NFL Top 100 Players 2017: 60-51

The NFL season is right around the corner and all the lists of top players of the NFL are out. There is only one problem with these lists: they look back on the 2016 season too much. This list will look forward to the 2017 season and predict who will be the top 100 players for the 2017 season. The Game Haus staff compiled their lists together to rank who they think will be the top 100 players this upcoming season.

This is the fifth installment, containing players 60-51.

60. Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati Bengals

NFL Top 100

Geno Atkins (Photo by bengals.com)

Atkins has been one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL for years now and is a five time Pro Bowler that should be making his sixth appearance in 2017. In 2016, his latest Pro Bowl season, Atkins had 32 total tackles and 9 sacks and was the best player on the Bengals’ defense yet again.

The Bengals’ defensive line has been thinning out in the talent department the last few years, but the two players who made this list, Atkins and Carlos Dunlap (#91), have done their parts. Cincinnati has added Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson via the NFL Draft to help out in the pass rushing department. If they can get to the quarterback, it should free up Atkins (and Dunlap) from facing a lot of double teams.

In 2017 Atkins will continue to be one of the best interior pass rushers in the NFL as well as be good against the run.

Comments: “You watch him play and tell me he doesn’t deserve to be higher.”- Robert Hanes

59. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Minnesota Vikings

NFL Top 100

Xavier Rhodes (photo by twincities.com)

The Vikings have a great, young corner in Rhodes, who has shown flashes of how good he can be in his first four seasons in the NFL. Rhodes went to his first Pro Bowl in 2016 while totaling 52 tackles, five interceptions, one touchdown, 10 passes defended and one forced fumble.

Rhodes often does a great job against an opponent’s best receiver, which often times means the ball isn’t thrown his way very much. He was a big reason why Minnesota was the third best defense against the pass in 2016, which is no small feat being in the same division as Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford.

In 2017 Rhodes will again be called upon to shut down great receivers and doing so could move him up in next year’s list.

Comments:  “This is asinine. Rhodes allowed 3.1 yards per pass attempt which was best in the NFL. He had five interceptions and a touchdown in 14 games. Rhodes locked Odell Beckham down so bad that Odell was saying football wasn’t fun anymore after the game. Rhodes is a top three corner and that is a fact.” -Matthew Hagan

58. Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins

NFL Top 100

Jordan Reed (Photo by espn.com)

Reed has been phenomenal in his NFL career, when healthy. Unfortunately, he has been often injured. When he is healthy, he produces and is Kirk Cousins’ favorite target. In 2016 he played in 12 games and started eight. He still managed to record 66 receptions for 686 yard and six touchdowns.

While he was an average tight end in his first two years in the league, he has blossomed with Cousins over the last few seasons. Cousins will be under center, for at least one more season, so there is no reason to expect Reed to stop producing, unless he gets injured once again in 2017.

He is one of the best tight ends in the league and a dynamic offensive weapon. If Reed can stay healthy his presence will elevate the level of play on the Washington offense.

Comments: “Jordan Reed is a great tight end when he is healthy. He is a pure receiver that makes Kirk Cousins a better quarterback when he is on the field. With Desean Jackson and Pierrre Garcon gone, Reed will be even more of a go-to-guy for Cousins.”-Joe DiTullio

57. Kyle Long, OG, Chicago Bears

NFL Top 100

Kyle Long (photo by philly.com)

In his first four seasons in the NFL, Long has made three Pro Bowls. He missed the Pro Bowl in 2016, but only played in eight games. The most impressive thing for Long, and the Bears is that he was great at opening up holes for rookie running back Jordan Howard, who had four of his seven 100 yard rushing games when Long was in the lineup.

After an ankle injury ended Long’s 2016 season prematurely, he will be looking forward to having a good 2017 season. He will have to continue to open up holes for Howard and block for a new quarterback (Mike Glennon or Mitch Trubisky). The Bears’ offense won’t be great in 2017, but it won’t be because of Long.

If Long is able to come back healthy in 2017, he will reclaim his status as one of the NFL’s best guards.

Comments: “The Bears were bad which is the only reason Kyle Long doesn’t get the love he deserves. Long helped rookie Jordan Howard finish second in the NFL in rushing yards. Without Long, the Bears would be even worse,” -Matthew Hagan

56. Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins

NFL Top 100

Kirk Cousins (photo by cbssports.com)

He may not have a long-term contract, but Cousins has been turning heads in his two full seasons as a starting quarterback. Cousins had the third most passing yards in the NFL last season. In 2016 he finished with 4,917 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

A lot of Cousins’ receivers have left, but Washington has signed Terrelle Pryor to help fill the void. With him Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and Jordan Reed (#58), Cousins will have enough weapons to be successful. He will also have one of the NFL’s best linemen, Trent Williams, protecting his blind-side.

