To make this clear right away – I love the NFL Top 100 list. I watch it every single year and they have some great audio clips, commentary and game scenes. But I also often disagree with the rankings, especially because I feel like the players vote for the top performers from the previous season instead of trying to project who the best players during the upcoming season will be. Because of that I listed the most under- and overrated players on the countdown and who I think got snubbed a couple of weeks ago.
Additionally I make my own list every year. To not have to argue about the criteria I didn’t include guys who didn’t play a single snap during the season like Jordy Nelson and Joe Haden, while also excluding someone like Justin Houston, who I’m not sure about if he’ll be cleared to hit the field in 2016. And since Tom Brady will ‘more likely than not’ be suspended for the first four games of the season he also dropped out of my top ten. Other players who struggled with staying on the field in previous years might have also not made the cut.
So here’s my version of the Top 100:
1. J.J. Watt
Irrespective of position – J.J. Watt is the best player in the league. If you look at every other position you have some kind of competition for the top spot among it, but there’s no 3-4 defensive end that brings that kind of disruption. Once again he led the league in sacks and tackles for loss – and no other player gets as much attention as he does. Plus he was at limited strength with a broken arm. Sure the Texans move him around a lot and try to create mismatches, but opposing teams always slide their protection to his side and if they can scheme around him he never gets one-on-ones. Quarterback will always be most important position on the field, but if I started a team I’d look for the best overall player, who plays the hardest and lifts everybody around him up – and that’s him.
2. Antonio Brown
What AB does on the field is ridiculous. He has such a perfect combination of speed, shiftiness, hands and route-running he is absolutely uncoverable. He can catch a slant, make everybody miss and take it to the house, but also run by the entire defense. The stats he put up even with Big Ben out for a quarter of the season are out of this world and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better season by a receiver than what Antonio did in 2015. The thing he does best is to get separation, so you don’t need great quarterback play to get the ball into his hands and once he has it he’s special. Denver’s Chris Harris is one of the very best cornerbacks in the league and AB completely embarrassed him, going off for almost 200 yards and two scores.
3. Aaron Rodgers
I know A-Rod had a little bit of a down year by his standards, but he is still the top quarterback in the game in my opinion and we only talk about the dropoff because he sets the bar so high. No question he has the best throwing arm in football, there are no more than one or two guys who move better inside and outside the pocket than him and it sometimes feels like he plays chess and the defenders are just pawns. With Jordy Nelson coming back he once again has his favorite target and the supporting cast doesn’t have to play leading roles on the offense, Eddie Lacy gets back in shape apparently and the offensive line will also be healthier. The man from Green Bay seems like the favorite to take home the MVP award once again.
4. Aaron Donald
If there’s any player who comes close to what J.J. Watt does it’s the Rams second-year defensive tackle. The cat-like quickness and brute strength Donald has are unheard of from the position with his size measurements. Often times he’s in the backfield before the quarterback has even handed the ball off and in pass sets offensive linemen are so worried about that quick arm-over he can simply run through them on his way to the quarterback. This spot might seem a little high if you consider he’s only been in the league for two seasons, but I’ve seen enough to put him up there with the best.
5. Rob Gronkowski
I know we use that term too often, but Gronk is the ultimate mismatch in the NFL today. It’s not about which coverage defenses play to slow him down or which position his man plays – you need a hybrid with linebacker size and defensive back speed and quickness if you want to give yourself a chance. And it wouldn’t hurt if you had a couple of other guys keeping their eyes on him as well. He is arguably as valuable to the Pats’ offense as Tom Brady because of how he stretches the field and what an unbelievable target he is in the red zone, to make sure you don’t have to settle for field goals.
6. Luke Kuechly
Carolina’s true superman wears a five and a nine on his chest and you can hear him coming with the chant of ‘Luuuke’ growled from the stands. He is without a doubt the top inside linebacker in today’s game and it’s not even close. While he’s a thumper inside who doesn’t mind taking on fullbacks and wrestling down powerful backs it’s his speed and mobility that separate him from the rest of the pack. He runs ballcarriers down sideline-to-sideline and he can sink so deep into coverage to take away posts and seem routes as well as anybody out there.
