Who have been the five best Buffalo Bills players so far this season? Here's my list; feel free to leave yours below in the comments section.
5) RB Fred Jackson
He was supposed to be over the hill. He was supposed to play second fiddle to a high draft pick, just like he was supposed to play second fiddle pretty much every year of his career. 2013 was supposed to be the year that C.J. Spiller emerged as the Bills' workhorse back. Instead, Spiller has been dinged up (and not as productive as expected when healthy), Jackson leads all Bills running backs in both playing time and touches, and the 32-year-old veteran continues to make big plays for a struggling offense that needs as many of those as it can get. Jackson remains as good as ever, and arguments that he's the team's mid-season MVP are valid. He's also tied a career high with six rushing touchdowns in just eight games.
4) DL Kyle Williams
We're used to Williams playing at a high level - he's been very good when healthy for the past several seasons - but he's quietly having a career year. He's on pace to set new career highs in both tackles (76; 38 so far this season) and sacks (six; four this year), and has taken advantage of the fact that he's not seeing as many double-teams with more help from his teammates. He's as consistent as ever, and remains a centerpiece for Buffalo's defense. Never, ever listen to anyone who says this guy can't fit a specific defensive scheme.
3) OLB Mario Williams
Finally resembling something close to the $100 million man the Bills paid in March of 2012, Williams currently ranks second in the NFL with 11 sacks, and it won't be surprising if he makes a serious run at Bruce Smith's single-season franchise record of 19 if he keeps playing at his current level. He still disappears for stretches and isn't much of a factor against the run, but he's been outstanding rushing the passer this season, and has spearheaded the Bills' much-improved pass rushing efforts while moving all over the alignment in Mike Pettine's defense.
2) DL Marcell Dareus
Speaking of career years, Dareus is clearly in the midst of his. He fought through an early injury and has, to this point, been the best defensive lineman on the roster. At his current pace, Dareus will obliterate his previous statistical career highs. He already has 38 tackles (his previous high: 43 in 2011) and four sacks (he had 5.5 in each of his first two seasons), and as the year has progressed teams have started to double-team him more frequently in an attempt to slow his roll. After two good-at-best years, the former No. 3 overall pick has emerged in his third season; now, he just needs to prove that he can continue to produce against increased blocking attention to reach the next level.
1) LB Kiko Alonso
It's easy to get caught up in the hype train surrounding Alonso; his play has not, we assure you, qualified as legendary this season. Still, if you can easily avoid the hyperbole of Internet memes, it's tough to understate how valuable an addition Alonso has been. He has played 603 snaps this season, and is the only Bills defender that has yet to take a play off. He measures up statistically, with 81 tackles (second in the NFL) and four interceptions (tied for first), along with a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery; that line has him near the front of Defensive Rookie of the Year chatter. Most importantly, the Bills have the young, active, athletic and versatile linebacker that they have needed since London Fletcher left via free agency after the 2006 season. Every-down linebackers are tough to find, let alone ones that play consistently in coverage and produce at a high level; Alonso is doing all of that as a rookie. Before we start wondering about his ceiling, it's fair to marvel at how high this guy's floor is. He's already an excellent pro.