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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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