- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Not everyone could make Walker’s Fab 40. This is the best of the best in the AFC East, and this year we had another very competitive list.
Here are several good players who didn’t make the list:
2012 stats: 50.2 yard average, 29 punts inside 20
Why he missed the cut: This was a tough call to make. I think Fields is one of the top 10 punters in the NFL. However, is he one of the top 40 players in the AFC East? I went back and forth on this one but eventually placed a lower value on punters and included players who were more productive at other positions. Ultimately, could I rank Fields ahead of Miami safety Reshad Jones, who came in at No. 40? I just couldn't do it.
2012 stats: 45 tackles, six sacks
Why he missed the cut: Jones started his rookie season on a tear. He had six sacks early and brought the Patriots a much-needed pass rush. However, Jones came to New England with an injury history in college, and that also hampered him in the second half of this season. Jones suffered through a bum ankle and couldn’t finish the year strong. I need to see more of Jones. Eight good games as a rookie weren’t enough. But the talent is there, and I fully expect him to be on Walker’s Fab 40 in 2014.
2012 stats: 56 receptions, 827 yards, two TDs
Why he missed the cut: Kerley did the opposite of Jones. He was nonexistent for the first half of the season but came on strong late in the year. Some of this has to do with Santonio Holmes' season-ending foot injury. Kerley eventually became Mark Sanchez's No. 1 target when Holmes went down. Kerley continues to flash but needs to put it together for a full season. Kerley is probably most effective in the slot, but the Jets need more receivers.
2012 stats: 39 tackles, 5.5 sacks
Why he missed the cut: I expected much more from Dareus in his second season. He showed plenty of flashes his rookie year but definitely went through a sophomore slump and disappeared in games. Dareus also had family issues off the field this season that may have impacted his play. The Bills were 31st against the run, which is inexcusable for a unit that includes Dareus, Kyle Williams and Mario Williams.
Fab 40 snub: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills
2012 stats: 3,400 yards, 24 touchdowns, 16 INTs
Why he missed the cut: Fitzpatrick had another erratic year and was 6-10 as a starter. His numbers looked decent, but Fitzpatrick had an uncanny knack for throwing mind-boggling interceptions at the worst times. He was definitely not clutch as a quarterback. His streakiness made it difficult for the Bills to win consistently. Fitzpatrick probably played his last game in Buffalo. Rookie head coach Doug Marrone is looking for Fitzpatrick’s replacement, and it could come in the draft or free agency. Fitzpatrick is due a $3 million roster bonus in March and a $4.45 million salary that Buffalo is not expect to pay.
Thanks for checking out another fun year of Walker’s Fab 40 as we put a final bow on the 2012 season. I’m sure the debate will continue on, but it’s time for the AFC East blog to fully turn its attention to free agency and the 2013 NFL draft.