We are beginning our NFL Top 100 series, in which NFL Analyst Charlie Bernstein ranks the Top 100 players in the league. There are no backup quarterback media darlings, punters, kickers or long-snappers in this list, just the most elite players for the 2012 season.
91. Jordy Nelson, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers
It’s tough to imagine that a wide receiver who caught 15 touchdown passes last season could have 90 players ranked ahead of him, but we simply need to see Jordy Nelson be great for more than one year. Nelson has good size and speed but he benefits plenty from the attention Greg Jennings receives.
92. Charles Tillman, Cornerback, Chicago Bears
“Peanut” has been underrated for many years now and he finally earned a trip to the Pro Bowl last season. Tillman is a big play guy who can do an admirable job covering the opponents top receiver. Premium player at a premium position.
93. Michael Vick, Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles
When passing the ball accurately and making quick decisions, Michael Vick may be the most dominant force in the NFL. His lack of consistency has him ranked 93rd in the league.
94. Miles Austin, Wide Receiver, Dallas Cowboys
When healthy, Miles Austin is among the top in that second tier of wideouts behind Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. Austin is a game breaker who isn’t afraid to go over the middle, but health questions keeps him ranked at 94.
95. Brian Cushing, Inside Linebacker, Houston Texans
Although he hasn’t received a ton of notoriethy yet, Brian Cushing is one of the best linebackers in football. Cushing is a tackling machine who delivers bone-jarring hits and causes turnovers. Cushing’s ascension was part of the reason the Texans parted ways with Pro Bowler DeMeco Ryans.
96. Geno Atkins, Defensive Tackle, Cincinnati Bengals
Geno Atkins became a dominant force in the middle of the Bengals line in his second season as he registered 7.5 sacks and forced a pair of fumbles. Atkins was a primary reason for Cincinnati’s resurgence and at 24 years old, it’s likely that he will be much higher on this list next season.
97. Marshall Yanda, Offensive guard, Baltimore Ravens
Although most of the Ravens line was drafted higher than Yanda, he’s clearly Joe Flacco’s best protector. Yanda was a driving force for Ray Rice’s breakout seasons and he’s one of the very best guards in football.
98. Paul Posluszny, Inside Linebacker, Jacksonville Jaguars
“Poz” came to the Jaguars as a high priced free agent before the 2011 season and was worth every penny. The fifth-year pro from Penn State was seemingly always in the right position last season and he helped turn what was the 27th ranked defense in football in 2010 to the sixth-ranked unit in 2011.
99. Kyle Williams, Defensive Tackle, Buffalo Bills
Kyle Williams has been one of the best defensive tackles in football for a long time, even if few people have noticed. Williams is the consummate run-plugger and hopes to have a healthy campaign in 2012.
100. Dez Bryant, Wide Receiver, Dallas Cowboys
Dez Bryant is one of the most purely talented wide receivers in football, and if he can keep his mind right in 2012 he is a Pro Bowl caliber talent. Bryant can high-point the football as well as anyone in the league and has breakaway speed. If Bryant “stays down,” Dallas should return to the playoffs next year.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie