Senior Writer

Top 100: Dazzling QB duo can't get separation


Prisco's Top 100: 51-100

I copped out.

When it came time to pick the No. 1 player in the NFL, I couldn't make a decision.

It came down to the same argument many of us have had for much of the past decade: Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

Isn't that like asking who'd you like to have on a deserted island, a Playmate or a Victoria's Secret model?

Brady and Manning have maintained a friendly rivalry through a dominant decade. (Getty Images)  
Brady and Manning have maintained a friendly rivalry through a dominant decade. (Getty Images)  
There is no way to pick an answer to either of those questions.

So in the end, I made it a tie at the top. Brady backers will ask why, since he has all those rings. Manning backers will ask why, since he has all the big numbers and the four MVPs.

It's just too close to call.

That's why I didn't make it.

So the No. 1 player on my list of the top 100 NFL players for 2011 is Peyton Brady or Tom Manning?

Either way, you get the idea.

I copped out.

1. (tie) Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts and Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots: How can you pick between them? Rings? Advantage to Brady, but Manning won the last one of the two. MVP awards? That goes to Manning. Numbers? Manning. You make the call.

3. DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas Cowboys: He's the most-feared pass rusher in the league. Even as the Dallas defense struggled last season, Ware was still a force off the edge, leading the NFL in sacks with 15 1/2.

4. Nmandi Asomugha, CB, Oakland Raiders: He doesn't get interceptions because quarterbacks don't throw at him, but his cover skills are better than anybody in the league. He's about to cash in big as a free agent.

5. Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans: Big, strong and fast. What else do you want in a receiver? Johnson consistently puts up big numbers, even though he faces constant doubles.

6. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers: Some might say it's too early to have him this high, but he showed in the playoffs last season that he belongs. Scary thought to opponents: His best football is yet to come.

7. Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans: He can change a game in a hurry with his explosive speed. He is the prototype for the modern NFL back: Fast with the ability to rip off long runs.

8. Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay Packers: For two consecutive seasons, he has been a force off the edge for the Packers. He had 13 1/2 sacks last season.

9. Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis Colts: Too high? Ask the tackles who face him. He is an explosive edge rusher who impacts what the offense does. He had 10 sacks last season, but his pressure is what sets him apart from other speed rushers.

10. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints: He had another 4,000-yard season for the Saints in 2010, but he didn't play as well as he did in 2009. Without a running game, he was asked to do even more and he threw more interceptions, some bad ones.

11. Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears: He always has been a top talent, but the move to Chicago as a free agent seemed to bring out the best in him. Even though he didn't have great sack numbers (eight), he was a force for the Bears.

12. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions: He was a dominant player as a rookie inside for the Lions. He can play the run and he can rush the passer, leading all tackles in sacks last season with 10. It's scary to think how good he will be once he knows what he's doing.

13. Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets: He missed camp with a holdout and it hurt him last season. But he's still a top cover corner and he showed in the playoffs how valuable he is to the Jets defense.

14. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers: He was the Chargers in 2010. He carried that team on his back, having one of the best passing seasons in NFL history -- all without his top receivers for most of the season.

Patrick Willis misses few takedown chances. (Getty Images)  
Patrick Willis misses few takedown chances. (Getty Images)  
15. Patrick Willis, ILB, San Francisco 49ers: He is a tackling machine in the 49ers defense. He also has the speed to be effective in coverage, although he tailed off some in that area last season.

16. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: Like Johnson, he's the type of back who can take it the distance. Peterson got over his fumbling problems last season, but without good quarterback play in front of him he wasn't as effective.

17. Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore Ravens: He has emerged as one of the league's best tackles. He is a force against the run and has improved as a pass rusher.

18. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals: He struggled some without a real quarterback behind center in 2010. But he remains one of the league's best, a big-play receiver who commands a double team.

19. Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys: He is the best all-around tight end in the game. He led all tight ends with 94 catches last season.

20. Mario Williams, DE, Houston Texans: Some will say this is too high. But Williams had 8 1/2 sacks playing with a bad sports hernia that eventually sent him to the injured-reserve list. He needs help up front as well.

21. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: He has won two Super Bowls and played in another. After his four-game suspension last season, he played at a high level. He truly does seem like a changed person.

22. Mike Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: He wasn't even sniffing this kind of list last season. Now look. Wow. He has become one of the dynamic playmakers in the game.

