Often times as a blogger you get ideas. Really big ideas that sound like they’d turn into awesome posts. The downside? Then you have to actually do the post. I’ve been sitting on this idea for a bit but executing it turned out to be quite an ordeal.
What follows is a list of the best players to wear each number, from 0 to 99, in all of sports. In making this list we decided to consider players from the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, NASCAR and soccer.
Here are the rules:
1. A player has to have actually played professionally to be considered (so no Steven Strasburg, Blake Griffin or Tim Tebow, etc.).
2. We only considered active players who currently wear the number listed.
3. When choosing between two players, we typically favored the guy who we thought was performing at a higher level at this point in his career.
4. We mostly favor performance over potential.
If you don’t agree with any of our picks, or think we omitted someone, you’re more than welcome to argue with us in the comments section. We welcome a healthy debate over each of the selections and understand that you may not agree with each.
*all stats current as of August 23, 2009
0 – Gilbert Arenas, SG, Washington Wizards
A three-time All-Star and three-time member of an All-NBA team (third team twice, second team once), Agent Zero is easily the best to wear the number that’s not actually a number, it’s a concept.
1 – Amar’e Stoudemire, PF, Phoenix Suns
While he’s struggled since microfracture surgery on his knee in 2005, Stoudemire is still one of the best young post players in the NBA. The 2003 NBA Rookie of the Year and a four-time All-Star is only 26-years-old.
Honorable Mention: Robert Luongo, G, Vancouver Canucks; Iker Casillas, GK, Real Madrid (ESP).
2 – Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida Marlins
Ramirez edges Jeter because of what he’s done the past two seasons. The 2006 NL Rookie of the Year won a Silver Slugger in 2008 and has been to two straight All-Star games. So far this year he’s hitting an NL-best .361 with 19 home runs and 85 RBI. He’s also leading the NL with 163 hits and 37 doubles.
Honorable Mention: Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees
Up and Comer: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
3 – Dwyane Wade, SG, Miami Heat
D-Wade had a strong comeback in the 2008-09 season, winning his first scoring title and regaining the form that’s gotten him five All-Star selections, one spot on the All-NBA first team (in 2009) and two spots on the NBA All-Defensive team (2005, 2009). Those achievements and his championship ring net him the spot over Chris Paul
Honorable Mention: Chris Paul, PG, New Orleans Hornets
Up and Comer: Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
4 – Chris Bosh, PF, Toronto Raptors
Four All-Star appearances and a Gold Medal in 2008 get CB4 this spot. His career averages of 19.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game don’t hurt either. Finished 2008-09 with a career-best 22.7 ppg.
Honorable Mention: Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals; Vincent Lecavalier, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
5 – Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
The best, most feared hitter in major league baseball, his year-by-year numbers look like stats you’d aim for in a video game. Pujols is an eight-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger winner and a two-time MVP.
Honorable Mention: David Wright, 3B, New York Mets; Kevin Garnett, PF, Boston Celtics; Nicklas Lidstrom, D, Detroit Red Wings
6 – Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies
The 2006 NL MVP, Howard was the fastest player to 100 and 200 home runs in major league history.
Honorable Mention: Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
7 – Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
A Pro Bowl selection and two Super Bowl wins before his 27th birthday put Big Ben ahead of the wonder and amazement that is the “Joe Mauer Experience.”
Honorable Mention: Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins; Brandon Roy, SG, Portland Trailblazers; David Villa, F, Valencia (ESP); Franck Ribery, MF, Bayern Munich (GER)
Up and Comer: Ashley Young, MF, Aston Villa (ENG)
8 – Alexander Ovechkin, LW, Washington Capitals
A three-time 50 goal scorer, two time Hart Trophy winner, back-to-back Rocket Richard Trophy winner and basically the best pure goal scorer to enter the NHL in the past two decades. Plus, any guy who does this or this, deserves his spot.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Braun, LF, Milwaukee Brewers; Kaka, MF, Real Madrid (ESP); Steven Gerrard, MF, Liverpool (ENG)
9 – Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
A three-time Pro Bowler, Brees has a career 89.4 QB rating and 26,258 career yards. He’s been a two-time All-Pro and was the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2008. His lack of doucheyness and the fact that his teammates don’t hate him earns him the spot over Cristiano Ronaldo.
Honorable Mention: Cristiano Ronaldo, MF, Real Madrid (ESP); Zlatan Ibrahimovic, F, Barcelona (ESP); Fernando Torres, Liverpool (ENG)
10 – Lionel Messi, F, Barcelona (ESP)
At just 22-years-old the Argentinian Messi is quite simply the most gifted soccer player on the planet.
Honorable Mention: Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves; Michael Young, 3B, Texas Rangers; Landon Donovan, F, Los Angeles Galaxy.
Up and Comer: Adam Jones, CF, Baltimore Orioles
11 – Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
The 25-year-old Larry Fitzgerald is already regarded as one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. He’s been a Pro Bowler three times and was a first team All-Pro selection in 2008. He had 96 catches for 1,431 yards and 12 touchdowns last season while leading Arizona to an NFC Championship.
