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#NFLRANK: The top 100 players

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Watt headlines #NFLRANK: Top 100 players (3:59)

Tim Hasselbeck and Field Yates break down ESPN's ranking of the top 100 players in the NFL and discuss which players should be ranked higher. (3:59)

This is not an MVP vote. The directions were simple: Rate players based on greatness. That's what you see below: the top 100 players in the NFL in 2015, based on how good they are -- not what positions they play or how many endorsements they have. It was a simple process, detailed here:

The parameters: Rate players based on how good they are -- period. All NFL players were eligible.

The process: Rate every player on a scale of 1-100. A score of 100 implies an all-time level of excellence; a 1 is for a player who doesn't belong in the NFL.

The panel: More than 70 voters. NFL analysts, reporters and statisticians -- both from ESPN and outside ESPN -- including former players and NFL front-office members.

That's it. We considered all NFL players and had a deep group of analysts rate them based on how good they are -- nothing more.

These are the results.


1. J.J. Watt | Texans | Rating: 98.87

He's the only defensive player to ever have two 20-sack seasons. He was tied with Andre Johnson for No. 3 on the Texans last year ... in touchdown catches. In a ranking of the NFL's "most valuable" players, it's possible Watt doesn't end up at No. 1. But #NFLRANK voters were asked to evaluate players based on greatness, period. Watt isn't a QB, but he is, without exaggeration, an outlier -- a Bunyanesque defensive equivalent of a 7,000-yard passer. "It's a passing era, but next to his peers, he's the most dominant player in the game," said an NFC evaluator. "He's on pace to becoming the greatest defensive player in NFL history," said one voter. That seems to be the case for Watt this year -- getting more "best ever" attention versus "best of right now." Brunch. Naps. Dominance.

Add it up: Watt has 51.5 sacks over the last three seasons, 8.5 more than the next-closest player (Justin Houston).

2. Aaron Rodgers | Packers | Rating: 98.34

In an era of voluminous QB totals, Rodgers is doing something even more amazing: He has all the huge numbers, but he's more efficient in producing them than any QB -- ever. Consider: His TD-INT ratio over the last four seasons is 139-20. He has the lowest INT rate in the history of the NFL (1.6 percent) while also having the highest TD rate per throw (6.5 percent). Again, ever. "I'm in the minority," said one panelist, "but I think when he's done, he will be the greatest quarterback ever to play."

Add it up: Rodgers' 77.0 Total QBR since 2011 ranks second overall behind Peyton Manning (79.9).

3. Tom Brady | Patriots | Rating: 95.14

There's no reason to call No. 3 a career achievement award. This is more of an endless prime. Brady is the reigning Super Bowl MVP and is coming off another hyper-efficient season in which he threw for more than 4,000 yards for the seventh time. All the while, he had a 33-9 TD-INT ratio and the league's fourth-best Total QBR -- just a few points behind Rodgers. And as more than one voter pointed out, besides Gronk, who are the stars he throws to? "He has total command and puts the ball where he wants," said an NFC evaluator. "He has a Michael Jordan-like hatred for losing," said one voter, "which is more important than loving to win." By the way: Brady could surpass 400 career TD passes and 55,000 yards by his fourth game of 2015.

Add it up: Brady is the all-time postseason leader in QB wins (21), passing yards (7,345) and TD passes (53).

4. Ndamukong Suh | Dolphins | Rating: 94.56

Thirteen voters gave Suh a perfect 100-point mark. Only Rodgers and Watt received more. Suh's impact isn't just measured in sacks and tackles for loss; it's measured in health -- he has never missed a game due to injury and has played over 900 snaps in every season except 2011 (two-game suspension) -- and in how everybody around him looks better because of the blockers he occupies. "He's a monster of a man, and he can move large men wherever he wants," said an NFC evaluator. Suh can also move about $1.2 million per game into his bank account on his new deal.

Add it up: Suh leads all defensive tackles with 36 sacks since 2010 (his rookie season).

5. Rob Gronkowski | Patriots | Rating: 94.51

Gronk's 54 TD catches since 2010 -- easily the most among tight ends -- is even more impressive when you consider he has dealt with some form of injury in each of the last three seasons, and that 2013 season, when he played only seven games, is the only season he hasn't been both an All Pro and a Pro Bowler. And with Gronk, it's not just the parties and the stats, "It's that he competes every play," said an AFC evaluator. It's also possible he has surpassed the next guy on this list as the most difficult pass-catching matchup in the NFL. If healthy, "he's going to move into the 'best ever' discussion at his position," said one voter.

Add it up: Gronkowski has accounted for 32 percent of the Patriots' receiving touchdowns since 2010 despite missing 15 games over that span.

T-6. Dez Bryant | Cowboys | Rating: 93.66

Tied with Calvin Johnson for No. 6 overall, Dez compares most to Megatron in terms of what we'll call coverability. "Those two are in their own class. If you have two defenders on [Bryant], it's even. One-on-one, he's open," said a voter and ex-NFL front-office member. The average season for Bryant over the last three seasons: 91 catches and 14 touchdowns. Another overlooked stat over those three seasons: zero games missed. "It's aggression and nastiness with everything he does," said one panelist. And after five NFL seasons, Bryant is still only 26.

Add it up: Bryant's 56 receiving TDs are the third-most in NFL history for a player through five seasons.

T-6. Calvin Johnson | Lions | Rating: 93.66

Megatron's "decline" is slightly overstated statistically, and the voters agree. He has missed five games due to injury over the last two seasons, but his totals prorated for 16 games average 92 catches for 1,512 yards. And no receiver gets more attention from defenses. "He's still a freaky athlete who has the size and speed teams dream of," said an NFC evaluator. And Johnson also has become a modern prototype. He entered the league at 6-foot-5 and 238 pounds, with sub-4.4 speed, and immediately put up numbers. Now, every good size-speed combo gets the wishful comparison. Decline? Remember, Johnson isn't yet 30.

Add it up: Johnson has an astonishing 1,122 more receiving yards than any other player since 2011.

8. Richard Sherman | Seahawks | Rating: 93.31

In a virtual dead heat with No. 9 on this list, Sherman gets the slight edge. Two big areas of comparison: He leads the NFL in interceptions since 2011 -- and it's not like QBs are seeking him out -- and he has an unmatched ability to take risks, a stat and trait that go hand in hand. "He has the size and length that allow him to recover even when he's out of position," said an evaluator from a division rival. And don't just call him a system player. "He's mastered what is asked of him [in that defense]," said one voter. Quarterbacks had a passer rating of just 53.4 throwing at Sherman last year, per Pro Football Focus.

Add it up: Sherman's 26 interceptions (including playoffs) are tops in NFL since 2011.

9. Darrelle Revis | Jets | Rating: 93.24

Revis might be the No. 2 cornerback in #NFLRANK, but he actually garnered more perfect scores than Sherman from the panel of over 70 voters. "He's a unique-footed athlete who can match routes. Elite, elite instincts," said an AFC evaluator. And while Revis is now over 30 years old, the sun is not setting on the Island. He was his typical dominant self in 2014, one of the top cornerbacks by any metric, and he has been to each of the past two Pro Bowls after the first major injury of his career all but wiped out his 2012 season.

Add it up: Revis has four first-team All-Pro selections since 2007 (most among DBs).

10. Antonio Brown | Steelers | Rating: 92.97

All Brown did in 2014 was catch 129 passes, the second-highest single-season total in NFL history. And in the age of the "freak" wide receiver, there's an unmistakable narrative around the league that the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Brown is actually the NFL's toughest cover. "He has elite quickness and speed to create separation on almost everyone he goes against," said an NFC evaluator. "There isn't a receiver quicker out of his breaks," said one voter. The miracle in all of this: Barely five years ago, there were 22 wide receivers drafted before Brown, who the Steelers nabbed late in Round 6.

Add it up: Brown has recorded at least five catches and 50 yards in an NFL-record 32 consecutive games, 13 more than the next-closest player on the list (Laveranues Coles).

11. Adrian Peterson | Vikings | Rating: 92.58

A year off has done nothing to diminish AP's standing as the top running back in the game. In fact, voters seem to think a year without taking a hit makes defending Peterson an even scarier prospect. "His return to the backfield alone should make the Vikings a wild-card team," said one panelist. Peterson turned 30 in March, but he has never missed more than four games in an NFL season due to injury and, again, is as fresh as any player in the league.

Add it up: Since 2007, Peterson's 10,190 rushing yards are 1,420 more than the next-best player (Frank Gore).

