Jan 1, 2012, Oakland, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) gestures during the game against the Oakland Raiders at the O.co Coliseum. The Chargers defeated the Raiders 38-26. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
Most fans, me included, have been more than critical of NFL Network’s Top 100 for various reasons. I feel comfortable speaking on behalf of all true Boltheads, that ranking Philip Rivers number 61 is a disservice to the game and to those of which love and truly know the game. Oh, wait, NFL Network didn’t rate the players. Supposedly the players rated the players. You can’t tell me that any NFL General Manager shouldn’t be questioned immediately if they were to have him ranked as the 61st best player in the NFL. I tend to try to think like a GM would in making a big board of all players available.
I personally believe that most of the fans, regardless of what team they follow, think that the list is a bunch of garbage. They say that the players do the voting but last year, when interviewing players, it is far too often stated, by the players, “who voted on this list? No one asked me!” That is an example of statements by many, many players that were interviewed after the fact.
It is about as legitimate as the formula to figure out passer rating. Only a couple of people have anything to do with it and even they hardly know how they came up with it.
Feel free to tear my list up. Even Chargers fans will call me a homer after this one. That is what the comments section is for at the bottom of this article. ?
The major difference between my list and others is that mine is a true projection for the 2012 season. I am doing my rankings based on where I think each player will rank at the end of the season in 2012. I didn’t, however, include any rookies. I feel that would seriously stretch the projection, so to speak. Ok, so maybe just one Supa rookie…..
I would like to add that Pete Prisco of CBS Sports did an excellent Top 100 list. He even included Tim Tebow on his list. He did so at the bottom and ranked him the 705th best player. I laughed hysterically for quite some time. Tebow will not be found on my list.
Let’s roll people!
– 101. Melvin Ingram- There was literally no way that I was not going to include this upcoming season’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. Short arms you say? Short-sighted would be my response. God only knows how Ingram fell to the Chargers at #18 in the draft. This is a homer pick and I have no problem admitting it. In all reality, he wouldn’t be on my list without him stepping foot on an NFL field yet. I just wanted to show Supa Melvin some love.
– 100. D’Qwell Jackson- The guy had 150+ tackles and is always all over the field. Cleveland is very lucky to have a guy of his caliber.
– 99. Chris Johnson- Some of those that get paid, have decided that they have already played.
– 98. London Fletcher- At 37, he has proven that he is a serious force to be reckoned with and is one of the most under-rated players in all of the NFL.
– 97. Nick Hardwick- Speaking of under-rated, Nick is the second QB of the offense and perhaps the Chargers best free agent acquisition this offseason. Even though he was a re-signing, he was the player that I was the happiest about “picking up.”
– 96. Kyle Williams- The man can just flat out play. Constantly drawing double teams, Williams is a force in what will now be a 4-3 defense in Buffalo.
– 95. Hakeem Nicks- Due to having some of the best hands in the league, as longs as he stays healthy, he has a chance to continue to do great things with that one guy at QB.
– 94. Josh Sitton- Sitton is one of the major reasons that #12 finishes the game with a clean jersey.
– 93. Mike Wallace- The Pittsburgh fans are up-in-arms right now. Don’t get me wrong, Wallace is a great player. He is one of the best deep threats out there. It isn’t even certain that Wallace will even suit up until week 11. Hmmm, sounds familiar. It might turn out that he does just enough to accrue another season. Only time will tell.
– 92. Tony Romo- Although his numbers should have him ranked much higher, I am projecting that he will have, what could be, one of the worst seasons of his career. The competition in the NFC East is at an all-time high.
– 91. Brandon Lloyd- Acrobatic catches and sub-par QB play on various teams have made Lloyd difficult to place. The league is lucky that Brady is just now being united with him at this stage of his career.
– 90. Darnell Dockett- It doesn’t hurt that one of his linemates is Calais Campbell. That being said, on his good days, Dockett is one of the better d-linemen in the NFL.
– 89. Jordy Nelson- Who wouldn’t benefit from having Rodgers as their QB? Sorry. Nelson is an up and coming WR that probably deserves much more credit than I am giving him on this list.
