Walker's Fab 40: Nos. 13-16

January, 31, 2013
1/31/13
10:00
AM ET
The AFC East blog continues its rankings of the top 40 players in the division.

Here are Nos. 13-16:

Soliai
No. 16: Paul Soliai, DT, Miami Dolphins

2012 stats: 29 tackles, one sack

Analysis: There will be plenty of debate on who is better between Soliai and teammate Randy Starks, who came in at No. 17 of "Walker’s Fab 40." Starks has the numbers and made the Pro Bowl. However, Soliai is the true engine behind Miami's stout run defense. Soliai's job is to take on constant double teams. His ability to consistently occupy two defenders allows other players like Starks and linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett to flourish. Despite only registering 29 tackles, Soliai led the Dolphins with eight tackles for losses this past season.

Mayo
Mayo
No. 15: Jerod Mayo, LB, New England Patriots

2012 stats: 147 tackles, three sacks

Analysis: Mayo is exactly the player New England expected coming out of the draft. He's physical, smart, reliable and doesn't make many mistakes. Mayo led the Patriots with 147 tackles past season year to earn for his second Pro Bowl berth. He will never wow you with athletic ability or incredible play making. But Mayo constantly does his job and stays around the football. He fits the Bill Belichick mold well.

Byrd
No. 14: Jairus Byrd, S, Buffalo Bills

2012 stats: 76 tackles, five interceptions, four forced fumbles

Analysis: Mario Williams got the big-money contract, but Byrd was the best and most consistent playmaker on Buffalo's defense this past season. Byrd is a ball-hawking safety who led the Bills in interceptions and was fourth in tackles. As a result, Byrd made the Pro Bowl as an alternate this season. Byrd is a pending unrestricted free agent who will get plenty of interest if he hits the open market. But Buffalo will wisely look to keep Byrd via a contract extension or a one-year franchise tag.

Mangold
No. 13: Nick Mangold, C, New York Jets

2012 stats: 16 starts

Analysis: Mangold has built a reputation as one of the NFL's top centers. However, fighting through injuries and up-and-down play in 2012 ended Mangold's streak of four consecutive Pro Bowls. Mangold also anchored an offensive line that wasn't very good. The Jets failed to run the football consistently and couldn’t protect quarterbacks Mark Sanchez or Greg McElroy. Once Mangold gets healthy again, he should be back to his Pro Bowl form. But the Jets need better offensive linemen around Mangold.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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