Turn On The Jets Roundtable – Top Five AFC East Edition

The TOJ Roundtable ranks the top five players in the AFC East

The Turn On The Jets Roundtable is back to debate issues surrounding the New York Jets. Make sure to give all of the writers a follow on Twitter and if there is a question you want to see us debate, leave it in the comment section! 

Who are the top five players in the AFC East?

Joe Caporoso – 1) Tom Brady – The only question is where in the top five greatest quarterbacks of All-Time he ends up.

2) Vince Wilfork – I’d take Muhammad Wilkerson over him for the upcoming season but I’ll give Wilfork the nod for now in this list because of the body of work over his career.

3) Cameron Wake – 15 sacks last season and showing no signs of slowing down. Wake is a terror off the edge and is the Dolphins best overall player.

4) Muhammad Wilkerson – The best 3-4 defensive end in the NFL not named JJ Watt. His numbers should jump next season with Quinton Coples and Sheldon Richardson alongside him.

5) CJ Spiller – Spiller was criminally underused last season but that doesn’t sound like it will be a problem this season. He is a unique talent and a game-changer on offense.

Mike O’Connor –  1.) Cameron Wake, OLB, Dolphins – We are discussing the best overall players here, right?  I feel totally comfortable placing Wake above Tom Brady if we’re talking about the best overall players. While Brady may be the most valuable player to his team in the league, Wake dominates at his position much more than Brady does at his. In fact, I’ve said this before: you could have a strong argument for Wake as the second best defensive player in the league.

2.) Tom Brady, QB, Patriots – Well, that was a short wait for Mr. Brady. Wake took my top spot with rare athletic ability, but nobody else comes close to the two. Tom is still the man in New England, unfortunately, no matter how porous his wide receiver depth really is.

3.) Muhammad Wilkerson, DE/DT, Jets – Mo Wilk is undoubtedly the best player on our Jets, and the whole league and its fans will surely recognize him as he continues to dominate and develop. Big Mo is only entering his third year in the NFL, and his little experience has already donated enough to his already advanced skillset to make him one of the most well-rounded defensive lineman in the league. He mauls double teams, he rips lineman on his way to the quarterback, and he plugs running lanes with ease.  ‘m excited to see just how dominate Wilkerson can become.

4.) Jarius Byrd, FS, Bills –  Byrd is often remembered for his 9 interception 2009 rookie year, but he shouldn’t be.  Since then, Byrd has patiently built up his skillset to make him one of the most feared safeties in the game.  He’s a ballhawk who isn’t afraid to do his job versus the run, either.

5.) Steve Johnson, WR, Bills – Excuse me while I take a moment to appreciate a man who’s possibly the most underrated player in the league.  or three years now, the Kentucky graduate has achieved 1,000 yard seasons, which is more impressive when you remember how consistently bad Ryan Fitzpatrick has been in each of those years. Johnson is one of the best route runners in the league, he’s a superb athlete, and possesses some of the best and most refined pure catching ability that I’ve seen in a league that features too many receivers with hardly any of it.  Sometimes I wonder what Johnson could do on a team that had an actual quarterback, but then I stop because the possibilities make me uneasy.  t hurts to call a division rival one of my favorite non-Jets in this league, but the truth hurts sometimes.

Honorable mentions – Rob Gronkowski (injury), Vince Wilfork, Reshad Jones, Antonio Cromartie, Brent Grimes (injury), Nick Mangold, Marcell Dareus, Mike Pouncey, CJ Spiller, Nate Solder, D’Brickishaw Ferguson.

Connor Rogers – 1) Tom Brady, QB, Patriots – There’s not a whole lot to say here, as Brady’s consistent success speaks for itself. He’s a top five quarterback and overall player in the NFL, not just the AFC East. Brady is a quarterback that gives average players pro bowl careers and below average players defined roles in the New England offense. While the back end of his career has begun, he has shown little signs of regression.

