Ranking NFL Network’s top 10 players of 2013

On Thursday at 8 p.m. ET, NFL Network will unveil the top 10 players on their latest top-100 list, but we already have our hands on the 10 names that will be listed. Let's break down the final 10 players to be listed and predict the order they'll land in on Thursday.

The final 10, in alphabetical order:

Tom Brady – New England Patriots, QB
Arian Foster – Houston Texans, RB
Calvin Johnson – Detroit Lions, WR
Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos, QB
Von Miller – Denver Broncos, LB
Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings, RB
Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers, QB
Aldon Smith  – San Francisco 49ers, LB
J.J. Watt – Houston Texans, DE
Patrick Willis – San Francisco 49ers, LB

The way TGS ranks them:

10. Arian Foster: I don't view Foster as a top-10 player. In fact, I don't think he's even the best offensive player on his team. I like the guy, but this is odd. He was ranked sixth in the league in rushing after averaging only 4.1 yards per carry last season.

9. Aldon Smith: No way you can place him above Miller or Willis. Willis carries that defense and Miller is a better all-around player. Plus, Smith's play really dropped off late in 2012.

8. Patrick Willis: He might not make game-changing plays consistently, but Willis is easily the best inside linebacker in the game. It feels like he never misses a tackle and is on top of his game right now. Willis was ranked 10th last year.

7. Von Miller: Yes, he took the opposing quarterback down 18.5 times last year, but Miller is more than just a sack machine. He's an all-around dominant linebacker on a Hall of Fame track. 

6. Calvin Johnson: Johnson might be the most gifted athlete in the league. Considering that he ranked third last summer before going out and breaking the single-season receiving yards record, we're probably not giving him enough love here.

5. Adrian Peterson: Peterson ranked eighth last year so it's hard to imagine he'd be any lower than fifth after making an incredible run at the single-season rushing yards record. Still, I have a tough time putting a back in the top three.

4. J.J. Watt: Watt is the best non-quarterback in the league, period. The 23-year-old had simply one of the best seasons in history, leading the league in run stuffs, sacks and batted passes. That's why he earned 49 of 50 defensive player of the year votes.

3. Tom Brady: Brady's numbers actually slipped a bit this past season, so it's possible he'll drop out of the top five after being ranked fourth in 2012. But I can't rationalize placing him below any of the non-quarterbacks on this list. We're still talking about a guy who had a 34-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

2. Peyton Manning: He completed a ridiculous 68.6 percent of his passes while also somehow posting an 8.0 yards-per-attempt average in 2012, picking up steam as the season wore on. Don't be surprised if he takes over the top spot, but he was ranked second two years ago before that lost season knocked him down in 2012.

1. Aaron Rodgers: He did nothing this year to lose the top spot he owned last summer, posting an NFL-best passer rating of 108.0. 

Brad Gagnon

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com (covering Super Bowls XLIV, XLV and XLVI), a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Bloguin, but his day gig has him covering all things NFC East for Bleacher Report.