Honorable Mention: Yao Ming, C, Houston Rockets; Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals
Up and Comer: Mesut Ozil, MF, Werder Bremen (GER)
12 – Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Four Pro Bowls, three Super Bowl titles, two Super Bowl MVPs, SI’s 2005 Sportsman of the Year, the 2007 NFL MVP and a Victoria’s Secret Model for a wife get Brady the nod here.
Honorable Mention: Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic; Jerome Iginla, RW, Calgary Flames
Up and Comer: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
13 – Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees
He’s a cheater, and I hate cheaters. But even without steroids A-Rod probably would have been one of the best baseball players of his generation. He’s got 12 All-Star selections, 10 Silver Sluggers, four Hank Aaron Awards, three MVPs, two Gold Gloves and 575 career home runs.
Honorable Mention: Pavel Datsyuk, C, Detroit Red Wings; Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona Cardinals; Maicon, D, Inter Milan (ITA)
14 – Tony Stewart, NASCAR
Two-time NASCAR champion with 36 career wins and 225 top 10 finishes.
Honorable Mention: Martin Havlat, RW, Minnesota Wild; Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox; Thierry Henry, F, Barcelona
15 – Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox
The 25-year-old Pedroia was the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year, has been a two-time All-Star, won a World Series in 2007 and was the 2008 AL MVP while winning a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anaheim Ducks; Dan Haren, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks; Dany Heatley, LW, Ottawa Senators; Carmelo Anthony, SF, Denver Nuggets
16 – Pau Gasol, PF/C, Los Angeles Lakers
Gasol is arguably the most skilled 7-footer in the history of the NBA. His performance during the 2008-09 season and his play in the 2009 playoffs further solidified his spot as one of the elite post players in all of basketball.
Honorable Mention: Brian McCann, C, Atlanta Braves; Daniele De Rossi, MF, Roma (ITA)
17 – Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
Rivers was statistically the NFL’s best quarterback in 2008. He led the league with 34 touchdowns, a 105.5 Passer Rating and a league best 8.4 yards per attempt. He also threw for a career-high 4,009 yards. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2006 and was robbed of a spot in 2008. He also just inked a gigantic six-year, $92 million extension to stay in San Diego.
18 – Peyton Maning, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Probably no explanation needed here. Nine Pro Bowls, seven selections to either the first or second team All-Pro, three MVPs and a Super Bowl title. Not to mention the fact that he’ll probably break every meaningful record for quarterbacks eventually.
Honorable Mention: Gareth Barry, MF, Manchester City (ENG)
19 – Josh Beckett, SP, Boston Red Sox
Two-time All-Star, two-time World Series Champion, 2003 World Series MVP, 2007 ALCS MVP. Beckett has career marks of 103-67 with a 3.76 ERA and 1,276 strikeouts. This season may end up being his best yet. He’s 14-5 with a 3.65 ERA so far. He’s also one of the best postseason pitchers in baseball.
Honorable Mention: Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks
Up and Comer: Karim Benzema, F, Real Madrid
20 – Ed Reed, S, Baltimore Ravens
Five-time Pro Bowler and a five-time All-Pro selection, Reed was also the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. He also led the NFL in interceptions in both 2004 and 2008.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B/LF, Boston Red Sox; Brian Dawkins, S, Denver Broncos
Up and Comer: Steve Slaton, RB, Houston Texans
21 – LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers
Tomlinson was arguably the NFL’s best player until an injury riddled 2008 dropped his numbers down to 1,110 yards and just 11 touchdowns. In 2006 and 2007 Tomlinson won NFL rushing titles. With a 1,000-yard season in 2009 LT could move all the way up to seventh on the all-time rushing list. He could retire as this generation’s best running back. He barely gets the nod over Tim Duncan. This one could have gone either way.
Honorable Mention: Tim Duncan, PF, San Antonio Spurs; Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Oakland Raiders; Bob Sanders, S, Indianapolis Colts
22 – Asante Samuel, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
One of the NFL’s top cover corners, Samuel is a two-time Super Bowl champion, a two-time Pro Bowler and a 2007 All-Pro selection.
Honorable Mention: Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears; Jussi Jaaskelainen, GK, Bolton (ENG)
Up and Comer: Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates
23 – LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers
Do I really need to explain this one?
Honorable Mention: Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, San Diego Padres
Up and Comer: Grafite, F, Wolfsburg (GER)
24 – Kobe Bryant, SG, Los Angeles Lakers
Again, do we really need an explanation?
Honorable Mention: Jeff Gordon, NASCAR; Champ Bailey, CB, Denver Broncos; Adrian Wilson, S, Arizona Cardinals; Tim Howard, GK, Everton (ENG)
25 – Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees
This season (.288, 31 home runs, 93 RBI) has solidified Teixeira as one of the top hitters in all of baseball. He’s been an All-Star twice, has won two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers.
