By: James Johnson
As you all know, last week IES began its listing of the NFL’s top 100 players. We got great feedback for players 100-90 and would like to thank all of our readers. That said, the controversy continues this week with numbers 89-80. If you noticed, for this portion of our listing I piggy-backed off the listing of Pete Prisco at the end. I did so because I felt it was the right way to compare three specific rookies who took the league by storm. I hoped it would help our readers to better understand why I ranked them as I did. So without further ado, here’s this week’s listing of players 89-80.
89.) Lavonte David – LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Yet another LB from the 2012 draft class along with Kuechly and Wagner. He was also was a candidate for the AP’s defensive rookie of the year. I feel that he may have been snubbed due to the fact Kuechly lead the NFL in tackles, which at times can be a misleading stat. David was constantly in the backfield and came away from 2012 with 20 tackles for loss (tfl’s) as a rookie. That’s a stat that puts him second on the rookie tfl list.
88.) Sebastian Vollmer – OT, New England Patriots – Probably the best right tackle in the NFL, and definitely the best offensive lineman on the Patriots roster, which says a lot because, according to Pro Football Focus, they’re the second ranked offensive line in the NFL.
87.) Arian Foster – RB, Houston Texans – Some might think this is a bit low, but as I’ve said for Gore, the RB position is crowded in my top 100. Like Doug Martin, Foster finished the season with a little under 1,500 yards which isn’t bad at all in today’s NFL.
86.) Colin Kaepernick – QB, San Francisco 49ers – Alongside Robert Griffin, I believe he’s the most exciting player in today’s NFL. Yet, I had difficulty figuring out where I should place him. He didn’t start as many games as his fellow NFL QB’s on this list so I put him below them for that reason. Also I feel Kaepernick was benefited more by the pistol offense than the QB’s ranked higher than him. It will be interesting to see if the NFL can figure out the pistol this year, and if they do will Kaepernick be as good? He certainly has the arm talent and I think he can.
85.) Mario Williams – DE, Buffalo Bills – Williams may have started the season struggling in Buffalo, but once he got settled in he began to look like himself. With a full season under his belt in Buffalo, I think his numbers will only improve and he’ll get back to being the dominate pass rusher we all know he can be.
84.) Jarius Byrd – S, Buffalo Bills – If the word ball-hawk was in the dictionary, Jarius Byrd’s picture would be next to it. He’s the modern day safety that every team could use in the today’s pass-happy NFL. He’s at the point where QB’s have to be very aware of where he is on the field.
83.) Derrick Johnson – LB, Kansas City Chiefs – Why is this guy overlooked? He’s as good of an inside linebacker that you’ll find in the NFL. He consistently held down the middle of Kansas City’s defense in 2012 (and the years prior) and, according to Pro Football Focus, he led all inside linebackers in terms of stops in the run game with 60.
82.) Andrew Luck – QB, Indianapolis Colts – It’s scary to think of how good he could be. Not to mentioned he took a two win team to the playoffs as a rookie. I’d like to see him cut down in the interceptions category in 2013, but I believe he’s certainly capable of doing that.
81.) Robert Griffin III – QB, Washington Redskins – Not much more to say here besides man was this kid exciting to watch! I believe his knee injury will only make him a more dangerous QB as it will help him become an even better pocket passer. He’ll also be wiser as a runner. When taking those two components into consideration (and looking at how Adrian Peterson bounced back from ACL surgery) it’s scary to think what RGIII will become after his return.
80.) Russell Wilson – QB, Seattle Seahawks – Both Wilson and RGIII could’ve been #80. A and #80. B on this list, but what it boiled down to was that Wilson had a stronger strength of schedule. Though RGIII statistically was better, he was barely better and he had significantly weaker schedule. Additionally, Wilson did beat RGIII and the Redskins in the playoffs on their home turf–the same game in which Wilson willed his team from a 14 point deficit to win.