A trio of aging superstars showed up on the NFL Network's "The Top 100: Players of 2012" unveiling Wednesday night, with Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu and Ray Lewis all cracking the top 20. They were joined by a couple young guns in Jimmy Graham and LeSean McCoy in the 11-20 grouping. It begs the question: Should this list be more about past accomplishments or future potential?
(For the entire list of 11-100, click here.)
Reputation and potential come into play, but there's no debating the best of the bestThe players who voted can't help but take both reputation and potential into account. At the same time, it's hard to argue against Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu being recognized as the top two safeties in this countdown. There could be some argument that Jimmy Graham reached his spot as the top tight end on potential, but he's also a game-changing weapon who is a nightmare for opposing teams. Not to mention, he got better every week last season and finished with some mind-boggling numbers (99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns).
I think in the early stages of the "Top 100," there were more questions to the merit of some players being too high or too low, bringing potential and/or long-time credibility into play. At this point, the top players are probably in their right groupings, regardless of where they are in their careers.
These rankings should be the final capper on the preceding seasonFacts are facts. I've watched Ed Reed routinely torment quarterbacks and Ray Lewis destroy running backs. All you need to do is tune into any Ravens game to see that. That's the reality that voters for the "Top 100" list should be considering. Anything else is just conjecture.
LeSean McCoy had a fantastic 2011, and he seems like a rising star. But he also lives in the fickle world of the NFL running back. Who knows how next season will turn out? If you say you do, you're guessing. That's why the list should be the final capper on the preceding season. Although future casting creates great debate, the actual ranking shouldn't be based on what we don't know.
Ray Lewis and Ed Reed weren't even top-50 players last yearI'd simply like to know what the list is based on. No one really seems to know the criteria of the list or how many players voted on it. Or whether the criteria was changed along the way.
The title says it's all about 2012. In that case, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed certainly don't belong in the top 20. They weren't even top-50 players last year.
Ultimately, I think it should be about the previous season: 2011. And anyone who voted for John Kuhn (who checked in at No. 92) should be eliminated from having a vote in the future.
Ranking the top 100 players is similar to running a teamIf the title is "The Top 100: Players of 2012," then it needs to combine last year's results and what you project for 2012. This is the task you face when you run a team. Do you go one more year with the player or trade him? Do you re-sign the player?
Clearly, Jimmy Graham and LeSean McCoy are very good players. Graham will continue to improve. McCoy might have better stats in the future, but ability-wise, I think this is where he's going to be as a player. As for Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu and Ray Lewis, they were all good players last year, so they should not fall much in the 2012 rankings, if at all.
The list should be all about who'll light up the league in 2012If someone asked me to rank "the top players of 2012," I would vote for the players I expect to star this upcoming fall -- not who excelled in past years or has the potential to be a star in 2013. So even though Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu and Ray Lewis all deserve immense respect for their distinguished careers, I don't think I could have rated them ahead of Ray Rice, Jason Pierre-Paul and others who will light up the league in 2012.
Obviously, this list showcases the respect players have for certain peersWhile it's a toss-up to what the list should be, I know what it IS this year. It's mainly about respect that players have for their peers. You can't tell me Ed Reed is one of the top 20 football players in the game heading into 2012. But has he BEEN one of the best for the last decade? Yes, so he gets the "street cred" vote (this also makes me wonder how Tim Tebow actually made the "Top 100"). You also see how Chris Johnson has no street cred with his ranking of No. 100, while Adrian Peterson will have plenty when his name is revealed in next week's top 10 -- despite his status for 2012 in doubt. John Kuhn has the respect of plenty of defensive players to even see his name included. And so it goes.
So if it's "street cred" this season, going forward, players should answer this specific question: "Who are the 100 best players in the NFL heading into the next season?" Because then it's about who's been great and who's still going to be great next season. If players follow that directive, I think the list will have more balance. And no, I'm not bitter just because there's only going to be two Jets on the list and one didn't even play for the team last year.
The past two seasons should come into play in "Top 100" considerationThe easy answer is both. Technically speaking, it should really be about the past two years and what the player can bring to the table in 2012. If a guy is running out of gas, how can he be a top player this coming season? Going the other way, if a player wasn't very good in 2011, or 2010 for that matter, then he can't be rated highly. A top-100 player must be both productive and consistent, thus going back at least two years seems reasonable. So a rookie in 2011 -- no matter how good -- shouldn't receive too lofty a spot on this list because we haven't seen any kind of body of work.
Let's face it: The list is fun, but it is rife with inconsistencies and in many ways is just a big popularity contest. Not to mention, the quarterback position is so tough to gauge because a good quarterback is so much more valuable than a great fullback.
Citing the Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and LeSean McCoy examples, the Philly tailback should be highest. He has more left in the tank and a higher propensity to play at an All-Pro level in 2012. (And he also has the necessary skins on the wall.)