- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall's ranking improved from No. 23 in 2013 to No. 15 in this year’s edition of our #NFLRank project, in which ESPN ranks the Top 100 players around the league on both sides of the ball.
The latest rankings grouped players between Nos. 20 through 11.
Marshall ranked one spot behind Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch and one slot ahead of New England’s Rob Gronkowski. But No. 15 seems a tad low considering Marshall’s 10 touchdown catches thrown in the end zone tied with Dez Bryant (No. 13) for the most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Alshon Jeffery was one of 23 players on offense to make his debut in the 2014 #NFLRank project, checking in at No. 31.
Coming off arthroscopic hip surgery in 2013, Marshall spent the 2013 offseason rehabbing instead of training, and missed time during training camp. In fact, Marshall probably didn’t hit his stride in 2013 until about halfway through the season.
Yet Marshall caught a career-high 12 TD receptions last season, finishing with 100 catches for the fifth time in his career for 1,295 yards. Marshall’s fifth 100-catch season ties Andre Johnson and Wes Welker for the most in NFL history.
Marshall was targeted 23 times in the end zone last season, which ties for A.J. Green for the most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Serving as a mentor to Jeffery, Marshall acknowledges he grew off the field, too, in 2013, saying last season was the first in his career in which he was truly unselfish. Marshall also claims that 2014 will be his Michael Jackson “Thriller” year.
“Last year I grew spiritually, and that was the first time I was able to step outside myself on this spiritual journey and be able to say, "You know what, I don’t know what’s gonna happen. But I’m gonna serve Alshon Jeffery. I’m gonna serve Martellus Bennett." Because I know there’s something bigger. I’m a part of something greater. I can’t wait to see what it is,” Marshall said.
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