7. Von Miller
The reigning Super Bowl MVP has just signed the largest contract for any defensive player in NFL history. He earned that money with a playoff performance for the ages. He terrorized Tom Brady and Cam Newton as a pass rusher, but he gets mistaken for a pure QB hunter at times. He is an outstanding run defender for his size and he is in coverage a lot of times as well. If I get the top edge rusher in today’s game and he covers wide receivers man-to-man in the Super Bowl for me I’m smiling from ear to ear as a defensive coordinator.
8. Julio Jones
Julio is referred to as a mutant in his video and I have to agree with that. To be honest – I think his skill set is even superior to the likes of Calvin Johnson. The Bama product came into the league as a deep threat and while he stills brings that element to the game he has learnt how to be a high-volume catch guy and with his size and ball skills he can come down with catches over three people. His success has been overshadowed by a horrible second half of the season for the Falcons, but there’s a reason he finished with the most receiving yards in the league. Just try to stop him.
9. Khalil Mack
The Raiders are a sexy playoff-tip for 2016 and I thought their rise begin after the 2014 draft when they got their franchise quarterback and this beast. Mack is a complete player. He is one of the toughest run defenders when it comes to setting a physical edge or running down plays from behind and he finished second in the league in sacks with 15 thanks to a quick first step and a bull rush that puts offensive tackles on skates. There’s a reason he became the first player ever to be named first team All-Pro at defensive end and outside linebacker in the same year.
10. Tyrann Mathieu
The Honeybadger is the best defensive back in today’s NFL in my opinion. He is a true hybrid, who can do anything you ask him to. He can be the running mate to Patrick Peterson and be their number two corner, he can line up in the slot or control the deep middle. He shows up everywhere on the field and always makes impact plays. Whether that is running across the field to break up deep passes, coming up and making solo-tackles on Adrian Peterson and others or sacking quarterbacks when sent blitzing.
11. Cam Newton
The reigning MVP had a season for the ages. His 45 touchdowns, the Panthers’ almost perfect regular season and the sheer inability by defenses to stop Cam were all crazy. Still – let’s not act like the Super Bowl wasn’t there. I know the Broncos had a phenomenal pass rush and overall defense, but Newton held the ball too long at times and just never got going. I want a leader that plays his best on the biggest stage and he also still has to show me he can play at such a high level every year.
12. Tom Brady
If not for the four-game suspension Brady would certainly be in the top five on my list. He had one of his finest seasons ever and even though he might have had better statistics in previous years here’s why I think this was one of the best I’ve seen him at yet – yeah he lost Edelman and Amendola for a bunch of games, but we’ve seen him do it with mediocre receivers a lot of times in his career. What stood out for me was that awful offensive line and how many changes they had to make. Never has Brady had such bad protection and never has he moved so well in the pocket and gotten the ball out of his hands.
13. Adrian Peterson
AP’s predictions for 2500 yards haven’t held true, but once again he’s led the league in rushing and has been the premier back in the game. He hasn’t lost speed nor quickness or power. He runs like a wild horse and can explode at any point of the game. The reason he’s not in my top ten are the seven fumbles. You just can’t give the football away in the NFL and he has to take better care of it to not hurt his team.
14. DeAndre Hopkins
Nuk has the best ball-skills in today’s game. I’ve said it. I’d put him ahead of Odell and all the other guys. When the football is in the air he gets himself in such great position and comes down with spectacular catches. What he did with four different starting quarterbacks last season and how he carried this offseason was unbelievable. He will only be better with Brock Osweiler and his strong arm.
15. Patrick Peterson
This is the closest thing we have to a shutdown career in the NFL right now. Pat mirrors the game’s best wideouts every single week and shuts them down. And yet he still has the hand-eye coordination to come up with interceptions and the return-ability to create instant offense. It’s harder to measure the value of cornerbacks because they don’t have stats on how many yards they caught passes for, but just look at receiver’s stats on days when number 21 followed them.
16. Russell Wilson
I’d call this guy ‘Russ – The Magician’. What he does when plays break down and he has to make things happen is unreal. If a snap goes over any quarterback’s head the play is basically over, with Wilson the magic starts to happen. But the reason he’s this high is because of the things he did inside the pocket last season. In the second half of it he started standing in there and carving up defenses. Now with Marshawn Lynch hanging it up I expect him to take on a huge role for the Hawks and really take over this league.
17. Fletcher Cox
The Eagles had a terrible season in 2015, but the one bright spot was Cox. He was pretty good the year before, but he grew into one of the elite defensive linemen in the league. I’ve seen him shut down opposing offenses’ running games by himself and beat double-teams to rack up 9.5 sacks and 33 more quarterback hurries.
