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 seventh installment, containing players 40-31.
40. Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears
Howard had a great rookie season for the Bears that not a lot of people saw coming. He didn’t get to play in week one and got limited carries in weeks two and three before bursting onto the scene in week four with 111 rushing yards against Detroit. He finished 2016 with 1,313 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Year two will give Howard the opportunity of more reps in practice and more carries in games, which should both help his productivity. Howard goes into 2017 as the lead back and will get a chance at a full season as the starter. He has some good blockers up front in Cody Whitehair, Josh Sitton and Kyle Long (#57). Most teams will be focusing on trying to stop him because Alshon Jeffrey left in free agency and Mike Glennon and Mitch Trubisky are unproven.
The focal point of the offense will be Howard and after a good rookie season, he will have to carry the load for the Bears’ offense.
Comments: “If he was on a better team his ranking might be higher. That being said he had a great rookie year. If he can repeat it expect to see him climb up quickly.”- Robert Hanes
39. Fletcher Cox, DT, Philadelphia Eagles
After making his second straight Pro Bowl in 2016, Cox will be looking to have another good year in 2017. He finished the 2016 season with 43 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, two passes defended, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Cox isn’t one of the first guys who come to mind when thinking of the best defensive players in the NFL, but not everything he does shows up on the stat sheet. He is good against the run and he tag-teams with Brandon Graham (#65) to give the Eagles a very formidable pass rush. The Philadelphia defense has gotten much better since Chip Kelly left, but Cox was even productive when he was the head coach.
There are a lot of uncertainties in the NFL, but if Fletcher Cox is on your team, you feel confident that there will be a disruptive force in the middle of the defensive line.
Comments: “It doesn’t always show up in his numbers, but Cox is a player that makes the rest of the defense better due to how much chaos he causes. He could be ranked higher and it would be justified.”-Joe DiTullio
38. Matt Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Stafford takes some heat for being a gunslinger, but he had a very good year in 2016, without his favorite target Calvin Johnson, who elected to retire rather than play for the Lions. His 2016 campaign led him into some MVP discussions, which should have Lions’ fans optimistic about 2017. Last season he threw for 4,327 yards, 24 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.
Although he doesn’t have Johnson anymore, Stafford does have some unique weapons. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. provide two good targets, albeit not great. His running backs, Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah can both catch passes out of the backfield to help Stafford out. The offensive line didn’t stand out last season, but the Lions did sign T.J. Lang to help bolster it.
The post-Calvin Johnson era started off with a playoff berth and a good season from Stafford, so more good things should be expected in year two.
Comments: “Stafford had an MVP type season in 2016. He showed better decision making without Calvin Johnson on the field. How the Lions made the playoffs last year is beyond me. Stafford was a magician for Detroit and elevated their level of play. The Lions probably won’t make the playoffs in 2017, but Stafford will be a good quarterback once again.”-Joe DiTullio
37. Marshall Yanda, OG, Baltimore Ravens
Interior offensive linemen are often forgotten, but Yanda has been very good for a long time. He only played in 13 games, but still made his sixth Pro Bowl team. Yanda has moved all over the offensive line during his career but has been dominant since settling in at guard.
While the rushing offense hasn’t been good the last few seasons, it isn’t because of Yanda’s blocking. He helped Baltimore rank in the top half of the league in sacks allowed. The passing offense will be good once again, but the Ravens will likely struggle on the ground in 2017.
Yanda will once again be fighting an uphill battle on the interior of the offensive line trying to get the run offense going, but he will do his job well.
Comments: “Offensive lineman never truly get the love or recognition they deserve. Yanda is right up there with Zach Martin as the best guard in all of football. He deserves to be in the top 15 and maybe even the top 10.” -Matthew Hagan
36. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
Kelce has turned into one of the best tight ends in the NFL over the last few seasons. In 2016 Kelce led all tight ends in receiving yards with 1,125 on 85 receptions and four touchdowns. On an offense that isn’t seen as the most dynamic, Kelce has helped make it productive.
The Chiefs’ offense is going to look different in 2017 without Jeremy Maclin and Jamal Charles, which will mean Kelce, along with Tyreek Hill, will be the focal points of the offense. Alex Smith is known for liking to check down and Kelce is able to get open and get yards after the catch, making it a perfect fit. If the Chiefs are successful on offense in 2017, Kelce will be a main reason why.
He is entering his fifth season in the league and has already made two Pro Bowls and an All-Pro team, but he isn’t done yet.
