#NFLRank 100-51: Counting down NFL's best players

Will Romo's, Witten's rankings rise next season? (1:15)

ESPN Cowboys reporter Todd Archer shares his thoughts on how he foresees the NFL rankings of Tony Romo and Jason Witten changing in the 2017 NFL season based on their projections for the current year. (1:15)

This is not an MVP vote. It was a simple process, detailed here:

The parameters: Rate players based on how good they are -- not what positions they play or how many endorsements they have. All NFL players were eligible.

The process: Rate every player on a scale of 1-100. A score of 100 implies an all-time level of excellence; a 1 is for a player who doesn't belong in the NFL.

The panel: More than 50 voters. NFL analysts, reporters and statisticians -- both from ESPN and outside ESPN -- including former players and NFL front-office members.

That's it. We considered all NFL players and had a deep group of analysts rate them based on how good they are -- nothing more.

We'll be counting down the list in three installments, starting with players ranked from 100-51.

100. Desmond Trufant, CB, Falcons

Avg. rating: 80.13 | 2015 rank: NR

Trufant is an ascending shutdown corner, which is part of the reason why the Falcons are considering more man-to-man coverage this season. He allowed 32 receptions on 54 targets last season, making him one of the league's least-targeted defenders. He could rise up this ranking over the next few years. -- Vaughn McClure

99. Dont'a Hightower, OLB, Patriots

Avg. rating: 80.20 | 2015 rank: NR

Physicality, which was reflected in his tackle of running back Marshawn Lynch on the goal line in Super Bowl XLIX on the play that preceded Malcolm Butler's interception, is one of Hightower's best assets. A 6-foot-3, 265-pound linebacker, one opposing coach said Hightower "hits like a defensive lineman." He's a sound tackler, averaging 91.5 tackles per season over his first four years in the NFL, and is a factor as a blitzer (9.5 sacks over the last two seasons). -- Mike Reiss

T-97. Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys

Avg. rating: 80.22 | 2015 rank: 54

At some point maybe Witten will slow down, but it doesn't look like that will be in 2016. He led the Cowboys in receptions last season, and he is asked to block more than most tight ends today. Witten is the heartbeat of the Cowboys. He is the franchise leader in receptions and should pass Michael Irvin in receiving yards this year. "He's the most complete tight end in the NFL, and he has been for the last decade and a half," coach Jason Garrett said. -- Todd Archer

T-97. LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills

Avg. rating: 80.22 | 2015 rank: 41

McCoy turned 28 over the summer but hasn't lost his trademark quick-cut ability and burst. Only Le'Veon Bell averaged more yards before contact in 2016, which can be attributed both to the strength of McCoy's offensive line and his prowess in making defenders miss before they can touch him. -- Mike Rodak

96. Vontae Davis, CB, Colts

Avg. rating: 80.27 | 2015 rank: 71

Davis' string of 25-straight games of not giving up a touchdown reception ended in Week 2 last season. The Colts need Davis, who dealt with nagging injuries all year, to get back to taking away one half of the field on defense again. "He knows, in order for us to be the type of defense that we want to be, that he has to," coach Chuck Pagano said. "There's no gray area there. He either does it, or we're not going to be the same type of defense." -- Mike Wells

T-93. Anthony Barr, OLB, Vikings

Avg. rating: 80.40 | 2015 rank: NR

Barr's numbers don't pop off the page yet, in part because of injuries that have dogged him during his first two seasons. The 6-foot-5 linebacker, however, might be one of the most important players in the Vikings' defense because of what he means to their vaunted double-A gap blitz package. Barr posted 3.5 sacks last season, broke up seven passes, forced three fumbles and had a 32-yard return off an interception of Peyton Manning last October. -- Ben Goessling

T-93. Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills

Avg. rating: 80.40 | 2015 rank: NR

Few receivers make it look as easy as Watkins, who had the NFL's fourth-most receiving yards after Week 10 last season, when he finally shook off multiple injuries and returned to full health. If the injury bug doesn't bite him again, he will be the main focus of every team's defense when they play the Bills this season. -- Mike Rodak

T-93. Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots

Avg. rating: 80.40 | 2015 rank: NR

His 12.0-yard punt-return average is tied for No. 1 in Patriots history, and at receiver, his quickness, cutting ability and rapport with quarterback Tom Brady make him one of the NFL's tougher covers. Edelman is one of three receivers in franchise history to put together consecutive 90-catch seasons, joining Wes Welker and Troy Brown. Coach Bill Belichick compared his career to Tedy Bruschi in the sense that both players lined up at different positions in college. -- Mike Reiss

92. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers

Avg. rating: 80.58 | 2015 rank: NR

Allen finished the first half of 2015 with 67 catches, tied for the third-most receptions in the first eight games of a season in NFL history, before a lacerated kidney ended his year. "Knowing that I did it, and knowing that I can dominate the league is definitely motivation for me," Allen said. "Hopefully I can keep it going." The Chargers saw his potential and locked him up to a four-year extension this summer. -- Eric Williams

91. Olivier Vernon, DE, Giants

Avg. rating: 80.67 | 2015 rank: NR

Don't be fooled by the 7.5 sacks last season. Vernon was third in the NFL with 36 quarterback hits. Only J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald had more. Vernon was also solid against the run, and his all-around game is showing this summer. "I've heard from guys. Guys are raving about 54 right now," said Giants linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, who was also a teammate of Vernon in Miami. "Not just because of his work ethic but because what he brings to the field right now." The money came for a reason. -- Jordan Raanan

90. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks

Avg. rating: 80.71 | 2015 rank: NR

A technician from the slot, Baldwin has developed into one of the most efficient wide receivers in the league. Last season, he became the first receiver since at least 1992 -- when targets were first tracked -- to post a 1,000-yard season while catching at least 80 percent of his targets. Baldwin's 14 touchdowns in 2015 were tied for first in the NFL, and he signed a long-term deal with the Seahawks this offseason. -- Sheil Kapadia

89. Malcolm Butler, CB, Patriots

Avg. rating: 80.76 | 2015 rank: NR

Proving that his Super Bowl-saving interception wasn't a fluke, Butler followed up with a 2015 season in which he earned a Pro Bowl berth by playing a team-high 98.8 percent of the defensive snaps and displaying elite reactive athleticism to shadow top receivers. His success is due, in part, to an ultracompetitive mindset of not wanting the Super Bowl play to define him. Coach Bill Belichick, now in his 42nd NFL season, said Butler "as much as any player that I've been around, has really not changed very much" from his first season to the next. -- Mike Reiss

88. Malcolm Jenkins, S, Eagles

Avg. rating: 80.82 | 2015 rank: NR

Jenkins wasn't the most heralded safety in the 2014 free-agent class, but the Eagles were right to make him their top target. He proved to be a perfect fit, thriving in a role that showcased his versatility. The 28-year-old can play deep; he can be effective near the line; and he thrives when he's asked to man the slot. He finished with more than 100 tackles last season and added 10 passes defended, two interceptions and three forced fumbles. The Eagles have since moved from a 3-4 to a 4-3, but new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz should make sure his strengths are still maximized. "I have been complimentary to the safeties for good reason. Those guys are good players," said Schwartz about Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. "They're great communicators, and we need more guys following suit." -- Tim McManus

87. Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals

Avg. rating: 80.89 | 2015 rank: NR

Eifert mostly makes this list based upon what he did in an impressive 2015 season. Of his 13 touchdown receptions last season, 11 came in the red zone. What makes that even more impressive: He caught only 12 passes in the red zone last year, leading to a 91.7 percent touchdown per red zone catch efficiency. Uncertainty surrounds the talented tight end, however, as an ankle injury suffered in the Pro Bowl could delay the start to his season. -- Coley Harvey

T-85. Stephon Gilmore, CB, Bills

Avg. rating: 81.02 | 2015 rank: NR

Gilmore was tied for the NFL's third-most pass breakups (16) last season. He's not lacking in confidence either, declaring at the start of training camp that he is part of the NFL's elite class of cornerbacks that, according to him, also includes Patrick Peterson, Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib and Richard Sherman. Gilmore will become a free agent after this season and is looking for a big-league deal. -- Mike Rodak

T-85. Cameron Heyward, DE, Steelers

Avg. rating: 81.02 | 2015 rank: NR

Heyward has emerged as a cornerstone of the Steelers' revamped defense and serves as a captain on the unit. The Steelers rarely take him off the field. He played 1,116 defensive snaps in 2015, more than any other defensive linemen in the league. Heyward's seven sacks don't explain the disruption he causes up front. He has had his way with more than a few offensive guards and tackles in the last two years, and his work earned him a six-year, $59-million contract last offseason. "I don't think he's paid like he's underrated," teammate Stephon Tuitt said. "He's a great player." -- Jeremy Fowler

