I'm not going to lie, I love lists, and if you say you don't love lists, then you're lying. Admit it, you like them. Love them, maybe! And you NFL fans out there, you at the very least, pay attention to, if not debate and discuss, the NFL's Top 100 list every summer when it's released. You know you do!
I know many of you football fans out there will deny you know it exists, or you'll talk about his willy it is. All I can see is that the NFL wouldn't keep cranking out this sort of multi-episode, uber-postable content if people weren't watching and clicking. Me? I DO love it. I'm a complete dork for lists that flow from month to month, or, in this case, year to year, so you can spot trends.
Yes, the NFL Top 100 is a purely subjective list, voted on by NFL players, but that doesn't mean you can't glean a few things from it, maybe even craft a few hot takes! For the record, per Wikipedia, the purpose of the list is for players to "vote on their peers based on their projected performance for the next NFL season." This is often misunderstood. People will complain when young players with a small body of work catapult past more proven, veteran commodities.
It's not a lifetime achievement list, nor is it a reward for the previous season — it is a look ahead to the next season. In this case, the next season is 2018, and the NFL began its unveiling of the list last Monday, revealing the first 20 players, players 100 through 81, on the list. Here they are:
81. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
82. Marshon Lattimore, CB, Saints
83. Linval Joseph, DT, Vikings
84. J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
85. Bruce Irvin, LB, Raiders
86. Chris Harris Jr., CB, Broncos
87. Andrew Whitworth, T, Rams
88. Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jaguars
89. Jimmy Graham, TE, Packers
90. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers
91. David Bakhtiari, G, Packers
92. Landon Collins, S, Giants
93. Mike Daniels, DT, Packers
94. Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings
95. Lane Johnson, T, Eagles
96. Malcolm Jenkins, S, Eagles
97. Carlos Hyde, RB, Browns
98. CJ Mosley, LB, Ravens
99. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks
100. Ha Ha Clinton Dix, S, Packers
The conventional wisdom, without knowing the goal of this list, says "Wow, J.J. Watt has been injured for two seasons... how is he 84th?!" But again, this is a projection for next season, so clearly his peers see a return to, at the very least, respectability.
So how many other Texans do I see making the list for 2018? I see three, and they're fairly obvious choices. The bigger question is "How long until we hear their name?" Let's project:
DEANDRE HOPKINS — Projected Top 100 slot Over/Under — 19.5
Hopkins was a first-team All Pro last season, and his numbers should only improve with a full, healthy season from Deshaun Watson. As crazy as this sounds, in his five year career, Hopkins has only made this list once, after the 2015 season, finishing 19th.
DESHAUN WATSON — Projected Top 100 slot Over/Under — 29.5
I feel so strongly on this one, I tweeted it out....
With the #NFLTop100 debuting tonight for 2018, where does Deshaun Watson end up on the list. I’m setting the number at 29.5. Over or under?— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) April 30, 2018
(NOTE: OVER would mean he finishes further down the list. Ex: finishing 30th is OVER, 29th is UNDER)
I've heard a lot of "What?!? He only played SIX GAMES!!" Again, it's a projections, and Deshaun Watson is going to be a source for a TON of preseason hype, not just in Houston, but league wide.
JADEVEON CLOWNEY — Projected Top 100 slot Over/Under — 37.5
Clowney has become a very good player the last two seasons, and more importantly, he's been a durable player, which you couldn't say his first two seasons. Last year, Clowney made his first Top 100 last year, coming in at 49th. While Clowney has improved and become a very good player, and soon will become a super highly paid player, the CONCEPT of Clowney outside of Houston, I think, exceeds his actual production. What I'm saying is that I think he gets a bump up from number 49 this year.
TEXANS NFL Top 100 HISTORY
2011: 7. Andre Johnson, 25. Arian Foster, 71. Mario Williams
2012: 15. Andre Johnson, 25. Arian Foster, 54. Brian Cushing, 73. Johnathan Joseph
2013: 5. J.J. Watt, 8. Arian Foster, 14. Andre Johnson, 18. Ed Reed, 48. Duane Brown
2014: 12. J.J. Watt, 21. Andre Johnson, 86. Duane Brown
2015: 1. J.J. Watt, 80. Arian Foster
2016: 3. J.J. Watt, 19. DeAndre Hopkins
2017: 35. J.J. Watt, 49. Jadeveon Clowney
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ALL-TIME NFL Top 100 #1 PLAYERS
2011: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
2012: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
2013: Adrian Peterson, Vikings
2014: Peyton Manning, Broncos
2015: J.J. Watt, Texans
2016: Cam Newton, Panthers
2017: Tom Brady, Patriots
The NFL reveals the remainder of the Top 100 over the next several Mondays at 7:00 p.m. on the NFL Network.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.