12. Andrew Luck | Colts | Rating: 92.32

The exploits of another QB in his draft class tend to overshadow this fact: Luck took over a 1-15 team and has helped Indy churn out three consecutive 11-5 seasons. That's no small feat, regardless of context, but the Colts have only two other players in our top 100. "This is who you start your franchise with if you can pick any player in the league for the next 10 years," said one voter. All Luck did in his age-25 season was throw for 4,761 yards and 40 TDs. Next up: a lot of money.

Add it up: Luck's 12,957 career passing yards are the most for any player in his first three NFL seasons.

13. Luke Kuechly | Panthers | Rating: 92.06

As an 18-year-old true freshman at Boston College in 2009, Kuechly racked up a ridiculous 158 tackles, second in college football. Not only did he lead college football in tackles in each of the next two seasons, he has also been his team's leading tackler in each of his last six seasons (college and pro). "He's simply the best middle linebacker in football," said one panelist. Even crazier: He's arguably the best cover linebacker in the NFL -- and he won't be 25 until next April.

Add it up: Kuechly leads the NFL with 473 tackles since being drafted in 2012.

14. Marshawn Lynch | Seahawks | Rating: 91.68

Last year, Marshawn Lynch caused 89 missed tackles (per Pro Football Focus) through a mix of elusiveness and a Plinko-ball tendency to bounce off tacklers and continue on downhill. That was 19 more than the next-closest runner, a total runaway for a guy who is happy to run right through you. A word of caution: "This could be Beast Mode's last season," said one voter. Something to watch: 1,305 yards would get Lynch to 10,000 for his career before the age of 30. His average NFL season has been just under 1,100 yards.

Add it up: Lynch has rushed for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns in four consecutive seasons, the longest active streak in the NFL.

15. Earl Thomas | Seahawks | Rating: 91.62

The ultimate compliment for Thomas: The gap between him and the next-best safety in #NFLRANK is a whopping 21 spots. "He's a heat-seeking missile," said one panelist. But that missile's impact is a question going forward, because while Thomas has never missed a game in five NFL seasons despite weighing just 208 pounds, "he might have to adjust his game coming off shoulder surgery," said another voter.

Add it up: Since 2010, Thomas has played 4,878 defensive snaps -- 97.5 percent of Seattle's defensive allotment -- more than any other Seahawks defensive back.

16. Justin Houston | Chiefs | Rating: 91.13

The top-ranked outside linebacker here, Houston spiked after a ridiculous 22-sack season in 2014. In the previous two seasons, he had 21.0 sacks combined. The voters think we'll see more of Houston circa 2014. "With his contract extension behind him, Houston can just concentrate on the business of sacking the QB and trying to break Michael Strahan's record," said one voter. Hard to believe Houston went No. 70 overall in the 2011 draft.

Add it up: Houston's four forced fumbles last season ranked third overall in the league last season.

17. Joe Thomas | Browns | Rating: 90.99

Eight seasons, eight Pro Bowls, five All-Pro teams, zero missed snaps. As in every play, every game, for eight NFL seasons, at a really, really high level. "He's putting together a resume for the Hall of Fame," said one panelist who happens to be a Hall of Fame voter. "He might already be one." What Thomas hasn't been is a player in a playoff game, an unfair slight to a player universally praised and forever-thanked by short-armed tackle prospects.

Add it up: Thomas and Patrick Willis are the only players to make at least five All-Pro teams over the last eight seasons.

18. Demaryius Thomas | Broncos | Rating: 90.85

Let's just say the Peyton-to-Demaryius thing has worked out. At 297 catches, 4,483 yards and 35 touchdowns through three seasons, it's been a beautiful relationship. And don't assume a run-first approach will derail this team. Said one voter: "Operating out of [Gary] Kubiak's offense takes advantage of his big-play ability, but it also gives him a chance to display his great blocking ability." Which reflects Thomas' standing here: Voters don't just see the 6-foot-3, 229-pound burner as a Peyton product.

Add it up: Thomas is one of three players in NFL history to accumulate 1,400 receiving yards in three consecutive seasons.

19. Peyton Manning | Broncos | Rating: 90.72

Twelve months ago, Manning was coming off a 5,477-yard, 55-TD year -- arguably the most dominant passing season in NFL history. And because of that, he was rated behind only Rodgers and Johnson among offensive players here. The problem for Manning? Our standards for him are so ridiculously high that the 4,727-yard, 101.5-rating season of 2014 looks like a clear decline given how injuries seemed to point toward the end. Don't bet against a bounce back: "Up close in camp, you see extra zip and extra incentive," said one voter.