If Cousins wants to have a long term deal, whether it’s from Washington or not, he will have to put up more good numbers in 2017.

Comments: “Yes the Redskins are an incompetent franchise but there is a reason they won’t commit to him long term. Kirk Cousins is an average quarterback that will not lead a franchise to a Super Bowl which is why I believe he should be lower.” -Matthew Hagan

“Numbers don’t lie. While I do not necessarily think he should be a lot higher I think this man can play Quarterback and do it well. Haters need to back off. Imagine if Jay Gruden wasn’t his coach?”- Robert Hanes

55. Alex Mack, OC, Atlanta Falcons

NFL Top 100

Alex Mack (photo by usatoday.com)

Mack endured playing on a bad Cleveland Browns team for the first seven years of his career but made the Super Bowl in his first year on the Falcons. He has made four Pro Bowls in his career and is one of the best centers in the NFL.

The Falcons had one of the best offenses in the NFL in 2016 thanks in large part to a good offensive line, which was led by Mack. With Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman all coming back the Falcons’ offense should be great once again.

If Atlanta wants to make it back to the Super Bowl they are going to need good offensive line play, with Mack taking charge once again.

Comments: “Easily one of the top three if not number one center in the league. He is finally not playing for the Browns, isn’t it about time he gets some love?”- Robert Hanes

54. Calais Campbell, DT, Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL Top 100

Calais Campbell (Photo by jacksonville.com)

The Jaguars made a great offseason move by acquiring Campbell in free agency. While he has been in the NFL since 2008, Jacksonville will be just his second team. In 2016 Campbell was all over the field with 53 combined tackles, eight sacks, six passes defended, two forced fumbles, three fumbles recovered, an interception and a safety.

At 6-8 and 282 pounds, Campbell is a disruptive force and he isn’t slowing down. He will be age 31 in the 2017 season and will be flanked by a lot of talent that the Jaguars acquired in the offseason. Campbell has a chance to take the Jaguars defense to the next level in 2017 and will likely be the best player on the much-improved defense.

Jacksonville made a statement by going after a lot of defensive players and in Campbell, they get a disruptive lineman who has been consistently good over his career.

Comments: “Campbell is a beast. He has been a gem in the desert, but will now help the Jags defense take it to the next level. With some new players also joining him, Campbell has the chance to be the best player on a good defense.”-Joe DiTullio

53. Taylor Lewan, OT, Tennessee Titans

 

NFL Top 100

Taylor Lewan (Photo by titansonline.com)

2016 was Lewan’s first Pro Bowl season, which looks like it will be the first of many. Lewan was a big part of the Titans rushing for the third most yards in the NFL and giving up 28 sacks as a team, which is one of the best in the league.

Lewan will be entering his fourth season in 2017 and the Titans’ offense is improving each year. Derrick Henry and Demarco Murray will lead the rushing attack and Marcus Mariota will continue to develop especially with new weapon Corey Davis. The offense is trending upwards and Lewan will be a big reason why the skill position players are successful.

After a solid first three seasons in the league, Lewan is cementing himself as one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL and 2017 will be the next step to proving it.

Comments: “Lewan has had a great start to his career and by year’s end could even be ranked higher than this. Not only has he done a good job of protecting Marcus Mariota, but he has also cleared holes for Henry and Murray. 2017 will bring another Pro Bowl.”-Joe DiTullio

52. Chris Harris Jr., CB, Denver Broncos

NFL Top 100

Chris Harris Jr. (Photo by denverpost.com)

Harris Jr. has been a stalwart on the Broncos defense for years and is one of the best corners in the NFL. Last season he recorded 63 total tackles, 11 passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovered.

In 2016 Harris Jr. made his third straight Pro Bowl as he helped the Broncos be the best defense against the pass in the NFL. Harris Jr. will continue to have Bradley Robey and Aqib Talib flanking him as the other corners, which allows him to move inside to the slot at times. He is a very versatile player that will continue playing well in 2017.

With Harris Jr. and Talib at the corner spots, the Broncos will have one of the best tandems in the NFL once again in 2017.

