Top-200 NFL Players: 81-100

1-20 21-40 41-60 61-80 81-100 101-120 121-140 141-160 161-180 181-200

With 10 days left until the regular season opener, this 10-part series counts down the top-200 players in the NFL. 200 might sounds like a lot, but with 53 players on 32 teams’ rosters, that’s 1696 players. Count guys on the practice squad, guys on the PUP or the IR, and guys who are free agents, but still on teams’ radar. That’s probably 2000 players. These guys are the top 10%. Positional value doesn’t matter because if it did, this list would be too quarterback heavy.

81. OLB Terrell Suggs (Baltimore)

The NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, and a deserving one at that, Terrell Suggs missed 8 games with injury in 2012 and struggled mightily when on the field. I’ll give him somewhat of a pass though since he was somehow playing through two otherwise season ending injuries, a torn Achilles and a torn biceps. Assuming he hasn’t ruined his body going into his age 31 season, he should have a bounce back season.

82. S Devin McCourty (New England)

A first round pick out of Rutgers in 2010, McCourty burst onto the scene as a rookie, making the Pro-Bowl and the All-Pro team, and receiving 2 Defensive Rookie of the Year votes, the only player to steal votes away from Ndamukong Suh. McCourty had a down year in 2011, along with the rest of the Patriots’ defense, but bounced back to an extent in 2012. Still, with Alfonzo Dennard emerging as a starter and Aqib Talib coming in, the Patriots moved McCourty to safety. Ordinarily, this is a positional downgrade for a cornerback, but it turned out to be one of the best things that could happen to McCourty as he emerged as one of the top deep safeties in the NFL, allowing just 5 completions in 8 games at the position and showing ball hawking abilities as a center fielder. In his first full season at the position in 2013, McCourty has the chance to break out as one of the top few safeties in the NFL.

83. CB Tim Jennings (Chicago)

On paper, it would appear that Tim Jennings broke out last season, leading the NFL in interceptions with 9, after accumulating only 7 thus far in his career, but that’s the flaw with only looking at interception totals. Jennings was actually a great cornerback the year before, starting all 16 games and not surrendering a touchdown all season. He just didn’t get any recognition because he only had 2 interceptions. He’s unlikely to even come close the matching those 9 interceptions in 2013, but he won’t need to do that to have a successful season in coverage.

84. RB LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia)

LeSean McCoy looked like the 2nd coming of Brian Westbrook, only healthier, in 2010 and 2011 with the Eagles, playing 30 of 32 games and totaling 3296 yards from scrimmage and 29 touchdowns. McCoy struggled by his standards along with the rest of the Eagles’ offense in 2012, averaging just 4.2 yards per carry and scoring just 5 times (3 of which were in the air). He also was limited to 200 carries and 12 games by injury. However, he’s an excellent fit for Chip Kelly’s offense and should have a bounce back year and then some in 2013, on what should be a better Eagles offense.

85. TE Greg Olsen (Carolina)

A 1st round talent, Olsen finally put it all together last season, catching 69 passes for 843 yards and 5 touchdowns. Once Cam Newton got over his 1st half of his sophomore season slump, Olsen got even better, catching 40 passes for 496 yards and 4 touchdowns in his final 9 games. Steve Smith is another year older so Olsen could see even more targets and if Newton starts passing on the goal line more often instead of running to preserve his body, look out. He’s also an adequate run blocker.

86. DE Jared Allen (Minnesota)

A likely future Hall of Famer, Jared Allen is credited with 117 sacks in 9 years, including 22 in 2011, which almost broke the single season record. He’s only behind John Abraham, who is 4 years older, among active players in sacks. Like the other 4 active NFL players with 100+ sacks, Allen is getting older, going into his age 31 season and he wasn’t quite as good as he usually is in 2012, but he’s still one of the better defensive ends in the NFL. I have him ahead of the slightly older Julius Peppers, but behind the slightly younger DeMarcus Ware. John Abraham and Dwight Freeney, the other two members of that group, took a while to get signed this off-season and are off this list. Allen will be a free agent next off-season and he should be greated by a much stronger market, barring injury, even if he doesn’t end up returning to the Vikings.

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87. DT Henry Melton (Chicago)

Drafted as an oversized defensive end in the 4th round out of Texas in 2009, Henry Melton, at one time a collegiate running back, has since been converted to defensive tackle. The 6-3 290 pounder is undersized, but he’s a great fit for Chicago’s defensive scheme and he actually isn’t bad against the run. He’s also a rare pass rusher for an interior defensive lineman and has rare movement abilities, as you can expect out of a one-time collegiate running back. He’s emerged as one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL over the past 2 seasons, leading to the Bears franchise tagging him this off-season. He wasn’t able to reach a long-term deal, so he’ll be a free agent again off-season, but he’ll get paid somewhere.

88. QB Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh)

Sure, he’s never made the playoffs without a top-3 scoring defense supporting him, but he’s also 8th all-time in career QB rating, 6th among active quarterbacks, and he was a very big part of 2 Super Bowl winning teams and a Super Bowl runner up. He’s not a top-top level quarterback, but he’s right in that Joe Flacco tier.

89. MLB Luke Kuechly (Carolina)

After the Panthers moved Luke Kuechly from outside linebacker to inside linebacker, the Panthers allowed just 21.2 points per game over the final 12 games of the season, which would have ranked 12th in the NFL over the whole season, despite playing 8 top-16 scoring offenses in that time period. They allowed 27.3 points per game in their first 4 games. That’s not all Kuechly, but a lot of it is. Kuechly is a little overrated based purely on his tackles total. Of his 161 tackles, only 67 of them were within 4 yards of the line of scrimmage on first down, 6 yards on 2nd down, and the full distance on 3rd and 4th down. I argued that Casey Hayward and Bobby Wagner were more deserving of Defensive Rookie of the Year, but you’d still have a hard time finding a handful more promising young defensive players than Kuechly.

90. S Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh)

Troy Polamalu has missed 22 games over the past 4 years and in those 22 games, the Steelers have allowed 20.2 points per game. With him, however, they allow just 15.5 points per game. As good as their defense is, he might be their single most important defensive player when healthy because he can impact the game with his mere presence. He’s only going into his age 32 season, so he shouldn’t be done and luckily injuries haven’t sapped his abilities when he has been able to suit up. He’s still been very effective when on the field. It’s just a matter of staying healthy.

91. WR Andre Johnson (Houston)

Going into 2012, Andre Johnson was 31 years old and coming off a season in which he played in just 7 games with injury. However, the Texans unexpectedly got a vintage year from Andre Johnson in 2012, as he caught 112 passes for 1598 yards and 4 touchdowns, leading the NFL in yards per route run with 3.01 and ranking 2nd in the NFL in yards overall behind Calvin Johnson (who played over 200 more pass snaps). Those yards were actually a career high and those catches were 2nd in his career, pretty impressive considering he has 818 catches for 11,254 yards over 10 seasons. He’s probably a future Hall of Famer, but Johnson has still missed 12 games in the last 3 seasons and is going into his age 32 season. The concerns about him before last season had merit. They just didn’t prove to be an issue, but they could be this season.

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92. QB Joe Flacco (Baltimore)

Throughout his 5 year career, Flacco has been a very inconsistent week to week quarterback, but an incredibly consistent year to year quarterback, proving himself to be a slightly above average quarterback and nothing more. His completion percentages have always fallen between 57.6% and 63.1%. His YPAs have always fallen between 6.7 and 7.4. His touchdowns have always fallen between 20 and 25 (with the exception of his rookie year) and his interceptions have always fallen between 10 and 12. Of course, that all changed in the post-season last year, as he completed 57.9% of his passes for an average of 9.1 YPA, 11 touchdowns, and no interceptions, en route to a Super Bowl victory. While I don’t expect him to keep that up, I do expect him to have his career best regular season this year. Bryant McKinnie and Jim Caldwell will continue to have a big impact. He’s not a top level quarterback like Manning or Brady or Rodgers or even Brees, but I consider him an elite quarterback comparable to guys like Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.

93. WR Vincent Jackson (Tampa Bay)

When the Buccaneers signed Vincent Jackson for 55.5 million over 5 years last off-season, I didn’t think it was a good move. Jackson had been showing for years that he cared about money more than anything, even holding out for 10 games in 2010, and, after going to what seemed like an inferior team with an inferior quarterback, it was very possible he could coast. Besides, the history of wide receivers switching teams was not good. Instead, Vincent Jackson proved to be a great fit with Josh Freeman, a better downfield thrower than Philip Rivers, a physically declining quarterback playing behind a poor offensive line. On top of that, the Buccaneers now seem like a better team than the Chargers. Jackson caught a career high 72 passes for 1384 yards and 8 touchdowns. We’ll see if he can keep that kind of play up in his age 30 season in 2013.

94. OLB Brian Orakpo (Washington)

Before going down for the season with a torn pectoral week 2 last season, Brian Orakpo was one of the better emerging young pass rushers in the NFL. Fortunately, he suffered that injury in the season before his contract year. Orakpo will need a strong performance in 2012 to prove he’s still the same player, but I have little doubt he can bounce back. He’ll get paid somewhere this off-season and the Redskins may have no choice but to franchise tag him, as a team starved for talent defensively.

95. C Mike Pouncey (Miami)

The lesser known of the two Pouncey twins, Mike broke out as one of the top level centers in the NFL in 2012, the player brother Maurkice supposedly is. The 2011 15th overall pick was the highest drafted interior offensive lineman in 13 years at the time. Whenever you take a center in the first round, especially that high, you have to hope he becomes one of the best players in the NFL at his position and Pouncey looks well on his way towards doing so. The future is very bright.

96. MLB Lawrence Timmons (Pittsburgh)

In 2010, Lawrence Timmons looked like someone who could possibly challenge Patrick Willis to be the top middle linebacker in the NFL, or at least on the same level as Willis. He struggled in 2011 thanks to injury, both his own injuries and injuries to rush linebackers that forced him to move to rush linebacker, where he struggled mightily to get to the quarterback, playing out of position. He bounced back to an extent in 2012, but he wasn’t quite the same player he was in 2010. Still, he’s firmly in that 2nd tier of middle linebackers, with the incomparable Patrick Willis on his own in the top tier.

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97. G Ben Grubbs (New Orleans)

A rare first round pick as an interior lineman in 2007, Ben Grubbs lived up to expectations with the Ravens, showing himself to be one of the consistently top level guards in the NFL. He signed a 5-year, 36 million dollar deal with the Saints as a free agent last off-season and picked up right where he left off. Considering the type of money other top level guards like Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks have gotten, Grubbs was a great value.

98. DE Mario Williams (Buffalo)

Despite coming off a torn pectoral, Mario Williams received the richest contract ever for a defensive player last off-season, signing a 6 year, 96 million dollar contract with the Bills. It wasn’t completely undeserved, but the Bills definitely had to pay a “Buffalo Tax” to get him to come to a non-premium NFL destination. Williams got off to rough start, but was much better after getting wrist surgery during the Bills’ bye and it showed. After their week 8 bye, the Bills allowed just 23.1 points per game, as opposed to 32.4 points per game before the bye. Even that 23.1 points per game figure is skewed by two very poor defensive performances against two of the better offenses in the NFL (New England and Seattle). Excluding those two games, they didn’t allow more than 24 points after the bye and they were generally a solid defense. Williams had 8 sacks in those 9 games, after 3 in the first 7, and was significantly better against the run as well.

99. OT Trent Williams (Washington)

The 4th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Trent Williams has turned into everything the Redskins were expecting him to be in 3 years in the league, joining a large group of talented young left tackles that will be protecting blindsides for the next decade. An excellent offensive lineman in both facets of the game, Williams is one of the few bright spots on Washington’s offensive line. The only knock on him is he’s already been suspended once for substance abuse and is one slip up away from a season long ban.

100. QB Matt Ryan (Atlanta)

Matt Ryan is my highest ranked quarterback who hasn’t won a Super Bowl. He’s just 1-4 in his career in the playoffs, but I think it’s unfair to judge his entire career just on 5 games. I think it’s absurd to suggest that 5 games is enough evidence to prove that a quarterback who is generally great in the regular season randomly becomes worse in the post-season. He’s faced the eventual NFC Super Bowl representative in all 4 losses. In his career in the regular season, he’s completed 62.7% of his passes for an average of 7.2 YPA, 127 touchdowns, and 60 interceptions and has a career regular season record of 56-22. He’s coming off the best season of his career, under new Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter. He was also the most efficient he’s ever been on a per play basis, ranking 5th in the NFL with a 99.4 QB rating. I don’t think the Falcons’ defense is good enough for them to win a Super Bowl this year, but Ryan will get his ring soon enough.

Go on to 101-120

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August 31st Fantasy Football Stock Report

RB Giovani Bernard (Cincinnati) UP

Giovani Bernard had a strong pre-season, especially around the goal line. He’s the more talented of Cincinnati’s two running backs and, while he may start the season splitting carries with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, he might not stay in that role all season. Few flex plays have more upside.

Projection: 190 carries for 840 rushing yards 6 total touchdowns 40 catches for 320 yards (152 pts, 199 pts PPR)

RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (Cincinnati) DOWN

BJGE is really only worth a late round pick at this point. He’s not an inefficient per carry runner and he doesn’t provide anything in the air. If he starts losing carries and goal line carries to Bernard, he’ll be useless in fantasy, except as a Bernard handcuff.

Projection: 150 carries for 590 rushing yards 5 total touchdowns 12 catches for 70 yards (96 pts, 108 pts PPR)

QB Terrelle Pryor (Oakland) UP

Terrelle Pryor appears to have won the Raiders’ starting job. He might be the worst passer of any of the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL this season, but the Raiders will be trailing an awful lot so he’ll get a lot of pass attempts and add value on the ground. He’ll be a better fantasy quarterback than real quarterback. He’s only a QB2 in deep leagues though because he could easily be benched for Matt Flynn at some point this season, but there’s upside with him if he can make all 16 starts.

Projection: 3250 passing yards, 13 passing touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 400 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns (206 pts standard, 232 pts 6 pt td leagues)

QB Geno Smith (NY Jets) UP

Mark Sanchez sounds like he’ll miss multiple weeks with injury, so Geno Smith, by default, looks to be the Jets’ starting quarterback. It’ll probably remain that way even when Sanchez returns because the Jets won’t want to kill the rookie’s confidence by benching him mid-season. Don’t expect much from Smith though. The history of non-1st round pick quarterbacks in the NFL is pretty poor, especially as rookies (Andy Dalton and Russell Wilson are the exception not the rule). Smith looked awful in his first extended pre-season action during the 3rd pre-season game.

Projection: 3000 passing yards, 12 passing touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 200 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown (163 pts standard, 187 pts 6 pt td leagues)

RB David Wilson (NY Giants) UP

I was already considering moving Wilson up because he was taking some of the goal line carries away from Andre Brown and because he was having an amazing pre-season, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. However, Andre Brown is out indefinitely with a fractured ankle and might miss the entire season. It’s the same leg he fractured last season. He’s not draftable any more, while Wilson has minimal competition for carries and is as close to being a true feature back as you can be. There’s RB1 upside here. The Giants have averaged 16.6 rushing touchdowns per season since 2004. The last time a Giants’ starting running back was also the goal line back, he scored 15 times, Tiki Barber in 2004, before Brandon Jacobs and Andre Brown. Brandon Jacobs scored 15 times in 2008 despite splitting carries. Tom Coughlin runs on the goal line.

Projection: 280 carries for 1260 rushing yards 12 total touchdowns 28 catches for 200 rushing yards (218 pts standard, 246 pts PPR)

RB Isaac Redman (Pittsburgh) UP

The Steelers have cut Jonathan Dwyer. This is good news for Isaac Redman, who will be pretty much the feature back until Le’Veon Bell returns, with just change of pace backs La’Rod Stephens-Howling and Felix Jones behind him on the depth chart. It’s still not a great fantasy situation, but Redman isn’t a bad late round pick by any stretch of the imagination.

Projection: 140 carries for 630 rushing yards and 4 total touchdowns 25 catches for 200 receiving yards (107 pts standard, 132 pts PPR)

RB Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh) UP

Dwyer’s release is also good news for Bell, as it’s a sign that Bell is farther along in his recovery than originally thought. He’s out of his walking boot and while he’ll miss at least 4-6 weeks with an injury that tends to linger, his value is on the rise. The only concern is that Redman impresses in his absence, but Redman will probably go back to being just a passing down back upon Bell’s return.

