Top-25 Players Halfway Through 2013 NFL Season
2013 NFL Season: Top 25 Players Thus Far
We are now halfway through the 2013 NFL season and the elite teams are starting to separate themselves from the pack. The undefeated Kansas City Chiefs lead the way, followed closely by the 7-1 Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and 6-1 New Orleans Saints. All of these teams have been incredible so far this season, and there are plenty of players that they can thank for their success.
Making a list for the top-25 players for the 2013 season was not easy. There were some very tough omissions that were made, most notably New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Based on past success, there is no question that Brady is one of, if not the best player in this league. That being said, based on this season, there is no way I could put him on this list.
Through eight games, Brady has nine touchdown passes to eight interceptions; he is in the middle of the pack in the league with 1,824 yards and he is tied for 29th among quarterbacks with a 55.7 completion rate. Brady simply has not been very good this season and there is no way that he could make the cut.
Now, it is time to look at players who did make the cut. Some names on this list may be a little surprising, but all of these players are having incredible seasons. Just because a player is not a household name, does not mean he is not a great player. Here are the 25-best NFL players so far this season.
25. Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos
In his first season in Denver, Wes Welker has been an incredible weapon for Peyton Manning. Welker's 50 receptions are second most in the NFL and his nine receiving touchdowns are tops. Welker has been outstanding in the red zone where Manning has been able to find him on those short underneath routes easily. Welker is undoubtedly one of the best receivers in the NFL this season.
24. Nate Solder, OT, New England Patriots
The New England offense has struggled mightily at times this season. That being said, the offensive line play has been solid. The progression of Nate Solder is a huge reason for that. Solder is a big, athletic left tackle that has grown in to one of the best offensive lineman in the league. He is incredible in pass protection and very good in the running game. The Patriots are set up at the position for a very long time with the young Solder at left tackle.
23. Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers
With the injuries to many key weapons, the Green Bay Packers have needed somebody to step up and Jordy Nelson has done just that. With 39 receptions for 649 yards and seven touchdowns, Nelson continues to be a great deep receiver for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and is definitely an elite receiver in the league.
22. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
A.J. Green is undoubtedly one of the best receivers in the game. His 46 receptions for 736 yards and five touchdowns are impressive, especially knowing that he is constantly receiving double and triple coverage. Green is a very important weapon for the Cincinnati Bengals, who look to be a very strong team and could surprise some teams this season.
21. J.J. Watt, DL, Houston Texans
The numbers may not be as impressive as some other defensive lineman, but there is no question that J.J. Watt is a disruptive force for the Houston Texans. Watt has 4.5 sacks and three passes deflected so far this season, but he is facing constant double and triple teams, which help free up his teammates. He may not be stuffing the stat sheet, but make no mistake about it, Watt is a monster.
20. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Dez Bryant is an incredibly gifted player. Watching him go up for balls in the end zone is a thing of beauty. Bryant has 45 receptions for 641 yards this season to go along with eight touchdowns which is tied for the second most in the game. Bryant is a freak athlete; he is incredibly strong and deceptively fast. The sky is the limit for Bryant; hopefully he can stay out of trouble long enough to reach his potential.
19. Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints
Jimmy Graham is hands down the best tight end in the league. 40 receptions for 630 yards and eight touchdowns are wide receiver-like numbers. Graham is an incredible red-zone weapon for the New Orleans Saints, who are looking to make a deep run this season.
18. Mario Williams, DL, Buffalo Bills
Mario Williams is finally living up to the huge contract he received from the Buffalo Bills. So far this season, Williams has 21 tackles, 11 sacks -- which is only half a sack behind the league leader -- and a forced fumble. Williams has been an incredible pass rusher for the Bills all season long and that is with receiving a ton of attention from opposing offenses. Williams has a great combination of power and speed that makes him nearly impossible to block.
17. Justin Houston, OLB, Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City is undefeated and they have their top-ranked defense to thank for that. Outside linebacker Justin Houston has had a huge part in that top defensive ranking. Houston is tied with Williams for second in sacks with 11, has 29 tackles, three passes defended, forced a fumble and recovered two fumbles. Houston has been amazing for the Chiefs this season and I see no reason why it will not continue into the second half.
16. Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers keep feeding running back Frank Gore, and he keeps on producing. Gore is third in the NFL in rushing attempts with 146, third in yards with 618 and second in touchdowns with seven. Gore is a workhorse back that does not mind carrying the load. He is a smart back that takes what the defense gives him, but he is athletic enough to get the extra yardage, as well.
15. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions
Ndamukong Suh continues to be a very disruptive force in the middle of the Detroit Lions' defense. Suh receives an incredible amount of attention and that helps open up other players in the defense. His numbers are not super impressive, but Suh simply does his job as a defensive tackle incredibly well.
14. Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears
Matt Forte has been an incredibly versatile weapon for the Chicago Bears this season. Forte had 116 carries for 533 yards rushing a six rushing touchdowns. Very good numbers, but even more impressive when you add in his receiving totals. Forte is among the receiving leaders for running backs with 35 receptions and 262 yards receiving. The Bears like to get the ball to Forte on dump off passes and in the running game. With the injury to quarterback Jay Cutler, Forte becomes an even more important piece to the puzzle.
13. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos
Knowshon Moreno might be the most surprising player in the NFL this season. At this time last season, Moreno was a complete afterthought. After former Denver running back Willis McGahee went down with an injury in 2012, Moreno stepped up and filled in nicely. This season, Moreno has taken his opportunity and ran with it.
