Every year, the NFL polls its players to get their lists of their top players, and out of that, the league compiles its list of the top 100 players in the NFL overall. As is the case with any subjective ranking in any endeavor, the results will often be controversial, and as we’ve already seen based on the release of the NFL’s 100th- through 51st-best players on Sunday, people are up in arms about quite a few things.
Here at Touchdown Wire, we’re not just throwing stones at the rankings other people put together — Doug Farrar and Mark Schofield did their own list of the NFL’s 101 best players, based on comprehensive tape and stat analysis. We’d like to believe that we got everything right, but hey — as we said, these things are all subjective.
That said, here’s how we had it.
Given all that work, we feel qualified to audit the NFL’s list, even though we’re probably not, and when has that ever stopped anybody from spouting off?
This is based on the NFL’s list from 100-51. The NFL Network will have the 50th through the 21st-best players show on Sunday, August 21, and the 20 best players on Sunday, August 28 in a special three-hour show.
Here’s the entire list so far.
ICYMI: Full list of players ranked 100-51 on the NFL Players Top 100.
Players ranked 50-21 will be revealed on August 21.
* The list is voted on by current players.pic.twitter.com/LRN7B0qboF
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) August 15, 2022
We’ll wait to discuss the exclusions until the entire top 100 has been revealed — after all, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves there. But based on the first 50 players ranked, here are some things that really made us shake our heads in wonder.
We are not here to slander Mac Jones. He had a nice rookie season with the Patriots. And maybe the NFL’s list will overcook quarterbacks up top, so Jones’ rightful status as a top-20 quarterback (maybe?) is in line with this. But to say that Jones is a better quarterback than, say, Kirk Cousins at 99? Cousins was the NFL’s most efficient deep passer in 2021 (believe it or not), while Jones tended to struggle with the deep ball. There’s also the matter of Jones’ relative lack of mobility — if you have that issue, you’d better be unreal in the pocket to all areas of the field.
Jones has a lot going for him as a player, but even my informed Patriots fan friends were gobsmacked by this one.
The NFL had Browns guard Wyatt Teller and Joel Bitonio, as well as Cowboys guard Zack Martin, in its bottom 50, with Teller 83rd, Martin 68th, and Bitonio 55th. We like the order here, as Martin and Bitonio were our top two guards, and Teller ranked fifth for us. We’re assuming that Colts guard Quenton Nelson will be somewhere in the top 50, and though Nelson had a bit of an off year by his own preposterous standards, we’re cool with that, too.
But to have Bitonio and Martin in the bottom 50? We do not like this. Perhaps we value guards too highly, but we do not think so. On our list, Martin ranked 33rd overall, and Bitonio (who we believe was the NFL’s best guard in 2021) 21st. It’s part time to give those guards the respect they’ve earned.
Regarding running backs, the NFL’s list had Chicago’s David Montgomery ranked 98th, Arizona’s James Conner ranked 80th, and New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara ranked 51st. With all due respect to these fine players, we would have liked to have seen some backs we think were more deserving, based on their 2021 performances. New England’s Damien Harris, Las Vegas’ Josh Jacobs, Green Bay’s dynamic duo of A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones, and Austin Ekeler of the Chargers would have been good places to start.
Look. We’re not saying that Justin Tucker isn’t a great kicker — he may well be the greatest kicker in pro football history. Let’s go ahead and say that he is, for argument’s sake. Do we really want a kicker on this top 100? In this economy? One of the reasons Tucker made this list was the 66-yard, record-setting, game-winning field goal he kicked against the Lions — a successful try that should have been from five more yards out based on an uncalled delay of game penalty.
When the full list comes out, we’re going to see all kinds of great players omitted from this thing, and one reason for that will be a kicker. That’s a bit tough to stomach.
Knowing Wilson, he’s probably already printed this out and posted it to his bulletin board.
Yes, he missed time for the first time in his career in 2021 due to a finger injury, and he wasn’t always on the same page with his coaches, and his offensive line was once again below par… but 61? That’s going to have Wilson as a quarterback outside of the top 10 at his position, and that doesn’t make a ton of sense. Even with those handicaps, he still threw 25 touchdown passes to just six interceptions, and once again was one of the NFL’s better deep passers.
Perhaps even weirder is the fact that Kyler Murray comes in ahead of Wilson at 57. Murray can be a dynamic quarterback, but does anybody outside of the Phoenix/Glendale area really rank Murray ahead of Wilson? Which quarterback would you rather have? Wilson will have the chance to answer that question in 2022 with the Broncos after a decade with the Seahawks, and we’re thinking that he’ll do exactly that.
Simmons had a breakout season in 2021, and we were all over it — he ranked second behind the obvious (Aaron Donald, of course) in our list of interior defensive linemen, and eighth overall, regardless of position. Simmons was an absolute wrecking ball all season, and the fact that he’s ranked 54th on the NFL’s list? We dunno about that at all. Maybe with another season like he had in 2021, he’ll rocket up the list — and also get the big-time new contract he’s more than earned.
We like Cardinals safety Budda Baker as a playmaker in the short and intermediate areas of the defense, but to rank him 67th overall, with Denver’s Justin Simmons ranked 81st? Perhaps the players ranking Simmons were having a tough time with Simmons’ versatility — Simmons does everything asked of him at a very high level, including covering deep, and that’s something Baker doesn’t really do at that level.
All we’ll say is that we had Simmons ranked 16th overall, and Baker didn’t make the top 101.
We’re all for putting a fullback on the list, especially a fullback with Juszczyk’s general effectiveness and versatility. But given that position, you’d want said fullback to have had some kind of career year, and we’re not sure that was the case for Juice. We also would stump for other fullbacks who had nice effects on their offenses — Patrick Ricard of the Ravens, Jakob Johnson (formerly with the Patriots, now with the Raiders) and Minnesota’s C.J. Ham. It’s a bit like the Justin Tucker pick — we’re going to see other players omitted from the list, and we’re going to wonder about this one.