Top 105 Players in the NFL: Nine Cowboys Make the Cut
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1. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots: The Brady/Manning debate causes blood to boil, but there is really no debate in our minds. Brady is king.
2. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts: Did Peyton need to win Super Bowl 44 to be considered one of the top two or three quarterbacks ever? Only time will tell, but his 9-9 postseason record is the difference between him and Brady.
3. Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers: For proof of Polamalu’s importance, look at the success of Pittsburgh’s defense with Polamalu healthy as compared to when he is out. We love DeMarcus Ware, but Polamalu may be the NFL’s best defensive player.
4. Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Oakland Raiders: He’s ahead of Revis because opposing offensive coordinators threw at him just 28 times all of last season (compared to 111 for Revis).
5. DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas Cowboys: Ware received a 94.0 overall grade from us–tied for highest on the team. He led all 3-4 linebackers in pressures with 56. In comparison, the No. 2 guy tallied just 36.
6. Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans: Undoubtedly the league’s fastest RB, Johnson edges out A.P. due to his home-run ability.
7. Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets: “Revis Christ” could jump to the top of this list within a year or two.
8. Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans: Some might put Larry Fitzgerald in the top spot, but Johnson has everything Fitz possesses with better speed.
9. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: “All Day” Peterson may be a more complete back than Johnson, but he is also more likely to break down.
10. Nick Mangold, C, New York Jets: How good is Mangold? He could be the Jets team MVP. . .for real. No other center in the NFL even comes close to reaching Mangold’s level of dominance.
11. Patrick Willis, ILB, San Francisco 49ers: Willis is unstoppable in every aspect of playing linebacker. He’s the best inside backer the NFL.
12. Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis Colts: Freeney’s consistent pressure is paramount to the success of Indy’s Cover 2 defense.
13. Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams: In terms of pure talent, S-Jax is a beast. Think of what this guy would do on another squad.
14. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints: Brees is on the top of the world right now. Let’s see how he and the Saints respond next season after tasting success.
15. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Times are tough for Roethlisberger off of the field right now. On the field, though, he is a leader and a winner.
16. Joe Thomas, LT, Cleveland Browns: In our opinion, Thomas is hands-down the best tackle in the game.
17. Ed Reed, S, Baltimore Ravens: Reed contemplated retirement this offseason, but it would be extremely difficult to walk away from the game when you’re playing at such a high level.
18. Jahri Evans, G, New Orleans Saints: Jahri went to the same school as my dad: Bloomsburg University in northern Pennsylvania. The small-school product just became the richest guard in NFL history. That doesn’t make him the best, but being a dominant run blocker and only allowing two sacks in 2009 does.
19. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals: There is no doubt Fitzgerald attacks and high-points the football better than anyone in the NFL.
20. Ryan Clady, LT, Denver Broncos: Clady is dealing with an injury right now, but the 1/2 sack he yielded in his ’08 rookie year is ridiculous.
21. Ray Lewis, ILB, Baltimore Ravens: After all these years, Lewis is still making game-changing plays.
22. Mario Williams, DE, Houston Texans: Tremendous pass-rusher who is even better against the run
23. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: MJD is quietly becoming the most consistent running back in the league. He literally does it all.
24. Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota Vikings: We expect a lot of harsh words for placing Favre so low on our list, but his offseason antics have just grown old.
25. Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay Packers: Consistently among the league’s best cover guys and very stout against the run
26. Lamarr Woodley, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Woodley was fourth in the NFL in pressures, second in sacks, and he is one of the league’s top run defenders.
27. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers: We love the fire Rivers displays each and every week. The man played an entire game on a torn knee.
28. Jake Long, LT, Miami Dolphins: Long might have extra incentive to protect for Michigan teammate Chad Henne.
29. Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati Bengals: In 2009, Hall allowed just 49.5 percent of balls thrown his way to be completed.
30. Jon Beason, ILB, Carolina Panthers: Beason is a tremendous playmaker without much protection up front.
31. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: A down year for Megatron doesn’t drop him in our rankings–he will rebound in 2010.
32. James Harrison, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Harrison had a “down” year after an incredible 2008 season. He still racked up 10 sacks and was third in the NFL with 34 pressures.
33. Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys: Romo gets a lot of heat, but he holds the fourth-highest passer rating in the history of the NFL. He will win a championship before his career is over.
34. Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys: There is simply no doubt about it–Witten is the best all-around tight end in the NFL. Few tight ends excel at both catching the football and blocking, but Witten is one of the league’s best in both areas. We gave him the third-highest grade of any player on the Cowboys last season.
35. Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore Ravens: There’s Ngata single reason he shouldn’t be this high.
36. Brandon Marshall, WR, Miami Dolphins: Marshall doesn’t have the best hands, but he is dynamite after the catch.
37. Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings: Also perhaps the league’s funniest player. . .
38. Anthony Spencer, OLB, Dallas Cowboys: Spencer accumulated quarterbacks hits at 1.77 times the rate of Ware in his breakout 2009 season. Not bad for a player who may be the league’s best run defending outside linebacker.
39. Brian Orakpo, OLB, Washington Redskins: 12 sacks for a 4-3 outside linebacker in his rookie season? Crap.
40. DeMeco Ryans, ILB, Houston Texans: Ryans has been dominating since he led the NFL in tackles as a rookie.
41. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens: Rice isn’t flashy, but he does everything really, really well.
42. Jabari Greer, CB, New Orleans Saints: Greer is one of the most underrated players in the league. The Saints wouldn’t be World Champs without him and his 46.9 percent completion percentage.
43. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers: Who has the highest passer rating in NFL history? Joe Montana? Peyton Manning? It belongs to Rodgers, believe it or not.
44. Kevin Williams, DT, Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings would be a completely different team without Williams causing havoc inside.
45. Elvis Dumervil, OLB, Denver Broncos: Dumervil led the league in sacks in 2009 with 17. The reason he is not higher on this list is because his size makes it difficult for him to be anything more than an average run defender. He also just tore his pectoral muscle and may be out for the season.
46. Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay Packers: Matthews had a tremendous overall 2009 season and will be a cornerstone of the new Green Bay 3-4 defense.
47. Tamba Hali, OLB, Kansas City Chiefs: We stated above that Ware led the NFL in quarterback pressures. Hali was second. His run support will have to improve for him to make a move up the list.
48. Mike Jenkins, CB, Dallas Cowboys: Jenkins is an up-and-coming player who has shutdown ability. We gave him an “A-” grade.
49. Ryan Kalil, C, Carolina Panthers: Kalil is the anchor of Carolina’s line and will be so for the next decade.
50. Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego Chargers: Talk about underrated. Jackson is one of the league’s most complete WRs.
To see players 51-100, click page 2.
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