18. Odell Beckham Jr.
This guy seems to make highlight-reel catches every single week. And even though those huge plays get talked about that much it’s the little things OBJ does that make him special. He’s become a very precise route-runner, who plays angry and when he does that he’s at his best. Just look at what he did to Josh Norman on the final drive of the Giants against the Panthers, when he destroyed him because they were in pure man-to-man coverage.
19. Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben was hurt for a quarter of the season and didn’t put up a great touchdown-to-interception ratio, but when he’s healthy he is one of the best quarterbacks in the game. No doubt about that. He kills defenses from the pocket and he delivers the ball even with rushers draped all over him. With the game’s top receiver on the outside and Le’Veon Bell coming back this offense looks very scary and Ben will be the key to it.
20. Muhammad Wilkerson
Finally Wilkerson got the contract he deserved. It’s absurd this was his first year at the Pro Bowl, but this season he truly raised his game to another level. The Jets might have the top defensive line in football and yet Big Wilk found a way to shine every single. He puts up big numbers and hustles like a mad man.
21. Earl Thomas
Still the top center-fielder in all of football. He controls the deep middle, runs sideline-to-sideline and doesn’t shy away from coming up and throwing his 200-pound body around to make his presence felt.
22. Richard Sherman
Even if he’s not asked a lot to travel with the game’s best wideouts, he is the premiere player at his position when it comes to taking the ball away. I take Peterson over him because he has proven to hold up in man-coverage for entire games, but Sherm can change games.
23. Brandon Marshall
B-Marsh plays angry and seems unstoppable at times when he gets going. He uses his aggressiveness well as a blocker and after the catch packing a mean stiff-arm. He and Eric Decker were one of the best duos out there in 2015.
24. Geno Atkins
This guy is a three-technique terror with a quickness way above the level of standard interior D-linemen and brute strength to humiliate offensive guards. He plays so hard every single play and therefore is disruptive against the run and pass.
25. A.J. Green
No other wideout uses his hands quite as well as A.J. to create separation at the start of his routes and then he has he leaping ability, ball skills and feet coordination to come up with any catch. When the Bengals had their first meeting with the Ravens last season he completely took the game over.
26. Michael Bennett
Although Bennett doesn’t have any elite athletic traits he is a complete player, who is outstanding with his hands and has some of the highest football IQ at the defensive end position. Of course he’s a nightmare in passing situations because Seattle lines him up all over the D-line.
27. Tyron Smith
The premiere left tackle in the NFL today has such great feet, balance and grip on defenders he never really gets out of position and doesn’t let go of his opponents once he gets his hands on them. Plus he has the athleticism to work multiple running schemes which include him as a puller.
28. Le’Veon Bell
When he’s healthy Bell is the best running back in football. He has unbelievable vision and patience and once he picks a gap he bursts through it and then can do it all in the open field – make people miss, simply run them over or even hurdle them. What puts him on top for me is his ability as a receiver, where he can abuse linebackers and has the flexibility to be spread out and run routes as a slot or flanker. (Possible suspension not yet included)
29. Jamie Collins
No doubt this was the biggest snub on this year’s countdown. Collins is the perfect modern-day linebacker with the speed to run with anybody, the intelligence to coordinate his defense and shining playmaking ability.
30. Josh Norman
Nobody made more big plays from the cornerback position in 2015 because quarterbacks tested him early and he made them pay. The Panthers let him go for a reason – their system was CB-friendly. I need to see him succeed when being moved around a little more and when he doesn’t have such great defensive front play in front of him, which he will have to show this year.
31. Drew Brees
This guy’s greatness often gets overshadowed because of his supporting cast. He was without Jimmy Graham and had a horrific defense, which forced him to put the ball in the air a ton and try to score points. If he was on any championship-caliber roster he’d compete for Lombardi’s every single year.
32. Darrelle Revis
Revis Island might not be the same hostile environment for opposing receivers than it once was, but he is such a smart player and doesn’t bite on routes to stay in position the whole time and break up passes. His decline is certainly exaggerated.
33. Lavonte David
The Flash has made so many superhero-like plays since entering the league and last season he did nothing less than that. Other than Kuechly and Collins there are no true linebackers better suited for today’s game than David.
