Now that NFL Network's "The Top 100 Players of 2011" series is wrapped up, we asked our experts: Who will be the biggest riser on "The Top 100" list for 2012?
Woodley has what it takesSteelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley, ranked 61st on the 2011 list, is, in my estimation, a top-20 player right now. And I believe once his contract is taken care of and as he and youngsters like Lawrence Timmons become more the face of that ferocious defense, we will see Woodley continue to elevate his play.
He's going to become more and more of a household name. He brings a fair share of flair and personality, and I expect his rankings to soar into the future, especially as venerable older linebackers like Ray Lewis and James Harrison reach the latter stages of their careers.
Jennings deserves to move upWell, first off, it has to be someone who was ranked relatively low. It also has to be someone who a lot of fans, critics and cynics thought got a raw deal. Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings, who was wrongfully ranked No. 74, will probably vault into the 40s if not higher next season.
Jennings has been a machine over the past three seasons, all of which he exceeded 1,100 yards receiving and totaled 25 touchdowns. He'll turn 28 in September so he's just hitting his athletic prime. He plays in an aggressive offense. There's no reason other than injury for him to drop off.
Plus, he's going to get some sympathy love. Jennings was the guy we all referred to when we asked, "How could this guy be rated higher than Greg Jennings?" or "This guy and Greg Jennings should have been rated ahead of that guy."
I'm being somewhat sarcastic here but I'm also keeping it real.
Sky is the limit for SuhDetroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. He came in 51st on the list this year, the highest of any rookie (Eric Berry and Mike Williams also made it.) The way players talk about Suh, and from what I've seen of him, he could make the top 20 next year, especially if the Lions go 9-7. Brian Baldinger put it best when he said in our "Top 100: Reactions" meeting that he wouldn't have had a problem with Suh being higher on this year's list. Suh was the first rookie defensive tackle to make first team All-Pro since 1951! Believe the press clippings on this guy.
Top 10 is in Rodgers' futurePackers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is going to move up the most on next year's list. Well, only if the NFL Network has the good sense to add Dave Dameshek and me to the esteemed list of participants.
And the only reason Rodgers would even be mentioned here is because he didn't even make the top 10 this time, coming in 11th. Rodgers is going to eventually be seen as the top quarterback in the NFL. The real question is just how long is it going to take for the players to recognize it.
A Suh-per surge from Lions youngsterSuh will be the biggest riser on the Top 100 list in 2012.
As a rookie, he is already viewed as one of the most dominant players in the league and his game will take a significant jump in his second season. The experience from his first 16 games will serve him well as he has a better understanding of the speed and intensity of the pro game. He also will have a better idea of how opponents will attack him and develop a more refined set of counters to their tactics. While his numbers might not improve, his impact and dominance will certainly lead to better production from his teammates.
In a game that is all about winning, Suh's peers will recognize him for his contribution to the turnaround in Detroit.