The NFL Network's widely watched (and also criticized) "Top 100" list finished Thursday night, with Adrian Peterson being named the top player overall.
Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson, Tom Brady, and J.J. Watt finished the top five (in that order), while in the surprise of the night Aaron Rodgers finished at number six.
With the list completely finished now, I have a few comments. Now, the list is completely flawed, and we could talk for hours about all the things that need to change, but I'll keep my thoughts limited to the Colts and the rest of the AFC South (and maybe that one quarterback that used to play in Indianapolis that one time).
I'll start with the big one: Peyton Manning being ranked second overall just one season removed from multiple major surgeries on his neck.
After Aaron Rodgers was ranked sixth overall, fire rained down from Twitter chastising the players, NFL Network and Roger Goodell for allowing Rodgers to be ranked so low. Now, we're not even going to discuss the fact that Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson, and J.J. Watt all had historically great seasons and probably deserved to be where they were.
No, instead I want to talk about the vitriol that Manning received for being ranked the top quarterback while Rodgers was third (somehow Brady escaped this reaction). Just to show this: according to NFL Network's voters on their Top 100 page, Peyton Manning is the only "overrated" player in the top 10, the rest of which were voted by the majority to be underrated. Of course, those same voters voted Ed Reed underrated at number 18 (more on this later), so what do they know?
But when you think about what this list is (the best players in the game right now), and you look at their respective seasons, why is it such an outrage that Manning was rated over Rodgers?
Manning finished better than Rodgers in just about every advanced metric out there for 2012: Football Outsider's DVOA and DYAR, ESPN's Total QBR, Advanced NFL Stat's Expected Points Added, and even Pro Football Focus' cumulative grades. Rodgers held the edge in Advanced NFL Stat's Win Probability Added, and traditional passer rating, if you consider that an advanced metric.
Are we forgetting that Manning led his brand-new team to the AFC's number one seed, while Rodgers and the Packers' failure to get home-field advantage was a huge part of their eventual season-ending loss?
Why is it such a surprise that Manning and Peterson were the CLEAR CONSENSUS MVP candidates for this season, but it was an outrage that Manning was ranked higher than Rodgers? Nobody batted an eye when Rodgers wasn't included in that discussion.
I'm not saying Rodgers wasn't slighted at six. If you were setting up a franchise, he'd be the number one guy you would want right now. But Andrew Luck would be number two, and he belongs nowhere near number two on the NFL 100 list. The list is who is the best players in the NFL right now? The best way to judge that is their most recent work. Rodgers had another great year in 2012, but I'd give the edge to Manning. And while I can understand if somebody disagreed with that, I don't know why it would cause the consternation it did. The evidence for the people above him, namely Manning, was there, and it has it's merits.
Now, a few other notes about the Colts and the AFC South.
- J.J. Watt finished at number five, but he could have been number one. He was that good in 2012, and has the potential to be one of the best defensive linemen to ever play the game. The Colts having to play against him twice a year for ten more years absolutely terrifies me.
- I don't HATE the pick of Arian Foster at number eight, but I don't think he'll be in the top ten next year.
- Andre Johnson was 14th, and the second wide receiver only to Calvin Johnson. That may seem high, but it's really not. I think Andre is one of the most underrated wide receivers ever. He's been incredibly consistent, despite having bad-to-mediocre quarterbacks, and he's been leaned on more than almost any other receiver in history in terms of production. He may start declining soon, but right now, he's that good.
- Ed Reed ranked 18th (and the number one safety) was an absolute travesty. Reed likely isn't even the best safety on his team, with Danieal Manning posting a solid 2012, much less the best in the league. Reed ranking 18th, while Geno Atkins, arguably the best defensive tackle in the game, rated 36th is an absolute sham. Replace Reed with Jairus Byrd, who didn't make the list at all, and the rankings look somewhat plausible.