23. Jake Long, T, Miami Dolphins: He isn't in the Walter Jones-Tony Boselli class of tackles, but he's not far off. He has an occasional bad game that sets him apart from those players.

24. James Harrison, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers: He continued to play at a high level in 2010. He still plays with a nasty streak, even though he's been fined a ton. Sees a lot of doubles.

25. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: Over the past 1 1/2 seasons, he has been second to Johnson in yards gained. Like Johnson, he is a big-play threat, averaging 6.3 per carry last season.

26. Carl Nicks, G, New Orleans Saints: He is a nasty player who is key to what they Saints do on offense. He was the best guard in the NFL last season and should only get better.

27. Tamba Hali, OLB, Kansas City Chiefs: He has made a smooth transition from down end to 3-4 outside linebacker. Hali plays with a relentless style and he has the speed to beat opposing tackles. Finished second in the NFL in sacks last season.

28. Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers: He is a tad overrated: and some will scoff that he's not in the top 10, but I think he is off some in coverage at times. He also played poorly in the playoffs and the Super Bowl.

29. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: He caught 77 passes and had 12 touchdowns last season. It's scary to think how good he could be with more help and with Matt Stafford staying on the field.

30. Tramon Williams, CB, Green Bay Packers: He showed last season that he is one of the best cover corners in the league. He was the Packers' best cover player, not Charles Woodson.

31. Cameron Wake, OLB, Miami Dolphins: He showed that he can be an elite pass rusher in 2010. Now comes the tough part: Doing it again.

32. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans: He led the NFL in rushing yards, showing a cutback style that is perfect for the Houston system. Now he has to show he wasn't a fluke.

33. Charles Woodson CB, Green Bay Packers: He isn't the cover player he was two years ago, but he is such a valuable part of the Green Bay defense with his versatility.

Big-play DeSean Jackson electrifies Philadelphia. (Getty Images)  
Big-play DeSean Jackson electrifies Philadelphia. (Getty Images)  
34. DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: He averaged over 22 yards per catch, showing his big-play ability. He is also one of the best return men in the league.

35. Ed Reed, S, Baltimore Ravens: Even after missing the first six games, he still led the league in interceptions with eight. His tackling has slipped some. Maybe it's the neck injury.

36. Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons: He isn't a burner, and he doesn't play in a wide-open offense, but he knows how to put up numbers. He needs help on the other side.

37. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: He fought through a knee injury for all of 2010, an injury that ended his season with two games left. He had surgery to fix the problem after the season and is expected to be fine this summer.

38. Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts: Some scouts think he's slowing down, but he still plays at a high level and puts up big numbers. Injuries to other receivers and tight end Dallas Clark put more on his shoulders last season.

39. Nick Mangold, C, New York Jets: He is a big part of why the Jets run the ball so well, a strong center who can handle players on his nose.

40. Champ Bailey, CB, Denver Broncos: At age 32, he played at a high level in 2010, showing there are still more good years in his body. Watch his games against Kansas City's Dewayne Bowe to see what he can still do.

41. LaMarr Woodley, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers: He had double-digit sacks for the third consecutive season and continues to be a nice bookend opposite James Harrison. He had more pressures than Harrison during the season.

42. Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers: He had 10 touchdown catches and continued to play at a high level, even though he played in just 10 games.

43. Justin Tuck, DE, New York Giants: He had 11 1/2 sacks and played the run well. He is a big part of that New York defense.

44. Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh Steelers: From opening day, he was a dominant player. The Steelers rave about the way he picked up the mental side of things.

45. Dallas Clark, TE, Indianapolis Colts: He missed almost all of the 2010 season with a wrist injury. His absence really showed up in the passing game. He is Manning's security blanket.

46. Joe Thomas, T, Cleveland Browns: He has been to four Pro Bowls, including last season. But he didn't play as well last season, especially late.

47. Elvis Dumervil, DE, Denver Broncos: He missed last season with a torn chest muscle, but assuming he's back full go he is one of the game's elite pass rushers.

48. Asante Samuel, CB, Philadelphia Eagles: He is a ball-hawking player who gets knocked down some for his tackling. But he can change a game with a big play.

49. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs: He scored 15 touchdowns last season to go with 72 catches and a 16.1 average.

50. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons: He has improved each of the past three seasons and should be even better with more speed added to the offense. He has to be given more freedom.

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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