It’s hard to see anyone surpassing Trent Cole even at this stage. He just consistently keeps outperforming everyone and is the definition of relentless.
But the real controversy in our rankings come from looking below. Where is Clay Matthews? Have you forgotten about Haloti Ngata? What are you smoking and can I have some?
Yes, I hear the questions, but essentially this is about looking beyond the numbers. Matthews may lead the league in sacks, but he doesn’t get as much pressure per play as Tamba Hali and he’s not as good in run defense as James Harrison. So while he’s very good (make that very, very good), in such a tight race those kind of gaps in his resume are what sees him on the outside.
Not buying it? Well then, essentially, I’m just jealous of his flowing locks.
1. Trent Cole, DE, Eagles (+41.4)
Possibly the best player at any position in the league right now. Already surpassed the highest rating we have ever given out to a DE and does everything so well. Still leads defensive ends in stops and quarterback pressures. Last week: 1st
2. Tamba Hali, OLB, Chiefs (+35.3)
Back in the top two after a five-QB-disruption day. There’s something wrong about putting such a one-dimensional player near the top of this list, but when you’re the most productive pass-rusher in the league we can make an exception. Last week: 3rd
3. Justin Smith, DE, 49ers (+27.4)
Over the past two years there may not have been a better player at any position than Smith. The terrible play of the 49ers has generally put his excellent season in the shadows. Last week: 6th
4. Kyle Williams, DT, Bills (+25.7)
Drops a spot after his worst performance in a long time despite the Bills winning (it still wasn’t that bad). Williams is going to need to up his game to start moving in the right direction. Last week: 2nd
5. Patrick Willis, ILB, 49ers (+25.7)
Exploding up the rankings after his somewhat sluggish start to the season. Safe to say Willis is the best middle linebacker in the game at the moment. Can do it all. Last week: 9th
6. Julius Peppers, DE, Bears (+32.5)
Feasted on an injured Jake Long, but his season has been about so much more than that. His introduction to the Bears has given new life to Lovie’s Monsters of Midway. Last week: 8th
7. Lawrence Timmons, ILB, Steelers (+25.5)
Drops because even though he played well, those guys above him played to an out-of-this-world level. The most impressive thing about an impressive Steelers defense, just … Last week: 5th
8. James Harrison, OLB, Steelers (+29.3)
It’s been hard to ignore Harrison for this long but here’s the complete outside linebacker in the 3-4. Hasn’t got as much pressure as a Matthews but does everything so well. Last week: Not ranked
9. Bart Scott, ILB, Jets (+25.4)
A controversial selection? Perhaps, because Scott’s impact on the stat sheet is negligible at best, but his presence and ability makes that Jets defense tick. Last week: Not ranked
10 (TIE). Brandon Flowers, CB, Chiefs (+16.2) and Tramon Williams, CB, Packers (+16.2)
Couldn’t separate either man, with Flowers having a tough game against Arizona and Williams continuing to build on from his great 2009 year. Near impossible to choose between them. Last week: 3rd; not ranked
Dropped Out: Chris Clemons (Seahawks) and Jason Jones (Titans)
In the Mix: Terrell Suggs (Ravens), Haloti Ngata (Ravens), Kamerion Wimbley (Raiders), Quintin Mikell (Eagles), Clay Matthews (Packers), Cameron Wake (Dolphins), Antoine Winfield (Vikings) and Champ Bailey (Broncos)