84. Jason Peters, OT, Eagles

Avg. rating: 81.18 | 2015 rank: T-47

Peters has put together a sterling 13-year career (143 starts) that will one day be worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. The former undrafted tight end out of Arkansas is one of the most gifted left tackles the game has ever seen. "He's a guy that is big, powerful, strong, fast, all that stuff. But he's a guy that at all times is under control. He has unbelievable coordination and ability," said center Jason Kelce. Now in the twilight of his career, the 34-year-old is trying to overcome the injuries that hampered him for much of last season. -- Tim McManus

83. Kelechi Osemele, G, Raiders

Avg. rating: 81.31 | 2015 rank: NR

A mountain of a man at 6-foot-5, 330 pounds, the left guard -- and left tackle of the future -- may actually be the jewel of the Raiders' highly touted free-agent class. Osemele has a nasty temperament. Just ask defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., who brawled with him twice in the span of minutes in a training camp practice. That fire is needed on a retuned Oakland O-line though, considered one of the top two in the NFL. "The emphasis on building the offensive line, coming from a place where (it was) not really appreciated, you know?" Osemele said upon signing with the Raiders after four years with the Ravens. "Coming to a team where offensive-line play is a focus and it matters and they want to build that up, that was a big factor." -- Paul Gutierrez

82. Carlos Dunlap, DE, Bengals

Avg. rating: 81.51 | 2015 rank: NR

Dunlap has spent his career constantly pushing himself to obtain bigger and bigger pass-rush goals. Now that he has set the Bengals' franchise record for single-season sacks (13.5 in 2015), he wants to pass Michael Strahan's league-record 22.5 (2011). Noted for his humanitarian work in Cincinnati and his hometown of North Charleston, South Carolina, Dunlap's profile has started rising. -- Coley Harvey

81. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears

Avg. rating: 81.49 | 2015 rank: NR

With 807 receiving yards in nine games during the 2015 season, Jeffery now has 3,361 yards over the last three years, the ninth highest total in the NFL over that span. Despite being slowed by injuries almost all of last season, Jeffery still averaged 89.7 receiving yards per game, which was eighth best in the league. Playing on the one-year franchise tag this season, Jeffery could be on the open market in 2017. -- Jeff Dickerson

80. Marcus Peters, CB, Chiefs

Avg. rating: 81.51 | 2015 rank: NR

Peters turned the Chiefs from a team that struggled to get interceptions (six in 2014) to one that was pick happy (22 in 2015). Peters tied for the league lead in interceptions with eight and scored a touchdown on two of them. He was voted as NFL defensive rookie of the year for his efforts. Peters picked up where he left off in this year's preseason opener with an end zone interception of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. -- Adam Teicher

79. Ryan Kalil, C, Panthers

Avg. rating: 81.53 | 2015 rank: NR

Carolina coach Ron Rivera calls Kalil a "special'' player who will be successful in whatever he does because he's smart as well as talented. Kalil showed that during the offseason when he co-wrote a book with two former teammates. He also owns a production company in California. And on the field he's a five-time Pro Bowl selection. "He's got a tremendous imagination and he's very artistic," Rivera said. "Guys like that are special, and it's great to have a guy like that because he's a great example for the rest of the players." -- David Newton

78. Eli Manning, QB, Giants

Avg. rating: 81.56 | 2015 rank: 84

Like a fine wine, Manning is improving with age, throwing a career-best 35 touchdown passes in 2015. Only Tom Brady threw more. With Manning, it's more than physical skills. Sometimes, it's over before he even gets his hands on the ball. "Eli Manning right now in the presnap phase is as good as any quarterback in the league," former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said. It's one of the reasons that in his third year in Ben McAdoo's offense, Manning could be in for his best year yet. -- Jordan Raanan

77. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers

Avg. rating: 81.62 | 2015 rank: 37

Just call him Mr. December. Since taking over as the team's starter in 2006, Rivers has led the Chargers to a 35-13 record in regular-season games played in December and January. "Philip is one of the best at getting the ball out of his hands," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "You're not going to sack him very often, so your coverage has to be tight. He knows what he's doing." -- Eric Williams

76. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers

Avg. rating: 81.96 | 2015 rank: 26

Sometimes, a player's value is even more noticeable when he's not there. That's the case with Nelson, who missed all of last season because of a torn ACL. The Packers' offense plummeted to 23rd in the NFL without Nelson, quarterback Aaron Rodgers' yards per pass attempt was the lowest of his career as a starter. Rodgers had no deep threat without Nelson. "The thing that he does is, we have specific packages for him that just, we didn't have a guy who could fill those packages," Rodgers said. "And it was a lot of play-action stuff, where we're taking eight-man protection and taking shots down the field. And we didn't have a guy who could take that spot." -- Rob Demovsky

75. Marcell Dareus, DT, Bills

Avg. rating: 82.02 | 2015 rank: 64

Known as "Mr. Big Stuff," Dareus would have more of a national profile if he played in a larger market. He has 19.5 sacks since 2013, sixth most among NFL defensive tackles. The Bills will miss his unusual athleticism and massive size when he sits out the first four games of the regular season for an NFL substance abuse policy suspension. -- Mike Rodak

74. Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars

Avg. rating: 82.13 | 2015 rank: NR

Robinson made the Pro Bowl last season after catching 80 passes for 1,400 yards and a franchise-record 14 touchdowns. Yet he approached the offseason as if he was on the roster bubble. He concentrated on becoming a better route runner, especially on shorter and intermediate routes. He's a phenomenal athlete (40-inch vertical leap) with great hands who wants to be known as more than just someone who thrives on back-shoulder catches and 50-50 balls. Those will still be big parts of his game, but he is quickly becoming a more complete receiver. "He's unbelievable," quarterback Blake Bortles said. "He has a mind and a motor that doesn't stop, and even though he put up good numbers last year, he is going to continue to work his tail off and wants to be better each and every year." -- Mike DiRocco

T-72. Nick Mangold, C, Jets

Avg. rating: 82.16 | 2015 rank: 88

He's everything you want in a center -- smart, tough and powerful. Mangold has anchored the Jets' offensive line for a decade, reaching the Pro Bowl seven times. Every Jets quarterback over that span credited Mangold's intelligence as one of the keys to success at the line of scrimmage. -- Rich Cimini

T-72. Maurkice Pouncey, C, Steelers

Avg. rating: 82.16 | 2015 rank: 65

Pouncey missed all of 2015 with several foot/ankle surgeries, and his nasty streak was sorely missed in the Steelers' locker room. Pouncey's intangibles are valued just as much as his All-Pro ability on the field. "It's like night and day (when he's here)," guard David DeCastro said. "He brings such an edge to the team." Pouncey is the rare athlete who can serve as a pulling guard from the center position. He's a violent run-blocker. And in 2014, his only healthy season in three years, the Steelers' offense took flight with 6,577 yards. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had arguably his best all-around regular season, and running back Le'Veon Bell posted 2,000-plus yards from scrimmage. Pouncey was a big part of that. Another healthy year should help Pouncey regain his form as one of the NFL's elite centers. -- Jeremy Fowler

71. Andrew Whitworth, OT, Bengals

Avg. rating: 82.18 | 2015 rank: 80

The Bengals captain has the dubious honor of being an 11-year veteran with only two invites to the Pro Bowl. That number should be much higher. The left tackle has long been regarded by opposing defensive ends and linebackers as one of the best at his position, and his sack-free performance in 2014 was a sign of that. -- Coley Harvey

T-69. Robert Quinn, DE, Rams

Avg. rating: 82.33 | 2015 rank: 35

Quinn -- the Pro Football Writers of America's Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 after a 19-sack season -- was previously considered one of the game's most dominant pass-rushers. Last season, however, he was limited to eight games, ultimately underwent back surgery, and now, at 26, is looking to prove himself all over again. It will take some time, but the Rams are confident that Quinn can get back to who he was. -- Alden Gonzalez

T-69. Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs

Avg. rating: 82.33 | 2015 rank: 99

Over the past two seasons, Kelce is sixth among tight ends in catches (139) and fourth in yardage (1,737). But he leads in yards after the catch (1,020), and his yards-after-catch average of 7.34 is almost three-quarters of a yard better than his nearest competitor. That's why the Chiefs like to get Kelce the ball in the open field. He's fast for a 260-pound player and difficult to drag down. -- Adam Teicher