– 88. Stephen Jackson- Jackson is actually one of the guys I respect the most in the league. Funny way of showing it, right? The “Predator” is running out of tread on his tires but he is still a load to take down.
– 87. Brian Urlacher- Wow….I have re-done this list tons of times. With his achilles injury, this was the highest I could justify his ranking.
– 86. DeSean Jackson- Another guy that got paid. I fear that the result of his big payday could possibly lead to a lack of effort. I hope not because Jackson is one of the most exciting players to watch once he gets his hands on the rock.
– 85. Ray Lewis- Shut your mouth if you think he shouldn’t be on the list. Lewis is one of the most determined players in the history of this game. He is extremely cognizant of the fact that, not only is the writing on the wall, this could be his last chance at getting another ring. My money is on Lewis to have another strong season.
– 84. Jonathan Joseph- Although he, of course, benefits from having Wade Phillips as his D-coordinator, Joseph was already a great player in his days as a Bengal as well. He has top-notch WR ball skills that you don’t normally find in a DB.
– 83. Charles Woodson- The former Wolverine is slowing down quite a bit. But he could still play this game with is eyes closed. Might play primarily at FS, but can still line up all over the secondary.
– 82. Derrick Johnson- What a leap he has made in recent years. Johnson is a stud and is only getting better.
– 81. James Laurinaitis- One of the few bright spots on a beleaguered Ram’s team. He will benefit from having Jeff Fisher as a head coach.
– 80. Marshall Yanda- Yanda is one of those throwback players that you would love to have as a part of your favorite team’s offensive line. Very under-rated.
– 79. Chris Long- Some “experts” had already labeled him a bust. The son of Hall of Famer, Howie Long, has begun to show why he was drafted as early as he was by the Rams. I expect another strong season from him this year.
– 78. Darren McFadden- This one is easy. If only he could stay healthy. He will never be Bo Jackson, but, he has some of the same game-breaking qualities that remind me of #34.
– 77. Elvis Dumervil- It doesn’t hurt that he now has Von Miller lining up at the other end of the Denver defensive line. That being said, one of my favorite hits on a QB happens to belong to Dumervil when he absolutely erased Brady in a game against New England. Extremely athletic and agile despite being a little undersized in the eyes of some critics.
– 76. Troy Polamalu- Here I go again upsetting the fans in the Steel City. Concussions or not, the guy has been caught out of position far more than in years past. Still a factor but I think we all might have been spoiled for years with his astonishing playmaking ability.
– 75. J.J. Watt- Not ranked here solely based on his playoff performance. I believe that Watt will have a breakout regular season and will be a serious force this year.
– 74. Earl Thomas- The former Longhorn is already one of the best safeties in the league. The sky is the limit for Thomas.
– 73. Trent Cole- Although I can’t stand the wide-9 defense of offensive…oh, wait..sorry…defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, Cole is a dominant pass-rusher off the edge.
– 72. Patrick Peterson- He calls himself a shutdown corner first and a punt returner second. I am asking him to prove the former to the rest of the league. His electric return skills should keep us all on the edge of our seats for years to come.
– 71. Shaun Phillips- As much as I like Phillips, he should, perhaps, focus more on playing the game rather than running his mouth. Being a Chargers Super Fan, I have seen every play of Shaun’s career. When healthy he is one of the most dominant OLBs in the game.
– 70. Aldon Smith- Do it again my man. I was hoping for him to fall into the Chargers laps in the 2011 draft. San Francisco decided to make a play for him at #7 and it obviously has paid dividends. That linebacking crew in SF…..Wow.
– 69. Ndamukong Suh- Young fella just needs to let his play do the talking and quit acting like a fool. What a talent. It would be a travesty if he couldn’t find a way to get his “mental game” together.
– 68. Victor Cruz- For the sake of the Giants fans, let’s hope that Cruz does not prove to be a one-year wonder. Although he has good hands, I am very interested to see how he performs this year with teams having a full year of tape on the WR out of UMass.
– 67. Joe Haden- I am doubting myself on this one. When I say that, I am starting to think that I should have rated him much higher. Haden is one of the best CBs in the league and he is only getting better.
– 66. Michael Turner- It is still difficult to see him in a different jersey. I can’t imagine trying to tackle him. Thighs like tree trunks coming at you with good speed.