Projection: 150 carries for 630 rushing yards and 5 total touchdowns 23 catches for 150 receiving yards (108 pts standard, 131 pts PPR)

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Top-200 NFL Players: 101-120

1-20 21-40 41-60 61-80 81-100 101-120 121-140 141-160 161-180 181-200

With 10 days left until the regular season opener, this 10-part series counts down the top-200 players in the NFL. 200 might sounds like a lot, but with 53 players on 32 teams’ rosters, that’s 1696 players. Count guys on the practice squad, guys on the PUP or the IR, and guys who are free agents, but still on teams’ radar. That’s probably 2000 players. These guys are the top 10%. Positional value doesn’t matter because if it did, this list would be too quarterback heavy.

101. MLB Brian Cushing (Houston)

The Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2009, Brian Cushing had a down year in 2011, thanks largely to a 4 game suspension for performance enhancing drugs. However, Cushing picked up right where he left off in his 2nd full season in the NFL in 2011, emerging as one of the top middle linebackers in the NFL, showing he wasn’t just a product of whatever performance enhancer he tested positive for. He was on his way to a similar season in 2012, but was lost for the season with a torn ACL week 5. In 11 games without him, the Texans ranked 18th in opponents’ scoring and 13th in opponents’ yardage, after starting the season as the top yardage and scoring defense in the NFL, a huge part of why they started 5-0. Part of that has to do with how poor his backups were, but there’s no denying that Cushing is one of the better middle linebackers in the NFL. Assuming he’s healthy, he could have a huge impact on the Texans this season.

102. WR Victor Cruz (NY Giants)

An undrafted free agent in 2010, Victor Cruz burst into the scene for the eventual Super Bowl winning Giants in 2011, catching 82 passes for 1536 yards and 9 touchdowns, after not catching a single pass as a rookie. Even in a “down” year in 2012, Cruz caught 86 passes for 1092 yards and 10 touchdowns, even with Hakeem Nicks struggling and missing time with injury opposite him. As a restricted free agent this off-season, the Giants opted to re-sign him to a very reasonable 6-year, 45.9 million dollar deal, essentially forcing Nicks to play out his contract year in the process. I think they made the right choice.

103. CB Champ Bailey (Denver)

One of the few players on this list drafted in the 90s, Champ Bailey, a 1st round pick in 1999, has made 12 Pro-Bowls in his career, a record for cornerbacks, and will probably be a 1st ballot Hall of Famer after he hangs them up. Going into his age 35 season, a steep decline in play could be right around the corner and his age 36 contract year in 2014 could be his final in the NFL, but Bailey is still playing like a #1 cornerback, at least as of last year. People remember him being torched in the playoff loss to Baltimore, but that was not representative of the type of season he had. Everyone is allowed a bad game or two. Bailey just picked a bad time for his.

104. C Alex Mack (Cleveland)

Any time you take a center in the 1st round, you have to hope he becomes one of the top few centers in the NFL. Otherwise, it’s just not worth taking a center that high. Mack, a 1st round pick by the Browns in 2009, hasn’t quite been that good, but he’s still a fantastic center on one of the sneaky best offensive lines in the NFL. He’ll be a free agent this off-season if not extended before then and whenever he gets paid, it’ll probably be somewhere in the neighborhood of the deals that Scott Wells (4 years, 24 million, 13 million guaranteed), Chris Myers (4 years, 25 million, 14 million guaranteed), and Max Unger (4 years, 24 million, 12 million guaranteed) have gotten over the past two off-seasons.

105. CB Patrick Peterson (Arizona)

Patrick Peterson made the Pro-Bowl as a rookie as a return man, but the 5th overall pick was actually terrible in coverage. However, that’s to be expected for a rookie defensive back and Peterson was light-years better in that aspect in 2012. He might not have quite deserved the Pro-Bowl nod as a cornerback he received, but he’s a supremely talented cornerback who just turned 23 and could easily emerge as a top-5 cornerback this season. On top of that, he’s a deadly return man, who returned 4 punts to the house in 2011. The Cardinals might not keep him in that role going forward, in order to avoid risking injury, but they’re also experimenting with using him on offense from time to time too so maybe they just want to get everything they can out of him. His skill set makes him better suited to play offense than maybe any cornerback in the NFL.

106. OT Jared Veldheer (Oakland)

The Raiders might be the worst team in the NFL. They really have two good players and that’s about it and when they lost Jared Veldheer with a triceps injury, they were left with one. Fortunately for the Raiders and for Veldheer, he’s expected to be able to return sometime later this season. Before the injury, he was one of the better young left tackles in the game and would have commanded a ton of money as a free agent next off-season if he had kept it up. A season ending injury would have been devastating, but if he can come back later in the season and show himself to be the same type of player, he’ll still get paid somewhere. I don’t know how the Raiders can let him get away this off-season. He could be franchise tagged.

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107. OLB Justin Houston (Kansas City)

A talented pass rusher, Justin Houston fell to the 3rd round in the 2011 NFL Draft because of a failed drug test at The Combine, but he showed himself to be a very solid player in 6 starts down the stretch that season. He carried that over in 2012 as a full time starter, showing himself to be a good pass rusher and a better all-around player than teammate Tamba Hali. He doesn’t just get to the quarterback. He can stop the run and cover as well.

108. WR Roddy White (Atlanta)

One of the most consistent players in the NFL, Roddy White hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in the first round in 2005 and has had at least 85 catches, 1150 receiving yards, and 6 touchdowns in each of the last 6 seasons, averaging 94 catches for 1296 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns per season during that timeframe. Sure he’s going into his age 32 season and he’s going to start declining over the next few seasons and I’d rather have his teammate Julio Jones than him, but you can bet the Falcons are glad they have both.

109. DT Haloti Ngata (Baltimore)

A 6-4 340 pounder with rare movement skills, Ngata frequently leads the Ravens’ defensive line in snaps played and has the ability to play defensive tackle, nose tackle, and 5-technique in the Ravens’ hybrid defensive scheme. He’s coming off of a down season with shoulder and knee injuries, but he should bounce back in 2013. He’ll play primarily nose tackle for the first time in his career, but the Ravens will still get him in positions to rush the passer in sub packages.

110. OLB Lance Briggs (Chicago)

Arguably the best three down non-rush outside linebacker of the last decade, Lance Briggs has quietly built a Hall of Fame case next to Brian Urlacher in Chicago, making 7 straight Pro-Bowls, a streak that ended last season, and earning All-Pro honors in 2005, 2006, and 2009. He’s going into his age 33 season, but was still playing at a very high level last season, despite being left off the Pro-Bowl roster.

111. G Rob Sims (Detroit)

A 2006 4th round pick, Rob Sims broke out in 2009, but, because he had only made 31 of 48 possible starts from 2007-2009, the Seahawks dealt the injury prone left guard to the Lions for a 5th rounder, a 7th rounder, and a roster bubble defensive end, as a restricted free agent in the 2010 off-season. Sims was given a 4 year extension during the 2010 season, worth only about 7 million, but he’s greatly outperformed that in 3 years with the team, picking up where he left off in 2009 and staying healthy in the process. He’s quietly one of the best guards in the NFL and a rock on Detroit’s offensive line.

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112. RB Chris Johnson (Tennessee)

He’ll never live up to his 2009 breakout year, in which he rushed for 2006 yards and 14 touchdowns on 358 carries, making him, at the time, the 6th player in NFL history to rush for over 2000 yards (Adrian Peterson has since joined the club). With an extra 503 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns on 50 catches, he set the NFL record for yards from scrimmage that year, his 2nd year in the league after being drafted in the first round in 2008. However, it’s okay that he hasn’t come close to that feat again. It’s really, really hard to do. It’s very possible that Adrian Peterson will never have a season like he did in 2012 either. Johnson is still a very talented running back, who has missed just 1 game in 5 seasons, totaling 6888 yards and 44 touchdowns on 1463 carries (4.7 yards per carry), while catching 230 passes for 1658 yards and another 4 touchdowns. He doesn’t do a great job of creating on his own and he does too much dancing in the backfield, but there isn’t anyone in the NFL more explosive through the hole when there is one. His success is largely tied to the play of his offensive line for that reason, but fortunately for him, thanks to off-season additions of Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack, the Titans have one of the best offensive lines in the game.

