Movie Quote of the Day:
“I see that you’re drinking one percent. Is that because you think you’re fat?”
– Napoleon Dynamite, Napoleon Dynamite (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.
We’re starting the back nine of my NFL Top 100 Players by Position rankings. Today’s list involves 4-3 defensive ends. I used to play 4-3 defensive end in high school. The main job of this position is to get after the quarterback and apply pressure. There are not very many plays through the course of a football game where a 4-3 defensive end isn’t trying to sack the quarterback. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re not supposed to stop the run, because they are. Here’s my list:
Rising Star: Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit Lions
2014 stats: 49 total tackles, 7.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles
Ansah was born in Ghana, and came over to America. He excelled in basketball in high school. When he got accepted into BYU, he tried out for the basketball team and failed twice. Then, he decided to walk on to the football team at BYU, and made the team. Ansah had never played football prior to BYU, and played there for three seasons. He eventually became a top five pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, what a story. In his two NFL seasons, he’s had 82 total tackles, 15.5 sacks, and five forced fumbles. Eight of those sacks came in his rookie season, the leader amongst all rookies in the NFL in 2013. Pro Football Focus also named him to their All-Rookie team.
Honorable Mention: Everson Griffen, Minnesota Vikings
2014 stats: 57 total tackles, 12 sacks, and one forced fumble
Griffen got his chance last season to be the starting 4-3 defensive end in Minnesota, and he didn’t disappoint. He started every game for the Vikings, despite the fact that he only started one game prior to last season in his career. He had a big 2014 season that went unnoticed around the NFL. Everson has 140 total tackles, 29.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and one interception in his career. Again, he’s had a quiet, successful career. Maybe this upcoming season he’ll finally receive some honors.
Top 5 4-3 Defensive Ends:
5. Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants
2014 stats: 77 total tackles, 12.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles
No one knows if Pierre-Paul is going to play this year after his fireworks accident on
July 4. I’d probably put him higher on the list, but after losing a finger in that accident, it’s hard to put him higher that this. Regardless, Pierre-Paul has had a great career with the Giants. He has 286 total tackles, 42 sacks, eight forced fumbles, and two interceptions in his five seasons. He’s also a 2x Pro Bowler (2011 and 2012) and a First-team All-Pro (2011). Hopefully losing his finger won’t hurt him too bad in the future of his career.
4. Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks
2014 stats: 38 total tackles, seven sacks, and one forced fumble
No one has probably ever heard of Bennett until he arrived in Seattle in 2013. Why should you? Before his last season in Tampa, the former undrafted free agent only had six sacks in his first three seasons. However, Bennett has had 24.5 sacks ever since the 2012 season. Like Griffen, Bennett is another quiet player. He doesn’t get much recognition, even though he’s probably the most complete 4-3 defensive end on this list. Bennett has 167 total tackles, 30.5 sacks, three pass deflections, and six forced fumbles in his career. He’s a key piece to Seattle’s defense and he doesn’t get enough credit.
3. Cam Wake, Miami Dolphins
2014 stats: 38 total tackles, 11.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles
Cameron Wake has been around the NFL ever since 2005. However, no one has probably heard of him prior to the Dolphins. He was an undrafted free agent that got cut from the Giants after two months with the team, and moved to the CFL for two seasons. The Dolphins took a chance, signed him, and the rest has been history. Since arriving in Miami, Wake is a 4x Pro Bowler (2010, 2012-2014), First-team All-Pro (2012), and Second-team All-Pro (2010 and 2014). Wake has 250 total tackles, 63 sacks, and 12 forced fumbles in his career. At 33 years old, Wake has yet to show signs of slowing down.
2. Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams
2014 stats: 46 total tackles, 10.5 sacks, and five forced fumbles
Quinn was drafted by the Rams in 2011 and has become a great player the last two seasons. He’s made the Pro Bowl each of the last two seasons, as well as earning First-team All-Pro honors (2013). Sporting News named him on their All-Pro team last season. The Pro Football Writers of America also named him as Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, where he led the NFL in sacks. In his four NFL seasons, Quinn has 155 total tackles, 45 sacks, and 13 forced fumbles.
1. Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills
2014 stats: 42 total tackles, 14.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles
Williams was the former first overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, the guy who was selected before Reggie Bush as some might know (I’d say that was the right decision by Houston). Williams was pretty quiet, at least to me, during his time in Houston. However, his numbers were solid, and have stayed solid since moving to Buffalo in 2012.
Williams is a 4x Pro Bowler (2008, 2009, 2013, and 2014), 2x First-team All-Pro (2008 and 2014), and 2x Second-team All-Pro (2007 and 2013). In his nine NFL seasons, he has 367 total tackles, 91 sacks, and 16 forced fumbles. Williams is the foundation that makes Buffalo’s 4-3 defensive line the best in the NFL.
All stats from: http://www.nfl.com/stats/player
Tomorrow: 3-4 Outside Linebackers
Thanks for reading
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