Add it up: Manning's 80.0 Total QBR since joining the Broncos in 2012 is the highest mark in the league.

20. Julio Jones | Falcons | Rating: 90.20

"He's as good as anybody if you assume he's on the field -- but you don't assume that," said an NFC evaluator. While Jones has missed at least a game in each of his first four seasons, he did play 15 times last year. And his output -- 104 catches and 1,593 yards -- seems like a good baseline for him over the next 4-5 years. "Big things are ahead," said one panelist. "He plays the league's easiest schedule this season."

Add it up: Jones' 88.4 receiving yards per game since 2011 rank second in the NFL.

21. Odell Beckham Jr. | Giants | Rating: 89.96

Twelve games. That is the entirety of the Odell Beckham Experience. Of course, prorate those 12 games over a full season and Beckham's Year 1 numbers would be 121 catches for 1,735 yards and 16 TDs. Between that and the greatest catch we've ever seen, he's ahead of players with a lot more credentials. "He's brilliant, but he needs to get stronger. He's now in the crosshairs," said an AFC evaluator. Last year was the breakout. In 2015, the challenge will be "prove it."

Add it up: Beckham ranked second in the league after Week 5 in receiving yards (1,305) and TDs (12).

22. A.J. Green | Bengals | Rating: 89.10

It says a lot for Green -- who's had four straight 1,000-yard seasons and four straight Pro Bowls to start his career -- that some still see him as a player who hasn't neared his full potential. A common lament: It's not about Green. As one voter pointed out, "That's not Dan Marino throwing him the ball." After being slowed by turf toe last season, Green recently said, "I feel like the football world forgot about me." He has got millions of reasons to bounce back.

Add it up: Green's 4,874 receiving yards since entering the NFL in 2011 rank fourth overall.

23. Jimmy Graham | Seahawks | Rating: 88.97

Graham has averaged 138 targets over the last four seasons. During that same period, no Seahawks player has topped 98 targets in a season. For Graham, the measure of success in Seattle will be more about the overall performance of the offense and trophies than it will be about huge pass-catching totals. Expect Seattle's team success to be reflected here next year.

Add it up: Graham has 4,752 receiving yards, the most ever in NFL history for a tight end through five career seasons.

24. Ben Roethlisberger | Steelers | Rating: 88.93

In his 11th NFL season, Big Ben threw for 4,952 yards -- 624 more than he had in any other season. That's an average of 310 yards per game ... in Pittsburgh, but it wasn't a passing free-for-all. Roethlisberger threw just nine INTs on 608 attempts, a 1.5-percent INT rate topped only by Rodgers. "I think they finally realized it's the Ben show," said one voter. Given the questions on defense, a 5,000-yard passing season in Pittsburgh doesn't seem crazy.

Add it up: Roethlisberger averaged 8.14 yards per attempt last season, third in the NFL and his highest mark since 2010.

25. Le'Veon Bell | Steelers | Rating: 88.85

Last year, Bell took shots at draft experts who he felt underrated him. The reality is he is simply a leaner, more explosive version of the bruising back we saw at Michigan State. "He's much better than the player we scouted," said an AFC evaluator. And not only is Bell a great runner, but he piled up 84 catches in 2014. Due to his suspension, he won't be on the field in 2015 until Sept. 27, as most fantasy owners know.

Add it up: Bell recorded 2,215 yards from scrimmage last season, second in the league (DeMarco Murray).

26. Jordy Nelson | Packers | Rating: 88.61

The voting was done before Nelson's season-ending knee injury two weeks ago. Unfortunately, his high placement here is a reminder of what the Packers will miss. "I'm not sure there's a better QB-to-receiver chemistry combo in the league right now," said one panelist. And as much as Rodgers is happy to spread it around, his affinity for Nelson is clear: Only Demaryius Thomas, Antonio Brown and Julio Jones had more targets than Nelson's 151 last season.

Add it up: Nelson has 43 receiving TDs since 2011, the second-most among wide receivers (Dez Bryant).

