The CFC Top 100 NFL Players of 2012: 100-81

When the NFL network started their “Top 100 Players” list last year, I hated some of the picks. I do love making lists though, so it was a natural idea for me to dive into it and make a list of my own. Unfortunately, this blog didn’t exist last year so there is no evidence of that list. This year though, I decided to once again make a list.

The criteria for this list is pretty simple. I took into account what a player has done in the past, but most importantly took into account what I think they’ll do this upcoming season. So a player like Cam Newton who’s going to light up the NFL for years to come may be ranked high, but I also refrained from putting him too high because we’ve only seen him for a year. On the other hand, declining players like Ed Reed are pretty high due to their Hall of Fame past but not as high as they once would be because they aren’t the player that they used to be.

As with all articles, I look forward to comments. Even more with stuff like this though, because a lot of effort went into making this and I love to hear feedback about it. So here’s my first 20 players. The next 20 will be coming soon and at the end I’ll post my entire list.

100: Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams

A couple of years ago, Steven Jackson would have been near the top of the list. While he’s still a great runningback though, I think this is the year we’re going to start see his decline. He’s been good for 1,000 yards every year since 2004, which was his rookie year. He had to fight injury last year though and I think he’s going to have a problem staying healthy and effective this year. He may be still good for 800-900 yards, but this isn’t the Steven Jackson of old.

99: James Laurinaitis, LB, St. Louis Rams

Since being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft, James Laurinaitis has been a great linebacker for the Rams and has been a consistent run stopper for them. He’s had two seasons with over 100 tackles and the only season in which he didn’t he was only two short. On a poor Rams team, Laurinaitis has been a consistent defensive player and is going to be a good linebacker for years to come.

98: Vonta Leach, FB, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens pickup of Vonta Leach last season was one of the best moves that they’ve made recently. Leach, who’s one of the best blocking fullbacks in the NFL has now paved the way for Arian Foster and Ray Rice, two of the league’s premier backs, in the past two years. In both of those years, Leach has been an All Pro.

97: Elvis Dumervil, LB, Denver Broncos

In 2010, Elvis Dumervil was a sack machine. He led the NFL with 17 sacks and followed that up in 2011 with 9.5 more. Along with Von Miller, he lead the Broncos defense to a very successful season. Dumervil should be good for another 10 sacks this year too.

96: Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets

Even though his stats have gone down significantly in the past two years, Santonio Holmes is a great WR. After all, it’s hard to put up good stats with Mark Sanchez at QB and especially when they have a bad relationship. He still has good touchdown numbers though and had 1,248 yards in his last season with the Steelers in 2009.

95: Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans

Last year, Chris Johnson would have been one of the top players in the NFL. And he deserved it, after rushing for 1,000 yards. After his contract disputes though he had a very rough season and some question if he may be done already. I think that he’s going to surprise a lot of people and have a good season again this year. Not 2,000 yard Chris Johnson, but maybe a 1,300 yard and 8 touchdown Chris Johnson.

94: Tamba Hali, LB, Kansas City Chiefs 

Tamba Hali burst onto the scene in 2010 with a 14.5 sack season for the Kansas City Chiefs. He followed it up with 12 more sacks in 2011 and has established himself as one of the great young pass rushers in the NFL.

93: Asante Samuel, CB, Atlanta Falcons

Some people may question having Asante Samuel this low, but I think him getting shipped out by the Eagles this season showed even more that he’s one of the league’s most overrated CB’s. Samuel gets a lot of interceptions but gets beat a lot and is an awful tackler. Still, his high interception numbers warrant him a spot in the Top 100.

92: Darren Sproles, RB, New Orleans Saints 

Before his first season with the Saints, I doubted Darren Sproles. He obviously wasn’t an every down back and still isn’t. I wasn’t sure how he’d do with the Saints. Obviously, I was proved very wrong as Sproles gained the most total yards in one season in NFL history. Sproles may not be an every down back but he is a triple threat and dangerous running, passing and in the return game.

91: Robert Mathis, DE, Indianapolis Colts

Robert Mathis may be stuck on one of the worst defenses in the NFL, but he is still a very effective defensive end He’s had 20 sacks in the last two years combined, including 11.5 in 2010.

90: Lamar Woodley, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Since being drafted by the Steelers in 2007, Lamar Woodley has been a big part of their feared defense. In just 4 years, he’s racked up 44 sacks and was a Pro Bowler in 2009.

89: Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts

Even though he’s on a steady decline, Reggie Wayne was still able to get 960 yards and 4 touchdowns with Curtis Painter at quarterback for the Colts. With Peyton Manning gone, Wayne decided to still come back to the Colts and will now have to work with Andrew Luck for the rest of his career. Before 2011 though, Wayne had 7 straight seasons with 1,000 receiving yards.

88: DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

DeSean Jackson may be a big deep threat, but I have him this low because I don’t think he’s a great all around WR and deserves to be among the league’s elite WR’s. His contract dispute and poor season hurt him, but it also doesn’t help that he hasn’t had more than 63 receptions in a season.

87: Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Hurt in 2011, Miles Austin wasn’t able to play like we saw him do the previous two seasons. At full strength, Austin is the best WR that the Cowboys have and still got 7 touchdown receptions in the 10 games he has. With Tony Romo at QB, a healthy Austin is good for 1,000 yards and could reach double digit TD’s for the 2nd time in his career.

86: London Fletcher, LB, Washington Redskins

A model of consistency for the Redskins, London Fletcher racks up tackles for their defense. He was a 2nd team all Pro in this past season and even though he’s only made two Pro Bowls he’s been very consistent over his 14 year career and hasn’t showed much slowing down yet.

85: Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants

The breakout star from the past season, Victor Cruz set the Giants recieving yards record in his first full season with the team. Of course we don’t know if Cruz can keep it up, but I’m willing to bet he can. With speed and a great ability after the catch, Cruz is sure to salsa in the end zone plenty more in his NFL career.

84: Cortland Finnegan, CB, St. Louis Rams

After playing the first 6 years of his career with the Tennessee Titans, Finnegan took a big payday to reunite with his former coach Jeff Fisher. Finnegan is a very good corner who gets paid like one, but isn’t quite on the elite level. He will be an upgrade for the Rams defense though.

83: Chris Long, DE, St. Louis Rams

Chris Long hadn’t quite lived up to his potential as the 2nd overall pick in his first 3 NFL seasons, but broke out with a 13 sack season in 2011 for the Rams. If Long can keep this up, he’ll be one of the top pass rushers in the NFL for quite some time.

82: Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Another player who finally broke out, Lynch was able to get paid like one of the best backs due to a great second half of the season. A punishing back, Lynch always gets good yards after contact. It’s yet to be seen if he’ll be able to keep that up in his second full season with the Seahawks though, and his first after getting paid.

81: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

After winning rookie of the year in 2008, Matt Ryan has yet to make the leap that many have been waiting for from him. He did have his best NFL season in 2011 though, so maybe it’s coming soon. He does have great weapons around him and with Michael Turner getting older the Falcons may look to air the ball out more.

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