Pro Football Focus released their ranking of the top 50 players in the NFL heading into the 2017 season — and two defensive studs edged Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at the top of the list.
According to Pro Football Focus, Rams star Aaron Donald is the best player in the NFL, followed by J.J. Watt. Brady, a five-time champion, was listed third.
On Tuesday's episode of "Undisputed," Ray Lewis, Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless reacted to the ranking.
Ray Lewis: The most important player on the defensive side of the ball is the closest player to the quarterback
“Look, I can be a little biased because I’ve always argued that defensive players should be rated higher. When you think about … the most important player on the offensive side of the ball is obviously he quarterback, right?
The most important player on the defensive side of the ball is the closest player to the quarterback. Right?A lot of people don’t think about that.
I’ve watched this from a personal experience. What am I talking about? I played behind one of the most dominant D-tackles in all of football, which was Warren Sapp. I played behind him at the University of Miami, and I never saw dominance like that.
When I started to see what his dominance was, I started to understand that … wow, he actually makes my job easier. When he goes, it’s a whole other conversation.”
Matt KartozianMatt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Ray Lewis: Aaron Donald is the type of player that wins you a championship
“I got into the league. Our first Super Bowl, the most dominant piece on our defense was Sam Adams. When Sam Adams was ready to play football, I don’t care who it was, he was unblockable.
So you watch Aaron Donald, you watch J.J. Watt. Now let me just be very up front: J.J. Watt [played] three games last year, coming back … I don’t know if I put him [there], you can not put that guy up there. But now we’re in a different world, because it’s a world of popularity now, a world of social media. That’s who is ‘crowning’ people now.
But you talk about Aaron Donald, his body of work since he came into the National Football League. When you talk about pure dominance, from a linebacker standpoint, what it looks like … this is why this piece is so crucial. The reason why I’m really excited that someone sat down and watched enough film to see what that dominance looks like is because that’s where most championships are really won — in the trenches.”
Kirby LeeKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Ray Lewis: J.J. Watt needs to prove he's still the same player
“J.J. Watt, healthy, he’s one of the most unblockable people ever. Why?
If you watch J.J. Watt enough, you say ‘now how in the hell … ?’ You can’t block J.J. Watt. Why? Because J.J. Watt says, ‘Take the game out of it, I’m talking about a one-on-one battle that you have to deal with me.’
Most D-linemen are going to be quicker than the offensive linemen. Some of them are stronger than offensive linemen — and that’s where I think the gems are found. When you find an Aaron Donald, who has a motor like that, or you find a J.J. Watt.”
Troy TaorminaTroy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Aaron Donald is unbelievable
“I co-sign every thing you said.
… I was talking to Sapp this morning. He said, ‘Sharpe, that Aaron Donald is the real deal. He’s light years ahead of every other DT in professional football.'
Aaron Donald, no problem with what he’s done. You look at the way he gets after the quarterback — but he plays it all. He gets after your quarterback, he stops the run, he’s unbelievable.
The only problem that I have with J.J. Watt … if you take J.J.’s first five years, he should be No. 1.Three-time defensive player of the year, no question. He’s the only player in NFL history since they started recording sacks to have two 20+ sack seasons in his first five seasons.
But Skip, Ray, coming off what he did last year — where he missed all but three games. Second back surgery within three months. He shouldn’t be this high. You shouldn’t base it on what he did three, four years ago.
You’re taking this year moving forward. I don’t know how to grade him because I didn’t see enough of him last year. Can he come back after that back surgery?”
USA TODAY SportsRobert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
You don't think the Texans would rather have Tom Brady than J.J. Watt?
“I cannot say ‘amen’ to either of you guys, to the cases you just made.
Because, to me, I’m sorry — it’s still a quarterback’s game and a quarterback’s league. And you have to start and finish with that guy.
And I get it that the closest guy to stopping the quarterback are the guys with their hand in the dirt, or coming flying off the edge.
… I look at J.J. They made the playoffs last year without J.J.
J.J. Watt’s playoff record so far is 2-3. They beat the Bengals at home in two wild card games.
I can’t criticize him for that because he can’t throw the football. He can’t run the football. He can’t do anything to score the football.
If I [said to] Bill O’Brien right now, ‘You can make the choice: You can have a healthy J.J. next year, or I’ll give you age 40 Tom Brady.’Who is Bill O’Brien taking next year? He’s gonna take Tom Brady!’”
Bob DeChiaraBob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Ray Lewis: I would always take the dominant defensive player
“All I’m telling you is if you gave me the choice — and you keep saying this, ‘Would you take Aaron Rodgers or the most dominant defensive player’ — I’m going to take the most dominant defensive player of the game every time.
Let me tell you why. They guy that you’re valuing, I can get to him. And if I can get to him with Aaron Donald? Then it’s going to favor me at the end of the day.”