68. Mike Iupati, G, Cardinals

Avg. rating: 82.42 | 2015 rank: NR

Iupati is a force in the Cardinals' run game. He helped anchor an offensive line that blocked for 1,917 rushing yards, the most Arizona has totaled since 1988. Of those, 496 were run behind Iupati, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Cardinals also allowed just 27 sacks, fourth best in the NFL, and the fewest for Arizona since 2009. -- Josh Weinfuss

T-66. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Lions

Avg. rating: 82.49 | 2015 rank: NR

Could Ansah be the best athlete in the NFL? It's possible, even as a defensive end. Consider Ansah tried, unsuccessfully, to walk on to the BYU basketball team. Then he joined the Cougars' track team and reportedly ran a sub-11 second 100-meter dash. All of this before picking up football -- a game he had never played before -- midway through college. By the time he graduated, he was a first-round pick. And he still plays -- and excels -- in soccer. The scary thing for the NFL is he has picked up a lot of the game, but there's plenty of room for growth for the fourth-year pro. He had 14.5 sacks last season, and double-digit sacks are once again the goal. "I don't want to compare him to anybody," Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. "I'm going to let him set that bar." -- Michael Rothstein

T-66. Calais Campbell, DE, Cardinals

Avg. rating: 82.49 | 2015 rank: 78

Campbell made his second-straight Pro Bowl last season despite his lowest sack output since his rookie season. But that had as much to do as anything with playing defensive tackle instead of defensive end, which he played for years. He was still able to record the third-most tackles of his career despite being double-teamed for most of the season. -- Josh Weinfuss

65. Sheldon Richardson, DE, Jets

Avg. rating: 82.60 | 2015 rank: 61

The former defensive rookie of the year (2013) is such an athletic marvel that he played outside linebacker at 310 pounds over the final month of last season. Explosive and relentless, Richardson has 16.5 sacks in three seasons -- impressive in a 3-4 front. He once compared himself to J.J. Watt, saying he causes "the same type of disruption." -- Rich Cimini

64. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals

Avg. rating: 82.69 | 2015 rank: NR

Fitzgerald is back. The Cardinals' all-everything wide receiver had one of the best seasons of his illustrious career in 2015. He set a career high with 109 catches and had his first 1,000-yard season since 2011. And what's more impressive is that he did all that from the slot, a position to which he has transitioned under coach Bruce Arians. -- Josh Weinfuss

63. DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Broncos

Avg. rating: 82.73 | 2015 rank: NR

Ware has been slowed by back troubles of late -- he missed five games last season and has yet to practice in training camp. But when he returned to the lineup to close out the 2015 regular season and into the postseason, he was a key figure in the Broncos' defense, even as they regulated his snaps. In three playoff games, Ware led the Broncos in quarterback hits with 12 and was a big reason why Von Miller had some room to work at times. "DeMarcus Ware, that's all you need to say, everybody knows DeMarcus' game and what he can do. He's the greatest," Miller said. -- Jeff Legwold

62. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys

Avg. rating: 82.76 | 2015 rank: 31

The Cowboys go as Romo goes. They were 1-11 without Romo last season and 3-1 with him. He has a 15-4 record the last two seasons. Romo is at the point in his career where his knowledge and athleticism are in symmetry. "He's one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, if not the top," executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "I wouldn't trade him for anybody." -- Todd Archer

61. Chandler Jones, OLB, Cardinals

Avg. rating: 82.78 | 2015 rank: NR

Jones is 26 and was fifth in the league in sacks last season with 12.5. What else is there to know? In two of his four seasons, he has had double-digit sacks. He's long, lean and quick. And he's transitioning to a new position -- outside linebacker -- after an offseason trade to Arizona, which will give him more opportunities to get to the quarterback. He's among the best pass-rushers in the league. -- Josh Weinfuss

60. Travis Frederick, C, Cowboys

Avg. rating: 82.95 | 2015 rank: 66

Frederick just signed a six-year extension worth $56.4 million, so that tells you what the Cowboys think of him. Not many teams thought highly of him when the Cowboys took him in the first round in 2013. Some teams considered him a fourth-rounder at best. All he has done is start every game he has played and been named to the Pro Bowl the last two seasons. He is smart and can help quarterback Tony Romo adjust the fronts on the fly. -- Todd Archer

59. Alex Mack, C, Falcons

Avg. rating: 82.98 | 2015 rank: 73

Mack, a three-time Pro Bowler, has the athleticism to get out and block in the run game, while also possessing enough power and a strong base to be an effective pass-blocker. Not to mention he has a sharp mind and is an excellent communicator. The Falcons' free-agent addition also possesses strong leadership qualities, like running sprints alone on the field after practice. -- Vaughn McClure

58.Lavonte David, OLB, Bucs

Avg. rating: 83.04 | 2015 rank: 43

In what started out as a down year in 2015, David wound up ranking third in the NFL in tackles (147), while leading all linebackers in pass breakups (13). He also tied for the second-most interceptions by linebackers (three). Since entering the league, he ranks first in the league in solo tackles (404), second in total tackles (576), second in tackles for loss (67), second in interceptions by a linebacker (nine) and third in passes defended by a linebacker (31). The numbers speak for themselves. He's one of the most underrated players in the league. -- Jenna Laine

T-56. Jamie Collins, OLB, Patriots

Avg. rating: 83.31 | 2015 rank: 97

Collins' five forced fumbles in 2015 tied the team's single-season record. His uncommon athleticism was reflected last year in how he also had an interception, returned a fumble for a touchdown, and blocked an extra point with a highlight-reel leap over the line of scrimmage. "Look at the Jamie Collinses, it's not like there's like two or three dozen of them in the draft every year. We're lucky to have one," coach Bill Belichick said. "There's Lawrence Taylor, the prototype for an outside linebacker. Where's the next Lawrence Taylor? These guys don't grow on trees." -- Mike Reiss

T-56. Brandon Marshall, WR, Jets

Avg. rating: 83.31 | 2015 rank: NR

Not only did he rewrite the Jets' record book last season in 2015, but Marshall became only the third player in NFL history to record at least 100 catches and 1,500 yards at the age of 31 or older. The others were Hall of Famer Jerry Rice and Andre Johnson. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick called Marshall "a freak of nature." -- Rich Cimini

55. Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins

Avg. rating: 83.44 | 2015 rank: NR

He's a mismatch nightmare for defenses because of his ability to be explosive cutting out of a route to either side, using skills he once displayed on the basketball court. Quarterback Kirk Cousins posted a 130.1 passer rating while targeting Reed during his 87-catch, 11-touchdown season of 2015. Reed said, "I had a little taste of success, and I feel I could keep improving. If I do that, then my name will be up there with some of the top guys." -- John Keim

54. Trent Williams, OT, Redskins

Avg. rating: 83.56 | 2015 rank: 86

Williams' athleticism has long keyed the Redskins' attack; they ask him to do things other tackles do not -- watch him get outside to block on a screen after first blocking down. That's a big reason he has made four consecutive Pro Bowls. Williams has joked that he could play many positions, but there's one he loves most. "I am a great athlete," Williams once said. "I play offensive tackle the best." -- John Keim

53. Aqib Talib, CB, Broncos

Avg. rating: 83.58 | 2015 rank: 100

When Gary Kubiak arrived as the Broncos coach in 2015, he said he knew of Talib's size, reach and speed in coverage, but what he didn't know was "just how hard he prepared, how smart he was and how much he really worked on the little things." Talib has the bounce-back conscience most top cornerbacks have, and he stays aggressive. Talib can close the deal when he gets the ball in his hands -- he returned two of his three interceptions last season for touchdowns. -- Jeff Legwold

52. Bobby Wagner, ILB, Seahawks

Avg. rating: 83.67 | 2015 rank: 32

A true three-down linebacker, Wagner is great against the run and consistently limits yards after the catch while in coverage. Since 2012, he has piled up 476 tackles, which ranks ninth in the NFL. Wagner is responsible for getting the defense lined up and has emerged as a leader on a unit that has led the league in fewest points allowed for four straight seasons. -- Sheil Kapadia

51. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos

Avg. rating: 83.82 | 2015 rank: 18

Before the 2015 season when Thomas struggled with drops -- he had between 11 and 17 depending on who was counting -- he was voted No. 18 overall in #NFLRank. Even after topping 100 catches and 1,300 yards in 2015, it means only Thomas and Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison have had four consecutive seasons with at least 90 receptions and at least 1,300 yards. He hasn't missed a game in the last four seasons and Peyton Manning has said, "there just aren't many guys in the world like D.T. with that size and speed." -- Jeff Legwold