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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

NFL's best (51-100): More rising stars than past prime

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Prisco's Top 100: 1-50

Since I've been working for CBSSports.com, dating back to the days when it was SportsLine.com, one of my summer staples has been to rank the top-50 players in the NFL.

Those rankings are based on my own eyes, as well as talking to coaches, players and personnel men. Mostly, it's my eyes.

I usually wait until the summer to unveil the list, but this year it's earlier and you get more.

Pass-rush star Terrell Suggs is a game-changer. (US Presswire)  
Pass-rush star Terrell Suggs is a game-changer. (US Presswire)  
With the NFL in lockout mode, and the draft not until next week, I thought this would be a good time to release my top-100 list. Yep, it includes 50 more players.

We will do so in two parts: 100-51 in the first part below and 1-50 in the second part to follow. So if you don't see Titans running back Chris Johnson or Texans receiver Andre Johnson in the first 50, don't fret. They are both in the next group with 48 other top players.

The second 50 consists of a lot of younger players on the way up and some older ones on the way down.

Just remember as you look through it: There are 50 more players to come.

51. Terrell Suggs, OLB, Baltimore Ravens: If anyone doubted his impact, just flip on his two playoff tapes from last January. He has that change-the-game pass rush ability.

52. Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons: After an off 2009 season, he got in shape and played well for the Falcons. He is a chain mover.

53. Robert Mathis, DE, Indianapolis Colts: Playing opposite Dwight Freeney, he doesn't always get the credit he deserves, but he has real speed coming from the left side. He's also improved as a run player.

54. Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: He showed last season what he can do when he stays on the field. He is the latest in the line of explosive runners to come into the league in the past four years.

55. Lawrence Timmons, ILB, Pittsburgh Steelers: He gets lost playing in between LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, but he emerged last season as a special player. His speed allows him to cover a lot of ground.

56. Devin McCourty, CB, New England Patriots: He played at a high level as a rookie, especially in the second half of the season. He will be higher on this list in the coming years.

57. Chad Greenway, OLB, Minnesota Vikings: He isn't flashy, but he gets the job done. Greenway led the Vikings in tackles last season. Now you know why they put the franchise tag on him.

58. Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams: His yards-per-carry number was down under 4.0, which is a concern. But he remains one of the better backs in the NFC.

59. Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings: He started slowly last season, but came on late. The slow start had some scouts wondering if he might only have a few years left.

60. Vince Wilfork, NT, New England Patriots: He played both end and nose tackle last season because of depth issues and played well at both spots. His only issue is keeping his weight in check.

61. John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons: He had 13 sacks last season after a down 2009 season. He is still capable of making the big sack-fumble play.

62. Jerod Mayo, ILB, New England Patriots: He led the league in tackles, despite playing with a bunch of young players around him. He knows how to find the football.

63. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, T, New York Jets: He has improved every year since coming into the league. His athleticism sets him apart from some other left tackles.

64. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: He is an all-purpose back who is perfect for the Eagles offense. He led the NFC in yards from scrimmage.

65. Ryan Clady, T, Denver Broncos: He went to the Pro Bowl in 2009, but tore up his knee last April and didn't play as well. But another year removed should put him back in the Pro Bowl.

66. Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans: He's had back-to-back big seasons, showing when he's on the field he's a top passer.

Hakeem Nicks gives the Giants sudden impact on offense. (Getty Images)  
Hakeem Nicks gives the Giants sudden impact on offense. (Getty Images)  
67. Ray Lewis, MLB, Baltimore Ravens: He isn't the Ray Lewis of old, but he is still a good linebacker. The speed isn't there like it once was, which does show up at times.

68. Jahri Evans, G, New Orleans Saints: He had problems with penalties last season, which drops him down this list. He was the team's second-best guard in 2010 to Carl Nicks.

69. Richard Seymour, DE, Oakland Raiders: For stretches last season, he was as good as any defensive lineman in the league. He just needs to do it more consistently. Age could be a factor in that.

70. Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants: He is a big, fast receiver who scores down the field. He's only scratching his potential.

71. B.J. Raji, NT, Green Bay Packers: He had 6 1/2 sacks and was a force inside against the run in his second season in the league.

72. Steve Hutchinson, G, Minnesota Vikings: He wasn't as dominant as he's been in his career, which is why he's down this list some. But he's still a good player. Ended the season sitting out with a broken thumb.

73. Darnell Dockett, DT, Arizona Cardinals: Dockett was better in 2008 and 2009, but he still played at a high level. He plays hard all the time.

74. Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers: It's a shame he doesn't get to play with better quarterbacks. He is a real threat in the middle of the field.

75. Justin Smith, DE, San Francisco 49ers: He is an effort player who brings it every week. He holds up against the run and he's a good pass rusher for a 3-4 end.

76. Brandon Marshall, WR, Miami Dolphins: Marshall played in an outdated offense and with little help from his quarterback. He still caught 86 passes for over 1,000 yards.

77. Osi Umenyiora, DE, New York Giants: He had 11 1/2 sacks to help the Giants have one of the better pass rushes in the league.

78. Jason Peters, T, Philadelphia Eagles: After a so-so 2009 season, Peters rebounded to play well last season.

79. James Laurinaitis, MLB, St. Louis Rams: He is a steady, sure tackler who is on the verge of a Pro Bowl appearance. He is a football junkie, and it shows.

80. Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers: He averaged 16.6 yards per catch and scored 12 touchdowns.

Packers receiver Greg Jennings specializes in big plays. (Getty Images)  
Packers receiver Greg Jennings specializes in big plays. (Getty Images)  
81. Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego Chargers: He missed most of the season in a contract dispute, so it's tough to have him higher. But he proved in 2009 that he is a big-play receiver.

82. Brian Urlacher, MLB, Chicago Bears: After missing all but one game in 2009 with an injury, he bounced back to lead the Bears in tackles with his highest total in four seasons.

83. Brian Orakpo, OLB, Washington Redskins: It's too bad he doesn't have more help on the defensive front. He put up 8 1/2 sacks last season, even though he was doubled a ton.

84. Chris Snee, G, New York Giants: Tom Coughlin's son-in-law is a good player who had one of his best seasons in 2010.

85. Brandon Flowers, CB, Kansas City Chiefs: He really played well early last season, earning rave reviews. He did tail off some, but he has the tools to be a consistent player on this list.

86. Jay Ratliff, NT, Dallas Cowboys: He didn't play as well in 2010 as he did the year before, but he remains a top interior lineman.

87. Jordan Gross, T, Carolina Panthers: Gross was selected to the Pro Bowl and again played at a high level for a bad team.

88. Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati Bengals: He had four interceptions early, but didn't get any the rest of the way. He remains a top cover player, even though he doesn't have great speed.

89. Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: He piled up 1,186 yards on 62 catches, which shows his big-play ability. He also had nine touchdowns and should be even better with his quarterback for a full season.

90. Josh Sitton, G, Green Bay Packers: He is the best of the players on a good line, but doesn't get the attention he deserves.

91. Trent Cole, DE, Philadelphia Eagles: Want to know how good he is? Ask the players he faces. He is a handful.

92. Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: He joined this list with a 25-touchdown, five-interception season in 2010. He will only get better and go higher on this list.

93. Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars: He can block and he blossomed as a receiver last season. He would put up bigger numbers in a better pass offense.

94. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens: He had a second consecutive 1,000-yard season and also caught 63 passes. Why don't they use him more?

95. Brandon Lloyd, WR, Denver Broncos: He had 23 catches of 20 yards or longer and averaged 18.8 per catch. He was one of the surprise players of the year.

96. Kevin Williams, DT, Minnesota Vikings: He had a bit of an off year for a team that also had an off year, which is why he's down this list. The players around him didn't play as well either.

97. Santana Moss, WR, Washington Redskins: On a bad offense, he put up some big numbers with 93 catches for 1,115 yards.

98. Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns: He was the Browns' offense last season, rushing for 1,177 yards and averaging 4.4 per rush.

99. Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Surprised to see him here? He was a dominant rookie who should be even more productive going forward. The kid has star written all over him.

100. Andrew Whitworth, OT, Cincinnati Bengals: He played at a high level last season, but few noticed. He is a mauler in the run game, but also has developed as a quality pass protector.

Just missed: Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens; Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots; Zach Miller, TE, Oakland Raiders; Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers; Matt Cassel, QB, Kansas City Chiefs; Logan Mankins, G, New England Patriots; Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills; Kris Dielman, G, San Diego Chargers; Donald Penn, T, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Alex Mack, C, Cleveland Browns; Shaun Phillips, OLB, San Diego Chargers; Brent Grimes, CB, Atlanta Falcons; Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints; Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers; DeAngelo Hall, CB, Washington Redskins; Malcolm Jenkins, S, New Orleans Saints.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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