113. WR Dwayne Bowe (Kansas City)

Bowe has caught 415 passes for 5728 yards and 39 touchdowns in 88 games in his career, despite playing with Brodie Croyle, Damon Huard, Tyler Thigpen, Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko, Kyle Orton, and Brady Quinn at quarterback. No matter your opinion on Alex Smith, you have to acknowledge he’s the best quarterback Bowe has ever played with. Bowe got a 5-year, 56 million dollar contract this off-season, after being franchise tagged last off-season. That deal compares favorably to the deal Tampa Bay gave last off-season to Vincent Jackson, who, up to that point in his career, had caught just 272 catches for 4754 yards and 37 touchdowns in 92 games at a similar age, despite the luxury of Philip Rivers in his prime under center. Jackson received 55.5 million over 5 years. In 2012, Bowe could surpass his career highs of 86 catches (2008) and 1162 yards (2010), though the 15 touchdowns he caught in 2010 remain largely a fluke.

114. OT Eugene Monroe (Jacksonville)

He took a little bit to get the feel of the NFL game, but that’s nothing rare and the 8th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft has turned into one of the better left tackles in the game over the past few seasons. He did allow 9 sacks in 2011, but that had more to do with Blaine Gabbert’s inept pocket presence than anything. He’s going into his contract year without a new deal this off-season and, even after using the 2nd overall pick on Luke Joeckel, they can’t let him get away, even if it means they have to franchise tag him. Joeckel could be a very good offensive tackle down the road, but he can still be an asset for them at right tackle because of how many teams can attack the quarterback from both sides of the formation nowadays and the Jaguars are in no position to let a talent like Monroe get away. He’s one of just two Jaguars on this list and the highest ranked one.

115. DE Chris Long (St. Louis)

Chris Long has emerged as one of the best pass rushing defensive ends in the NFL, at times being the most efficient pass rusher in the entire league, but he’s always struggled against the run. Obviously, this is a passing league and getting to the quarterback is more important, but he’s not well-rounded enough to be ranked higher on this list. The 2nd overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft, Long’s pass rush ability earned him a large contract last off-season, a 4 year deal worth 50 million.

116. C Ryan Wendell (New England)

Formerly a talented reserve interior lineman, Ryan Wendell broke out in his first year as a starter in 2012. He wasn’t great in pass protection, but there might not have been a better run blocking center in the NFL and that’s what’s more important for a center. He and fellow Fresno State alum (and fellow top-200 player) Logan Mankins helped pave the way for the Patriots to rank 7th in the NFL in rushing yardage. The Patriots averaged 4.7 yards per carry between the left guard and center this season.

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117. MLB Daryl Washington (Arizona)

The Cardinals took a chance giving Daryl Washington an extension just two years into his career last off-season, paying him a total of 32.5 million over 6 years. However, it appeared to pay off last season as the 2010 2nd round pick blossomed into one of the best all-around middle linebackers in the NFL. Not only does he play well against the run and in coverage, but there’s not be a better blitzing middle linebacker in the NFL, as he had 9 sacks last season, after 5 the previous season. No team blitzes their middle linebackers more than the Cardinals and they don’t get a lot of pass rush from the outside, so he’s a huge asset to them. However, Washington has been suspended for the first 4 games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and he was also arrested this off-season on two counts of aggravated assault. That could lead to further suspension down the road when the case is resolved. He could be a slipup away from being cut, but fortunately the deal he signed is team friendly so they could cut him without much penalty in that scenario. Obviously, they’d prefer he stay out of trouble and on their roster because he’s a big time asset when on the field.

118. CB Johnathan Joseph (Houston)

Joseph was once part of a talented cornerback duo in Cincinnati with Leon Hall, but the Bengals opted to re-sign Hall over him. Joseph ending up getting even more money than Hall, the de facto #1 cornerback when the two were teammates, to take over as a true #1 cornerback in Houston, receiving a 5-year, 48.75 million dollar deal last off-season. In his first season in Houston in 2011, he thrived in the role, emerging as one of the true top level cornerbacks in the NFL, but he suffered a groin injury early in 2012, which sapped his effectiveness and caused him to miss a couple games with injury. He’s an obvious bounce back candidate this season and, along breakout star Kareem Jackson, he gives the Texans one of the better cornerback duos in the NFL.

119. DE Julius Peppers (Chicago)

A likely future Hall of Famer, Julius Peppers officially has 111.5 career sacks, 3rd most among active players, making him just one of 5 active players with 100 career sacks. He signed what was at the time the most lucrative contract for a defensive player in NFL history in the 2010 off-season, going from the Panthers to the Bears for 84 million over 6 years with 42 million of that guaranteed. He’s going into his age 33 season and on the decline, but he’s still one of the better pass rushers in the NFL.

120. CB Casey Hayward (Green Bay)

Casey Hayward might be the Packers’ 3rd cornerback, but because of injuries and how frequently the Packers are in sub packages, Hayward still played about 63% of the Packers defensive snaps. He was amazing when on the field and probably deserved to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year, even though he wasn’t a full-time player. Allowing 0 touchdowns to 6 interceptions and 44.6% completion, his 31.1 QB rating allowed was not the best in the league among players who played more than 93 snaps (Darrelle Revis). He also was not penalized all year and missed just 3 tackles. He could be a starter in his 2nd year in the league in 2013, even with two talented cornerbacks ahead of him on the depth chart and the future looks bright for the 2012 2nd rounder out of Vanderbilt.

Go on to 121-140

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Top-200 NFL Players: 121-140

1-20 21-40 41-60 61-80 81-100 101-120 121-140 141-160 161-180 181-200

With 10 days left until the regular season opener, this 10-part series counts down the top-200 players in the NFL. 200 might sounds like a lot, but with 53 players on 32 teams’ rosters, that’s 1696 players. Count guys on the practice squad, guys on the PUP or the IR, and guys who are free agents, but still on teams’ radar. That’s probably 2000 players. These guys are the top 10%. Positional value doesn’t matter because if it did, this list would be too quarterback heavy.

121. OLB Tamba Hali (Kansas City)

Tamba Hali was one of the better 3-4 rush linebackers in the NFL from 2009-2011, after the Chiefs changed up their defensive scheme, but he struggled by his standards in 2012, not getting as consistent pressure as he usually does, exposing his flaws in coverage and against the run. I think teammate Justin Houston is the better and more complete player, especially with Hali going into his age 30 season, but Hali could easily have a bounce back year and the Chiefs have to be really happy to have both players.

122. G Kevin Zeitler (Cincinnati)

The Bengals made a surprise move trading down and passing on an opportunity to draft David DeCastro in the first round in 2012, taking Kevin Zeitler instead later in the first. So far, it appears to have paid off, as DeCastro missed most of his rookie year with a freak injury and Zeitler emerged as one of the better interior offensive linemen in the league as a rookie. DeCastro could still pan out and challenge Zeitler, but for now, the Bengals appear to have made the correct move.

123. DT Marcell Dareus (Buffalo)

The 3rd overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Dareus has not been as good as the guys drafted around him (Cam Newton, Von Miller, AJ Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones, Aldon Smith, JJ Watt, Nick Fairley, Ryan Kerrigan, and Nate Solder were top-17 picks that year and all are on this list already, with most ahead of Dareus). However, that’s not his fault. Dareus has been a very good defensive lineman in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 thus far in his career and, not 24 until November, Dareus still has plenty of upside going into his 3rd year in the league.

124. DE Michael Bennett (Seattle)

Bennett excelled as a situational defensive lineman in 2011, playing well against the run and as a pass rusher while providing the versatility to play both defensive end and defensive tackle at 6-4 274. Bennett took over a bigger role in 2012, leading the Tampa Bay defensive line in snaps and showing himself to be one of the best, most versatile, and well-rounded defensive lineman in the NFL. A shoulder injury forced him to settle for a one year prove it deal in Seattle this off-season and he’s since developed a toe injury, but the deal could prove to be a smart deal for both sides. Bennett could have a very good season for the Seahawks on the defensive line, for a very reasonable rate of 4.8 million, and it could very well be a launching pad for Bennett to get a bigger contract next off-season.

125. WR Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis)

Wayne turns 35 this November. Over the next 2-4 years, Wayne can be expected to go from top flight receiver to complementary player to gone. That’s just what happens to receivers around this age. Even the average top-20 receiver (in terms of yardage all-time) has his last 1000 yard season at age 34-35, averages 48 catches for 594 yards and 3 touchdowns for 2 more seasons after age 34-35, and is done playing by age 36-37. Wayne already showed some signs of slowing down in the 2nd half of last season, catching “just” 45 passes for 520 yards and 2 touchdowns.

