http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn/viewtopic.php?t=14973 The NFL's 100 best Posted: September 8, 2005 Choosing between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady is like choosing between filet mignon and lobster. There is no wrong choice. One of them had to be No. 1 on this year's list of the 100 best players. After all, Manning set an NFL record with 49 touchdown passes last season and won his second straight MVP. And Brady, well, all he did was lead the Patriots to their third Super Bowl championship in four years. Manning rates ahead of Brady -- and every other player -- because, in addition to being a dominant performer, he does more to help his team win than anyone. TSN's top 100 for 2005 1. Peyton Manning, QB, Colts (2) 2. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots (9) 3. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers (1) 4. Randy Moss, WR, Raiders (4) 5. Daunte Culpepper, QB, Vikings (26) 6. Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles (29) 7. Walter Jones, OT, Seahawks (22) 8. Ray Lewis, MLB, Ravens (3) 9. Ed Reed, S, Ravens (31) 10. Terrell Owens, WR, Eagles (18) 11. Brett Favre, QB, Packers (5) 12. Michael Vick, QB, Falcons (51) 13. Julius Peppers, DE, Panthers (38) 14. Michael Strahan, DE, Giants (7) 15. Priest Holmes, RB, Chiefs (10) 16. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Chiefs (43) 17. Jason Taylor, DE, Dolphins (8) 18. Julian Peterson, OLB, 49ers (11) 19. Jonathan Ogden, OT, Ravens (12) 20. Torry Holt, WR, Rams (19) 21. Champ Bailey, CB, Broncos (14) 22. Marvin Harrison, WR, Colts (13) 23. Brian Urlacher, MLB, Bears (36) 24. Dwight Freeney, DE, Colts (44) 25. Richard Seymour, DE, Patriots (15) 26. Roy Williams, S, Cowboys (32) 27. Simeon Rice, DE, Bucs (17) 28. Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers (NR) 29. Shaun Rogers, DT, Lions (NR) 30. Kevin Williams, DT, Vikings (NR) 31. Jamal Lewis, RB, Ravens (21) 32. Brian Dawkins, S, Eagles (33) 33. Chris McAlister, CB, Ravens (20) 34. Orlando Pace, OT, Rams (25) 35. Troy Polamalu, S, Steelers (NR) 36. Hines Ward, WR, Steelers (71) 37. Marcus Stroud, DT, Jaguars (53) 38. Edgerrin James, RB, Colts (NR) 39. Nate Clements, CB, Bills (NR) 40. Kris Jenkins, DT, Panthers (39) 41. Javon Walker, WR, Packers (NR) 42. Derrick Brooks, OLB, Bucs (54) 43. Alan Faneca, G, Steelers (75) 44. Tiki Barber, RB, Giants (90) 45. Ahman Green, RB, Packers (16) 46. Olin Kreutz, C, Bears (42) 47. Keith Bulluck, OLB, Titans (56) 48. Shaun Alexander, RB, Seahawks (67) 49. Willie Roaf, OT, Chiefs (30) 50. Patrick Surtain, CB, Chiefs (27) 51. Will Shields, G, Chiefs (28) 52. John Henderson, DT, Jaguars (NR) 53. Trent Green, QB, Chiefs (57) 54. Curtis Martin, RB, Jets (NR) 55. Shaun Ellis, DE, Jets (NR) 56. Drew Brees, QB, Chargers (NR) 57. Rodney Harrison, S, Patriots (46) 58. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans (NR) 59. Chad Johnson, WR, Bengals (37) 60. Alge Crumpler, TE, Falcons (NR) 61. Deuce McAllister, RB, Saints (35) 62. Steve Hutchinson, G, Seahawks (66) 63. Jonathan Vilma, MLB, Jets (NR) 64. Cornelius Griffin, DT, Redskins (NR) 65. Michael Clayton, WR, Bucs (NR) 66. Michael Lewis, S, Eagles (NR) 67. Takeo Spikes, OLB, Bills (52) 68. Joe Horn, WR, Saints (NR) 69. Brian Waters, G, Chiefs (NR) 70. Jevon Kearse, DE, Eagles (23) 71. Corey Dillon, RB, Patriots (NR) 72. Muhsin Muhammad, WR, Bears (NR) 73. Charles Tillman, CB, Bears (NR) 74. Steve McNair, QB, Titans (6) 75. Trevor Pryce, DE, Broncos (34) 76. Adewale Ogunleye, DE, Bears (47) 77. Isaac Bruce, WR, Rams (NR) 78. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts (NR) 79. Kevin Mawae, C, Jets (48) 80. Leonard Little, DE, Rams (45) 81. Charles Grant, DE, Saints (NR) 82. Terrell Suggs, DE, Ravens (98) 83. Rudi Johnson, RB, Bengals (NR) 84. Al Wilson, MLB, Broncos (69) 85. Fred Taylor, RB, Jaguars (76) 86. Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles (NR) 87. Mike Wahle, G, Panthers (NR) 88. Bertrand Berry, DE, Cardinals (NR) 89. Shawn Springs, CB, Redskins (NR) 90. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, DE, Packers (74) 91. Samari Rolle, CB, Ravens (64) 92. LaVar Arrington, OLB, Redskins (81) 93. Antoine Winfield, CB, Vikings (63) 94. Donovin Darius, S, Jaguars (85) 95. Ty Law, CB, Jets (41) 96. Marc Bulger, QB, Rams (NR) 97. Jimmy Smith, WR, Jaguars (NR) 98. Tarik Glenn, OT, Colts (NR) 99. James Farrior, ILB, Steelers (NR) 100. Dre' Bly, CB, Lions (NR) Last year's ranking in parentheses. "NR" indicates was not ranked. Nobody flings the rock like Manning. In addition to leading the league in TD passes last year, he was tops in passer rating (his NFL-record mark of 121.1 is more than eight points higher than the No. 2 rating on the all-time list: Steve Young's 112.8 in 1994), yards per