Honorable Mention: Pepe Reina, GK, Liverpool (ENG)
26 – Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelpha Phillies
A four-time All-Star selection (2006-09), three-time Silver Slugger (2006-08) and a World Series championship in 2008, Utley is arguably the top all around second baseman in baseball.
Honorable Mention: Antoine Winfield, CB, Minnesota Vikings; Clinton Portis, RB, Washington Redskins; John Terry, D, Chelsea (ENG)
27 – Scott Niedermayer, D, Anaheim Ducks*
The public has spoken and Niedermayer is their man at this spot. Frankly, they’re right. Aside from winning titles at the Olympics (2002), World Championships (2004), World Cupof Hockey (2004) and World Junior Championships, Scott has won four Stanley Cups. He’s the only player to take home every major North American and international championship in his career. He’s also won a Conn Smythe Trophy, a James Norris Trophy and been a six-time All-Star.
Honorable Mention: Matt Kemp, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers; Brandon Jacobs, RB, New York Giants; Alexei Kovalev, RW, Ottawa Senators
*changed due to public outcry
28 – Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
The guy’s nickname is “Purple Jesus,” that’s enough for us.
Honorable Mention: Prince Fielder, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers; Diego, MF, Juventus (ITA)
Up and Comer: Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans
29 – Raul Ibanez, RF, Philadelphia Phillies
Ibanez has developed into one of the most reliable bats in baseball. Since 2005 he’s had 169 doubles, 124 home runs and 505 RBI while hitting .288.
Honorable Mention: Chris Carpenter, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
30 – Martin Brodeur, G, New Jersey Devils
Brodeur is a 10-time All-Star, three-time Stanley Cup champion, four-time Vezina Trophy winner (2003, 04, 07, 08) and has the most regular season wins all-time (557).
Honorable Mention: David West, PF, New Orleans Hornets; Theodore Roosevelt Lilly, SP, Chicago Cubs
31 – Al Harris, CB, Green Bay Packers
Harris has long been one of the best cover corners in the NFL. He’s a two-time Pro Bowl selection (2007, 08) and was a 2007 All-Pro pick as well.
Honorable Mention: Jason Terry, PG/SG, Dallas Mavericks; Antonio Cromartie, CB, San Diego Chargers
32 – Roy Halladay, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
Most dominant, most consistent starter in Major League Baseball.
Honorable Mention: Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers; Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
33 – Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins
Though often overshadowed by Joe Mauer, Morneau is an incredible hitter in his own right. A three-time All-Star (2007, 08, 09) and two-time Silver Slugger winner (2006, 08), he was also the 2006 AL MVP. He’s currently the AL leader in RBI with 94 this season.
Honorable Mention: Zdeno Chara, D, Boston Bruins; Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons
34 – DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers
This 2008 Pro Bowler set the Panthers’ single season rushing record last season with 1,515 yards and added 18 rushing touchdowns and two more receiving.
Honorable Mention: Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners; Cliff Lee, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
Up and Comer: Kevin Smith, RB, Detroit Lions
35 – Justin Verlander, P, Detroit Tigers
After a down year last season, Verlander is back to being dominant. He leads the AL in strikeouts this season with 204, and has a 13-7 record with a 3.29 ERA. From 2006-07 he combined to go 35-15 while striking out 307. He’s a two-time All-Star (2007, 09).
Honorable Mention: Jean-Sebastian Giguere, G, Anaheim Ducks
36 – Brian Westbrook, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Westbrook is probably the most versatile running back in the NFL right now. He has career totals of 5,721 rushing yards and 3,609 receiving yards. He’s averaged 4.6 yards per carry during his career and has 64 career touchdowns. He’s a two-time Pro Bowler and was an All-Pro pick in 2007.
Honorable Mention: Joe Nathan, CP, Minnesota Twins
37 – Ron Artest, SF, Los Angeles Lakers
The 2004 NBA Defensive Player of the Year has rounded out his game over the past few seasons. He’s a four-time member of the NBA’s All-Defensive Team and we have a feeling his marriage with Kobe in LA will either be spectacular or a spectacular failure. Either way it’ll be fun to watch.
Honorable Mention: Mike Adams, RP, San Diego Padres
38 – Carlos Zambrano, SP, Chicago Cubs
The “Big Z” is a three-time All-Star, has two Silver Sluggers and a career 103-65 record
39 – Nicolas Anelka, F, Chelsea (ENG)
Last year’s goal scoring leader in the English Premier League.
Honorable Mention: Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams; Rafael Soriano, RP/CP, Atlanta Braves
40 – Henrik Zetterberg, C, Detroit Red Wings
The Swedish alternate captain of the Red Wings won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2008 for his work in Detroit’s run to another Stanley Cup title. He was also named TSN’s NHL Player of the Year in 2008 as well.
