-Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict 118 Tackles 1 Sack 1 Int 1 FF
Burfict is quietly becoming one of the best young linebackers in the NFL. Entering the league with plenty baggage, most teams thought he wasn’t worth the trouble and wouldn’t succeed in the NFL, which is why he went undrafted in last year’s 2012 NFL draft. He’s proved everyone wrong. Coach Marvin Lewis deserves some praise, for steering this young kid in the right direction so he can maximize his talents. Vontaze Burfict has helped the Bengals become one of the top defensive units in the league and is the NFL’s current leader in tackles. He’s just scratching the surface, its scary to think how good he will be a few year’s from now.
-Browns TE Jordan Cameron 56 Receptions 629 Recieving Yards 6 TDs
Jordan Cameron caught everybody by surprise this year. Finally getting his oppurtunity to start, he has made the most of it. Giving the Browns a playmaker they’ve been seeking for year’s. From Tony Gonzalez to Antonio Gates to Jimmy Graham, Cameron is just another of many former basketball players to have success at the tight end position in the NFL. Other than Jimmy Graham, Cameron has been arguably the best tight end in the league, up until this point. It’s going to be fun to see the damage he can do when the Cleveland Browns get a good quarterback.
-Peyton Manning 3572 Passing Yards 69.9% 34 TDs 6 Int
I know you’re thinking, how could Peyton Manning make this surprise players list? Well I’ll tell you why. Nobody could of expected this type of ridiculous start of the season from Peyton. He’s already thrown 34 touchdowns in 174 less pass attempts then he had last year. He threw 37 touchdown passes last year, so he’s going to shatter that number this year. This is arguably Manning’s overall best year of his career. His passing rating of 118.0 and 69.9 completion percentage are all career highs for him. After having plenty of doubters say he would never be the same after the neck surgeries, Peyton Manning has yet again proved himself to the those doubters and is the best quarterback in the NFL right now.
-Bears WR Alshon Jeffrey 54 Receptions 818 Recieving Yards 3 TDs, 12 Carries 111 Rushing Yards 9.3 Yards Per Carry
The Chicago Bears have been looking for a number 2 option to complement Brandon Marshall since he arrived. The 2nd year wideout has emerged as that option opposite Marshall. Thought to be slow and not having enough speed to create seperation at the next level, he has had no problems getting open and is now among one of the best deep threats in the league. Being able to see single coverage almost every game because of Brandon Marshall’s presence, has also benefited the young wide receiver. Also, a surprise this year is his running ability he has 111 rushing yards on the season, averaging over 9 yards a carry. As long as he stays focused, I see no reason Alshon Jeffery couldn’t be a top wideout in this league.
-Redskins TE Jordan Reed 45 Receptions 499 Recieving Yards 3 TDs
This rookie tight end is going to be a force in this league. With great hands and route running ability, Jordan Reed has been able to step in for the Redskins and do work, thanks to fellow tight end Fred Davis being injured and inactive for most of the season. Not blessed with prototypical tight end size at only 6’2 243 pounds, his talent and ability to get behind the defense makes up for that. Besides Pierre Garcon’, the young tight end has become RG3’s favorite target. It’s going to be nice to see the numbers they can put up together in the coming years. With Fred Davis being a free agent this offseason, the starting job is Jordan Reed’s for the taken.
-Broncos TE Julius Thomas 45 Receptions 590 Recieving Yards 10 TDs
After being buried on the depth chart since coming in the NFL in 2011, the Portland State product finally got his shot to shine this year. Bursting onto the scene with a 5 catch 110 yard 2 touchdown performance in the season opener vs Baltimore, Julius Thomas has been trucking since. With his 6’5 frame he has become one of Peyton Manning’s most reliable targets in the endzone. His 10 touchdowns on the season are an indication of that. Thomas doesn’t do any one thing great, but he does everything good. Just a very well-rounded tight end, and one that put the National Football League on notice this year.
-Eagles QB Nick Foles 1554 Passing Yards 63% 16 TDs 0 Int
As you’ve probably seen on my top 10 most disappointing players list, Michael Vick was on there. Mostly because of play and a inability to stay healthy. Another reason for that is QB Nick Foles, who’s basically outplayed Vick every shot he has got. Vick was the one supposed to be tailor made for Chip Kelly’s offense, but Foles has been the one to seize the job. His 16 TDs on the season is more than RG3, Colin Kaepernick, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck. I don’t anybody thought Nick Foles would be among that company this year. Or even close to it. His 128 passing rating is the highest in the entire NFL, and even more impressive, he has yet to throw an interception this season. One of Vick’s biggest downfalls were turnorvers, and Foles is doing an excellent job of taking care of the football. The NFC east is wide open this year and the talented young QB has the Eagles in prime position to win the division. It may be too early to tell, but from the looks of it, Philadelphia has found its franchise QB.
-Steelers WR Antonio Brown 74 Receptions 952 Recieving Yards 5 TDs
Antonio Brown has elevated his game to new heights this year. Despite rumors of a bad chemistry with OC Todd Haley, the Steelers offense hasn’t had any problems scoring points or moving the ball this year. And that’s mostly due to the connection between Brown and QB Ben Roethlisberger. The Big Ben-Brown combination has been “money” all year. With the the receiver looking almost un-guardable in most games. Brown’s hands, awareness and route running are all top notch, and allow him to get open with ease every game. If not for a struggling offensive line, he might have betters then he does now. His best season prior to this was the 2011 season. He has topped that and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. If Pittsburgh can get some offensive line help and a running game, they could be a top 5 offense, year in and year out.
-Bills LB Kiko Alonso 112 Tackles 4 Int 2 Sacks 1 FF
Let’s just be honest, Kiko Alonso is the steal of the 2013 NFL draft. Drafted in the 2nd round, the former Oregon linebacker has outplayed every defensive player selected before him. He is currently the league’s 2nd leader in tackles. That’s first round production. Playing with a chip on his back, Alonso has put himself among some of the best young linebackers in the league already. With rare instincts in pass coverage and great speed, you always have to account for where he is on the field. He reminds me a little of former Chicago Bear, Brian Urlacher. He has the size, can play sideline to sideline, great in coverage and is a leader in the locker room. All qualities Urlacher possessed. It is really sky’s the limit for this young guy, and it’s going to be fun to watch his growth over the next couple of years.
-Rams DE Robert Quinn 31 Tackles 12 Sacks 5 FF
After being dubbed a “raw” prospect coming out of North Carolina, the gifted pass rusher has really come into his own his 3rd year in the league. With special edge rushing speed rarely seen in defensive linemen today, Robert Quinn is a matchup nightmare for opposing offensive linemen. His 12 sacks are only second to Colt’s Robert Mathis’s 13.5. His production sometimes gets overlooked because his team is terrible. But you cannot question his dedication and the work he has put into his craft. He is becoming everything the St Louis Rams hoped he would be, when they selected him with the 14th overall pick in the draft. Robert Quinn will soon be a household name in the NFL and one that will not be overlooked anymore.