27. Gerald McCoy | Buccaneers | Rating: 88.58

Among true defensive tackles, nobody was a better pass-rusher in 2014 than McCoy, according to PFF's grading. His only vice is a proclivity to beat guards before the ball is snapped. "He's the perfect centerpiece for a Lovie Smih defense," said one voter. Perhaps underrated due to inevitable comparisons to Suh -- McCoy was drafted one slot behind Suh in 2010 -- the Oklahoma product has become a star, with three straight Pro Bowl selections.

Add it up: McCoy has 18.0 sacks in his past two seasons, the most among DTs.

28. Von Miller | Broncos | Rating: 88.38

Part of the freakishly loaded 2011 draft class of pass-rushers, Miller has more career sacks (49.0) than both Justin Houston (48.5) and Robert Quinn (45.0) in fewer games and is dead even with J.J. Watt on a per-game basis. He didn't turn 26 until March, and he should continue to put up huge sack totals in Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme, which will have him flying into the backfield from either side.

Add it up: Miller has accumulated the sixth-most sacks ever through four seasons -- and he has played just 56 of a possible 64 games.

29. Tyron Smith | Cowboys | Rating: 88.21

Not only is Smith one of the best left tackles in football -- if not the best right now -- consider that he has played 63 NFL games and has been on the last two Pro Bowl rosters and still won't turn 25 until December. For perspective, he's less than a month older than Eric Fisher, who was drafted No. 1 overall two years after Smith was the Cowboys' pick at No. 9. "Start a team with any left tackle tomorrow, this is your guy," said an NFC evaluator.

Add it up: DeMarco Murray averaged 5.4 yards per rush toward the left side (Smith's side) last season, and 4.2 yards per rush in all other directions.

30. Jamaal Charles | Chiefs | Rating: 88.14

Think about this: For his career, Charles has averaged 5.5 yards per rush. The only running back in NFL history with a better per-carry average is Marion Motley, who never topped 160 carries in a season, and retired ... in 1955. Charles has averaged more yards per carry than Jim Brown (5.2) and a full half yard more than Adrian Peterson. And despite his lean frame (5-foot-11, 199 pounds), he has played in 15 or more games in all but one of his seven NFL seasons.

Add it up: Charles has scored 33 TDs the last two seasons, the most in the NFL among non-QBs.

31. Tony Romo | Cowboys | Rating: 88.07

"The high-profile mistakes disappeared when the Cowboys gave him an offensive line and a ground game," said one voter. Man, did they ever. In 2014, Romo wasn't just good; he blew away the field in Total QBR, and after leading the NFL with 19 interceptions in 2012, he has thrown a total of 19 over the last two seasons behind that improved Dallas O-line. Block for Romo, and you have one of the NFL's best quarterbacks.

Add it up: Romo's 3.42 TD/INT rate since 2013 ranks third among QBs with at least 25 starts over that span, behind only Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning.

32. Bobby Wagner | Seahawks | Rating: 87.56

The centerpiece of a Seattle defense that has ranked No. 1 in total defense in each of the past two seasons, Wagner trails only Luke Kuechly among inside linebackers in #NFLRANK voting. "Speed has always separated Wagner," said one panelist. "[But] he has grown into a more physical and technical player." He's also a rich player after signing a four-year, $43 million deal this offseason.

Add it up: The Seahawks allowed seven or fewer points in five of their final six games last season after Wagner returned from an injury in Week 12.

33. Russell Wilson | Seahawks | Rating: 87.55

Speaking of players who have had good offseasons, Wilson is due to pocket $87.6 million over the next four years -- fair compensation after a three-year start to his career that includes 36 regular-season wins, one Super Bowl title and one near miss. Yes, the defense deserves some credit, but as one voter reminded: "He has a league-high 15 game-winning drives over the past three seasons."

Add it up: Since he entered the league in 2012, Wilson has rushed for the most yards of any quarterback (1,877).

34. Drew Brees | Saints | Rating: 87.51

If only every QB could "decline" so gracefully. Brees dropped to a mere 4,952 passing yards last season after an unprecedented three straight 5,000-yard seasons. Even in an era of voluminous passing totals, Brees stands out. He'll reach 60,000 career passing yards late in 2015 and is a year and half younger than Tom Brady. Noted one voter, "The Saints' historically bad defense forced Brees out of his comfort zone [last season], but the metrics say he's still producing at a top-tier level."

Add it up: Brees has led the NFC in passing yards in each of the past five seasons. He's the only player in either conference to do that since the 1970 merger.

