Sean Pendergast

Texans LT Laremy Tunsil Cracks NFL Top 100 Players at No. 75

Laremy Tunsil is rated the 75th best player for 2021 by his peers.
Laremy Tunsil is rated the 75th best player for 2021 by his peers. Photo by Eric Sauseda
There was a time, not all that long ago, when Houston Texan fans would look forward to the annual release of the NFL Network's "NFL Top 100 Players" rankings, largely because you could expect at least five Texans, if not more, in said rankings. As recently as just three years ago, there was plenty of respect around the league for the Texans' top end talent. DeAndre Hopkins, J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and of course, Deshaun Watson, would all routinely find themselves on the list, which is voted on by players around the league.

Well, those days are long gone, and now those same players are occupying spots in the Top 100 elsewhere (mostly in Arizona). The NFL began its release of this year's Top 100 over the weekend, with players 100-41 being named, and the Texans managed to land one of the spots, with left tackle Laremy Tunsil coming at number 75.

In case, you're wondering, here is the schedule for the release of the remainder of the Top 100, some programming that will be both intriguing and likely infuriating to Texan fans:
This season, The Top 100 Players of 2021 airs during three consecutive weekends in August immediately following live preseason games on NFL Network, beginning Sunday, August 15 with No. 100-41 revealed over the course of six hours starting at 4 p.m. ET. The countdown continues on Sunday, August 22 at 4 p.m. ET with No. 40-11 revealed over the course of three hours, and concludes with a two-hour finale on Saturday, August 28 at 4 p.m. ET revealing the top 10 players. At 6 p.m. ET, The Top 100 Players of 2021 Reaction Show airs, recapping this year's edition of the series.
OK, here are the things you need to know, and that you have to look forward to the rest of the way in this year's NFL Top 100 rankings release:

It's mildly surprising that Tunsil came in as high as 75th
On the heels of his first season in Houston, a Pro Bowl campaign, Tunsil was ranked the 66th best player by his peers heading into the 2020 season. Given the fact that accolades for non-statistical positions like offensive line are often tied to team results, I figured Tunsil might struggle to crack the Top 100 this summer, in the aftermath of the Texans' 4-12 season in 2020. He did drop nine spots, but that backslide was smaller than I expected. Once the Texans trade Watson, Tunsil will be clearly the Texans' best and most decorated player. To be clear, this still doesn't justify the king's ransom that Bill O'Brien gave up to acquire the left tackle from the Dolphins.

Former Texan J.J. Watt comes in this season at number 66 overall
Watt had to be a bit of an enigma for his peers to vote on this summer. On the one hand, Watt's sack production — just five total — was its lowest in a full season since his rookie year in 2011. On the other hand, Watt had literally no help at all in generating a pass rush for a wretched Texans defense. So number 66 on the list feels like a decent way to simultaneously respect what Watt still has left in the tank, while acknowledging that he's not even the most impactful pass rusher in his own family now. One fun fact that signifies Watt's generational greatness — since 2013, the only players to make the NFL's Top 100 each year are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Watt.

Former Texan Tyrann Mathieu comes in at number 58 overall
When Mathieu left for Kansas City for a market setting contract (3 years, $42 million) after his one season with the Texans, I thought that the Texans did the right thing by not matching the Chiefs offer. as it turns out, I may have been wrong on that one. Mathieu has become the heart and soul of the Chiefs' defense, and has been an integral part of a team that's won a Super Bowl and lost a Super Bowl in his two seasons in Kansas City. In 2020, he was rated 39th overall, so this is a bit of a drop for Mathieu, but he is still one of the best in the game.

Where will DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson come in?
As a point of reference, in 2020, Hopkins was rated 8th overall heading into his first season as a Cardinal, and Watson was rated 20th overall heading into what will likely end up being his last season as a Texan. Hopkins should find himself in similar territory this summer. If I had to guess, I'd put Hopkins ranking between 10 and 13 somewhere. Watson is a total wild card. Statistically, he was one of the best individual players in recent history last season, leading the league in passing yards. However, his team went 4-12, and he is more likely to miss the 2021 season with legal troubles than he is to play in it, and if he does play, for whom? If I were voting, I'd just plunk him at 20th overall again, and move on.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast