Midseason Report: Top 5 rankings for each position


Every Thursday, Chris Wesseling rolls out the power rankings for one specific NFL position.

So far, we have ranked the top running backs, inside linebackers, outside linebackers, tight ends, defensive tackleswide receivers, defensive ends and kick returners in the league.

Now that we have reached the midseason point, this week's rankings will tackle the top five players at each position.


1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
4. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
5. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

It will be an upset if Manning's offense doesn't break the NFL's all-time scoring record. He's on pace to shatter the single-season records for passing yards and touchdowns. ... Rodgers is pulling off throws no other passer in the league can make while carrying a Packers team ravaged by injuries. ... Rivers is making pre-snap adjustments and reading defenses on the same level as Manning and Brees.

Matthew Stafford nearly squeezed Luck off the list with his incredible game-winning drive versus the Cowboys in Week 8. ... You won't find Tom Brady on this list because he's missed more throws than any quarterback in the league this season.

Running Back

1. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
2. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
3. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
4. Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions
5. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers / Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks

The most valuable non-quarterback in the league, Charles has been lights-out as a fourth-quarter closer while leading his team in rushing yards, receiving yards and receptions. Without him, the Chiefs have no offense. ... McCoy has been hurt by the quarterback unrest of the past two weeks. ... Bush and Calvin Johnson have been the NFL's most dangerous running back-wide receiver one-two punch in the NFL.

Wide Receiver

1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
2. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
3. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
4. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
5. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos

Johnson's 329 yards in Week 8 were more than Tom Brady has passed for in any game this season. ... No receiver makes the spectacular catch look routine as often as Nelson. ... Bryant is carrying Dallas' one-dimensional offense. ... Green would be higher if not for a four-game stretch against Ike Taylor, Sam Shields, Joe Haden and Aqib Talib. ... DeSean Jackson would have pushed Thomas out of the No. 5 spot if not for disappearing acts in a few games.

Tight end

1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
2. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers
3. Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
4. Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
5. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers / Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

Graham rivals Drew Brees as the Saints' first-half MVP. He's been unstoppable in the red zone. ... Davis leads all tight ends in yards per route run while carrying a limping 49ers aerial attack. ... Cameron has made plays reminiscent of a young Tony Gonzalez. ... One of our top preseason touts, Thomas has even outpaced our lofty expectations. ... Gates is enjoying an Indian summer season at age 33.

Offensive line

1. Nate Solder, New England Patriots
2. Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles
3. Trent Williams, Washington Redskins
4. Louis Vasquez, Denver Broncos
5. Jordan Gross, Carolina Panthers

Solder has been the most valuable offensive player on a 6-2 Patriots team. ... Mathis has played a big role in the Eagles' No. 1 rushing offense. ... Williams arguably was the NFL's best offensive lineman until he allowed more pressures against the Broncos in Week 8 than he had in the previous seven weeks combined.

An underrated free-agent pickup, Vasquez has kept Peyton Manning clean on the interior. ... Gross and Travelle Wharton have stabilized Carolina's offensive line after a shaky start in September. ... Joe Staley, Joe Thomas and Andrew Whitworth have turned in sterling performances, as usual.

Defensive End

1. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
2. Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints
3. Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams
4. Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets
5. Lamarr Houston, Oakland Raiders

Watt shattered Pro Football Focus' grading scale with a +101.6 last season. He's on pace for +101.7 while bringing the same heat this year. ... Jordan has been the key to the Saints' defensive turnaround under Rob Ryan. ... Wilkerson has anchored the NFL's most impressive 3-4 defensive line. ... There's an argument to be made that Quinn should be higher, but the majority of his damage has been done against the league's dregs at left tackle.

The Raiders have held three opponents under 40 rushing yards this season after accomplishing that feat just four times over the previous 10 seasons. Houston has been the best player on an underrated defense. ... DeMarcus Ware would be on the list if not for a quadriceps injury. Michael Johnson of the Bengals has been excellent in his own right.

Defensive Tackle

1. Jason Hatcher, Dallas Cowboys
2. Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions
3. Damon Harrison, New York Jets
4. Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals
5. Jurrell Casey, Tennessee Titans

Hatcher has been a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate. ... Suh's superior play down the stretch last season has carried over to the first two months of this season. ... "Big Snacks" Harrison has been the NFL's premier run-stuffer.

Atkins hasn't been quite as dominant as he was last year. That's not to say he won't catch fire the rest of the way. ... Casey has been the best player on one of the NFL's most improved defenses. ... Dontari Poe of the Chiefs and Star Lotulelei of the Panthers merit consideration as well.

Outside Linebacker

1. Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs
2. Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts
3. Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills
4. Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs
5. Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Hali and Houston are first and second in the NFL in combined sacks, hits and hurries this season. ... Mathis and Williams are first and second in the NFL in sacks. ... David and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy have been standouts on a fading Bucs defense. ... Terrell Suggs deserves mention for a bounceback season in Baltimore.

Inside Linebacker

1. Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
2. Derrick Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs
3. Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys
4. NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco 49ers
5. Kiko Alonso, Buffalo Bills

Opposing offenses have been so preoccupied with Kuechly that it has opened up opportunities for other players on a defense that has allowed the fewest points in the league. ... Johnson and Lee turn in difference-making plays on a weekly basis. ... Bowman held down the fort while Patrick Willis joined Aldon Smith on the sidelines.

Alonso was leading the league in interceptions and tackles for the majority of the first half. ... Daryl Washington would rival Kuechly for first on this list if not for a four-game suspension to start the season. ... Keep an eye on NFL tackles leader Vontaze Burfict, who is moving to the middle of the Bengals' defense with Rey Maualuga out.


1. Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks
2. T.J. Ward, Cleveland Browns
3. Devin McCourty, New England Patriots
4. Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs
5. Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers

Thomas' freakish range sets him apart from the crowd at safety. The Seahawks' first-half MVP is gunning for Defensive Player of the Year consideration. ... McCourty has teamed with Aqib Talib to shut down some of the biggest names in football. ... Polamalu is enjoying his best season in three years. ... The Packers' Morgan Burnett and the 49ers' Eric Reid deserve honorable mention.


1. Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
2. Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns
3. Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals
4. Aqib Talib, New England Patriots
5. Alterraun Verner, Tennessee Titans

Sherman's "Legion of Boom" secondary has combined for 11 interceptions and 25 passes defensed this season. The Seahawks lead the NFL with 21 takeaways. ... Haden has excelled in shadow coverage against top receivers. ... Peterson might be the best athlete in the NFL. He's missed just one snap all season. ... Talib would be higher if not for missing the last two games.

Verner is "making the leap" as a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback. ... Darrelle Revis, Vontae Davis and Brent Grimes narrowly missed the top five.

Kick returner

1. Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
2. Devin Hester, Chicago Bears 
3. Trindon Holliday, Denver Broncos
4. Dwayne Harris, Dallas Cowboys
5. Golden Tate, Seattle Seahawks


1. Matt Prater, Denver Broncos
2. Nick Folk, New York Jets
3. Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots
4. Graham Gano, Carolina Panthers
5. Dan Bailey, Dallas Cowboys


1. Pat McAfee, Indianapolis Colts
2. Johnny Hekker, St. Louis Rams
3. Thomas Morstead, New Orleans Saints
4. Shane Lechler, Houston Texans
5. Jon Ryan, Seattle Seahawks

We handed out our Midseason Hero Awards in the latest "Around the League" Podcast.