Walker's Fab 40: Nos. 1-4

February, 17, 2012
2/17/12
4:00
PM ET
We conclude "Walker’s Fab 40" with the four best players in the AFC East.

Here are our rankings for Nos. 1-4:

Welker
No. 4: Wes Welker, WR

Team: New England Patriots

2011 stats: 122 receptions, 1,569 yards, nine touchdowns

Analysis: Welker put together his best season in 2011. He set new career highs in yards (1,569) and touchdowns (nine). Welker also was one catch short of his career high in receptions. The Patriots love overachievers who get the most out of their talents, and Welker is a perfect example. He gets open a ton despite lack of size and blazing speed. He's the best route runner in the AFC East and is very sure-handed, although many will probably remember his big drop in Super Bowl XLVI this season. Welker also is one of the top unrestricted free agents. But New England is expected to re-sign him with a long-term extension or the franchise tag.

Gronkowski
Gronkowski
No. 3: Rob Gronkowski, TE

Team: Patriots

2011 stats: 90 receptions, 1,327 yards, 17 touchdowns

Analysis: Is this ranking too high for a 22-year-old tight end who's only in his second season? Possibly. But of all the players we've watched in person, Gronkowski may have been the most impressive in the division. He had a record-setting year with 17 receiving touchdowns and a nose for the end zone unlike any other player we've seen in a while. Gronkowski has a special combination of size, strong hands and a long wingspan to make difficult catches look easy. He also runs downhill like a freight train and is hard to bring down. Many criticized Gronkowski's loose and care-free personality. But no one can question his toughness and effort on the field.

Revis
No. 2: Darrelle Revis, CB

Team: New York Jets

2011 stats: 52 tackles, four interceptions, one touchdown

Analysis: When it's all said and done, Revis will be an all-time great. That's how confident I am in Revis' abilities. He's the best cover corner I've seen since I started covering the NFL in 2004. The way he sticks to receivers and is almost always in the right position is amazing to watch, considering how hard it is now to play the position. The bar is so high that people are shocked when receivers get a couple catches on Revis. He's, by far, the best corner in the league. Revis, 26, is in the prime of his career and you hope the Jets aren't wasting it with failures in the locker room and at other positions. New York may not get another shutdown corner as good as Revis for a long time.

Brady
No. 1: Tom Brady, QB

Team: Patriots

2011 stats: 5,235 yards, 39 touchdowns, 12 interceptions

Analysis: Brady continues to amaze, even at the advanced football age of 34. He threw for the second-most yards (5,235) ever by a quarterback, although some of that shine will be taken off by New England falling short in the Super Bowl. As long as Brady is healthy, the Patriots will be favored to win the AFC East. The quarterback gap is so wide in the division that it's difficult for other AFC East teams to compete with New England on a consistent basis. Brady wants to play until he's 40. He certainly has the skills and acumen to do it. But the biggest question is will Brady's body hold up? He's suffered nagging injuries the past two seasons that are starting to add up. Most recently, Brady was nursing a left shoulder injury late in the season and throughout the playoffs.

That concludes our first annual "Walker's Fab 40" in the AFC East division. Here is the complete list for 2012:

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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