35. Robert Quinn | Rams | Rating: 87.14

After exploding with 19.5 sacks in 2013, Quinn dropped to "only" 10.5 in 2014, and he's easily one of the most terrifying blocking assignments in the NFL. "It's only going to be harder to key on him with that line," noted an NFC evaluator, and Quinn didn't even turn 25 until May. There's still a ton of upside for a player who came into the league as a raw talent.

Add it up: Quinn is one of four players with at least 10 sacks in each of the last three seasons.

36. Kam Chancellor | Seahawks | Rating: 86.92

The thunder to Earl Thomas' lightning, Chancellor is the NFL's preeminent safety-plus, a 233-pound weapon comfortable both in coverage and at the line of scrimmage. A concern? While Chancellor says he feels great after his first NFL offseason where he didn't need surgery, one panelist noted, "It'll be interesting to see whether Chancellor is on the verge of breaking down physically" given his adamant push for more financial guarantees.

Add it up: Since 2010, the Seahawks have allowed a minus-16 pass TD/INT differential with Chancellor on the field. That's far better than how they've fared without him (plus-19).

37. Philip Rivers | Chargers | Rating: 86.77

Rivers' 64.7 career completion percentage ranks seventh all time. He's the face of the debate about what greatness means in the modern era of QBs, a stat machine who hasn't led his team to double-digit wins since 2009. He has a huge new contract, but he's also coming off a season in which he led the NFL in interceptions. The stats will be there, but he'll rise or fall on this list next year based on how far the Chargers go in 2015.

Add it up: Over the last two seasons, Rivers has the NFL's third-best Total QBR (72.8) and the second-best completion rate (68 percent).

38. DeMarco Murray | Eagles | Rating: 86.35

In his first season of full health, Murray led all NFL rushers in carries (392, or 436 if you count the playoffs), yards (1,845) and rushing TDs (13). That odometer spike was the reason most assumed Dallas would let him go to a division rival. "Going from a great O-line in Dallas to a good one in Philly shouldn't hurt too badly," said one voter. "But can he stay healthy?"

Add it up: Murray's 15 TDs last season in 18 games (including playoffs) matched his total from the prior 37 contests.

39. Randall Cobb | Packers | Rating: 85.93

The one-time college QB bounced back from an injury-shortened 2013 to post a 91-catch, 1,287-yard Pro Bowl season in 2014. If he stays healthy in 2015, he'll be even higher on this list next year, because Jordy Nelson's 151 targets from 2014 have to go somewhere. Cobb caught 73 percent of his targets last season (sixth-best in the league), but can that rate be maintained without Nelson around?

Add it up: In 2014, Cobb led the NFL in receptions (75), yards (1,067) and touchdowns (12) when lined up in the slot.

40. Clay Matthews | Packers | Rating: 85.92

Matthews was already one of the best pass-rushing linebackers in the NFL, and after the 2014 season, he's arguably the NFL's most versatile linebacker. Injuries forced the Packers to take their best pass-rusher and move him inside late last season -- and the defense improved overall after the move. Wherever Matthews lines up, he's safely one of the NFL's top defenders.

Add it up: Matthews has 61.0 career sacks, tied for fifth in the NFL since 2009 (his rookie season).

41. LeSean McCoy | Bills | Rating: 85.63

A human joystick, McCoy has been one of the NFL's most elusive runners since he arrived in the league. He was the fourth RB taken in 2009, and he has 2,681 more rushing yards than any player in his draft class. And it's not like the McCoy-Chip Kelly marriage didn't work, as Shady is coming off his two best NFL seasons. "I just worry McCoy's best days are behind him and he's nearing a cliff," said a former scout and current #NFLRANK panelist. Rex Ryan is about to find out.

Add it up: McCoy's 6,155 rushing yards since 2010 are tops in the NFL.

42. Joe Haden | Browns | Rating: 85.46

One of the NFL's most respected man-to-man corners, Haden's reputation around the league has grown, with Pro Bowl selections in each of the last two seasons. Said one voter, "I think the metrics don't look as good for Haden because he's always facing up against the best guy the other team has."

Add it up: Haden's metrics against Cincinnati's A.J. Green are pretty solid. He has held the star WR to 130 receiving yards and zero TDs in their last four games against each other. Haden picked off two passes intended for Green over that span.