Honorable Mention: Brian Fuentes, CP, Los Angeles Angels
Up and Comer: Andrew Bailey, CP, Oakland A’s
41 – Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Dallas Mavericks
Dirk is an eight-time NBA All-Star and a four-time first team All-NBA pick (he’s also been picked second team All-NBA three times and third team twice). He was also the 2007 NBA MVP.
42 – Mariano Rivera, CP, New York Yankees
This 10-time All-Star has won four World Series titles and is second on the all-time saves list.
Honorable Mention: Juan Pablo Montoya, NASCAR
43 – Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers
The linchpin at the back of the Steelers’ defense, Polamalu has helped the Steelers to two Super Bowl titles. He’s also been first team All-Pro twice and second team once. Add in five Pro Bowl appearances and you’ve got one of the best players in the NFL.
Up and Comer: Darren Sproles, RB, San Diego Chargers
44 – Adam Dunn, 1B/OF, Washington Nationals
Say what you want about Dunn’s strikeouts and fielding ability, but the guy can flat out mash. Since his first full season in 2002, “The Big Donkey” has averaged 39 home runs and 97 RBI per year. He’s got 33 home runs, 89 RBI and an NL-leading 94 walks so far this season on an awful Nationals team. Despite Washington’s struggles, Dunn is well on his way to a sixth consecutive 40 home run season.
Honorable Mention: Dallas Clark, TE, Indianapolis Colts; Jason Bay, LF, Boston Red Sox
45 – Carlos Lee, LF, Houston Astros
Options were surprisingly thin at this number, but luckily Lee fits the bill. The three-time All-Star has won two Silver Sluggers and has averaged around 30 home runs and 100 RBI for his career, despite some injury shortened seasons. He also has a career .292 average to go along with an .850 OPS.
46 – Paris Lenon, LB, New England Patriots
This is one of the biggest holes on this list, luckily Lenon had a great 2008 and can fill the spot nicely. The seven-year veteran (and former XFL player) was a starter the last two seasons for the Lions and led Detroit in tackles last year with 121. That earned him a chance to move on up in the world, inking a one-year deal with the Patriots this offseason.
Honorable Mention: Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Boston Red Sox; Andy Pettitte, SP, New York Yankees
47 – Chris Cooley, TE/FB, Washington Redskins
Cooley isn’t just a blogger apparently. Not to go all Merril Hoge on you, but he’s a heck of a football player. Cooley is a two-time Pro Bowler and was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2006, as well as an All-Pro pick in 2005.
48 – Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR
Johnson has won three consecutive NASCAR championships, won the Daytona 500 in 2006 and is a three-time winner of the Brickyard 400. He also has 43 career wins and 110 top five finishes in eight seasons on the NASCAR circuit.
Honorable Mention: Torii Hunter, CF, Los Angeles Angels
49 – Tim Wakefield, SP, Boston Red Sox
Old reliable has been at it again this year, as he’s topped 10 wins for the 11th time and earned his first trip to an All-Star Game. At 42-years-old, he became the second oldest first time All-Star. He’s been a two-time World Series champion, and currently ranks third in all-time wins in a Red Sox uniform (175) behind Roger Clemens and Cy Young (who are tied at 192). This year Wakefield is 11-3 and is ready to come off the disabled list after being inactive since July 8.
Honorable Mention: Jair Jurrjens, SP, Atlanta Braves
50 – Ernie Sims, LB, Detroit Lions
Sims is an undersized linebacker who has been extremely productive during his first three NFL seasons. He’s played in all 48 games of his career and has averaged 124 tackles per season. Sims looks like the second-coming of Derrick Brooks and if he wasn’t on such an epically bad team we think he’d be talked about as one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
Honorable Mention: Eric Barton, LB, Cleveland Browns, David Thornton, LB, Tennessee Titans
51 – Ichiro Suzuki, RF, Seattle Mariners
At 35 Ichiro is still one of the best hitters in baseball. He’s been an All-Star in each of his nine seasons in Major League Baseball, he’s won eight gold gloves, two batting titles, was the 2001 AL MVP and Rookie of the Year, and set the single-season major league record for hits with 262 in 2004. He also carries a .333 career batting average, has led the AL in hits five times and is in position to make it six this season as he currently leads the league with 184.
Honorable Mention: James Farrior, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers; Trevor Hoffman, CP, Milwaukee Brewers; Barrett Ruud, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
52 – Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore Ravens
Lewis, like Ichiro, has shown few signs of age. The 34-year-old can still bring it. He’s a 10-time Pro Bowler, was selected first team All-Pro six times and second team twice, while earning Defensive Player of the Year honors twice as well. You’ll find few who argue against him being the best linebacker of his generation.
Honorable Mention: Jon Beason, LB, Carolina Panthers; D’Qwell Jackson, LB, Cleveland Browns
Up and Comer: Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco 49ers
53 – Keith Bulluck, LB, Tennessee Titans
The word for Bulluck is solid, not spectacular. The guy isn’t flashy, he just gets the job done. He’s a two-time AP All-Pro pick (2002-03) and made Sports Illustrated’s All-Pro team once (2004). His 98 tackles led the No. 7 ranked Titans defense in 2008.
