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. Here is our Top 10.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers made playing the quarterback position look “video game easy” last season as he threw for 45 touchdowns and just six interceptions while setting an NFL record for quarterback rating (122.4). Green Bay lost just two games last season and there’s no reason why he can’t be the best player in the NFL again in 2012.
2. Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots
Tom Brady continues to add to his legend as the seven-time Pro Bowler threw for a career high 5,235 yards while coming two minutes and a dropped pass away from another Super Bowl title. Brady is getting on in years but he’s still playing at an all-time level.
3. Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints
It seems difficult to believe that a quarterback who set the all-time single season passing yardage record could not be ranked at the top of our list, but with the current excellence at quarterback it is what it is. Brees will have a tougher time replicating his record season in 2012 without guard Carl Nicks, wide receiver Robert Meachem and perhaps most importantly, head coach Sean Payton.
4. DeMarcus Ware, Outside Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys
DeMarcus Ware is labeled by almost all experts as the very best pass rusher in football. Ware has averaged an amazing 16 sacks per season over the past five years and had 19.5 sacks in 2011. With an improved secondary, Ware should have another huge year in 2012.
5. Calvin Johnson, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions
Calvin Johnson might be the most physically impressive player in the NFL. He is uncoverable by one and usually two defenders as he can win jump balls, blow the top off defenses and runs good routes.
6. Justin Smith, Defensive End, San Francisco 49ers
Justin Smith can play both inside and outside and dominate at both positions. Smith is more than just a great “motor guy” as he has an array of strength and pass rushing moves.
7. Darrelle Revis, Cornerback, New York Jets
When you have an “island” named after you, it’s no doubt that you’re the best cornerback in the game. Revis can shut down one side of the football field and he’s the main reason why the Jets have been a respectable team.
8. Eli Manning, Quarterback, New York Giants
You can’t spell “Elite” without Eli. Manning plays his best football in the biggest games and last year’s playoff run proved it once again. Eli has the full confidence of his teammates and he’s headed toward a Hall of Fame career.
9. Jason Pierre-Paul, Defensive End, New York Giants
Jason Pierre-Paul has turned into an elite player at his position as the former USF Bull is physically dominant and must be accounted for on every play. Pierre-Paul had 16.5 sacks last season and made the entire Giants defensive line better.
10. Joe Thomas, Offensive Tackle, Cleveland Browns
Joe Thomas is the very best offensive tackle in football and he should make life easier for rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden in 2012. Thomas is an elite run blocker and more than adequate in pass protection.
To see players ranked 11-20, click here
To see players ranked 21-30, click here.
To see players ranked 31-40, click here.
To see players ranked 41-50, click here.
To see players ranked 51-60, click here.
To see players ranked 61-70, click here.
To see players ranked 71-80, click here.
To see players ranked 81-90, click here.
To see players ranked 91-100, click here.
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