– 65. Brandon Marshall- I have to admit that his addition to the Bears was an absolute steal in my mind. Two third round picks for a guy with his size, hands, and RAC ability? No brainer on the part of Chicago. Another “interesting” move by the Dolphins.
– 64. Matt Ryan- Matty Ice has melted in the sense that he has somewhat lost that end of the game clutch play that earned him the nickname. I expect him to have a better year than he had this past season. The game against the Giants last year was pitiful. Not just by Ryan but by the majority of the Falcons team. Yes, I do know that the Giants were eventual Superbowl Champs.
– 63. Lamar Woodley- The Steeler defense is getting old. They have trimmed some of the older players but Woodley still found a way to be a great player at LB despite the fact that he is not the prototypical size for the position. Another former Wolverine on the list.
– 62. Ed Reed- Reed is the only one that even knows if he will play this season or not. Or is he? In my opinion, Reed is a first ballot Hall of Famer five years from whenever he does hang up his cleats.
– 61. Darren Sproles- One of my favorite players of all-time. Enough said.
– 60. Von Miller- Sure wish he was in a different division. Miller will only get better and he will prove to wreak havoc on opposing QBs for years to come.
– 59. Jason Witten- Tony Romo’s bestie. Oh, right, Witten has some of the best hands in the NFL and is the favorite target of Romo.
– 58. Jason Babin- What a great year he had in Philly. Babin used to play highschool ball for PawPaw Highschool and then Western Michigan University. I played for Otsego Highschool in Michigan. On a kickoff, he hit me so hard that I was knocked unconscious, fumbled (refs got it wrong and said I didn’t), came to, called my coach “dad”, and passed out again. I was out for a long time. Woke up in the hospital. He wasn’t quite the same size he is now but he was still really big. I will never remember that play….. See what I did there?
– 57. Jahri Evans- Evans is one of the top 10 lineman in all of the league. Evans will have his work cut out for him with the loss of fellow brute guard Carl Nicks to the Buccaneers.
– 56. Steve Smith- Mighty mouse had a revival this past season with Cam Newton as his QB. He still has the ability to take over the game at the WR position. In doing so, he is still defying odds despite what some consider a small stature.
– 55. Fred Jackson- One of the hardest runners in all of the NFL. Jackson has had to prove himself to be a starter for his entire career. He has done so time and time again.
– 54. Clay Matthews- Although Clay had a down year stats wise, he is still a difficult matchup for any tackle in the league.
– 53. Lance Briggs- One of the most underrated LBs in the league. Just ask him. All joking aside, the guy has gone to 6 straight Pro Bowls.
– 52. Lardarius Webb- Webb is turning out to be one of the best cover corners in the game. I truly don’t think that it is only because of the front seven in Baltimore. He has serious skills.
– 51. Jake Long- “He should be rated higher than this!” Good, do your own list. Long is from my favorite university and he did have a down year in comparison to what he has had in the past. He’ll continue to be a stud for a few more seasons.
– 50. Marshawn Lynch- The dude eats skittles to get his game on track! Not sure he needs them but I am getting off the tracks when the Lynch train is coming through.
– 49. Jimmy Graham- What a young stud at the TE position. Another former hoops player that has found a way to excel with pure athletic ability. Talk about a matchup nightmare for both DBs and LBs.
– 48. Cameron Wake- The former CFL star has made his mark on the big stage that is known as the NFL. He is a serious issue to deal with for all of the league’s tackles that are attempting to thwart his pass-rushing attempts.
– 47. Greg Jennings- A WR out WMU…..boy, you don’t hear that everyday. Don’t pull that Jordan White rabbit out of the hat on me. Anyway, Jennings has amazing hands and perhaps those are even trumped by his ability to gain yards after the catch. Rodgers is lucky to have him as a target to throw to for years to come.
– 46. Brian Orakpo- Despite the cheesy Geico commercials, there aren’t many o-lineman that would like to be left on an island with the assignment of stopping Orakpo. He’s still very young people!
– 45. Jerrod Mayo- Some say that he is a benefactor of a Belichick led defense. I say the former Tennessee Volunteer is a benefactor of hard work and great football smarts.
