Movie Quote of the Day:
“You know how to cut to the core of me, Baxter. You’re so wise. You’re like miniature Buddha, covered in hair.”
– Ron Burgundy, Anchorman (2004)
NFL analysts, experts, players, etc. have been releasing their own rankings for the top players in the NFL. The NFL Network just released their Top 100 that is voted on by the players. Also, Mike Miller at Bleacher Report has been coming out with his own rankings of the Top 1,000 players in the NFL.
I decided to create my own version of this, but I’m going to put it together by position (except punters and fullbacks because nobody cares about them) and it’ll only be 100 players. I’m not even sure I can name 1,000 people that I know in the real world let alone the NFL. I’m also going to add honorable mentions and what I like to call the “Rising Star” of each position. Another thing I added when creating these lists is that the players have to currently be on a team. No free agents.
Today is the first day that the rankings start to get interesting, in my opinion. There are a lot more recognizable names for people who have been reading. My readers are probably curious about 3-4 defensive ends. Aren’t defensive ends all the same? Nope. A 3-4 defensive end is found in a 3-4 defense (obviously). Their main job is to fill gaps and stop the run. However, pass rushing 3-4 defensive ends have become more common and almost a necessity. Whereas a 4-3 defensive end’s job is strictly pass rush. Like with nose tackles, 3-4 defensive ends don’t get a lot of recognition. Check out my list:
Rising Star: Timmy Jernigan, Baltimore Ravens
2014 stats: 23 total tackles and four sacks
Jernigan was only a rookie last season and was one of the best rookie defenders. He was buried in the depth chart by two quality 3-4 defensive ends at the time (Haloti Ngata and Chris Canty). Jernigan is a great run stopper with a decent pass rush rush. The Pro Football Writers Association named him on the All-Rookie team. After Ngata got traded to Detroit, there’s a starting spot open on that defensive line for Jernigan. Watch out for him in Baltimore.
Honorable Mention: Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints
2014 stats: 51 total tackles and 7.5 sacks
I don’t think Jordan is “technically” a 3-4 defensive end. However, that’s the defense that New Orleans runs and he weights about 290 pounds. He fits the profile for a 3-4 defensive end, that’s why he makes my list. Jordan is probably best known for his pass rush. He’s totaled 20 sacks in the last two seasons (12.5 sacks in 2013). Jordan made the Pro Bowl in 2013. He also was ranked 99th in the NFL Top 100 last season.
Top 5 3-4 Defensive Ends:
5. Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets
2014 stats: 56 total tackles and six sacks
Wilkerson is (apparently) one massive head case for the Jets. After the team drafted Leonard Williams with their first overall pick, I would imagine that Wilkerson is on his way out of New York at some point. Anyway, Wilkerson is one of the great pieces to what makes that Jets defensive line so great. Wilkerson has a career 237 total tackles and 24.5 sacks in just four seasons in the NFL. Wilkerson was named Second-team All-Pro in 2013. Pro Football Focus even named him All-Pro for last season.
4. Calais Campbell
2014 stats: 58 total tackles and 7 sacks
Campbell is the oldest player on my list at 28 years old. He has been a stud for Arizona since 2009 and has started a total of 88 games for Arizona during that stretch. He has a career 387 total tackles and 43.5 sacks. Campbell was named Second-team All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl last season.
3. Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets
2014 stats: 67 total tackles and eight sacks
That’s right there are two players from the Jets on this list. The Jets easily have the best 3-4 defensive front in the NFL. Richardson has started every game but one that he’s played in for the Jets. He has a career 84 total tackles and 11.5 sacks in just two seasons. Richardson was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and made the Pro Bowl last season.
2. Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles
2014 stats: 61 total tackles and four sacks
Cox has only been in the NFL for three seasons and is already this high on my list. Cox is only 24 years old and has a career 141 total tackles and 12.5 sacks. Cox was named Second-team All-Pro in 2014. The Pro Football Writers Association also named him on the All-NFC team last season. I’m expecting another big year from Cox in 2015.
1. J. J. Watt, Houston Texans
2014 stats: 78 total tackles, 20.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles
This is the biggest no brainer of my entire rankings, in my opinion. I think every football fan in the world will agree that Watt is the best 3-4 defensive end in the NFL. Watt is also the best defensive player in the NFL. In four season in the NFL, Watt has 295 career total tackles and 57 sacks. He’s been a Pro Bowler and First-team All-Pro the last three seasons. Watt is also 2x Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 and 2014.
I love Watt, he’s one of my favorite players in the league. I’m confident that he might be able to be a pretty good edge rusher, but he’s best an interior defensive lineman. I can’t believe what I’m seeing from him at such a young age (only 26 years old). He’s already one of the best players that I’ve had the pleasure of watching as a football fan. I look forward to seeing how the rest of his career turns out.
All stats from:
Tomorrow: Top 5 Right Tackles
Thanks for reading
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