Recently, the NFL Network began their annual top 100 players list. So, in response I’m going to make a list of my own. I won’t rank the top 100, but rather the top 50. I think 100 could be a bit watered down, so I purposely shortened it. Without further ado, here is the 1st edition of my top 50 players of 2015 segment, players 50-41:
50. Baltimore Ravens LB, C.J. Mosley
C.J. Mosley was a part of a highly touted 2014 draft class. Falling to the 17th overall pick, Mosley was a complete steal, and in one season has already made a significant impact on this Baltimore Ravens defense. He might not have filled Ray Lewis’ role as a leader, but his 133 combined tackles, 3 sacks, and Pro Bowl selection has sure filled his production vacancy.
Mike Iupati is slowly turning into one of the better interior lineman in football. 2014, marked the 3rd consecutive season in which he was named to the Pro Bowl in his 5 years as a pro. Iupati now moves from San Fran to the dessert in Arizona, and will surely be important in Arizona’s pursuit of establishing a consistent running game.
48. Baltimore Ravens QB, Joe Flacco
The numbers aren’t flashy, but they don’t have to be. Joe Flacco has now led the Ravens to the postseason all but 1 season in his 7 years as a pro. Last season, marking his best statistical year yet, eclipsing career highs in passing yards, QBR, and touchdowns. Take away a couple of interceptions in his playoff game againstNew England, and I think Flacco could’ve been playing in his 2nd Super Bowl in young career.
The role of interior pass rusher is one of the most underrated skills in the game, yet one of the more important. Dontari Poe has that unique skill that puts him at this position on the list. His body mass and strength resulted in a 6 sack season in 2015, and his 2nd consecutive Pro Bowl selection. Everyone knows Tamba Hali and Justin Houston on the Chiefs defense, but Poe is just as important to the success of that unit.
46. Indianapolis Colts CB, Vontae Davis
Vontae Davis has been relatively inconsistent in his young NFL career, which was the reason the Dolphins shipped him to Indy. The move happened in an episode of “Hard Knocks”, which gave the show one of it’s best lines of all-time as a stunned Davis told Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland that he needed to “call his grandma.” This provided a few laughs, but nobody is laughing now after a Pro Bowl 2014 season where he intercepted 4 passes and was a staple in run support. He has all of a sudden become one of the more complete corners in the game.
45. Denver Broncos LB, Demarcus Ware
Demarcus Ware to many was all but finished after the 2013 season. It was the first time in his career where he had played in less than 16 games, and the first time he failed to record double digit sacks since his rookie season. Well, with Vonn Milleralongside him, Ware got back to his usual double digit sack self. Leading to another Pro Bowl season and giving Denver one of the more dominant pass rushes in all of football.
44. Seattle Seahawks LB, Bobby Wagner
This kid is special. When he wasn’t injured the team was 11-3 with him in the starting lineup, and 3-2 without him. In just 11 regular season games, Bobby Wagner recorded 104 combined tackles including an interception of Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. Many could make the case Wagner is the leader and most important piece on the league’s best defense.
43. Dallas Cowboys G, Zach Martin
Zach Martin might be the best interior lineman in football already after one season in the NFL. How many rookies become 1st-team All-Pro’s? That is testament to just how productive he’s already proved himself in NFL circles. Not to mention one of the major contributors on the league’s best offensive line. What a future this kid has.
42. New York Giants QB, Eli Manning
With all the struggles Eli Manning had in 2013, it all changed in Ben McAdoo’s new offense in 2014. He set career high’s in completions and completion percentage, while hitting the 30 touchdown mark for the 2nd time in his career. Manning failed to make the Pro Bowl, which is disgraceful considering Andy Dalton did, but that’s another story. Take away one poor start against San Fran, and he would’ve avoided double-digit interceptions in a full season for the 1st-time in his hall of fame career. Manning is back, and poised for more come 2015.
41. St. Louis Rams DT, Aaron Donald
As I said about Poe, Aaron Donald has a skill not many do successfully in this league. He brings a ferocious interior pass rush. In just his first year in the league, Donald lived up to his 1st-round status with a 9 sack season and a defensive rookie of the year award to boot. Once Donald’s rookie contract is up there’s no question in my mind he will receive Ndamukong Suh-type money. He’s that special.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Vincent Rapisardi