By Nick Canepa
The San Diego Union-Tribune
July 6, 2011
The NFL Network, no doubt suffering from a bad case of lockout logy, has to do something to hasten its tentative pulse. So, well aware these things create Twitter unrest in its neighborhood, the network has unveiled its list of the top 100 players in The League.
pulse. So, well aware these things create Twitter unrest in its neighborhood, the network has unveiled its list of the top 100 players in The League.
And, as fully expected, it’s a 100-pound mound of manure.
The network, which I admire for its candidness, claims the list is a result of voting by players and coaches, but no one can tell us who they are. My best guess is that they’re from the CFL.
We can’t get into the entire 100, but here’s the top 10, in order:
1. Tom Brady, Patriots, quarterback. 2. Peyton Manning, Colts, QB. 3. Adrian Peterson, tailback, Vikings. 4. Ray Lewis, linebacker, Ravens. 5. Ed Reed, safety, Ravens. 6. Troy Polamalu, S, Steelers, 7. Andre Johnson, wide receiver, Texans. 8. Darrelle Revis, cornerback, Jets. 9. Drew Brees, QB, Saints. 10. Julius Peppers, defensive end, Bears.
So yesterday. This 2011 top 10 has a lot of 2006 in it, rewarding career reputation over declining skill.
Tom Brady. Love Tom Brady. I love John Elway and Joe Montana, too. Tom won three Super Bowls (thanks to Adam Vinatieri’s toe), the last coming in 2005. Soon to be 34, he’s still exceptional, but not what he was. If this is supposed to be a vote for the best “football player,” it’s not Brady. Not now.
Peyton Manning. He’s 35 and has won one thing in his life, the 2007 Super Bowl. Has any player in history lost more big games than Manning? Doubtful.
Ray Lewis. In his salad days, he was the best football player alive. He’s 36 now and still serviceable, still good, but not close to the monstrous linebacker he once was. To rank him fourth now is a joke.
Ed Reed. Love Ed Reed, one of the truly great playmakers. Two years ago, I would have voted him as best player. But he’s soon to be 33 and injuries have slowed him. This is supposed to be about now. He’s played a total of 22 games the past two seasons.
Troy Polamalu. When he’s injured and out, the Steelers are not nearly as good. A Hall of Fame player. He’s only 30, but I fear leg injuries have taken their toll. Healthy, no question, one of the great players, a difference-maker.
I look at this list and notice Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ranks 41st. No matter what one thinks of his personal life, he’s won two Super Bowls and been to a third. This guy’s going to Canton one day, and I guarantee you most of the 40 in front of him won’t get a Hall of Fame sniff.
Among Chargers, tight end Antonio Gates and quarterback Philip Rivers rank 22nd and 26th, respectively, which is ridiculous. Michael Vick (20th) ranks ahead of Rivers. As John McEnroe would say, you cannot be serious. That said, how can Rivers rank 15 spots ahead of Roethlisberger?
Anyway, for what it’s worth, here is my top 10 — top 10 current football players — with their NFL Network ranking in parentheses:
1. Revis (8). 2. Chris Johnson (13). 3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay, QB (11). 4. Gates (22). 5. Nnamdi Asomugha, Raiders, CB (18). 6. Peterson (3). 7. Andre Johnson (7). 8. Roethlisberger (41). 9. Brees (9). 10. Patrick Willis, 49ers, LB (23).
I honestly believe that, when Gates has two good feet under him, he’s the best, most mystifying unique and player in the game. He’s a freak. He can’t be covered. There’s never been anyone like him. To watch him every week is to marvel. Unfortunately, with his tender lower extremities, that hasn’t been possible lately. Still, I actually hate to rank him as low as fourth.
Revis, playing an impossible position under impossible rules, may be the best shutdown corner I’ve seen, and that includes Deion Sanders. No defender causes offensive coordinators more nightmares, because he takes away half the field — and takes on all comers.
Chris Johnson is the most dangerous back in the game. He may be the most frightening runner since O.J. Simpson. I don’t know what the Titans are doing with him, but it isn’t enough.
Asomugha must be placed just below Revis, but he’s one of the finest corners of his generation and about to become an incredibly wealthy one. The Chargers won’t cry if he goes to another division.
Meanwhile, as you can tell, when it comes to quarterbacks, I’m more of a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of guy.
I see no reason why Rodgers shouldn’t be considered the top quarterback now. Brees won the Super Bowl two years ago. Roethlisberger has won two and was on the field vs. Rodgers in Texas in February.
At 26th — incredibly, two spots lower than he ranked a year ago — Rivers is ranked unfairly. But he hasn’t won anything, and winning is a quarterback thing.
Still, I’d like to put all 32 general managers in a room to see how many of them would take Vick over Rivers. Can’t believe there would be one.
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Top 20 players of 2011
NFL player voting (via NFL Network)
Rank Player, Pos. Team
1. Tom Brady, QB Patriots
2. Peyton Manning, QB Colts
3. Adrian Peterson, RB Vikings
4. Ray Lewis, LB Ravens
5. Ed Reed, S Ravens
6. Troy Polamalu, S Steelers
7. Andre Johnson, WR Texans
8. Darrelle Revis, CB Jets
9. Drew Brees, QB Saints
10. Julius Peppers, DE Bears
11. Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers
12. DeMarcus Ware, DE Cowboys
13. Chris Johnson, RB Titans
14. Larry Fitzgerald, WR Cardinals
15. Dwight Freeney, DE Colts
16. Charles Woodson, CB Packers
17. Haloti Ngata, DT Ravens
18. Nnamdi Asomugha, CB Raiders
19. Clay Matthews, LB Packers
20. Michael Vick, QB Eagles
Nick Canepa's picks
1. Darrelle Revis, CB Jets
2. Chris Johnson, RB Titans
3. Aaron Rodgers, QB Green Bay
4. Antonio Gates, TE Chargers
5. Nnamdi Asomugha, CB Raiders
6. Adrian Peterson, RB Vikings
7. Andre Johnson, WR Texans
8. Ben Roethlisberger, QB Steelers
9. Drew Brees, QB Saints
10. Patrick Willis, LB 49ers
11. Tom Brady, QB Patriots
12. Larry Fitzgerald, WR Cardinals
13. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers
14. Troy Polamalu, S Steelers
15. Calvin Johnson, WR Lions
16. Peyton Manning, QB Colts
17. Clay Matthews, LB Packers
18. James Harrison, LB Steelers
19. Haloti Ngata, DT Ravens
20. Ed Reed, S Ravens