– 44. Matt Forte- If there was zero dissention between Forte and the Bears then I would have ranked him higher. Forte is the poor-man’s version of Marshall Faulk. The guy can do it all. It is always so difficult to project how an unhappy player will perform.
– 43. Wes Welker- I might have Welker rated too high with the other additions in the wide receiving corp of the Patriots. Welker has the most catches in the league over the last five years. Is this the year that his numbers start to decline? I believe it is.
– 42. A.J. Green- I couldn’t find a place for his QB in the top 101. But it was not difficult to know that I would have no problem projecting Green to follow up a stellar rookie season with an even better sophomore campaign. Green is able to go up and get the ball regardless of who is covering him.
– 41. Matt Stafford- Stafford is slowly proving that he was well worth the first pick in the draft a couple of years ago. The NFL Network audio from the shootout he played against the Browns is more than enough to open any football enthusiast’s eyes. His performance last year doesn’t hurt things either.
– 40. Peyton Manning- Prove it Peyton. I don’t care what Stokley or any other WR that is hoping to make the team has to say about his performance. Prove it. Manning will indeed go down as one of the Top 10 greatest QBs of all time. I’m just not sold on him being the Peyton of old this season.
– 39. Maurice Jones-Drew- One of my personal favorite players in the NFL. I do have to say that he has reached the age in which one, myself included, might have to expect a drop-off in his numbers. That being said, a drop-off for him will still land him in the top 10 of most rushing categories.
– 38. Eric Berry- I hate to admit that had he not had an ACL injury, I would feel comfty, as my 3 year old daughter Kyah would put it, ranking him in the top 20. Berry is not a safety that you want to pick on in either the run game or the passing attack.
– 37. Tamba Hali- Another Chief? Yup, back to back. Hali will probably not have numbers like he did last year, but I would think that he would still have a very strong 2012. He has really come on in the past couple of seasons.
– 36. Vince Wilfork- How does a man his size move the way he does? Any other questions?
– 35. Haloti Ngata- If I was starting an NFL team I would have a hard time not taking Ngata first. He has that rare combination of size, strength, and speed that you can not coach. Although he had a down year in 2011, I expect him to rebound with a 2010-like season.
– 34. Carl nicks- There are reasons that he makes the dough that he is making. Those reasons are that he is extremely solid in both run and pass blocking situations.
– 33. Antonio Gates- He is arguably the most athletic TE of all-time. Shhh, he just might be healthy this year. Shhhhh!
– 32. Eric Weddle- I couldn’t care less if Warren Sapp is unable to pick him out of a line-up. Anyone who knows ANYTHING about the NFL understands that Weddle is a stud. If they didn’t before last season then they do now. By the way, he did have a pretty decent season last year. With a boost in the pass-rush department for the Chargers, look out for Weddle in 2012 and beyond.
– 31. Michael Vick- Still one of the most electrifying players in all of the NFL. I find his season last year to be similar to that of Rivers’. Both were pressing and trying to do too much. Vick should rebound and have another strong performance to add to those of his earlier seasons.
– 30. Nick Mangold- He is the best center in the league. The true question is whether or not his sister will be the first female player in the NFL. She should represent our Nation very well in the Olympics when they roll around.
– 29. Calais Campbell- Campbell is an unbelievable athlete for his size. When he was a free agent I couldn’t help but hide this deep-rooted hope that he might end up in San Diego.
– 28. Roddy White- For him to be ranked #65 on the NFL Network’s list is a joke. White is constantly double-teamed and still not only finds a way to make plays, he does so when it matters most. White was a two time State champion wrestler in highschool. I’m not sure that there have ever been any star WRs to have that on their resume.
– -27. Justin Smith- The most unheralded player in the NFL. This man does all of the dirty work expecting none of the recognition. He does it because it is his job. What a novel idea. Don’t mess with Justin Smith.
– 26. Mario Williams- Buddy Nix made a serious power play when he outbid all others to gain the services of Super Mario. In Buffalo it looks like he will be back to his natural position of DE in a 4-3. Sorry Brady….not really.
– 25. Nnamdi Asomugha- Last year was not what anyone would have expected from Asomugha. I have already stated that I am not a fan of the wide-9 but if Castillo finds a way to put Nnamdi in one-on-one/man to man coverage there could be quite a lot to be excited about in Philadelphia.