Honorable Mention: Thomas Howard, LB, Oakland Raiders
54 – Brian Urlacher, LB, Chicago Bears
While his skills have slowly diminished, no one wearing 54 is as good as Urlacher. The six-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro was also the AP’s pick for Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. In 2008 he had 93 tackles and 10 tackles for loss.
55 – Tim Lincecum, SP, San Francisco Giants
Despite his ridiculous hair and girly tattoo, Tim Lincecum has become one of baseball’s most dominant starters. In just his third season Lincecum has already been a two-time All-Star and the 2008 NL Cy Young winner. This year he’s making a case to repeat, as he currently has a 12-4 record with a 2.43 ERA, while leading the NL with four complete games, two shutouts, 185.1 innings and 214 strikeouts.
Honorable Mention: Joey Porter, LB, Miami Dolphins; Lance Briggs, LB, Chicago Bears
56 – Shawne Merriman, LB, San Diego Chargers
Before missing all but one game of the 2008 season, no player in the NFL was more feared than Merriman. He was a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro pick in each of his first three seasons (his fourth would have been 2008). And in 33 career games he’s racked up 39.5 sacks.
Honorable Mention: Mark Buehrle, SP, Chicago White Sox
Up and Comer: LaMarr Woodley, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
57 – Johan Santana, SP, New York Mets
This one was easy. A four-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young Award winner, Santana has been one of the few bright spots for the Mets over the past two seasons. He also won a Gold Glove in 2007 and the pitching Triple Crown in 2006. Last year he led the NL in ERA (2.53), games started (34) and innings pitched (234.1) while going 16-7.
Honorable Mention: Olin Kreutz, C, Chicago Bears, Dhani Jones, LB, Cincinnati Bengals
58 – Jonathan Papelbon, CP, Boston Red Sox
While he still hasn’t allowed a run in the postseason (in 25 innings), Papelbon is pretty darn good during the regular season as well. He’s been a four-time All-Star, won a World Series and in four years as a closer has racked up 142 saves against 18 blown, with a career 1.88 ERA.
Honorable Mention: Karlos Dansby, LB, Arizona Cardinals; Thomas Davis, LB, Carolina Panthers
59 – DeMeco Ryans, LB, Houston Texans
Ryans burst onto the scene in 2006 and was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He followed that up by making the Pro Bowl and getting picked for the All-Pro team in 2007. His production slipped a little in 2008 but he still racked up 112 tackles to lead the Texans.
Honorable Mention: Julian Peterson, LB, Detroit Lions, London Fletcher, LB, Washington Redskins
60 – Shaun O’Hara, C, New York Giants
O’Hara has emerged as one of the best centers in the NFL. He earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2008 and helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLII. The 32-year old has been remarkably consistent, starting 63 of his last possible 64 games.
Honorable Mention: Jason Brown, C, St. Louis Rams
61 – Rick Nash, LW, Columbus Blue Jackets
A four-time All-Star Rick Nash is one of the most skilled wingers in the NHL. In 441 career games Nash has scored 194 goals and put up 355 points. He had his best season in 2008-09, finishing with 40 goals and 79 points.
Honorable Mention: Casey Rabach, C, Washington Redskins
62 – Joba Chamberlain, SP, New York Yankees
Chamberlain has shown excellent ability as he’s transitioned to a starting role. So far this season he’s 8-3 with 109 strikeouts in 126.2 innings pitched. His ability and how his future projects earns him this spot over the always-solid Hartwig.
Honorable Mention: Justin Hartwig, C, Pittsburgh Steelers
63 – Jeff Saturday, C, Indianapolis Colts
Without Saturday, Peyton Manning’s career could have been very different. The rock of the Indianapolis offensive line has been a three-time Pro Bowler, two-time first team All-Pro (2005, 2007) and one-time second team All-Pro (2006). He went undrafted in 1999 (a year after Manning went No. 1 overall) and the two have been together ever since.
Honorable Mention: Roberto Garza, G, Chicago Bears
64 – Jake Grove, C, Miami Dolphins
This is easily the thinnest number in all of pro sports. Grove is nothing more than a very consistent center. Now in his first season with the Dolphins, he’ll lead a young line trying to get better. When healthy he can be one of the top five or six centers in the NFL, but injuries have plagued him almost constantly.
Honorable Mention: Samson Satele, C, Oakland Raiders
65 – Andre Gurode, C, Dallas Cowboys
A three-time Pro Bowler and an All-Pro pick in 2007, Gurode just kills it at the center of the Cowboys line.
Honorable Mention: Eric Steinbach, G, Cleveland Browns; Jeremy Trueblood, T, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
66 – Alan Faneca, G, New York Jets
One of the best linemen in the NFL, Faneca is an eight-time Pro Bowler, a five-time first team All-Pro pick and a three-time second teamer.
