Commentary

10 players who excel at scare tactics

Who are the most feared players in the NFL? John Clayton offers his top 10.

Originally Published: October 30, 2008
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Even though the NFL is safety-conscious and vows to fine or possibly suspend players who go overboard with their ow-the-field hits, pro football remains a violent sport.

The following list is my unscientific evaluation of the most feared players in football -- feared because of their ability to deliver a blow. These aren't necessarily the best players at their position, but many of them are. These are the players who strike fear in other players. When opponents line up against these guys, they have to prepare for some pain.

This isn't a survey. These are my views of the most fearsome forces in the NFL.

MORE: Fear factors: What makes NFL players cringe | Old-school fears | Podcast | Photos
Clayton's top 10 most feared players | In their own words | Watch: Countdown Daily

Top 10 Most Feared Players

No. Player
1. Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tennessee Titans
He's unblockable and dangerous. Fortunately, he has calmed an angry streak that almost led to release from the Titans and a long, long suspension by the NFL for stomping on the face of Cowboys center Andre Gurode. Haynesworth got off easy with a five-game suspension for that 2006 incident. Now he's just destroying offensive players legally.
2. Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore Ravens
At 33, Lewis has found the fountain of youth. His legal hit on the Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall ended the rookie's season and showed Lewis still has it as an intimidating middle linebacker. He has been able to look younger because nose tackle Haloti Ngata is occupying enough blockers to let Lewis run free.
3. Joey Porter, LB Miami Dolphins
He's back. The Steelers let Porter go, thinking he was on the decline. He's not. Porter leads the NFL with 10½ sacks. He's willing to talk trash and can back it up. Porter called out Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel in September and then went to Foxborough and harassed him all day.
4. Hines Ward, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Though he's intelligent and always seems to have a smile on his face, Ward is the most feared blocking wide receiver in football. He's now drawing fines like defensive players, but he believes in delivering the blow instead of receiving it. He broke the jaw of Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers with a hit in Week 7 is drawing bounty calls from Terrell Suggs and the Baltimore Ravens.
5. Adrian Wilson, S, Arizona Cardinals
This spot was reserved for safeties Roy Williams of the Cowboys and Rodney Harrison of the Patriots, but both have been lost for the season with injuries. From 2001 to 2007, Wilson's 17 personal fouls led the NFL. He has paid enough in fines during his years to field a 17-week, eight-man practice squad.
6. Bob Sanders, S, Indianapolis Colts
Sanders is the best pure tackler in football. When he returns to the Colts' lineup, presumably in Week 9, the Colts will suddenly have a run defense. Any receiver crossing the middle also has to prepare for a knockout hit by Sanders. By the way, just so I'm not slighting Troy Polamalu of the Steelers, I'm attaching him as a 6A, but I don't want the list just filled with safeties.
7. Jon Runyan, OT Philadelphia Eagles
For years, he has been considered perhaps the nastiest offensive lineman in football. How nasty? Fans usually vote him to the Pro Bowl. Players, who have a one-third share in the balloting, vote him out and have limited Runyan to one trip to Hawaii. His off-the-field niceness turns nasty when he takes the field.
8. Shaun Rogers, NT, Cleveland Browns
The criticism in Detroit was that he took plays off if he got bored. Hey, in Detroit, the Lions take seasons off, so it's only natural. Moving to Cleveland has once again turned him into a beast. In Week 8, he tormented the Jaguars' offensive line.
9. Justin Tuck, DE New York Giants
It's not his attitude that strikes fear into opposing offensive players. It's his unbelievable first step to the right. Tuck has the best inside move in the game. From left end, he steps inside of a blocker and then gets a clean drive to the quarterback. What coaches fear is the speed and angle of how he comes to the quarterback.
10. Olin Kreutz, C, Chicago Bears
The best testament to his mean streak is what his teammates think of him. They know not to anger him because an angry Kreutz is a dangerous person to be around -- even when he's on your own team. He's one of the best leaders among offensive linemen, and he's not going to take anything from any defender.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

ALSO SEE