AFC East: Walker's Fab 40 2012

Walker's Fab 40: Nos. 5-8

February, 17, 2012
We are down to the very best players in the AFC East.

Here are our rankings for Nos. 5-8:

No. 8: Brandon Marshall, WR

Team: Miami Dolphins

2011 stats: 81 receptions, 1,214 yards, 6 touchdowns

Analysis: Marshall said it himself: If he had an elite quarterback, he would be mentioned among the best receivers in the game. I didn't like how he virtually threw Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore under the bus, but you can't disagree with his rationale. Besides a penchant for a few drops, Marshall has rare attributes for a receiver. He has size, strength, decent enough speed and he competes hard all the time. The Dolphins started 0-7 and Marshall never quit. He was dedicated all season and put up great numbers with Moore and Chad Henne as his quarterbacks. Marshall also lit up the Pro Bowl with a record four touchdown receptions. It's further proof of how dangerous Marshall can be with a great quarterback. The Dolphins are searching for one this offseason.

No. 7: Jake Long, LT

Team: Dolphins

2011 stats: 14 starts

Analysis: When healthy, Long and Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns are the NFL's two best left tackles. Both have similar skills, but Long had arguably his most inconsistent year in 2011. Long didn't complain about his various injuries, but it certainly affected his play all season. He eventually tore his biceps muscle in December and was knocked out for the season. Long is the complete package as a left tackle — talent, work ethic and smarts. The only thing holding him back lately is health, which makes you wonder if injuries are becoming chronic with Long.

No. 6: Vince Wilfork, DT

Team: New England Patriots

2011 stats: 53 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 entertaining interceptions

Analysis: Wilfork, 30, is starting to get up in years. But the eight-year veteran is coming off arguably the best season of his career. He set a career high with 3.5 sacks, something not typically asked of him, and he also had the two most exciting interceptions in the NFL last season. Wilfork had a chance to return both picks and ran through a few tackles along the way. For all of New England's issues on defense, Wilfork is certainly not one of them. He is the best overall defender the Patriots have and one of the best defensive players in the division.

No. 5: Nick Mangold, C

Team: New York Jets

2011 stats: 14 starts

Analysis: It's debatable if Long is the best left tackle in the NFL. But in my book there's no debate that Mangold is the league's best center. Mangold has all the attributes you want in a center. He's physical, smart and has enough athleticism to move in open space. New York built its entire offensive line around Mangold. That's part of the reason why the group fell apart when Mangold missed two games with an ankle injury. Mangold played with a bum ankle nearly the entire second half of the 2011 season and still played at a Pro Bowl level. He's one of the toughest and best offensive linemen in football.

Walker's Fab 40: Nos. 37-40

February, 13, 2012
We mentioned Sunday that we are ranking the top-40 players in the AFC East. Let's begin "Walker's Fab 40" with Nos. 37-40.

No. 40: Kyle Arrington, CB

Team: New England Patriots

2011 stats: 88 tackles, seven interceptions

Analysis: Our Fab 40 in the AFC East begins with the NFL interception leader. Arrington made strides this past season by creating much-needed turnovers for the Patriots' defense. But too often Arrington and New England gave up chunks of passing yards. The Patriots were 31st in total defense and 31st in pass defense. Despite his stats, Arrington was not a shutdown corner. But his playmaking ability and good hands were enough to come in a No. 40.

No. 39: Kevin Burnett, LB

Team: Miami Dolphins

2011 stats: 105 tackles, 2.5 sacks, one interception

Analysis: Burnett’s 2011 season followed the same path as Miami's. Like the Dolphins, Burnett started slow. He was one of the team's big free-agent additions and had trouble finding his role as Miami started 0-7. But Burnett started to show around midseason why the Dolphins acquired him. He was one of the team's biggest impact players on defense and finished with 105 tackles. Miami also went 6-3 down the stretch. There is a lot to like about Miami's defense entering next season and Burnett is one of the reasons.

No. 38: Brian Moorman, P

Team: Buffalo Bills

2011 stats: 48.2 yards per punt, 20 inside 20

Analysis: There were a couple of seasons recently when a strong case could be made that Moorman was the best player on Buffalo's roster. That is no longer the case. But Moorman remains one of the top punters in the AFC. He averaged 48.2 yards per punt and had another consistent season. Moorman and a healthy place kicker Rian Lindell provides a solid pair for Buffalo's special teams.

No. 37: Brandon Moore, G

Team: New York Jets

2011 Stats: 16 starts

Analysis: The Jets surprisingly had three offensive linemen make the Pro Bowl this year. I didn't think New York's performance in the trenches earned that, but Moore was one of those three players to get the call to Hawaii. Moore and center Nick Mangold are two of New York's best run blockers. But Moore needs to be more consistent overall and especially in pass protection.