Following Wednesday night's episode of "The Top 100 Players of 2014" on NFL Network, there are just 20 names left to be revealed. Here's what we know: Six defensive players remain in play, but only one has been voted into the top 10. So who do you think most deserves that top-10 distinction?
In other words, who should be the top-ranked defender in "The Top 100 Players of 2014?"
Don't punish Watt for Texans' 2013 shortcomingsJ.J. Watt should be the top defensive player on the list, and it's not that close. I'm trying to think of which other players would be in the conversation. The only advantage Richard Sherman has over Watt: his P.R. department, spearheaded by public-relations maven Richard Sherman. Even the Seattle Seahawks value Earl Thomas over Sherman. Robert Quinn had a great season with the Rams, but Watt is more clearly a great player. He shouldn't be punished for the Texans' bad roster and bad luck last year.
Sherman's at the top, but it's a tough callThere are a number of quality defensive players still to be ranked, but my choice for best defensive player is Richard Sherman -- though it wasn't an easy decision. The All-Pro corner had another tremendous campaign last year, leading the NFL with eight interceptions and breaking up 18 passes.
I chose him over the other players remaining for the following reasons: 1) He is the best defensive player on the best defense in the NFL; 2) He is a corner who consistently takes away one side of the field; 3) He plays perfectly in the Seattle system; and 4) He is a physical corner with great size (6-foot-3, 195 pounds), which is what they want from players at the position.
Watt has posted the single best season ever by a D-linemanI was fine with another player (namely, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly) winning the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year award, because the Texans didn't play one game that mattered after Thanksgiving, but J.J. Watt is this generation's dominant defensive force. His ridiculous 2012 season was the best I've ever seen by a defensive lineman -- and that includes Reggie White and Bruce Smith. Watt is in a league of his own, which leaves only one correct answer to this debate.
Something's very wrong if Watt isn't in his rightful spotIf J.J. Watt is not in the top 10 of "The Top 100 Players of 2014" list, there can only be two options: 1) "The Top 100 Players of 2014" program is immediately discontinued and all copies are destroyed, or 2) We take the voting out of the players' hands, because it is exceedingly clear that the players can't have nice things.
Statistically speaking, J.J. Watt is on pace to be the greatest defensive lineman in the history of the NFL. He dominates when his team is good. He dominates when his team is bad. You know that thing about who wins when The Unstoppable Force meets The Immovable Object? J.J. Watt is what would happen if The Unstoppable Force and The Immovable Object met at a bar, fell in love, then had a kid.
All Kuechly does is tackle and make disruptive playsThere are a lot of talented defensive players deserving recognition near the top of the list, but Luke Kuechly is my choice. The third-year pro has been a dominant force since entering the league, earning the Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards in back-to-back seasons.
From a production standpoint, Kuechly is a tackling machine, compiling 150-plus tackles in each season, along with a host of disruptive plays (three sacks and six interceptions) that reflect his playmaking ability in the middle of the Panthers' defense. Factor in Kuechly's impressive instincts, awareness and motor, and there's no doubt in my mind that he deserves to be the top-ranked defender.
Watt was outstanding, even in a 'down' yearIt has to be J.J. Watt. He is widely considered the best overall defensive player in the NFL, much less at his position. Watt can play inside or outside on the line and be disruptive. Frankly, he is a mismatch for any offensive lineman in the league. He plays the run very well, and even in a "down" year last season, he had 10.5 sacks -- outstanding productivity for a 3-4 defensive end.
At some point, Darrelle Revis could reclaim the top spot, but he has something to prove this season in New England.