The NFL Network is currently, with the help of you the fan, piecing together its annual list of the Top 100 Players of 2013. How exhausting. You are gonna have people over-ranked, under-ranked and left out. Fans are gonna argue and scream about how their center is better than your guard. It’s always a mess.
I’ve taken the liberty of narrowing it down to ten.
These are the ten players who I feel right now are playing the absolute best football of anyone at any position based on recent history. I have no offensive lineman on this list, because quite frankly, the five offensive players I have listed have proven time and again that they can perform at elite levels regardless of who is blocking for them. That’s not to diminish the importance or skills of any particular linemen, it’s just that none of them were dominant enough to crack my top ten.
Without further ado, here are — in no particular order — the ten best players in the National Football League.
Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Denver Broncos – No doubt one of the greatest of all time. How do you out-do yourself? Have your skull surgically reattached to your spine, miss a full season and return to have the second best statistical season of your already Hall of Fame career at the age of 36. His presence alone was the difference in the Broncos being a .500 team in 2011 and being the No. 1 overall seed in the 2012 AFC Playoffs.
Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots – You’d think his best years were behind him, but that just hasn’t been the case. During his first seven seasons as a starter, he averaged 327 pass attempts, just over 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions per season. In his last four seasons, he’s thrown an average of 374 passes, 34.25 touchdowns and 9.25 interceptions His record-breaking 2007 season? Those numbers are included in the average for his first seven seasons.
Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers – Since becoming a full-time starter for the first time in 2008, Rodgers hasn’t put up a passer rating less than 101.2. During that time, he’s thrown an average of less than seven interceptions a year. He’s led Green Bay to an average of over 11 wins a season over the past four years, including a Super Bowl win in 2010 when the team was plagued by injuries and only managed nine.
Adrian Peterson, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings – Peterson rebounded from a knee injury that could have ended his career by turning in one of the greatest seasons a running back has ever had in the history of the league. When the Vikings lost Percy Harvin midway through 2012, it was Peterson who carried the team to an unlikely berth into the 2012 NFC Playoffs. There simply isn’t a better back in the league.
Calvin Johnson, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions – Even when everyone knew the ball was coming his way, he still managed to catch 122 balls for nearly 2000 yards. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen a receiver as dominant as Johnson with such an imposing combination of size, speed and hands. I can’t imagine how dangerous he would be if Detroit had a legit threat on the other side of the field.
Navorro Bowman, Linebacker, San Francisco 49ers – Patrick Willis gets all the face-time and endorsement deals, but the fact of the matter is that Bowman has been the leading tackler on arguably the most dominant defense in the league over the last two seasons. Willis and Bowman are often lauded as the best interior linebacking duo in the league, but statistically Bowman makes more plays and it’s not even close.
Geno Atkins, Defensive Tackle, Cincinnati Bengals – Atkins puts up defensive end numbers from the defensive tackle position. His 12.5 sacks in 2012 were 4.5 more than that of the next best total from a defensive tackle (Ndamukong Suh). He anchors an underrated Cincinnati defense that plays a large part in the Bengals being viewed as a Super Bowl sleeper pick by a lot of pundits.
Von Miller, Linebacker, Denver Broncos – Miller has exactly 30 sacks in his first two seasons in the league. He’s also forced 8 fumbles and defended six passes. He has quickly emerged as one of the most feared defenders in the league with his game-changing pass rushing ability. It has gotten to where every outside linebacker in the draft is being compared to Miller as the standard at the position.
Richard Sherman, Cornerback, Seattle Seahawks – Speaking of standards, Sherman is quickly becoming the standard at the corner position. His 6’3, 195 pound frame and the success he’s had with it has started a trend of seeking out large corners that can both run with elite receivers and win jump balls outright in the red zone. He finished second in the league in 2012 with 8 interceptions and led the league with 24 passes defended.
J.J. Watt, Defensive End, Houston Texans – Watt is coming off one of the most dominant seasons ever by a defensive end. He led the league with 20.5 sacks and knocked down 16 passes at the line of scrimmage. He single-handedly altered the game plan of every team Houston faced in 2012. His efforts did not go unnoticed, as he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON MAY 16, 2013