Comments: “He may be forgotten behind Miller and Talib, but Harris has made himself into one of the NFL’s best corners himself. He shuts down good wide receivers and helps this defense be the best against the pass in the NFL.”-Joe DiTullio

51. Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers

NFL Top 100

Jordy Nelson (Photo by packers.com)

The Packers have come on strong at the end of seasons for the past two seasons and Nelson came on strong at the end of 2016. In the last eight games, he had four of his five 100 receiving yard games. Overall Nelson had 97 receptions for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Nelson is undoubtedly Aaron Rodgers’ number one target once again in 2017 and will put up some big numbers. He will be 32 this season which isn’t ideal for a receiver who relies on his speed, but he still has a lot left in the tank. In the past three seasons, Nelson has set a new career high in targets each year and he should get his fair share again in 2017.

The Rodgers to Nelson connection may not be able to happen for too much longer, but they have a few more seasons together.

Comments: “Jordy Nelson is a silent assassin. He has had over 1,200 yards in three straight seasons. Nelson has also accumulated 27 touchdowns over that past two seasons. Aaron Rodgers has struggled at times without Nelson. Jordy is a top five receiver in the NFL but doesn’t have the flash required to be ranked higher.” -Matthew Hagan

NFL Top 100 Players: 70-61

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Is Dez Bryant a top fantasy option?

Dez Bryant has struggled with injuries and in-season battles in the past two years. Bryant was once a top five receiver in fantasy. From 2012-14, he finished in the top five in fantasy points in the receiver group. But with struggles with injuries and a transition to a new Dallas offense and quarterback, will Bryant return to being the elite fantasy player that he was early in his career?

Throw up the X: 2011-14

After his rookie season, Bryant came to life. In 2011, Bryant became a top option for Tony Romo behind Jason Witten. He finished with 63 receptions, 928 yards and nine touchdowns. He finished in the top 20 that year in fantasy for receivers.

The following season, Bryant broke onto the scene. He had his first season over 1,000 yards and had over 90 receptions and double digits in touchdowns. He finished in the top 10 in receptions (92), yards (1,382) and receiving yards per game (86.4). His 12 touchdowns were top-three. Bryant finished third in fantasy that season.

Dez Bryant fantasy value

Dez Bryant and Tony Romo (Photo by: zimbio.com)

In 2013, he had another solid season. He saw his targets spike from 138 to 160. He finished in the top five in fantasy again under receivers and his 93 receptions ranked eighth. His 13 touchdowns again ranked third.

Bryant did see a small decline in receiving yards with 1,233 and his receiving yards per game (77.1) that both ranked outside the top 10.

However, Bryant did perform in the top two inside the 10-yard line of the red zone. He led the league in targets (16), receptions (11) and touchdowns (9). He finished second in yards (38) and target percentage (43.2).

Bryant developed into a red zone weapon and also ranked in the top 10 in receptions (13) and target percentage (29.9) inside the 20-yard line. He was also second in touchdowns with 10 inside the 20.

2014 was probably Bryant’s best fantasy season to date. He finished third in fantasy points among receivers, his third top five finish in a row. He led the league in receiving touchdowns with 16. Bryant also improved his receiving yards (1,320) and receiving yards per game (82.5), which ranked eighth and 10th respectively.

He did have less receptions (88) but averaged 14.3 fantasy points per game, a career-best that season which ranked third. He also had his best PPR fantasy points per game at 19.8. Bryant also doubled his catches of 20-plus yards with 22 that ranked fifth in 2014.

In those four seasons, Bryant totaled 4,863 yards and 50 touchdowns. During that time, just Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas and A.J. Green had more yards than he did. His touchdowns were the most during that timeframe, and no other receiver had more than 43 touchdowns.

Injuries and quarterback issues: 2015-16

Dez Bryant fantasy value

Dez Bryant (Photo by: whatthebuc.net)

Before the season, Bryant resigned with the Cowboys on a five-year, $70 million contract that included $45 million of guaranteed money and a $20 million signing bonus.

In a game against the Giants on Sep. 13, 2015, Bryant had a foot injury. The x-ray revealed a fracture in the foot that required surgery. He returned in week eight and struggled, getting two receptions for 12 yards.

In a season in which he struggled with health issues, he caught 31 passes for 401 yards and three touchdowns. Before the injury, part of Bryant’s success was having Tony Romo as the quarterback. They only played three games together in 2015 as Romo had a back injury.

Bryant played with two other quarterbacks (Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore) that season. All of his three touchdowns came from a different quarterback. On Jan. 6, 2016, he underwent foot and ankle surgeries.

In 2016, his favorite quarterback in the preseason went down with another back injury and rookie Dak Prescott became the starter. It proved again that Bryant missed Romo as the quarterback as he and Prescott only connected on 16 of their first 41 targets in their first five games together.

