Mailbag: Whining about the Top 100

June 25, 2012

We unveiled the Top 100 NFL players list last week and got some ... well, some "interesting" feedback, to say the least. The list was called "outrageous" by one reader, "idiotic" by another, and I, personally, was deemed a "schmuck," "a pinhead," and a "lazy, fat couch potato" by a third (all in one email!).

That’s the beauty of lists like these. I can’t disagree or argue with any of those claims (even the last one). With a mailbox full of your emails, I did my best to respond to any and all that came my way. Here were the best of ‘em:

1. He’s Suh Overrated

I understand that he was a Heisman finalist and I know he had a nice rookie year, but Ndamukong Suh is the most overrated player in the NFL. I thought you’d be one of the few guys to be able to spot that, because you’re usually not wowed by marketing deals and hype. Sure enough, you had him ranked in the Top 30. What’s Suh have on all you guys?

Doug T.,
Alexandria, Virginia

You’re right that Suh didn’t have the same type of year in 2011 as he did in 2010. His stats dipped in just about every statistical category, his game film looked worse, and oh yeah, he had a minor mental breakdown on national television when he stomped on an opposing player on Thanksgiving. But the list wasn’t based solely on 2011; it was based on 2012. Who do I want anchoring that defensive line in Week 1? You better believe Suh’s one of the top three or four guys on the list. I expect a big bounce-back year. The talent’s certainly all there. I think his head will be, too.

2. Romo Over Ryan? Really?

You’re so in bed with the Cowboys it’s sickening. They haven’t won a big game in two years, Romo saves his biggest games for November — not December — and the defense, coaching, and special teams were pitiful last year. Yet, sure enough, you have Tony Romo — your boy toy for at least 5 years now — ranked above Matt Ryan. You kill Ryan for not winning in the playoffs, but love Romo. Romo doesn’t even MAKE the playoffs. When you go to sleep at night, do you wear little Cowboys pajamas with the footsies? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Chris I.,
Macon, Georgia

I was honestly surprised by a) the amount of Ryan supporters out there (I have met three to four Falcons fans outside of the Georgia Dome in my life) and b) the amount of Romo haters out there. This was a recipe for disaster when I seemingly gave Romo a pass for his lack of late-season success and criticized Ryan for the same shortcoming. I had Romo ranked 67th and Ryan ranked 70th. That’s three spots, but I do think I’d rather have Romo than Ryan under center in 2012. Whereas Romo has a somewhat sarcastic moniker of "Mr. November," Ryan’s 0-3 mark in the playoffs hasn’t just been some bad luck. It’s been three absolute clunkers in the biggest games of his career. I also think Ryan will take a step back without Mike Mularkey, despite all the over-the-top Dirk Koetter — the new offensive coordinator — love this offseason. Romo threw for 4,184 yards, 31 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions last year. He did that with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant shuffling in and out of the lineup all season and behind a shaky, young offensive line. This isn’t a popular opinion, but I think Romo has a big 2012. As for the pajamas, they’re a matching top and bottom set ... with Troy Aikman’s and Michael Irvin’s faces all over them.

3. Gold Rush

Dumb, dumb, dumb list. Are you trying to kiss Jim Harbaugh’s butt? What’s with the forty-nine 49ers defenders on your list? Half your Top 100 is random San Francisco defensive players nobody’s ever heard of.

Henry P.,
Fort Worth, Texas

The 49ers not only had the best defense in all of football last season, but they very quietly fielded one of the best defenses the game has seen. Simply dominant. Consider these numbers from 2011: The 49ers tied the Packers for most takeaways with 38, led the league with a turnover margin of plus-28 for the season, led the league in rush defense (77.3 yards allowed per game), and ranked second in scoring defense (14.3 points per game). Oh, they also went 14 consecutive weeks without giving up a rushing touchdown. In 2012, they return ALL ELEVEN starters, and actually have a proper training camp and preseason to work together. In truth, including just the five 49ers defenders that I did — Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman, and Carlos Rogers — was very tough. Ray McDonald and Dashon Goldson could have easily made the list, too. Expect bigger and better out of this unit in 2012. Somehow.

4. Running Hacks

Your complete and utter lack of respect for the running back position is sickening. Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, and Emmitt Smith were once in a generation players. They were their franchises. You can’t dismiss Arian Foster, MJD, Ray Rice, and Adrian Peterson by bundling them together with the likes of offensive guards and defensive tackles. That’s just stupid.

Chris P.,
Houston, Texas


Smith and Sanders played at the exact same time, which means they weren’t exactly "once in a generation players," but I guess that’s neither here nor there. I have nothing against running backs and the guys you listed are among the best in the league. I just don’t think they’re wholly necessary to win in this game. Or, at least not at the money they’re making or wanting. MJD (Maurice Jones-Drew) is the best in the sport, but he’s not worth the money he is asking for. You can find a guy who’ll come close to doing what MJD does before you’d find a guy who’d come close to what DeMarcus Ware does in Dallas. Perhaps it’s more of a supply and demand thing. There are a lot of great running backs in the NFL. There aren’t a lot of elite pass rushers or quarterbacks.

