How much is a 5-0 mark as a starter worth? Ten places in the Top 100, evidently.
Jimmy G and his incredible potential got their small sample size in the sun, in which he immediately changed the complexion of a previously moribund franchise, completing 67.4 percent of his passes for 1,560 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions in six games (five starts). Those numbers don't quite blow the doors off those reading them, but the before and after produced such a stark difference, it compelled scores of players to write his name into their ballots. That's respect among peers.
As for the rest of this group..
America hasn't seen a pretty face with a tuft of jet-black hair take the nation by storm like this since Elvis Presley. Jimmy G inspired hope in the hopeless in the Bay Area, going undefeated as a starter in his half-season with the 49ers. The ride has been so wild, it's landed him ahead of a guy who just signed a fully guaranteed contract at the same position. The Garoppolo mania is only just beginning. Will he ever lose? Yes, he will. But it's pretty safe to assume he'll be in this group of 100 for years to come.
It was pretty clear the whole Seattle/ Jimmy Graham marriage wasn't working out going into 2017, and yet, the tight end managed to grab 10 touchdowns, becoming the Seahawks' red-zone tower. He recorded just 57 receptions, started 13 of 16 games and posted his lowest yardage total (520) since injuries limited him to 11 games in 2015, but had his most pronounced impact as a Seahawk. As a result, he's back in the Top 100 for the first time since 2015, this time as one of the newest Green Bay Packers.
Ngakoue should finish higher on this list in 2019 if he keeps his production up. The edge rusher was an absolute terror and key component to Jacksonville's swarming defense, harassing opposing quarterbacks and forcing six fumbles in the process. He's one of my favorite young defenders and is expected to build on his 12-sack 2017 season, which was enough to land him in the Top 100 after just two pro seasons.
Whitworth has been in the Top 100 before (No. 67 in 2016), but he was the Rams' renaissance man in 2017. Quietly, he was also a massive reason the Rams turned the franchise around in a season, serving as the ultra-reliable left tackle for Jared Goff's blindside and a consistent road-grader, opening many a lane for Todd Gurley's rushing efforts. The much-needed veteran presence isn't expected to sustain this level of play for another half-decade, but his 2017 isn't going without recognition with his return to the Top 100.
The No Fly Zone is dead, but Harris is far from finished. While Aqib Talib spends his next chapter in Los Angeles, Harris remains as Denver's best cover corner, essentially matching his stats from the last few seasons and doing enough to keep him in the Top 100. It's not his 2017 ranking of 63, or even his 2016 mark of 52, but it's still in quite a respected group. Harris (and the rest of the Broncos) should see an uptick in reputation and production in 2018, thanks to some offseason additions that include a new pass rusher to line up opposite Von Miller. A better pass rush can only mean good things for the DBs.
Irvin's second season in Oakland brought the best out of the 30-year-old, who posted career highs in sacks (eight) and tackles (58), and forced four fumbles in 16 games for a Raiders defense that lacked bright spots elsewhere. Irvin finds himself in the Top 100 for the first time in his career and appears poised to build on that season in 2018 with a revamped Raiders defense.
We talk about respect and reputation a lot in these pieces, but this ranking has to be the best example of it. A year after appearing in just three games due to injuries, Watt broke his leg in his fifth game of 2017 and missed the rest of the season. That kind of missed time would drop almost every player out of the Top 100. Not Watt. Both years, he remained in the elite group, at No. 35 in 2017 and No. 84 in 2018. Watt terrorizes opposing quarterbacks and offensive tackles and serves as the unofficial mascot of the city of Houston, as best represented by his fundraising efforts after Hurricane Harvey. This is a well-deserved ranking.
Gap-plugging extraordinaire Joseph is back in the Top 100 at No. 83 after landing at No. 76 in 2016 and falling out of the group in 2017. Joseph recorded 68 tackles and 3.5 sacks as part of a Vikings team that reached the NFC Championship Game. He and the rest of Minnesota's front seven combined as part of a defense that finished first in the NFL in yards allowed per game. Not much to argue with here.
Lattimore's most famous play of his rookie season was the butt interception (butt-ception? Butterception?), but he brings much more than unusual takeaways to the table. The Defensive Rookie of the Year grabbed five interceptions and recorded an eye-popping 18 passes defensed in his first campaign, immediately bringing strength to what was an enduring weakness, despite attempts to previously address the secondary. That changed quickly with Lattimore, who should be expected to land inside the top 50 next year.
New Orleans has found success pulling talent from Ohio State, starting with Thomas. The wideout finds himself inside the Top 100 for the first time after a two-season run that saw him post consecutive catch 196 passes for 2,382 yards and 14 touchdowns. Drew Brees found the go-to wideout he's been missing since the departure of Marques Colston, and the Top 100 found one of its most-promising young stars.