Honorable Mention: Ben Grubbs, G, Baltimore Ravens; David Diehl, G, New York Giants
67 – Dan Koppen, C, New England Patriots
Koppen is rated by scouts inc. as one of the top three centers in the NFL. In 2007 he went to the Pro Bowl and was second team All-Pro. He’s also been a part of two Super Bowl wins in New England.
Honorable Mention: Jamaal Jackson, C, Philadelphia Eagles
68 – Kris Dielman, G, San Diego Chargers
Scouts inc. has Dielman listed as the fourth-best guard in the NFL but that ranking might be low. He’s a two-time Pro Bowler and was a second team All-Pro pick in 2008.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Mawae, C, Tennessee Titans
69 – Jordan Gross, OT, Carolina Panthers
The No. 8 pick of the 2003 NFL Draft has blossomed into a stout tackle. In 2008 he was a first team All-Pro pick and made his first Pro Bowl appearance.
Honorable Mention: Chester Pitts, G, Houston Texans; Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings
70 – Leonard Davis, G, Dallas Cowboys
Though drafted No. 2 pick in 2001 as a tackle, Davis has become a dominant guard. In his two seasons with the Cowboys he’s been an All-Pro pick (2007) and a two-time Pro Bowler.
Honorable Mention: Jammal Brown, OT, New Orleans Saints
71 – Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins
The No. 2 pick in the 2004 NHL Draft has become one of the league’s most dangerous players. In 242 games over three seasons he’s raked up 304 points (115 G, 189 A). He’s been a two-time All-Star starter, and a two-time member of the NHL’s First All-Star Team. At just 23-years-old he won the Conn Smythe Trophy after leading the Penguins to the 2009 Stanley Cup. He also led the NHL in points (with 113) for the 2008-09 season earning him the Art Ross Trophy. Walter Jones may be the best offensive tackle in football, so the fact that Malkin displaces him on this list should tell you how good he is.
Honorable Mention: Walter Jones, OT, Seattle Seahawks; Jason Peters, OT, Philadelphia Eagles
72 – Osi Umenyiora, DE, New York Giants
Before having his entire 2008 season wiped out because of injury, Osi was developing into one of the best ends in the NFL. He has been a two-time Pro Bowler and was an All-Pro in 2005.
73 – Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland Browns
In just two seasons, Thomas has already established himself as a rock on the left side of the Browns line. He has started all 32 games of his young career and has been a Pro Bowler in each of his first two seasons.
74 – Nick Mangold, C, New York Jets
The former Ohio State Buckeye was a Pro Bowler in 2008 and rates as a top three center according to Scouts Inc.
Honorable Mention: Julio Cruz, F, Lazio (ITA)
75 – Francisco Rodriguez, CP, New York Mets
Since appearing on the scene in 2002, K-Rod has been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. He helped the Anaheim Angels to a World Series title as a rookie in 2002, has been a four-time All-Star, three-time AL Saves champion, and a two-time Rolaids Relief Man of the Year. In 2008 he set the record for most saves in a season with 62 (in 69 chances). He parlayed that into a three-year, $37 million contract with the Mets. He currently has 235 career saves, and was the youngest player to reach the 100 and 200 save plateaus.
Honorable Mention: Davin Joseph, G, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
76 – Steve Hutchinson, G, Minnesota Vikings
This six-time Pro Bowler and five-time first team All-Pro (and one-time second teamer) has been nothing short of nasty since arriving in the NFL via Michigan in 2001. At 31-years-old he is often considered the best offensive lineman in all of football.
Honorable Mention: Flozell Adams, OT, Dallas Cowboys; Chris Snee, G, New York Giants; Jamal Williams, DT, San Diego Chargers
77 – Jake Long, OT, Miami Dolphins
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft made an immediate impact with the Dolphins. He started all 16 games in 2008, was named to Pro Football Weekly’s All-Rookie Team and went to the Pro Bowl. Scouts Inc. already grades Long out as one of the 10 best tackles in the NFL.
Honorable Mention: Kris Jenkins, DT, New York Jets
78 – Ryan Clady, OT, Denver Broncos
The 6’6, 325-pound Clady was the No. 12 pick of the 2008 NFL Draft. He was good enough in his first season to warrant a selection to the AP’s NFL All-Pro second team. He started all 16 games for the Broncos and currently grades out as the eighth-best tackle in the NFL according to Scouts Inc.
Honorable Mention: Max Starks, OT, Pittsburgh Steelers
79 – Andrei Markov, D, Montreal Canadiens
Markov was the second-leading scorer among defensemen in the NHL for the 2008-09 season, with 64 points (12 goals, 52 assists). His 16 goals and 42 assists, plus his solid play on the defensive end, earned him starting spot in the 2007-08 All-Star Game, a feat he repeated during the 2008-09 season.
