#NFLRank 2014: Takeaways from 41-50

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
11:00
AM ET
Three takeaways from ESPN's #NFLRank reveal of the top 100 offensive and top 100 defensive players in the league. Today: 41-50.

1. Impact when it counts: How can a player be #NFLRank No. 50 on offense after appearing in only three games (including postseason) over the past season and a half? Seattle Seahawks playmaker Percy Harvin pulled off that feat, mostly by offering voters tantalizing reminders of his skill set in those limited outings. He reeled off a 58-yard kickoff return in his only 2013 regular-season game and took one back 87 yards for a touchdown in the Seahawks' victory in Super Bowl XLVIII. Harvin also exploded on a pair of end-arounds, one for 30 yards and the other for 15. Each helped set up scoring opportunities. Harvin has been mostly healthy this summer, and the Seahawks have big plans for what would be his first full season since 2011.

2. Counting on comeback: Like Harvin, Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing hasn't played much since 2011. Injuries cost him 11 games in 2012 and nine in 2013, and only recently was he activated off the physically unable to perform list. He was one of the NFL's top defenders from 2009 to 2011, but it's almost unfair to expect a return to that form in 2014. Memories were enough to get Cushing #NFLRank No. 43 among defensive players but behind 13 other linebackers. The best news: He is young enough at 27 to spark a career renaissance. The Texans are counting on him to play the middle linebacker spot in their 3-4 scheme, the position that calls signals and gets the front seven lined up. That decision speaks to their confidence that he is on track for a full return.

3. More comebacks? As it turns out, today's reveals bring us a theme of star players hoping to return to 2011 form. New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul caught the world's attention with 16.5 sacks that season, but he has managed just 8.5 in the two seasons since. Back and shoulder injuries limited him over that time, and he started only six games last season. Accounts of his training camp performances this summer have been mixed, but it appears that health is no longer a concern. After bidding farewell to veteran Justin Tuck this offseason, the Giants hope that the No. 48 defensive player in the league plays that way -- or better -- in 2014.

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