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My top 100, 81-100: Jay Ajayi's stellar year leads to debut

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"The Top 100 Players of 2017" is broadcast weekly Mondays on NFL Network at 9 p.m. ET. The conversation continues on the "Top 100 Players Reactions" show, airing immediately after at 10 p.m. ET.

For the second straight year, NFL Media's Ike Taylor will be sharing his own spin on "The Top 100," listing who he thinks are the league's best heading into next season. Let's get started by revealing the first batch of rankings, 81-100:

» No. 81: Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks
» No. 82: Sean Lee, LB, Dallas Cowboys
» No. 83: Malcolm Jenkins, S, Philadelphia Eagles
» No. 84: DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans
» No. 85: Kelechi Osemele, OG, Oakland Raiders
» No. 86: Adam Jones, CB, Cincinnati Bengals
» No. 87: Travis Frederick, C, Dallas Cowboys
» No. 88: Thomas Davis, LB, Carolina Panthers
» No. 89: Cliff Avril, DE, Seattle Seahawks
» No. 90: Dont'a Hightower, LB, New England Patriots

This group includes three linebackers who are the heart and soul of their respective units. Hightower yet again made game-changing plays for the Patriots, while Carolina's Davis (a.k.a. "The Bionic Man") is never denied despite all of his injuries. Lee had a solid 2016 season and I'm curious to see if he can get that unit up to speed with the Cowboys' dynamic offense. A shocker to no one: Avril and Thomas aren't going to be the only defensive players from Seattle on this list. Both deep into their careers, Avril is still getting double-digit sack numbers when most guys begin to slow down, and we all witnessed Thomas' importance when he was gone. If not for the injury, Thomas would've been higher than No. 81. Jones is an old, savvy corner who is still getting the job done in Cincy, while Jenkins continues to be consistent.

Although just three offensive players sit here, don't be fooled: These guys are enforcers. Frederick was an All-Pro and helped rookie Ezekiel Elliott claim the league rushing title. Dallas' O-line was the top unit in the league. As part of another impressive offensive line in 2016, Osemele constantly finished blocks and is a rising star. Murray really impressed with 1,287 rushing yards and nine TDs in a bounceback season, following a disappointing performance with the Eagles. The 29-year-old running back found the Fountain of Youth in Nashville and he'll move up this list with a repeat effort.

» No. 91: Reggie Nelson, S, Oakland Raiders
» No. 92: Darius Slay, CB, Detroit Lions
» No. 93: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
» No. 94: Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins
» No. 95: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Green Bay Packers
» No. 96: Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans
» No. 97: Keanu Neal, S, Atlanta Falcons
» No. 98: Devin McCourty, S, New England Patriots
» No. 99: Trent Williams, OT, Washington Redskins
» No. 100: Adrian Peterson, RB, New Orleans Saints

This group is represented by equal parts veterans and youngsters. The longest-tenured player in this group, 33-year-old Larry Fitzgerald, doesn't look like he's slowing down anytime soon. In 2016, he hauled in 107 receptions for 1,023 yards, marking his fourth season with 100 catches and eighth with at least 1,000 receiving yards. Father Time can't stop Fitz, and I'm loving every minute of it. Although Peterson was injured for most of last season, he sneaked in because he's a threat defenses must account for whenever he's on the field. Safeties Nelson and McCourty are still ballin' deep into their respective careers, while Williams is a grown-ass man. (He just needs to stay on the field.)

On the other side of the age spectrum, Neal was a force in his rookie season, helping the Atlanta Falcons secure a spot in Super Bowl LI. There's nothing funny about the way Ha Ha is playing. He snagged a career-high five INTs in Year 3 and is becoming the real deal. The final DB in this group is "Big Play" Slay -- and he made plenty of those in 2016. Before last season, Slay felt like he was a top cornerback. Then, he got paid and certainly played like one of the league's best CBs.

London's finest figured it out in 2016. Ajayi had a fantastic sophomore season in Miami, eclipsing 200 rushing yards THREE times. Speaking of Year 2 guys, Mariota is a franchise QB with a bright future. It's unfortunate that his late-season leg injury temporarily hindered his progression, but I expect him to bounce back.

Follow Ike Taylor on Twitter @Ike_SwagginU.

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