43. Lavonte David | Buccaneers | Rating: 85.41

His new contract -- five years, $50.3 million -- says David is easily one of the top 4-3 outside linebackers in the league, a player who can cover and has also piled up 419 total tackles in his first three NFL seasons. Said one voter, "He's the best second-level defender in the league [behind only Kuechly] in my book."

Add it up: David's 429 tackles since 2012 rank behind only Kuechly (473).

44. T.Y. Hilton | Colts | Rating: 85.21

There were 12 wide receivers selected before the diminutive Hilton in the 2012 NFL draft, and only one (Kendall Wright) has more catches than Hilton's 212. The 5-foot-9 burner has 82 catches in each of his last two seasons, and even after drafting the speedy Phillip Dorsett to an already-deep group of pass-catchers in the first round of the 2015 draft -- a move many assumed signaled Hilton's next contract would be elsewhere -- the Colts locked up Hilton to a five-year, $65 million deal in August.

Add it up: Since 2012, Hilton has converted 46 percent of third-and-10-or-longer targets from Andrew Luck into first downs. That's the best conversion rate among any QB-WR combination over that span.

45. Eddie Lacy | Packers | Rating: 85.01

"I think we all assumed he'd put up great rushing totals in that offense," said one voter, "but he's a pretty big weapon in the passing game as well." No kidding. While Lacy has 2,317 rushing yards in his first two NFL seasons, he has also accumulated 77 catches. Last year, Lacy had 42 catches and, according to PFF, just one dropped pass.

Add it up: Lacy closed out the 2014 season with nine consecutive games of at least 100 yards from scrimmage. That's tied for the longest streak over the last two seasons with LeSean McCoy and Arian Foster.

46. Mario Williams | Bills | Rating: 84.93

When Houston let Williams walk as a free agent in 2009 following a season in which he had 5.0 sacks and played in just five games, most assumed it was all aboard the Decline Train, last stop: Buffalo. Since then, all Williams has done is pile up 38.0 sacks and, in 2014, his first All-Pro selection (to go with four Pro Bowl invites). "He's not as twitched up as some of the other top edge rushers," said one panelist, "but he's just as productive."

Add it up: The Bills lead the NFL with 147 sacks since signing Williams in 2012.

T-47. Aaron Donald | Rams | Rating: 84.86

In just 12 NFL starts, Donald has already cemented a reputation among our voting panel as one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. He looks like he comes firing out of a sprinter's starting block off the snap, and that explosiveness helped Donald pile up 9.0 sacks and become one of the league's top run defenders. "He just lives in the backfield," said one voter. Donald had a ridiculous 28.5 tackles for loss as a senior at Pitt and already looks like the steal of the 2014 draft even though he was taken at No. 13 overall.

Add it up: Donald is one of just two defensive tackles in the last 20 years to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award (Ndamukong Suh is the other).

T-47. Jason Peters | Eagles | Rating: 84.86

When an offensive tackle pops his Achilles for the second time in his career at age 30, pessimism isn't exactly unfair. But since Peters lost the entire 2012 season with that injury, all he has done is play in 32 straight regular-season games with a Pro Bowl nod in both seasons. "The guy is just rare," said one voter. Um, yeah. Peters, a former tight end at Arkansas, is now 33 and a seven-time Pro Bowler, with no decline in sight.

Add it up: Peters leads the Eagles with 2,071 snaps played over the last two seasons.

49. Patrick Peterson | Cardinals | Rating: 84.85

Reputation might be carrying Peterson a bit after a 2014 season in which he was beaten and penalized way too often. But our panel still sees him as one of the NFL's top cornerbacks, a guy who has started 64 straight games since he entered the league and has exceptional physical talent. One panelist summed it up: "He's the most gifted cornerback in the league, but he's not the total package yet."

Add it up: Peterson's 15 interceptions since 2011 rank tied for second-most in the NFL behind Richard Sherman (24).

50. Muhammad Wilkerson | Jets | Rating: 84.65

The most effective run-defender in the league from the 3-4 DE position not named J.J. Watt, Wilkerson is a star among those rewinding the tape to watch the line play. "He's a versatile, inside-outside player with length and strength versus both the run and pass," said a former NFL scouting director on the voting panel.

Add it up: In Wilkerson's pro career, the Jets have allowed 3.8 yards per carry with him on the field -- and 4.3 without.

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