“The Top 100 Players of 2016” kicked off Wednesday on NFL Network with the unveiling of Nos. 91 through 100.
Are there 91 better players than Andrew Luck?
No way, but that’s where the Colts quarterback plopped down in the first installment of “The Top 100 Players of 2016.”
Tumbling an outrageous 85 spots from last year, Luck — at No. 92 — paid the price for an up-and-down campaign that saw him miss nine starts due to a subluxed shoulder and lacerated kidney that ultimately ended his season.
Before the injuries, Luck failed to throw the ball with the same authority we saw in previous years. Playing behind a messy line and tied to a Colts offense that broke down in every possible way, Luck’s season was a disappointment. Somehow, that led this year’s Top 100 decision-makers — a hazy cadre of player-voters — to toss Luck into the cellar of this frivolous offseason exercise.
Of course, these are the same voting-booth masterminds who left Jimmy Graham off the list in 2013, skipped past Julio Jones in 2014, and decided two years ago that Aaron Rodgers wasn’t a top-10 player.
Consider it a vivid exploration into madness. It’s still unclear what our precious voters are deciding: Where Luck ranked last year, where they see him for 2016 — or where he lands from a career-perspective. Do the voters themselves even know?
Good luck finding one sane general manager who would chose 91 players before “settling” on Luck. Based on his immense frame, on-field talents and NFL resume, Indy’s star passer belongs much closer to where he ranked last year — at No. 7. Instead, shaky pass protection and a bum kidney have shipped Luck into a netherworld. Good work, fellas.
Other takeaways from Wednesday’s premiere:
»Raiders fans will argue that Derek Carr belongs higher than No. 100. I agree, based on my theory that quarterbacks, as a group, should dominate the top 20. They don’t call it the most important position in sports for nothing. Instead, Carr was rated as a less-important team-building chip than Cameron Jordan (No. 99) and a rash of interior O-linemen. Another question: Where does this leave Teddy Bridgewater?
»Jeremy Maclin anchored Kansas City’s passing game last season, hauling in a career-best 87 catches. Naturally, that led voters to drop him 32 spots from 2015. There’s no rock-solid explanation for the tumble. Maclin made the Chiefs look smart for adding him in free agency.
» Only two of the first 10 players revealed — Luck and Maclin — cracked this list in 2015. The other eight are all first-timers, including a from-the-wilderness Gary Barnidge at No. 94. After failing to top 13 catches in any of his previous six seasons, the Browns tight end broke out for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns off 79 grabs. Can he repeat the feat under Hue Jackson?
» From the “I’d be labeled a drifting lunatic had I predicted this a year ago” file: Richie Incognito checks in at No. 97. Emerging from an untoward bullying scandal in Miami, the Bills guard made good on the faith shown by coach Rex Ryan. Incognito ranked as the second-best player at his position in 2015, starting all 16 games and drawing positive reviews from teammates.
» He’s no Q-rating fireball, but Mike Daniels (No. 95) should rank higher. The Packers defensive lineman doesn’t pile up flashy numbers, but he operated as a constant nuisance for opponents in 2015. Green Bay thought enough of his play to hand Daniels a four-year, $42 million extension. That’s money well-spent for an under-the-radar gem.
» At No. 91, Travis Kelce will use his place on this list as motivation. A reliable staple in coach Andy Reid’s air attack, the Chiefs tight end doesn’t see the ball as often as Rob Gronkowski, but “Baby Gronk” boasts similar traits and a knack for game-changing plays. Is he more valuable than Luck, though? Are any of these guys? Come on.