I just got Sports Illustrated’s NFL Preview 2017 issue. I’ve been reading the mag for over 50 years. They are a knowledgeable group, and one with no hometown bias. You are probably familiar with the top 100 ranking of NFL players; this year SI decided to numerically rank the top 400 guys in the league.
The Packers landed 11 players on the list – middle of the road. By comparison, the top two teams were the Patriots and the Chiefs, with 19 each. Below them were the Falcons, Bucs, Panthers, and Lions, with 16 apiece. The Titans, Broncos, and Eagles each had 15 on the list.
At the other end of the top 400 spectrum are the Bills, Browns, and Redskins, with nine, the Jaguars and Bears with eight, and the hapless Jets, with only five.
This is a good indication that you’re not going far in this league without a good bit of star power.
The Green Bay entries were: Aaron Rodgers (6), Mike Daniels (58), David Bakhtiari (63), Jordy Nelson (97), Martellus Bennett (143), Bryan Bulaga (145), Clay Matthews (154), Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (180), Morgan Burnett (200), Randall Cobb (209), and Nick Perry (226).
There’s a big gap after Perry, as no other player on the team was among the last 174 players named. Other than for Matthews, Clinton-Dix, and perhaps Cobb, most of the rest have slowly but steadily gotten better – testaments to the team’s “draft and develop” philosophy.
I paid particular attention to the wide receivers – and I think Jordy is under-valued, as he has been throughout his career. I’ve got no big problem with Julio Jones (9), Antonio Brown (10), Odell Beckham, Jr. (23), A.J. Green (33), or Mike Evans (70). Dez Bryant at 75, 22 slots higher than Jordy – I don’t think so. The same goes for Alshon Jeffery at 89. They at least have Jordy ahead of Larry Fitzgerald (108), Demaryius Thomas (109), T.Y. Hilton (115), and Julian Edelman (119).
Despite two off years, Randall Cobb gets a decent rating of 209, while Davante Adams is nowhere to be found.
This list, which contains a few surprises in my mind, goes: Tom Brady (1), Aaron Rodgers (6), Ben Roethlisberger (16), Matt Ryan (28), Andrew Luck (30), Drew Brees (37), Philip Rivers (88), Eli Manning (104), Matthew Stafford (117), Derek Carr (124), Joe Flacco (136), Russell Wilson (139), and Carson Palmer (155). I’d have Russell Wilson higher on the list by about 100. Big Ben ahead of Matt Ryan?
You probably know that the Lions just agreed to pay Stafford $27 million a year over the next five years. General manager Bob Quinn came to Detroit in 2016 after working his way up in the personnel department of the New England Patriots for 15 years. If SI’s ranking of Stafford is sound, this biggest-ever NFL contract will be the ruin of Quinn’s career, and one that will throw off the Lions’ budget – and prospects – for years to come. Quinn’s Folly!
The QB grouping looks more like a lifetime achievement listing that a current rating heading into 2017. Very few of the top prospects of the last several years have continued their ascent up the ladder, including: Derek Carr (124), Cam Newton (162), Jameis Winston (164), Kirk Cousins (261), Marcus Mariota (287), Andy Dalton (338), and Ryan Tannehill (347).
Last season’s diamond in the rough, Dak Prescott, comes in at only 223. The Vikings’ Sam Bradford gets no respect at 249.
Sports Illustrated’s playoff predictions are eagerly anticipated every year. We’ll weigh in on that shortly.