J.J. Watt Named Top Player In NFL Top 100
Photo by Eric Sauseda

J.J. Watt Named Top Player In NFL Top 100

Because the Houston Texans' run at a potential playoff spot in 2014 kind of snuck up on all of us — they won four of their last five using approximately 36 different quarterbacks to finish at a surprising 9-7 — the "will they or won't they, will he or won't he" storyline that carried the day for most of the final two months here in our fair city was actually the NFL MVP race, not the playoff race.

Aaron Rodgers or J.J. Watt? Is a defensive player really more valuable than a quarterback? Can a player from a non-playoff team really be MOST valuable? Is it BEST player or best player on a team that matters? How do we factor in Olivia Munn? (Kidding, sort of.)

Ultimately, and not surprisingly, Rodgers won the 2014 MVP award, and he did it fairly easily, with 31 votes to Watt's 13 votes. A handful of other random players tallied the other six votes. Deep down, even in Houston, most people didn't have a huge problem with this. The NFL is a quarterback's league, and that damn word "valuable" lends itself to the completely flawed logic that you one thousand percent MUST be on a playoff team in order to win an MVP Award.

Then we have the NFL's Top 100, a made-for-TV ranking based on voting from a cross section of players around the league. While in some ways equally flawed as the MVP, I would imagine deep down this ranking may mean more to players than awards voted on by 50 cardiovascularly challenged sports writers. Recognition from your peers (even a small sample space of them) has to pump one's chest up just a little bit extra. Game recognize game, or whatever. 

And so it was that last night J.J. Watt was recognized for the consolation prize that secretly may make him feel superior to Rodgers and everyone else, as the NFL unveiled the final ten players, players 10 through 1, of its annual list for the upcoming 2015 season, the voting criteria of which is steered somewhat nebulously by accomplishments from last season (hence, Antonio Brown at 8th) and prospects for the upcoming season (hence, Adrian Peterson and his one game in 2014, at 62nd). 

Here is the final list with a) current and former Texans in bold, and b) a few thoughts/facts on the list afterward:

1 J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans 
2 Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers 
3 Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots 
4 DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys/Philadelphia Eagles 
5 Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
6 Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions 
7 Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts 
8 Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
9 Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks
10 Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots 
11 Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks 
12 Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs 
13 Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons 
14 Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers 
15 Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys 
16 Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers 
17 Darrelle Revis, CB, New England Patriots/New York Jets
18 Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers
19 Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals
20 Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
21 Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks
22 Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks 
23 Joe Haden, CB, Cleveland Browns 
24 Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions/Miami Dolphins
25 Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland Browns
26 Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers 
27 Justin Houston, LB, Kansas City Chiefs 
28 Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
29 LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles/Buffalo Bills 
30 Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints 
31 Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints/Seattle Seahawks 
32 Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
33 Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos 
34 Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys 
35 T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts 
36 Tyron Smith, OT, Dallas Cowboys 
37 A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals 
38 Brent Grimes, CB, Miami Dolphins 
39 Cameron Wake, DE, Miami Dolphins
40 Jason Peters, OT, Philadelphia Eagles
41 Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle Seahawks 
42 Mario Williams, DE, Buffalo Bills 
43 Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers 
44 Robert Quinn, DE, St. Louis Rams 
45 Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos/Jacksonville Jaguars
46 Elvis Dumervil, LB, Baltimore Ravens 
47 Trent Williams, OT, Washington Redskins
48 Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears 
49 Khalil Mack, LB, Oakland Raiders 
50 DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington Redskins 
51 Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers 
52 Antonio Gates TE, San Diego Chargers 
53 Marcell Dareus, DT, Buffalo Bills 
54 Steve Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens 
55 Sheldon Richardson, DE, New York Jets
56 Lavonte David LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
57 Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears/New York Jets 
58 Connor Barwin, LB, Philadelphia Eagles
59 Vontae Davis, CB, Indianapolis Colts 
60 Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers 
61 Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles/Kansas City Chiefs
62 Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
63 Jerry Hughes, DE, Buffalo Bills 
64 Charles Woodson. S, Oakland Raiders 
65 Justin Forsett, RB, Baltimore Ravens 
66 DeAndre Levy, LB, Detroit Lions Decrease 
67 Tashaun Gipson, S, Cleveland Browns 
68 Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals 
69 Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks 
70 Tamba Hali, LB, Kansas City Chiefs 
71 Julius Peppers, LB, Green Bay Packers
72 Kyle Williams, DT, Buffalo Bills 
73 Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers 
74 Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, New York Jets 
75 Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
76 Sen'Derrick Marks, DT, Jacksonville Jaguars
77 Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons 
78 Ryan Kerrigan, LB, Washington Redskins 
79 Marshal Yanda, G, Baltimore Ravens 
80 Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans 
81 Darren Sproles, RB, Philadelphia Eagles 
82 Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore Ravens/Detroit Lions 
83 Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh Steelers
84 Terrell Suggs, LB, Baltimore Ravens 
85 Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions 
86 Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers 
87 DeMarcus Ware, LB, Denver Broncos 
88 Glover Quin, S, Detroit Lions 
89 Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers 
90 Michael Bennett, DE, Seattle Seahawks 
91 Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots 
92 Aaron Donald, DT, St. Louis Rams 
93 Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys 
94 C.J. Mosley, LB, Baltimore Ravens 
95 Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos
96 Jurrell Casey, DE,Tennessee Titans
97 Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens
98 Adam Vinatieri, K, Indianapolis Colts 
99 Calais Campbell, DE, Arizona Cardinals 
100 Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers 

