The CFC Top 100 Players of 2012: 40-21

This is my Top 100 Players of 2012 list, numbers 40-21. If you want a reasoning behind this list, go here. Numbers 60-41. Numbers 80-61. Numbers 100-81

40. Carl Nicks, G, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As part of the New Orleans Saints offensive line for two years, Carl Nicks is a two time All Pro and has been a big part of the line that keeps Drew Brees healthy. With his success, it’s no surprise he got a nice big new contract to go play for the Buccaneers. The Bucs are hoping he can protect Josh Freeman the same way he did with Drew Brees.

39: Jahri Evans, G, New Orleans Saints

The guard playing on the other side from Carl Nicks, Jahri Evans also has a nice big contract; the biggest for any interior lineman. Nicks is a three time All Pro and 3 time Pro Bowler.

38: Trent Cole, DE, Philadelphia Eagles

As a part of the Eagles D-Line for 6 years, Trent Cole has established himself as a feared defender and pass rusher. He’s had three straight seasons with at least 10 sacks and has had two seasons with 12.5 sacks.

37: Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys

Controversy always surrounds Tony Romo. Where is he among the league’s best? Is he elite? Romo may not be on the elite level yet, but he’s still a very good QB. He had 31 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions in 2011 but his team failed to make the playoffs once again.

36: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos

This position may puzzle some people, but I said that this list took into consideration what each player did in their past but is mostly about what they can do this season and in the near future. While Peyton Manning is a Hall of Famer, I’m not sure that he brings what he once could to the table and I’m not as certain as most that he’ll be great in Denver. We’ll have to see, but for now I think this is the best position for Peyton Manning in 2012.

35: James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

He may be often in trouble for his illegal hits, but James Harrison is a great defensive player. His pressure on the quarterback is among the best in the league and his run defense isn’t bad either. Harrison is a defensive MVP when he’s at his best.

34: Nick Mangold, C, New York Jets

Nick Mangold is the highest paid center in the league and that’s an honor that he has earned so far in his 4 year career. He’s been an All Pro 3 times and was a big reason why the Jets running game has worked in the past.

33: Mario Williams, LB, Buffalo Bills

Mario Williams missed most of the 2011 season, but that didn’t stop him from getting a big payday from the Bills. There is some question whether or not he can return to his old form, but if he does than he is well worth the risk as he’s going to make up a very good D-Line in Buffalo.

32: Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Mike Wallace is currently holding out of Steelers camp for a new contract and he wants to be paid like the league’s best WR’s, Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson. As a pure speed threat, Wallace doesn’t deserve that big of a contract but that doesn’t stop him from being one of the biggest threats at the WR position in the league.

31: Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears

With 100 career sacks entering 2012, Julius Peppers is one of the best pass rushers we’ve seen in the past decade. He isn’t quite the player that he was when he was playing for the Panthers, but Peppers is still a feared pass rusher and got 11 sacks in 2011.

30: Haloti Ngata, DE, Baltimore Ravens

He may not be the most talked about player on the Baltimore Ravens feared defense, but he’s as important as any of them. Ngata is a huge presence in the middle of the Ravens D-Line and demands a double team if you don’t want him shutting down your offense. He’s possibly  one of the most athletic lineman in the league which makes him even harder to block for opposing offenses.

29: Jake Long, OT, Miami Dolphins

Jake Long was drafted with the first overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft, and he’s paid off for the Dolphins so far. In each of his first 4 years he’s made the Pro Bowl and when the Dolphins had an elite running game with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, he was a big part of it. Now he’ll be responsible for keeping Ryan Tannehill safe and for Reggie Bush trying to repeat his career best season.

28: Matt Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

Everybody knew the potential that Matt Stafford had when he was drafted, but he finally showed it in 2011. He was able to stay healthy for the first time in his career and had an unbelievable season, throwing for over 5,000 yards. The only thing keeping Stafford from being higher on the list is that he’s only had one productive year, and I think he’s still an injury concern.

27: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Philadelphia Eagles

I found it amusing when I saw that the NFL network listed Nnamdi Asomugha so low on their list of the best players of 2012. Just a year ago we were saying he was the second best and maybe even the best CB in the league. He had trouble settling into his new team, but towards the end of the season started looking like the old Nnamdi. I expect him to be as good as ever again this year.

26: Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay Packers

Charles Woodson has been in the NFL 14 years now, and is still among the best at his position. It’s amazing to take into perspective that his two Defensive Player of the year awards came in 1998 and 2009, 11 years apart. Woodson is a shut down corner and the best player on a Green Bay Packers defense that led the league in turnovers last year.

25: Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland Browns

Another tackle drafted in the Top 5, Joe Thomas has been one of the only stable things on the Browns in the past 5 seasons. Thomas is an All Pro and will be important with unstable QB’s in Cleveland.

24: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants

When Jason Pierre-Paul was drafted, I was one of his doubters. I thought he was another workout warrior that would be a bust. He obviously has gotten good teaching though, and with so much raw talent could become the best pass rushing DE in the league.

23: Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings

After the season he had in 2011, there’s no doubting that Jared Allen is the best DE that the league has. He finished the season with 22 sacks, which was .5 shy of the NFL Record set by Michael Strahan.

22. Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers

Troy Polamalu has been one of the best, consistent defenders in the NFL for the past couple of years. He’s been a defensive player of the year and unlike some safeties in the NFL, Polamalu is a ball hawk  but can also make plays in the run game unlike a lot.

21: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

Mr. Rookie of the Year. The most talked about man not named Tim Tebow, Cam Newton had a historical rookie season and I don’t see why he can’t continue it. Unless he’s injured, don’t expect him to hit a sophomore slump. The Panthers are just getting better and Cam is the franchise QB that they’ve been looking for.

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