A year ago, we'd have scoffed at how this group shook out.
Case Keenum was a journeyman backup with occasional starts under his belt at best. Derek Carr was the next star quarterback. No one placed the two in the same conversation. Then Sam Bradford got hurt, Carr suffered a back injury, the Raiders flopped and the Vikings exploded. As a result, we find the two quarterbacks in the same group of 10 near the middle of the Top 100.
Keenum landed a new gig in a different city as a result, but his contributions cannot go overlooked. The signal-caller stepped in for Bradford and shined, leading the Vikings to a 13-3 record with more than enough offense to go with one of the league's best defenses. We didn't expect it, but we all reveled in it.
Can it happen again? We'll wait until next year's rankings for that answer, but for now, we can enjoy what was a dream for one and a struggle for another. A role reversal could do a whole lot to the Top 100 a year from now, but one thing is for certain: Vikings fans won't forget 2017 any time soon.
Onto the newest crop of Top 100 Players of 2018:
How much did Oakland's regression cost its members? For Jack Del Rio, it was his job. For Carr, it was 51 places in the Top 100. The quarterback who became the league's young darling in 2016 fell back to earth in 2017, due in part to a back injury that limited him to 15 starts and undercut an already-underperforming offense. The quarterback posted his second-lowest touchdown total in his career while also throwing more than twice as many interceptions as he did in the prior season. He and the Raiders lost most of their offensive magic that led them to the playoffs in 2016, exposing Oakland's defensive weaknesses and resulting in a coaching staff housecleaning. Carr still possesses the ability to again land inside the top 25 of the rankings, but his flaws -- an eagerness to take chances with his arm and a tendency to throw off his back foot -- will have to be overcome for he and the Raiders to return to contention.
Hayward's second season with the Chargers (and first in Los Angeles) produced more of the success envisioned when the team added the corner in 2016. As part of the league's third-best defense, Hayward followed up a seven-interception 2016 with four picks, 22 passes defensed and one forced fumble to go along with 40 tackles in 2017. With Hayward back for more, Los Angeles only figures to improve after the addition of Derwin James to a secondary that was already one of the league's best. His small bump in ranking reinforces this thought.
Hey rookie, welcome to the Top 100. Fournette arrived in Jacksonville with high expectations and met them, rushing for 1,040 yards on 268 attempts (3.9 yards per carry) and reaching pay dirt nine times in the process. Fournette also saw a big boost in receiving opportunities, bucking any concerns about his pass-catching ability by snagging 36 passes for 302 yards and one touchdown. His 109-yard, three-touchdown performance in a playoff upset of Pittsburgh capped his impressive rookie season and it appears as though this is just the beginning for the runner.
Washington can look back on 2017 and lament what might have been had the injury bug not bitten the Redskins. The tackle couldn't avoid the scourge, battling through a knee injury and playing in just 10 games as a result. Even then, his reputation hasn't suffered all that much, seeing just a 10-place drop despite the struggles the Redskins encountered in 2017. When healthy, Washington has a franchise left tackle in Williams, who lands in the Top 100 for the sixth-consecutive time in his career and figures to continue playing at a high level for the foreseeable future.
Rivers maintained his place among the league's better quarterbacks in 2017, and if it weren't for kicking miscues early in the season, probably would have been playing in January instead of spending it at home. Rivers' Top 100 tale is an intriguing one: He's bounced between the top 30-60 positions for much of its existence, save for the 2013 rankings, in which he missed it entirely after failing to break 4,000 yards passing for the first time since 2007. At this point, his legacy is all but cemented -- now we're only left to wonder how much longer he'll keep playing.
Rhodes has established his reputation for being a reliable cover corner in the league, and Minnesota's memorable 2017 season only helped his status. The defensive back served as part of the league's best defense in terms of yards allowed per game and second-best pass defense, ranking only behind Jacksonville's suffocating secondary. Rhodes played a major role, recording two interceptions, 10 passes defensed and 56 tackles as the Vikings finished as NFC North champions with a 13-3 mark. More of the same is to be expected from Rhodes.
It wasn't the season most were expecting from the Cowboys, and a lot of that had to do with Elliott, who missed six games due to suspension but still came painfully close to a second straight 1,000-yard season. Elliott needed some time to regain his form, and his suspension didn't help his rhythm, but he remains one of the league's most promising young backs. Behind one of the league's better offensive lines, a return to the upper half of the Top 100 should be expected from the former Ohio State Buckeye.
Denver's fall from grace resulted in a drop for Talib as well, who slides from 37th to 52nd in this year's Top 100. That shouldn't be taken as a criticism of his play, though, as evidenced by the Rams' willingness to give up a fifth-round pick for the veteran corner. Talib leaves what was once a vaunted defense in Denver for a potentially better one in Los Angeles as part of a Rams team that is looking to build off a surprising 11-5 campaign that saw it win the NFC West title. He brings with him an established career that saw him record 31 tackles, seven passes defensed and one interception in 2017.
Landry's time with Miami came to an end after the team franchise tagged him and then dealt him to Cleveland, where he'll join a revamped Browns offense led by quarterback Tyrod Taylor (and eventually, Baker Mayfield). The slot receiver sees a 10-place slide despite more than doubling his touchdown receptions, going from four in 2016 to nine in 2017. His yardage, both in total and average, dropped by over 100 yards in 2017, partially as a result of catching passes from Jay Cutler and not Ryan Tannehill. Numbers aside, the wideout's future remains incredibly bright, and with a quarterback who rarely throws interceptions, Landry figures to break 1,000 yards yet again in his first season in Cleveland.
Keenum's ascension was one of the best stories from 2017, but even with his stellar campaign, his first-time entry in the Top 100 at No. 51 is stunning. Minnesota's offense was a well-oiled machine with Keenum at the controls, outplaying all expectations in relief duty after starter Sam Bradford missed the majority of the season due to injury. The Vikings didn't miss a beat with the crafty Keenum, who was reliably sharp as the starter, enough to earn him a new contract with the Denver Broncos. Even with his excellent 2017, a second appearance inside the Top 60 would be surprising.