Top 4 Takeaways From The NFL Top 100 Countdown

Dec 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) runs after the catch against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) runs after the catch against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

The only thing worse than Pro Bowl fan voting and Power Rankings is the NFL Top 100 countdown that occurs each offseason. Aside from the less-than-objective manner in which they lump all player from all positions a single ranking without any clear criteria, no one is even sure what exactly the “Top 100 of 2013” even means. Some suggest that is was the top players from 2012, which would make sense with players like Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson slotted in the No.1 and No.2 spots. Others have suggested it is the a “prediction” of the top players next season, heavily based on their performance from the previous season. Regardless of the lists’ intending meaning, there are some clear flaws with the selection of the players on the list. Here are our Top 4 issues with the players’ rankings:

1. Rookie Infatuation

Robert Griffin III is ranked 15th overall, Andrew Luck is ranked 23rd overall, Russell Wilson ranked 51st overall,  Doug Martin ranked 57th overall, and Alfred Morris is ranked 64th overall. It isn’t necessarily that rookies cannot be in the Top 100 players, especially considering most of those that make the list are 1st-rounders. However, it is a tad ridiculous to see an RG3 over a Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, or Ben Roethlisberger. Switch over to the defensive side of the football and you have Luke Kuechly as one of two middle linebackers to make the cut… really?

2. Big-Market Bias

Much like the fans, players are easily susceptible to influence based off the names they see and hear most frequently on SportsCenter. One could easily make the case that Cameron Wake and Lamarr Houston were the two most dominating all-around 4-3 defensive ends in the NFL last season. Wake is ranked 89th… Houston is not ranked at all… Geno Atkins was undoubtedly the best interior defensive lineman in NFL last season, and should have been considering a strong competitor to J.J. Watts for the Defensive Player of the Year award. He is ranked 36th, with “big namers” like Vince Wilfork slotted above him. The common thread? Lack of national coverage for the team. Players on teams in Oakland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Arizona, Jacksonville, Carolina, and even teams like Miami, outside of their typical offseason accolades, get little to no attention outside of the occasion “Top Not-Plays of the Week.” On the other hand, an above-average performance by a player on a “national spotlight” team can get blown out of proportion. How else do you explain Dennis Pitta make the list?

3. Uninformed Opinions

Not every player has an opportunity to play against every other team, and even if they had, that doesn’t necessarily crown them the king of analysis.  How can an interior offensive lineman objectively rank a cornerback? How does a quarterback rank an offensive lineman from another team? If you want something meaningful, get a Top 10 Defensive Linemen list, voted on by only offensive lineman… or a Top 10 Wide Receivers list, voted on solely by defensive backs.

4. Big-Name Bias

Similar to market size, we all are susceptible to falling prey to the influence of “big names.” Players like Dwight Freeney, Troy Polamalu, Maurice Jones-Drew,  Chris Johnson, and Antonio Gates are primed in our psyche as Top 5 players at their respective positions. In reality, Freeney missed 2 games and recorded only 5 sacks last season, Polamalu played only 7 games, MJD played only 6 games, Johnson averaged under 3.0 yards per attempt in 7 games, and Gates finished the year with under 600 receiving yards. Meanwhile, players like Chris Long, who finished in the Top 3 in total pressures (i.e. sacks, hits on the quarterback, and hurries) on the quarterback for the third consecutive season, remains off the list of Top 100 players in the NFL. Cortland Finnegan led all defensive backs in tackles, managed 3 interceptions, and did not allow a single receiving touchdown in coverage all season… he is not ranked. Darrell Revis essentially sat out the season with a torn ACL… he is 67th on the list. Fitzgerald, who, granted, was stuck on a horrible roster with high-school caliber quarterback play, still only managed 798 yards and 4 touchdowns last season… he is ranked 22nd. Meanwhile, younger players like Torrey Smith, Josh Gordon, Cecil Shorts, Randall Cobb, and Michael Crabtree put up superior numbers to the one-time Pro Bowler and are all omitted from the list. You don’t typically gain a “big game” without a history of success in the NFL, but there to be some happy medium between perception and performance.

Top 5 Most Atrocious Snubs:

1. Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints (85 catches for 982 yards, 9 touchdowns)

2. Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers (85 catches for 1105 yards, 9 touchdowns)

3. Charles Johnson, DE, Carolina Panthers (14 sacks, 74 total defensive pressures)

4. Chris Long, DE, St. Louis Rams (11.5 sacks, 76 total defensive pressures)

5. James Laurinaitis, MLB, St. Louis Rams (142 tackles, 57 defensive stops, 2 interceptions, 0 touchdowns allowed in coverage)

Honorable Mention: Casey Hayward, CB, Green Bay Packers (44.6% catch percentage, 6 interceptions, 0 touchdowns allowed in coverage)

Top 5 Most Atrocious Inclusions:

1. Jacoby Jones, WR, Baltimore Ravens (30 receptions for 406 yards, 1 touchdown)

2. Trent Richardson (3.6 yard per carry, 3 fumbles)

3. Chris Johnson (under 3.0 yards per carry in 7 games, under 4.0 yards per carry in 9 games)

4. Colin Kaepernick (10 total starts in the NFL…)

5. Maurice Jones-Drew (essentially didn’t play last season)

If we missed someone on either of our “Top 5” lists, please comment and let us know your thoughts!