers or if it is the other way around. His ability to use his body to shield defenders when catching the deep ball is amazing. He also has great balance when jumping.
59.) Trent Cole, DE, Eagles – Probably a little underrated, he has been a consistent pass rusher since 2006. Cole has been able to pick up the slack for the departed pass rushers of Eagles yore. Of course, having two mammoth DTs suck on blockers helps.
58.) Roddy White, WR, Falcons – He is Matt Ryan’s best friend, but more than that, he is a damn good football player. He, like most of the other Falcons, had a down year, but with a healthy QB and RB, White should complete the triplets to the tune of what he had in 2008.
57.) Adrian Wilson, S, Cardinals – He is no longer a secret in the desert, and with aging he is no longer the fierce physical presence that he used to be, but Wilson remains one of the league’s most versatile and instinctive players.
56.) Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys – His numbers were fine, but the shine of the totals offset some problems, mainly being his ineffectiveness in the red zone. The Cowboys in general had a hard time punching it in, but the problems started at the QB position, where Romo couldn’t deal with the tighter windows.
55.) Randy Moss, WR, Patriots – There seem to be two school’s of thought on Moss. One is that he has mentally checked out and is done, the other being that he is set for a bounce back season. Honestly, neither is totally accurate. He doesn’t have the consistent speed to be the same, but he is still a 10 td guy.
54.) Jeff Saturday, C, Colts – On what may be the league’s most hard-to-judge o-line, Saturday is the only one that needs no judgment. He’s great, that is all. He is good at run-blocking, great at pass-blocking, and most importantly, can keep up with the changes Manning makes and direct his offensive line.
53.) Owen Daniels, TE, Texans – He was on pace for a monster season before he got hurt, and his injury might actually help him. Jacoby Jones developed greatly after his injury, which could clear out more space where Daniels can do his best Dallas Clark impression. Obviously, that ACL is still a concern.
52.) Ray Rice, RB, Ravens – He is in the Maurice Jones-Drew mold, as a receiver and runner. Although being called physical, he still dances and is too often stopped before the line, however, that is offset by an explosiveness unmatched in Baltimore.
51.) John Beason, OLB, Panthers – He is dropped from a top-30 player solely because he is now playing a new position after Thomas Davis’ injury, but Beason is a tackle machine. He has great ability to hem in runners and has perfect tackling form.
50.) Greg Jennings, WR, Packers – The top-50 is headed by Aaron Rodgers’ best weapon. His TD numbers have suspiciously dropped since Favre left in 2008, but his other raw numbers and metrics stay the same. He has the explosiveness that reminds me of a young Chad Johnson.
49.) Jabari Greer, CB, Saints – I will say this about the Bills. They can draft and develop corners. Too bad none of them are still on the Bills. Greer is the latest example. He was brilliant in 2009 for the Saints but got hurt, again, which of course is a sign that he is a true Bills player, as fragile as he is talented.
48.) Richard Seymour, DT, Raiders – He did not become a fat, lazy slob, as most thought he would after being shipped over to Oakland. No, instead he had a better year than he did in 2008 in New England. He can still get good pressure on the QB, which should only increase with the addition of John Henderson.
47.) Ryan Clady, T, Broncos – He is a little too penalty prone (not too serious), and too injured (serious) to get to where his blocking would merit him, but Clady is still one of the best young LTs in the game, at least as far as run blocking is concerned.
46.) Jay Ratliff, DT, Cowboys – He had his best season yet in 2009. He probably can’t get any better, in fact he is probably due to come down a little bit, but even that is good enough for a spot in the top-50. He is still easily the best pass-rushing NT in the game today.
45.) Steve Hutchinson, G, Vikings – Age may finally be catching up to Hutch, which only means that instead of being the best guard in the game, he is one of the best. I’m sure Adrian Peterson still loves him, though.
44.) Matt Schaub, QB, Texans – He wasn’t just finally healthy, he was not the victim of an illegal hit finally. In a pass-friendly offense, Schaub took it to heights that probably even surprised him. If he can get a healthy Owen Daniels back, look for Schaub to go even higher, at least as TD/INT is concerned.
43.) Steven Jackson, RB, Rams – You have to give a guy credit for playing so hard and so well for a lousy team. He has taken a pounding the last three years, and he hasn’t been the healthiest guy, so there are fears that he might not be around by the time the Rams talent catches up to him, and that is surely sad.
42.) Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts – He didn’t have the greatest end to last season, but he had one of his better regular seasons to date. He is still Manning’s most consistent and trusted receiver on the team, ad his precise route running is still there.
41.) Chris Snee, G, Giants – With the Giants o-line faltering at the tackle positions, Snee has picked it up the last two seasons. His ability to get a push on running plays is up there with any player in the league.
40.) DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers – He has a great o-line in front of him and has to split carries, but his talent is undeniable. He has put together two straight great years. His 5.1 career ypc is the highest of any back since 1990, higher than even Barry Sanders, and with that blocking, it could stay that way.
39.) Leon Hall, CB, Bengals – He’s the big play one out of the tandem, the more naturally gifted corner. Leon Hall has developed just like the Bengals hoped he would. Now all that remains is for him to sign that extension to stay a Bengal for a long, long time. (Paging Mr. Brown….. Mr. Brown???)
38.) Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers – He’s the same statistical monster he always has been, getting over 1,000 yds again and what not. However, much like the rest of his team, there is just something about him that makes him hard to trust in the clutch. Either way, the most athletically talented TE is as good as ever.
37.) Vince Wilfork, DT, Patriots – The big man was resigned to a nice fat extension, and he’ll try to do what he always does, throw his fat around to suck up blockers, clog up running lanes, and basically make the lives of Ty Warren and whoever the hell is now replacing Richard Seymour’s lives easier. Same as always.
36.) David Stewart, T, Titans – The best right tackle in the game, and the man more responsible than the man himself for Chris Johnson’s 2,000 yd season, David Stewart just gets better.
35.) Dallas Clark, TE, Colts – Yes, I think he is more important to the Colts than Reggie Wayne. He is the real difference maker now. What he gives the Colts is a dynamic versatility that the top wideout doesn’t. He stays healthy, he stays fast, he runs great routes and Peyton have made their brains surgically attached.
34.) DeMeco Ryans, MLB, Texans – His ability to tackle makes him second in line to replace Ray Lewis as the league’s next iconic MIKE Linebacker. Since his team’s defense has yet to match his, he is somehow underrated. He does struggle to get off blocks in the second level, though.
33.) Jordan Gross, T, Panthers – The last of four players on the Panthers offensive line is their most integral. He has turned into an excellent blindside protector, which makes him all the more valuable, with Matt Moore now the QB he will protecting. The Panthers have the best o-line in football, period.
32.) Charles Woodson, CB, Packers – He probably shouldn’t have been the defensive player of the year last year, but he was sensational. His late career resurgence in Green Bay is quite remarkable. I’m sure Al Davis rues the day he let Woodson walk and didn’t give him the chance to team with Asomugha.
31.) Mario Williams, DE, Texans – He had a bit of a down year, but mostly since the rest of team’s ability to bring pressure dropped off mightily, allowing teams to double him. With the other guys finally healthy, he is primed for a monster 2010.
30.) Eli Manning, QB, Giants – He finally became a pure top-10 QB in 2009, and amazingly did it with a receiving corp that was anything but settled. His connection with the other Steve Smith would make his brother and Marv proud. He’s gotten to the point that the pass offense is arguably the Giants’ best unit.
29.) Darnell Dockett, DT, Cardinals – His monster 2008 playoffs was no fluke. He was a monster inside for the Cards, getting amazing penetration. He is equally adept at stuffing the run, and his presence allowed Calais Campbell to excel beside him. He is the second most active defensive tackle in the league.
28.) Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars – He is still the best multi-purpose running back in the NFL. His blocking isn’t what it was from 2006-2007, so his numbers aren’t as astronomical, but he is still an extremely dangerous receiving threat from the backfield.
27.) Jahri Evans, G, Saints – The best guard in the game, Evans is what any guard should be: mean, nasty and tough. He’s not known for a pass blocker (although he is quite good at that too), but for a run-blocker. He gets extremely good push in front, and Payton trusts him enough to single block noses.
26.) Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions – Megatron could easily be up near the top-10 in one year, but his 2009 was disappointing. This is a man who had 1,300 yards for an 0-16 team. The fact that he was dragged down by Stafford’s iffy performance is interesting. However, he still is a freak of physical nature.
25.) Jared Allen, DE, Vikings – He is a little overhyped, as even his numbers were padded by 7 sacks against the Packers (and 8 in 14 other games), but he is probably the best pass-rushing end against the run. He is able to stop the run on his relentless path to the QB, something that can’t be said for other DE’s.
