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'Top 100' reaction: Tyrann Mathieu garners respect

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Last season was Tyrann Mathieu's coming out party as one of the NFL's most valuable defensive stars.

For the first time in his four-year career, the versatile Arizona Cardinals defensive back's greatness has been recognized by his peers.

Mathieu made his debut on NFL Network's The Top 100 Players Of 2016 countdown, coming in at No. 28.

A legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate through early December, the artist formerly known as "Honey Badger" drew comparisons to future Hall of Famers Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu for his unique instincts and natural playmaking ability. NFL Media analyst Brian Baldinger went so far as to label him "pound-for-pound the best player in the league."

It's worth noting that players are instructed to vote based on 2016 expectations, not solely on 2015 results. In other words, Mathieu's top-30 ranking is a well-deserved sign of respect for a player returning from a late-season ACL tear.

Whereas Mathieu struggled to recover pre-injury form after a more severe 2013 knee reconstruction that included an additional LCL tear, his latest ACL tear was "clean." It's reasonable to believe, then, that he has a chance to recapture Pro Bowl form, justifying his lofty ranking.

Elsewhere in Nos. 30-21 of the Top 100:

» Mathieu wasn't the only injured player afforded the benefit of the doubt. Four-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Justin Houston was ranked No. 26 even though the start of his 2016 season is in jeopardy due to an ACL tear of his own. Houston has been one of the league's most effective pass rushers of the past half-decade.
» One season into his career, Offensive Rookie of the Year Todd Gurley is already a top-25 player, per the voters. It's not unrealistic to posit that Gurley can overtake Adrian Peterson as the NFL's rushing leader as soon as this season.

» Is No. 21 too low for Ben Roethlisberger? If Martavis Bryant weren't suspended for the 2016 season, Roethlisberger would be a trendy preseason pick for MVP. The game film shows that he and Carson Palmer were the league's best intermediate/deep passers last season.

» Geno Atkins deserves more respect than a No. 29 ranking. He has been a top-three defensive player in two of the past four seasons, sandwiching an ACL tear that affected his 2013 and 2014 performance. The Bengals' coaches stumped hard for Atkins in the Defensive Player of the Year race last year.

All eight one-hour episodes of "All or Nothing: A Season with the Arizona Cardinals" will be available for Amazon Prime members as part of their membership, and to all Amazon customers starting July 1 via the Amazon Video app for TVs, connected devices including Fire TV, mobile devices and online at Amazon.com/allornothing. For a list of all Amazon Video compatible devices, visit www.amazon.com/howtostream.

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