The final installment of the annual NFL Top 100 list was released Monday, prompting a plethora of talking points.
The 2017 NFL Top 100 list, voted on by the players, was topped by Tom Brady for the second time. A total of 902 players cast their votes and there were certainly some surprise selections.
Two rookies inside the top 20 and controversial quarterback placements were just a couple of the hotly contested topics. So, here’s a look at a few of the talking points that have emerged from the 2017 list:
Zeke cracks the top 10
Cowboys rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott ranked inside the top ten at the first time of asking after leading the league in rushing in 2016. Elliott posted 1631 rushing yards, scoring 15 times and certainly justified being a top five draft pick.
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The former Buckeye showed off his wide array of skills in one of the most eye catching rookie seasons in recent memory. The multitude of hurdles, jump cuts and power runs he displayed were a sight to take in as he quickly established himself as one of the game’s premier backs.
Elliott’s value only increases with his ability as a pass catcher and run blocker. In these facets he displayed skills and poise well beyond his age and experience. So, despite the lofty heights of number seven looking rather high for a rookie, Dallas’ new star is well deserving of the accolade.
Dak too high?
Elliott’s partner in crime, Dak Prescott, arguably had one of the greatest ever seasons by a rookie quarterback. The fourth round pick out of Mississippi State defied all common belief, stepping in for the injured Tony Romo and leading the Cowboys to the NFC’s best record.
Prescott played with poise, leadership and immense discipline, posting a touchdown to interception ratio of 23-4. There is no doubt he was the story of the season. But, is 14 too high for a quarterback that many wouldn’t rank inside top ten at his own position?
Well, if based purely on last season it is more than fair to have Prescott there. However, if you were to pose the question of who are the top ten quarterbacks in the NFL, the Cowboys signal caller would not likely crack the list.
With some of his early success owing to an outstanding offensive line and the support of an elite running game, it seems premature to rank Dak so high just yet.
Brady, Rodgers, Roethlisberger, Ryan and Wilson just to name a few, are far ahead of Prescott at this stage. That isn’t to say that the now second year pro won’t elevate his game and reach those heights in the near future though.
His ranking seems largely down to an overreaction and buying in to the hype by the players, though that hype is not without substance. This sentiment is shared by Fox Sports radio host Colin Cowherd who suggests that Prescott is being overrated by his peers due to his undeniable ‘it’ factor.
Cowherd said on The Herd: “…Dak Prescott, with a year under his belt, with the best offensive line, the best young running back, good offensive coaches…players vote him above Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck.
“It’s the cool factor. This is what I’ve said about Dak Prescott. It’s not his arm, it’s not his legs, it’s not his size. There is an ‘it’ quality to him, and it works in the locker room.
“…it’s the ‘it’ factor that you can lead alpha males. I think his arm is OK. I think his feet are good, not great. They’re not as good as Russell Wilson’s. His arm is not as good as Andrew Luck. But there is a cool factor with Dak that you can’t deny, and players now have him right behind Derek Carr as the 14th best player in this league. He hasn’t proven anything close to that!”
Controversial Quarterback Ranking
Tying in to the argument surrounding Prescott’s dubious ranking, is one encompassing many of the quarterbacks on the list.
The major issue lies in the ambiguity of the list. Is it a definitive best 100 players, or the best 100 players from last season? Either way, there are certainly some questionable selections involving quarterbacks.
Namely, Andrew Luck, Phillip Rivers and Jameis Winston missing out on top 50 berth’s whilst Marcus Mariota and Matthew Stafford got theirs. The notion that Mariota or Stafford are better than Luck in particular seems absurd.
And it is the Colts signal caller that will draw much of the focus here.
Luck too low
Luck has led a largely underwhelming roster to three playoff appearances in five years, including an AFC championship game.
He is a three time pro bowler, led the league in touchdown passes in 2014 and is undeniably a better all round quarterback than both Mariota and Stafford. On top of this, the two years in which he hasn’t made the pro bowl and the Colts have missed the playoffs, Luck has been injured and missed games.
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The former Stanford signal caller has an impressive career win-loss record of 46-30, with what has been an awful offensive line and defense for the entirety of his career. Now armed with a stable line and an improving defense, his potential is ready to be fully unlocked.
Stafford has a losing record (51-61) in a similarly dysfunctional organisation. The former Bulldog has also only been to the playoffs three times in eight years. The Lions QB is 0-3 in the playoffs whilst Luck is 3-3 with two losses coming against the Patriots.
This goes some way to proving his value over Stafford and Mariota, who has never been to the playoffs despite having a roster with five pro bowlers on it in 2016.
Mariota has a similarly awful win-loss record to Stafford (11-16). And, through his first two seasons has almost 2000 fewer passing yards than Luck. The former Duck also threw for fewer touchdowns than his division rival through year two, despite playing behind one of the league’s best offensive lines.
Aside from the stats, you would be hard pressed to find a GM who would choose to start their franchise today with either Stafford or Mariota over Luck. He is physically and mentally a better quarterback.
To further stress Luck’s value, Pro Football Focus has him ranked 25th on their Top 50 players for 2017, only behind Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers as far as quarterbacks go.
Luck is ranked behind 11 quarterbacks on the NFL Top 100, many of whom are far inferior players. The lowly ranking for the sixth year pro seems to be largely down to his injury troubles. He is similar in this respect to JJ Watt who placed number 35 in 2017.
Luck ranked number 7 in 2015, behind Rodgers and Brady. And, though there are arguments to be made for other quarterbacks being ahead of him. Such as Wilson, Carr and Roethlisberger, the names of Newton, Mariota and Stafford should not be in that discussion.