As a follow-up to my NFC Overrated-Underrated list, I wanted to take a minute to compare two fantastic players: Ray Lewis and London Fletcher. Clearly, Ray Lewis was (and remains) one of the best defensive players of the past 15 years in the NFL. Some might argue he’s been the best defensive player over the last decade and a half. I don’t think anyone could call that a crazy argument. He’s been a tackling machine, he makes plays, and his intangibles and leadership qualities are immeasurable.
I don’t think anyone would ever consider London Fletcher to be on Ray Lewis’ level, but statistically at least, the two players really aren’t that far apart.
Ray Lewis’ numbers:
Obviously, Ray Lewis will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But what about London Fletcher? Here are his career numbers, minus his rookie season, when he wasn’t a starter:
(Cont after the jump)…
The first thing that impresses me about Fletcher is that he has never missed a game in the NFL, which is almost impossible for such a violent player playing such a violent position. Fletcher has clearly been a more durable player than Lewis. Lewis averaged 0.7 more tackles per game, and has been more of a playmaker in the passing game, intercepting 14 more passes than Fletcher in their careers, but the other numbers are almost identical.
Yet, compare the individual accolades between the two players:
- 12× Pro Bowl selection; (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
- 7× AP First Team All-Pro selection (1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009)
- 3× AP Second Team All-Pro selection (1997, 1998, 2010)
- 2× AP NFL Defensive Player of Year (2000, 2003)
- 3× AFC Defensive Player Of The Year (2000, 2001, 2003)
- 2× NFL Alumni Linebacker Of The Year (1999, 2003)
- Record 12 Pro Bowls for an Inside/Middle Linebacker
- Record 10 All-Pro selections for Inside/Middle Linebacker
- Record 10 All-Pro selections for a Linebacker (tied with Lawrence Taylor)
- 2× Pro Bowl selection (2009, 2010)
Think London Fletcher is sniffing Canton in his first shot at Canton when he retires? I’d give him less than a 1% shot. But maybe he should.