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.
31. Mario Williams, Defensive End, Buffalo Bills
When healthy, Mario Williams is the very best 4-3 defensive end in football. Williams has an array of moves and is a physical freak at 6-foot-6, 285 pounds.
32. Haoli Ngata, Defensive Tackle, Baltimore Ravens
Haoli Ngata is the most underrated and best player on the Baltimore defense, and has been so for several years. Ngata is athletic enough to play any position on the line and often drops in coverage in some of the Ravens exotic blitz schemes.
33. Arian Foster, Running Back, Houston Texans
Arian Foster isn’t the fastest or most powerful back in football, nor does he have the best moves. But Foster does each of those things very well and always falls forward. Arian is an amazing story how he’s gone from an undrafted rookie to the most elite of running backs.
34. Ray Rice, Running Back, Baltimore Ravens
Rice has been the best player on the Ravens offense since his rookie season and he has carried that Ravens team to several postseason victories. Rice plays much larger than his 5-foot-8 inch, 212 pound frame suggests, and we hope that he and the Ravens can come to a contract agreement.
35. Jahri Evans, Offensive Guard, New Orleans Saints
Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks made up one of the best guard tandems in the NFL in a few decades. Now that Nicks has left New Orleans for greener ($) pastures, we’ll see if Evans can keep up his high level of play.
36. Lance Briggs, Linebacker, Chicago Bears
Brian Urlacher may be Chicago’s favorite son at linebacker, but Lance Briggs has played at a higher level over the past five years. Briggs may be better known for his public contract squabbles, but he’s one of the best linebackers in the game.
37. Matt Stafford, Quarterback, Detroit Lions
Matt Stafford was a legitimate MVP candidate last season and he has the NFL’s ultimate weapon at wide receiver, Megatron (Calvin Johnson). There’s no reason Stafford can’t continue to play at a high level next season and for years to come.
38. Greg Jennings, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers
Greg Jennings doesn’t have 4.4 speed, he can’t jump like Calvin Johnson and his routes aren’t quite as crisp as Andre Johnson. Still, he gets open consistently, has the best hands on the team and consistently puts up Pro Bowl caliber numbers.
39. Hakeem Nicks, Wide Receiver, New York Giants
Hakeem Nicks is one of the best big play receivers in the NFL. Nicks has some of the strongest hands in football and can high-point the ball as well as anyone not named Calvin Johnson.
40. Richard Seymour, Defensive Tackle, Oakland Raiders
Entering his 12th NFL season, the seven-time Pro Bowler is still playing at an extremely high level. Seymour can play multiple positions on the defensive line which allows the Raiders to give hybrid looks. At 32 years old, Seymour is still among the league’s top pass rushing defensive tackles.
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