The natives are restless.
Its June now, no late spring basketball or hockey to calm us, some faint signs of life from the diamond, but nothing yet to figure that this summer will play out unlike most others — at or near the cellar, whether southbound or northbound.
So we turn to the unquenchable obsession, where there is never too much time between early February and late July to engage in football discussion — whose better than who, who stands a better shot at success come fall and whatnot — the platforms are arrogantly aggressive (does ESPN really need multiple daily football programs in mid-March), the arguments themselves often weak, thin and stringy like refuse in the back of a barn, something Crucial Conflict wouldn’t mind lighting up, but it breaks us all down at some point, if you love the game you can’t help it.
My breaking point from this summer’s refuse was the NFL Network’s obvious yearly ploy for attention and ratings, its Top 100 players of the year rankings, which you can view here. The network is halfway through its several-week unveiling, which continues tonight with the start of the top 50.
Judged by the current players of the league themselves and overly-deliberated by the NFLN’s deep roster of former players, the list does do a good job of re-shuffling the deck each year, making all football fans and media think of the top players of the league in a different light, some get renewed appreciation or their first league-wide taste of stardom, others can start seeing the light at the end of their tunnel of stardom or see previously hidden or ignored faults get some time in the sunshine.
For teams, like say the Chicago Bears, who already have four selections in the bottom 50 and stand to see a couple more in the top half of the list, this top-100 business can be reinforcing and a sign that the franchise is on the right end of the talent spectrum in the league, a sometimes rare occurrence.
The best example of that way of thinking is Alshon Jeffrey leaping into the list (he’s one for a good leap), and falling at the very respectable position of 54, higher than notable recievers DeSean Jackson, Wes Welker and Jordy Nelson among others. Jeffrey himself signaled a drastic change in the talent quotient of the Bears last year and he keeps on getting respect for it.
It’ll be interesting to see how that respect will result in changes of opponent strategy against him this coming season, the cool thing about the Bears as presently constructed is that No. 15, Brandon Marshall (a likely holder of a spot in the top-50) makes it hard to decide where to aim your double coverage on any given down.
Here’s more on Jeffrey and the rest of the Bears’ top-100 representation so far.
54 — Alshon Jeffery
Nice to see Alshon’s performance from last year get so much respect. Pure physical talent gets one in the door easiest in the NFL and Jeffrey has so much of that, it was hard to imagine him not getting his due after the 2013 season.
68 — Jared Allen
Allen is a mainstay on lists like this, but he continues to produce, the main reason why his signing by Chicago during the free-agency period was such a big get. Yeah, he did his work in Minnesota to get on the list (including seven straight years of double-digit sacks), but he’s here now, so we claim him.
What they said: “He’s got a mean streak in him like nobody else has and its impressive to watch him day-in and day-out.” — Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings
74 — Tim Jennings
Jennings got to prove that his great 2012 season wasn’t a fluke and he was forced, due to Charles Tillman’s injury, to defend the top receivers in the league week in and week out, earning his place as one of the league’s best at his position.
What they said: “I give him a lot of credit definitely given his stature, he’s a lot smaller cornerback, but he holds his own, for sure.” — Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
91 — Matt Forte
What he said:
Really was all that needed to be said. Of course, running backs in general don’t receive nearly as much respect in the NFL as they used to, the whole “disposable” tag really hurts anyone who plays the position. Still, there are three backs who are ranked higher than Forte on this list — lets go to the numbers from the 2013 season:
Forte — 16 games, 1,339 yds rushing (4.6 avg), 9 rush tds, 594 yds rec (8.0 avg), 3 rec. tds
Eddie Lacy (No. 90) — 15 games, 1,178 yds rushing (4.1 avg), 11 rush tds, 257 yds rec (7.3 avg), 0 rec. tds (NOPE!)
DeMarco Murray (87) — 14 games, 1,121 yds rushing (5.2 avg), 9 rush tds, 350 yds rec (6.6 avg), 1 rec. tds (NOPE!)
Reggie Bush (85) — 14 games, 1,006 yds rushing (4.5 avg), 4 rush tds, 506 yds rec (9.4 avg), 3 rec. tds (NOPE!)
All good seasons, but none of them match up. I don’t know what the hell metrics the players surveyed were using to size up the running backs, but they had to be some other stuff because the numbers themselves only reinforce the real, which is that Matt Forte had one of the best seasons in the NFL in 2013 and there’s only a couple at his position who matched him, none of them have been named yet.
If Bush, surprisingly stable and effective as he was in his first year in Detroit, deserved to be No. 85, Runnin’ 4-Tay should have been no lower than 70, no matter how high or low your running back pedestal is. Pffff, indeed.
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