Inspired by CBS Sportsline’s list of the top 50 football players in the NFL, I decided to make my own list of the top players in the NFL, going from the 25th best player in the NFL to the very best. We start with players 25-21.
25. Shawne Merriman; Outside Linebacker, San Diego Chargers
Merriman is one of the best linebackers in the NFL. He is amazing at pressuring the quarterback and has 39.5 sacks in 3 years. However, Merriman used steroids and tested positive during NFL mandated random drug testing. He was suspended 4 games in 2006 for his steroid use, and is now forever marked as a cheater. I believed Merriman deserved to make this list as the best rush linebacker in the NFL, but without that blemish he could be much higher on this list.
The other issue with Merriman’s game is that he is one dimensional. He only had 68 tackles last year, and is not affective defending against the run, and cannot drop back into coverage. Merriman is so good at what he does, he deserves to make this list. If he could cover and stop the run more effectively, he could be the best defender in the NFL.
24. Larry Fitzgerald; Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and is the go-to guy for the Cardinals. Last year he was sixth in the NFL with 100 catches, and was fourth in the NFL is receiving yards with 1,409. Fitzgerald had 10 touchdowns this year en route to one of the best seasons of his young career. Fitzgerald is an extremely skilled receiver and is very deserving of being on this list.
23. Brian Urlacher; Middle Linebacker, Chicago Bears
Urlacher is the heart and soul of the Bears defense. He had 5 sacks and 5 interceptions this year, one was returned for a touchdown. He had 123 tackles last year, and has 385 tackles over the last 3 years. Urlacher is the only middle linebacker on this list, and is the best one of his kind in the NFL.
22. Antonio Gates; Tight End, San Diego Chargers
The second Charger in this grouping, Antonio Gates is the best tight end the NFL has to offer. He had a great year last year, with 75 catches, 9 touchdowns, and 984 yards. By his standards, this was only a decent year, but considering he was hampered by a toe injury for a good amount of the season, this is great production.
21. Walter Jones; Left Tackle, Seattle Seahawks
Jones is a good run blocker, and a better pass blocker. He has solidified the left side of the offensive line for the Seahawks for many years. Shaun Alexander knows he wouldn’t have broken the touchdown record or won the MVP award if not for Jones’ blocking. In a league where offensive linemen are often overlooked, Jones is the best tackle around.
Stay tuned for players 20-16 tomorrow.