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Tuesday, August 23, 2011
AFC North in Scouts' top 200

By James Walker

Scouts Inc. released its top 200 players Insider entering the 2011 NFL season. There are a lot of things to discuss.

But let's focus on the top players in the AFC North and how it compares to "Walker's Fab 40" that we produced earlier this year.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback

Ben Roethlisberger
Ben Roethlisberger was the top player from the AFC North in Scouts Inc.'s ranking.
Scouts' ranking: No. 8

Walker's AFC North Fab 40: No. 2

Analysis: There were rankings this offseason that didn't place Roethlisberger among the top 40 players. This one is much more accurate. Quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rogers and Drew Brees were all rated ahead of Roethlisberger.

Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns left tackle

Scouts' ranking: No. 9

Walker’s Fab 40: No. 8

Analysis: I was surprised to see Thomas as the second highest-rated player from the AFC North. He is the best left tackle in football. But Thomas dealt with an elbow injury and didn't have his best year in 2010. Therefore, I had seven division players rated above Thomas in "Walker’s Fab 40." Many are on the list below.

James Harrison, Steelers linebacker

Scouts' ranking: No. 13

Walker’s Fab 40: No. 5

Analysis: I think Harrison's ranking was accurate. The former Defensive Player of the Year is one of the hardest hitters in football and still playing at a high level. I disagree that Harrison is better and more important to the Steelers' defense than safety Troy Polamalu. But we will get to that later.

Haloti Ngata, Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman

Scouts' ranking: No. 14

Walker’s Fab 40: No. 4

Analysis: Ngata is the best defensive lineman in football, according to Scouts Inc. He has a rare combination of size and nimble feet that's scary for opponents. The Ravens and Ngata are working on a long-term contract to make him one of the highest-paid defenders in football.

Troy Polamalu, Steelers safety

Scouts' ranking: No. 18

Walker's Fab 40: No. 1

Analysis: This was the ranking that surprised me the most. Polamalu was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 but had six defenders rated ahead of him and 17 players total. Polamalu's Achilles injury at the end of last season put a big dent in his effectiveness. That seems to be what most people remember about last season. But, when healthy, Polamalu is a special talent.

Ed Reed, Ravens safety

Scouts' ranking: No. 21

Walker’s Fab 40: No. 3

Analysis: Polamalu was rated three spots ahead of Reed. I'm going to duck in case sparks fly on another "Troy Reed" debate.

There were more AFC North players in the top 60. Ravens linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs (No. 31), Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons (No. 46), Ravens tailback Ray Rice (No. 52), Steelers receiver Mike Wallace (No. 54) and Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley (No. 59) all made the cut.

Which players are too high? Which players are too low?

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.