The end of another offseason means the return of the NFL Top 100.
A controversial list featured on NFL Network, the NFL Top 100 examines the best players from the previous season.
The list frequently goes viral for its surprising rankings — Bills quarterback Josh Allen, for instance, ranked higher than Cardinals star quarterback Kyler Murray this year — and the subsequent social media battles.
Just how is possibly the most ridiculous list in football determined? Let’s take a look.
The NFL Top 100 is in its 10th season
The NFL Top 100 first aired in April 2011 amid an NFL lockout. At the time, it provided fans with more football and something to get their minds off a labor war.
The list has remained a constant every offseason. NFL Network has aired the list in late-July the last two years, perfectly leading into the new season.
Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is the only three-time top-ranked player. Brady earned that honor in 2011, 2017, and 2018.
The rest of the No. 1 players are all familiar to fans. Aaron Rodgers (2012), Peyton Manning (2014), and Cam Newton (2016) all topped the list as quarterbacks. Adrian Peterson captured the title in 2013 after he ran for over 2,000 yards the previous season.
Defensive players have topped the list before, too. J.J. Watt did so in 2015 and Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald earned the honor last year, narrowly beating Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
The list has one major rule: Retired players are not eligible for the list. Former Giants quarterback Eli Manning, for example, couldn’t appear on this year’s list because he retired after the 2019 season ended.
The results are controversial, to say the least
Without social media, NFL Network may have ditched the NFL Top 100.
It’s the presence of social media, though, that has kept the list a mainstay every offseason. Much like Madden ratings, players and teams brag about their ratings or complain they were too low.
Some of the early rankings were surprising. Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith dropped from No. 61 to No. 88.
Browns defensive end Myles Garrett was No. 49 a year ago, but fell all the way to No. 80; Garrett had 10 sacks in 10 games last year but missed the final six games after an on-field fight.
How does the NFL Top 100 determine its rankings?
The voting process for the NFL Top 100 is simple, yet flawed.
According to a 2013 article from Pro Football Talk, all players receive a ballot. Each played would list only his top 20 players in the league; the top-ranked player earned 20 points, the second-ranked player earned 19 points, and so forth.
NFL Network spokesman Alex Riethmiller explained more of the voting process in an email exchange with PFT.
“For convenience sake, we try to time it with Pro Bowl balloting, so they can do them together. In addition to ballots collected that way, we also give ballots to many of the players that we interview for our shows.”
Only 481 players, or 28.3% of the league, voted on the 2013 awards.
If the league wants to improve the validity of these rankings, the voters should instead consist of the team’s union reps and captains.
For example, the Kansas City Chiefs had six captains last year. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce represented the offense, while safety Tyrann Mathieu and linebacker Anthony Hitchens led the defense.
Young kicker Harrison Butker and punter Dustin Colquitt — who also served as the Chiefs’ union rep — were the special teams captains.
Of the league’s 32 teams, 29 had full-time captains last year; the Ravens, Bears, and Broncos appointed weekly captains. Those teams could instead choose veterans and the union reps.
It would be a radical change, but one that may make the NFL Top 100 more than a list to scoff at … until those same people complain their quarterback is too low, of course.