Three takeaways from ESPN's #NFLRank reveal of the top 100 offensive and top 100 defensive players in the league. Today: 61-70.
1. Division supremacy: By the smallest of margins, #NFLRank voters indirectly awarded the Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo the highest rating for an NFC East quarterback. Romo checks in at No. 61 and the New York Giants' Eli Manning is No. 62. (Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles has been revealed at No. 99 and, well, you can guess what the first sentence of this blurb means for the Washington Redskins' Robert Griffin III.) The Romo-Manning debate has gone on for years and probably will continue until one retires. Romo has always been a more productive and efficient passer, with a better completion percentage and ratio of touchdowns to interceptions, as well as a higher Total Quarterback Rating (63.7) than Manning (56.4). Romo even has a higher regular-season winning percentage (.583 compared to .563). But Manning is 8-3 as a playoff starter, including two Super Bowl victories, while Romo has a 1-3 career record in the playoffs. Manning is coming off one of his worst seasons, one that included 27 interceptions, and Romo is recovering from back surgery. It's as close to a toss-up as it can get.
2. Fairley's future: It's now clear why defensive tackle Nick Fairley, at one point considered the best player in the 2011 draft, was available when the Detroit Lions selected him at No. 13 overall. He has missed 10 games for various injuries in three seasons and has displayed only a few tantalizing moments of true dominance. The Lions have taken some public measures to motivate him into more consistent effort, from declining to pick up a 2015 option year and demoting him to second team during the latter stages of training camp. He is skilled enough to be ranked much higher than No. 64 overall among defensive players, but his side issues make this rating more than fair.
3. Scheming: In 22 games in 2011 and '12, Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron had 52 passes thrown his way. He caught 26 of them. During 15 games in 2013, his one and only season with offensive coordinator Norv Turner, Cameron was targeted 117 times and caught 80 of those passes. The departure of Turner and his tight end-friendly system, along with the suspension of defense-attracting receiver Josh Gordon, is enough to make you wonder about the obstacles Cameron faces in 2014. For now, #NFLRank voters consider him the No. 64 offensive player in the league, No. 7 among tight ends. He indisputably has smooth pass-catching skills, but will new coordinator Kyle Shanahan -- and whoever the Browns have at quarterback -- find as many ways to use him? For as long as Gordon is sidelined, Cameron will face top billing from opposing defenses.