attempt (9.17), first downs passing (232) and passes of 25 yards or more (41). How do you defend this guy? You can't blitz him. Manning had a league-best 136.8 passer rating against the blitz last season, according to STATS Inc. You can't sit back in coverage -- he'll pick you apart. Manning's audible ability gave the Colts an advantage over every opponent. Other quarterbacks audible, too, but not like Manning. He's doing more than changing plays -- he's changing games. In the Colts' grading system, each play is reviewed on tape and every player is evaluated based on his assignment. The highest grade a player can get is a 10. A very good player usually rates a 7.5 or higher. For the 2004 season, the Colts gave Manning a grade in the high 9s. The decision to rank Manning first isn't a knock on Brady, who operates his offense as efficiently as any quarterback and whose ability to come through in the clutch is unquestionable. You can't criticize a guy whose career record (57-14, .803) is the best in the Super Bowl era among quarterbacks with at least 40 starts. If Manning and Brady had switched teams, Manning certainly would have been able to quarterback the Patriots to Super Bowl victories. Whether Brady would have been able to operate the Colts' passing game with Manning's flair is debatable. Quarterbacks Right behind Manning and Brady comes Daunte Culpepper, No. 5 overall. He hasn't always received his due, but there isn't a more complete quarterback. And Culpepper threw for more completions (379) and yards (4,717) than anyone last year. No. 6 Donovan McNabb took his game to another level last season, as his maturation and Terrell Owens came together conveniently. No. 11 Brett Favre hasn't done anything to drop on this list. The perception is he's approaching the 18th hole, but in 2004 the Packers' legend had the second-best completion percentage of his 14-year career, his fourth-most completions and his fourth-most yards. The wild card is No. 12 Michael Vick. If you rated him solely on passing skills, he wouldn't make the top 100. When you consider the complete player and how he lifted the Falcons last season, Vick deserves a high rating. After three straight years of having a passer rating in the 90s, No. 53 Trent Green no longer can be considered a fluke or merely a product of the Chiefs' system. If No. 56 Drew Brees strings together a few seasons like the one he had last year, he will be considered one of the game's best. Injuries precipitated Steve McNair's slide to No. 74. He has missed 10 games over the past two seasons and is at the point of his career when durability is a concern. When he did play last season, he was average at best. No. 96 Marc Bulger beats out Chad Pennington of the Jets, Jake Delhomme of the Panthers, Matt Hasselbeck of the Seahawks and Jake Plummer of the Broncos for the last quarterback spot mostly because of his impressive 8.17 yards per passing attempt. Running backs The top two on this list were not the top two backs last season because of injuries, but it's difficult to dispute that No. 3 LaDainian Tomlinson is without peer when healthy. An electric runner who can beat defenders with quickness, power or burst, he is the NFL ideal at the position. No. 15 Priest Holmes is a different kind of back, but he isn't far behind Tomlinson. Holmes is separated from the pack by his receiving skills, and he also is the best short-yardage back. Because of the Ravens' subpar passing game, No. 31 Jamal Lewis goes against eight-man fronts as much as any back, but it hasn't slowed him a bit. Lewis is not as much of an all-around player as Tomlinson or Holmes, however. No. 38 Edgerrin James can beat defenses with the run or the catch. The closer you look at No. 44 Tiki Barber, the more there is to like. He's a great dual running/receiving threat and a matchup nightmare who averaged a league-best 131 yards from scrimmage last year. Working with Favre has given No. 45 Ahman Green more opportunities for yards but less attention than he deserves. He hits the hole as hard as any running back. Shaun Alexander had a monster season in 2004, rushing for 20 yards or more an NFL-high 15 times. A lot of people probably would rank him higher, but he gets knocked to No. 48 because he doesn't offer the same level of intangibles as other backs. What a warrior No. 54 Curtis Martin is. Last season, he rushed for a first down on 24 percent of his carries. No. 61 Deuce McAllister can peel off long runs, and he's an able receiver. He would rank higher if he were more efficient at getting the 4-yard carries that move the chains. No. 71 Corey Dillon and the player who replaced him in the Bengals' backfield, No. 83 Rudi Johnson, deserve places in the top 100. No player broke more tackles last season than Johnson, who had 54, or had