SI.com's top NFL stories of 2016

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Wednesday December 28th, 2016

With 2016 quickly wrapping up, let’s take a walk down memory lane with SI.com’s NFL writers and look at their biggest stories. From trailing Von Miller after the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 victory and learning the details of Jason Pierre-Paul’s fireworks accident to learning about Ricky Williams’s experience with marijuna and spending time with Aaron Hernandez’s brother, our writers have covered it all this year. Below are some of the most clicked-on stories published in 2016.

Jon Durr/Getty Images

2016 NFL Mock Draft: Projecting the first two rounds

Before the Rams and Eagles pushed all their chips in on the top quarterback prospects, the Titans and Browns controlled the fate of the 2016 draft, holding the first two picks of the first round and facing steep rebuilds to deploy them toward. As teams jockeyed for position and the draft machine churned over the next two months, Chris Burke’s mock drafts climbed to the top of SI.com’s most-read NFL stories as readers let the hypotheticals run wild. Burke’s first projection of the NFL off-season, using the order set just days after Super Bowl 50, ended up nailing a few player-team pairings (Detroit and DT A’Shawn Robinson, the Jets and LB Darron Lee, Cincinnati and CB William Jackson III), but 10 months later, the misses are just as intriguing as the hits. READ HERE.


Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Athletes criticize Cam Newton for walking out of press conference

Really, who can forget the image of Cam Newton slouched in his chair at the post-Super Bowl presser, hoodie pulled up over his head, answering questions with curt, one-word answers. Athletes from all sports slammed Newton on Twitter, bashing him for his lack of professionalism. READ HERE.


Aaron Hernandez’s fall from grace

No one but Aaron Hernandez will ever fully understand why the tight end, who appeared to be the next big player at his position in the NFL, gunned down his friend Odin Lloyd in June 2013. But Aaron’s older brother Jonathan (formerly known as D.J.) was by Aaron’s side from the very beginning, and Michael Rosenberg asks him to tell his side of the story. Odin Lloyd is truly the only victim in the Hernandez saga, but it’s clear from this longform piece that Jonathan’s life has changed significantly since Lloyd’s murder. READ HERE.


Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Peter King: Browns ‘so done’ with Manziel; QB wants to go to Cowboys

As Johnny Manziel’s tumultuous 2015 season with the Cleveland Browns wound to a close, the QB was held out of the final game with a concussion—but photos surfaced of Manziel partying in Las Vegas that weekend, and the team confirmed that he missed a scheduled concussion checkup. The MMQB’s Peter King reported that Manziel, who grew up in Texas and played football for Texas A&M, wanted to play for Dallas. It’s like Manziel knew that the Cowboys would be the best team in the NFL or something in 2016... READ HERE.


Doug Devoe/Sporting News via Getty Images

New details revealed in Manning litigation with ex-Tennessee trainer

Peyton Manning's final season was not free of controversy, the most serious of which stemmed from the emergence of details out of a lawsuit from over 10 years ago, regarding a disputed incident between Manning and Dr. Jamie Naughright on Feb. 29, 1996, when the QB was still at Tennessee. SI.com's legal analyst Michael McCann reviewed the court documents and offered a thorough breakdown of the key points from the multiple lawsuits between the two parties. READ HERE.


Exclusive: Jason Pierre-Paul relives the explosion that destroyed his hand

"Damn. I messed up." That's what Jason Pierre-Paul told SI.com he remembers thinking while en route to the hospital after mangling his hand in a gory fireworks accident. Despite the bleakness of that moment, Pierre-Paul is honest, animated and grateful as he recounts the dramatic event and the recovery process he went through over the following nine months. READ HERE.    


Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

Re-grading 2013 NFL draft classes, three years later

There are a lot of unknowns surrounding the NFL draft, but one thing is guaranteed: experts, including writers here at SI.com, will immediately hand out grades as soon as the rounds end, despite the fact that the players have only been members of their NFL team for a few hours. After the ’16 NFL draft, Greg A. Bedard turned that habit on its head a bit by offering up his draft grades...but for the draft that occurred three years earlier, as he believes that's the proper time frame to fully evaluate players' skills and maturation. Hindsight makes everything a little bit easier. READ HERE.


SI True Crime: The I-5 killer

With the 428th pick in the 1974 NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers selected ... one of the most violent killers in U.S. history. In this longform profile of Randall Woodfield, Jon Wertheim wonders if—and how—football influenced his dark path, taking an in-depth look at the serial killer’s past. READ HERE.


Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Watch: Tom Brady walks out of press conference after Donald Trump question

The Patriots QB has long been a supporter of now-president-elect Donald Trump, but he also rarely addresses politics. So when someone asked him a question about Trump’s ‘locker-room talk’ comments, Brady bolted from the podium with barely a thank you. READ HERE.


Illustration by Nathan Fox

Where Are They Now: The Refrigerator's stubborn spiral

Everybody loves The Fridge. But the former Bears star, now 53, drinks too much, and he stubbornly refuses to do anything he doesn't want to do—including making healthy choices. As a result, the once-beloved football star is dividing his family and slowly imploding. READ HERE. 


The best of the rest...

Football In America: Two of SI’s writers crisscross the nation to determine how exactly we feel about the game right now (by Greg Bishop and Michael McKnight)

• ​Pacman Jones bashes refs in expletive-filled rant on Instagram after Bengals controversially lose to Steelers in playoffs

• ​​How seriously is the NFL taking concussions? Based on how hard Cam Newton was hit in the season opener, not that seriously (by Greg Bishop)

• ​The Saint v. The 'Thug': The complicated truths behind Will Smith’s shooting (by Richard O'Brien)

• ​Ricky Williams is still a pothead, but now, it's not such a bad thing (by Greg Bishop)

• ​Marshawn Lynch opens up to the media for the first time since retirement in this exclusive interview (by Jon Wertheim)

• ​​Wild Ride: The tale of the Broncos’ road to Super Bowl 50 champions (by Greg Bishop)

• How Cowboys QB Dak Prescott turned into the NFL’s top rookie (by Pete Thamel)

• ​Photographer David E. Klutho photographs the Week 1 Titans-Vikings game exclusively with an iPhone 7 plus

• ​​Former professional athletes have found success in the wine industry (by Stephanie Apstein)

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