This led to inconsistent fantasy numbers, as Bryant had just three games with 10 or more points, but two games with less than two points. He also missed three games with a knee injury. However, removing week 17 where they played only one series, Bryant and Prescott came to life.

In the final eight games including the playoffs, Bryant had 66 targets, 43 receptions, 646 yards and eight touchdowns. That’s a 65.2 percent completion rate. It seemed that Bryant came back to being the receiver he once was.

2017 outlook

Dez Bryant fantasy value

Dez Bryant (Photo by: sbnation.com)

In 2017, there is some concern regarding Bryant. Besides adding no receiver help to complement him, Bryant will face Janoris Jenkins twice, Josh Norman twice, Aqib Talib/Chris Harris Jr., Patrick Peterson, Marcus Peters, Desmond Trufant, Jason Verrett/Casey Hayward and Richard Sherman.

In the two matchups with the Giants last year, he was held to just two catches for 18 yards on 14 targets and fumbled once that clinched the Giants win in the second meeting.

The last time he played against Sherman, he totaled just two catches for 12 yards on six targets.

And expect Norman to shadow Bryant this year after not doing so in 2016. In the first three games for Bryant, he plays the Giants at home and then goes to Denver and Arizona on the road. We could see again early season struggles for him.

He has missed 22 games in two seasons. He is also in a run-heavy offense with a great offensive line and a premier running back. The defense in Dallas hasn’t improved, especially in the backfield which could lead to Prescott throwing the ball more if they have to play catch up. That would benefit Bryant but the game plan will be to run the ball to protect Prescott.

But how good will Prescott be if he has to throw to win? That’s a question for another article.

Bryant is a top-10 fantasy receiver that should be drafted somewhere in the third round. Be cautious with his durability, and Prescott worries me this year as he is my top bust for quarterbacks. In some leagues he will be a top receiver for most teams, but he’s a high-end WR2 with a ceiling as a middling WR1.

 

Featured image from reddit.com

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Franchise Analysis – Denver Broncos

Entering the 2016 season, the Denver Broncos had one question: “Who will take over for the legendary Peyton Manning?” One could argue that the question still remains. Trevor Siemian proved to be a serviceable quarterback, but not capable of overcoming below average running back and offensive line play. Other than the quarterback position, where else do the Broncos need to improve to make another run at a Lombardi Trophy in 2017?

2016 Evaluation – Offense

The Broncos failed to pick up where they left off in the 2015 season. Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler both contributed to an offense that ranked 19th in points and 16th in yards. The offense dropped to 22nd in points and 27th in yards this season. Who carries the blame for such a decline? We’ve already outlined the quarterback regression, but let’s take a closer look.

Trevor Siemian proved he has limitations this season. Will the Broncos be able to elevate his play by improving his supporting cast this off season (Courtesy of; DenverBroncos.com).

If it wasn’t apparent last year, it should be now. Peyton Manning covered up a lot of holes on this team last season. Even in his diminished state, Manning’s mind and control of the offense allowed him to put the Broncos in the best play possible on every snap. When Manning played, he accounted for 16 of the 39 sacks allowed. He was able to call plays that wouldn’t ask the offensive line to block for four to six seconds. He was able to minimize the impact that his average to below average linemen had on the passing game.

Even with an upgrade at the left tackle position from Ryan Clady to Russell Okung, the Denver Broncos still struggled. The biggest hole in this starting unit was the right tackle Donald Stephenson. Using Pro Football Focus player rankings, Stephenson was rated as the 77th best tackle out of 78 qualified players. Stephenson was also rated as the worst pass-blocking tight end in football. No quarterback can have success when one of his tackles is constantly getting beat.

2016 Evaluation – Defense

One aspect of the Denver Broncos that was never in doubt, was their defense. As a whole, they ranked 4th in both points and yards allowed. The unquestioned strength of this defense is their secondary. Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. provide this defense with incredible flexibility. Talib is able to match up with the top tier receivers on the outside and Harris can lock down even the best slot receivers. When a defense doesn’t have to roll coverage to a player or exchange responsibilities in the secondary, they can focus on rushing the passer.

Sylvester Williams had a down year defending the run. Will the Broncos look to upgrade the nose tackle position, or hope Williams will bounce back in 2017? (Courtesy of; Predominatelyorange.com)

When Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, and the emerging Shane Ray are able to rush the passer, this defense is suffocating. However, they must get better at stopping the run. This defense, despite their greatness, was 28th in rushing yards allowed. In their 3-4 defense, the nose tackle must be able to occupy double teams and keep linemen from blocking linebackers. Sadly, Sylvester Williams was unable to do that. Williams ranked as the 106th best interior defender against the run out of 117 qualified players. Denver must upgrade their nose tackle in their base defense if they hope to have more opportunities to rush the passer in 2017.

