40. Aaron Rodgers (QB, Packers)– 2009 was the season for quarterbacks with 9 of them throwing over 4,200 yards. In 2005 there were none. What we are seeing is an aerial game coming full circle with the rules that have been changed to open up the offenses, also more sophisticated passing schemes, and it also helps that there are better quarterbacks like Rodgers playing in the league now.
Rodgers has the great ability to hit a receiver with a downfield strike right where it needs to be. His biggest flaw for now is that he holds the ball for far too long. He was sacked 50 times last season, and a lot of that was on him for holding an extra 1-2 seconds. He also needs to be better at identifying blitzes, which is what the top 3 quarterbacks in this league thrive on.
39. Reggie Wayne (WR, Colts)– It helps playing with one of the best quarterbacks the game has ever seen, but with that being said, Wayne deserve as much credit as anyone for the success of the Colts.
Wayne has the entire skill-set a receiver needs, and has great ability to make difficult catches with his body contortions because of his terrific hands, and body control.
38. Dwight Freeney (DE, Colts)– On the fast track to the Hall of Fame, Freeney seems like an undersized defensive end, but does not play like it. With the exception of 2006, and the injury shortened 2007, Freeney has recorded at least 10 sacks every season in his eight-year career.
37. Mike Roos (T, Titans)– The Titans offensive-line deserves a lot of credit for paving the way for a 2,000 yard rusher too. Mike Roos is a massive 6’7 320 lb. left tackle that helped construct CJ’s remarkable 2009 season.
Roos has been the anchor to the Titans O-line at left tackle since his second year in the league, and has been selected as an all-pro, and to the pro-bowl.
36. Donovan McNabb (QB, Redskins)– Easily the least respected quarterback for the last decade. McNabb does nothing but lead teams to 12-win seasons and gets shitted on for some reason or another. Maybe it was time for him and the Eagles to part ways, but they will see how much he meant to that team this year when Kevin Kolb takes the helm.
35. Jahri Evans (G, Saints)– Helped keep Drew Brees upright from the guard position on route to a Super Bowl victory. Versatile enough to play either tackle position, but still making tackle money at guard.
34. Albert Haynesworth (DE/DL Redskins)– What a baby this guy is. $100 million contract and he’s bitching about playing a position where he can’t get his stats. The thing is, this guy could be much higher if his attitude wasn’t such a hindrance. But if anything he should probably be lower. Football is a game of desire, and the will to be great, this guy does not have it and because of that he can only be a liability.
33. Charles Woodson (DB, Packers)– Last season was the ‘Defensive MVP’ because he filled up the stat sheet with 9 picks, 3 returned for TDs, 2 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and over 70 tackles. Revis should have won it, but whatever.
Woodson has done enough in his career to assure himself a spot in the Hall of Fame, and it does not seem like he is on the downslide of his career either. I’ll still take the younger hips of Revis, Nnamdi and even Bailey over the soon to be 34 year-old Woodson.
32. Philip Rivers (QB, Chargers)– One of the most remarkable things I have ever seen as a sports fan that did not come into fruition until the news was revealed after the game, was that Philip Rivers played the 2007 AFC Championship Game with a torn ACL. Watching the game and seeing him float balls I’m thinking the whole time, ‘This guy sucks!’ Then I heard that, and my opinion completely changed about him.
Rivers is a very efficient quarterback that will give a team over 4,000 yards passing a year, 25+ TD passes, and can be the centerpiece of an offense to average 25-28 ppg. However, last year’s AFC Divisional game against the Jets shows that he is not at the level like the top-tier QB’s in this league that can elevate his team to a win a very winnable game if the QB makes one or two plays to do so.
31. Calvin Johnson (WR, Lions)– Out of the best 5 receivers in the game, it’s amazing to say that Larry Fitzgerald is the one with the least physical tools out of them all. As impressive Andre Johnson and Brandon Marshall are physically. Calvin Johnson is bigger and a better athlete.
He hasn’t quite put it altogether yet, most in part because he plays for the Detroit Lions. By next year this guy could be in the top 10 on this list, as soon as he rids the 2 catch, 3 catch games and becomes a factor every game, Calvin Johnson will no longer be an afterthought in the discussions of the top receivers in football.
30. Julius Peppers (DE, Bears)– Has underachieved the past couple of years in Carolina, and has still managed 25 sacks in the past two seasons. The new scenery in Chicago could rejuvenate the career of the freakish Peppers.
