By Tim Graham
New England Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo has some hardware. He was voted defensive rookie of the year in 2008. After a knee injury hampered him for much of 2009, he came back with a vengeance.
In 2010, Mayo was voted team captain, led the NFL in tackles, was selected first-team All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl. He recorded two sacks, forced one fumble and recovered three.
Then came last season. The Patriots switched to a 4-3 base defense. Mayo missed a couple games with an injury. His production suffered. Tackles aren't an official stat; the NFL tallies them unofficially through its game reports, but teams keep their own numbers. But for an apples-to-apples comparison, if you add up the NFL game reports from 2010, Mayo amassed a league-best 175 tackles, but last season he had just 95 tackles, tied for 46th in the league. He had one sack, although he did snag the first two interceptions of his career.
Still, Mayo remains one of the NFL's best defenders. He had 11 tackles and forced a fumble in the Super Bowl. Even though the New York Giants played one more postseason game than the Patriots did, Mayo led everybody with 28 postseason tackles for a defense that allowed an average of 16.3 points a game.
As a senior at Kecoughtan High in Hampton, Va., Mayo played seven games at running back. He rushed for 1,245 yards and scored 13 touchdowns and five two-point conversions.
Selected in the first round (10th overall) of the 2008 draft.
Hint about No. 18
The first offensive skill player on the list is coming off the best season of his career. (EDIT: Earlier, I accidentally printed the hint for an upcoming player on the list. This one is correct. My apologies.)
Picks to date
19. Jerod Mayo, Patriots inside linebacker
20. Randy Starks, Dolphins defensive lineman
21. Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots right tackle
22. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots tight end
23. Marcell Dareus, Bills defensive tackle
24. Antonio Cromartie, Jets cornerback
25. Eric Wood, Bills center