Divisional Analysis

The best way to ensure a spot in the postseason is to win your division. What does this team need to ascend back to the top of the AFC West?

Clearly, Denver needs to have more production from the quarterback position. However, that doesn’t mean the position needs an upgrade. Trevor Siemian proved to be a serviceable quarterback and can absolutely play better with an improved supporting cast. They also have their 2016 first round pick, Paxton Lynch. What Siemian lacks in talent, Lynch has. With these two players on the roster, they don’t need to try and upgrade the position.

Outside of the right tackle position, Denver could benefit greatly by upgrading their tight end. In 2016 we saw Carson Wentz be productive with an average at best collection of receivers. While they may be better than my analysis, they certainly aren’t as talented as Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders. What allowed Wentz to succeed? He had a receiving first tight end that worked the middle of the field in Zach Ertz. Given that this team isn’t great in pass protection, an upgrade at tight end will allow whoever is starting to get the ball out of their hands quicker.

Some options in the draft include David Njoku from Miami, Gerald Everett from South Alabama, and Evan Engram from Ole Miss. I know I didn’t include O.J. Howard, but I don’t think Denver will use their first round pick on this position and Howard most likely won’t be available in the second round. If Denver wanted to use a day two or three pick to address this position, they could select Tyrone Swoopes from Texas or Eric Saubert from Drake University.

We talked previously about their lack of production from their nose tackle. Given the importance of that position in the 3-4 defense, they need to bring in another player. Given John Elway’s track record of acquiring defensive free agents, I could see them going that route instead of the draft to address this need.

PostSeason Prospects

There are certain criteria that can translate into post season success. Where did the Denver Broncos stack up to the rest of the league in 2016?

It’s almost incredible that this team won nine games and didn’t finish inside the top 20 at any of these critical criteria. What’s most telling is their third down conversion ranking. It goes beyond just third down. This statistic gives you an idea about their success on first and second down. Because they struggled so much to run the ball effectively on first and second down, they often faced longer third down attempts than most NFL offenses. Also, if you can’t convert on third down, you won’t have prolonged drives. Thus, their ranking of 28th in Time of Possession.

This defense is unbelievable. Despite having a bottom third offense, the Denver defense was top 10 in every relevant defensive metric. Of course, they were not good against the run. No team can just run the ball for four quarters. When teams put the ball in the air, most of the time, it fell incomplete or in the hands of a Broncos defender. If they can just be an average team against the run in 2017, they will find themselves in the post season.

2017 Predictions

There’s no reason to doubt that John Elway will address their needs this off season through the draft and free agency. I think they will absolutely find a way to get more production out of their quarterback, whoever it is. I do want to say, under no circumstances should they try and acquire Tony Romo. Yes, Romo is talented. He’s better than every quarterback on that team, but he isn’t a good fit. Putting an injury-prone quarterback, who’s older than 30, behind a suspect offensive line is foolish because they will have to give up substantial defensive assets to acquire Romo.

This team cannot sacrifice their defense to support their offense. Elway and company will do everything possible to put their team in the best position possible. Overall, I think it will be enough to get them back into the playoffs. I believe the Denver Broncos will finish 11-5 and second in the AFC West and enter the 2017 postseason as a Wild Card.

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Top 100 NFL Players (100-91)

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NFL Network has an annual list they put out of the top 100 players in the NFL. They claim the list is chosen by the players. A few players have come out and said they have never received a ballot for this list. For many years I have seen the list and have usually had much different opinions. Their list has inspired me to do my own list of the top 100 NFL players.

My list is going to be a bit different. There may be some similarities such as, I will release ten players at a time while counting backwards from 100. My list will differ for the fact it will be my own personal opinion on which players I think are the best in the NFL. I rank them based on how I would pick players to have if I were running a team as a general manager.

I also take into account how valuable a player is to his team. Also, previous production does matter but, my top 100 is also more of a prediction list. I take into account who I think will have the best upcoming season.

Another difference is that the NFL Network Top 100 is a look back at the previous season while my list is looking forward to the upcoming one. My top 100 list will have rookies that I envision will have immediately impact in the league.

Hopefully you enjoy this list. I know people will take issues or have different opinions but to me, that is one of the beautiful things about sports. So much can be debated. Here is the start of my top 100 players for the upcoming 2016-2017 NFL season. Let the debating begin!

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