126. RB Matt Forte (Chicago)

One of the best all-around running backs in the game, Matt Forte has rushing 5327 yards and 26 touchdowns on 1262 carries (4.2 YPC), with another 267 catches for 2325 yards and 9 touchdowns as a receiver in 5 years in the league and he’s only missed 7 games in the process. That’s pretty impressive considering the lack of supporting talent he’s had around him in Chicago and with an improved offensive supporting cast in Chicago, the feature back could have his best year yet in 2013, provided he stays healthy, as is always the case with running backs. Going into his age 28 season, there’s some minor concern that he prematurely ages.

127. WR Steve Smith (Carolina)

Like with Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith is an aging receiver who has had a great career. He’s a year younger than Wayne, but could just as easily begin his decline this season. Unlike Wayne, who is 14th all-time in receiving yardage and seems bound for the Hall of Fame someday, Steve Smith is 23rd all-time and is a much longer shot for Canton, especially given the strict standard for wide receivers.

128. OT Russell Okung (Seattle)

After an injury riddled first two years in the league, the 6th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Russell Okung, finally put it together in 2013, allowing just 1 sack. He did commit 13 penalties, but he’s still one of the premier left tackles in the game when healthy. I’ll need to see him do it again and stay healthy again in 2013 though.

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129. RB Stevan Ridley (New England)

They certainly have the running back talent to do so. 2011 3rd round pick Stevan Ridley rushed for 1263 yards and 12 touchdowns on 290 attempts last season. The Patriots’ strong passing game and offensive line undoubtedly helped, but he’s still a good back in his own right. The Patriots hadn’t had anything like him at the running back position since Corey Dillon was in his prime. Before him, BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a plodder and nothing else. Before him, Laurence Maroney was inconsistent, ranging from solid to all kinds of crap. It hadn’t been since Dillon’s final season in 2006 that the Patriots had a back with Ridley’s explosiveness. He makes them an incredibly balanced offense, probably the most balanced in the NFL.

130. OT Nate Solder (New England)

A swing tackle as a rookie in 2011, the 17th overall pick saw significant action, playing at both right tackle and left tackle and wasn’t bad. However, when Matt Light retired this past off-season, Nate Solder took over on the blindside and immediately was one of the best blindside protectors in the NFL. Going into his 3rd year in the league, things should only continue to get better for him. He looks like a franchise left tackle for the next decade.

131. OLB Paul Kruger (Cleveland)

A solid situational and rotational player through the first 3 years of his career, the 2009 2nd round pick broke out in his first year as a starter in 2012, especially down the stretch, with 14 sacks in his final 12 games, en route to a Super Bowl victory. Of course, he only had 1 sack in the final 8 games of the season and really didn’t play well until Terrell Suggs came back from injury to take the pressure off of him. He’s signed a very lucrative 5-year, 40.5 million dollar deal with the Browns this off-season, but unfortunately he doesn’t get to bring Suggs with him. He could prove to be an overpay and someone who the Browns bought too high with.

132. CB Kareem Jackson (Houston)

For the first two years of his career, Kareem Jackson, a 2010 1st round pick, looked like a bust and was on the verge of losing his starting job. However, he turned in a fantastic 3rd year in the league in 2012. Not only did he keep his starting job, but he excelled, allowing less than 50% completion and taking over as the #1 cornerback from time to time with Johnathan Joseph missing time and struggling through a groin injury. With Joseph back healthy this year, the Texans have one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL and I won’t rule out Jackson becoming better than the big money Joseph sometime in the next 2 seasons. That could lead to a big payday for him either on an extension next off-season or as a free agent the following off-season.

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133. C Max Unger (Seattle)

Max Unger signed a 5-year 25.5 million dollar contract last off-season, going into his contract year. That is one of the richest contracts for a center in NFL history and to that point in his career, it didn’t look like he deserved it. However, Unger broke out as one of the top centers in the NFL this season, so I guess credit the Seahawks for having the foresight to lock him up ahead of time. I’ll need to see it again, but he might be one of the top few centers in the NFL.

134. OLB Lavonte David (Tampa Bay)

Lavonte David’s rookie year was overshadowed by fellow linebackers Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner, but the 2nd round rookie was almost just as good. A true three down linebacker, David makes up for his lack of size with rare movement and coverage abilities. Going into only his 2nd year in the league, the future is very bright for him.

135. G Jon Asamoah (Kansas City)

The Chiefs had 6 Pro-Bowlers on their 2-14 team last season, which sounds ridiculous, but it really wasn’t. They’re a talented team, but when you are as poorly quarterbacked and lose the turnover battle as badly as the Chiefs did in 2012, that talent gets hidden. Jon Asamoah wasn’t one of those Pro-Bowlers, but he might have deserved to be. The 2010 3rd round pick is one of the better young offensive linemen in the league and could be even better in his 4th year in the league in 2013, which also happens to be his contract year.

136. DT Jason Hatcher (Dallas)

Hatcher had a breakout year as a 5-technique defensive end with the Cowboys last season, but the Cowboys will be transitioning from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense this season, meaning Hatcher will be moving to defensive tackle. While he was a perfect fit for a 3-4 at 6-6 290, with the size to hold up against the run and the length, quickness, and pass rush ability to get to the quarterback, it’s unclear what kind of success he’ll have at defensive tackle. He should continue getting pass rush, but could struggle against the run. Then again, if there’s any 4-3 he’s a good fit for, it’s Monte Kiffin’s, which prefers movement ability over size.

137. WR Marques Colston (New Orleans)

Marques Colston gets a reputation for being injury prone and he has had a bunch of knee surgeries, but he’s only missed 10 games in 7 seasons and he’s been nothing if not reliable. With the exception of 2008 (when he played a career low 11 games), he’s caught 70 passes for 1000 yards and 7 touchdowns in every season of his career. Last season, he once again had big time production, catching 83 passes for 1132 yards and 10 touchdowns while not missing a game. He signed a very reasonable 5-year 36.3 million dollar deal last off-season, probably taking a hometown discount in the process.

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138. DT Kevin Williams (Minnesota)

One of the better interior defensive linemen of his era, Kevin Williams could end up in Canton someday. However, he’s on the decline right now. The Vikings used a 1st round pick on Sharrif Floyd this past April, a sign that Williams is unlikely to be retained as a free agent next off-season, going into his age 34 season in 2014. The Vikings have also said they want to keep his snaps down to 30-40 per game this season, a steep drop from the 52.2 per game he played last season. He should still be an asset and an above average player for the Vikings this season, but he’s in the beginning of the end of his career.

139. OT Matt Kalil (Minnesota)

Kalil’s rookie year was overshadowed by all of the great performances by rookie offensive skill position players like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, Russell Wilson, Doug Martin, and Alfred Morris, but that’s just how it works with Matt Kalil. He looked every bit the franchise left tackle he was supposed to be when the Vikings took him 4th overall, after Luck, Griffin, and Trent Richardson.

140. QB Cam Newton (Carolina)

As a rookie in 2011, Cam Newton completed 60.0% of his passes for an average of 7.8 YPA, 21 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions, while adding another 706 yards and 14 scores on the ground. He led the Panthers to 25.4 points per game in the process. He struggled to start his sophomore season in the league in 2012, completing just 57.0% of his passes for an average of 8.1 YPA, 6 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions, while rushing for 347 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Panthers scored just 18.6 points per game in those 8 games. However, in the final 8 games of the season, he completed 58.4% of his passes for an average of 7.9 YPA, 13 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions, while rushing for 394 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Panthers scored 26.0 points per game in the process. The first half of last season looks like just a blip on the radar and going into his 3rd year in the league, the former #1 overall pick could have his best season ever. I’d take him over Kaepernick right now because Newton is more experienced.

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Top-200 NFL Players: 141-160

1-20 21-40 41-60 61-80 81-100 101-120 121-140 141-160 161-180 181-200

With 10 days left until the regular season opener, this 10-part series counts down the top-200 players in the NFL. 200 might sounds like a lot, but with 53 players on 32 teams’ rosters, that’s 1696 players. Count guys on the practice squad, guys on the PUP or the IR, and guys who are free agents, but still on teams’ radar. That’s probably 2000 players. These guys are the top 10%. Positional value doesn’t matter because if it did, this list would be too quarterback heavy.

