Friday, January 23, 2009
All 106 Super Bowl XLIII players ranked
By Scouts Inc.
Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald led the NFL in receiving touchdowns and just broke Jerry Rice's postseason receiving yards record, so it stands to reason that he would top our rankings of the Super Bowl XLIII participants. But what about the other 105 players who are expected to suit up Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla.? Who follows Fitzgerald? And who's No. 106?
In determining our rankings, we took into consideration the player's current performance, as well as his play throughout the season. A player's special-teams contribution also influenced our decision.
He is the best pure receiver in the NFL. His outstanding size, strength and ability to catch a pass at its highest point allow him to create mismatches versus zone or man coverage.
He is this season's defensive MVP and an excellent rusher off the edge. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will move him all over the field to create pressure and disrupt the rhythm of Arizona's passing game.
His versatility and instincts make him one of the best in the NFL at his position. Kurt Warner must identify him pre-snap every time he comes to the line of scrimmage.
He has found the fountain of youth in this offensive system under head coach Ken Whisenhunt. The Cardinals will rely on his skills and Super Bowl experience.
He is playing his best football at the right time of the year. Mentally, this game will present a major challenge for Roethlisberger, because he will see many different fronts.
He has been quiet in the postseason because he has been limited by a hamstring injury, but with Fitzgerald expected to draw a lot of double coverage, Boldin will have a great opportunity to take center stage.
He has an excellent combination of size, strength and quickness. He must be disruptive if the Cardinals are going to pull off an upset.
While Harrison will spend a lot of time rushing the passer, Woodley might have to drop into coverage at times. If that is the case, he must use his size and intimidating style to take away the Cardinals' underneath crossing routes.
He is one of the most underrated players in the NFL. His ability to blitz and play in halves or thirds allows him to dictate the offense.
He is a sideline-to-sideline player with very good speed and range. While Pittsburgh has a more physical defense overall, look for Dansby to try and establish the Cardinals' physical presence early in the game.
|Larry Fitzgerald (ranked No. 1) has five touchdowns in the postseason.|
He does not possess the speed or range he once had, but he is still a physical presence inside. He will play a key role in trying to take away the surprisingly effective Cardinals run game.
He injured his right knee in the AFC Championship Game but is expected to play. His physical style could present issues for the Cardinals' corners.
He is an athletic tight end who is very good in the intermediate passing game and can create issues versus an Arizona defense that does not match up well with tight ends in coverage.
He is the fastest receiver in this game, and his ability to take short underneath throws and turn them into big plays might cause problems for an attacking Arizona defense.
An unheralded player in the Steelers' defense, he is stout versus the run and can get a push as a pass-rusher.
This rookie cornerback has been outstanding in the second half of the season. He is the best pure man-to-man coverage corner in this game.
One of the biggest reasons the Steelers' offense has been effective in the postseason has been its commitment to stick to the run with a fast and healthy Parker.
He is the best offensive lineman in this game and has been solid in the postseason. However, he will have the unenviable task of trying to deal with Harrison one-on-one in pass-rushing situations.
He looks like he is starting to adapt to free safety after starting his career at corner. Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will move him all over the field to try to confuse Roethlisberger.
He is not the dominant player he once was, but he has played well in the postseason. He is a block-gobbler who does an outstanding job of protecting the Steelers' inside linebackers.
|James Farrior (No. 11) has 18 tackles in two postseason games.|
He has been a force in the postseason. He is a high-motor player who can turn the corner as a pass-rusher and play on the edges in the run game.
He is a versatile player who does a nice job of playing off the backside of Farrior.
He is another Arizona defender who has taken his game to another level this season. Pittsburgh will try to expose him in coverage because he is much better versus the run.
He is a physical run-support player who packs a punch. He needs to be a physical force and take away the crossing routes that the Cardinals' receivers love to run.
He has found new life in the postseason and is running as hard as we have seen in a few years. He will be a key player in this game because the Cardinals will seek offensive balance versus the best run defense in the NFL.
He is an experienced center who has stabilized the interior of the offensive line. Hartwig's a smart player who understands good angles and body position.
He has very good size, a physical demeanor and aggressive style. However, he does lack good finish and consistency in the run game.
Few cornerbacks in the league have his combination of size, speed and athletic ability. He has adequate ball skills.
Keisel is athletic, plays with an excellent motor and is a very solid starting defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. He is a solid technician when controlling the point and maintaining gap discipline.
He is effective in press- or off-coverage and might be at his best playing in a Cover 2 system. McFadden has solid upside to be a front-line starter in the NFL.
|Antonio Smith (No. 21), who had 3½ sacks this season, must get after Big Ben.|
He has very good straight-line speed to stretch the vertical seam and has shown good improvement in his development as a receiver. Breaston is the third receiver in the Cardinals' explosive multiple packages.
He gets movement in the run game thanks to his good size (6-foot-5, 322). Brown is a young, developing player with a high ceiling, but he must continue to improve his technique.
He is an experienced player with excellent size (6-5, 247) for an outside linebacker. He is a tough, physical player with three-down value and the functional strength to play the run. He also is a good pass-rusher.
He can get good movement in the run game when using his technique and lower-body strength. An average athlete, he is a better run-blocker than pass-blocker.
He has very good size and functional play strength for a left tackle. He still has a lot of potential, but has struggled throughout the season with consistency. He doesn't always bend well and has limited lateral quickness in pass protection.
He isn't the biggest (5-10, 190), most explosive or fastest corner out there, and he is getting up in age (33). However, he is a very tough player to get off the field and remains a solid starter.
This powerful runner has a nose for the end zone in goal-line situations. He is a tough, aggressive runner with decent receiving skills and the ability to lower his shoulder and run through contact on the second level.
He is an experienced player who has battled through injuries, but still has the speed and quickness to rush the passer.
|The Steelers better not sleep on Steve Breaston (No. 31), who had 77 catches this season.|
He is an experienced possession receiver who aligns as the third receiver in the Steelers' multiple-spread sets. He has slowly developed into a reliable target.
He is a very solid and reliable kicker who has earned his stripes kicking on one of the worst surfaces in the NFL.
He is an experienced player who aligns as the nose tackle in the Cardinals' 3-4 front. He is a better run-defender than pass-rusher.
He is an experienced kicker with excellent leg strength. Rackers gets good hang time on kickoffs.
He is the starting left corner but only has adequate speed and size (5-11, 198). He is best suited as a backup player in sub package. He also can play on special teams.
He is a strong, powerful player who is better in run-blocking situations.
He has a very high ceiling, plays the run well, excels in pursuit, covers a lot of ground in man or zone coverage and is a core special-teams player.
He is a solid third-down option with good hands and run-after-the-catch ability. He is a better outside runner.
He is an experienced, versatile player who can play guard and tackle. His technique is raw and he can improve his awareness of picking up blitzers and stunts.
He is a huge target in the passing game with adequate athletic skills. He shows good effort as a run-blocker, but his change-of-direction skills in space are not very fluid.
He has three-down value with adequate size and athletic ability. He plays with a solid motor and displays a good combination of pass-rush skills. He's more of a one-gap player versus the run.
He is the starting center and has adequate skills for the position. He is a good effort player who lacks the size and bulk on his frame. He must rely on his technique and leverage points to win battles on the interior.
|Nate Washington (No. 39) could have an increased role because of Hines Ward's injury. |
He is a backup, change-of-pace runner with kick-return skills. Arrington has good lateral quickness and straight-line speed with good hands and run-after-the-catch ability in space. However, he lacks the size (5-9, 212) to be an every-down back in the NFL.
He is strictly a blocking fullback who hits with authority and power, but can struggle to hit targets when he has to adjust in space.
He is athletic with quick feet and is a good knee-bender, but lacks overpowering strength.
He is an all-purpose fullback with above-average skills as a blocker, runner and receiver. But he does not stand out in any one area.
He is a capable backup who is a bit of a 'tweener because he does not excel at strong or free safety, but can fill in at either position.
He is a career backup who has good short-area quickness and agility, but lacks the long-range speed and size to compete with bigger receivers.
He is a rather raw defensive end with a huge upside thanks to his very long arms, good initial quickness and ability to play with a low pad level.
He is a career backup safety with good size and above-average straight-line speed. However, he lacks the agility and change-of-direction to be a good cover safety.
He is a slightly undersized nose tackle who is a good technician. He plays smart and with a high level of effort, but lacks top physical skills.
A career backup, he generally only sees action on special teams. He excels on coverage units and plays with abandon.
|J.J. Arrington (No. 51) has good receiving skills and is key on third down.|
He has been one of Pittsburgh's top backup corners. He generally fills the nickel or dime corner package and lacks top-end speed, but is adequate when lining up over slot receivers.
A one-time starter for Jacksonville, he has filled the backup role admirably for the Steelers and still has a big arm, but lacks mobility.
He is a backup starting nose tackle who is massive (6-3, 332) and naturally strong. He can plug up the middle, but has limited lateral range or upfield speed.
He is strictly a 3-4 DE who relies on technique and effort more than strength or explosiveness.
He is a bit of a 'tweener who lacks the size and strength to be a good in-line blocker and the downfield speed to be a top receiving tight end. But he does have soft hands and good receiving skills.
He is a part-time starter who has good physical skills that don't always translate to the football field. He also tends to gamble and often shows questionable ball skills.
