Saturday, August 24, 2013

Dreaded Dozen 2012

For the best players with dreads in college football I do an all-America with dreads team each year. For the best with dreads in the NFL I call it the dreaded dozen. It's a ranking of who I thought were the 12 best players with dreads for one season only, not their whole careers. And there's no secret formula or point system involved. It's entirely my opinion, complete with my own personal biases (although I try to be as fair as possible). Mostly I just go by a player's stats and whether or not he was selected for the Pro Bowl. If you disagree with the selections, it's not a problem. Please, we'd love to hear how you would rank them.

The list for 2012 is a bit different than usual - in that more defensive players than offensive made the top 10. In fact, half of the first half dozen in the rankings play D. In previous years no more than one defensive player per year has been able to crack the top 6. Seven players are repeat selections from 2011 (where a player ranked in 2011 will be noted by the number in parenthesis following a player's name), but oddly the player who ranked #1 was not one of them. And unlike the list for 2011, no rookies made the list this time. So without any further delay, here are the dreaded dozen for the 2012 NFL season.

1. MARSHAWN LYNCH (2) (photo above) - RB - Seahawks - offensive player of the year - 315 carries for 1,590 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and 11 TD rushing; 23 receptions for 196 yards and 1 TD - Led all players with dreads in rushing yards and total yards and tied for the most TD. Finishing 3rd in NFL in rushing yards with career high 1,590. Selected for the Pro Bowl for 2nd straight year and 3rd time overall. If he gets any better - and can stay healthy - we're going to have to start talking about Hall of Fame consideration.

2. JAMAAL CHARLES - RB - Chiefs - 285 carries for 1,509 yards (5.3) and 5 TD rushing; 35 receptions for 236 yards and 1 TD - Adrian Peterson wasn't the only RB to make a spectacular comeback from ACL knee surgery. Charles, who ranked #1 in the 2010 dreaded dozen before missing most of 2011, looked just as good as ever. Led AFC and was 4th in the NFL in rushing yards and (for me at least) made watching Chiefs games a little less painful. Selected for Pro Bowl for 2nd time in his 5-year career.

3. EARL THOMAS (5) - S - Seahawks - defensive player of the year for 2nd straight year - 66 tackles (42-24), 3 INT, 6 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 TD - Selected for 2nd straight Pro Bowl and even better was voted NFL all-Pro for the first time, meaning the voters thought he was one of the two best safeties in the league in 2012 - Scored 2nd career TD and 1st career pick 6 in Week 15 against Bills - Unfortunately this likely will be the last time you'll see his name in the dreaded dozen.

4. (tie) RICHARD SHERMAN - CB - Seahawks and RODDY WHITE (4) - WR - Falcons - These two are so fond of each other that it just wouldn't be right to rank one ahead of the other. White (left photo below) had his streak of Pro Bowl selections end at 4 in a row but extended to 6 straight his streak of seasons with at least 1,100 yards receiving, finishing 2012 with 92 receptions for 1,351 yards (14.7 yards per catch), 73 first downs, and 7 TD - The 1,351 yards was 9th best in the NFL.

Sherman followed up strong finish to rookie season in 2011 with a huge 2nd season of his career, finishing 2012 2nd in the league in both INT and PBU - had 64 tackles (53-11), 1 sack, 8 INT, 16 PBU, 3 FF, 1 FR, 2 TD - Scored 1st career pick 6 (right photo above) in Week 14 against Cardinals - It was so good a season for Sherman that he even did the crime without having to do the time, evading a 4-game PED suspension due to an error in the testing process - Voted NFL all-Pro despite being snubbed for Pro Bowl selection - Makes first of what should be several appearances in the dreaded dozen.

6. DASHON GOLDSON (8) - S - 49ers - 69 tackles (55-14), 3 INT, 8 PBU, 1 FF, 2 FR - Only had half as many INT as he did in 2011, but recorded a career high 8 PBU - Selected for Pro Bowl for 2nd year in a row and voted NFL all-Pro (by AP) for first time - Apparently 49ers were less than impressed with his performance, as he was allowed to become a free agent and has signed elsewhere for 2013.

7. TIM JENNINGS - CB - Bears - 60 tackles (55-5), 9 INT, 12 PBU, 1 TD - Where did he come from? - Had a total of just 7 INT in his first 6 seasons in the league before leading NFL in INT in 2012 - And among his 12 PBU were at least two deflections that were intercepted by teammates - Scored 1st career pick 6, turning a 5-point deficit into a 1-point Bears lead midway through 4th quarter in Week 8 against Panthers - named NFC defensive player of the month for September and earned 1st Pro Bowl selection - might have hit double figures in INT had he not missed 2 games late in season due to injury after being speared in the shoulder trying to stop Seahawks bulldozer of a FB, Michael Robinson.

8. CHARLES TILLMAN (7) - CB - Bears - 86 tackles (74-12), 3 INT, 13 PBU, 10 FF, 2 FR, 3 TD - seems to be getting better the older he gets - Earned 2nd straight Pro Bowl selection and was voted NFL all-Pro for the first time in his 10-year career - Named NFC defensive player of the month for October - Led league with a ridiculous 10 forced fumbles (no other DB had more than 4) and took all 3 of his INT to the house.