- Reggie Wayne is ranked 21st because of what he did in 2012, not because of what he will do in the future. Wayne turned in a superhuman effort in 2012, but as the biggest Reggie Wayne fan in the world, I'm saying that he won't turn in that kind of performance again. First because he's slowing down, as he did in the last five or six weeks of the regular season, and second because the Colts aren't going to need him to have that kind of volume production like they did in 2012. That being said, fourth receiver behind the two Johnson's and A.J. Green is a good spot based on last season.
- Andrew Luck is ranked where he was (23rd), on the other hand, not necessarily because of his season in 2012, but because of what it looks like he can and will do next season and beyond. Luck showed tremendous potential in 2012, and I think he will be the best quarterback of the next ten years... but he was not the seventh best quarterback in 2012. Of course, Joe Flacco (19th overall) wasn't the sixth best either.
- To be honest, the Texans' Duane Brown was better than Joe Thomas in 2012. The guy is an absolute stud in run and pass blocking.
- Chris Johnson, even at 62, is overrated. He was better than 2011, sure, but despite his good raw stats, his DVOA was horrible, his EPA and WPA were awful, and his PFF grade was one of the league's worst. Him on this list and C.J. Spiller's absence from it is a horrific oversight.
- Robert Mathis (74) and Dwight Freeney (80) didn't have the numbers in 2012, but watching the tape will show you that they still have the pass rushing ability. However, that is about it for both of them, especially in the Colts' defense. And neither belong ahead of Miami's Cameron Wake (89).
- Bernard Pollard probably isn't the 87th best player in the league. He definitely isn't the 3rd best safety in the league. But his style of play is infectious and he has a huge impact on the game. The Titans got a very good enforcer, even if his spot on this list is not merited.
- Maurice Jones-Drew snuck in on the list at #98, and that's probably fair. An injury cut his 2012 season short, but players still know what he can do. He'll be back carrying another crime of a Jacksonville offense in 2013.
Later this summer I'll come out with my own list (or multiple lists, likely ranking by position), and you can all rip it apart then. But, until then, just rip the NFL Networks.
There were plenty of bad choices outside of the AFC South that I didn't mention. Which most irked you?
So many problems with the Top 100 thing. First, they do it every year, and while I don't mind seeing Lindsay (Soto) Rhodes on TV, the amount of airtime given to this list on NFLN defines self-serving television.
Also, I don't think we know of any actual star player who has ever admitted to voting on this list.
There are way too many skill position players, especially receivers. 18! There is no way that nearly one fifth of the best players in the NFL are wide receivers. Then, RGIII at 15, and also Luck being at 23, are just way too high for one year players.
Personally, as for the three QBs, I'm fine with Peyton at #2 and Peyton being the top ranked QB. He was, to me, the best QB in the NFL last year. What shocks me is the players putting Brady in front of Rodgers. I guess the knock on Rodgers was his 2012 season wasn't as good as his historic, absurdly awesome 2011 season, but then Brady dropped off as well.
Anyway, the only NFLN Top 100 I gave a damn about was their 'Top 100 Players of All Time" they did back during the 2010 season, which had Peyton Manning at #8 (highest ranked active player), which was compiled by sportswriters, front office types, retired players. That list was way better and way more evenly distributed across every position than these Top 100 of 20XX lists.
my only real gripe about this list is the fact that Luck is ranked behind RG3. I didn't really care where they placed Luck, so long as he was ahead of RG3
What really gets me is that Peyton/Brady debate.. The emphasis on rings is sooo annoying, especially since Peyton's win was more recent! how is this debate still shaped by events pre-2005!!?
Now that he is no longer a Colt, I wish I could get over how much it bothers me that people just don't appreciate Peyton Manning. But, alas, at this point it is ingrained in my DNA.
Foolishly, I thought that what he did in Denver in 2012, with the nerves still regenerating in his arm, would silence all the haters. But no, leading a new team to a 13-3 record after missing an entire season and making stars our of Thomas and Decker, is not enough. (When in reality, it is staggering what he accomplished. Staggering.)
