FOXSports.com put together a list of the top 100 players in the NFL, and five of those 100 are members of the New England Patriots. I’m sure you could you figure out who those five are, but where exactly they are ranked is not quite so obvious. For example, LB Jerod Mayo is ranked higher than Vince Wilfork. I agree with Mayo being on the list and believe he has HUGE amounts of potential, but ranked higher than Wilfork? Big Vince is arguably the best nose tackle in the NFL and deserves to be much higher on the list. After the jump are the five Pats in the top 100, including where they are ranked and what FOX had to say about each player:
76. Vince Wilfork. A two-time Pro Bowl selection (2007 and 2009), Warren (should say WILFORK) is the run stuffing clog on the Patriots 3-man defensive line. Fresh off a newly inked deal, he’s now the second-highest paid defensive tackle in the NFL. Still only 28, the Pats expect several more highly productive seasons out of the big fella.
72. Jerod Mayo. The Junior Seau, Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi days are now a thing of the past in New England. When it comes to Patriots LBs these days, it starts and ends with Jerod Mayo. After a breakout ’08 campaign, Mayo was sidelined with an MCL injury for a portion of the 2009 campaign. Named a defensive captain in just his second NFL season, Mayo still managed to make 103 tackles in just 13 games. When fully healthy, there are few better young defensive talents in the league than the former Tennessee Volunteer.
54. Wes Welker. A first-team All-Pro for the first time in his career last year (123 receptions), Welker’s currently working very hard to return from devastating season-ending shoulder and ACL injuries suffered last winter. A recent study suggested players coming off injuries like the one Welker had will usually return to about 66 percent of their previous production. If anyone can defy those odds, it’s Welker, an undersized, undrafted free agent who’s already led the league in catches twice.
*I think Welker should be WAY higher up the list. Despite missing some time due to an injury last season, Wes still came very close to breaking the single-season receptions record. He’s a playmaker and one of the most reliable receivers in the league. He’ll be in the right spot at the right time and make the catch. I would place him somewhere in the top 30.
28. Randy Moss. It’s been a busy offseason for Moss. He recently said he has no intention of retiring anytime soon and indicated that 2010 will most likely be the last season he plays for the Patriots. At 33, Moss is still one of the most talented and feared receivers in the NFL. Last year he caught 83 passes for 1,264 yards and hauled in 13 TDs, making the seventh Pro Bowl of his career. Folks seem to be down on the Patriots this offseason, talking up the Dolphins and Jets as the new powers of the AFC East. If Brady and Moss are jelling, though, all of that talk can be put to rest.
*Moss played much of last season with injuries to his shoulder, which made jumping up and reaching for footballs much harder. Despite this, he still had over 1,000 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns. A motivated, 100% Moss in a contract year is a scary prospect for the secondaries of the NFL. I’d go top 20 for Moss.
3. Tom Brady. In his first season back from the devastating knee injury that kept him off the field in 2008, Brady led the Pats to their seventh AFC East title in eight seasons. The 2009 NFL Comeback Player of the Year had yet another Pro Bowl year despite three fractured ribs, a broken finger and numerous O-line injuries. A rough playoff loss at home to Baltimore left a bad taste in every Patriots fans’ mouth last January. Some seem to be down on the Pats and Brady this offseason, talking up the Jets and Dolphins as division favorites. I’ll take Brady and those three Super Bowl rings over Mark Sanchez, Chad Henne and 27 other NFL starting QBs.
*Of course, most Pats fans would put TB at #1, but #3 is fair. Drew Brees (#2) and Peyton Manning (#1) are the only players ahead of Brady, and seeing as though they were both in the Super Bowl, I can’t justifiably argue for a higher placement. However, with some new targets for Tom this year, he has a great chance to move into #1 after this season.