We can now reveal the top ten players of the last 20 years, as voted by the UK NFL personalities and they are as follows:
10. Adrian Peterson
9. LaDainian Tomlinson
8. Charles Woodson
7. Ed Reed
6. Drew Brees
5. Brett Favre
4. Larry Fitzgerald
3. Ray Lewis
2. Peyton Manning
1. Tom Brady
Is Favre’s 21st century overrated?
It’s hard to argue with Brady at one, and hardly a surprise to see Manning trailing just behind. Beyond that, you have another two more QBs in the top six. One thing to consider is whether Brett Favre is the fifth best player of the 21st century. He was a great player, of course. However, nearly half of his career was played in the nineties. That includes all three of his MVP awards, as well as his three first team All-Pros and two Super Bowl appearances. That said, he was second team All-Pro three times and a Pro Bowler six times post 2000.
It is an interesting debate. The argument isn’t about Favre’s talent but whether he was born 10 years too early to earn a space in the top ten. Given what Favre means to the NFL, I think it is fair to give #4 the benefit of the doubt.
While we are on QBs, a quick note on Drew Brees. Yet again Brees is the bridesmaid to Brady and Manning. Given the records the Saints QB has achieved, it would have been good to see him closer to challenging Manning for number 2.
Fitzgerald takes top receiver spot
Let’s move on to the skill position players. There are three on the board in Fitzgerald, Tomlinson and Peterson. Fitzgerald is easily the top receiver on this list, nine places higher than Calvin Johnson. Part of this gap is longevity. The biggest argument is whether Fitzgerald should be recognised as second best receiver all time.
Fitzgerald is significantly higher than Randy Moss at 23. Fitz has played an extra season and, despite having a lower average per reception than Moss, he is comfortably ahead of Owens, and Moss in terms of total career yards. While his talent has been recognised here, surely playing on an average (at best) Cardinals team throughout his career hurts Fitzgerald’s argument as the second best receiver ever.
One notable omission from the list at receiver is Antonio Brown, who missed out on the top 50. With numbers like Brown’s, it is hard to believe he would have missed the list based on performance on the field. Brown clearly misses out due to his off the field troubles. Of course there are some notable divas on this list, although none have gone from best in the game to out of the league over the course of the offseason.
Had this list been made 12 or 24 months ago, it is hard to see Brown not being somewhere in the teens.
Are Tomlinson & Peterson that much better than the field?
In the backfield, LT and AP make the top ten but the fact that no other RBs make the top 50 is quite a gulf. Of course, Tomlinson and Peterson are the best of the century. However, I would have expected Frank Gore, or Marshawn Lynch to have made the list somewhere. Gore has the longevity while Lynch was a dominant rusher for the better part of a decade.
Ultimately, I think that the majority of backs were hurt by fizzling out early in their career. This is why Gore deserves a spot. It will be interesting to see this list in 10 years time, as feature backs become a smaller part of game plans.
Defensive star power lacking in the top ten
I wrote in my review of the players ranked 50 to 10 that high profile defensive positions, particularly Cornerback were conspicuously absent. In the top ten, there are no high profile defensive positions, with a MLB and two Safeties making the cut. That also means that only 30% of the top ten were on the defence. However, this s largely due to the bias towards QB.
Regardless, there is no doubt that the three defensive players are worthy of their positions, both in terms of performance and longevity. The fact that two of them, Lewis and Reed, spent over a decade together shows how good the Ravens were on defence in the noughties. In fact there’s an argument that they should have made more than one Super Bowl together.
For Charles Woodson, he perhaps should be even higher. 18 seasons, one Super Bowl title, another appearance robbed by the tuck rule and fifth all time in interceptions. It will be a long time before we see another player repeat the career he did.
Image: Patriots Wire