A few thoughts on the rankings:

1. As you can see, only two current Texans (Watt, Foster) and four former Texans (Williams, Barwin, Forsett, Quin). First, on the two current Texans, it truly accentuates the value that each of them — J.J. Watt and Arian Foster — carry for this team. If either guy goes down for an extended period of time, in which the Texans play teams that they are even with or behind talent-wise, they're screwed.

2. Regarding the former Texans on this list, Justin Forsett wins the "Kevin Malone, If Someone Gives You 10,000-to-1 On Anything, You Take It" award for least likely player to show up on these rankings if you were taking odds this time last season. Amazing, and good for him. That said, Forsett even one spot ahead of Arian Foster (let alone 15 spots) is absurd under any voting criteria.

3. Secondly, on former Texans, if you're looking for a reminder of how badly the Matt Schaub extension before the 2012 season screwed you, Texan fans, just remember that the eleventy billion dollars (actually, $21 million) in dead cap money they had sunk into him was a big reason they were crammed against the salary cap ceiling and couldn't keep together a defense that included Connor Barwin and Glover Quin. (It's actually a little more nuanced than that in 2012, but it's just fun to get mad at Schaub sometimes.)

3a. Also, the Texans let Glover Quin go and signed Ed Reed for about the same cap hit. Never forget. 

4. The random "dude ranked in the 90's where you're like HUH?" (call it the annual Tim Tebow Award) has to be Adam Vinatieri. Seriously, it's a poll voted on by actual NFL players and a kicker got enough unilateral support to finish in the top 100? What the hell is going here?

5. Positional breakdown of the countdown, number of players along with the best player at each of these positions:

QUARTERBACK (12): 2. Aaron Rodgers 
RUNNING BACK (11):  4. DeMarco Murray 
WIDE RECEIVERS (19): 6. Calvin Johnson
TIGHT END (6): 10. Rob Gronkowski
TACKLE (4): 25. Joe Thomas
GUARD (1): 79. Marshal Yanda
CENTER (1): 83. Maurkice Pouncey

DEFENSIVE TACKLE (7): 24. Ndamukong Suh
DEFENSIVE END (10): 1. J.J. Watt
LINEBACKER (16): 14. Luke Kuechly
CORNERBACK (6): 11. Richard Sherman
SAFETY (6): 21. Earl Thomas

KICKER (1):  98. Adam Vinatieri

No respect for offensive linemen, man. Probably because they all got plundered by one JUSTIN JAMES WATT. 

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.

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