The List: NFL's top playmakers

In this week's version of The List, Merril Hoge looks at the top playmakers in the league.

Originally Published: May 21, 2007
By Merril Hoge | ESPN.com

1. RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers: If you want touchdowns, he'll get 'em for you. If you want yards, he'll get 'em for you. Tomlinson does everything the Chargers or any team could ever want. He's one of the best football players in the game right now and is making his mark as one of the best players in history.

Steve Smith

Smith

Wide Receiver
Carolina Panthers

Profile

2006 Season Stats
Rec Yds TD Avg Long YAC
83 1166 8 14.0 72 474
2. WR Steve Smith, Panthers: Smith is the lone receiver on this list because he doesn't just make the dazzling deep catches, but he also moves the chain by going across the middle. He is hands down the best receiver in football.

3. DE Dwight Freeney, Colts: This guy is a game changer. He can wreck the game plan of any defense because of his speed and ability to turn the corner and get to the quarterback.

4. QB Peyton Manning, Colts: This is probably where the controversy will begin. One, I have Manning rated above [Tom] Brady and I have him rated below a fellow Colt. But before you readers start throwing rocks at me, let me explain. Manning is rated below Freeney because the Colts' defense would much worse without Freeney than the offense would be without Manning. As for Brady, the Patriots still would be a playoff-caliber team without Brady, but I'm not so sure about the Colts without Manning. Now all the readers can start throwing their stones at me.

That said, there is no better playmaking quarterback in football. He might not have the arm strength that some guys in this league possess, but he does an amazing job of putting his guys in the right place to succeed.

Troy Polamalu

Polamalu

Safety
Pittsburgh Steelers

Profile

2006 Season Stats
Tot Solo Ast FF Sack Int
77 57 20 1 1 3
5. S Troy Polamalu, Steelers: This is another example of a team that wouldn't be the same without a player. Now that Joey Porter is gone, Polamalu provides the passion for this defense. He's probably the best safety in the business because of his ability to swarm the entire field.

6. QB Tom Brady, Patriots: He might not be the best quarterback in football, but he does a lot with a little and is one of the best leaders in the game. Don't let the glitz and glamour fool you. This guy is a playmaker who gets out there every weekend and creates for his team.

7. LB Shawne Merriman, Chargers: He's simply a beast and has the potential to go down as one of the best defensive players in the history of the game. There's no doubt in my mind that he's the best linebacker in the game.

8. DE Jason Taylor, Dolphins: Mr. Versatile does it all. Taylor is a wrecking ball on the field. He can get at the quarterback at any time and also plays extremely well in coverage.

9. QB Carson Palmer, Bengals: Forget about the Heisman jinx, Palmer has been splendid since getting acclimated to the league and has an MVP in his future.

10. DT Jamal Williams, Chargers: You probably didn't expect to see a defensive tackle on this list, but Williams is a monster. He feasts on offensive linemen and makes things much easier for the rest of the Chargers' defense because of the attention he garners.

Former NFL fullback Merril Hoge is an analyst for a wide variety of NFL programs on television and ESPN Radio. An eight-year NFL veteran, Hoge spent 1987-93 with the Pittsburgh Steelers and joined ESPN in 1996.

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