more yards after contact than Johnson's 860. Brian Westbrook comes in at No. 86 because he's arguably the best running back in space. No player had more yards after the catch in 2004 than Westbrook, who gained 640 of his 703 yards after making receptions. No. 85 Fred Taylor is an explosive runner. Wide receivers This is consistently the richest position in the NFL, and the richest of the rich, in terms of ability, is No. 4 Randy Moss. He is the best deep threat in the league -- ever. His combination of height, speed and hands is unmatched. No receiver requires more game-planning adjustments. No. 10 Terrell Owens is a better all-around player than Moss. He can run every route well, whereas Moss is more of a straight-line, vertical guy. Owens plays with more intensity, and he's a better blocker. He doesn't take plays off like Moss does. But he isn't as fast as Moss, and his hands aren't quite in the same category. No. 20 Torry Holt is consistent and ultraproductive. The Rams' receiver has averaged almost 16 yards per catch in his six seasons. No. 22 Marvin Harrison has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in each of the past six seasons. His smooth route running is the best in the league. Show Hines Ward the money; he deserves it. The 36th-ranked player is the most physical receiver and the best blocker at his position. No. 41 Javon Walker became an elite receiver last season by averaging 15.5 yards per catch. He also was the premier receiver on third down, leading the NFL with 31 catches in those situations. Two players who could rank in the top spots at receiver one day are No. 58 Andre Johnson and No. 59 Chad Johnson. Andre Johnson is a younger Owens, except with a much smaller ego. Before Chad Johnson can take the next step, he needs to improve his hands. He dropped 14 passes last season -- most in the NFL. No. 65 Michael Clayton had a phenomenal rookie season, playing like a polished veteran in every way. His 521 yards after the catch were best among wide receivers. The most underrated receiver of this era might be No. 68 Joe Horn. He doesn't stand out in any particular area -- he just beats defenders week in and week out. No receiver played better in 2004 than No. 72 Muhsin Muhammad. He would be ranked higher if he had produced as he did last season more frequently. Two players who are the second receivers on their teams also made the list -- No. 77 Isaac Bruce of the Rams and No. 78 Reggie Wayne of the Colts. Old reliable Jimmy Smith gets the last spot at No. 97, ahead of a lot of good players such as Derrick Mason of the Ravens, Rod Smith of the Broncos and Chris Chambers of the Dolphins. Tight ends What a special player No. 16 Tony Gonzalez is. He clearly is the best tight end now and perhaps is the best tight end ever. He had an AFC-high 69 catches for first downs last season. No. 28 Antonio Gates has the ability to be as good or better than Gonzalez one day. Rated solely on blocking skill, Gates already is better. No. 60 Alge Crumpler is the most versatile tight end, but he isn't the downfield threat Gonzalez and Gates are. Offensive tackles No tackle is in the class of No. 7 Walter Jones. Consistently dominant, he is as good at his position as any player in football. No. 19 Jonathan Ogden is bigger and more physical than Jones, but he isn't quite as quick-footed and sometimes can be beaten by speed rushers. No. 34 Orlando Pace is slightly less consistent than Jones and Ogden, but he's still a fine player. Although No. 49 Willie Roaf is a 12-year vet, he still is one of the league's premier pass blockers. No. 98 Tarik Glenn gets the last tackle spot ahead of Green Bay's Chad Clifton and Cincinnati's Willie Anderson. Guards Of the 64 starting guards in the NFL, two of the top four -- Will Shields and Brian Waters -- play for the Chiefs. No. 51 Shields and No. 69 Waters are nice complements to each other; Shields has the knowledge and athleticism, and Waters has the brute strength and nasty temperament. But both rank behind No. 43 Alan Faneca of the Steelers, the key blocker in the NFL's best run game. No. 62 Steve Hutchinson is similar to Waters but slightly more polished. No. 87 Mike Wahle, signed by the Panthers as a free agent in the offseason, perhaps is the best pulling guard. Centers With Matt Birk of the Vikings injured, No. 46 Olin Kreutz doesn't have much competition for the title of best center. Kreutz doesn't have ideal size or power, but he makes up for that with aggressiveness, technique and athleticism. No. 79 Kevin Mawae may not be quite as strong a run blocker, but he is crafty and consistent. Green Bay's Mike Flanagan just missed the cut. Defensive ends No. 13 Julius Peppers hasn't quite cemented himself as the best -- but he appears ready to do so. No. 14 Michael Strahan has the best