80 – Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans
There might be better receivers in the NFL, but it’s tough to argue that anyone is as physically gifted as Andre Johnson. The 28-year-old Miami product has made three Pr o Bowls and two All-Pro teams in his six year career. He had 103 receptions for 1,147 yards and five touchdowns in 2006 and 115 catches for 1,575 yards and eight touchdowns in 2008. In his 86 career games Johnson has 486 receptions for 6,379 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Honorable Mention: Ronaldinho, MF, AC Milan (ITA)
81 – Randy Moss, WR, New England Patriots
There are a ton of great wideouts who wear No. 81, but Randy Moss has produced on a level that surpasses almost every receiver of his era, especially considering the constant double-teams he faces. Moss is a six-time Pro Bowler, a four-time All-Pro selection and was the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1998. He’s led the NFL in touchdown receptions four times, including 2007, when he had a record-setting 23. At just 31 he’s reeled in 843 receptions which puts him 15th on the all-time list. His 13,201 receiving yards are good enough for ninth all-time and his 135 receiving touchdowns have him third all-time.
Honorable Mention: Terrell Owens, WR, Buffalo Bills, Anquan Boldin, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Up and Comer: Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
82 – Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys
There are few things in life you can count on with absolute certainty, Jason Witten is one of them. The six years of his NFL career have been nearly perfect for a tight end. He’s a five-time Pro Bowler, and a two-time All-Pro pick. He’s snagged 429 catches for 4,935 yards and 25 touchdowns in his career and he’s only 27. He currently has the second-most receptions for any active tight end (behind Tony Gonzalez).
Honorable Mention: Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
83 – Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots
Welker came out of nowhere for a 67-catch season in 2006, before heading to New England in 2007. Once a Patriot, Welker took off. He snagged a league-leading 112 catches for 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns in 2007 and added a 111-catch, 1,165-yard season in 2008. He was a Pro Bowler in 2008 and is a two-time All-Pro pick. Not bad for a guy who was an undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech.
Up and Comer: Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego Chargers
84 – T.J. Houshmanzadeh, WR, Seattle Seahawks
For years T.J. was “the other receiver” in Cincinnati, but in 2006 he started to step out of Chad Johnson’s shadow. In ’07 he had 90 receptions for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns. He followed that up with a league-high 112 receptions in 2008, for 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns. In 2009, his production slipped a bit with Carson Palmer on the disabled list but he still had 92 catches for 904 yards. Now as the No. 1 receiver in Seattle he should continue to produce.
85 – Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
Gates is, quite simply, the best tight end in football. In his six-year career, he’s been to the Pro Bowl five times. He’s also been a first team All-Pro selection three times. Since 2004 only Marvin Harrison, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens have caught more touchdown passes than Gates. He also holds the single season touchdown reception record for tight ends with 13.
Honorable Mention: Chad Johnson Ochocinco, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
86 – Hines Ward, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ward is always referred to as one of the toughest players in the NFL, but he doesn’t often get credit for being a phenomenal receiver as well. A four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro pick, Ward was the MVP of Super Bowl XL, the Steelers MVP in 2003 and co-MVP in 2002 and 2005. He’s also Pittsburgh’s career leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Entering the 2009 season, Ward’s 800 career receptions put him 22nd on the all-time list and he’s only 32-years-old.
Honorable Mention: Todd Heap, TE, Baltimore Ravens
87 – Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins
In just four NHL seasons, Crosby has established himself as one of the top three players in the league. He’s gone to three All-Star games, in 2007 he won the Art Ross Trophy, the Hart Memorial Trophy, the Lester B. Pearson Award and in 2008-09 he took the Penguins to a Stanley Cup title. In 290 career games he has 397 points (132 goals, 265 assists). Oh yeah, he’s also just 22-years-old.
Honorable Mention: Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
88 – Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Though he’s certainly on the downside of his career, this was an easy pick. Gonzalez is a 10-time Pro Bowler, a six-time first team All-Pro pick and a three-time second teamer. He holds the career tight end records for receptions (916), receiving yards (10,940) and touchdowns (76). He’s also currently ninth on the all-time receptions list for all players.
Up and Comer: Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago Blackhawks
89 – Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers
Despite his small frame (5’9, 185) Smith is a big-time playmaker. He’s a four-time Pro Bowler, a two-time All-Pro and he’s a prolific pass catcher. He led the NFL with 103 receptions, 1,563 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2005, and has also had seasons of 88 (2003), 83 (2006), 87 (2007) and 78 (2008) catches.
Honorable Mention: Antonio Bryant, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
90 – Mario Williams, DE, Houston Texans
Sure, we laughed when the Texans selected Williams over Reggie Bush back in 2006, but we’re willing to admit that mockery looks pretty bad in hindsight. After a tough first season Williams has settled in. He was second team All-Pro in 2007 and in 2008 was a first teamer and made the Pro Bowl. Despite near constant double teams, he racked up 14 sacks in 2007 and added 12 in 2008. Williams is rocketing up the charts as one of the best defensive ends in football at just 24-years-old. Thanks to his youth, he barely edges Peppers for this spot.
