Philip Rivers, Jamaal Charles among those jobbed in ESPN rankings

Recently, ESPN.com’s bloggers and writers released a list of their top 10 NFL players by each position. I thought it would be a worthy exercise to comment on it, seeing as we’re all sick of courtroom, litigation and overall lockout talk. Football may yet be on the way, so let’s discuss … I don’t know, football?

I’m going to stick to the glamour positions here since we don’t need this week’s column to read like War and Peace. But quite a few things really grind my gears (plus one if you’re a Family Guy fan and catch the reference.)

Philip Rivers, Jamaal Charles among those jobbed in ESPN rankings

The NFL's leading rusher over the last 24 games ... but not a top four back?

Quarterbacks – 1. Tom Brady. 2. Peyton Manning. 3. Drew Brees. 4. Aaron Rodgers. 5. Ben Roethlisberger. 6. Philip Rivers. 7 (tie). Michael Vick and Matt Ryan. 9. Eli Manning. 10 (tie) Joe Flacco and Tony Romo.

I can’t quibble too much with the top four, though I do believe that Brees and Rodgers are the new standard (and maybe not in that order), but Brady just had one of his best seasons and Manning is Manning. My arguments come in, first, with Ben Roethlisberger at five. Philip Rivers is the superior quarterback. And before I get labeled as a “stat guy,” let me ask you: Does Big Ben have two more rings because he’s just more of an intangible “winner” than Rivers? Or does that Pittsburgh defense make things a little bit easier for him to lead those two-minute game-winning drives?

Food for thought: Rivers led the NFL in passing last season, in yards per attempt (8.7, after posting an 8.8 YPA a year prior, again best in the league) and led what was statistically the NFL’s top rated offense. He did this despite Antonio Gates missing five weeks, despite Vincent Jackson essentially missing the entire season, and despite his best receivers hardly being household names: Malcom Floyd, Patrick Crayton and Legedu Naanee.

Also: I am a Cowboy hater. Guilty. But Tony Romo is better than Matt Ryan, Flacco and (sorry local friends) Eli Manning by a country mile to this point.

Running Backs – 1. Chris Johnson. 2. Adrian Peterson. 3 (tie). Maurice Jones-Drew and Arian Foster. 5. Jamaal Charles. 6. Michael Turner. 7. Steven Jackson. 8. Ray Rice. 9. Rashard Mendenhall. 10 (tie). Frank Gore, Darren McFadden and LeShon McCoy.

Ok, Chris Johnson is a year removed from busting 2K, and Adrian Peterson is the league’s most consistent workhorse. So I don’t realllllly agree, but I’m ok with that.

Jamaal Charles at five is a crime, and this comes from a Maurice Jones Drew fanatic.

This is what Charles has done lately: Finished second in rushing in the league (1,467 yards) despite sharing carries with Thomas Jones (and losing the battle! Jones outcarried him 245-230). Missed Jim Brown’s record for yards per carry in a season by two-hundreths of a yard – 6.38 to Brown’s 6.4 an attempt. Became the first rusher in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards on less than 200 carries (1,120 on 190 in 2009). Set a Kansas City team record in ‘09 by rushing for 259 yards against Denver, and passed on a chance to try and break Peterson’s single-game mark (Coach Todd Haley asked him if he wanted to continue; Charles said to give the time to others as it was a rout with 6:25 left to play). On 487 career carries, averages 6 an attempt despite his team never being an elite threat to pass the ball. He caught 45 passes in ‘10 and averaged 10.4 yards a reception.

Charles is the best back in football. Listing him fifth is a crime. The main culprit appeared to be NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas, who ranked him 10th (and Jones, who Charles nearly doubled in yards-per attempt, ninth), saying he wanted to see a longer body of work.

We’re at 31 games and counting, Pat.

Wide Receiver – 1. Andre Johnson. 2. Larry Fitzgerald. 3. Roddy White. 4. Calvin Johnson. 5. Reggie Wayne. 6. Greg Jennings. 7. Dwayne Bowe. 8. Desean Jackson. 9. Brandon Lloyd. 10. Brandon Marshall.

No argument with the top four from me. Shake em up and let em fall out in any order and that’s true. (I’d rank Fitzgerald first, if you care). Hakeem Nicks didn’t make this list, and to me he should be no lower than eighth. I’d have him higher, personally, but Nicks is a freak with elite ability to run after the catch and get downfield. He’ll never be omitted again after this season. Nicks didn’t even get a single vote, leaving him out of the top 16. The aforementioned Pat Y ranked Lloyd second despite his earlier mantra about proven production – last year was his eighth and the first time he’d even topped 800 yards. 1,448 of his career 3,818 yardage mark came last season. I can respect putting him second – he was one of the bestplayers in football last season – but be consistent. He did however give Marques Colston Colston’s lone top 10 vote.

Other comments: The top pass rushers seem to be rated pretty well (first five were Ware, Matthews, Freeney, Allen and Hali). Part of me wants to place Hali over Allen, because I think Hali is essentially DeMarcus Ware small-market redux, but Allen’s consistency (55.5 sacks over the last four years, a low of 11 last season) makes his top four inclusion more than understandable.

The tight end list was pretty jacked up due to major injuries to Dallas Clark and Jermichael Finely last year, as well as the aforementioned injury to Gates. In any event, they ranked Jason Witten first over both Gates and Clark which I think is ridiculous. Witten …. yes, is the most complete tight end in football. But complete doesn’t necessarily make you “best”, and what Gates and Clark bring to the receiving game make them much more dominating players. Gates, for example, hauled in 782 yards and 10 touchdowns on 15 yards a catch last season. IN 11 FRIGGIN GAMES!!!!!!! He was on pace for 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns in a season where he played hobbled for a few games and faced double (and triple teams, trademark KC Chiefs Week 1 2011) due to the lack of other receiving options, yet posted a near career high in yards per catch (15.2 for a TE?) and kept finding the endzone. He’s been the best TE in football for almost a decade. Witten? Very good player, not a great player.

From the “homers gonna homer” file … Jonathan Vilma didn’t get a single vote at linebacker, meaning according to ESPN he is no better than the 18th best backer in the league. This is going to look really silly when Vilma nails down Defensive Player of the Year honors next year, playing behind Sedrick Ellis and the newly signed Shaun Rogers at DT … Malcolm Jenkins got a couple of top 10 votes, and so did Roman Harper. Harper’s a solid hand and good hitter, but Jenkins was perhaps the Saints’ best defensive player last season and should be a mainstay on this list starting next year … Jabari Greer had something of an off year after hurting his shoulder, but was one of the top 5 corners in football and easily in 2009. I think getting only a single top 10 vote is stingy.

Finally, no Brandon Flowers in the top 10, after the year he had? This is another Chiefs thing that should rectify itself soon. That’s a team most probably look at as a one year fluke, but they’ve got some nasty players at every level of defense (Eric Berry at safety, Hali, Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey up front) and they’re all young. That unit should be garnering alot more fame going forward.

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