Certain players are simply synonymous with certain numbers. It’s hard to see No. 4 without thinking of Brett Favre. Seven will always be John Elway. A pair of twos right next to each other is Emmitt Smith. And the sight of 56 conjures up memories of Lawrence Taylor.
Those are some of the all-time greats, players who have etched their names in the NFL’s history books. But there are plenty of guys today who are on their way to that type of football immortality, the best in the game who are creating their own legacies.
Are they good enough to become forever linked with their jersey number, however? That’s a level of greatness that few achieve.
To start answering this question, the editors at cover32 first set out to determine who the best players are in 2014 based on numbers. From 1-99, we’ve selected the player who is most synonymous with that particular digit as of right now.
Are they destined to become an all-time great? Only time will tell. But here’s who is on track at the moment.
1 – Cam Newton
For some reason, the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and No. 1 overall pick in 2011 still rubs plenty of fans the wrong way. But in only three seasons, he’s already established himself as a franchise quarterback. His unique combination of passing and running makes him tough to defend, giving the Panthers offense an added dimension. And in 2013, he proved he could win, leading Carolina to a 12-4 season and the NFC South title.
2 – Matt Ryan
Heading into last season, Ryan boasted a glossy 56-22 record during his first five seasons in the league. That was diminished, however, by his inability to win in the playoffs, as the Falcons have flamed out in the postseason every year under their young quarterback. Throw in last season’s 4-12 debacle and Ryan is almost off of everyone’s radar, a pocket passer in an era when everyone seems to be going to more mobile QBs. But he’s still a great player.