- Cue the outrage: No sooner did SI finalize its Top 100 NFL players than the criticism began to roll in. Let's talk it out.
To break down each player featured on SI’s NFL Top 100, our staff split up the league by position and sorted out the elite class at each position on the field. That was simple enough. Comparing wide receivers to edge rushers, or quarterbacks to free safeties, on the other hand? Less cut-and-dry. Our rankings don’t necessarily reflect the individual opinions of the writers and editors that helped build them, so it seems only fair to open to floor to some dissenting opinions.
What’d we get right, what’d we get wrong, and who did we overlook completely? Our writers and editors share their thoughts on the Top 100.
Which player is ranked too high on our Top 100?
Greg Bedard: No. 17 Jamie Collins
17th?! All the players around him, save Harrison Smith, are considered elite if not transcendent players at their positions. Collins is really good and is going to be better, but that’s way too high for him right now. He’s an athletic freak at the position and has to be accounted for, but let’s not forget that he gave up both of the Broncos’ touchdowns to the immortal Owen Daniels in the AFC Championship Game.
Melissa Jacobs: No. 48 Josh Norman
While Norman broke onto the national scene last season, especially in the early weeks, he wasn’t as dominate in coverage as the season wore on. He is ranked as the fourth best corner on this list, which I think is pretty spot on, but he is undeserving of No. 48. Remember Weeks 15 and 16 when he struggled against by Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones, respectively?
Ben Baskin: No. 2 Rob Gronkowski
This is absolutely nothing against Gronk, who may very well be the best tight end of all time already, but he’s still a tight end and thus cannot be the second-best player in the league. This is about how the NFL is set up nowadays more than anything else. I’d have at least three and possibly five quarterbacks ranked above him (and any other offensive player, for that matter).
Amy Parlapiano: No. 36 Todd Gurley
Okay, bear with me before the pitchforks come out. It’s not that I don’t think Gurley is going to be the next great running back, because I do—he certainly proved he has the tools in place to do so after running for 1,106 yards in his rookie season. I just think ranking him this high so early in his career is slanted too heavily toward his future. I’m not convinced he is a better all-around player right now than A.J. Green, Tyrann Mathieu and Michael Bennett.
Which player is ranked too low?
Bedard: All of the quarterbacks
I'm sorry, but if you were putting together a team and you had a top-four pick, you wouldn't be taking J.J. Watt, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Tyron Smith. The top six players should be Rodgers, Brady, Roethlisberger, Newton, Brees and Luck in some fashion, depending on your flavor.
Jacobs: No. 8 Aaron Donald
No one in the NFL can destroy running and passing plays with as much ease as Donald. At 25, he’s already in his prime and should be near the top of this list for years to come. There isn’t much room for Donald to move up, but I would swap him with Tom Brady—he’s that dominant.
Baskin: No. 12 Cam Newton
Newton simply cannot be the 12th-best player in the league. Even if you still put Brady and Rodgers above him in the quarterback pantheon— and really, what does he have do to surpass them if last season wasn't enough?—he’s still one of the best three QBs in the NFL, which should place him no lower than No. 5 on this list. Watt and Miller round out my top five as two guys who are the best at making life difficult for quarterbacks. Sensing a theme?
Parlapiano: No. 32 Odell Beckham Jr.
He’s arguably the most exciting and explosive receiver in the league. He’s not on Antonio Brown’s level yet, but after back-to-back 1,300-plus yard seasons in his first two years in the league, I don’t think it’s crazy to say the 23-year-old is in the top 20 at the moment.
Who is ranked exactly where he should be?
Bedard: No. 25 Marshal Yanda
That seems like a good spot for the reigning best guard in the NFL. He's really, really good, but you wonder how long he stays there with the Panthers' Trai Turner coming up quickly.
Jacobs: No. 5 Aaron Rodgers
With a healthy Jordy Nelson, an improved offensive line and a more dynamic Mike McCarthy, Rodgers is primed to claim no. 1 on this list next year. But coming off his worst statistic year since 2010 it’s hard to make that claim. Still, Rodgers is the NFL’s best quarterback—his arm, the back shoulder pass, his footwork the decision making, it’s all awe worthy. If you consider how the Packers stack up with him, his value becomes even more prevailing. Rodgers is definitely top 5 material.
Baskin: No. 10 Luke Kuechly
Keuchly as the 10th best player in the NFL just sounds right. Last season he became the first player in history to return interceptions for touchdowns in consecutive playoff games. He did that with a torn labrum, which he had surgery on in the offseason. He is far and away the best middle linebacker in the league—a position that is becoming somewhat of an extinct species—uniquely dominant against the pass and the run.
Parlapiano: No. 52 Andrew Luck
No. 52 is fitting for Luck right now—he falls right in between the truly great and transcendent players at the top, and the just very good ones below. Will he be the quarterback of a generation that many assumed he’d be when he was drafted? If so, this is the season where he will prove it.
Who's the biggest snub from our Top 100?
Bedard: Jonathan Joseph
Even at 31 he had an astounding 22 passes defensed, and he rarely gets beat deep. There's a reason beyond J.J. Watt why the Texans were one of the best defenses in the second half last season, and it wasn’t Brian Cushing. It was Joseph and his ability to compete with the No. 1 receivers he faced.
We only have 10 quarterbacks on this list? C’mon, everyone knows the sheer importance of the QB role, which extends far beyond guiding plays. Obviously players like Ryan Tannehill and Mark Sanchez shouldn’t inherently make the list because they play the position, but we could have made room for Matt Ryan and Derek Carr.
Baskin: So many quarterbacks
Eli Manning, Andy Dalton, Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, to name a few. I can pretty much guarantee that if you had an NFL general manager tasked with starting a team from scratch to compete this season, he is picking one of those four quarterbacks above many of those who are on the tail end of this list.
Parlapiano: Richie Incognito
Incognito had a stellar comeback year with the Bills in 2015. With Tyrod Taylor hoping to really break out this year and LeSean McCoy in the backfield, Buffalo trusts he’ll be successful again in 2016—so much so that they gave him a new deal that lasts through the next three seasons. I wouldn’t put him farther up than No. 90, but based on his last season, he deserves some recognition.
Who’ll be on this list by this time next year? The window to make a case for the 2017 Top 100 officially opens this weekend, as all 32 teams begin preseason play. Check out the rest of SI’s 2016 NFL season preview coverage, including preseason power rankings, training camp postcards and fantasy football draft tips.