Analysis  

 

Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt, Cam Newton should rule 'Top 100' list

Print

And then there were 10.

Over the past few months, NFL Network has counted down from No. 100 to No. 11 in "The Top 100 Players of 2016" -- a list compiled by the players themselves. And now, the final 10 names have been revealed. So, what is the official pecking order of these superstars? Well, for the players' answer, you'll need to tune in to NFL Network at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, July 6.

For those of you who can't wait? I'm here for you! Here is how I would personally arrange those names, counting down from 10 to 1:

10) Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants

Odell defies logic. His Spiderman approach to playing receiver is remarkable. His hands -- heck, his one hand -- feel like some kind of video game cheat code. Odell Beckham Jr. has a gift for getting the football, plain and simple. Here is his production in two NFL seasons:

2014 (12 games): 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns.
2015 (15 games): 96 catches for 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns.

This league is supposed to be hard, right?

9) Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers

Carolina's tackling machine is the perfect middle linebacker. He's a classic, a team leader -- the heartbeat of the Panthers, really. And he's a true three-down linebacker who's just as comfortable defending the pass as the run. This kind of skill set is invaluable in 2016, given the game's aerial evolution.

In the playoffs last season, Kuechly logged pick-sixes in back-to-back weeks. He's a middle linebacker, folks. Talk about an incredible sense of timing and ability to shine in big spots.

Kuechly's one of my favorite players in the NFL.

8) Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Over the past three seasons, Brown has piled up some otherworldly numbers: 375 receptions for 5,031 yards and 31 touchdowns. Um ... what? That's an average yearly slash line of 125/1,677/10. Not bad for a former sixth-round pick, eh?

There is nothing Brown can't do on the football field. He has the potential to establish himself as the greatest receiver in Steelers history -- and that says something, considering Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Hines Ward all played in Pittsburgh.

7) Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

When heathy, Julio Jones is the best receiver in the NFL. It's as simple as that. Just look at last season: Jones played 16 games and -- surprise, surprise -- led the NFL in catches (136, tied with Antonio Brown) and receiving yards (1,871).

Jones' blend of size, speed and overall freakiness is something to behold on Sundays. Dude moves the chains for the Falcons, as evidenced by his NFL-high of 93 catches resulting in first downs.

6) Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

He's the best tight end in the NFL, bar none. It's not even close. Gronk is the ultimate weapon in the red zone and on third down. He's unstoppable. There isn't one person in the NFL who can handle this 6-foot-6, 265-pound nightmare. (See: 65 touchdowns in 80 career regular-season games -- and nine touchdowns in 10 playoff bouts.)

Tom Brady is currently facing a four-game suspension to begin the coming season. Gronk is the reason why the Patriots will still be able to win games -- with or without No. 12.

5) Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Earlier this offseason, I ranked him as the most indispensable offensive player in the NFL (not counting quarterbacks). "All Day" remains the best running back in the NFL, producing game after game despite the fact that he's the central focus of every single defense he faces.

Averaging 97.3 yards per game (on 4.9 yards a pop) over the course of his nine-year career, Peterson is a true bell-cow back in an era of committee backfields.

4) Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

He's still Tom Brady. He's still dominant and feared -- especially late in games. At the ripe, old age of 38 in 2015, Brady threw an NFL-high 36 touchdown passes against just seven interceptions, guiding the Patriots to their sixth consecutive season of 12-plus wins.

I believe Tom Brady is the best quarterback in NFL history. Need I say more?

3) Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

Yes, Newton got my AP vote for 2015 NFL MVP. And it's incredible to think about what he accomplished in a sensational campaign without No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin. A career high in touchdown passes (35), a career low in interceptions (10). Oh, and 10 rushing scores, for good measure. Cam is the ultimate dual-threat quarterback in today's game.

He was supremely clutch down the stretch of games last season. Newton took a major step forward -- leading the Panthers to a 15-1 record and Super Bowl appearance -- and the best is yet to come.

2) J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans

Watt wrecks games. He's a freak. He's one of the best defensive linemen in the sport's history. Watt is unstoppable and unblockable.

The stats are fantastic -- 69 sacks and 41 passes defensed in the past four seasons -- but his impact goes way beyond numbers. Having won three of the past four Defensive Player of the Year awards, Watt demands full, undivided attention from opposing offenses. Just watch his game tape: Watt is the bull, the offensive line is the china shop.

1) Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

Of course it's Aaron Rodgers. It's always Aaron Rodgers. He's the best player in the NFL at the most important position in the NFL. Don't let a year without Jordy Nelson -- and with an overweight Eddie Lacy -- cloud your judgement. Rodgers is the league's top player, boasting an incredible skill set and an unreal flair for the moment.

What other quarterback could post a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 31:8, win a playoff game ... and have the season be a big letdown?

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop