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'Top 100' reaction: Andy Dalton makes first appearance

Fifteen quarterbacks made the NFL Network's The Top 100 Players Of 2016.

Andy Dalton sits smack dab in the middle of that group. Our friendly cast of player-voters ranked seven quarterbacks -- Derek Carr, Andrew Luck, Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith, Blake Bortles, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers -- lower than Dalton, and seven unnamed passers above him.

It serves as a symbolic nod to Chris Wesseling's beloved "Dalton Scale," which presupposes that Cincinnati's starting quarterback -- at least prior to last season -- served as the prime meridian of signal-callers. Among the league's 32 starting arms, anyone ranked above Dalton looms as franchise material; anyone below him is simply a patch at the most important position in sports.

Dalton landed at No. 35 on this year's list, his first ever appearance in The Top 100. Long-ripped (by me, among others) for seemingly hitting his ceiling as a rookie, Dalton drop-kicked his critics through the door last year, operating at an MVP level before a broken thumb ended his season.

It's crystal clear The Top 100 is more of a "What Have You Done For Me Lately" list, meaning that Luck (at No. 92) suffers because of an injury-plagued season, while Dalton's fine outing has him ranked above Luck, Philip Rivers, Le'Veon Bell and Dez Bryant.

No. 35 is too rich for my blood, but Dalton -- after last season -- certainly belongs in The Top 100. Posting a career high in completion percentage (66.1) and a career low in picks (just seven), he calmly guided the Bengals to a 10-2 mark before his thumb exploded.

His season-long string of efficiency marked a turning point in how fans, analysts and fellow players view the oft-maligned quarterback. Dalton has always been seen as the reason the Bengals will never reach the Super Bowl, but he can't be blamed for last year's fizzle-out.

The challenge now is picking up where he left off despite the loss of two key receivers -- Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu -- and quarterback-whispering play-caller Hue Jackson. If Dalton can repeat last year's heroics, he'll more than justify his ranking in this largely frivolous exercise.

Elsewhere in The Top 100:

  1. You're a NFL general manager: Would you rather build your team around quarterback-crushing Ndamukong Suh (No. 40) or Ravens guard Marshal Yanda (No. 37)? The players went with Yanda, a steady Pro Bowler, but the point is that Suh -- attached to a bad Dolphins team in 2015 -- has been sharply undervalued after ranking 24th a year ago.
  1. Kam Chancellor at No. 32? The Seahawks safety has enjoyed a brilliant career, but I struggle placing him 40-plus spots higher than Minnesota's Harrison Smith (No. 73). With only one safety left on the list, look for Tyrann Mathieu to join the club next.
  1. I have no problem with Doug Martin at No. 33. The Bucs runner was supreme for stretches of last season, but we still have two unnamed backs on this list. If those two names aren't Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley, this year's Top 100 should be buried deep below the sea.
  1. Ranked higher than Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas, Allen Robinson (at No. 31) is the latest Jaguar to make The Top 100. A handful of Jacksonville players have been overvalued on The Top 100, but Robinson has a chance to climb even higher next year if he churns out another big season.
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