2) Cameron Wake, DE/OLB, Dolphins

In terms of production, it was hard to leave Wake out of this spot. While I feel Vince Wilfork is a more “impactful” player, Wake’s numbers do not lie. He’s an edge rusher that plays with a mean streak on a front seven that’s shaping up nicely. If Wake posts another 15 sack season it’ll be hard to argue his worth of this spot.

3) Vince Wilfork, DT, Patriots

Wilfork is the type of player that gives offensive coordinators nightmares. You can’t run anywhere near him and you have to double team him at all times. His strength is unmatched and he makes everyone on his defense much better, while making their job much more simple.

4) Muhammad Wilkerson, DE/DT, Jets

Wilkerson has the same type of impact as Wilfork, a player that you want to run away from and double team in pass protection. While he hasn’t built a career as high profiled as Wilfork’s, he’s shown scary potential at age 23. He was the best 3-4 defensive end not named Watt last year and will finally have respectable players playing alongside him in the Jets front seven.

5) Reshad Jones, S, Dolphins

Possibly the only player many NFL fans aren’t aware of on this list, but they will be soon. Jones is a fast, intelligent talent in the Dolphins secondary. He sniffs out screens, jumps routes, and can even blitz off the edge like a linebacker. He plays the run well and is rock solid in coverage, an all around safety with a huge future ahead of him at the ripe age of 25.

Mike Nolan – 1) Tom Brady, QB, Patriots

Brady is one of the best Quarterbacks ever to play in the NFL, and if he puts up another stellar season after possibly losing his top 5 receivers from 2012, I may have to put him at the top of my All-Time QB list.

2) Vince Wilfork, DL, Patriots

Alot of the things Wilfork does on the field go unnoticed, but make no mistake, he has been the key component to the Patriots defense for nearly a decade.  He is virtually unblockable.  Brandon Spikes might be the most untouched linebacker in the NFL as Wilfork destroys both 1-on-1 base blocks and double teams.  The scary thing is that Wilfork is getting better with age as he was named a first team All-Pro in 2012.

3) Cameron Wake, DE, Dolphins

Wake is a prolific edge rusher who possesses an acceleration off the line of scrimmage that is unrivaled.  When he was signed out of the CFL, the Dolphins knew he could be utilized as an edge rusher, but it wasn’t until 2012 when he was moved to Defensive End that they saw his all-around potential.

4) Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Jets

Wilkerson is an elite Defensive Lineman in the NFL who was probably snubbed as an All-Pro last season.  The former Temple star is thriving in Rex Ryan’s defense mainly because of his versatility and All-Around game.  He is a bit underrated as he’s been overshadowed by other 2011 draftees like JJ Watt, Aldon Smith, and Von Miller.  In 2013, expectations are high for Big Mo as he could ride his momentum to an All-Pro nod and end up at #2 on this list by next season.

5) C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills

Although Spiller hasn’t been a high profile back for long, with the combination of his talent level and his role in Doug Marrone’s offense, his ceiling is insanely high.  He has a crazy combination of speed, elusiveness, and vision which lead to Pro Football Focus rating him the most elusive back in the NFL. Considering his 6.0 YPC average in 2012 and the fact that Bills OC Nathaniel Hackett recently said that they are going to keep giving Spiller the ball “until he throws up”, there is a legitimate chance that he could reach 2,000 yards if he stays healthy.

Next 5: Jairus Byrd, Rob Gronkowski, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Reshad Jones, Antonio Cromartie/Logan Mankins

Daniel Marcus – 1. Tim Tebow (Whoops, this is what happens when you write your Top-Five Worst Free Agent Acquisitions list at the same time.)

1. Cameron Wake:

I’m going to buck the trend here and leave Brady at Number Two, mostly for spite and symbolism but I could make the argument that Brady is on the “Back Nine” of his career. Wake, on the other hand, is an “in-his-prime” Quarterback menace who should be considered a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

2. Tom Brady:

What can you say? As much as we all collectively hate the guy for his Ugg-wearing, goat-holding, ponytail-sporting shenanigans, he will still go down as one of the best Quarterbacks to ever play the game (regardless of whether I think that’s accurate). Somehow, some way, despite a seeming dearth of talent, he leads the Pats to at least 11 wins and a division title so this is me tipping my cap ever so slightly.