9. CHRIS JOHNSON (6) - RB - Titans - 276 carries for 1,243 yards (4.5) and 6 TD rushing; 36 receptions for 232 yards - Incredibly had only 45 yards rushing on 33 carries during first 3 weeks of season; but once his O-line started blocking better was able to show he's just as dangerous as ever - I dropped him in rankings because had a career low 45 rushing first downs and a career high 4 fumbles lost - Highlight of season was franchise record 94-yard run for TD in Week 15 vs. Jets - Look for CJ to jump back up on next year's list.

10. ANTONIO CROMARTIE - CB - Jets - Makes the dreaded dozen in his first season since he began growing dreads - 35 tackles (30-5), 3 INT, 10 PBU - Not really big numbers, probably because (and this is a guess - I hardly watched any Jets games at all) fewer passes came in his direction after Jets' other star CB, Darrelle Revis, suffered season-ending knee injury in Week 3 - Had 40-yard pick 6 in Week 1 against Bills, his 5th career TD - Earned 2nd career Pro Bowl selection.    
11. STEVEN JACKSON (3) - RB - Rams - 258 carries for 1,045 yards (4.1) and 4 TD rushing; 38 receptions for 321 yards - never ranked lower than #6 in previous 4 years but barely makes the list for 2012 - rushed for over 1,000 yards for 8th year in a row, a feat that will get him serious consideration for the Hall of Fame - tied his career low with only 4 TD; but for first time in his career finished a season with 0 fumbles, making him the only player among the top 30 rushers not to fumble in 2012.

12. TORREY SMITH - WR - Ravens - 49 receptions for 855 yards (17.4), 38 first downs, and 8 TD - As I have mentioned before, didn't get enough passes thrown his way; but whenever he did, very good things happened for Ravens - Ravens were 6-0 during regular season when he took one to the house, and then he added two more crucial TD in the playoff win at Denver - has blazing speed, indicated by his 17.4 yards per catch average, 2nd best in the league in 2012 - Makes first and (sadly) probably last appearance in the dreaded dozen.

#7 Tim Jennings had 6 more INT than his teammate, #8 Charles Tillman; but Tillman scored more TD (3) than Jennings (1). Here Jennings congratulates Tillman on his 10-yard pick 6 against Cardinals in Week 16, his 9th career TD.

#11 Steven Jackson wins this battle against #6 Dashon Goldson, scoring a 7-yard TD as Goldson makes the tackle too late in Week 10; but Goldson won the war, finishing 5 spots higher than Jackson in the dreaded dozen. These two will be battling it out in the NFC South in 2013, after Goldson signed as a free agent with Buccaneers and Jackson signed with Falcons.

#3 Earl Thomas (photo above, making an INT in Week 8 against Lions) and #12 Torrey Smith (right, eluding Broncos CB Champ Bailey for a 59-yard TD catch during 2nd round of playoffs), figure to be stars for many years to come. But they will not be eligible for the dreaded dozen in 2013 because they both have cut off their dreads.


Who were the best second dozen players with dreads in 2012? Sorry, I don't do that list. But here are the players who I think deserve the most consideration for it.
  • OT Phil Loadholt - Vikings
  • WR Larry Fitzgerald (1) - Cardinals
  • WR Brandon Lloyd - Patriots
  • WR Andre Roberts - Cardinals
  • WR Sidney Rice - Seahawks
  • RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis - Bengals
  • RB Mikel Leshoure - Lions
  • RB Trent Richardson (rookie of the year) - Browns
  • RB DeAngelo Williams - Panthers
  • KR Josh Cribbs - Browns
  • DE Bruce Irvin - Seahawks
  • DE Michael Johnson - Bengals 
  • DT Jonathan Babineaux - Falcons
  • DT Darnell Dockett - Cardinals
  • LB Vontaze Burfict - Bengals
  • LB Dannell Ellerbe - Ravens
  • LB Brandon Spikes - Patriots
  • LB Philip Wheeler - Raiders
  • CB Stephon Gilmore - Bills
  • CB Janoris Jenkins - Rams
  • CB Dunta Robinson - Falcons
  • CB Asante Samuel - Falcons
  • CB Tramon Williams - Packers
  • S Mark Barron - Buccaneers
  • S Morgan Burnett - Packers
  • S Michael Griffin - Titans
  • S Reggie Nelson - Bengals

Do I think Larry Fitzgerald still is one of the best dozen players with dreads in the NFL? Absolutely. But after the season he had in 2012 (71 catches for 798 yards and 4 TD) I could not with a clear conscience put him in the dreaded dozen. Sorry, Larry, better get yourself a better QB.

Talented but troubled during their college careers, Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict and Rams CB Janoris Jenkins had a bit of a rocky road on their way to the NFL; but they both were outstanding as rookies in 2012. Burfict led the Bengals with 127 tackles (73-54), including 1 sack; and Jenkins had 10 PBU and 4 INT, 3 of which he took to the house, including a 41-yarder against Buccaneers (photo above) in Week 16. 
  • Cedric Benson (9) - RB - Packers - missed most of 2012 with a broken foot
  • Julio Jones (10) - WR - Falcons - cut of his dreads before the season
  • Davin Joseph (11) - G - Buccaneers - missed entire 2012 season with a torn patellar tendon in right knee suffered during preseason
  • Lardarius Webb (12) - CB - Ravens - missed most of 2012 with torn ACL in left knee

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