34. Joe Thomas
For the last ten years he’s been the same old Joe – putting on that number 73 Browns jersey and shutting down blind side rushers. The only thing that puts Tyron Smith ahead of him is the difference in athleticism and the resulting flexibility in run blocking schemes, but Joe never does anything wrong.
35. Dez Bryant
Dez was never really healthy and with his quarterback Tony Romo. I expect nothing less from him in 2016 than destroying defenders with his freakish athleticism combined with the monster effort he displays.
36. Carson Palmer
I have Palmer 24 spots lower than where the players ranked him and while that may seem a little low I still think he disappointed in the postseason. He had a mediocre game against the Packers, which they should have won without all the drama at the end and he completely broke down against the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game.
37. Marshal Yanda
No question about it – Yanda is the best guard in football. He combines weightlifter strength and a junkyard dog fight mentality with great technique to dominate opponents.
38. Harrison Smith
There might be no other safety that moves around quite as well for his size as Smith. The ‘Hitman’ is an intimidator once he has his target in sight and he always is around the football.
39. Trent Williams
Everybody talks about Tyron Smith and Joe Thomas as the premiere left tackle in the NFL, but this is a three-man race for that title in my opinion. Williams could even be more athletic than Tyron Smith and while he may lack a little consistency compared to Thomas he brings an element that not a lot of guys at his position have – tenacity. And I love that about him.
40. Chris Harris Jr.
Aquib Talib gets most of the love on Denver’s ‘No Fly Zone’, but it’s actually Harris Jr. who is asked to do the most for them. He matches up against wideouts, slots, even tight ends and other than against Antonio Brown sticks to his man like glue.
41. Todd Gurley
The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year burst onto the scene once the hit the field in his rookie campaign and he was nearly as impressive as OBJ was the year before. I’m rooting for this kid and he could easily be in the conversation for the game’s premiere back from now on, but there’s no rookie I’d put any higher than this before they haven’t shown it to me for more than one season and especially if he doesn’t even play all 16 games.
42. Ezekiel Ansah
With not even five full seasons as a football player this guy is scary. You can see how much better he understands the game now compared to when the Lions drafted him and if he continues to develop his skill set combined with his speed and hustle? Look out.
43. Gerald McCoy
McCoy dropped a lot of spots on the list – just like his teammate Lavonte David – due to a rather disappointing season by the Bucs. When it comes to true three-technique penetrators only Aaron Donald and Geno Atkins can top what G-Mac does.
44. Greg Olsen
The Panthers had one of the worst receiving corps in the league, but they had Olsen. Whenever Cam needed a big play in a critical moment of the game he turned to his Pro Bowl tight-end and it seemed like he never disappointed.
45. Allen Robinson
What a year he had. His 1400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns were among the elite players at the position and with an explosive offense being built around him he won’t slow down any time soon because of his physical gifts and hard work mentality.
46. Chandler Jones
Jones does a great job using his long, lean body to get around offensive tackles and create havoc in the backfield. On a Patriots defense that didn’t have any other true pass rushers he put the heat on opposing signal callers and in 2016 he’ll try to bring that spark to the Cardinals D.
47. Clay Matthews
For the past two seasons Matthews was forced to stay in the middle at a position he never really played at and he performed at a Pro Bowl level nevertheless. Now back at the outside linebacker spot he will only be better.
48. Thomas Davis
There’s nobody who beats up tight-ends and puts on heat through B-gap blitzes better than Davis. He plays both the pass and run extremely well and he comes up with some thump. Plus he plays through injury and pain.
49. Devonta Freeman
Even though Freeman wasn’t even named a starter at the start of the season he made his presence felt running for 9 touchdowns over the first six weeks, but just like the Falcons’ whole team he struggled during the second half of the season only averaging around three yards a carry. If somebody else than Julio steps up in 2016 I see bright things ahead for the former Seminole.
50. Jamaal Charles
I know that the Chiefs bunch did a lot better without Charles this previous year, but he is still one of the most versatile backs in the NFL, he is the toughest guy pound-for-pound and he is the all-time leader in yards per carry.
51. Kawann Short
For all the praise we gave Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman, this inside penetrator was a huge part to the Panthers’ success. He consistently wreaked havoc in the backfield and got QBs rattled.
52. Larry Fitzgerald
Fitz has been in the NFL for quite a while now and even though he might not have breakaway speed anymore it was always his soft hands, ball skills and intelligence that set him apart and he still owns all those traits.