141. CB Leon Hall (Cincinnati)

Leon Hall was once one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, rightfully getting a 5 year, 42.4 million dollar deal from the Bengals after the lockout in 2011. The Bengals kept him over teammate Johnathan Joseph, who eventually got even more money than Hall did from the Texans. He was the #1 cornerback even when he played with Joseph. However, Hall had a down year in 2012 because he returned too quickly from a torn Achilles suffered the previous July. He could easily bounce back in 2013.

142. DE Antonio Smith (Houston)

A nondescript defensive lineman early in his career, Antonio Smith has found his niche in Wade Phillips’ defense with the Texans over the past two seasons. The 6-3 274 struggles against the run, but is one of the best pass rushing 5-technique defensive ends this side of JJ Watt and I mean that both figuratively and literally as he’s Watt’s teammate. Watt’s presence opposite him definitely helps, but he’s a great pass rusher in his own right. The only issue is he’s going into his age 32 contract year without an extension. The Texans pay just opt to let the aging Smith go this off-season, in favor of capable backup Jared Crick. We’ll get to see what Crick can do week 1, as Smith was suspended for the first game of the season for an attack on Richie Incognito of the Dolphins in a pre-season game.

143. WR Randall Cobb (Green Bay)

A 2nd round pick in 2011, Randall Cobb looks on his way to a breakout 3rd year in the league in 2013. He’ll be given a bigger role, taking over as a starter opposite Jordy Nelson, after ranking 11th in the NFL among eligible wide receivers averaging 2.26 yards per route run last season. He’ll need to become a better outside receiver and he needs to cut down on drops (of the 22 incompletions Rodgers threw to him, 11 were drops) before he can reach his upside. However, his upside is a healthier Percy Harvin and with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the football, he could put up huge numbers in the future. He also adds yards on the ground.

144. CB Ike Taylor (Pittsburgh)

Ike Taylor doesn’t get the recognition that teammate Troy Polamalu or former teammate James Harrison gets, but he’s been as big a part of why the Steelers have had such a consistently good defense over the past several years, as their #1 cornerback. He allowed less than 50% completion in each of the last 2 seasons. He’s helped by a strong front 7, but he’s a great cornerback in his own right. The only issue is he’s going into his age 33 season.

145. OT Andre Smith (Cincinnati)

Through his first 2 seasons, Andre Smith looked like a bust as the 6th overall pick in 2009. Work ethic concerns that surrounded him through the pre-draft process continued to rear their head as he was out of shape and struggled mightily with speed rushers. The Bengals exercised an option in his contract to void the final 2 years of what was originally a 6-year deal and that seemed to wake him up, as Smith got his act together and emerged as arguably the best right tackle in the game over the past 2 seasons. Fears that he would coast upon getting paid, along with an off-season arrest, forced him to “settle” for a 3-year, 18 million dollar deal this off-season, with no money guaranteed after the 1st season. We’ll see if that can keep him humble. One concern is that he was fined for missing off-season workouts for undisclosed reasons this off-season.

146. CB Chris Harris (Denver)

A revelation on the slot as an undrafted rookie in 2011, Chris Harris emerged as a starter in 2012, after Tracy Porter went down with illness. He was one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. The Broncos brought in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie this off-season, so Harris will go back to being a slot specialist, but he’s arguably the best pure slot cornerback in the NFL.

147. DT Randy Starks (Miami)

A consistently above average defensive lineman, excelling as a 5-technique defensive end and a 4-3 defensive tackle, the Dolphins franchise tagged Randy Starks this off-season. It was a smart move, as the Dolphins didn’t want to commit a long-term contract with someone going into his age 30 season, but they couldn’t afford to let him go. He’s been “benched” after an off-season contract dispute, but he’ll still play plenty of snaps for the Dolphins this season. The Dolphins just have a ton of defensive line depth. He’ll play as many snaps, at the very least, as any defensive tackle on the Dolphins’ roster.

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148. TE Vernon Davis (San Francisco)

Vernon Davis averaged 67 catches for 890 yards and 9 touchdowns from 2009-2011 and was on his way to a similar season in 2012, on pace for 50 catches for 748 yards and 8 touchdowns halfway through the season. However, he really struggled statistically once Colin Kaepernick took over under center, catching just 16 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown in the final 8 games of the regular season. However, that was more because Kaepernick was looking the way of Michael Crabtree so often, as Davis was targeted just 24 times in those 8 games. He played much better in the post-season, with catch 12 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown in 3 games and with Crabtree out for most of the season, he should bounce back as a receiver in 2013. He’s also a tough, physical run blocker.

149. G Logan Mankins (New England)

Once probably the best guard in the NFL, Mankins has been slowed by age and injury over the past 2 seasons. He played through a partially torn ACL for almost the entirety of the 2011 season and missed 6 games and was limited in others with a hip problem in 2012. He’s now going into his age 31 season, but he’s still a more than dependable interior offensive lineman.

150. DT Vince Wilfork (New England)

Once arguably the best pure nose tackle in the game, Vince Wilfork has shown himself to be more than that since the Patriots switched to a 4-3 base defense. He struggled a bit as a pass rusher in 2011, but emerged as a true every down defensive tackle in 2012 after getting himself into better shape, displaying rare movement and pass rush abilities for a 325 pounder. He’ll be going into an age 33 contract year in 2014, owed 7.5 million, so he could be in his last year or two with the team, but he should remain an asset for the Patriots upfront.

151. QB Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco)

Colin Kaepernick has only started 10 games, including the post-season, but they were a very successful 10 games. He led the 49er offense to 28.8 points per game in those 10 games, about 5 more points per game than Alex Smith led the offense to in his year and a half as a starter under Harbaugh, despite a tougher schedule and less help from the running game, with Kendall Hunter getting hurt and Frank Gore slowing down as the season went on. Unlike Russell Wilson, he doesn’t struggle on the road. Unlike Robert Griffin, he doesn’t have an injury history. Unlike Andrew Luck, he didn’t commit a significant amount of turnovers last season. He’s ranked ahead of those 3 for that reason.

152. DE Carlos Dunlap (Cincinnati)

At first glance, it would appear that Carlos Dunlap has yet to live up to his rookie year, as he’s had just 11 sacks since his 10-sack 2010 season. However, he’s gotten consistent pressure all the while and held up really well against the run. He’s also seen his snap count increase in each season and the 6-year, 40 million dollar deal the Bengals gave him this off-season suggests he’ll see his biggest role yet in 2013 and beyond. Credit the Bengals for locking up a potential budding star before he breaks out.

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153. OT Sebastian Vollmer (New England)

A talented offensive tackle capable of playing both the left and right side, Vollmer has settled in on the right side with Nate Solder at left tackle and is one of the better right tackles in the league. He’s a minor injury risk, having missing 10 games in 2011, and knee and back problems were part of why he had to settle for a 4-year, 17 million dollar deal with the Patriots this off-season, but he missed just 5 games in his other 3 seasons combined, so it shouldn’t be a huge issue.

154. WR Cecil Shorts (Jacksonville)

Despite playing with Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne at quarterback, Shorts caught 47 passes for 774 yards and 5 touchdowns in 9 starts last season, which extrapolates to 84 catches for 1386 yards and 9 touchdowns over 16 games. He was also 8th in the NFL in yards per route run last season, behind Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Michael Crabtree, Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Vincent Jackson, and AJ Green. That’s pretty good company. Going into his 3rd year in the league, things are only looking up for him.

155. S William Moore (Atlanta)

One of the better safeties in the NFL when healthy, William Moore has missed 22 games over the past 4 seasons, since being drafted in the 2nd round in 2009. The Falcons gave him a 5-year, 29.5 million dollar deal as a free agent this off-season, which is right in that 2nd tier of safety contracts. It could pay off if he stays healthy, but it could also backfire if he finds it increasingly harder to stay healthy as he ages, as can happen with safeties.

156. WR Jordy Nelson (Green Bay)

Jordy Nelson caught 68 passes for 1263 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011 and was on his way to an equally good season in 2012. Nelson caught 40 passes for 532 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns in the first 7 games of last season. That’s 91 catches for 1216 yards and 11 touchdowns over 16 games. However, a hamstring problem caused him to miss 4 games and limited him in the others. He’s an injury risk, after last year’s hamstring problem and a recent minor knee surgery, but he returned to practice 2 weeks before the start of the Packers’ regular season so I expect somewhat of a bounce back year.