He's a former first-round draft pick who has a lot of natural talent but has had to learn how to prepare and play within himself. He should benefit from sitting and watching Warner for the past season.
He is a quality backup receiver who uses his size and receiving skills to catch underneath routes. He has decent straight-line speed, but is not real explosive out of his breaks.
He is a seasoned veteran with a decent leg, but he is not going to boom any punts and can directionally punt effectively.
|William Gay (No. 61) will have his hands full when he covers Steve Breaston in the slot.|
70. S Matt Ware -- Cardinals
He is a former cornerback who has been moved to free safety. His straight-line speed and cover skills make him an effective backup.
A second-round pick, his rookie season has been a little disappointing. He has speed but did not produce much this season.
He is a huge target with limited route-running skills and speed, but he is a quality blocker who often comes in as a second tight end.
He is a backup who saw limited action except for returning kickoffs. He is an effective returner, but nothing special. He runs hard and with a good pad level.
He is a career backup linebacker with an excellent temperament for the position and above-average speed and athleticism. He is better in run support than in coverage.
He is a massive lineman who has backed up at tackle and guard. He is an above-average athlete with marginal power.
He is a massive lineman (6-5, 332) who has been a part-time starter and is a decent athlete with long arms, but tends to play a bit tall and is inconsistent with his techniques.
He is strictly a backup nose tackle who can occupy a lot of space and is relatively ineffective when outside the box.
He is a backup undersized corner with good quickness and agility. He lacks top-end speed, but is a core special-teams member.
He is a rookie who made the team as a free agent. He is a tough, high-effort player with good developmental potential, but he hasn't been involved a lot on defense this season.
He is a backup free safety with previous experience as a starter. He has good size and athleticism, but lacks ideal speed and awareness in coverage.
|Limas Sweed (No. 71) looks to redeem himself after dropping a sure touchdown catch versus Baltimore.|
He is a rookie who has good short-to-intermediate receiving skills. He is a controlled route-runner who should develop into a solid slot receiver with time, but he's not a big vertical threat.
He is a backup who excels on special teams. He has good size and toughness and finished second on the team in special-teams tackles.
He is a sixth-year backup with good size and strength. He has limited experience as a starter, but provides experienced depth in a rotation.
He is a 10-year veteran who has good size and strength. He is better as a blocker than a receiver.
He is a 10-year veteran whose instincts and experience are relied upon more than his pure speed or athleticism at this point in his career.
He's an experienced snapper who is accurate and reliable, but doesn't provide depth anywhere else on the roster.
He's a rookie who has been a backup all season. He is a little raw, but has a good combination of size, strength and speed.
He's a backup who is undersized, but shows good toughness. He's an athletic fullback with good receiving skills, and produces on special teams.
He's a 35-year-old backup whose production and playing time have been limited all season. He provides experienced depth but doesn't have a big role.
|Early Doucet (No. 81) is yet another weapon at Kurt Warner's disposal.|
He's a third-string tight end who has good size and strength. He is versatile enough to handle different alignments, and he has good hands in the short-to-intermediate passing game.
He's a backup who was drafted in the third round. He has good size and strength with good hand use near the line of scrimmage. He's a developmental player who is usually inactive on game day.
He's a rookie who was drafted in the fourth round. He's a good athlete who lacks experience, but has room to get bigger and stronger.
He is a six-year veteran who was signed late in the season for depth purposes. He has good instincts and toughness, but he lacks ideal speed.
He's an athletic rookie who has been the third-string quarterback for most of the season. He has good upside.
He's a six-year veteran who has been with both Pittsburgh and Arizona in a backup role. He's an adequate short-to-intermediate passer .
He's a backup who was drafted in the seventh round last season. He has good size and strength, but is raw with technique. He was inactive for every game this season.
|Sean McHugh's (No. 90) size could be a problem for Cardinals defenders. |
97. C Pat Ross -- Cardinals
He's a backup in his second season. He has good size, but lacks top strength and quickness. He did not play in a game this season.
He's a backup with good size and speed for the 3-4 scheme. He mainly contributes on special teams, but has no career starts.
He's a backup who was signed late in the season because of injuries at long snapper. He has adequate velocity and accuracy.
He's a backup with very good size. He was a practice-squad player at the beginning of the season and has limited game experience.
He's an undersized backup who plays mostly on special teams and occasionally in sub personnel packages.
He's a backup with very good size, but he plays tall and will struggle with leverage. He has very limited experience.
He's an undersized backup who plays primarily on special teams when he is active for games.
He's a veteran punter who was brought in late in the season. He has good size, but he is inconsistent with hang time and distance.
He's an inexperienced backup who lacks ideal size. He has good toughness and effort, but lacks game experience.
He's a first-year player with good size. He has limited athletic ability and experience. He is raw and is normally inactive on game day.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.