Looks like my colleague Paul Kuharsky woke up on the wrong side of the debate again.
Our esteemed (steamed?) AFC South blogger took a few shots at ESPN.com’s Power Rankings for top overall NFL players. He specifically took offense with those of us who refused to rank more than a few non-quarterbacks on our 10-man ballots.
Player Ranking Ballots
"If we rate these quarterbacks so highly," Kuharsky said in Dan Graziano's main piece, "how can we not rate the guy we said was tops at disrupting quarterbacks highly too? Makes no sense."
Kuharsky was referring to DeMarcus Ware, who finished 12th overall, receiving votes only from AFC North blogger James Walker (No. 5) and from Kuharsky (No. 10).
Quarterbacks filled out the top seven spots on my ballot. I would have considered listing QBs 10 deep had I known so much heat would radiate from my AFC South brother.
Here’s a question for Paul: If he values pass-rushers so much, why not find room on his ballot for Dwight Freeney, the player he ranked as the NFL’s best pass-rusher back in March?
"I think Freeney is the best pass-rusher, but DeMarcus Ware is the better overall player and a tremendous pass-rusher, too," Kuharsky said when I called him Tuesday.
That thinking makes sense. Kuharsky ranked Ware as his No. 1 linebacker and No. 2 pass-rusher in those power rankings. After ranking quarterbacks first through fourth in the overall rankings, he went with Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Andre Johnson, Troy Polamalu, Clay Matthews and Ware. He considered finding a spot for Freeney, but figured the vote would have been wasted.
"Maybe I gave in a little bit there to the crowd in terms of how well he was liked by everyone else, knowing Freeney wasn’t getting in there no matter how I voted," he said. "I presumed Ware would definitely make our top 10. I knew Freeney would not because I was his lone advocate."
Kuharsky and I weren’t all that far apart in our thinking, after all. I ranked Freeney second among pass-rushers on my ballot. The other voters ranked him between third and eighth.
We both ranked Peyton Manning over Tom Brady for the top overall spot. I would take the much younger Aaron Rodgers over both if building a franchise to contend for the longer term. I could see Rodgers assuming the top spot a year from now.
Manning got the edge over Brady on my ballot because he's more important to his team's success, and Brady's longstanding edge in playoff games hasn't held up recently.
I rounded out my overall top 10 with Johnson, Polamalu and Patrick Willis. Finding room for Ware and Matthews would have been ideal, but there wasn’t room for everyone. Matthews' value as an outside pass-rusher makes him more valuable, arguably, than the San Francisco 49ers' Willis. But Willis can do it all, and he did have six sacks last season while anchoring a defense that allowed less than 3.5 yards per carry.