With more than half the season gone by already you can now really start to evaluate the performances of the players. So I decided to make a list (yeah, I like lists) of the top five players for each position, starting with the guys on offense. Remember, this isn’t a list of the players who I think are the best in general, but rather how they’ve performed until this point of the season. So stats do matter to some degree, but it’s the guys overall play and the question how much they’ve helped their team (so availability also is a factor). There it is:
- Aaron Rodgers, Packers
- Andrew Luck, Colts
- Peyton Manning, Broncos
- Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
- Tom Brady, Patriots
Notable mention: Philip Rivers (Chargers)
I don’t think there’s a quarterback symbolizing the MVP status of his team more than Rodgers. He has Eddie Lacy in the backfield and Jordy Nelson on the outside, but the offensive line still needs to improve. He’s just been brilliant.
So has been Luck, who might set the all-time record for pass attempts in a season as well as leading the league in touchdowns thrown. If you put the ball in one player’s hands so often and good things happen, that’s special.
Other than in their loss in New England Peyton Manning has looked as sharp as ever. But let’s not forget that he has only been sacked nine times all season and has the best receiving corp in the league.
Back-to-back games with six passing touchdowns? Are you kidding me? And that was against the Colts and Ravens, whose defenses have allowed 17 combined in nine games each. Right now Roethlisberger shows why he’s called Big Ben.
Brady has been on fire since week five, but the first five games keep me from putting him any higher than where he has. Let’s not forget that his team was 2-2 and the offense was everything but explosive.
As far as Rivers goes, look what he has done during their five game winning streak. Yet the last three weeks have been awful for him and the Chargers.
- DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
- Arian Foster, Texans
- LeVeon Bell, Steelers
- Matt Forte, Bears
- Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
Notable mentions: Jamaal Charles (Chiefs), Justin Forsett (Ravens)
When you break a record held by Jim Brown, you’ve got to be number one. Murray and the ‘Great Wall of Dallas 2.0’ carry this team.
Foster might be the most impressive back so far though. He’s averaging more than a hundred yards per contest and over five yards a carry with one of the worst passing offenses in the league.
Bell has touched the ball a total of 197 times and to be honest with you – I think that number should be even higher. He’s so versatile and seems to get better the more he touches the ball.
Forte has the second most receptions in the league, not among running backs – in the league! And he gives them balance in the running game. He clearly is the Bears most important offensive weapon. He’s not guilty of allowing 29.7 points a game.
Lynch has quietly been the most steady component on the Seahawks team. He has yet to put the ball on the ground and has seemingly racked up three yards every time they have put the ball in his hands. Plus he’s become a bigger factor in the passing game. And yeah, last Sunday he once again showed why he’s called beast mode.
The Chiefs seem to be more balanced this year, as Charles hasn’t gotten the extremely heavy workload he did last year, but is still the guy to make this offense go. Defenses have to play him first all the time, because you don’t know what he’s going to do.
Forsett played in nine games last year and ran for 31 yards. In the first nine games this year he has averaged 5.4 yards a carry for over 600 yards and caught passes for another 200. He really seems to be comfortable in Gary Kubiak’s offense.
The Alabama runners Eddie Lacy and Mark Ingram certainly could end up on this list when the season is over.
- Antonio Brown, Steelers
- Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
- Julio Jones, Falcons
- Jordy Nelson, Packers
- Steve Smith Sr., Ravens
Notable mentions: Golden Tate (Lions), T.Y. Hilton (Colts), Dez Bryant (Cowboys), Jeremy Maclin (Eagles)
I wasn’t completely sold on Antonio Brown being a top five receiver at the start of the year, but he proven me wrong. He could end up with the triple-crown for receivers (receptions, yards and touchdowns).
You can say whatever you want about Thomas having the privilege of playing with Peyton Manning, but I’ve seen him make far more plays for his quarterback than the other way.
Any more questions if Julio Jones is back a hundred percent from his injury? To me, not really. Also no questions that he’s the best player on a bad Atlanta team, whose defense seemingly can’t stop anybody.
Nelson is the one guy nobody talks about. And that has always been that way for him. Did anyone else notice he had over 1300 yards receiving last year while playing with 4-5 different quarterbacks last year? And he’s on pace to top that number.
What Smith is doing with 35 years of age is unbelievable. To me his most impressive game was against the Browns when he beat Joe Haden for a hundred yards receiving and to set up the game-winning field goal. I don’t want to compare his great play at a high age to anyone, but let’s just say he has better numbers than Jerry Rice when he was this old.