157. S TJ Ward (Cleveland)

When healthy, TJ Ward is one of the better safeties in the NFL, a fierce run stopper who holds up in coverage as well. However, the 2010 2nd round pick has missed 10 games in 3 seasons and has injury problems that date back to his days at the University of Oregon. He’s undersized for how physical he plays at 5-10 200 and we’ve seen safeties have injury problems for this reason before. He’ll be a free agent next off-season and the 5-year, 29.5 million dollar deal William Moore got this off-season will probably serve as a template for his payday, provided he doesn’t suffer a serious injury.

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158. CB Jason McCourty (Tennessee)

The Titans gave Jason McCourty a 5-year 43 million dollar deal last season, taking a chance on him developing into a #1 cornerback, rather than re-signing Cortland Finnegan. McCourty held up very well in coverage with opponent’s quarterbacks throwing on him and away from Cortland Finnegan in 2011, but he didn’t quite live up to that in 2012. Still, he played pretty well in coverage and was one of the best run stopping cornerbacks in the NFL.

159. QB Russell Wilson (Seattle)

Russell Wilson’s flaw is he’s nowhere near the same quarterback on the road. He completed just 63.6% of his passes for an average of 7.5 YPA, 11 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions on the road, a QB rating of 86.1. That’s opposed to 64.6% completion, 9.2 YPA, 17 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions at home, a QB rating of 123.6. I think it’s less than he’s an excellent quarterback who struggles on the road and more that he’s an above average quarterback who shows his true colors on the road. The Seahawks have the biggest home/road disparity over the past 6 seasons. Going back to 2007, they are 15-37 on the road, getting outscored by 6.63 points per game, and 32-18 at home, outscoring opponents by 6.32 points per game. Of course, you can poke similar holes in Drew Brees’ game and Wilson got better as last season went on, even on the road, so the arrow is pointing up. I’d still rather have Wilson over an injury prone Robert Griffin (though Griffin deserved Rookie of the Year) or a turnover prone Andrew Luck, at least at this stage of their careers. However, I have Kaepernick ranked above him for this reason.

160. DE Michael Johnson (Cincinnati)

An athletic defensive end, Michael Johnson set The Combine on fire with a 4.75 40 at 6-7 266 with a 38.5 inch vertical and 28 reps of 225 on the bench press, but he didn’t put it all together until last season. The Bengals franchise tagged him and didn’t put much effort into giving him a long-term deal, preferring to make him prove it again. After committing significant this off-season to Carlos Dunlap, a more consistent and well-rounded end, and with Geno Atkins heading into free agency next off-season and likely to be franchised, this could very well be Johnson’s last season with the Bengals. Still, if he repeats his 2012 season, he’ll get a lot of money somewhere next off-season.

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15 Fantasy Football Players Being Drafted Too Low

Average draft positions based off of ESPN.

RB Eddie Lacy (Green Bay)

With DuJuan Harris out for the season, who is going to take carries away from him? Alex Green and James Starks are tried and failed backs who might not have even made the team if it weren’t for Harris’ injury, while 4th round rookie Johnathan Franklin has appears overmatched thus far in his brief career. Cedric Benson was averaging 16 carries per game before getting hurt last season with almost the same group of backups behind him. What’s to stop Eddie Lacy, a significantly superior talent, from doing the same? He’ll have plenty of running room and scoring opportunities on this explosive offense. If you want to go running back/running back in the first 2 rounds (a good idea considering the well dries up quickly), Lacy is a very reasonable 2nd round pick.

RB Reggie Bush (Detroit)

The Lions threw to running backs 134 times last season and that was with the likes of Mikel Leshoure, Joique Bell, and Kevin Smith at running back. Sure, the Lions probably won’t throw 727 times like they did last season, but Reggie Bush could still easily surpass 80 catches, which is what the Lions are saying is their goal for Bush. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was 2nd on this team in receiving after Calvin Johnson and he’ll almost definitely be 2nd in catches. Oh, and he also runs the football. Injuries might scare you off, but he’s missed just 1 game in the last 2 seasons.

RB Lamar Miller (Miami)

Lamar Miller is Reggie Bush’s replacement in Miami and he too is undervalued. Daniel Thomas is no threat to his job. They were just talking him up as a competitor to Miller to scare and motivate him. He should get around the 227 carries Bush had last season and you can comfortably start him as a RB2. Given how thin running backs are this season, it’s absurd that he’s going in the 5th round on average.

WR Jordy Nelson (Green Bay)

Jordy Nelson caught 68 passes for 1263 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011 and was on his way to an equally good season in 2012. Nelson caught 40 passes for 532 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns in the first 7 games of last season. That’s 91 catches for 1216 yards and 11 touchdowns over 16 games. A hamstring problem caused him to miss 4 games and limited him in the others, but that seems to be behind him. I’m not predicting a full bounce back because he recently had minor knee surgery, but he was back practicing 2 weeks before the Packers’ 1st scheduled regular season game. He’s a very solid WR2 that isn’t being drafted like one.

WR DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia)

DeSean Jackson was on his way to getting back over the 1000 yard mark last season before missing 5 games with injury. The Eagles offense should, by default, be better than it was last season, especially for fantasy purposes as they’re going to crank up the pace (at the expense of their horrible defense, but still, we’re talking fantasy football here) and Jeremy Maclin is no longer around to steal targets. Jackson is going to see plenty of targets in Chip Kelly’s speed based offense and he’ll probably give you added value on the ground as Kelly will use him from time to time like he used De’Anthony Thomas at Oregon. If you take 3 running backs early like you should this year, you can still get a decent WR2 in Jackson in the 6th round on average.

WR Torrey Smith (Baltimore)

Anquan Boldin is gone. Dennis Pitta is hurt. Who else is Joe Flacco going to throw to? Smith has totaled about 850 receiving yards in each of his first 2 years in the league and could be on the verge of having a 3rd year breakout year like so many receivers have. He’s got an outside shot at 1200 receiving yards and should be able to go over 1000. Like Jackson, he’s a decent WR2 available in the 6th round.

RB Chris Ivory (NY Jets)

Sure he’s an injury risk, but he’s a starting running back with minimal competition for his job. If he stays healthy, I don’t know why he couldn’t have the ridiculous 276 carries the Jets gave Shonn Greene last season. He’s an injury risk, but he’s a really, really strong flex if you can get him there, and, based on his ADP, you probably can.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw (Indianapolis)

Chuck Pagano called Bradshaw a feature back. Sure he’s an injury risk, but he’s always been one and still averaged 257 touches per season in 3 years as the starter in New York. He’s one of the toughest running backs in the NFL. He’s a RB2 being drafted as a RB3 in a year where running backs dry up fast.

WR Cecil Shorts (Jacksonville)

Ignore the fact that he’s a Jaguar. He was a Jaguar last season, but in 9 starts, he caught 47 passes for 774 yards and 5 touchdowns, which extrapolates to 84 catches for 1386 yards and 9 touchdowns over 16 games. He was also 8th in the NFL in yards per route run last season, behind Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Michael Crabtree, Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Vincent Jackson, and AJ Green. That’s pretty good company. Going into his 3rd year in the league, things are only looking up for him.

TE Greg Olsen (Carolina)

I’ve done a bunch of mock fantasy drafts and a few real ones and I think I’ve ended up with Greg Olsen as my starting tight end in all of them. A 1st round talent, Olsen finally put it all together last season, catching 69 passes for 843 yards and 5 touchdowns. Once Cam Newton got over his 1st half of his sophomore season slump, Olsen got even better, catching 40 passes for 496 yards and 4 touchdowns in his final 9 games. Steve Smith is another year older so Olsen could see even more targets and if Newton starts passing on the goal line more often instead of running to preserve his body, look out. The #6 scoring tight end last season, Olsen should surpass that this season, especially in a weak year for tight ends, but is, for some reason, the 8th tight end off the board.

RB Mark Ingram (New Orleans)

Yeah he’s burned people before with his inability to stay consistently healthy, but he’s still a former 1st round talent going into only his 3rd year in the league and he’s being drafted outside of the top-30 running backs, behind guys like BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Daryl Richardson, and Rashard Mendenhall. Do you really trust those guys more than Ingram?

RB Shane Vereen (New England)

He’s not the starting running back in New England, but he’ll be used plenty of a change of pace back and a receiver. The Patriots led the NFL in plays per game last season and probably will do so again this season because, unlike Philadelphia, they have the personnel necessary to consistently sustain drives. Vereen could see 200 touches, 60 of which could be catches, but he’s being drafted in the 8th-9th round on average.

