Our countdown of the top 100 NFL players of 2011 rolls on this week -- with numbers 40-31.
40. Ndamukong Suh - DT, Detroit Lions: Suh is an absolute freak of nature with a combination of size, power, and speed that makes him nearly impossible to stop. While he has earned the reputation of being a dirty player, the fact of the matter is, every team in the National Football League would love to have a guy with his motor on their defense. In 2011, Suh registered 36 total tackles and 4 sacks.
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38. Victor Cruz - WR, New York Giants: In a very short period of time, Cruz has become one of the more dominant receivers in the league. One of Eli Manning's favorite targets, Cruz snagged 82 receptions for 1,536 yards and 9 scores last season in helping the Giants win their second Super Bowl in the last five years. Expect more of the same type of production out of him in 2012.
37. Jahri Evans - G, New Orleans Saints: An extremely well-rounded guard, Evans excels at both pass protection and run blocking. He may not be the biggest or fastest lineman in the league, but he's certainly one of the most reliable. Evans has been named to the All-Pro team three times over the course of his career, and in 6 seasons, he's never missed a game.
36. Jason Pierre-Paul - DE, New York Giants: Last year, in just his second season in the league, Pierre-Paul was named to the All-Pro team. A relentless pass rusher, he recorded 16.5 sacks in 2011, to go along with his 86 total tackles -- which were the most by any defensive lineman in the league. At only 23 years of age, expect Pierre-Paul to be causing problems for the opposition for many years to come.
35. Julius Peppers - DE, Chicago Bears: Peppers overall freakish athleticism has made him one of the premier pass rushing defensive ends in the NFL over the last decade -- as he has managed to record double-digit sack totals in 7 of his 10 seasons in the league. Last year, Peppers registered 37 total tackles, 3 forced fumbles, and 11 sacks.
34. Vernon Davis - TE, San Francisco 49ers: At this point in his career, Davis is one of the top 5 offensive tight ends in football, even though he plays in a run-first system with the 49ers. Last season, he hauled in 67 receptions for 792 yards and 6 touchdowns. Davis also had the game-winning TD grab with under 10 seconds remaining in San Francisco's improbable win over the Saints in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
33. James Harrison - LB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Even at 34-years-old, Harrison continues to be one of the staples of Pittsburgh's hard-hitting defense. In 2011, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year tallied 59 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and 9 sacks -- in helping the Steelers once again reach the postseason. Expect nothing less out of Harrison this year.
32. Steve Smith - WR, Carolina Panthers: Just when everyone thought Smith was done being a big playmaker for the Panthers, he bounced back with a huge season in 2011. Thanks in large part to the addition of Cam Newton at the quarterback position, Smith had 79 catches for 1,394 yards and 7 touchdowns -- almost tripling his yard production from 2010 in the process.
31. Ben Roethlisberger - QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Quite frankly, Roethlisberger may very well be the toughest signal caller in the National Football League today. Despite the pounding that he takes year-in and year-out, Big Ben continues to put up very solid numbers while leading the Steelers to the playoffs. Last season, he threw for 4,077 yards and 21 TDs, while registering a QB rating of 90.1 -- third-best in the AFC.
Hope you enjoyed our latest ten. Be sure to check back here next Sunday for numbers 30-21!