Associated Press
10 Washington TE Chris Cooley (Logan HS/Utah State)
Associated Press

He is his team's second-leading receiver and among the top 10 tight ends in the league. He has caught 60 passes for 664 yards and two touchdowns this season.

9 Carolina WR Steve Smith (Utah)
Associated Press

The feisty veteran receiver is still an elite talent, but his season has been wasted by the subpar play of four different quarterbacks and the team’s conservative play-calling. He has caught 39 passes for 498 yards and two touchdowns so far this season.

8 Carolina OL Jordan Gross (Utah)
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

He is one of few quality players on a Panthers team (1-11) that is the worst in the league. He anchors an offensive line that has struggled, but has played to the best of his abilities.

7 Philadelphia LB Stewart Bradley (Highland High)
Nick Laham, Getty Images

He has come back from missing all of the 2009 season with a torn ACL, and played mostly well at middle linebacker. He is the Eagles’ second-leading tackler with 57 stops, one quarterback sack and an interception.

6 Indianapolis WR Austin Collie (BYU)
Andy Lyons, Getty Images

He has been outstanding when he’s been able to play this season, catching 50 passes for 562 yards and six touchdowns. He has only played sparingly since withstanding a devastating hit and suffering a concussion against the Eagles in Week 9.

5 N.Y. Jets DL Sione Pouha (East High)
Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

He is in his second season as a starter, filling in for injured star player Kris Jenkins. He is a high-energy player who anchors the Jets’ run defense. He has recorded 45 total tackles and a quarterback sack so far this season.

4 San Diego FS Eric Weddle (Utah)
Donald Miralle, Getty Images

Mr. Everything at Utah has become a solid pro and anchors the Chargers’ secondary. He is San Diego’s second-leading tackler with 66 stops and one quarterback sack. The highlight of his season was intercepting Peyton Manning and returning it 41 yards for a touchdown.

3 Pittsburgh DL Brett Keisel (BYU)
Associated Press

He has been hampered by a hamstring injury this season and missed five games, but he showed his value to the Steelers in their win over the Ravens on Sunday. He helps clog the middle while other players take advantage of Pittsburgh’s blitzing schemes.

2 Tampa Bay OL Donald Penn ( Utah State)
Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

He has emerged as one of the top players on a solid young team. At left tackle, he protects the blindside of up-and-coming quarterback Josh Freeman. He signed a six-year, $48 million contract in July and could be headed to the Pro Bowl.

1 Baltimore DL Haloti Ngata (Highland High)
Andrew Burton, Getty Images

He is arguably the most important player on the Ravens’ defense, and as analyst Cris Collinsworth said on Sunday Night Football last week, probably the best defensive lineman in the league. He has recorded six quarterback sacks and 54 total tackles so far this season.