7 Most Respected Players in the NFL
In ESPN’s NFL Nation Confidential survey, which tallied the votes of more than 320 players, one of the questions asked was “Which player do you respect the most?” Since the players were answering about their peers (and also confidentially), the results appeared to be unbiased and not favoring teammates. While another question asked, “If you had to start a team with one player, whom would it be?” the former generated quite the discussion because it takes into account so much more than just athletic ability.
Whom you would choose to start a team with is relatively simple: Who are the best players? But whom National Football League players respect the most, though likely involving ability, also takes into account the things their peers do off the field and how they carry themselves. The most respected players aren’t the ones who yell at teammates, argue with coaches on the sideline, or blow up during press conferences – they’re the players who keep their nose to the grindstone, continually play well, are well-spoken, and are considered good teammates. As voted by their peers, here’s a list of the seven most respected players in the NFL — starting from the top.
1. Peyton Manning
Coming in with 26.8 percent of the votes, Peyton Manning took first place in a landslide. The 15-year veteran quarterback has been a staple for so many years in the league that it would be difficult to see somebody else as No. 1 on this list. This selection comes after Manning was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year last season, a journey that featured a comeback performance in which he overcame multiple neck surgeries from injuries that seemed more than likely to either end his career or severely limit it.
Whether he’s appearing on Saturday Night Live, playing various roles in TV commercials, or promoting his many charities (all alongside his impressive ability on the field), Manning is one of the NFL’s best representatives. And he is looking to cap off one of the best offensive seasons ever by a quarterback – 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns – with a Super Bowl victory. He’s well spoken, well liked, a fan favorite, and dominant at what he does. How could his peers not vote him as the most respected player in the league?
Note: Manning’s photograph has been updated.
2. Tom Brady [tie]
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady comes in tied for second, alongside running back Adrian Peterson, with 7.5 percent of the votes. Similar to Manning, Brady has been one of the most consistent players in the NFL over the past decade. The three-time Super Bowl champion and two-time league MVP previously held the record for most touchdown passes in a single season, before Manning took the crown this year. Brady’s reputation isn’t as diverse as Manning’s, but his winning mentality, strong leadership, and ability to overcome adversity — he was drafted in the sixth round in 2000 by New England — likely put him this high on the list.
2. Adrian Peterson [tie]
When Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson went down with a torn ACL and MCL two seasons ago, some people thought he’d never be the same player again. That turned out to be only partially true: He was even better. Just a year later, he came up a few yards short of the NFL’s rushing record. Though he missed two of Minnesota’s final three games this year, he finished 2013 again with impressive stats.
A quieter type who tends to let his play on the field speak for itself, Peterson has been the lone workhorse for the Minnesota Vikings since his arrival in 2007. Peterson checks in on this list as the only running back, which is no small feat, since the NLF is in an age where passing dominates the play selection.
4. Calvin Johnson
Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who many consider to be the best receiver in the game, finished with 4.7 percent of the votes. Johnson gets a lot of respect from his peers because he is by far one of the more humble players out there. He’ll talk to the press, but rarely about himself. Even when he played on the Lions’ 2008 team that failed to win a single game, Johnson never lost his positive attitude, something more respectable and probably more difficult than any of his 66 career touchdowns.
5. Drew Brees
Just 0.7 percent behind Johnson, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees comes in fifth, with 4 percent of the votes. After achieving limited post-season success in the first four years of his career in San Diego, he was signed by the New Orleans Saints in 2006. Despite being a smaller quarterback at just 6 feet tall, Brees hasn’t once thrown for less than 4,000 yards since arriving in New Orleans.
Speaking of New Orleans, Brees’s impact on the city has been indescribable. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the destruction of New Orleans, including the Superdome, Brees was instrumental in the rebirth of the city – and not just for generous donations and helpful aid. No: Brees led the Saints to a 2010 Super Bowl Championship, the first in the franchise’s history. This victory gave a city of people whose lives had been uprooted a few years earlier something to rally around.
6. London Fletcher [tie]
Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher is the only defensive player on this list, and he comes in with 3.4 percent of the vote. He’s in his 16th season as a linebacker, seven of which have been spent with Washington. While he’s by no means the best defensive player in the league, the ability to play day in and day out – he hasn’t missed single a game in his career — is his most reputable quality. He has the record for most consecutive starts for a linebacker and is also top 10 on the all-time consecutive start list. With injuries more and more common every year, Fletcher’s ability to stay healthy was definitely a major reason for finding himself this well-respected by his peers.
6. Aaron Rodgers [tie]
Last but not least, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished tied with Fletcher, with 3.4 percent of the vote. After taking over for Brett Favre in Green Bay, expectations were especially high for the young Rodgers. Needless to say, he hasn’t disappointed: He has a Super Bowl ring and an MVP award in just six seasons as a starter. Yes, he’s had a lot of success thus far, but he also has a reputation for being a hard-working, intelligent player. Rodgers is respected outside of Green Bay (obviously, since he’s on this list), but since his first start, Packers teammates have spoken highly of Rodgers’s ability to step in and lead the franchise.