By losing Calvin Johnson for some games the Lions had to find someone to make plays for them offensively and Tate has been absolutely huge for them. He has been the number one option when they needed someone to step up and he hasn’t disappointed.
Hilton has been the big play man for the Colts and I don’t want to take anything away from him, but the way Andrew Luck is slinging the ball around with one of the best receiving corps in the league, I can’t quite put him up there.
Dez Bryant is a monster and no matter how good the coverage is he can come down with the ball. I just think that the running game has been the key to the Cowboys success, but he has to mentioned.
With DeSean Jackson going to Washington, the Eagles were looking for a guy to get the ball deep and make yards after the catch. There’s a reason Maclin averages 17.6 yards a catch and has eight touchdowns.
- Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
- Greg Olsen, Panthers
- Jimmy Graham, Saints
- Martellus Bennett, Bears
- Antonio Gates, Chargers
Notable mentions: Julius Thomas (Broncos), Delanie Walker (Titans), Travis Kelce (Chiefs), Dwayne Allen (Colts)
Gronkowski is back and as dangerous as ever. You can really see the way he impacts the Patriots when you look at what he’s done over the last five weeks in which they have won every game by a total of 93 points and Gronk has racked up over 500 yards.
Olsen has been so often the man for Cam Newton in tough situations, I just had to give him the nod over some of these big-name tight ends. On an offense which only has Kelvin Benjamin and him to throw the ball to, he has still found a way to contribute on a weekly basis.
Graham’s season has been marked by injury and that’s why he hasn’t been as physically imposing as usually. It’s crazy that when you look at his numbers he’s still up there with the best.
Bennett is another player a lot of guys don’t talk about, yet he’s on pace to finish the season with over 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Both might top Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
Gates’ season reminds me a lot of the way Steve Smith is playing. A veteran making big plays for his team.
When you lead the league in touchdowns you have to be mentioned. Julius Thomas has been the guy in the red zone for the Broncos. The reason he’s not in the top five is his supporting cast and that he hasn’t been counted on as much as some of those guys.
Walker has been the Titans best and most important player on offense. He’s been the guy counted on to keep the chains moving and gets after it in the run game.
I recently heard someone compare Kelce to Gronkowski and while he’s not there yet he has been one of the most impressive players so far this season. Who thought so after he didn’t see the field at all last year as a rookie?
Allen is one of the most complete tight ends in the game. He drives people off the line in the running game and has given Andrew Luck a security blank who can beat linebackers and safeties on a consistent basis.
- Joe Thomas, Browns
- Marshal Yanda, Ravens
- Nick Mangold, Jets
- Tyron Smith, Cowboys
- Josh Sitton, Packers
Notable mentions: Maurkice Pouncey (Steelers), Trent Williams (Redskins)
First of all, I have to excuse myself to all offensive linemen for not making a list for every position on it,
but as all O-linemen now – not a lot of people look at them. So I decided to rather make a list of the best overall, who I’m really sure at and feel comfortable ranking.
Thomas has allowed one sack and one hurry so far this season. Those numbers are unreal if you consider
that he’s going up against the best pass rushers for the most part.
Yanda is the feistiest blocker you’ll see on Sundays and nobody likes going up against him. His aggressive
play has boosted the Ravens run game and hasn’t hurt him in pass blocking either.
Mangold has been the bright spot in a Jet offense ranked 30th in points per game. And while the poor quarterback play has been the reason for the worst passing game in the league, Mangold and his offensive line, in combination with some tough running by Chris Ivory, have been the key to their number three ranked running game.
Coming out of USC I thought Smith had the potential to be the next premiere left tackle and while Joe Thomas’ great season has me ranking him just behind him, he has been awesome in both run and pass blocking.
The Packer’s part-time struggles on the offensive line won’t let me put Sitton off the list. He’s great in passing sets (0 sacks allowed) and when you get him out there as a lead blocker defensive players don’t want to run into him.
Pouncey has been one of the best centers since coming into the league. He’s intelligent, athletic and a huge reason the Steelers offense is where they are right now.
Williams might be most intimidating player in the entire NFL. And while he shoves defensive linemen and linebackers around in the run game, he has also allowed his quarterbacks enough time to throw the ball deep to guys like DeSean Jackson.