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Mike Lombardi's blue/red chips: Schaub over Romo

Michael Lombardi's blue chip/red chip column has been an annual favorite of mine since well before I joined NFL.com. (I remember listening to the idea borne on Bill Simmons' podcast.)

Lombardi broke out his offensive players on Monday and the defensive players were revealed on Tuesday. I love the column because it's based on film study and doesn't parrot conventional wisdom. Here were a few nuggets that stuck out to me.

Offensive players

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1. Most fans would not put Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco in the NFL's top-10. Lombardi believes Flacco can be in the top-five by this time next year.

2. I'm not surprised to see the Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton among the red chips. I am surprised Lombardi would take Matt Schaub over Tony Romo.

3. Atlanta Falcons RB Michael Turner has as much chance to be on this list next year as Lombardi's beloved Philadelphia 76ers have at winning the NBA title. (Sorry, Michael!)

4. Lombardi expects Flacons second-year pro Julio Jones to make the wideout list next year. It wouldn't be a surprise if he jumped all the way up to red chip. It was great to see Antonio Brown on this list. Well deserved.

5. Joe Staley, Andrew Whitworth, Max Unger, Mike Iupati and Michael Oher are five under-appreciated tackles Lombardi appreciates plenty.

6. The New York Jets only had one "chip" on the offensive list. It's not just about the quarterbacks. Tight end Dustin Keller was beaten out by Jared Cook, among others.

Defensive players

1. Red Bryant cracked the blue-chip barrier over bigger sacks guys like Jason Babin of the Philadelphia Eagles and Cameron Wake of the Miami Dolphins. The Seattle Seahawks did well to keep Bryant this offseason.

2. J.J. Watt could be Julius Peppers or Jared Allen-type player who stays on this list for a decade.

3. It was surprising to see Ndamukong Suh show up on the blue-chip list after a down year.

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4. It's remarkable that Ray Lewis and London Fletcher are still top-10 players at their positions considering their age.

5. Sean Lee's big jump in performance was recognized here. It was surprising to see him ahead of Lance Briggs.

6. Mathias Kiwanuka's return from a potentially career-ending injury has flown under the radar. His versatility gets rewarded by Lombardi. Clay Matthews was left off the outside linebackers list.

7. Lardarius Webb made the biggest jump of any cornerback. Sean Smith also got a hefty bump after a down 2010 season.

Coaches

We rolled out the ATL coaches power rankings last week. Our biggest differences with Lombardi concerned John Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin.

It's been fun. See you in a year.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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