53. Kam Chancellor
The enforcer plays a very important part for the Seahawks defense and it showed when he came back after holding out for a couple of weeks to immediately make an impact when he forced the game-winning fumble against the Lions. His limitations in coverage and how the Hawks make him do the things he does best have him drop a little from where the players ranked him.
54. NaVorro Bowman
After suffering a horrific knee injury in the NFC Championship game in 2014 it took Bowman some time to get back the confidence in his knee. This past season he came back as the league’s leading tackler and he was involved in everything. What he still needs to get back to is his safety-type impact in coverage.
55. Eric Berry
Beating cancer alone is one of the toughest things for anybody, but then being back as the leader of a Chiefs defense and playing at a Pro Bowl form is unbelievable. He still has lots of room to grow as a player though.
56. LeSean McCoy
In his first season under Rex Ryan Shady had some injury problems that kept him from being in the conversation for the elite running backs in the game, but his elusiveness and ability to make things happen when nothing’s there is still at the top.
57. DeMarcus Ware
Ware is one of the very best pass rushers of all time. This year was his first with limited snaps, but the Broncos used him and Von Miller to terrorize opposing quarterback. Never did that show up more than in the postseason, where they neutralized some of the game’s top offenses. But he’s become more of a role player comared to when he played every snap.
58. Doug Martin
Even though he doesn’t like the nickname the ‘Muscle Hamster’ ran wild in 2015 silencing doubters after two injury-filled seasons. He finished second in the league with 1400 rushing yards and also made big plays in the passing game, but I’m not sure if he can keep up with that kind of workload for the years to come.
59. Andrew Luck
2015 was an injury- and disappointment-filled season for Luck and the Colts. But let’s not forgot what he’s done in his career so far. I still think he is the quarterback of the future and he’ll have to prove it this year.
60. Aquib Talib
Talib is one of the best cornerbacks in game, but I have him lower than his running-mate Chris Harris Jr. because he is asked to do more in general and more different things. I also dropped Talib a couple of spots because of the crucial penalties he was responsible for in the biggest games to be honest. That can’t happen.
61. T.J. Ward
Not a lot of people give Ward the credit he deserves. Denver has the best trio of cornerbacks in the league, but T.J. plays a pivotal role to their success, comparable to what Kam Chancellor does for Seattle. And I like Ward better in coverage than Kam.
62. Eli Manning
This could easily be Eli’s best season yet. The last two years he was outstanding, his team just wasn’t. Now with Beckham, rookie Sterling Shephard, hopefully Victor Cruz and a rebuilt offensive line that shows a lot of promise he could have his best year yet.
63. Ndamukong Suh
Suh still had a solid 2015 season, but until he gets his mind right and plays up to his potential I refuse to put him any higher. It’s not enough to be the bully, he has to back it up and help his team win games as well.
64. Ryan Kalil
To me he is clearly the top center in the league. I like his mobility, technique and football smarts. If not for his leadership and intelligence in the middle Cam’s growing as a pocket passer would have never happened in that way.
65. Calais Campbell
This giant has been one of the best 3-4 defensive ends since he became a starter in his second pro-season. He uses his length and power in a great way to push the pocket and take away the quarterback’s vision.
66. Reggie Nelson
There were only a couple of safeties that played better than Nelson in 2015. Now entering his tenth season he has turned into one of the biggest ball-hawks out there with outstanding range.
67. Emmanuel Sanders
I just love how Sanders plays with so much energy and passion. He was a way more consistent receiver than his teammate Demaryius Thomas and he is very versatile. He can play in the slot and run short to intermediate routes, but he’s also a deep threat.
68. Jurrell Casey
What happens with great players that are on bad teams is that they are often forgotten about. Casey is a terror on the inside who can simply push O-linemen around and shrug them off to bring down ball-carriers.
69. Andy Dalton
The Red Rifle came into his own in 2015 and was an MVP candidate at the start of the season. To me one really good year isn’t enough. I think he can pick off from where he left when he went out with injury, but I’ve seen too much bad stuff from him in crucial situations and especially in the playoffs to put him any higher.
70. Linval Joseph
This 330-pound behemoth is one of the greatest players nobody talks about. His ability to split up double-teams and make the tackle is unbelievable. He is the Vikings premiere run stuffer, who can shut down the opponent’s ground game by himself and he averaged around five tackles a game from the nose tackle position.
