There are certain portions of "The Top 100 Players of 2016" list that are defined by the freefall. Great players are consistently great over a long period of time, but perception can often alter another great year in a hall of fame-caliber career.
On Wednesday night, NFL Network revealed Nos. 70-61 of its "Top 100" chosen by NFL players, and what a difference a year makes. Some drops, like LeSean McCoy (29 to 69) were expected. Injury combined with a new offense and a new home stadium are always going to factor into a rankings drop. But some declines, like the monumental 45-point drop for Earl Thomas (21 to 66) and Gerald McCoy (28 to 63), reflect the out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude among voters.
Thomas and McCoy are among the three best players at their position and few would argue this. Thomas' reputation especially took an undeserved bang last offseason during the Kam Chancellor holdout when Thomas admitted he depends on Chancellor to get him lined up. A moment of honesty should not negate the fact that few, if any safeties in football right now have his ability to patrol the middle of a defensive backfield.
McCoy, who is 6-foot-5, 300 pounds, had his third straight season of eight or more sacks from an inside-rush position on a bad defensive line. Show me a general manager in football who would turn down the chance to start either of these players on his opening day roster, and I'll show you someone uninterested in long-term employment.
Other thoughts on the list:
» Welcome back, NaVorro Bowman: It was startling to watch the 49ers' defense at times a year ago, but Bowman was a consistent joy. Coming back from a potentially career-ending knee injury, Bowman looked like the player who commanded the No. 37 spot in both 2013 and 2014.
"I had doubts in my mind -- (I wondered) if I was able to get back to that level," Bowman told Around The NFL at this past year's Pro Bowl in Hawaii. "I started seeing progress and it worked out, man. It's a blessing to see all the respect I get from players in this league. That support system, that's really how you overcome injuries like that in this league."
» Demaryius Thomas is owed a beer from Peyton Manning*:* Area wide receiver drops 42 spots on the list after a season of profoundly poor quarterback play. That is really the only thing I can read from this. Thomas is still one of the five best receivers in the NFL, and put up 105 catches (177 targets) and 1,304 yards last year. The starting quarterback for the majority of the regular season completed nine touchdown passes on the year.
» Will Reshad Jones be happy? Jones considers himself the best safety in football and is holding out until his contract reflects as much. The 28-year-old Pro Bowler and team MVP was one of the few noteworthy defensive players on Miami's roster last year and checks in on "The Top 100" for the first time at No. 64. Is that bad? He beat out Earl Thomas which, again, see above, but he also ranks higher than Vikings safety Harrison Smith. Sixty-four still feels low to me, but it fits with the out-of-sight, out-of-contention, out-of-mind theme quite well.