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.
11. Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Denver Broncos
Only a special football player can miss the entire 2011 season and not only make the Top 100 list, but be ranked 11th. By all accounts Peyton Manning is completely healthy and delivering lasers in Broncos OTA’s and he’s poised to have a great season.
12. Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald has seemingly been a Top 3 receiver since his rookie season and no matter who his quarterback is, Fitzgerald puts up numbers. Fitzgerald isn’t considered a burner but he’s still a deep threat who has one of the best catch radiuses in all of football.
13. Patrick Willis, Inside Linebacker, San Francisco 49ers
If Patrick Willis played in a bigger market he would already be considered a legend at his position. Willis is the ultimate tackling machine and is the best linebacker since Ray Lewis was in his prime.
14. Jonathan Joseph, Cornerback, Houston Texans
Every player wants to be the best at his position and Jonathan Joseph isn’t the best cornerback, but number two isn’t bad. If Darrelle Revis didn’t exist, we would talk about Joseph as the league’s best defensive back.
15. Maurice Jones-Drew, Running Back, Jacksonville Jaguars
MJD had a season for the ages in 2011 as he led the league in rushing with the league’s worst passing attack, playing on the NFL’s worst offense as a whole. Jones-Drew faced nothing but loaded boxes last year and still managed to move the chains and put up stats. MJD still has speed, can run through defenders and catch the ball out of the backfield. He may be the perfect running back.
16. Adrian Peterson, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson is considered by most the best at his position when healthy, but there are certain health concerns following his ACL tear in December. Peterson is expected to make a full recovery but only time will tell if he still has the great open field explosion.
17. Jared Allen, Defensive End, Minnesota Vikings
One of the league’s most animated players is also one of the very best pass rushers. Allen, the former third-round pick has overachieved throughout his career and continues to get the job done while often facing double-teams. Allen registered 22 sacks in 2011, the second-highest total in NFL history (Strahan-22.5, 2001).
18. Carl Nicks, Offensive Guard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Offensive guard isn’t really an impact position but Carl Nicks is so good at what he does he makes the Top 20. Nicks is the best guard in football and he’s a huge reason Drew Brees enjoyed all the clean pockets over the past four years. Tampa Bay made him a very rich man in the offseason to do the same for Josh Freeman and the Bucs offense.
19. Andre Johnson, Wide Receiver, Houston Texans
Andre Johnson is one of the smoothest, most consistent receivers in football when healthy. The five-time Pro Bowler is quarterback Matt Schaub’s favorite target but he’s missed games in four of his nine seasons as a pro.
20. Brian Orakpo, Outside Linebacker, Washington Redskins
Brian Orakpo is one of the most feared pass rushers in football and has earned Pro Bowl selections in two of his first three seasons. Orakpo made life easier on rookie Ryan Kerrigan last season by absorbing double teams and still finished with nine sacks and three forced fumbles.
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