Top 20 players of 2011: part I

More than statistics, a player’s worth is determined by simply watching them play. “The eye test” is what you should use when determining how good a player is (or isn’t), rather than relying on “experts” and what they tell you.

How confident are you with a certain player that they will deliver in the last two minutes of the game? With the game on the line, who do you want to have the ball? Who do you want to stop the player that has the ball?

This list is made up of who in the NFL I’d be most confident in handing my team to. When I think of the best, here are the top 20 names that come to mind.

20.) Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans

  • Johnson is elite, plain and simple. He’s averaging 5.3 yards per touch in his three-year career, and has run for almost 4,600 yards in that time.

19.) Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens

  • Rice can do it all. Run, receive, block–all of which he does very well. Between the 2009 playoffs, the 2010 regular season and the 2010 playoffs, Rice touched the ball 396 consecutive times without turning it over.

18.) Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore Ravens

  • Lewis doesn’t have the speed he once had, but ask Dustin Keller how this felt, and tell players around the league that Lewis isn’t still a premiere player and force in the NFL. To those who say intangibles and leadership don’t count toward calling him a great player today, then by that principle, Tom Brady is average. Intangibles and leadership matter (a lot), and Lewis has been the definition of a leader for the last 15 years in the NFL.

17.) Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Oakland Raiders

  • Sure to be the highest paid free agent of this offseason, and potentially the highest paid defensive player in the league, Asomugha is almost flawless. He’s one of the rare corners that is so good, teams rarely throw toward the receiver he’s covering. Other than Darrelle Revis (see below), no one covers better than Asomugha

16.) Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions

  • Johnson puts up pro bowl caliber numbers while playing for Detroit. In two of his last three seasons, Johnson has posted at least: 77 receptions, 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s getting better (and seemingly bigger) each year. If Matthew Stafford can stay healthy consistently, watch out.

15.) Joe Thomas, T, Cleveland Browns

  • Not everything is bad in Cleveland, as they have the best tackle in football playing for their city. Thomas routinely goes against the likes of: Terrell Suggs, James Harrison, Lamar Woodley and Haloti Ngata. Each time those players line up against Thomas, they need to bring their A-game.

14.) Nick Mangold, C, New York Jets

  • The best offensive lineman in the NFL is Nick Mangold. In his first five games this season (three road games in a row from weeks 3-5), Mangold will have to stare the following pro bowl defensive lineman in the face for approximately 50 snaps each week: Jay Ratliff, Richard Seymour, Haloti Ngata & Vince Wilfork. Each week, he captains the Jets offensive line (which as a whole is excellent), while being able to execute any type of block. He’s durable and dependable.

13.) Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals

  • There is no route Fitzgerald can’t run, no coverage he can’t beat and no catch he can’t make. Did I mention he caught 90 passes for 1,137 yards and six touchdowns with Derek Anderson, Max Hall and John Skelton as his quarterbacks last season? If Kevin Kolb will really be traded to Arizona, the NFC West might as well give up trying to cover #11.

12.) DeMarcus Ware, OLB/DE, Dallas Cowboys

  • Ware is scary good. His versatility, size, speed and strength make blocking him for 60 minutes a near impossible task.

11.) Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Polamalu defines the safety position. He’s s able to play free safety and roam the deep third of the field, while also being able to blitz or come up in run support as a strong saftey. Polamalu has made unthinkable catches, acrobatic tackles and always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

Be sure to check out the “Top 20 players of 2011: part II”.

Thanks for reading.

-Mike

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