– 24. Ryan Mathews- Mathews will be in the running for NFL M.V.P. Call me a homer. I have been called a lot worse by better people. Every time I see a picture or a video of Mathews this offseason he looks like a super hero. Mathews has improved each year in the league. I expect Ryan to have a breakout season in 2012.
– 23. Jason Pierre-Paul- Freak. Of. Nature. Pierre-Paul proved to be a force immediately. As soon as he set foot on the field, he was upsetting QB’s stomachs. He is still very raw and it is mind-blowing to know that he is still going to get better.
– 22. Ben Roethlisberger- Go ahead and make fun of his name or for his “extra-curricular” mishaps. The guy is nearly impossible to bring down and makes most of his plays after you think he has no chance.
– 21. Julius Peppers- A man his size just shouldn’t be allowed to have all that speed and athletic ability. Chicago made a great decision to bring him on board.
– 20. Larry Fitzgerald- The best hands in the league. The perfect example that one does not necessarily have to be the fastest to excel at wide-out. I rank him here despite the shaky QB situation in Arizona. I would go with Skelton over Kolb regardless of contract size.
– 19. Arian Foster- From undrafted free-agent to NFL superstar. If he is able to stay healthy, I predict another big year for the RB out of Tennessee.
– 18. Vernon Davis- One of the biggest surprises of my list. Davis is an off the charts, athletic marvel. To be his size and have his speed, and hands, is unheard of in terms of having the total package. The guy can overpower LBs while outrunning CBs. There are not too many players that you can say that about. And if you think you can come up with any, I challenge you to name them. ( see #5 if you want to make an argument. Then I’d have to agree.)
– 17. Joe Thomas- Thomas is, quite frankly, in my opinion, the best offensive lineman in the NFL. For those of you that found fault with his season in 2011, he should definitely kill it with the threat of Trent Richardson in the backfield. Playing in the AFC North, you have to be able to run the football. I like what they did in the draft. Thomas will most likely be protecting the blind side of Brandon Weeden in 2012.
– 16. Ray Rice- Rice is perhaps the most well rounded RB in the league. Rice is equally skilled in both the running and receiving of the football.
– 15. Rob Gronkowski- Get Gronk’d! As long as Bill can get him to slow down his “dancing” off the field, Rob will most likely be doing much more of it on the field. Has the rare opportunity to crush many of the TE records in the NFL. He’s got one already in only his second season.
– 14. LeSean McCoy- The guy is only getting better. McCoy is the most well rounded RBs in the NFL. I do not believe that him getting a contract will do anything but make him play up to his full potential.
– 13. Cam Newton- Newton had one of the finest rookie campaigns ever for a first year QB. I am sure he would agree with me that he’d trade some of those yards and rushing touchdowns for a few more wins.
– 12. Adrian Peterson- One of the toughest runners of the football that I have ever seen. Whether that’s in my era or watching highlights of others. He simply just refuses to give up. I can’t help but think that he will have a huge 2012. He thinks that he’ll be back week one. Who am I to doubt him? Even if he misses a couple games, look for him to have a big season.
– 11. Eli Manning- 2 Superbowl Rings. It was painfully easy to put him here. Last year he did not even make the Top 100 of “The Network’s list.” Truthfully he would not have been on my list either. What do I know?
– 10. Darrelle Revis- Known as one of the only shutdown corners in the league, I believe that he will continue to be the best CB in the NFL for the next few years.
– 9. Jared Allen- One of my favorite players in the NFL. He just gets it done. I remember him laying out for a TD catch in the endzone playing offense for the Chiefs against the Chargers. I recall being very frustrated but in awe of the defensive end’s athletic ability. Allen has been one of the best pass-rushers of the last decade.
– 8. Andre Johnson- He’s a BEAST!! He has been one of the most consistent WRs in the NFL. He’s a nightmare for any team’s secondary. Johnson is a rare receiver (now-a-days, that is) that has no fear going across the middle. He runs all routes and runs them all very well.
