The "Top 100 Players of 2018" is complete. Another year of rankings has come and gone. And without a doubt, the final results will be used as bulletin-board material for some
The rankings are comprised of votes from the best football players in the world, and we acknowledge they know the game better than anyone else. But even the pros make mistakes. Here are the five biggest in this year's list:
1) Leaving Alex Smith and Anthony Barr out
Leave your stats argument at home. Here are some numbers for your brain: 4,042 yards passing, 67.5 completion percentage, 26 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 104.7 passer rating. Ninth in most completions for 20-plus yards (52), third in most completions for 40-plus yards (13). Does that do enough to shatter all of the (incorrectly) perceived knocks on Smith? It should.
Unfortunately, Smith's unfair and inaccurate reputation for being a game manager and a quarterback who benefits from better teammates has worn into his uniform so deeply that multiple playoff appearances and top-10 numbers don't get him into the "Top 100." Smith has been fighting this stigma since he battled through numerous offensive coordinators and team-wide struggles in San Francisco before finally getting a stable situation with Jim Harbaugh, which was pulled out from beneath him thanks to Colin Kaepernick's surge to stardom in 2012. Even his consistent success in Kansas City hasn't been enough to stabilize his reputation. A 12-4 Chiefs finish in 2016 got him to No. 81 last year, even when his statistics were significantly worse than his 2017 campaign. A 10-6 record dropped him out of the "Top 100" entirely. It's an absolute crime.
Barr's absence isn't nearly as egregious, but is still remarkably surprising. Barr is one of just five players to make the last three Pro Bowls (including the most recent) and a key part of the league's reigning top defense. After three years of being overlooked on this list, Barr appeared set to make the cut. We can't even blame relative anonymity anymore after he unintentionally drew attention for breaking Aaron Rodgers' collarbone.
But, as often goes with these rankings, another year at or near the top of the NFL's defensive rankings could see the Vikings' outside linebacker finally crack this list. After all, he can't be ignored forever.
2) ... and putting Case Keenum in the top 60
Recency bias without question influences these rankings. It happens every year, in part because a lot of the players are polled during the season. Keenum's spot on this year's list is perhaps the best example of this.
Keenum, who ranked 51st in the "Top 100," completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions (passer rating of 98.3). His Vikings finished the 2017 regular season as NFC North champions with a 13-3 mark. Keenum was at the front of the Minnesota train, one of the feel-good stories of the season, a backup called into duty and playing way above his perceived ceiling.
All of that was fine and dandy. Keenum was at times electric in 2017, and it earned him a new job in Denver as the Broncos' starter. But when compared with Smith's 2017 -- he was also the starting quarterback for a division-winning team, mind you -- it suddenly looks less sterling. And there's a 50-plus position (if not more) gap between the two.
Both are now in new cities with new teams, but if I had to make one closing argument on this point, it's this: We don't know how either will fare, but we have a much longer track record for Smith than we do Keenum. Flashes in the pan tend to flourish in these rankings. We'll learn in 2018 whether Keenum is a temporary guest on the list or a mainstay. Smith should be the latter.
3) Odell Beckham Jr.'s free fall
The recency bias also affects players who simply don't play (though it didn't seem to have as drastic of an effect on the newcomers as it has in past years, which we'll get to later).
Take Beckham, for example. The wideout played in just four games in 2017 due to an ankle injury, catching 25 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns. It was the first season in which he didn't break 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns, which is essentially impossible to do in a quarter of a full season. Is that really worth a 69-spot drop?
In a word, no.
When healthy, Beckham is still a top-tier receiver not even at the peak of his career. One needs to look no further than rumblings of his possible move out of New York via trade ahead of the draft, which sparked speculation of his worth. Many pegged him being worth Cleveland's two first-round picks, which were both in the top four. That is about as high as one can value a player -- despite the fact said player was ranked No. 77 on this list.
Perhaps it's a compliment: Beckham still made the 'Top 100' after not playing in 75 percent of the season. But it's also the strongest illustration we can find of players sharing the guilt for this league being a "What have you done for me lately?" business. They're products of the league's environment, but their rankings show they stay true to that standard.
4) Carson Wentz debuting in the top 10
The versatile youngster flourished in Year 2 under Doug Pederson, lighting the league on fire with his highlight-creating play. Wentz completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns (against seven interceptions), and rushed 64 times for 299 yards. When he went down with a season-ending knee injury, it felt as though Philadelphia's season was over, too. We all know how that turned out. But Nick Foles' run to a Lombardi Trophy doesn't distort Wentz's efforts. What does is where he landed in the 'Top 100': No. 3.
Wentz sure appears to be the face of the next generation at the quarterback position. Placing him ahead of established stars and future Hall of Famers seems a tad extreme.
A similar sequence happened a year ago to Oakland's Derek Carr, who made his second appearance in the Top 100 at No. 9. A season of team-wide struggles sent him back to earth, landing at No. 60 this time around.
Not saying Wentz is Carr -- I think Wentz is better, not by a massive margin, but a decent one -- but I am suggesting we pump the brakes on this one, just a bit.
5) Jalen Ramsey better than Patrick Peterson? Jared Goff > Philip Rivers??
If you've made it to here, you know the theme of this: Players have short memories.
Ramsey, a second-year player and first-time All-Pro, dropped in six positions ahead of Peterson, a three-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler. We can't lean on traditional stats here as much -- given that some cornerbacks are avoided more than others -- but we'll dump them on you anyway.
Ramsey: 16 games played, 63 tackles, 17 passes defensed, four interceptions (team finished 10-6).
Peterson: 16 games played, 34 tackles, eight passes defensed, one interception (team finished 8-8).
Ramsey edged Peterson in All-Pro voting this season, which is driven by what a player did in an individual season. For 2017, Ramsey was the better player (on the better team, which also matters), but has a ways to go to compile a career with the cache of Peterson's.
Goff's Rams were also one of the NFL's premier stories in 2017, bouncing back from a 4-12 season to post an 11-5 mark, win the NFC West and become an important part of the league's hierarchy in their second season back in L.A. All of that, plus a 3,804-yard, 28-touchdown season boosted Goff to No. 38 on the list. He looks the part of the franchise quarterback the Rams thought they were getting when they selected Goff No. 1 overall in 2016.
Rivers' Chargers narrowly missed the playoffs in 2017, but are one of the league's most promising squads entering 2018. He outperformed Goff by the eye test and blew him away in passing yards (4,515). But as is often the case here, Goff's team grabbed the headlines while his city's counterpart flew under the radar after a slow start.
In a single-season situation independent of existing coaching staffs, though, I'd be willing to bet that more GMs would take Rivers than Goff. That could change sooner than later, but right now, I'm confident in that statement, even if the ranking doesn't reflect it.