NFL Top 100: Just One Raven
Each year since 2011, the NFL players collaborate to vote for their peers in NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players” series. I tend to believe this list holds a bit more weight as it’s voted on by the players themselves. The ones who face off against one another, watch the film on each other in preparation. Guys with first hand accounts of each player’s ability rather than just what the numbers and television shows the rest of us. No hashtags encouraging fans to stuff the ballot box for their favorite, yet underserving guys.
The problem is, the lists tend to favor what’s fresh in everyone’s mind. It’s called the “Top 100 Players for 2016”. But it’s based heavily on what was done in 2015. Hence, why the Baltimore Ravens, coming off an injury ridden 2015 season, have just one player who cracked the list. Why not call it the “Top 100 players OF 2015”? Why not air this shortly after the Super Bowl, or during the Pro Bowl festivities? Well, this is the lull between OTA’s and training camp. The NFL has to remind you 365 days a year that they exist.
The network reveals ten players at a time, once a week starting in May. One week from now, the top ten for 2016 will be released and the conversation, the debate, will continue just long enough to bridge the gap until we reach training camps.
Click here for the list of players 100 through 11 that have been revealed.
Discuss your thoughts on this topic on our message board.
Before we predict the top 10, lets talk about the lone Raven on the list. It was revealed two weeks back that Marshal Yanda made the top 100 coming in at number 37. He is the highest guard on the list. The only other offensive lineman higher on the list is Cleveland Browns tackle, Joe Thomas (#23). Rightfully so, Yanda is voted the top guard, because he is the top guard. I like to refer to Yanda as the best guard in the NFL, except when the Ravens ask him to slide outside to play tackle. At that point, he becomes the best tackle in the NFL.
However, the list is pretty skill position and defense heavy. The only other guard on the top 100 in Richie Incognito (#97). Other than Thomas, three tackles made it: Tyron Smith (#42), Trent Williams (#45), Andrew Whitworth (#47). Just one center made the list, Ryan Kalil (#79). All well deserved.
12 quarterbacks have been listed among the first 90 picks revealed, If I’m right, three more will be listed in the top ten and Joe Flacco isn’t on the list. So the players that voted must feel that there are at least 15 QBs poised for a better 2016 than Flacco, right? Or, is it because he missed significant time in 2015, Flacco isn’t in the minds of these guys who voted? Andrew Luck missed more time and came in at #92. More on that in a bit.
The year after winning the Super Bowl, the players voted Joe Flacco as the seventh best QB and 19th overall player entering 2013. No one would argue with that. Robert Griffin III was ranked ahead of Joe at 15th overall that year though. Ouch. I would disagree with that even then given the nice season Griffin III was coming off of.
We know the usual suspects toping the QB list, but check out some of these names ahead of Joe Flacco:
Blake Bortles (#56). Maybe an actual “for 2016” pick as many find him to be a breakout player. He’s been nothing special in his two young seasons. Led the NFL in INTs last year, and has been sacked the most each of the last two years.
Alex Smith (#81). Does Smith throw any pass longer than ten yards in the air? I guess he remembered that he has wide receivers as they didn’t catch a single TD for him in 2014.
Kirk Cousins (#85). Quite good last year and high hopes for the future among Redskins fans. A fair, if not lower than expected ranking here.
Andrew Luck (#92). Awfully low for the newest, highest paid player in the game whose expectations are sky high. But Luck missed half of 2015 and was sub par in the games he did play. Based on expectations and if it’s a “for 2016” list, I’d switch Bortles’ and Luck’s rankings.
Side Note: Baltimorian’s will agree that Jim Irsay is an idiot. That’s putting it a lot nicer than our fathers and grandfathers would have if speaking of the Irsay’s. In my opinion, giving $87M in guaranteed money to Andrew Luck reinforces that notion that Irsay is an idiot. Each deal has a feeling about it. You have market value (a fair deal), overpaying because the player has leverage (Joe Flacco), overpaying for quarterback insurance (Sam Bradford), then there is what the Colts gave Luck. $27M more in guaranteed money than anyone else, ever. It’s like when the Texas Rangers gave Alex Rodriguez $252M. Except that A-Rod was at that time on the fast track to the Hall of Fame. Luck has a lot more to prove, isn’t in the elite tier of QBs and the team has the leverage over him at the time of the deal. Was Irsay afraid Luck would demand $100M guaranteed if they waited? I get that Luck was going be the highest paid QB when his time came. It’s the way it goes. But $65M couldn’t have done it? Broken the guaranteed money record and made Luck the highest paid, while not taking the price tag to those astronomical heights? For a guy who is not Brady, or Manning, or Rodgers yet? Looks like Jared Goff or Carson Wentz only have to be just good enough in order to get the first $100M guarantee in football.