I guess the only thing that may shut people up is a 19-0 season.
I've never really cared much about the Top 100 thing. It's popularized almost entirely by the controversy it generates among fans. I enjoyed your take on it, though. I'm surprised there weren't people decrying Tom Brady's spot on the list belowanning (how dare try?). I wonder if that means something.
But the only thing that irked me yesterday was rhe Pacers drafting a guy who could be the next........Sam Young.
Wow, fantastic stuff, I couldn't agree with just about every comment more. Great minds think alike apparently. You nailed it. Ed Reed at 18 is comically stupid (underrated at 18?! Are you kidding me?!), it's clearly more a reflection of his legendary status among other NFL players and not his play on the field, which even the players that idolize him have to realize is rapidly declining. Arian Foster in the top 10 is kind of hard to justify, in my opinion, his backup had a higher yards per rush average last season (granted, on a fraction of the carries).
Just mentioning his name tends to lead to a flame war (he might have the worst fans in sports, not his fault obviously), but RGIII and his 393 pass attempts at #15 seems crazy to me. Like you said, Luck maybe doesn't deserve his #23 ranking either, really rookies probably shouldn't even be considered for the list (not nearly enough info to go on), but RGIII's ranking is more egregious (biased as I am).
Jairus Byrd not making the list is criminal; playing in Buffalo is not great for your exposure apparently. The fact that Dennis Pitta and his 600 yards are on the list (I have to assume, like Flacco, his 4 TDs in the playoffs last season played a major role) but Jairus Byrd is not (the best safety in football since arguably his rookie season) kind of tells us everything we need to know about this list's credibility.
Finally, I think Manning's #2 ranking is justified (could be #1 and I wouldn't mind, QB is obviously the most important position in football), no disrespect to AP who had an amazing comeback of his own, but this time last year people were widely speculating that Peyton would never actually play football again and that even if he did he'd be a shell of himself unable to throw it more than 20 yards. It was also suggested that, even if healthy, Manning was too much a creature of habit (and product of playing in a dome) to thrive on a new team right away, that clearly wasn't the case, he had one of his best season's in an already legendary career. The outrage to me is more about his perceived struggles in the playoffs (the game ending INT last year didn't help, even though he had them in a position to win in regulation), and the simple fact that people are just kind of sick of him. He has a lot of haters.
I have to say though, as much as I LOVE Andrew Luck (and I do), watching that reveal video of Manning at #2 definitely had me feeling nostalgic. Luck was the right call then and still is now, but man, Manning is amazing. So wow, that was almost as long as the story itself.
@DougEngland You probably speak for many of us here on this mater. Except... if he had a 19-0 season, some jerks would say "he's just trying to one-up Brady" or "just padding his stats." The bloggers and fans of other teams. I assume media and players would be more rational. But the world is full of idiots. Can't let them get you down.
@MarcusDugan It's like annual college (b-school, med school, law school) rankings. Is there REALLY such volatility in the quality of these schools from year to year? No, but the magazines have to sell ads and copies, ands so they change their rankings every year. Stir the pot during the summer doldrums to keep eyeballs on your channel/website. (Fun aside: years ago a friend with a Michigan MBA had a job crisis and really couldn't find anything he liked. Then UM's program was ranked #1 by some magazine and he found himself turning down offers and signing bonii left and right, even though he had not changed nor did the quality of the masters he received 3-4 years earlier. Sadly, smart people with big dollars on the line are suckered in by these rankings all the time. Amazing.)
@Colt_Following I can only guess that media guys love shoehorning players into specific characteristics, it seems that the early years of Manning and Brady's careers have defined the media discourse that surrounds them. It looks like something similar is happening with Rodgers, as he won a ring early on.
I also fear that the obsession with running QBs is going to shape the debate in regard to Luck and RGIII..
@Colt_Following The safety rankings in general were really bad. Only five on the list, and two were the Baltimore safeties? That's horrible.