'Top 100' slots for Peyton Manning, Vonta Leach hotly debated

NFL Network continued its unveiling of "The Top 100: Players of 2012" on Wednesday night, rolling out Nos. 41 to 50. What was the most surprising development to you?

(Click this link for Nos. 51-100.)

  • Jeff Darlington NFL.com
  • Should have shelved Manning from this honor

So, judging by the current selections on the "Top 100," this list is willing to disrespect the quarterback position enough to rank Tony Romo at No. 91. But it's willing to respect that same position by ranking Peyton Manning at No. 50? I'm just a little confused here. We can all joke that Manning proved to be the 2011 MVP because of the Colts' crazy slide without him, but I'm not sure anyone legitimately thought he deserved such candidacy for the award.

As such, with a list that's intended to provide year-to-year judgments, I can't help but think a player who spent the year on injured reserve should probably also be shelved from postseason accolades.

  • Steve Wyche NFL.com and NFL Network
  • Leach carrying torch for dying position

It's not a surprise that Vonta Leach landed where he did, but it is a surprise that so many of his peers recognized a fullback so righteously. That goes to show that the steamrolling Leach is really, really good. And feared.

In this era of throwing the ball and single-back sets, Leach is a rarity -- a helmet cracking lead blocker that nobody wants to deal with. I remember covering the 49ers-Ravens Thanksgiving game, and Leach held his own against Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman for four quarters.

I love that Leach earned the respect he did because it is somewhat surprising players still hold that kind of regard for a player at that position.

  • Chad Reuter NFL Network
  • Return to sender: Hester is ranked too high

Devin Hester is certainly one of the most electric return men in the league. But the bottom line is that he is only an average receiver and his 30 total touchdowns on offense and special teams in six years barely eclipse Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson's 28 all-purpose scores in four seasons. Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson (ranked No. 55) will be a very good starter at a premium position and already has four punt-return touchdowns on his resume. It would be tough for me to rank Hester above either of those Pro Bowlers.

  • Charley Casserly NFL Network
  • Watch for big years from Manning, Stafford

The two players who will clearly jump in 2012 will be Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford. The Lions' offense will be better this year because they will be stronger in the running game if Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure stay healthy. In Denver, Manning will lead a fast-paced offense with a good set of receivers and be the Comeback Player of the Year.

  • Jason Smith NFL.com
  • What are the players thinking here?

I really wonder how players are voting on this thing. Seriously, Vonta Leach ahead of Peyton Manning -- and also Von Miller, Roddy White, Nnamdi Asomugha, Hakeem Nicks, Tony Romo and Chris Johnson, just to name a few? I'm not saying he's not important -- just look at Arian Foster's production the last couple of years with him -- but let's just be realistic. You're even telling me he's a better football player than three players in the Nos. 41-50 list who are possible Hall of Famers (Bailey, Hester and Manning).

One thing I was glad to see was the status of Matthew Stafford. I thought coming off his only injury-free season he might be met with some skepticism, but he's where he should be -- I would even have him a little higher, but you still have a ton of great QBs to go. Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers at least are ahead of him, and probably Ben Roethlisberger, as well.

  • Dave Dameshek NFL.com
  • Leach, not Manning, is most outrageous inclusion

As much as I'd love to bellyache about the absurd inclusion of Peyton Manning (the voting players know he didn't play last season, right?), I find it even more outrageous that Vonta Leach is anywhere on the list ... let alone at No. 45!

Ray Rice -- the primary beneficiary of Leach's sledgehammer lead blocks -- had marginally better numbers in 2011 than his career average, but does that make Leach better or more valuable than Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Mike Wallace or any of the other 55 names (besides John Kuhn) behind him? That's a rhetorical question. The correct answer is no.

Like Adam Rank suggested on our weekly "Top 100" review edition of the Dave Dameshek Football Program, players vote for Leach to prove they understand football is about more than just the skill guys. In turn, if we civilians disagree, it only shows we lack a deeper grasp of the game. Only problem for the voting players is, most NFL offensive coordinators are on our side -- 98 percent of them haven't seen the need for a blocking fullback in years.

  • Adam Rank NFL.com
  • Manning rated way too low

We will ignore the fact another fullback made the list because the biggest surprise was Peyton Manning. Not because he made the list. Let's be serious for a moment. Manning could sit out this year, too, and he would make the "Top 100" list for 2013.

I'm surprised he's so low on the list. I mean, No. 50? You'd rather have Maurkice Pouncey or Vonta Leach over Manning?

I'm still (along with probably everybody) trying to figure out what criteria the players are using when they voted. But one thing is certain: People still respect Manning.

Look at the list of teams which publicly courted Manning during the offseason: the Dolphins, Cardinals, Jets, Titans, 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos. And then you figure teams such as the Texans and Cowboys privately mulled it over behind closed doors, but never went public in order to maintain their quarterback's confidence. So with all of that in mind, I'm surprised Manning didn't land in the top 20.

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