3. Nick Mangold:

Call me a homer but despite a down year in 2012, he is still arguably the best Center in the game, couple that with the fact that he still makes the line calls for the offense, he deserves to be on this list. He will have the rather unenviable task of breaking in two new Guards on both sides of him and couple that with the fact that he may ultimately be snapping the ball to a rookie Quarterback and you can really appreciate how good this guy has been since day one.

4. C.J. Spiller:

If we’re basing this upon pure talent, Spiller could easily be at the top of this list but considering his limited sample size when it comes to seeing significant carries, coupled with his injury history, four is appropriate. That said, this guy is your quintessential homerun-hitter and will prove a challenge for defenses for years to come, provided that he can stay on the field.

5. Muhammad Wilkerson:

“Beast Mo” cracks the Top-Five because of his breakout 2012 as he is becoming one of the more dominant defensive forces in the league. Rex loves to line him up all over the place and he has a ton of raw ability for beating his man at the point of attack, occupying multiple blockers, and getting after the passer. Wilkerson is the anchor of this Defensive Line and will only continue to improve as the talent around him gets better.

Dalbin Osorio 1. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

In a league with only 4-5 truly elite Quarterbacks, Tom Brady has been at, or near, the top of the NFL for every year since about 2007. Armed with a game changer on offense in Randy Moss, and a better WR (Wes Welker) than he ever had in years prior, Brady’s career arc changed from that of a Game Manager on offense who wasn’t asked to win games by himself (averages of approximately 3600 yards, 25 TDs, and 6 INTs) to an upper tier QB (averages of approximately 4700 yards, 37 TDs, and 9 INTs). Tom Brady is the singular reason why the Patriots are still considered Super Bowl contenders, and he’s the best player in the AFC East.

2. Vince Wilfork, DT, New Englad Patriots

The 31 year old from….The U, Big Vince Wilfork is the Patriots defensive anchor and has been the only player on defense actually playing consistently well the last few seasons. Vince continues doing his job and brings it every game.

3. Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, New York Jets

He is the second best defensive end in football (behind JJ Watt), and is coming off of his best season at the tender age of 23. Mo Wilk posted a season last year from a 3-4 DE that was only overshadowed by the Defensive Player of the Year, as he had 5 sacks, 4 passes defended, 3 forced fumbles, 38 tackles, and a touchdown as he rushed the passer and defended the run extremely well. He’s one of the leaders of the Jets defense and with the development of Quinton Coples and the additions of Sheldon Richardson and Antwan Barnes, should see his numbers improve.

4. Cameron Wake, DE Miami, Dolphins

From a pure pass rushing standpoint, Cameron Wake should be higher on this list, as he gets to the QB at a much higher rate than both Vince Wilfork and Mo WIlkerson. However, Wake has had struggles against the run, and both Wilkerson and Wilfork are more complete players than him. After a topsy turvy path to the NFL (he was signed by the Giants at one point and then cut and also played in the CFL), Wake has become one of the best pass rushers in the league. He had 15 sacks last year, and that marked the second time in three seasons that he’s had at least 14. Wake is the best player on the Miami Dolphins defense and should make the Pro Bowl again this year.

5. Antonio Cromartie, CB, New York Jets

The resident warden of AlCrotraz Island, all Cromartie did last year was replace the best cornerback in the game in Darrelle Revis and shut down every Wide Receiver he faced. He finished last year with 3 INTs and 13 passes defended, and was the best player on one of the better pass defenses in the league.

Notable Exceptions: CJ Spiller (1,200 yards and a 6.0 ypc), Nick Mangold (returned to form after getting healthy), Mario Williams (10.5 sacks).

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the VP of Social Media at Whistle Sports