5. A Glaring Omission

Where’s Tebow? The guy won 7 of 8 games and took his team to the Divisional Round of the playoffs a year ago. He’s the greatest winner in the game and you don’t include him in your Top 100? I guess stats are all that matter to you Sabremetrics and numbers geeks.

Dylan K.,
Winter Park, Florida

I had Tim Tebow ranked as the 332nd best player in the league. I don’t value fullbacks as highly as the NFL Network does. Note that I didn’t have Vonta Leach or John Kuhn on my list, either. OK, I’m kidding. Tebow had a nice 2011, but I just don’t see him making a “Top 100” players impact in 2012. At the very least, he has to be ranked behind the starting quarterback on his team, and Mark Sanchez is not a Top 100 player.

6. Eli-te Eli

Eli Manning over Drew Brees? Are you out of your mind? If that Saints-49ers game was in New Orleans, the Saints win by 30 and Drew’s hoisting his second Super Bowl trophy in three years. C’mon man.

Jackson, Mississippi

But he didn’t! And a week later, Eli went in to that same building, against that same team, in front of that same crowd, and led the Giants to a victory. I’m as big a fan of Brees — both as a quarterback and team leader — as you’ll find, but I can’t put him over Manning on this list. In 2011, Manning led the Giants on seven fourth-quarter comebacks, led them to road wins in New England, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Dallas and San Francisco, and took home his second Super Bowl MVP trophy in five years. Brees may be the better fantasy football quarterback — I’ll give you that — but if I need a guy in the fourth quarter, on the road, in January — gimme Eli.

7. No Love for Troy

I’ve long come to terms that you’re a Ravens blowhard and love any and all players who wear Baltimore’s colors, but your utter disrespect for my Steelers never seizes to amaze. Troy Polamalu is the 65th best player in the league? 65th?!!!! Get a clue, dude.

Wexford, Pennsylvania

The Steelers were my way too early pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl and I gave their draft an A+++++, but you’re right, I HATE the Steelers, Brett. In Troy’s case, he wasn’t the best safety on his team, let alone the best safety in the league a season ago. Whether it was his ankle or his age, Polamalu simply wasn’t the same player. I’ve watched a lot of Steelers film from 2011, and though the guys on TV wouldn’t dare criticize him, it’s quite obvious that he wasn’t the same player he once was. That said, he’s still a force, still has a knack for the big play and still a guy you need to identify before the snap. If he’s healthy, he could have a big 2012, but let’s not act like this is the same guy we saw flying all over the field in 2006.

8. World Wide Wes

I can see where you’d be dazzled by stats and fantasy football production, but neither Wes Welker nor Victor Cruz deserved to be in your Top 40. Though they both had superb years, they’re SLOT RECEIVERS. Welker got his numbers from Tom Brady being the best quarterback in the league and two elite tight ends in Hernandez and Gronkowski. Cruz, meanwhile, had a few big plays and was only productive because Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham were greater concerns. I’d put Roddy White, Mike Wallace, Marques Colston, Brandon Marshall, and A.J. Green above Welker and Cruz.

Strongsville, Ohio

You’re not the only person to suggest I gave too much love to Welker and Cruz on this list, and I can see where you’re headed with your critique. But I think in today’s passing NFL, the underneath guys and the slot wideouts are just as important as the big, 6-6 targets on the outside. Now, certainly Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald are in a class of their own, but right after them — you could make the argument that Welker and Cruz are the next best wide receivers in the league regardless of their size or 40-yard-dash times. Their production last year — no matter how you look at it — was incredible, and they played for Super Bowl teams. As for your suggestion that Cruz only made “a few big plays” and was a third option in the Giants offense, I can’t agree with that. It’s one thing to disagree with my ranking, it’s another to say silly things for the sake of saying silly things.

9. Cat Fancy

Your list was exhausting. Every day, it got stupider. No Marshawn Lynch in the Top 100, but Geno Atkins is. WHO THE HELL IS GENO ATKINS? No Marques Colston, but JJ Watt is. JJ WATT? Seriously? My cat is four years old, doesn’t like football, and I’m certain she’d put together a better list than you.

Brentwood, California

Where’s your cat have Tebow ranked on his list? You may be right.

10. Best Email Ever

My friends and I printed out your list and brought it to our BBQ on Saturday. We all wrote down our Top 20 and tried to see how our lists compared to yours. Our conclusions:

1. You really really really like Eli Manning.
2. You really really really like Ben Roethlisberger.
3. You really really really don’t like running backs.
4. You don’t value Andy Lee’s punts nearly as much as we do.
5. You don’t value Sebastian Janikowski’s kicks nearly as much as we do.
6. You think Ray Lewis and Troy Polamalu are senior citizens.
7. You hate the Jets.
8. You hate the Redskins.
9. You hate the Dolphins.
10. You were drunk when you put your list together.

Hey, that’s all good. We were drunk when we did ours. Thanks for giving us something to do on our Saturday.

Sam C.,
New York, New York

Thanks, Sam. Though I’d like to reiterate the same point I’ve made a million times before: Don’t Drink and Rank the Top 100 Players in the NFL. It just ain’t safe.

‘Till next year.

Let’s see where Troy Polamalu ends up on that one.