AFC South: #NFLRank 2014

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- By now you're probably familiar with ESPN's 2014 #NFLRank project, in which we have ranked the top 100 players on offense and defense in the NFL. We've been counting them down in increments of 10, with the top 10 being announced on Friday.

There have been no Jaguars players among the first 60 players announced on each side of the ball. I don't think I'm giving away any spoilers when I tell you that there won't be any in the remaining 30 that will be released today, Thursday and Friday, either.

But the Jaguars are represented in other areas of the rankings, which were determined by 90 evaluators inside ESPN, including all 32 NFL Nation writers (myself included). While we're only releasing the top 100 of the rankings, we did end up ranking 309 players on offense and defense, and it's in the latter two thirds of the rankings where you'll find Jaguars players.

Here's a breakdown of where they landed, plus a few thoughts on where we missed in the rankings:

Offense

146. WR Cecil Shorts
178. OT Luke Joeckel
181. G Zane Beadles
190. TE Marcedes Lewis
288. RB Toby Gerhart
307. QB Blake Bortles
308. QB Chad Henne

It's hard to argue that Shorts belongs in the top 100. He just doesn't have the numbers to warrant being that high (123 catches, 1,786 yards, 11 TDs in three seasons) plus he has missed 11 games in his three seasons. It's also easy to see why Gerhart was so low. He spent the first four years of his career backing up Adrian Peterson in Minnesota and he is an unproven commodity as a feature back.

It doesn't seem logical that Beadles, a former Pro Bowler, is ranked below Joeckel, especially since Joeckel played just 12 snaps at left tackle before suffering a season-ending injury. However, Joeckel is a left tackle and that position is the most important along the offensive line.

But Henne at No. 308, ahead of only rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the rankings? That's not right. Granted, Henne deserves to be tabbed as an average quarterback since he has an 18-32 record as a starter, has 55 TD passes and 62 interceptions in his career, and has thrown for more than two touchdowns in a game only once. However, he's not as terrible a quarterback as he's made out to be.

I'd take Henne over EJ Manuel, Geno Smith, Brian Hoyer, Matt Schaub, Jake Locker, and Ryan Fitzpatrick, all of whom finished ahead of Henne in the rankings. In some cases it was by a few spots, but Henne should be ranked ahead of that group.

Defense

106. LB Paul Posluszny
142. DE Red Bryant
146. DE Chris Clemons
217. SS Johnathan Cyprien
251. DT Sen'Derrick Marks
264. LB Geno Hayes
281. LB Dekoda Watson
282. CB Alan Ball
288. CB Dwayne Gratz

Posluszny deserved to be in the top 100. He's certainly better than Buffalo linebacker Brandon Spikes (98th) and while defensive end Chandler Jones (85th) appears to be a rising star, Posluszny' s résumé dwarfs the New England Patriots' second-year player. Posluszny finished second in the NFL in tackles last season and was a Pro Bowl alternate. He has recorded at least 119 tackles in his three seasons with the Jaguars.

I have a feeling that if the rankings were re-done at the end of the season, Clemons and Cyprien would be significantly higher. Clemons recorded at least 11 sacks a season from 2010-12, but his production dipped to 4.5 last season. However, that was due to the torn ACL he suffered in the 2012 postseason and he said he didn't feel quite 100 percent until the 2013 postseason. Cyprien is a rising star in the league and the Jaguars are expecting him to make a bit jump in his second season.
INDIANAPOLIS -- A torn ACL and just months away from being 36 years old has caused Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne to drop 20 spots as the 56th best offensive player in ESPN’s #NFLRank project.

Wayne went into the 2013 season 36th in the rankings. His season came to an end when he tore his ACL in the fourth quarter of the Colts' victory over the Denver Broncos in Week 7. He finished with 38 catches for 503 yards and two touchdowns in seven games.

Wayne says he's healthy and hopes to play in Saturday's preseason game (8 p.m. ET) against the New Orleans Saints at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Wayne is 1,015 yards from braking Marvin Harrison's franchise record in receiving yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Wayne may not surpass Harrison's record this season because the Colts have two other legitimate receivers in T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks. QB Andrew Luck can also use tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen in the passing game.

Hilton is the No. 70th-ranked offensive player in the league.

T.Y. Hilton No. 70 in player ranking

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
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INDIANAPOLIS -- About the only good thing to come out of Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne having his 2013 season cut short because of a torn ACL was that it allowed fellow receiver T.Y. Hilton to speed up his development.

And that’s why Hilton was voted as the 70th best offensive player in the NFL in ESPN.com’s player rankings. He’s the first Colts offensive player to crack the top-100 ranking.

Hilton finished 2013 with 82 receptions for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns.

Hilton became quarterback Andrew Luck’s go-to receiver after Wayne’s season ended in Week 7. He had 55 receptions for 671 yards in the games after Wayne went down. Hilton also had 224 yards receiving against Kansas City in the playoffs.

Some think Hilton's numbers could go down some because of Wayne's return and the addition of Hakeem Nicks to go with tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.

I disagree. I think Hilton will lead the Colts in receiving yards and yards per catch because those players will allow him to use his speed for big plays down field against single coverage.
Casey
Wright
So a bunch of us at ESPN filled out a ballot putting a number between 1-10 on every notable player in the league, and out of it comes our #NFLRank series.

As they are unveiled, there is no need for suspense where the Tennessee Titans are involved.

None of them are in it.

The Titans' lack of star power is a big theme heading into 2015. Their two best players -- receiver Kendall Wright and defensive lineman Jurrell Casey -- are very good.

Wright had 94 catches for 1,079 yards last season but just two touchdowns. The league is loaded with compelling and productive receivers. I think with coach Ken Whisenhunt calling plays, Wright will be used far more creatively and will get more scoring chances in 2014. In a year from now if he's not ranked in the top 100, I'd be surprised.

Casey had 10.5 sacks last season as a 4-3 tackle. He's not a 3-4 end. But he's got power and speed and will remain a pass-rushing force. I think it's less understandable for him to miss the cut here than Wright.

And neither of them were even the top-rated Titan.

Left guard Andy Levitre finished 118th on the offensive list, with left tackle Michael Roos ranked 123rd and Wright 145th.

On defense, Casey fell in at 115th, Michael Griffin 138th and Bernard Pollard 139th.

It's a list and it's rankings, and they get clicks and create conversations.

It's nothing worth being up in arms about.

If this team is any good, it's because the collective is good. Teams that are not star-studded can win if they are greater than the sum of their parts and if they do that, they can be good and stars can emerge.

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