24.) James Harrison, OLB, Steelers – Just like Mr. Allen above him, Harrison is the best edge-rushing 3-4 LB at stuffing the run as well. He simply cannot be single blocked, as he holds the edge to well. Teams would be better off just not running towards number 92.
23.) Nick Mangold, C, Jets – The real key to the Jets o-line that paved the way for the number 1 running game in the NFL, Mangold has the run-blocking skills of a guard, the pass-protection skills of a tackle and the smarts of a QB. His push inside is the primary reason why the Jets were the 2nd best team in the league at running up the middle and in 3rd or 4th and 1.
22.) Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings – He is not the same back that ran for all those yards in his rookie and sophomore campaign, and his ypc-average is down to 4.4 from 5.6 (as a rookie), which should show signs that he has peaked. But even if he has peaked, that peak is quite high. He still fumbles too much, but even that is negated easily by his strength and ability to pick up crucial yards and find the end zone.
21.) Julius Pepers, DE, Bears – If 11 sacks is a down year for Peppers, like last year, then that is the mark of a true great. He gets dogged for taking plays off, but mostly because he has the talent to get 2 sacks a game, so if he doesn’t , then people view it as not trying. He will work wonders under Rod Marinelli and the Bears d-line. Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre and Matt Stafford, watch out.
20.) Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers – Speaking of Aaron Rodgers, everyone seems to be getting a little too excited. Sure, he had a great statistical season, but he built those stats up from unloading on weaker teams. In his three biggest regular season games (the two with the Vikings, and against the Ravens) he was average. However, he still is getting better. With a harder schedule, it wouldn’t be a surprise if his numbers drop, but that doesn’t mean he’s playing any worse.
19.) Patrick Willis, MLB, 49ers – The best MLB in the game is a tackling machine, with the added benefit of being able to cover tight ends. He also has the instincts that make him even the more better. However, he doesn’t have the impact on those around him like Ray Lewis did, but there are no Ray Lewis’ out there (except for the man himself). I probably shouldn’t knock him for being 80% of the best MLB of all time.
18.) Kevin Williams, DT, Vikings – The better half of the Williams wall, Kevin plays so well as a pocket pusher and pass-rusher. His numbers against the pass are amazing. He also swallows up the run like none other. Of course, having the mammoth that is Pat Williams next to him helps, but you get the feeling he is the real deal by himself. He is Albert Haynesworth 2.0.
17.) Ed Reed, S, Ravens – Age is catching up to Ed, but that doesn’t stop the Boss from being brilliant as usual. Although he might start the season on the PUP list, the injury itself is not as serious as an ACL type. Ed still is instinctively the best safety in football. The Ravens do suffer with him out, but oddly, the run defense suffers. Probably because the LBs have to care more about stopping the pass if Ed is absent. I really hope this is not his last season, but even if it is, he has to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
16.) Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Raiders – He lost the title of the best Corner in football, but he still has it for most dominant. Teams don’t even throw his way unless the receiver is wide open. QBs don’t even look his way. With the pass rush on the Raiders improving, and the rest of the secondary along with it, he might have a bigger impact than even before, in that he might get thrown at 50 times, not 30.
15.) Chris Johnson, RB, Titans – Yes, the top ranked RB is No. 15, and mainly because running back is just not one of the 5 most important positions on the field. Plus, his high carry count and lithe frame makes him a prime candidate for injury, nevermind his insane numbers making him a prime candidate for regression. That all said, there is no better running back, and no more explosive player in the league. Guys drafted with insane 40 times rarely succeed, but CJ2K is not only succeeding but setting records.
14.) Joe Thomas, T, Browns – He is slightly overrated, as he is too penalty prone to be considered a top-10 player, and his run-blocking is not the best, but he is a brick wall in pass-blocking. Against the Steelers, he shut down James Harrison twice. If ever he had a QB worth protecting, he might get even better.
13.) Haloti Ngata, DT, Ravens – The Mountainous Tongan, Ngata has become the most athletically gifted interior lineman in the league, easily. He has the speed to chase down QBs and RBs in the backfield. He is strong enough to shed double teams. He is athletic enough to return interceptions for touchdowns. He is great enough to actually outshine Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. It is Ngata’s defense now.
12.) Tom Brady, QB, Patriots – Some say that because of the defenses he faced, Brady was underrated last year. I say BS. He was very Aaron Rodgers-esque, in that if he got into a tight game, he turned to mush in the 4th quarter. He was brilliant in quarters 1-3 (save for that Wild Card game), but gave away too much in the 4th. If Wes Welker is not 100%, it will be interesting to see how Brady can go along.