resume, but he had only four sacks last season before missing the last eight games because of injury. Peppers clearly is the most talented end, and he's beginning to figure out how to use his talent. Strahan is the most accomplished, the most versatile, the most complete and the most refined. Only Strahan (65) has produced more sacks over the past five seasons than No. 17 Jason Taylor (64), who is tough against the run and remains an elite pass rusher. No. 24 Dwight Freeney led the league in sacks last season with 16. He's the best speed rusher, but he isn't as rangy as Peppers, Strahan or Taylor and he doesn't play the run as well. No. 25 Richard Seymour doesn't make as many plays as the guys ranked ahead of him because of the type of defense the Patriots use, but no player is more difficult to block. No. 27 Simeon Rice can rush the passer as well as anyone, but as a run defender he isn't in the same league with the ends rated above him. There's a bit of a drop-off to No. 55 Shaun Ellis. He doesn't have the explosiveness and speed of some of the higher-ranked ends, but he has become a three-down force. No. 70 Jevon Kearse once was where Peppers is, but he hasn't had a double-digit sack season since 2001. Still, he can blow by a slow-footed offensive tackle in a nanosecond. Next in line are two players -- No. 75 Trevor Pryce and No. 76 Adewale Ogunleye -- whose stock dropped precipitously mostly because they were injured last year. Speed rusher Leonard Little, No. 80, doesn't excel in all phases of his game, but he makes a lot of plays rushing the passer. No. 82 Terrell Suggs and No. 90 Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila also are top speed rushers. If you like two-way ends, you'll love No. 81 Charles Grant, a tough, hard-nosed player who can beat a tackle with finesse or power. No. 88 Bertrand Berry had a significant effect on the Cardinals' defense last season. Defensive tackles No. 29 Shaun Rogers is an absolute beast in the middle. He might be the most powerful player in the NFL. No. 30 Kevin Williams, the game's premier inside pass rusher, plays with the athleticism of an end. Two Jaguars tackles, No. 37 Marcus Stroud and No. 52 John Henderson, make the top 100. Stroud gets the higher ranking because he's quicker and more athletic. Henderson (6-7, 328) relies more on his unusual size and strength. No. 40 Kris Jenkins played in only four games last season, but he could be the top tackle on this list next year if he stays healthy. You don't hear a lot about No. 64 Cornelius Griffin, but you should. No player in the NFL had more stuffs -- tackles behind the line on rushing plays -- than his 14 1/2 last season. Inside linebackers No linebacker can dominate a game quite like No. 8 Ray Lewis. His critics say he isn't what he used to be, but there still isn't anyone better. Appreciation for No. 23 Brian Urlacher only grew last season when he missed seven games with injuries. The Bears' record with Urlacher: 5-4; without him: 0-7. All No. 63 Jonathan Vilma did as a rookie was find the ball and make the play -- over and over. He could be the heir apparent to Lewis as the next great middle linebacker. The Broncos might have the finest set of linebackers in the league, and the man in the middle is No. 84 Al Wilson. No. 99 James Farrior had the best season of his eight-year career in 2004, giving him the edge for the last inside spot over Zach Thomas of the Dolphins. Outside linebackers If No. 18 Julian Peterson can be what he used to be after tearing his Achilles' tendon last season, there's little doubt he is the best outside linebacker. He rushes the passer like an end and covers tight ends and running backs like a safety. No. 42 Derrick Brooks isn't as physical as Peterson, but he's the best cover linebacker. No. 47 Keith Bulluck is similar to Peterson, except he isn't quite as explosive or as adept in coverage. No. 67 Takeo Spikes might be the hardest hitter in the game. No. 92 LaVar Arrington gets the last outside spot, ahead of the Broncos' D.J. Williams and Ian Gold, the Falcons' Keith Brooking and the Patriots' Mike Vrabel. Safeties No defensive back makes more plays than No. 9 Ed Reed. He is an intense student of the game who has a chance to be "super, super special" according to Manning. No. 26 Roy Williams can't cover and make plays on the ball like Reed, but he's the best of the in-the-box safeties. There's nothing No. 32 Brian Dawkins doesn't do well. He's probably the best blitzing safety. No. 35 Troy Polamalu is equally effective against the run and pass. Big-hitting Rodney Harrison, No. 57, remains an impact player going into his 12th season. No. 66 Michael Lewis, Dawkins' teammate, is an old-fashioned intimidator and a strong player against the run. No. 94 Donovin Darius can blow up a ballcarrier.