The Broncos have younger and arguably more-talented options in Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, but Moreno has won their trust, while the others have struggled with pass protection and ball security. This season, Moreno leads the NFL with eight rushing touchdowns on 456 yards. He also has become a weapon in the passing game collecting 287 yards receiving on 29 catches and a score. Moreno is a solid weapon for the Broncos and has become extremely productive.
12. Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs
Arguably the most important piece to the Kansas City top-ranked defense is safety Eric Berry. He is incredible at coming up and helping against the run, and is a playmaker in the defensive back field. Berry is a leader on the field for the Chiefs' defense and he is one of the most physically gifted players in the league. Berry has one interception this season and that was returned 38 yards for a touchdown. His seven passes defended are among the league leaders, especially at the safety position. Berry is an essential part to the best defense in the league.
11. Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland Browns
Joe Thomas is without a doubt, the best offensive lineman in the league. No matter who has been under center, the Cleveland Browns have been able to throw the ball nicely this season. Thomas is a huge reason why this has been possible, giving the Cleveland quarterbacks ample time to throw the ball down the field to their talented playmakers like Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron.
10. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck is going to be a special player in this league. His numbers are not super impressive: 60.7 completion percentage, 1,574 passing yards and 10 touchdowns. But he has only thrown three interceptions and has lead the Indianapolis Colts to a 5-2 record, including wins over some of the best teams in the league like Denver, Seattle and San Francisco. The Colts like to use a power-running scheme that allows for ball-control offense. This is a big part of the reason that Luck's numbers are not off the charts like some other quarterbacks in this league. But make no mistake, Luck is just as good as any quarterback in this league.
9. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
With his performance last week, I think that Matthew Stafford may be becoming a better quarterback. He has always put up gaudy numbers, but he always turned the ball over too much and the Lions never really won anything. This season, Stafford is putting up the numbers (second in the league in passing yards), but he is not turning the ball over as much and the Lions are 5-3. Stafford is a gunslinger, but if he can control his turnovers and just get the ball to his incredible playmakers, then he can become one of the best the NFL has to offer.
8. Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati Bengals
Geno Atkins is an incredible force up front for the Bengals. He has five sacks from his defensive tackle position, which is very impressive. Atkins has an incredible size, strength and speed combination that make him nearly impossible to block on the interior of the Cincinnati line.
7. Robert Mathis, OLB, Indianapolis Colts
Robert Mathis leads the NFL with 11.5 sacks this season. He has done an incredible job of pass rushing as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Mathis has an impressive combination of speed and strength that allows him to beat offensive tackles to the quarterback. He also has a knack for knocking the ball out when he reaches the QB, forcing three fumbles so far this season.
6. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Make no mistake, Jamaal Charles has been the best running back in the league this season. The Chiefs use Charles as the focal point of the offense in both the running game and passing game. Alex Smith is a conservative passer and finds himself dumping passes off to Charles regularly. Charles leads the running back position in receptions with 41 and receiving yards with 383 and has two touchdowns through the air. Add in his 635 yards rushing (second in the NFL) and six rushing touchdowns, and you have the best running back in the NFL, and it really is not even close.
5. Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks
Richard Sherman is the best cornerback in the league and it is not even close. He is a legitimate lock-down corner that can shut down any receiver in the league. It is hard for Sherman to rack up any stats because quarterbacks rarely throw to his side of the field. Just watch Sherman play and you will come away impressed, at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, Sherman is big for the position and incredibly athletic. He has the speed and strength to matchup with any receiver that the league has to offer.
4. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees is once again having an incredible season for the Saints. His 67.5 completion percentage is third in the league, 2,290 yards is also third and his 19 touchdowns are second. Brees has led the Saints to an impressive 6-1 record after struggling mightily last season. New Orleans is a legitimate contender this season and Brees is obviously a huge reason why.
3. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
329 yards receiving on 14 catches. No, that is not a season total for some middling receiver, that was the one game total for Calvin Johnson last week against the Dallas Cowboys. The incredible 329 yards were the second most in a game of all time and were only seven yards short of the record. Johnson has struggled with injuries a bit this season, but has been incredible when on the field. He leads the league with 821 receiving yards despite missing a game a couple of weeks back. Johnson is a freak athlete who simply cannot be defended one on one. His size, speed and pure athleticism is unmatched in this league. There is no doubt in my mind that he is one of the best players in the NFL.
2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Despite losing many key weapons, Aaron Rodgers has led the Packers to a 5-2 record, as they sit atop the NFC North. Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jermichael Finley and Clay Matthews have all missed significant time this season and the Packers just keep rolling along.
His touchdown to interception ratio is 15:4, he has the fifth-best completion percentage in the league at 67.1 and seventh-most passing yards at 2,191 despite already having a bye week. Rodgers has simply been incredible this season and makes the Packers serious contenders all by himself.
1. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
As a whole, this list was not easy to put together. There are plenty of great players in this league and it is not easy to rank them, while having to leave off some very deserving candidates. The easiest part of this piece? Ranking Peyton Manning No. 1.
Manning has been amazing this season leading the Broncos to a 7-1 record. His 2,919 passing yards lead all other passers by over 300 yards, his 29 passing touchdowns lead the pack by 10 and his Total QBR is 84.2, tops in the league by a wide margin, and if the season ended today would be the fourth-best passing season of all-time. Manning has simply been incredible this season as he has put Denver in prime position to contend for a Super Bowl.