WR Mike Williams (Tampa Bay)

He’s being drafted as the 36th wide receiver off the board even though he was 18th among receivers in fantasy points last season and I’m not sure why. You can start Williams as a flex most weeks. He’s surpassed or approached 1000 receiving yards in 2 of his first 3 seasons in the league and after he and Vincent Jackson, Josh Freeman doesn’t have a lot to throw to.

WR Brian Hartline (Miami)

Brian Hartline was a 1000 yard receiver last year. Sure, Mike Wallace is coming in, but Hartline is a better fit for the offense, given that it’s a West Coast offense and that the Dolphins have problems up front on the offensive line that could make it hard for the team to throw deep as often as they’d like. Hartline will see plenty of one on one coverage with Wallace drawing double teams deep (until they realize he’s not as good as he used to be anymore) and might still lead the team in targets. Wallace struggled mightily last season and Hartline knows the playbook better. He’s not even being drafted in 2/3rds of the leagues.

RB Joique Bell (Detroit)

If Reggie Bush gets hurt, the Lions might just put Bell directly into his role, which would make him a RB2. Bell was 2nd in the NFL in yards per route run among running backs last season, behind only Darren Sproles, and also averaged 5.0 yards per carry on 82 carries. He’s worth a late round flier, especially for Bush owners, but he’s barely being drafted, going in 28% of leagues. Mikel Leshoure, the clear 3rd string back, meanwhile, is being drafted in 46%.

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15 Fantasy Football Players Being Drafted Too High

Average draft positions based off of ESPN.

RB Arian Foster (Houston)

As his blocking has declined from great to above average to average over the past 3 seasons, as he’s lost his starting right guard, starting right tackle, and starting fullback, Foster has seen his YPC drop from 4.9 to 4.4 to just 4.1 last season. Now his body appears to be breaking down after 1115 regular season touches (and 128 post-season touches) and it appears a given he’ll split carries with talented backup Ben Tate early in the season, at the very least. There are better uses of your first round pick.

QB Peyton Manning (Denver)

Quarterbacks in general are being drafted too high this year. You can get a very solid quarterback in the mid rounds. For instance, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck are the 10th and 11th quarterbacks off the board this season. It’s not just Manning. Tom Brady and Matt Ryan are among the quarterbacks that are getting drafted too high, but I’m singling out Manning because he’s being drafted way too high as the 14th player off the board on average. Sure, he could improve on last season with the addition of Wes Welker, but he’s also a 37 year old who has had 4 neck surgeries in his career. It’s more likely that he regresses off the 2nd best season of his career, at least in terms of QB rating.

RB Steven Jackson (Atlanta)

Steven Jackson is going into his age 30 season and has 2395 career carries. That fuel tank could be running on empty. He’s 26th all-time in rushing yards at 10,135, but the average top-25 all-time running back has his last 1000 yard season in his age 30 season and at 2602 carrier carries. And after players have their drop off, they average just 169 carries per season at 3.5 yards per carry and just 5 touchdowns, so they’re really a non-factor as a back. He should have one more good year in him, but that’s just an average. I wouldn’t want to risk it at this point.

WR Wes Welker (Denver)

Even Wes Welker admits that if he has to catch the 112 passes he averaged per season in New England, the Broncos are in trouble. The Broncos have a much more diverse receiving corps than New England did with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker so they won’t feature Welker nearly as much as he was featured in New England. He’s also never been a touchdown threat, averaging 6 touchdowns per season in New England. That’s unlikely to change with the 6-3 Decker and 6-4 Thomas lining up on the outside in Denver, not to mention the bevy of tight ends the Broncos have.

WR Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis)

Wayne turns 35 this November. Over the next 2-4 years, Wayne can be expected to go from top flight receiver to complementary player to gone. That’s just what happens to receivers around this age. Even the average top-20 receiver (in terms of yardage all-time) has his last 1000 yard season at age 34-35, averages 48 catches for 594 yards and 3 touchdowns for 2 more seasons after age 34-35, and is done playing by age 36-37. Wayne already showed some signs of slowing down in the 2nd half of last season, catching “just” 45 passes for 520 yards and 2 touchdowns. He could have another big year (he proved me wrong last year when I brought up this same narrative), but let him be someone else’s problem. He’s not worth the risk at his current ADP, as the 15th wide receiver off the board.

QB Robert Griffin (Washington)

I mentioned quarterbacks in general are being taken too high this year, but Griffin, like Manning, deserves special mention. I’m not too excited about drafting a quarterback who gets most of his fantasy value from running the football 8 months after tearing his ACL. The Redskins will cut down on his designed runs (as they were down the stretch last season after he started getting hurt) and his throwing could suffer as a result.

RB Montee Ball (Denver)

John Fox hates rookies. He also loves running back committees and hates fantasy football. Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball, and Ronnie Hillman will all see touches. Ball has some upside if he can take the job and run with it, but it’s not worth the headache as a RB2 or flex, which is what he’s being drafted as right now.

WR Mike Wallace (Miami)

Mike Wallace proved he cared more about his own financial interests than the success of the team last off-season with an extended holdout that caused him to be a shell of his former self. He caught 64 passes (55.2% of his targets) for 838 yards and 8 touchdowns. Now he jumped ship to a team with an inferior quarterback for a giant contract. He could just coast. He’s being drafted as a mid-level WR2. He’s not one.

TE Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta)

Sure, Tony Gonzalez could be fantasy football’s #3 scoring tight end again. He could even be the #2 scoring tight end, considering one of the two tight ends who scored more points than him last season also happens to be one of the biggest injury mysteries in the game in Rob Gronkowski. However, Gonzalez is also going into his age 37 season and had one foot into retirement this off-season so he just as likely could not. There’s no upside with him at all at his current ADP as the 2nd tight end off the board.

WR James Jones (Green Bay)

James Jones isn’t scoring on 22% of his catches again this season. He probably won’t even catch 64 passes for 784 yards again. Jordy Nelson will be healthier and Randall Cobb will have a bigger role. Jones was incredibly inefficient last season on a per route basis considering who his quarterback was. He averaged just 1.29 yards per route run, 66th out of 81 eligible wide receivers. He’s getting drafted as a borderline WR2 right now, ahead of Jordy Nelson, which is absolutely absurd.

TE Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota)

Another guy who has inflated value because of touchdowns, Kyle Rudolph scored on 9 of 53 catches, 17%, last season. At first glance, that doesn’t seem that absurd, especially in comparison in James Jones, but remember that Rudolph also happens to play on arguably the worst passing offense in the NFL. Those 9 touchdowns were half of his team’s total. He had just 493 receiving yards last season and he’s not a consistent week to week tight end as along as Christian Ponder is under center.

Seahawks D/ST (Seattle)

This goes for any defense being drafted before the final 2 or 3 rounds, but Seattle’s ADP is the highest in the 6th round. Seattle has a great defense and they could easily lead all defenses in scoring, but you’d be just as well off playing the matchups on a week to week basis as you would drafting Seattle. The Bears led all defenses in fantasy points last season, scoring 13.3 points per game. Meanwhile, the average defense facing the league’s worst offense, Arizona, scored 14.2 points per game. Sure, you’re not always going to be able to pick up the defense faces the worst offense, but the bottom-5 offenses all surrendered an average of 11 or more fantasy points per game last season, which coincidentally is right around what Seattle averaged last season. You can get the equivalent of a top level fantasy defense by playing the matchups and for the price of a 14th or 15th rounder, not a 6th rounder.

WR Tavon Austin (St. Louis)

Since 2005, 28 receivers have gone in the 1st round. They’ve averaged 40 catches for 557 yards and 3 touchdowns per season. Tavon Austin isn’t AJ Green or Julio Jones. Don’t fool yourself.

K Stephen Gostkowski (New England)

Singling out Gostkowski because he’s the first kicker on the board, but don’t take any kicker before the last round. Just don’t. They’re too random. Gostkowski is going in the 9th round on average, which is 7 rounds too early.

QB Michael Vick (Philadelphia)

Sure he looks great in the pre-season, but he’s also been on the steady decline over the past 2 seasons and a predictable decline at that. Vick is more reliant on his physical abilities than any quarterback in the last decade so it’s no surprise he’s aging like a running back or wide receiver. It’s a deep year for quarterbacks so he’ll score like a QB2 when he plays, without the reliability that you want out of a backup quarterback, as he’s played between 10-13 games in every season with the Eagles and only once played all 16 games in his career. I don’t even have him on my board, but he’s going in the 9th round on average.

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