29. Ray Lewis (LB, Ravens)– Not only is Lewis one of the greatest linebackers of all-time, nor is he just only one of the greatest defensive players of all-time, instead he is easily one of the greatest players to ever play the game of football.
Patrick Willis is what Lewis has been for the entirety of his career. Ray still has the play making ability he has always had with his knack to make a key interception, or a force a fumble. At the same time he does not have the athleticism he once had that a Willis, or a Beason have now where those guys can go sideline to sideline with any running back in the league.
28. Brandon Marshal (WR, Dolphins)– Earlier when discussing Andre and Fitzy I expressed admiration over their physicality. Well Marshall at 6’4, 230 lbs. is certainly comparable to both of those guys. His strength at the wide receiver position makes it near impossible to jam this guy at the line of scrimmage.
Marshall has shown flashes where he can be an unstoppable force, including his 21 catches in Indianapolis, an NFL single-game record. He has also shown that he can be an immature little bitch that essentially numbered his days in Denver. If he ever puts it completely together, then this guy will certainly be a Hall of Famer.
27. Champ Bailey (DB, Broncos)– If the 11-year veteran is deteriorating then he has shown little signs of doing so, because the man who has been the best corner of the decade is still an indispensable part of the Denver defense. If this list is a year or two ago, Champ is top 3-5 overall.
There is nothing Champ does not do from the corner position, his break on the ball makes QB’s think twice about throwing his way, and makes RB’s reluctant to seek the outside because of his sure-tackle skills.
26. Randy Moss (WR, Patriots)– The only receiver to ever play the game that could be involved in a credible comparison Jerry Rice. The crazy thing is after totaling over 1200 yards receiving and 13 TD’s, most people would say that he is deteriorating.
He has contributed to two of the greatest offenses in football history with the ’98 Vikings in his rookie season, and the ’07 Patriots in the year he broke the single-season record for TD receptions.
As long as Moss is still on the field he is a threat for an instant TD, and defenses will always be aware of that, which opens up the field for the rest of the offense. As long as Moss is still allowing Wes Welker, and Julian Edelman to rack up yards underneath, and producing the numbers he is, he remains a top receiver in the league.
25. Steve Hutchinson (G, Vikings)– Probably more important to Shaun Alexander’s 27 rushing TD season in 2005 than Shaun Alexander. Now he’s paving the way for Adrian Peterson to help him leave his mark on the NFL. Selected as an all-pro the last three seasons with Minnesota, the 32 year-old Hutchinson shows no signs of slowing down.
Guard becomes a tough position to gauge because it’s not seen as important as a franchise quarterback. So some people may think it’s crazy to take Hutch over a Rivers, McNabb, or Rodgers. But the fact is behind every great run game, or in front for this matter, is a great guard and without it you don’t have protection for the QB, or open holes for the running back.
24. Maurice Jones-Drew (RB, Jaguars)– Between running, receiving, and returning the ball, and also blocking (ask Shawne Merrimane) Drew is one of the most versatile players in the league. Drew is a touchdown machine scoring at least 10 in every season in all four years of his career, and totaling 16 in his first season as the primary running back after the departure of Fred Taylor.
Last season was also evidence that Drew can carry the ball over 300 times in one season, one of the criteria for a marquee back.
23. Haloti Ngata (DE/DL Ravens)– Ngata provides so much versatility at the defensive line with his skills and size, he can basically fit in with any defensive scheme in football. A big reason why Ray Lewis has been able to play as well as he has in what should be the twilight of his career is because of the reign Ngata allows Lewis to operate.
22. Mario Williams (DE, Texans)– The man who was Charlie Casserly’s #1 draft choice, over the electrifying Reggie Bush, has turned out to be a brilliant decision. Athletically this may be the most talented pass rusher in football, since Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White. Some may find that to be a ridiculous comment, but with Williams’s 6’6, 290 lb. frame, he can blaze past left tackles in an instant and cause havoc against any passing game.
If Williams can channel the motor like the likes of LT, Reggie White, and the contemporary bruisers like Ware, Freeney, and Allen, there is no telling what this guy will do to quarterbacks on Sundays.
21. Ed Reed (DB, Ravens)– I’m going to throw barbs with the way writers select MVPs again, Ed Reed was the most valuable player in 2008 with no hardware to show for it. A complete safety that warrants being included in the discussion of the greatest safeties of all-time.
Reed has been slowed down by injuries of late, and actually contemplated retiring. We’ll see if this year can be a bounce back year that puts him back in the discussion of being one of the best players in the league.