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 first installment, containing players 100-91.
100. Jordan Hicks, LB, Philadelphia Eagles
Hicks only has two seasons in the NFL so far but has impressed. After gaining starting status for all of last season, he blossomed. He finished with 86 tackles, five interceptions, 11 passes defended, a fumble recovery and a sack.
The Eagles have made a commitment to improving their defense through the draft this season. They drafted Derek Barnett, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas with their first three picks. Philadelphia ranked 12th in the league as a scoring defense and should improve this year.
With other talented players like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, Hicks may not be the best player on his defense but should get even better as he progresses.
Comments: “Jordan Hicks is one of the best players under 25. Hicks can defend both the run and the pass. He even has a knack for creating turnovers. When we look back on the 2017-18 NFL season, it will look asinine that Hicks wasn’t in the top 50.” -Matthew Hagan
“Hicks is a purpose linebacker that can play inside or outside. He has the ability to drop in coverage and can also fight off blocks at the point of attack to stop the run. He may be the most underrated linebacker in football. The only thing that is holding Hicks from being a top-10 linebacker is injuries. If he can stay healthy, he should be higher on this list.” – Craig Stogdill
99. Kawann Short, DT, Carolina Panthers
Players who are on the interior of the defensive line sometimes get overlooked, but Short is a great player and deserves his spot on this list. He went from 11 sacks in 2015 to 6 in 2016, but that still is good enough to have him tie for eighth in the league among defensive tackles.
Short will have to play under a new defensive coordinator in 2017, Steve Wilks. Wilks has been around the team as a secondary coach, so players should be able to be familiar with everything Wilks wants them to do. Carolina’s defense slipped in 2017, but they still have enough talent to be a good NFL defense.
While the defense did get worse last season, Short was the second-best player on the defense last year. He played all 16 games, which was something the best player on the defense didn’t do (this player will be seen later on in our rankings). Short is entering his prime and is in store for another big season.
Comments: “Kawann Short is way too low on this list for my taste. His 11 sacks in 2015 to six sacks in 2016 drop off is not a big deal as an interior lineman. Short was third in quarterback hurries by a defensive tackle with 46 despite playing fewer snaps than the two players ranked higher than him. He is just as effective against the run as he is the pass. Short is just as important to the Panthers defense as Luke Kuechly and should be much higher than 99.” -Matthew Hagan
98. Janoris Jenkins, CB, New York Giants
Jenkins is a part of a defense that last season was second in the league in points allowed. He had his best season yet as a Giant and finished with three interceptions, 18 passes defended and a forced fumble. Although he doesn’t have a lot of interceptions he does a great job in coverage.
The Giants have better talent this season with Landon Collins going into his third season and Eli Apple entering his sophomore campaign. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also had a good season last year, making their secondary one to watch. Dalvin Tomlinson was drafted to help an already good defensive line.
With all the talent on the Giants’ defense, Jenkins may not be the first name that comes to mind, but he will do his job effectively.
Comments: “After signing a massive free agent contract, critics believed he would have a down year in 2016. That was not the case. In fact, he had his best year in the NFL and proved he’s worthy to be a teams shutdown corner. He held quarterbacks to a passer rating of 65 on balls thrown his way and his completion percentage dropped from 61 percent to 50 percent on the potent Giants defense.”-Blake Van Poucke
“Jenkins is one of the best shutdown corners in the game. He plays his best game against the best receivers. He held Dez Bryant to a single catch in each meeting (Jenkins forced him to fumble on one of them) in 2016. Jenkins made his first Pro Bowl and I expect another one next season if he plays like last year. He is the best corner on his team he should be in front of DRC and Gilmore. “- Craig Stogdill
97. Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots
The Patriots got another good corner when they signed Gilmore this offseason. Last year with the Bills, Gilmore had a career high in interceptions with five. He also added 12 passes defended and 48 total tackles.
Gilmore now bolsters the best scoring defense last year. He and Malcolm Butler are one of, if not the best corner tandems in the league. Look for Gilmore to be a reason the Patriots are one of the best defenses against the pass in 2017.
After winning the Super Bowl and acquiring players like Brandin Cooks and Gilmore, the Patriots don’t look like they will be slowing down any time soon.
Comments: “Gilmore had a down year in terms of his man coverage, allowing 17.9 yards per pass thrown at him through the first nine weeks. He was slated to make a jump in 2016 to a top five cornerback. But, despite a few terrible games, he accounted for five interceptions in 2016 which is a career high. He will now play in a more sound defensive system with the Patriots and should return to a highly productive cornerback.”-Blake Van Poucke
96. Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Giants
Full disclosure: Marshall had a bad 2016 season, but he was playing on the Jets. He only has three seasons of less than 1,000 receiving yards. Two years ago he had 1,502 receiving yards with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his starting quarterback. So, although he is aging, he should rebound for the Giants.
Marshall will be on an offense that should feature a good passing attack. Odell Beckham Jr. will get his touches, but the rest of the receiving core, including Sterling Shepard, will have to fight for their touches. When Beckham Jr. is double-teamed, Marshall will be able to win his matchups and produce. Having Eli Manning throw the ball to him is a significant upgrade over what he has had for the last two seasons and most of his career.
If this list was based solely on how players were last year, Marshall wouldn’t be on this list. This season though, Marshall has a chance to reestablish himself and make a big impact for a playoff contender.
