- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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We have reached the conclusion of our second annual “Walker’s Fab 40” in the AFC East blog. This year’s list caused a lot of debate throughout our community.
Here are the very best players currently in the AFC East:
2012 stats: 118 receptions, 1,354 yards, six TDs
Analysis: Welker is only 5-feet-9, but he gets the most out of his talent every single season. Welker recorded his fifth 100-catch season with the Patriots. He runs the best routes in the division and remains the best slot receiver in the NFL. The only issue with Welker is he was second in the NFL in drops last season. Welker, 31, will be an unrestricted free agent in March. It’s hard to imagine the Patriots’ offense without Welker and his immense production, but that remains a possibility. New England failed to come to a long-term agreement with Welker last year, and the one-year franchise tag increases to $11.4 million. That is too much for a one-year rental.
No. 3: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
2012 stats: 55 receptions, 790 yards, 11 TDs
Analysis: Gronkowski had an injury-plagued year, but he is still a special talent. Gronkowski scored 11 touchdowns in limited playing time. His size, strength, wingspan and strong hands make him the NFL’s top red-zone threat when he’s healthy. Gronkowski also doesn’t get enough credit for being one of the best blocking tight ends. He is a complete player. The biggest concern with Gronkowski is injuries. How long can Gronkowski play this physical brand of football before injuries start to shorten his career?
2012 stats: 11 tackles, one INT, one forced fumble
Analysis: Revis only played two games after tearing his ACL. But he remains the NFL's best cornerback and the second-best player in the AFC East. No corner shuts off half the field like Revis. In an age of passing and high-scoring offenses, Revis is a rare talent who can still dominate the cornerback position. The Jets are expected to put Revis on the trade market, and he should fetch plenty of interest. Revis is rehabbing his knee, but plenty of players have come back strong from ACL tears. Revis should be no different.
No. 1: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
2012 stats: 4,827 yards, 34 TDs, eight INTs
Analysis: Three of the top four players in "Walker’s Fab 40" are Patriots. That just shows how dominant New England has been in the AFC East. Brady is the ultimate equalizer for the Patriots that no other team can match. He's one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, and clearly the best of this era along with Peyton Manning. The quarterback gap is so large in the rest of the division that it makes New England tough to overcome. Brady, 35, still wants to play several more seasons. The title window remains open for New England as long as Brady, the No. 1 player in the AFC East, remains healthy.
The charts show the complete list of "Walker's Fab 40" following the 2012 season. As you have done all week, feel free to debate who is too high and too low.