11.) Troy Polamalu, S, Steelers – He was arguably the biggest singly injury in the NFL last year, as his departure ruined the top defense in the NFL. The Flowin’ Samoan was his usual great self when he was in, and luckily for him and the Steelers, his injury is not of the nagging variety, but his health, which was sterling before 2009, should be watched. With Reed closing in on retirement, Polamalu is now finally the unquestioned best safety in the game.
10.) Dwight Freeney, DE, Colts – The only man that you can argue was a bigger injury than Polamalu was Freeney not being healthy in the Super Bowl. Other than Manning, he is the only player the Colts need if they want to win the Super Bowl. He makes that defense run, he makes them click. He makes Robert Mathis a top-10 DE. He makes the defensive tackles better. His constant pressure (led the league in QB hurries) makes everybody on that defense better.
9.) Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers – His numbers speak for themselves, and apart from the game against the Jets in the playoffs, he plays big in big games (which separates him from Rodgers and Brady right now). Rivers still looks like he is throwing a shot put, but it is a very accurate shot put. He will miss Vincent Jackson, and possible Marcus McNeill, but I believe Chargers fans when they say they trust Philip anyway.
8.) Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals – He was great with Leinart primarily throwing to him (2006), so he should be fine again. Leinart could use a sure-handed, precise route-running, explosive beast at WR, and in Fitzgerald he has one. What is even scarier is that he is evolving, as late in 2009 he drew up a physicality that was Boldin-esquel.
7.) DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Cowboys – There was no regression from Ware, as he was just as scary and good in 2009. He may not have picked up the same amount of sacks, although matching 20 is almost impossible, his hits and hurries stayed constant, and he also evolved as a player. He is no longer a liability against the run, as he holds the edge much better than before.
6.) Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers – I’m not going to delve into his personal issues, so as a QB Ben Roethlisberger is absolutely deserving of this high praise. They say he doesn’t study and prepare as hard as the other top QBs. Well, if that is true, if he ever turns that part of his game around, look out. His game was finally unleashed in full, and they exploded of the page, with 4,300 yds in 15 games. He still is as evasive and creative inside and outside the pocket. He is still as good as ever.
5.) Jake Long, T, Dolphins – Somehow, Joe Thomas is more universally hailed than Long, but that should absolutely not be the case. Long is almost perfect. With great size and long arms, he can pass block and protect young Chad Henne’s blindside. With great power and a mean streak, he can create holes and block for Rickey Williams and Ronnie Brown. He was a top-pick well spent.
4.) Darrelle Revis, CB, Jets – He had the best season for a CB in my lifetime, sure. I would venture that Nnamdi in 2007 was just as good, but since his team stunk and he never got the opportunity to make picks since no one threw at him. Well, people need to start giving Darrelle the Nnamdi treatment: Just stop throwing at him. Darrelle shut down everyone and anyone, and he faced them all. It needs to be seen if he can approach the 2009 level this season, but if he comes 70% there, he will still be a top-20 NFL Player.
3.) Andre Johnson, WR, Texans – Sure, Darrelle Revis may have shut him down once last year, but one game should not decide this ranking. Andre Johnson has been the best NFL receiver for two straight years. The U has never produced a better wideout (including Michael Irvin), and I really hope they make the playoffs just so I can see Andre Johnson perform on the highest stage.
2.) Drew Brees, QB, Saints – Again, one game doesn’t decide everything. Brees did just have a 4th straight year with good passing numbers, but what was markedly different about the 2009 Drew Brees: his lack of turnovers. He stopped forcing the balling as much in 2009, and the effects were brilliant. There is a movement to call him the best current player, and I would say that too much too soon. However, the fact that he is that conversation is amazing enough considering 4 years ago he came to the Saints as New Orleans was still seemingly underwater.
1.) Peyton Manning, QB, Colts – After a 4th MVP award, a 14-0 start, and doing it all with the league’s worst ranked running game, and not having his #2 and #3 wide receivers from 2008, how can anyone not put Manning on top. Peyton can actually get quite a bit better. As FootballOutsiders said, Peyton had a down year for him, and losing Gonzalez hurt. Gonzalez is back, the RBs are healthy, and he is motivated from that pick to Tracy Porter. He is back to take on the league.
Check back later for a division-by-division preview.