Before the 2016 NFL season kicks off, SI set out to lend some order to the lists of the league’s elite players, taking stock of every team in the league and every position on the field. The result: Our staff’s ranking of the top 100 players entering this fall, a mix of nuanced analysis and controlled chaos, filled with tough omissions and intriguing debate-starters.
A few notes about the 2016 rankings:
• J.J. Watt, who will be vying for his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award and fifth consecutive first-team All-Pro selection this season, is in danger of missing the first regular season action of his six-year career when the Texans open their season on Sept. 11 against the Bears. His recovery timetable after undergoing mid-July surgery to repair a herniated disc is still murky on the eve of the preseason’s first week. But that didn’t keep his record of dominance from cementing his place at the top of our list.
• The Seahawks lead the league with eight players in this year’s top 100: Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor, Russell Wilson, Michael Bennett, Doug Baldwin and K.J. Wright. The Panthers are right behind them with seven players on the list, followed by the Cardinals, Cowboys and Patriots, who all have six.
• At the other end of the spectrum? The Browns (Joe Thomas), Chargers (Philip Rivers), Titans (Jurell Casey), Jaguars (Allen Robinson) and Lions (Ziggy Ansah) all landed just one player in the top 100.
• The rankings were finalized by NFL writer Chris Burke, who was primarily working off SI’s position-by-position rankings, published earlier this summer. Those rankings were written by Burke, Don Banks, Greg Bedard, Melissa Jacobs, Jacob Feldman, Eric Single and (former SI employee) Doug Farrar.
Without further ado, let the countdown begin.