#NFLRank: Bengals' Vontaze Burfict No. 32

CINCINNATI -- Maybe it's a good thing Vontaze Burfict still has yet to complete his contract extension.

He now has another accolade he can use as additional leverage in the contract talks that have suddenly gone silent.

Nearly one week to the day that reports surfaced indicating Burfict had agreed to a new deal that would pay him more than $20 million, the linebacker cracked the top 40 on ESPN.com's #NFLRank series. He came in as the No. 32 defensive player in the league, one spot behind the Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson and one place above San Diego's Eric Weddle.

The ranking came after Burfict didn't even crack the top 100 of last year's preseason countdown.

The #NFLRank series, which debuted last Monday, has been ranking the top 100 players in the league. Players are separated into offense and defense. By Tuesday, the countdown, which started with rankings 100-91, reached the 30s.

Earlier this summer, many of the people behind ESPN's NFL coverage ranked the best current players in the league.

Burfict is the fourth Bengals player to be featured on the #NFLRank countdown. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap ranked 86th on defense, and running back Giovani Bernard ranked 88th on offense, four spots ahead of offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth who was No. 92.

A rising star, Burfict's rank probably comes about where one might imagine. After leading the league in tackles last season with 171, he has proven himself to be one of the best defensive players in the game. His selection to the Pro Bowl last year aided that, too, as well as his 298 tackles in the last two seasons. Only two players have more tackles in the league the last two years, and no other Bengals player is close to recording that many stops in the span.

These rankings are based on votes from 90 of our NFL experts. Yes, that group includes yours truly, along with the other 31 team reporters who make up NFL Nation. Here is the full list of voters.

You can read the full 100-31 breakdown here.

Here's a blurb from Burfict's #NFLRank:

Vontaze Burfict ranks third in the NFL with 298 tackles the past two seasons. He has 101 more tackles than the next highest Bengals defender in that time.

-- ESPN Stats & Information