Writing at Fox Sports.com, Peter Schrager ranked his top 99 players in the NFL on Thursday, a list that includes five Falcons and 42 players on teams who appear on the Falcons’ 2009 schedule.
Schrager said that in compiling his list he didn’t take a “fantasy football” approach, in other words it isn’t statistic-heavy, but instead asked three questions: 1) which player would I rather have on my team; 2) which player would make the most impact on my team?; and 3) which player will be the best player in 2009, specifically?
Also on the list are two former local stars — Champ Bailey of Georgia and the Denver Broncos at No. 32 and Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech and the Detroit Lions at No. 83.
The top-rated player is quarterback Peyton Manning of Indianapolis.
The five Falcons are running back Michael Turner (No. 38), quarterback Matt Ryan (43), tight end Tony Gonzalez (47), wide receiver Roddy White (56) and defensive end John Abraham (92).
Turner ranks fourth among running backs behind Adrian Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson and DeAngelo Williams. Interestingly, in Schrager’s comment on Turner, he points out that “The Burner” broke out of L.T.’s shadow and had a better season than his former teammate, but Tomlinson ranks higher than Turner.
Gonzalez is the top-rated tight end (Schrager thinks Tony G. “could be in for his best year yet.”). White ranks ninth among wide receivers (behind Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Steve Smith of Carolina, Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, Anquan Boldin, Wes Welker and Terrell Owens). Ryan ranks 11th among quarterbacks (behind Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Donovan McNabb, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo and Jay Cutler).
Schrager said Ryan will not only avoid the “sophomore slump” but will exceed already high expectations this season. As for Abraham, Schrager calls him “one of the more under-appreciated players of his generation” and “the top defensive player for Mike Smith’s gangbusters Atlanta D.”
What do you think? Are those Falcons players ranked too low, or too high? Is any other Falcon worthy of the list? And how about this for a thought, which Falcons are ready for a breakthrough season in ‘09 that could catapult them into a list of the top players in the NFL?