- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
As comprehensive as our evaluations are for the Top 200 player rankings we submitted with the 2012 NFL Big Book, the one thing they lack is a context of motion. Simply put: Who are the players on the upswing of their talent curve and whose careers are tapering off?
The following are the players I think will improve during the 2012 season and will see their Top 200 and position rankings appreciate this time next year. We'll take a look at the downside for Friday. But first, let's look at some players with promising futures, starting with a talented pair of signal-callers.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Stafford and Newton are next in line to join the highest tier of NFL quarterbacks. Stafford might not attempt 663 passes again as he did in 2011, but he doesn't turn 25 until February and already has 29 NFL games under his belt, despite appearing in only three in 2010. The Lions have equipped Stafford with a bevy of receiving options and this year finally began to address their offensive line. The arrow points up in Detroit.
There isn't a physical comparison at the quarterback position to Newton. While he cooled off dramatically during the second half of his rookie season, what he accomplished as a runner and especially as a passer was truly remarkable. At this time next year, with some further development, Stafford and Newton will be on the threshold of elite QB status, knocking on the door. Loudly.
After ranking the top 200 players in the NFL, Matt Williamson reviews the list to spot the stars most likely to rise in next season's rankings.