Back to the list, and finally, Derek Carr (#100). [sighs]
I could go on and on. Plenty of Ravens are capable of being top 100 players in the game. Elvis Dumervil, Steve Smith Sr., Justin Forsett, Marshal Yanda, Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Joe Flacco all made the 2015 list. The only thing that changed is that most of these guys got hurt during this past season. Mosley’s play slipped a little and Dumervil isn’t getting any younger.
Joe Flacco has made every “Top 100” list until this one, but Derek Carr, Alex Smith is on there?
Regardless, don’t let the fact that Marshal Yanda being the only Raven on this year’s list, deter you from what the Ravens have put together as a team for 2016. They are right there where the Ravens thrive. Under the radar, getting no love from the media and in this case, opposing players. At 30-1 odds of winning the Super Bowl, no respect either. Yet the Cowboys are 18-1 favorites, seemingly always favorites among the media. Dallas has won the same amount of playoff games in the last 20 years as the Orioles have won playoff series. Think about that. Given Dallas at 18-1 and Baltimore at 30-1, I’ll take Baltimore every day.
Some can play the “we don’t stand a chance” card with the lack of “Top 100” representation. Considering the team that won it all in 2012, hade five players in the top 22 heading into that year. Haloti Ngata (#9), Terrell Suggs (#11), Ed Reed (#16), Ray Lewis (#20), Ray Rice (#22).
While the Ravens get the Rodney Dangerfield treatment heading into 2016, the top ten players on this list get the opposite. Now, it hasn’t been revealed yet, but if you look at the current list (posted link above) you can figure out pretty easily who should be listed in the top 10 that hasn’t been named yet.
Here’s how I would predict the top ten may shake out. Find out on July 6th.
10. Tom Brady – QB, New England Patriots (2015 rank – #3). If his four game suspension holds up, it hurts his team. Injuries are impossible to predict, but just about knowing you’ll miss four games has to count against you when you split hairs among the best of the best. Was #1 on the first installment of this list in 2011.
9. Adrian Peterson – RB, Minnesota Vikings (2015 rank – #62). Peterson is entering his age 31 season after 357 touches last year. I sense regression from the All-Pro who led the league in rushing yards, attempts, and TDs. Was #1 on this list in 2013.
8. Luke Kuechly – LB, Carolina Panthers (2015 rank – #14) – Guy is the closest thing to Ray Lewis playing the game right now. Extraordinary speed, instincts, footwork, strength, coverage defense and run stuffing ability. He does it all.
7. Odell Beckham Jr. – WR, New York Giants (2015 rank – #32). Best hands in the game. Makes highlight reel catches weekly. Numbers went up from year one to two. Year three for Beckham Jr. could be amazing.
6. Rob Gronkowski – TE, New England Patriots (2015 rank – #10). The guy has to be accounted for at all times. Only a few guys in the league do you have to know exactly where they are all the time. If there is a mismatch, he and Tom Brady will share that before the snap with signals everyone in the world can see. The defense can adjust, and he still makes the plays. He’s a man amongst boys. There are tight ends, then there is Gronk, who is something else.
5. Aaron Rodgers – QB, Green Bay Packers (2015 rank – #2) – No one checks more boxes in what you want out of your quarterback than Rodgers. Cool under pressure. Pocket presence. Throws accurate on the run. Takes great care of the football. Plays well in any conditions. Equivalent of a five-tool baseball player. Was #1 on this list in 2012.
4. Antonio Brown – WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (2015 rank – #8) – Catches so many balls. Yards after catch machine. Dangerously close to breaking the single season receptions mark of 143 by Marvin Harrison (2002).
3. Julio Jones – WR – Atlanta Falcons (2015 rank – #13) – Same type of resume as Antonio Brown. These two could be interchangeable in ranking while the numbers are similar. But I put Jones slightly ahead as he is a year younger than Brown and proved to do more to step his game up as veteran teammate Roddy White saw his production decline.
2. J.J. Watt – DE, Houston Texans (2015 rank – #1) – Just a freak. Led the league in sacks again (17.5). Never misses a game. Was #1 on this list in 2015. What else can you say that hasn’t been said already?
1. Cam Newton – QB, Carolina Panthers (2015 rank – #73) – The reigning MVP, Super Bowl runner-up, entering his prime. I don’t see regression. Wouldn’t be my choice for #1 player in the NFL for 2016, but I can see the players voting this way.
Through five seasons of the “Top 100” series, a player hasn’t been named #1, twice. Cam Newton could keep that trend alive. J.J. Watt has a real chance to repeat. I think I would be shocked to see the players put Brady or Rodgers ahead of Cam. Not in their nature.
But for me, If I was starting a team, it’d start with Aaron Rodgers. I can’t think of a QB I’d rather have lace em’ up for me every Sunday…assuming Joe Flacco was already taken of course.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]