71. Jarvis Landry
Juice is one of the most underrated wide receivers in the league. Everybody talks about his college teammate Odell Beckham Jr., but it’s actually Landry who caught more passes in his first two seasons as a pro day than anybody in NFL history. I like his ball skills, football moves and physicality.
72. Marcell Dareus
Mr. Big Stuff had a big of a down year compared to the season before that when he was playing the defensive tackle position better than anybody out there. But so did the entire Bills D-line because of the different schemes that kept them from pinning their ears back and just getting after passers. He’s still one of the top defenders and he will pick up those sacks because he can man-handle anybody out there.
73. Marcus Peters
Rookies rarely lead the league in interceptions, but since Peters was put in a starting role right away and opposing quarterbacks thought they could take advantage of the inexperienced cornerback he finished with eight of them, including two he took back to the house. He might get beat sometimes, but he has the confidence to fight back and make big plays himself.
74. Philip Rivers
While the Chargers had a horrible season Rivers was still one of the best passers in the NFL. His numbers were some of the best too. The thing with him is he’s capable of putting up 500 yards and a bunch of TDs ever single week and that’s scary for defenses. If San Diego gets Melvin Gordon and the rushing attack going to take some of the pressure off of Rivers he will be even better and bring in more wins.
75. Reshad Jones
When it comes to safety play and putting up big numbers few did it better than Jones, who not only made big plays when the ball was in the air, but also was the security blanket for the Dolphins when it comes to keeping big plays from being touchdowns. He also made a lot tackles around the line of scrimmage.
76. Cameron Jordan
He was by far the best player one of the worst defenses the last two years. Not only does he put the heat on opposing QBs, he also makes plays in the running game with a bunch of tackles for loss.
77. Vontae Davis
I don’t know what the general perception of Davis around the league is, but to me he’s a true number one corner, who can take away the opposition’s best option in the passing game with his physicality and ability to stay on those guys.
78. Delanie Walker
While he may not possess blazing speed or any other special athletic traits, Walker is the most complete traditional tight-end in the league. On a very inconsistent offense he is the one guy who always delivers and not only makes plays as a receiver but also is one of the top blockers at the position.
79. Mike Daniels
Mike D is all about intimidation and making his presence felt. He tries to overpower his opponents and uses his size to get leverage and stand people up. He might not put up high sack totals since he plays a very underappreciated position, but he is certainly a valuable asset to the Green Bay defense.
80. Chris Ivory
When it comes to power runners I don’t think anybody symbolized that term better than Ivory, who finally broke out in 2015. He was running people straight over and was a pivotal part to the Jets’ success. Unfortunately the difference between him and a guy like Marshawn Lynch is that Beastmode only got stronger the more he got the ball and the later the Seahawks were in the season, while Ivory failed to produce in the final weeks the way he started the year.
81. Joe Staley
Even though the 49ers have seen a dramatic dropoff in offensive line play since their NFC Championship and Super Bowl years, the one main steady was Staley. He has tremendous athletic ability going back to his experience as a tight-end in college and he combines that with great technique and competitiveness.
82. Jordan Reed
Boy did he emerge last season. Reed was expected to turn into one of the biggest weapons at the TE position and while some injuries in his first couple of years kept him from playing up to his potential or seeing the field at all, he is one of the most promising young offensive players. My concern with him are the drops he had on easy catches, although I think most of the them were just a result of lack of concentration.
83. Kirk Cousins
I liked that. I really did. Kirk started the year slowly, but since his heroic performance against the Bucs he looked like one of the elite quarterbacks in the game. I think what hindered him from really coming into his own was a lack of confidence in himself, but once he started believing in himself all his teammates and coaches did the same. If he can keep that level up he’ll rise quickly on my list.
84. Telvin Smith
While Smith might not have the looks of a typical linebacker he has out-of-this world speed and can simply run around guys to blow up plays. With his mobility he brings a lot of versatility in pass coverage while he doesn’t let blockers get their hands on him and attacks downhill.
85. Cameron Heyward
The Steelers defense is starting to take shape again after being one of the older units around the league and with some young studs emerging it’s Heyward who is the leader of the bunch. He plays with so much tenacity and he has the power to run people over and keep them off of him with just one arm.
86. Desmond Trufant
On a very poor Falcons defense Trufant has been one of the few bright spots as he has become a true shutdown corner, who can be put in any scheme. His interception numbers may not be very high, but that’s a result of his excellent coverage over the course of games.
