NFL Network continued its unveiling of "The Top 100: Players of 2012" on Wednesday night, rolling out Nos. 51-60. What was the most surprising development to you?
I thought John Kuhn's No. 92 ranking would go down as the most ridiculous on this list, but Jonathan Vilma at No. 58 tops it. This has nothing to do with bounties. This has everything to do with Vilma missing five games last season and struggling badly when he played.
Vilma brings great leadership and intangibles to the table, but on the field he was a net negative in 2011. He was a below-average starting middle linebacker. Basing the ranking on reputation doesn't make a lot of sense either because his 2010 season was worse. He was a guy whose job was likely to be in jeopardy if not for the league's suspension of him.
Darren McFadden started off the year performing like a top-10 player. He showed the ability to run inside with strength and outside with speed. He also proved to be a threat in the passing game.
Unfortunately, McFadden's injury derailed a great season. Due to that, I probably would not have him as high. Overall, though, I like the grouping of these players.
It was only a year ago that Dolphins left tackle Jake Long was considered to be among the best at his position by his peers. In 2010, in fact, they viewed him as the 28th-best player at any position. Yet now, after an injury-riddled season, Long is just 59th. Ouch.
There have been questions about Long not being a long-term solution at that spot for the Dolphins, and it seems his fellow players have similar concerns. Injuries played a part, but being a strong left tackle is also about confidence level. As in, a quarterback having the confidence to know you won't let him get hit. Long has lost that. Now, one must wonder how those injuries will change his future and if his play and reputation are headed in the same direction.
I'm surprised by how much respect the players have given to Darren McFadden, who shot up from No. 98 in last season's rankings. McFadden ranked ahead of Chris Johnson (No. 100), Marshawn Lynch (No. 94) and Michael Turner (No. 88), despite only playing in seven games last season.
McFadden was pretty impressive during those six games (5.4 yards per carry, on par with Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson), but is it enough for such a high rating? I can understand if you give Adrian Peterson a break, considering his career has been relatively healthy. But why give the benefit of the doubt to McFadden, who has shown he can be brilliant in stretches, but is ultimately brittle and might not ever reach the lofty standards the players obviously have for him?
Patrick Peterson is supremely talented, and is likely to make the top-100 list for years to come because of his physicality, ball skills and return ability. But after just one season in the league, it seems a bit premature to rank him ahead of veterans like Greg Jennings and Jake Long, as well as players rated in the 61-100 range like Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Joe Thomas and even fellow cornerback Carlos Rogers.
This cockamamie list continues to prove one thing: NFL players don't follow NFL football. How else do you explain Darren McFadden moving up 38 spots after playing only seven games in 2011? Last summer, after playing his first somewhat healthy season in three years as a pro, McFadden came in at No. 98. Somehow, he's now jumped up to No. 60 ... even though his last snaps came two weeks before last Halloween.
I guess this means I oughta congratulate Barry Sanders in advance on his placement somewhere in the top 50 -- I can only assume the players haven't heard yet about his retirement.
- Jason Smith NFL.com
Peterson, Jennings ranked a bit too high; McFadden's No. 60 slot makes no sense
Just when I thought the surprises had stopped, we get a ton of them in the 60-51 countdown. When I saw Tony Gonzalez's name, I played a little game with myself and asked how many tight ends I would rather have over Gonzalez. I came up with four -- Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Jimmy Graham and Antonio Gates -- which tells me there's going to be some great respect for the position going forward.
I'm also a little surprised at how high on the list Patrick Peterson is. Don't get me wrong, he's going to be a superstar, but his first season as a "shutdown corner" was just OK. He's here on the strength of his four returns for touchdowns. Breathtaking stuff? Sure. But the No. 55 spot is a little high for a great special teams season.
As far as Greg Jennings goes, I don't agree with his ranking, but I understand it. He had a relatively quiet season in 2011 that saw him catch just 19 passes in his last five regular season games (before he missed time due to injury). He wasn't the best receiver on the Packers last year, yet he clocks in at No. 56. Honestly, I think what got him this spot was a game he didn't play. The first game Jennings missed was Week 14 at Kansas City, where the previously undefeated Packers looked awful offensively in losing to the Chiefs. No coincidence -- adjusting to life without Jennings was difficult for Green Bay.
And finally, was voting for this done like the Pro Bowl, where you have to vote ridiculously early? Because that's the only way I can fathom Darren McFadden at No. 60. He played in seven games last year -- and really only six, with two carries in Week 7 before leaving for the season with another injury. So a good six weeks gets you this spot? And quite honestly, in breaking down McFadden's numbers, he had two incredibly dominant games, two good ones, and two average ones. But the real reason I think McFadden's ranking is too high is because he has never in his NFL career proven he can carry the load himself for an entire 16-game season.