Friday, February 1, 2013
Walker’s Fab 40: Nos. 5-8
By James Walker
We are getting to the very best players in "Walker’s Fab 40." For the second year in a row, we rank the top 40 players in the AFC East.
Throughout Friday we will complete our rankings. Here are Nos. 5-8:
No. 8: Mike Pouncey, C, Miami Dolphins
2012 stats: 16 starts
Analysis: In just two years, Pouncey has quickly ascended to becoming one of the top centers in the NFL. Just like his twin brother, Maurkice, Mike has a rare blend of strength and athleticism that’s currently unmatched at the position. He has a mean streak on the field and is one of the few linemen able to effortlessly pull from the center position. Mike was a Pro Bowl snub this season. But his brother did take one of the spots, and it’s difficult to tell at this point which player is better.
No. 7: C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
2012 stats: 1,244 yards and six TDs
Analysis: There may not be a more physically gifted player in the division than Spiller. He goes from zero-to-60 so fast and is a treat to watch in the open field. Spiller finally got enough opportunities to show what he could do in Year 3. And based on what we saw, it’s inexcusable that former Bills coach Chan Gailey kept Spiller under wraps for so long. Still, too many games went by when Spiller had single-digit carries in 2012. New Bills coach Doug Marrone would be wise not to ignore his best player in 2013.
No. 6: Vince Wilfork, DT, New England Patriots
2012 stats: 48 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles
Analysis: The Patriots’ veteran leader continues to plug away with another Pro Bowl season. Wilfork anchored New England’s ninth-ranked run defense with a combination of size, strength and smarts. He also has surprising athleticism for a player his size. Wilfork and quarterback Tom Brady are the final holdovers from New England’s last Super Bowl victory in 2004. Even at age 31, Wilfork is showing no signs of slowing down.
No. 5: Cameron Wake, DE, Miami Dolphins
2012 stats: 53 tackles, 15 sacks, three forced fumbles
Analysis: Wake was dominant for the Dolphins despite facing constant double teams. He produced a career-high 15 sacks and made it to his second Pro Bowl. Wake cashed in with a big contract last year but never let up. If anything it made him work harder to become a better player. Wake particularly improved last season at setting the edge against the run, which contributed to him becoming an all-around player and not just a pass-rushing specialist. Miami’s front seven was a problem for opponents and Wake was a primary reason.