As we approach Super Bowl 50, there are a number of big names that will take the field. But being a bit name doesn’t mean you’re the best player on the field. Below are the ten players most likely to have a significant positive impact on the field.
20. Mike Tolbert, FB, Carolina Panthers
So difficult to tackle, Tolbert is a versatile fullback that can hurt you in many different ways. His position may be a dying breed but he’s the golden standard in today’s modern NFL.
19. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
I put him on this list over guys like Ryan Harris, T. J. Ward, Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan. That’s probably not fair. Some of you are probably thinking it’s ridiculous a legend like Manning would be this low. Many others may be thinking it’s ridiculous he even be on this list. I tend to side with the latter, but I kept him on here out of respect for his career. In the first half of the AFC Championship game, he was outplaying Tom Brady and looked like the Manning of old. In the second half, I was reminded that he looks washed up and is a shell of his former self. Either way, he’s accomplished so much throughout a first ballot Hall of Fame career that includes him being in the “best of all time” discussion. For that reason, Manning belongs on here and he still has the ability to play at an extremely high level on occasion. Or maybe he doesn’t. He’s been real poor this season, but I don’t think it’s crazy to imagine that having two weeks to prepare for what is almost assuredly the last game of his career means he’ll produce something special.
18. Ted Ginn, Jr., WR, Carolina Panthers
Imagine what his numbers would look like without all those dropped passes. A big reason for Newton exploding statistically in the second half of the season was Ginn’s ability to stretch the field and Newton using him to spread a defense. He has such big play potential that he needs to be accounted for at all times.
17. Derek Wolfe, DE, Denver Broncos
A premiere/elite run stuffer. Like Jackson and 15 he may not be talked about much, but he’s critical to what Denver does.
16. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers
Amazing that in his 8th season with the Panthers he’s still performing at such a high level. In fact, this was his second best season on his career from a yardage perspective. He finished 11 yards short of his second 1,000 rushing season. Stopping the Carolina offense starts with stopping Stewart, something few teams have done lately.
15. Malik Jackson, DE, Denver Broncos
Your average NFL fan might not know him, but be warned he’s one of the best players on this dominant defense. A complete player dominant in all phases.
14. DeMarcus Ware, LB, Denver Broncos
He’s no spring chicken, but he can still get after the quarterback. One of the best pass rushers of all time… and pairing him with Von Miller is just unfair.
13. Aqib Talib, CB, Denver Broncos
Between he and Harris, it’s tough to throw on the Broncos. And then you add that pass rush… that’s why this defense is so dominant.
12. Evan Mathis, G, Denver Broncos
Some thought he was washed up after the Eagles decided to unload him. But he had as stead and solid of a season as ever.
11. Ryan Kalil, C, Carolina Panthers
A veteran interior player that is critical to the Panthers’ read option plays especially.
10. Thomas Davis, LB, Carolina Panthers
Whether he can play or not is going to be a very important factor in this game. His speed to the ball and playmaker ability is extremely difficult to replace.
9. Trai Turner, G, Carolina Panthers
Mauler blocker that doesn’t get enough credit. Probably the best offensive lineman on both teams combined.
8. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
105 catches for 1,304 and 6 touchdowns is a “bad” season for him. Keep in mind his effectiveness is slightly limited by the quaterback issues in Denver this year. Still, he managed to have a really productive season. He probably deserves to be higher on this list.
7. Josh Norman, CB, Carolina Panthers
Really grew into becoming a superstar playing this season. The Panthers desperately need him with the amount of injuries they’ve suffered in the secondary. He’s been the one stabilizing force.
6. Kawann Short, DT, Carolina Panthers
He’s not talked about enough due to the star power on Carolina’s roster. But make no mistake, he’s really special. He’s a dominant run stuffer and pass rusher alike. Deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with Aaron Donald – he is that good. He might be under the radar, but the Broncos interior will have their hands full like no other time this season against him.
5. Chris Harris Jr., CB, Denver Broncos
Some may think this is too high but I view him as the best cover man in this game. He’ll allow the defense to be aggressive containing Newton with his premiere coverage skills.
4. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
The preseason narrative was that Cam Newton lost his best receiver when Kelvin Benjamin went down. But let’s be honest, Olsen is his best receiver. Without Olsen and with Benjamin, it is certain the Panthers passing game would be much worse off.
3. Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos
More than any player on the Broncos, he’s THE guy that can have a major impact. He had a monster game against the Patriots and the Broncos will need every bit of that and then some against the Panthers. His pressure is a must.
2. Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers
Some may argue that Kuechly is the best player on both sides of the ball in this game. They may be correct. Seldom is he mentioned in the same breath as J. J. Watt as the best defensive player in the league, but he should be. And not only does he excel in all facets, having a pick six in each of the last two playoff games proves he shows up most when the stakes are highest.
1. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
It looks like he may be both NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP by season’s end. He’s currently the best player in the NFL and looks to leave a lasting legacy on the NFL with his performance in this game.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos