By Nick Shook
Read full post on NFL.com
It’s an honor to be included among the league’s best 100. But when you make the final 10 of The Top 100 Players of 2017, that’s when things get special.
Feel those goosebumps? There’s a good chance some of the players listed below are experiencing the same sensation as they learn of their ranking. The anticipation is nearing its peak. Let’s jump right into the top 10 players of this year’s Top 100.
11. Tom Brady – QB, Patriots
The new Madden video game has a “G.O.A.T. Edition” (for those who aren’t up to speed on hot acronyms, that stands for Greatest of All-Time) with Brady on the cover. Do we really need to say more? OK, fine, we’ll pour some numbers on you. Brady, who missed four games due to suspension, still finished 20th in passing yards (3,554), tied for seventh in passing touchdowns (28) and posted a completion percentage of 67.4. He also led the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history (going 43-of-62 passing for 466 yards and two touchdowns with one interception), and won his fifth ring. G.O.A.T. indeed.
2. Von Miller – LB, Broncos
Miller’s Broncos didn’t make another trip to the game’s biggest stage, but it sure wasn’t the outside linebacker’s fault. Miller racked up 13.5 sacks, second in the league only to Vic Beasley. Miller also recorded 78 tackles and continued to be the dynamo off the edge who strikes fear into the hearts of opposing offenses. At 28, Miller isn’t going anywhere — and No. 2, 13 places higher than last year, is a pretty great position to be in.
3. Julio Jones – WR, Falcons
Jones entered the highest echelon of active receivers two seasons ago, but after Atlanta’s memorable run to Super Bowl LI, it now seems Jones’ star has entered the stratosphere. The receiver battled nagging foot problems to still appear in 14 games, catching 83 passes for 1,409 yards and six touchdowns. He also made an incredible catch in the Super Bowl that might have gone down in football lore had the game turned out differently. We also can’t overlook that 300-yard game he posted against Carolina last season. Talk about the game’s best and Jones immediately enters the discussion. NFL.com’s Adam Schein nailed it, listing Jones No. 3 in hisTop 100 and placing him at the top of his list of most indispensable offensive players. At No. 3, five positions higher than in 2016, Jones is right where he belongs.
4. Antonio Brown – WR, Steelers
Antonio Brown received plenty of attention for his rump shaking, gyrating and Facebook Live broadcasting, but when that pile of nonsense is pushed aside, what you’ll see is one of the game’s best and most dangerous offensive talents. Brown finished one touchdown shy of his regular-season best of 13 in 2016, catching over 100 passes for the fourth straight season and gaining 1,284 yards in the process. He single-handedly downed Miami’s dreams in the Wild Card round, catching five passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns, quickly turning the contest into a blowout. His efforts earned him the rare-in-Pittsburgh long-term extension worth $68 million over four years, and the equally as lofty position in the Top 100. Not bad for a former sixth-round pick.
5. Khalil Mack – LB, Raiders
Mack won Defensive Player of the Year, the Raiders made the playoffs and everything was glamorous in Oakland (did you hear about their basketball team?). Mack finished with 11 sacks, 73 tackles, three passes defensed and one interception, but the number for him that matters most: five forced fumbles. Mack is a unique hell-raiser in that he is a threat to cause a turnover on every down, meaning he must always be accounted for. It’s rare that a defensive talent causes such an adjustment by his opponent, and it’s why Mack is so high on this list.
6. Aaron Rodgers – QB, Packers
Rodgers had another scintillating season, but his Packers getting waxed by the Falcons in the NFC title game explains why he’s static in the rankings, sticking at sixth for a second straight year. It’s a great place to be in, yes, but it’s also not the ceiling for the quarterback, who finished fourth in the league in passing yards (4,428) and led it in passing touchdowns with 40. Rodgers is in the top 10 for the third straight season and looks to be on the path to another appearance next year, even if his Packers don’t win that elusive NFC crown.
7. Ezekiel Elliott – RB, Cowboys
Welcome to the top 10, rookie. Elliott practically burst from the draft stage through the line and into the end zone in one sprint. The fourth-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft led the league in rushing behind the game’s best offensive line, gaining 1,631 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns on the ground as part of a running game that made things much easier for fellow rookie Dak Prescott. Elliott broke the recent trend of devaluing running backs and proved his worth in just his first season.
8. Odell Beckham, Jr. – WR, Giants
Beckham’s back in the top 10 for the second straight season, and it has nothing to do with a kicking net. The Giants‘ outspoken and passionate wideout finished third in the league in receiving yards with 1,367, scored 10 touchdowns and was one of only three receivers to record 100-plus receptions in 2016. Antics aside, Beckham is a real threat to become the league’s best in 2017, as he only continues to get better.
9. Le’Veon Bell – RB, Steelers
Look up patience in the dictionary. Depending on the year it was published, you might see Bell’s face next to the definition. The running back attracted so much praise for his patience in 2016 that it would have became unbearable if it wasn’t so warranted. Bell’s unique combination of a slow, almost floating first step and a sudden burst out of the backfield made him one of the league’s best running backs, if not the game’s king at the position. Bell rushed for 1,268 yards, with his peak coming in back-to-back 150-plus yard games in the playoffs. His most memorable performance happened in a driving snowstorm in Orchard Park, New York, where Bell toted the ball 38 times and churned up 236 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the ground. He has a budding rap career on the side, too, though his immediate focus should and will be on building upon an impressive 2016 campaign, one that was good enough to launch him from No. 41 to No. 9.
10. Matt Ryan – QB, Falcons
Ryan should have repeated whatever he did to ring in 2016 when the calendar turned to 2017, because it was the best season of his career. The league’s MVP commandeered its most prolific offense, passing for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns (with just seven interceptions). Atlanta exploded offensively and enjoyed the fruits it bore, riding the wave to the game’s biggest stage before a nightmarish collapse robbed the Falcons of their first Lombardi Trophy. Expecting the same lofty production or more from Ryan would be unfair, considering he lost offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. But it’s not unfair to believe that the quarterback will continue to build upon the progress he made as a player in 2016, which vaulted him from outside the Top 100 to No. 10.