Comments: “Brandon Marshall should be nowhere close to being ranked on this list. Marshall made this list on reputation alone. Although he is getting a major improvement at quarterback, Marshall is going to be on an offense that features Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and rookie Evan Engram. These players are much younger and will take away receptions and yards from him. He will be more of a mentor than an actual threat. Marshall won’t even be a top 150 player this season.” -Matthew Hagan
“Even at 33, few have more natural talent than Marshall who had 109 catches just two years ago. Being around so much young talent and a real shot at a playoff run for the first time in his career will rejuvenate him in 2017.”- Dylan Streibig
95. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, New York Giants
Rodgers-Cromartie was already mentioned as being part of the good Giants’ defense. Last season he finished with six interceptions, 21 passes defended, one forced fumble and 49 total tackles.
Although Rodgers-Cromartie is now 30 years old, he showed last year that he isn’t wearing down. With Jenkins, Apple and him as their corners and Collins at safety, the Giants will be hard to throw on this season.
In 2017 Rodgers-Cromartie will be one of the best players on one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Comments: “Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was one of the top corners in the NFL last season. Rodgers-Cromartie earned the second-best grade of his career last season from Pro Football Focus, and for good reason. His 16 total pass breakups last season were the fourth-most in the league, and he had the second-lowest QBR-against among corners last season at 56.6.” –Tim Miller
“DRC is a solid size corner at 6-2. He has a knack of being a ballhawk. He led his team in interceptions twice for the Giants. DRC helped improve the Giants when he moved to the inside to the slot. I wouldn’t put him in front of Gilmore or Jenkins.”- Craig Stogdill
94. Kelechi Osemele, OG, Oakland Raiders
The Raiders had one of the best offensive lines in 2016 and Osemele was a huge reason why. Oakland ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing yards and gave up the fewest sacks in the league, 18.
Derek Carr’s injury may have caused the Raiders’ season to end prematurely, but with him recovering well from his broken leg, Oakland can have a high-powered offense once again. Carr may get a lot of the love, and a lot of the money in his new deal, but their offense starts because of the offensive line.
Osemele will help lead the charge on a great offense for the 2017 season by continuing to clear way in the running game and protecting Carr.
Comments: “Offensive linemen rarely get the love or recognition they deserve. Osemele earned second-team all-pro from Pro Football Focus last season and was only edged out for the first team by Marshal Yanda. Last season he gave up zero sacks and that is good enough to deserve a much higher ranking.” -Matthew Hagan
“Quite possibly the biggest free agent signing of 2015 was Osemele moving to the Raiders. In his first season in Oakland, he was a force. He was one of the most productive interior lineman in football with his brutal punch and overwhelming physical style. He helped change the complexion of the Raiders offense and was a big reason for their 2016 success.”-Blake Van Poucke
93. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
Thomas had such a good rookie season that the Saints felt comfortable enough to trade Brandin Cooks to the Patriots. After being the sixth receiver selected, Thomas built a great rapport with Drew Brees. He finished last year with 1,197 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
People have thought that Brees would be slowing down for the last few seasons, but he delivered yet another 5,000 yard passing season last year. Thomas will benefit from Brees’ continued production, especially now that he is the clear number one receiver.
With the other defenses in the NFC South giving up a lot of passing yards, all ranked in the bottom half of the NFL, Thomas will have every opportunity to have an even better season.
Comments: “Michael Thomas was the best rookie wide receiver in the NFL last season. Thomas blew all other rookies out of the water in receptions (92 compared to Sterling Shepard’s second-best 67) and receiving yards (981 compared to Sterling Shepard’s second-best 653). Thomas dominated in every facet among rookie wideouts, but this list isn’t all about rookies.
“What makes Thomas special is that he’s already playing with an elite quarterback in Drew Brees in a pass-heavy offense. The Saints threw the ball on 63 percent of their plays last season, good for fourth-most in the league. Thomas has reportedly added ten pounds of muscle, and with his size (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) and explosiveness (20 tackles broken/avoided, ninth in NFL in 20-plus yard catches last season), expect Thomas to become an elite receiver in the NFL.” – Tim Miller
92. Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Two straight 4,000 yard passing seasons have gotten Jameis Winston’s career off to a hot start. Winston had 4,090 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 2016. He has gotten more accurate from season one to season two and will need to continue to do so.
While the stats are encouraging, Winston has also improved the Bucs win total from six to nine from his rookie season to last. Continuing to help improve the Bucs’ record will be a way to raise his stock around the league. He will have more help this season on the offensive side of the ball, as Tampa Bay signed Desean Jackson and drafted O.J. Howard.
Winston is the franchise quarterback for the Bucs and with the added help on offense, should be able to take his game to another level.
Comments: “If this list was based on what Winston did last season, he would deserve this spot, but he should be ranked higher. This list is supposed to look ahead to 2017 and Winston will be better with all of the incoming help and his natural progression he has shown in his first two years. With weapons like Desean Jackson, Mike Evans and O.J. Howard, Winston will be higher on this list come next year.”- Joe DiTullio
91. Carlos Dunlap, DE, Cincinnati Bengals
Dunlap had a good 2015 season with 13.5 sacks, but his production dipped to 8 sacks last year, which tied for 22nd in the NFL. He also added three forced fumbles and 49 combined tackles.
Last season Dunlap had help rushing the quarterback from Geno Atkins, but not much else. Michael Johnson, who started all 16 games at the other defensive end spot, finished with 3.5 sacks. The Bengals added Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson in the draft to help in this area, which will help take double teams away from Dunlap.
Production wasn’t great for Dunlap last season, but since he has been the starting defensive end for Cincinnati, he has never had fewer than 7.5 sacks in a season. Dunlap will be looking to up his sack total and be more productive in 2017.
Comments: “Dunlap has been one of the most consistent pieces on a Bengals’ defense that has been very good for the last six years. He is constantly in the quarterback’s face and even though his numbers dropped off a bit, he is still able to be a playmaker and change the game at any time. With the help of Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, Andrew Billings and obviously Geno Atkins, this defensive line should have a great year and so should Dunlap.”- Robert Hanes
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