Do I overrate Dwight Freeney?

March, 22, 2011
3/22/11
1:06
PM ET
Do I overrate Dwight Freeney?

The seven others who cast votes in ESPN.com’s balloting for the pass-rusher Power Rankings think so.

I ranked the Colts' defensive end first in what I thought was an impossible ballot in which I found 17 players worthy of spots and where I might have leaned a little less on total sack numbers than some of my colleagues. A rusher can certainly be consistently disruptive and dictate a blocking scheme without always notching big sack numbers.

My rationale for Freeney over the Dallas Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware, who got all the other first-place votes?

Here’s what I told NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert, who wrote the main piece on the results.

“I’ve had coaches and scouts I trust tell me, repeatedly, that Freeney is the best pure pass-rusher in the league. They say he’s the guy they’d want if they could have anyone and the most difficult guy to stop because of the way he plots out his game. That’s stuck with me and was a big factor for me as I put together my ballot.”

Crush me for being a homer if you must -- and I’ve obviously seen Freeney way, way more than I have seen Ware, so it’s inevitable I get slanted there -- but I’ll stand by that.

Still on a different day with Ware highlights running on my computer screen, I could certainly have made things unanimous.

Here’s my entire ballot:
  1. Dwight Freeney
  2. DeMarcus Ware
  3. Tamba Hali
  4. Mario Williams
  5. Clay Matthews
  6. Robert Mathis
  7. Jared Allen
  8. LaMarr Woodley
  9. Justin Tuck
  10. John Abraham

I was miserable about leaving off Julius Peppers, Osi Umenyiora, Trent Cole, James Harrison, Terrell Suggs, Cameron Wake and Elvis Dumervil.

If I re-voted right now, I could second-guess myself as much as you and do a lot of shuffling.

As for AFC South guys -- I absolutely believe Mathis is worthy of a spot here. He's a terror. I may have scored Williams too high based on all the potential he has and the attention he draws. Others have that and more production.

Peppers was my toughest call. I’m big on constant effort from my pass-rushers and I am not sure he gives it.

I also agree with NFC West blogger Mike Sando that the proliferation of 3-4s complicates things, because we sifted through so many players. This year’s Houston Texans will be the first 3-4 defense I ever cover, and I am sure my judgment of outside 'backers will evolve because of it.

That 4-3 bias didn’t hurt Hali, but I’m sorry if Matthews, Woodley, Harrison, Suggs, Wake and Dumervil suffered for it.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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