NEW ORLEANS -- NFC North colleague Kevin Seifert has our Power Rankings on the pass-rushers and we’ve got one current NFC South representative and one former NFC South guy.
Atlanta’s John Abraham came in at No. 7. Chicago’s Julius Peppers, who spent his career with Carolina until leaving for the Bears last season is No. 8. Abraham and Peppers each were All-Pros last season, so shouldn’t they be a little higher?
Well, the voters said no and I was one of them. I voted Abraham at No. 7 on my ballot and my logic is simple. He’s coming of a 13-sack season, but he’s 32. He’s also one season removed from a 5.5-sack season. If Abraham were 27 and coming off a season like that, I guarantee you he’d be in my top three. But I couldn’t put him any higher at this point.
I put Peppers at No. 5 on my ballot and part of that is because he’s younger than Abraham and I think there remains potential for several huge years. Peppers’ numbers weren’t as good as Abraham’s last year, but Peppers is one of those rare athletes who can take over a game at any time.
Heck, I covered Peppers from the day Carolina drafted him. Wait, it goes back even before that. I was at his pro day at North Carolina back in 2002 and remember being amazed by the athleticism I saw. I was even more amazed as I watched him in practice each day. I saw him do things on the practice field I’ve never seen another football player do.
I also saw Peppers do that in games from time to time. But he’s never been able to consistently play to the level people expect due to his enormous athleticism. If he had, I gladly would have put him No. 1 on the list.
By the way, speaking of the NFC South and pass-rushers, that’s not a real position of strength. That’s why I wrote this column last week on why I think there could be several defensive ends coming to NFC South teams in the 2011 draft.