Top 20 players of 2011: part II

Six offensive players, four defensive players. Four quarterbacks, four Super Bowl MVPs.

Here are the top ten players in the NFL today. I challenge anyone to prove me otherwise.

10.) Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears

  • Peppers is a freak of nature. In college, he started as a power forward for UNC’s basketball team after he played a full season for UNC’s football team. He demands a double team on every snap. Where he sets himself apart from other defensive ends is his pass coverage. To be 6’7″, 283 lbs. and possess the agility he possesses is not something we’ve seen in a long, long time.

9.) Ed Reed, S, Baltimore Ravens

  • Reed led the league in interceptions (8) last season while only playing in ten games.  Even hurt, Reed is an absolute threat that you cannot account for, because you never know where he’ll be. He is the ultimate game-changer. Whether it’s the punt team, punt return team, kick return team, strong safety, free safety or gunner, Reed will instantly shift the momentum in your favor.
  • He holds numerous records, including both the #1 and #2 longest interception return in NFL history–set four years apart (106 yards, Cleveland, 11/7/04; 108 yards, Philadelphia, 11/23/08). Not since Deion Sanders have we seen a defensive player this capable of scoring when he has the ball (Reed has 13 career touchdowns).

8.) Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

  • Think Bo Jackson’s smash-your-face-in power with Walter Payton’s see-you-later speed…that’s what you get with Adrian Peterson. Like those two backs, Peterson loves contact. He will make sure you remember playing against him. You will almost never see him run out-of-bounds, and he will do whatever he has to do to gain that extra yard. In 2010, Peterson fumbled just once during his 283 carries. In his previous three years, he fumbled 20 times.
  • Peterson holds the all-time record for rushing yards in a game (296, San Diego, 11/4/07).

7.) Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets

  • Revis is the best cover man in the league, hands down. He can play press-man, he can play off coverage, he can blitz, he can tackle–he can do it all. He is Nnamdi Asomugha with more size and better tackling.

6.) Haloti Ngata, DL, Baltimore Ravens

  • There are few defensive players, if any, that are tougher to deal with than Ngata. He poses so many problems to an offense that you almost feel sorry for the offensive coordinator that has to face the Ravens each week. Since he came into the league, Ngata has been a force in the middle of Baltimore’s defensive line. While he’s not Julius Peppers, he does have an ability to spy or drop back into a zone every now and then. He shows incredible power, quickness and an appetite to get better every week. If I’m going to start a defense today, I want Haloti Ngata.

5.) Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans

  • Johnson is so big, so fast, so strong, so precise, so athletic and so humble, it’s not fair. He is hands down the best receiver in the league. He can run any route, but if the coverage is good or the throw is bad, he will compensate and make a ridiculous catch (like this, this and this). Note that the majority of his big plays come when the defense suspects it and when the most pressure is on. He may be the best player in football, regardless of position.

4.) Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

  • The weight of a city ravaged by a natural disaster combined with facing an all-time great in the Super Bowl? NO problem. Brees has as much moxy and  creativity as any quarterback in the league. His obvious strengths are his precision and distribution. His underrated strengths are his pocket awareness/mobility and his toughness. The only weakness he has is that he throws a few too many interceptions, but that is by-product of the offense which he conducts. To come back from the horrific injury he came back from shows you how valuable he is to the Saints. Nothing will get in Brees’ way, except for himself.

3.) Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts

  • Peyton Manning has, perhaps, the most responsibility of any one player in the NFL. He calls three plays in the huddle with regularity, so he’s essentially the Colts’ offensive coordinator. He makes countless audibles and reads at the line of scrimmage. He hasn’t had a dependable running game in years, and he’s had to groom new receivers on the fly. He has the determination of a Michael Jordan or of a Tiger Woods. I would not want to play against Peyton Manning.

2.) Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

  • We haven’t seen anyone this polished, this prepared and this composed since Joe Montana. In fact, the only thing separating the two are the 3,103 miles between the cities they played in and one Super Bowl ring. It’s a safe bet that Brady will be in serious contention for at least one more Lombardi Trophy before his career is  over. Montana had Jerry Rice and Dwight Clark. Brady had Deion Branch and Daniel Graham.

1.) Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

  • If you watched the Packers playoff run to the Super Bowl last year, you know how good Aaron Rodgers is. He played his best football against the best teams on the biggest stages. In last year’s playoffs, Rodgers completed 68.2% of his passes for 1,094 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran the ball twelve times for 52 yards and two touchdowns (excluding two kneel-downs at the end of Super Bowl XV). Behind Rodgers, the Packers (who lost their starting RB for the season in week one and their starting TE for the season in week five) became only the third team in league history to win the Super Bowl after winning three consecutive road playoff games (2005 Steelers, 2007 Giants).
  • Rodgers is, after all, the most recent Super Bowl MVP–the award that designates football’s best player on football’s best team.

Now comes the fun part. You read what I think. Tell me what you think.

Thanks for reading.

-Mike

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2 Comments

Filed under 2011 Pre-Season

2 responses to “Top 20 players of 2011: part II

  1. Jason

    Clay Matthews?

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