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?