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Calvin Johnson, Patrick Willis make the leap to top 10

I usually start my "The Top 100: Players of 2012" reaction with some grievance about the recently revealed players. There's no doubt Baltimore Ravens stars Ray Lewis (No. 20) and Ed Reed (No. 16) were overly rewarded for past performance, but I couldn't help but notice the absence of two younger superstars.

Calvin Johnson and Patrick Willis were nowhere to be seen Wednesday, when Nos. 20 to 11 were revealed. They haven't been ranked yet, which means they're both in the top 10. As they should be.

Willis could go down as the most consistently dominant defensive player of his era. There hasn't been a linebacker with his vast skill set since ... Ray Lewis. Willis can do anything he's asked by the San Francisco 49ers and can do it well. 2011 probably wasn't even his best season, but he's one of the 10 best players in the league. He deserves to be so high.

Last season's performance also was the one we've been waiting for from Calvin Johnson. He now routinely beats double teams. He runs a bigger variety of routes. He has become the player everyone expected. Johnson made The Leap, so it only makes sense that he climbed from No. 27 to the top 10. We wouldn't be surprised if the Detroit Lions star climbs ahead of Larry Fitzgerald as the highest receiver on the board.

In many ways, the players ranked 20 to 11 were about aging stars. Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Justin Smith were represented. Guys like Willis and Johnson ensure the top 10 will have some new blood.

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