NFL Quarterly: Top Skill Position Players

Star Quarterbacks

Philip Rivers: Not many quarterbacks are playing at the level Rivers is right now. Leading the NFL with a 114.5 rating and completing 70% of his passes, he has a 9:1 ratio of TD:INT. He’s even scrambled a total of 15 times, this is a comfortable signal caller in an offense that lost their top-2 running backs. Working with an aging Antonio Gates who has slowed down the past couple of weeks, he finally got Keenan Allen to jump on board in week 4. Rivers has been leaning on Eddie Royal from the slot to the endzone, and the Bolts are 3-1 thanks to his efficiency. He’s connected multiple times with a trio of his targets for scores.

Andrew Luck: A fantastic start for Andrew Luck, guiding the Indianapolis Colts with a 108 rating and leading the league with 326 yards per week. He’s also thrown for a league-high, 13 touchdowns, and rushed for another one. Luck has been patient, being the field general that’s trying to establish a ground game that just lost Ahmad Bradshaw for some time. Left with just the underwhelming Trent Richardson, he aired it out to Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, and Dwayne Allen in week 4.

Nick Foles: He’s chucked for over 300 yards in the first 3 weeks, stunted by a backup offensive line in week 4. The Philadelphia Eagles are 3-1 because Foles has carried the offensive load and responsibility. Defenses are forcing him to throw by stacking the box against reigning rushing champion, LeSean McCoy. Teammate Darren Sproles has made an instant impact by winning Player of the Week awards twice in 4 weeks, except these backs have garnered too much attention to even help Foles operate the offense. He has Jeremy Maclin back from injury, Zach Ertz emerging, and rookie Jordan Matthews in the slot, but for the most part it’s been all Foles behind a bettered line showing his toughness and willing the team. It hasn’t all been pretty, but the ringleader is stringing things along.

Stud Running Backs

DeMarco Murray: Contract year has created a monster, as DMM has rushed for 100+yards in every game thus far. He has 99 carries for 534 yards and 5 touchdowns. He’s also grabbed 9 passed for 68 yards, and is currently the front-runner for league MVP. The Dallas Cowboys offensive line has gotten better with each high draft pick, and health is on their side right now. The emergence of Murray has allowed QB Tony Romo to ease back into things after back surgery.I just want you to watch how he attacks the line of scrimmage after getting the hand-off. His 5.4 yards per carry and explosiveness make his 3 fumbles forgivable, for now with a 3-1 record.

Le’Veon Bell: Pounding the rock, contributing through the air, the Pittsburgh Steelers sure did find a franchise back in Bell. He’s a large back at 244 pounds, but he has the combination of vision, quickness, and power. He approaches the line of scrimmage with patience, and then boom, he’s decisive when hitting a hole and blows past you to find daylight. His 94.5 yard average has been the perfect compliment to receiver, Antonio Brown, stretching the field.

Rashad Jennings: The first-time starter has been so valuable for the New York Giants. He’s playing in a 3-down, all-purpose role and finds a way to make an impact. Jennings is running behind an injury-battered O-line, but one that is playing better by the week. He’s getting dump-offs from Eli Manning and making things happen. Situations have been tough on the ground, yet he keeps his legs churning and always going forward. In week 2 he went wild for 176 yards and has a pair of TDs on the young season.

Elite Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown: Nobody is stopping this guy, who was also atop receiving statistics in 2013. Joe Haden can’t even slow him down, and Brown is establishing himself as a reliable stud for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brown is top-5 in most receiving categories and looks like the smoothest wide out in the game. You can pretty much bet anytime Big Ben drops back, he’s staring Brown running a polished route and gaining ridiculous separation.

Julio Jones: Healthy and explosive, he has become one with Matt Ryan. Second in most major receiving categories, Jones has been unstoppable, as have the others on this list. Talk about someone to watch, Jones just makes the art of receiving look so effortless. He’s also got a couple games over 100 yards, the other two went for at least 80 yards. The only thing stopping the Atlanta Falcons is playing away from home, this is the main man that is literally running away with Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White’s torch for the Dirty Birds.

Jordy Nelson: This man leads the league in receptions, targets, yards, and first downs. Nelson erupted in week 2 vs the New York Jets for 209 yards on just 9 catches. Aaron Rodgers is looking at him early and often every week, there’s a reason the Green Bay Packers gave him a contract extension in the offseason. There isn’t a pretty duo in terms of the back-shoulder completion, that trust is second to none. He’s got a couple triple-digit efforts, counting that 2-hundo he put up, he’s the chain mover and capping off drives for the Cheese Heads.

Steve Smith: In 3 of 4 games the entertaining veteran has gone over the century-mark in receiving yards with 3 touchdowns. In week 4 against his ex-team, the Carolina Panthers, he left his heart out on the field and showed them how disrespected he felt after they moved on. He instantly became the top guy for the Baltimore Ravens, the go-to guy for QB Joe Flacco. Smith has frequently shown his big-play ability, with long scores from 80 and 61-yards out. The man is racking up 17 yards per catch with these rankings: 6th in receptions, 3rd in targets, 3rd in receiving yards, and 1st in YAC in comparison with receivers with at least 20 catches.

Emmanuel Sanders: This speedster has immediately become a favorite of Peyton Manning. He looks like a better fit with the Denver Broncos, and of course, Manning makes his teammates better. Sanders is playing like the biggest playmaker on the team right now, sticking every pass and even getting work with hand-offs and as a returner. Averging 111 yards per contest, he blew the top off the Seattle Seahawks with 149-yard performance. With already a pair of 100-yard games under his belt, he’s got an excellent slate of opponents to feast on coming out of the bye.

Tight Ends

Jimmy Graham: If he can’t do it, then nobody can at the tight end position. Whether he’s lined up next to a lineman or in the slot, I often wonder if Drew Brees has any other weapons on the field. When Brees gets blitzed, the safety valved is Graham. When it comes to 3rd down, Graham gets the pass. On playaction, they’re taking a shot downfield to Graham. At the goal line, Graham’s getting a jump ball opportunity on a fade. He topped a hundred yards in week 2. He leads all tight ends in receptions, targets, yards, and first downs. When you include wide receivers, he ranks 2nd in the NFL in receptions.

Martellus Bennett: Breaking out to start the season, Bennett has 4 touchdowns with a hundred-yard game effort in week 4. He’s picked things up a bit over the middle, connecting with Jay Cutler despite the receivers getting banged up. That hasn’t slowed Bennett down, who has drawn at least 8 targets in every game. The Chicago Bears might be getting into some track meets, and they sure do love to pass. Consider him improved, reliable, and a challenging matchup for defenses.

Delanie Walker: Talk about a player blossoming in a tight end friendly offense. Coach Ken Whisenhunt is featuring his only productive player in 2014. The inexperienced Jake Locker is leaning on Walker, as did backup Charlie Whitehurst in week 4. He’s definitely benefiting from a lackluster supporting cast, as the tight end is a quarterback’s best friend and safety valve. He’s in for a career year with 3 scores, and a triple-digit game in week 2 so far.