Haloti Ngata has squashed ball-carriers and bowled over quarterbacks throughout his Ravens career, and on Wednesday night, it was unveiled by NFL Network that his peers consider him one of the game’s best players.
The Ravens defensive tackle was voted as the ninth-best player in the NFL entering the 2012 season. He was ranked the third-highest among defensive players on the NFL’s annual list of the top 100 players in the league behind New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis (fifth) and Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware (sixth).
Curious about how the voting works? Last June, Yahoo’s Doug Farrar looked into the voting process for 2011.
Ngata was one of four Ravens defenders to go in the top 20 this year, ahead of outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (11th), free safety Ed Reed (16th) and inside linebacker Ray Lewis (20th). No other team had more than two players in the top 20, and the Ravens were one of just three teams with seven players on the entire list.
Suggs was named the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year at season’s end, but Ngata was the team's most dominant defensive player in the first month of the season. As the Ravens got off to a 3-1 start, Ngata forced two fumbles -- including the one that Jarret Johnson returned for a touchdown in a win over the New York Jets -- and his pursuit of passers led to at least three interceptions.
Ngata didn't make as many game-changing plays throughout the rest of the season, but he finished with a career-high 64 tackles and totaled five sacks. He was selected to a third Pro Bowl.
There was some criticism on Twitter about Ngata’s ranking -- hey, that’s what these kinds of lists are here for, right? -- but there is no question he is one of the NFL’s top two or three defensive tackles. And he will have to play like it again in 2012 if the Ravens are to overcome the loss of Suggs and get back to the playoffs. When Ngata dents the interior of an opponent’s offensive line, it makes rushing the passer easier for the rest of his Ravens teammates.