Honorable Mention: Julius Peppers, DE Carolina Panthers
91 – Tommie Harris, DT, Chicago Bears
Harris is one of the most active, difficult to block linemen in the NFL. A three-time Pro Bowler and 2005 All-Pro pick, he’s often played with nagging injuries that have made him less effective that he really is. He may have the quickest first-step and strongest hands of any interior lineman in football. Scouts Inc. grades him out as the sixth best defensive tackle in the NFL.
Honorable Mention: Marc Savard, C, Boston Bruins
92 – Albert Haynesworth, DT, Washington Redskins
While we’re not totally convinced he’s worth seven-years and $100 million, one thing is for sure: At 6’6, 350 Haynesworth is an absolute monster. Though he developed a bit slowly, he’s one of the most dominant players in the NFL as he enters his eighth year. He’s made the Pro Bowl and been selected to All-Pro teams in each of the past two seasons. Scouts Inc. rates him as the best defensive tackle in the league and has him in a seven-way tie for the second best overall rating in football at 93.
Honorable Mention: James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers; Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore Ravens
93 – Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis Colts
This four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro pick was also the 2005 AFC Defensive Player of the Year. He’s the Colts all-time leader in sacks (70.5), helped lead them to a Super Bowl title in 2004 and led the NFL with 16 sacks in 2004. After a down year in 2006, he missed nearly half the 2007 season but bounced back in 2008 with 10.5 sacks and another Pro Bowl appearance.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Williams, DT, Minnesota Vikings, Richard Seymour, DE, New England Patriots
94 – DeMarcus Ware, LB, Dallas Cowboys
In four short years in the NFL, Ware has become a terror and one of the best players in the league. In fact, Scouts Inc. grades him out at a 94, tied with Tom Brady as the top-rated player in the NFL. Ware is a three-time Pro Bowler, a two-time first team All-Pro pick and has been a second teamer once. He won the 2008 NFL Butkus Award after racking up a league-high 20 sacks. His sack numbers have improved each year in the league, from 8.0 as a rookie, to 11.5, 14.0 and finally 20.0 last year.
Honorable Mention: Pat Williams, DT, Minnesota Vikings
95 – Shaun Phillips, LB, San Diego Chargers
I’m shocked there aren’t more good players who wear No. 95. Phillips formed one of the better outside rushing pairs in 2006 and 2007 with Shawne Merriman. Despite missing two games in 2006, he tallied 11.5 sacks and was a second-alternate for the Pro Bowl. He followed that with 8.5 sacks in 2007 and without Merriman last year he still got to the quarterback 7.5 times. There’s no reason his numbers shouldn’t jump back up in 2009, with the addition of a healthy Merriman and first round pick Larry English.
Honorable Mention: Kamerion Wimbley, LB, Cleveland Browns
96 – Adalius Thomas, LB, New England Patriots
Again, shocked there aren’t more guys wearing 96. Thomas fits the bill here though. A two-time Pro Bowler and an All-Pro pick in 2006, he was also part of the Ravens team that won Super Bowl XXXV. Injuries derailed his second season with the Patriots in 2008, but he has 50 career sacks and his 78 tackles during his first year in New England helped them to an undefeated regular season. He should be back healthy and a factor for the Pats once again in 2009.
97 – Patrick Kerney, DE, Seattle Seahawks
Kerney is a two-time Pro Bowler and has been picked to the first and second All-Pro teams once each. He was the 2007 NFC Defensive Player of the Year after racking up 14.5 sacks and five forced fumbles during his first season in Seattle. In 144 career games Kerney has 77.5 sacks and 16 forced fumbles. He was injured for most of 2006 and 2008 but should be back healthy in 2009.
Honorable Mention: Calvin Pace, LB, New York Jets
98 – Casey Hampton, DT, Pittsburgh Steelers
Hampton has been one of the best interior linemen in the NFL during his eight year career. He’s been a four-time Pro Bowler and a two-time Super Bowl champion (XL, XLIII). Scouts Inc. grades him out as an 87, which makes him the fifth-best defensive tackle in football.
Honorable Mention: Robert Mathis, DE, Indianapolis Colts
99 – Carl Edwards, NASCAR
You’d think 99 would be a loaded number but other than a tw0-time cheater, there aren’t many big names here. Edwards gets the nod for his 16 career wins, 61 top fives and 96 top 10s. He also finished second in the 2008 Nextel Cup standings and had nine wins on the season. He won the Busch Series in 2007 and finished second in 2008. He’s currently in fifth place in the 2009 Nextel Cup Standings.
Honorable Mention: Antonio Cassano, F, Sampdoria (ITA); Jason Taylor, DE, Miami Dolphins
Dishonorable Mention: Manny Ramirez, LF, Los Angeles Dodgers