Comments: “I would pay a lot of money to see Kelce with Brady, Rodgers, Brees or any other top quarterbacks in the game. He is a beast and it is unbelievable that he puts up these numbers with Alex Smith. He is rated pretty well although I do think with a better quarterback he could be even better.” -Matthew Hagan
35. Vic Beasley Jr., OLB, Atlanta Falcons
In his second year in the pros, Beasley developed into a great player that helped lead the Falcons to the Super Bowl. He led the NFL in sacks with 15.5 and added 39 total tackles, six forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one touchdown.
Beasley improved a lot from year one to year two and a lot should be expected of him in year three. He does have a lot of areas of his game to improve, but Beasley is great at the main thing he was drafted to do: sacking the quarterback. His ability to do that made the Falcons a much better team in 2016.
He has a lot to build on in 2017 and if he continues to get to the quarterback, he will rise up this list.
Comments: “The single biggest reason for Atlanta’s run to a near Super Bowl win last year was an improved pass rush. Beasley will have to lead the defensive charge again this year for the Falcons to go one step further” -Dylan Streibig
34. Zack Martin, OG, Dallas Cowboys
Martin has been a great player from day one in the NFL. In his three seasons he has made the Pro Bowl each year and has been an All-Pro twice. He has been a key part on one of the best offensive lines in the NFL since his rookie season in 2014.
Dallas had the second most rushing yards in the NFL in 2016, in large part thanks to Martin. In addition to blocking for a great rushing offense, Marting helped the Dallas offensive line give up just 28 sacks, which tied for seventh in the NFL in 2016.
He hasn’t missed a game in his NFL career thus far and in 2017 he will continue to open up gaping holes for the Cowboys.
Comments: “Martin is the best guard in the game and could even be ranked higher than this, but interior offensive line play isn’t appreciated. He hasn’t missed a start in his three seasons and has helped make the ground game explosive for the Cowboys.”-Joe DiTullio
33. Travis Frederick, C, Dallas Cowboys
Back to back Cowboys’ offensive linemen make the list. He has been in the league for four seasons, made three Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team. During his first four seasons Frederick has evolved into one of, if not the best center in the NFL.
While he similarly helped the Dallas rush offense, Frederick really helped get rookie quarterback Dak Prescott acclimated to the NFL. He made all of the checks for the offensive line and no doubt helped take a lot off of Prescott’s plate. A center’s biggest job is to make checks and to be the smartest offensive lineman in the unit and Frederick has that down.
Frederick will continue to make good checks and block well in 2017.
Comments: “Frederick was seen as a reach by the Cowboys when they selected him, but he has been superb so far in his career. He is the best center in the game and even Dak Prescott has made comments about how smart Frederick is. He anchors one of the best offensive lines in football.”-Joe DiTullio
32. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
If this list were based on 2016, then Newton may not be as high. The 2017 season gives Newton an opportunity to rebound from his lackluster season. He finished 2016 with 3,509 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 touchdowns on 52% completion. While his passing numbers were bad, Newton’s rushing numbers were the lowest in his career as well.
He should be helped by new members of the offense in 2017: Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. Greg Olsen will continue to be a threat at tight end, but there are some concerns about Kelvin Benjamin, who is trying to cut weight. The new weapons, along with the old ones, should help Newton get better, but he will need to play like he did in 2015 to be considered one of the best in the league again.
Newton and his new weapons will get on the same page and make the Panthers’ offense return to its 2015 form.
Comments: “I am sick of all the Cam Newton haters. Newton came into the NFL shattering passing records for young quarterbacks. He has changed the Panthers organization, won an MVP and led his team to a Super Bowl appearance all in just six seasons. Cam is better and deserves to be much higher on this list” -Matthew Hagan
31. Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle Seahawks
He only played in 12 games in 2016, but Chancellor still had a huge impact. In 2016 he had 81 total tackles, eight passes defended and two interceptions.
Chancellor has had continued success at strong safety for the “Legion of Boom”. He helped Seattle rank eighth in passing yards allowed. He can cover tight ends well and help stop the run. Receivers are conscious of where Chancellor is at all times so they don’t get hit by one of the most powerful tacklers in the league. The key for Chancellor is staying healthy as he missed the four games in 2016 and missed five in 2015.
In 2017 Chancellor will once again be making receivers aware of his presence with his big hits and his good cover skills.
Comments: “His defensive backfield teammates are flashier, but Chancellor is the heart and soul of “The Legion of Boom” – Dylan Streibig
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