- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
This summer, after watching games and breaking down film, Scouts Inc. and myself evaluated and graded more than 2,500 NFL players heading into the 2012 season. The rankings (listed in the box on the right) were broken down into an overall top 200 and then by position.
With the NFL season now at its midpoint, we thought it was a good time to re-rank the NFL's top 50 players. Keep in mind that while the most weight for the ranking change is off of performance this season (including projected value for the second half of the season), it also heavily incorporates what a player has done over the course of his career. That way some injury issues don't completely detract from what we know of a player (see Terrell Suggs and Darrelle Revis).
That said, here is my Midseason Top 50 Rankings:
By Rodgers' standards, this has been a bad season overall. By just about anyone else's standards, it might be a career year. And now Rodgers is beginning to heat up, even though his top receivers have battled injuries.
Early in the season, Green Bay forced the Cedric Benson-led running game, but in reality, Rodgers was just a little off. He's back now, and even with an average defense and substandard running game the Packers are a big-time contender because they have the best player on the planet.
The 2012 version of the Patriots' offense is really exciting to watch and it is so impressive that this group reinvents itself on a regular basis. Brady remains elite in running it.
He orchestrates this super high-paced attack, which takes such mental acumen to pull off. Brady still has extreme precision and is extremely competitive.
Despite a very difficult offseason and now without Sean Payton, Brees is still playing at a high level.
The season didn't start out well and New Orleans is not a contender this year, but Brees remains as productive and lethal as ever with uncanny ball placement, timing and command of the game.
Peterson most likely is not all the way recovered from his knee injury, but he is still running unbelievably well. He had an amazing game at Seattle in Week 9.
This is the kind of player you will tell your grandchildren about and honestly, before long, he will be compared to legends like Walter Payton and Jim Brown. He is that good -- and is proving that he has a lot left in the tank.
Watt is running away with the Defensive Player of the Year award. He is great against the run, but Watt's ability to swat down passes and to rush the quarterback from any technique on the defensive line is uncanny.
A physical marvel with rare size, but even rarer athletic ability for such a big man, Watt is maximizing those amazing gifts.