CBS Sportsline Top 50 players, 2 SoonersPosted: July 7, 2007
1. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts: You’d be hard-pressed to find people — outside the Boston area, that is — who would argue about him owning this spot now.
2. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots: He’s just a hair behind Manning. Look out now, though, with all those receivers on the roster. This could be a special year for Brady.
3. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers: He’s a sensational all-round weapon. If he plays long enough, he might break all the rushing records.
4. Champ Bailey, CB, Denver Broncos: He is the best defensive player in the league. You can compare him to Deion Sanders, which is high praise.
5. Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals: It took him a little while to get going after the knee injury, but he had another big year. He’s right below Manning and Brady.
6. Walter Jones, T, Seattle Seahawks: You can always count on this guy to play at a Pro Bowl level. He’s on his way to the Hall of Fame.
7. Chad Johnson, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: Along with Palmer, they make up the best of the young pass-catching duos in the league. Johnson really elevated his game in the second half of the 2006 season.
8. Shawne Merriman, LB, San Diego Chargers: Getting 17 sacks in 12 games is dominance. He comes off the edge with force. Is the sack record possible? You bet.
9. Julius Peppers, DE, Carolina Panthers: He’s only 27, which means he’s just now reaching his peak. He has the tools to be a 16-sack guy every year. He can also play the run.
10. Brian Urlacher, LB, Chicago Bears: A few years ago, he was more reputation than production. Not anymore. He is now a dominant middle linebacker.
11. Richard Seymour, DE, New England Patriots: One of the class guys in the NFL is also one heck of a player. When he got hurt in the AFC Championship Game loss to the Colts, it really showed up on the defense.
12. Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis Colts: His numbers were down last year, but he’s still one of the most disruptive defensive players in the league.
13. John Henderson, DT, Jacksonville Jaguars: Coach Jack Del Rio said Henderson is the first three-gap tackle he’s seen. That’s as good as it gets. Why can’t he get voted into the Pro Bowl?
14. Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans: It’s too bad he plays in Houston because he doesn’t get the due he deserves, especially since he has never really had an option on the other side.
15. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints: He showed a lot skeptics — including this writer — that he wasn’t just a product of the San Diego offense. He really fits with Saints coach Sean Payton’s offense.
16. Jason Taylor, DE, Miami Dolphins: The NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 can still be a pass-rush force. What’s more impressive is how much better he plays the run now.
17. Ed Reed, S, Baltimore Ravens: He’s the most complete safety in the league. He has range and can tackle. He’s the prototype for the modern safety.
18. Kevin Williams, DT, Minnesota Vikings: Playing next to Pat Williams, he’s a big reason why the Vikings led the NFL in run defense.
19. Torry Holt, WR, St. Louis Rams: He’s a pass-catching machine. For some reason, though, he never gets his due.
20. Larry Johnson, RB, Kansas City: For the second consecutive year, he put up huge numbers. He’s a big-play threat every time he touches it.
21. Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers: Gore had his breakout season in 2006. He’s a tough, hard-nosed runner who pops with power through the hole.
22. Adrian Wilson, S, Arizona Cardinals: For the past three years, he has been one of the most underrated players in the league. Now he’s a true Pro Bowl player.
23. Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers: He is such a valuable weapon in the middle of the field that he helps offset the fact the Chargers don’t have a go-to receiver.
24. Jammal Brown, T, New Orleans Saints: His move from the right side to the left side was a smooth one. It earned him his first trip to the Pro Bowl. He will be there for a lot of years.
25. Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers: He was banged up some last season with a hamstring injury, so he wasn’t as explosive as usual. When he’s 100 percent, he’s lightning fast.
26. Marvin Harrison, WR, Indianapolis Colts: His ticket to the Hall is punched, yet there is no real fall-off in production as he ages.
27. Will Smith, DE, New Orleans Saints: Without him, the Saints defense would be in big trouble. When the opposing offense puts up points, he pins his ears and attacks. He’s a force off the edge.
28. Tommie Harris, DT, Chicago Bears: He’s coming off a hamstring injury, but when he’s healthy he’s a major disrupter inside. The Bears really missed him in the Super Bowl.
29. Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams: He had his breakout season in 2006 and the Rams expect even more. He’s also a great pass-catcher out of the backfield.
30. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals: When he and Matt Leinart become more comfortable together, Fitzgerald’s numbers will improve. He has the big-play ability all the great receivers need.
31. Shawn Andrews, G, Philadelphia Eagles: He physically dominates defenders. He’s a power player who is also pretty good in pass protection.
32. Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore Ravens: Some scouts say he’s lost a step. If he has, he’s still the best at his position in the AFC.
33. Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts: He’s not just the other receiver on the Colts offense anymore. He could be the No. 1 wideout on a lot of teams.
34. DeAngelo Hall, CB, Atlanta Falcons: This gambling corner has a knack for the big play. He does get beat once in a while, but that’s because he plays a lot of man coverage.
35. Steve Hutchinson, G, Minnesota Vikings: Some scouts say he didn’t play as well with the Vikings as he did with Seattle, but he remains among the top at his position.
36. Lee Evans, WR, Buffalo Bills: He flashed star potential last season and should be even better in 2007. He’s one of the rising players on this list.
37. Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Oakland Raiders: The Raiders have great history with corners and this is the next star. He showed shutdown ability last season.
38. Sean Taylor, S, Washington Redskins: This big-hitting safety has the range you like to play the pass. He plays with an attitude.
39. Donovan McNabb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: McNabb is coming off a major knee injury, so there are still concerns. But he’s still one of the better quarterbacks in the league.
40. Terence Newman, CB, Dallas Cowboys: It was shame he didn’t play in the Pro Bowl last year. He was robbed.
41. Bob Sanders, S, Indianapolis Colts: He is small for the position, but he packs quite a punch. When he returned to the Colts lineup in the playoffs, you could see the impact.
42. Jonathan Ogden, T, Baltimore Ravens: He might not be as good as he was a few years ago, but he’s still one of the better left tackles in the game.
43. Ty Warren, DE, New England Patriots: He’s the most underrated player in the league. He could be on his way to his first Pro Bowl this season.
44. Kerry Rhodes, S, New York Jets: Most people would be shocked to see him on the list, but he had a Pro Bowl season in 2006. He will get his due this year.
45. Rashean Mathis, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars: He was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season, and the coaches say he’s just scratched the surface of his talents.
46. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Kansas City Chiefs: Even though he’s getting up in the years he is still a force in the middle of the field. He’s happy now, too, since he received a new contract from the team.
47. Keith Bulluck, LB, Tennessee Titans: With the Titans defense struggling so much, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. The players who face him know how good he plays his position.
48. Marcus Stroud, DT, Jacksonville Jaguars: Were it not for injuries, he’d be much higher on this list.
49. DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas Cowboys: He’s an explosive player who should really benefit from playing under Wade Phillips.
50. Jamal Williams, DT, San Diego Chargers: He’s the best run-stuffing nose tackle in the league. He makes it tough to run on the Chargers.