As the offseason slowly but surely approaches training camp, the NFL Network just concluded their 2018 edition of the league’s Top 100 players as told by the players themselves.
The show has taken place each summer since 2011, when it received instant interest partly thanks to the lack of news during the lockout. Each year, fans vigorously debate the results as much as the players.
Something that was not up for much debate was the league’s best player. Five-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady of the New England Patriots was placed at the top of the list by his peers for the third time since the show’s inception. Brady has now won the honor in 2011, 2017 and 2018 and has placed in the top five every year.
The show advertises itself as a list to rank the top players entering each new season, but this gets a little confusing when it comes to players who missed all or the majority of the prior year. That player will still appear on the list, but they will be ranked much lower than they would deserve while healthy. It is understandable, but also misleading if the list is truly meant to advertise the upcoming season when the player would presumably return to full participation.
For example, J.J. Watt hardly played during the 2017 season and was placed at 84 in this year’s show (the defensive end earned the top spot in 2015). The future of Watt’s career can certainly be called into question because of his inability to stay on the field, but he is still going to be much higher than that if he is. People could look at the list in the future and assume he had a bad year in 2017 because of his low placement. I would suggest either ranking the player where they deserve to be ranked when healthy or disclude them from consideration if they missed a certain number of games.
Watt was not the only example. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is widely considered the best at his position behind only Brady, was ranked number 10 after he missed most of the 2017 season with injury. I suppose this could be forgiven, since he still cracked the top ten, if it had not been for the third ranked player.
Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles, a man who watched in street clothes as his team won their first Lombardi after a fantastic statistical regular season, is the NFL's second best quarterback if you ask the majority of the players who voted. Wentz tore up the league and might have been on his way to the MVP before (you guessed it) he suffered a season ending injury about a month before the playoffs. Yes, he was great in 2018. But if the show is going to punish players based on injury, how can Wentz earn the third overall spot when his team went the distance without him? I understand they want new faces and there would be no point of a show at all if we see the same guys in the same spot each season, but it is just as pointless if the rankings are plain false.
The top ten as a whole shaped up as follows: Brady, Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers (wide receiver), Wentz, Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons (wide receiver), Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers (running back), Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams (running back), Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams (defensive tackle), Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints (quarterback), Von Miller of the Denver Broncos (linebacker) and Rodgers.
As always, it was a very quarterback-friendly list in terms of where they were ranked. This is to be expected. After all, it is a quarterback-driven league and while all positions matter, none is more important.
One of the more favorable selections was Deshaun Watson at 50. The Texans signal caller put on a show in limited 2017 action, but to suggest he is currently the 50th best player in the league after a handful of games and a torn ACL is pretty absurd. The sky is the limit for Watson, but quarterbacks Philip Rivers and Kirk Cousins were unfairly ranked beneath at this point in time him in my opinion. Wentz and Watson were not punished for their injuries like many others seemed to be.
Other members of the Houston Texans to crack the top 100 besides Watson and Watt were wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins at 13 and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney at 32.
Dallas Cowboys in the top 100 included defensive end Demarcus Lawrence at 34, tackle Tyron Smith at 39, running back Ezekiel Elliot at 54 and guard Zack Martin at 71.
The Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams tied for the most players in the top 100 out of any team with seven. Four teams had no players in the top 100: the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears. The Colts and Jets certainly have very little talent on their rosters, especially with the absence of Andrew Luck in Indy, but the Bears and Bucs certainly deserved to have players called.
Tampa was the biggest surprise. Yes, the team had a major breakdown in 2017 after many touted them as a potential playoff team, but they still have playmakers. I am not going to push for Jameis Winston simply because the last thing the list needs is another quarterback (even though you could make a case for Winston and others over some of the arms listed), but defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and wide receiver Mike Evans certainly would have made my top 100.
As for Chicago, running back Jordan Howard is undoubtably one of the top 100 players in football. This is especially true when you consider Carlos Hyde of the San Fransisco 49ers, who shares Howard’s position, was given the 97th slot. In each of his first two seasons, Howard rushed for well over 1,000 yards for the Bears. Hyde has never eclipsed the 1,000-yard total in any of his four seasons nor averaged five yards per carry, which Howard accomplished as a rookie in 2016.
However flawed, the list always sparks lively debate around the league and offers a headline during a slow time.
My top 20 NFL players (just for fun):
(1) Tom Brady, (2) Aaron Rodgers, (3) Aaron Donald, (4) Antonio Brown, (5) Le’Veon Bell, (6) Von Miller, (7) Todd Gurley, (8) Luke Kuechly, (9) Julio Jones, (10) Rob Gronkowski, (11) Khalil Mack, (12) Drew Brees, (13) DeAndre Hopkins, (14) Odell Beckham Jr., (15) Bobby Wagner, (16) Calais Campbell, (17) Russell Wilson, (18) Jalen Ramsey, (19) A.J. Green, (20) David Johnson