Lucas at Large: Joe Thomas among NFL's top 50

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On Sunday night, the NFL Network revealed another installment in its 10-part series identifying the Top 100 Players in the National Football League as voted on by their peers;  current players.   
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The exercise not only fills a void (read: lockout) but triggers a healthy debate among fans whose opinions may offer from the voters.  Radio talk show hosts are forever grateful for such lists.

Given this backdrop, it should not come as a surprise to anyone in this part of the world that former UW offensive tackle Joe Thomas is among the Top 50 Players in the NFL. Thomas is No. 43.

Thomas, a first round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns (No. 3 overall in 2007), has been selected to four Pro Bowls in four pro seasons. He has been named first-team All-Pro twice.

As such, Thomas would have to already rank among Wisconsin's most accomplished NFL offensive linemen; a short list that would feature the late Mike Webster of the Steelers at the very top.

Left tackle Paul Gruber is also very deserving of recognition in this category though his career was the antithesis of Webster's in that he played on so many losing teams with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

 Another left tackle, Chris McIntosh, never quite realized his potential with Seattle because of injuries, whereas right tackle Mark Tauscher far exceeded all expectations with the Packers.

A number of former UW linemen have turned out to be solid NFL players; maybe not Top 50, maybe not even Top 100. But Cory Raymer and Casey Rabach each found their own niche in the league.
   
Any Badger list would have to also include Terry Stieve, Jeff Dellenbach, and Joe Panos. Each was a "pro's pro'' - to varying degrees with different NFL organizations.

Thomas, meanwhile, has been training in Madison since late March because the players have been "locked-out'' of their facilities. Not that he has minded.  "I've really enjoyed it,'' he said.

What he would enjoy more is a resolution to the work stoppage.

Until then, the NFL Network will continue to spark dialogue with its Top 100.

Four members of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers have been ranked thus far: Chad Clifton, No. 99; Nick Collins, No. 96; B.J. Raji, No. 81; and Greg Jennings, No. 74.

Among the quarterbacks who have shown up in the Bottom 50 are Donovan McNabb, No. 100; Joe Flacco, No. 90; Josh Freeman, No. 86; Tony Romo, No. 72; and Matt Ryan, No. 52.

Where will Aaron Rodgers fall on the list? I'm thinking Top 25.

The first wave of Top 50 players include Wes Welker, No. 50; Brian Urlacher, No. 49; Champ Bailey, No. 48; Nick Mangold, No. 47; Tony Gonzalez, No. 46; Dwayne Bowe, No. 45; Robert Mathis, No. 44; THOMAS, No. 43; Michael Turner, No. 42; and Ben Roethlisberger, No. 41.

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