87. Travis Kelce
Kelce has elite hands and runs very precise routes. He can line up everywhere and once the ball is in his hands he is very hard to bring down because his feet never stop and he has a nasty stiff arm.
88. Keenan Allen
In half a season Allen totaled 725 yards receiving on 67 catches before he went out with injury. If you double those numbers he’s up there with some of the best and I consider him as one of those guys.
89. Andrew Whitworth
After being one of the more underrated offensive linemen for quite a while now, Whitworth finally starts getting the credit he deserves as one of the elite tackles in all of football, finally receiving his second invite to the Pro Bowl. He has the mentality that he’s not going to lose and he makes that happen.
90. Bobby Wagner
Wagner is one of the most instinctive and athletic linebackers in the game. He shows up everywhere and is a tackling machine. Not a lot of people talk about him, but he’s an important key to the Seattle D.
91. Derek Carr
I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on him, but Carr looks a lot like a young Aaron Rodgers. He has a very strong arm, great mobility and a knack for big plays. He has a great connection with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and as the Raiders’ rise continues so will his personal game.
92. Blake Bortles
This gunslinger was tied for number two in touchdown passes in the league last year. With the two Allens on the outside the Jaguars made up for one of the most explosive offenses out there. But not only does he have some very good options in the passing game, you also can’t overlook the 18 INTs and in which situations they came up.
93. Matt Forte
This guy has been the biggest workhorse in the league for eight years with the Bears now. He is an all-around complete back, who’s capable of 1000 yards rushing and receiving every single year. Now with the Jets he might once again have a feature role with a lot of inexperience at the QB position if they don’t get a deal done Ryan Fitzpatrick soon.
94. Robert Quinn
Let’s not forget that Quinn was number 13 on the NFL Top 100 in 2014. He missed half the season due to injury and the five sacks were not up to what he was capable of, but he has the get-off, ability to turn the corner and instinct to hunt to be among the top pass rushers once again this year.
95. Demaryius Thomas
I like all the abilities D.T. has. He’s a complete receiver when you look at what he can do. He also has the stats to match that, but he had so many big drops on easy balls in crucial moments and didn’t step up for his team when they needed him – I can’t put him any higher.
96. Josh Sitton
He is a complete offensive guard. He moves people in the run game, but he also excels in pass protection. Sitton was the only guy on the Packers O-line that started all 16 games and he always played consistently.
97. Carlos Dunlap
The Bengals pass rusher had a breakout year almost doubling his average sack number over his career. He and Geno Atkins make for one of the better D-line duos in the league and he can have big games if he runs hot.
98. Derrick Johnson
This guy has consistently been one of the best linebackers out there for more than a decade. He’s kind of unusual in his tackling technique as he dives at opponents’ feet a lot, but he does a lot of good stuff in pass coverage and sniffs out plays pretty quickly.
99. Sammy Watkins
Now entering his third pro season I expect big things out of Sammy. He already showed his abilities occasionally, but he has tremendous speed and ability to separate and turns into a running back once he has the ball in his hands. First I have to see if he’s healthy though before I put him any higher.
100. Richie Incognito
Even though the Bills’ top two running backs LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams were not in Buffalo a year ago I think the biggest reason for the emergence of the running game in the cold North was the addition of Incognito, who simply shoved people around. To me he also is the premiere pulling blocker in the game.
Just missed the cut:
Alex Smith, Tyler Eifert, Sean Lee, Zack Martin, Julian Edelman, Bradley Robey, Amari Cooper, Jonathan Stewart, Kyle Long, Gary Barnidge, Jeremy Maclin, Terron Armstead, Ryan Kerrigan, Doug Baldwin, Travis Frederick, Melvin Ingram, Eric Weddle, Malik Jackson, Darius Slay, Whitney Mercilus, C.J. Mosley, Preston Brown, Tony Romo, Jason Peters, Joe Flacco, T.Y. Hilton, Jimmy Graham, Anthony Barr, Jason Verrett, Terrell Suggs
Will certainly be on the countdown next year – David Johnson:
I really liked this guy when he came out of Northern Illinois. What stood out for me were his skills as a receiver, completely destroying college defenses at times. Once Chris Johnson went out with injury the rookie stepped up and played as well as any back out there. The Cardinals split him out and used him in various positions, which resulted in 12 touchdowns, although he only started five games in the regular season. I expect him to be a key piece to the Cardinals offense and with his abilities he might lead the league in total yards from scrimmage.