It’s the final countdown of the B.E.S.T. top 40 players in the NFL. This list consists of the five greatest players the NFL has to offer. Recall that some these rankings are like splitting hairs between two excellent players are different positions. A huge deal-breaker for me at this point is valuing players who are far and beyond the next best player at their position (comparative value). As I mentioned before, I’m also taking into account 2013 production, situation, consistency and health.
This edition features the NFL’s top two quarterbacks, as well as the game’s best pass rusher, runner, and a player who had perhaps the greatest single season of all time.
Here are the top 5 players in the NFL today:
5. Tom Brady (QB – NE)
-I normally don’t like to begin proving a point or stating a claim with numbers, but an exception must be made in Brady’s case. In the last five seasons Brady has played, Brady’s TD/INT ratio are as followed: 50-8, 28-13, 36-4, 41-12 and 38-8. Those numbers are so good, that I could end this analysis there. But it’s also worth noting that Brady’s lowest QB rating in that span is 96.2. What’s more impressive is that Brady has accumulated most of these numbers without a true #1 WR. Brady makes nameless players like Wes Welker and Deion Branch shine. Also, no quarterback has won more games in that span than Brady, so it’s not like these numbers are made from playing catchup. Brady is a fierce competitor that can make all the throws. He has a beautiful deep ball. He’s smart, efficient and can pick apart defenses by finding mismatches that most quarterbacks (and defenses) don’t see. I did notice that Brady missed more throws than usual last season, but I wouldn’t go as far to say that he’s regressing yet. With a sensational winning percentage, amazing numbers, three Super Bowl wins (and five appearances), and consistent greatness every year, Brady may go down as the greatest QB to ever play the game when it’s all said and done.
4. Von Miller (OLB – DEN)
-In 2011, Von Miller took the NFL by storm, notching 12 sacks (six more than the next highest 4-3 LB), showing a lot of promise in rushing the passer, as well as defending the run with ease. He also showed tremendous athleticism in coverage. Miller pretty much dominated every facet of the game during his rookie season, and it was clear he was already much better than any 4-3 OLB during his rookie year. A lot of people thought he’d regress in year 2, but instead, Miller was twice as good. The Broncos started using him mainly as a pass rusher, reducing his role in coverage, and it paid off big time. Miller simply couldn’t be stopped last season, gathering 19 sacks, 15 additional QB hits, and a whopping 52 QB hurries (the next best 4-3 OLB had 16), proving he’s the best pass rusher in the game. But that’s not even what makes Miller so great. What makes him remarkable is his ability to defend the run. Per PFF and FO, Miller had the third highest grade against the run (regardless of position) last season, only ranking behind JJ Watt and Muhammad Wilkerson. Miller sets the edge in the running game like a champ, and is shifty and powerful enough to explode into the backfield to disrupt plays. By the way, he’s 24 years old. This guy is going to give offenses fits for years.
3. Adrian Peterson (RB – MIN)
-Adrian Peterson is an animal. Since entering the league, Adrian “All Day” Peterson has averaged 1,450 rushing yards and 12 TDs a season, despite missing nine games and splitting carries with Chester Taylor in year 1. He also holds an amazing career YPC of 5.0. He’s tough, powerful, elusive, fast and explosive. Last season, AD rushed for 2097 rushing yards with a 6.0 YPC, won league MVP, and came nine yards short of the all-time rushing record… After tearing his ACL just 8 months before the season. He can put the team on his back and dominate a game despite QB inefficiency and continuous 8-man boxes. A man among boys, Peterson has corrected his fumbling issues, but he needs to work on pass protection, as he’s too great to keep off the field on third downs.
2. Aaron Rodgers (QB – GB)
-If every player became a free agent, and the NFL teams held a large fantasy draft, Aaron Rodgers would be the unquestioned #1 overall pick. Unlike the rest of the “elite 4” QBs, Rodgers is in his prime, posting a truly unbelievable Total TD/INT ratio of 89-14 in the last two seasons. He’s a very accurate passer who is mobile enough to make plays with his legs and throw well on the run. He has a rocket arm and can fit balls into tight spaces, making throws that no other QB can make. He and does it without the help of a guy like Bill Belichick or Sean Payton to scheme. He also has success without any remote form a running game. In fact, the running game is so bad that I’ve seen Rodgers lead the team in rushing for multiple games. Defenses know the Packers are throwing, and they still can’t stop it. Rodgers’ only weakness is a lack of clutch gene when his team trails, but this is a rare occurrence, considering the Packers have gone 14-6, 15-2 and 12-6 in their last three seasons (including a Super Bowl victory).
1. JJ Watt (DE – HOU)
-Where to begin? JJ Watt is 6’5, 290, and after working for the Texans last summer, it became very apparent that he looked even bigger and stronger than his listing indicates. Every muscle in his body is perfectly defined; the guy is a beast. Last summer, after JJ Watt’s rookie season, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips made headlines by claiming he believes JJ Watt will be a Hall of Fame player. Well, it looks like Phillips is going to be right. Not only was there not a more dominant player in the NFL last season, I’m going far enough to say that JJ Watt’s 2012 season was the greatest single season for the defensive player in the history of the NFL. Let’s start with the fact that Watt, a 5-technique 3-4 DE, led the NFL in sacks. He’s basically playing defensive tackle, and he dropped the QB 21 freaking times. That’s absolutely insane within itself; the NFL has never seen anything like it. What’s more, he also led the NFL by far with 72 run stuffs, and finished second in batted passes with 15 swats. So just to be clear, Watt finished first in sacks (a category pass rushers like DEs/OLBs are supposed to win), first in run stuffs (a category linebackers are supposed to win) and second in pass defenses (a category defensive backs are supposed to win). Not only was Watt the best pass rusher in the NFL last season, regardless of position, he was also the league’s best run defender by far. Oh, and did I mention he played all of last season with torn ligaments in his elbow? He dislocated his elbow in training camp (I saw it) and wore a brace all season, as it never fully healed. So not only did he have the greatest defensive season in the history of the NFL while playing hurt, he did so in his second season at age 24. If you want an idea of how much teams fear him, just look at what the AFC South did this offseason to prepare for facing Watt twice a year. The Titans made guard Andy Levitre the highest paid guard in NFL history, and then they drafted the highest rated guard in this year’s draft class, Chance Warmack, with the 10th overall pick. Despite ranking dead last in sacks with only 20 last season, the Jacksonville Jaguars passed on DE Dion Jordan to draft right tackle Luke Joeckel (Watt is a LE), and the Colts upgraded their o-line by signing RT Gosder Cherilus and OG Donald Thomas. That’s five huge o-line upgrades with the division made with the sole purpose of trying to stop/limit Watt from wreaking havoc their backfields twice a year. Best of luck; they’re going to need it.
Tomorrow’s edition will include the 10 players who just missed the cut (basically making the list a top 50).
*Photo Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Categories: NFL Feature Stories