– 7. DeMarcus Ware- The former Troy LB was snatched with the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft. When I heard his name called for the Cowboys my heart sank. The Chargers had the next selection and chose Shawne Merriman. Although I like Merriman, he is no Ware. DeMarcus is the best pass-rushing OLB in the game today.
– 6. Tom Brady- It must really suck to be Tom Brady. Yup, I’m sure it does suck. Brady could go down as the best QB of all-time when his career is over. I am a Montana guy myself. But Brady still has some quality years left in him. One of the best clutch players in the history of the league.
– 5. Calvin Johnson- Megatron. Wow. The duo of Johnson and Stafford could prove to be one the best in NFL history when it is all said and done. Both guys are very young. That connection should only get stronger and stronger as long as Stafford can stay healthy.
– 4. Philip Rivers- There is not another QB in the league that I would rather have on my team. Some idiots call him arrogant. Other morons call him whiny. I love the fact that he runs his mouth. Which, by the way, the guy doesn’t even curse when spitting jabs at opposing players. He admits that he likes to talk. He doesn’t ever back down and he is one of the most fiery competitors I have ever seen in any sport. People in the know realize that he has a rare toughness found at the QB position in today’s NFL. Last season he obviously was trying to do too much. The offensive line was held together by chewing gum and scotch tape at times last year. If he wasn’t running for his life, he was throwing it up in an effort to give his receivers a chance to make plays. In 2010, Peyton Manning threw for a career best 4,700. He finished second to Philip Rivers. In a contest of awkwardness, it would be a fight to the finish between his throwing motion and his “running” style. He is respectfully known as the “Baby Giraffe” in San Diego due to said “running” style. I have running in quotes because I am not sure that would be what you call it. Although it was a TD run, I remember a play where he was running towards the endzone against Denver and I got up, used the bathroom, washed my hands, went to the kitchen, made a sandwich, ate the sandwich, cleaned up the fixings, grabbed a beer, and sat back down and there was Philip flailing his arms all over the place cantering (eventually) in for the score. He has one of the quickest releases in the game and his accuracy is right up there with the best of them. He has countless motivations to have a HUGE 2012 season. I expect that he will battle it out, and win, the league’s MVP award.
– 3. Patrick Willis- If you were to draw up the perfect ILB, it would be exactly like Willis. The guy makes plays sideline to sideline and has hardly any weaknesses to his game. He is a tackling machine and who wouldn’t love to have #52 patrolling the field for their team.
– 2. Drew Brees- With all of the negativity coming out of New Orleans due to Bounty Gate, it is unfathomable to me that the Saints have yet to sign him long-term. In 2011, Brees broke the all-time record for passing yards in a season. This is a different league now than in the past, but that feat is not to be overlooked. Far more impressive than that is he also broke the all-time record for completion percentage with a mind-blowing 71.2%.
– 1. Aaron Rodgers- Who doesn’t love the Discount Double check ads? Rodgers can flat out spin it. He has amazing touch and can absolutely rip it down the field even when on the run. He has zero weaknesses and is still getting better. His pocket presence is unmatched. His ability to scramble to get out of trouble is very rare for a QB that can throw as well as he can. I imagine that every time he steps foot on the field he thinks of sitting in that green room at the draft. Every game he is going out to prove that he is the best. Right now he is the best.
I’d like to say that Terrell Suggs is expected to be out until at least October. I have re-done my list at least 11 times. He was in the top 10 at least ten of those times. But I am doing this list as a projection of the 2012 season. He is quite possibly the best defensive player in the NFL. But it doesn’t look like he is going to be able to play enough games this year.
Honorable mentions: Ryan Kerrigan, Duane Brown, Dez Bryant, Stevie Johnson, Frank Gore, Santonio Holmes, Red Bryant, Reggie Bush, Donald Butler, Navorro Bowman, Cam Thomas, Carlos Rogers, and Marcel Dareus
Dishonorable mention: Don Mahoghany
I have to admit that I have a new found respect for the people who do these lists. This was quite the project. I have been telling people for four days that, “tonight is the night!” This was really, really difficult. I am sure that I left off some guys but I feel pretty good about the list.
Release the hounds!! Make sure to let me know which players you believe that should be on my list by leaving comments below the article. If you are on Twitter, please tweet this I so I can get as much feedback as possible.
Thanks a lot for reading.