The NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2012 series finale aired on June 27, which concluded the second year of the series. Just like the Top 100 Players of 2011, much controversy surrounds this year's list. Plenty of deserving players were left off it, while undeserving players found their way in.
With a top-100 list, there are always going to be folks who felt their favorite player was wrongfully left off. Even players have sounded off about their low ranking or how a teammate of theirs should have been higher up on the totem pole.
The odds of pleasing everyone are virtually impossible, but by looking at areas of improvement, the NFL Network's Top 100 Players series can continue to progress. It will take some tweaking as the series rolls on. In the meantime, let's look at the top three issues that need to be cleared up.
Issue No. 1: Criteria
One of the biggest problems I had with this list from the get-go was the lack of defined criteria. Normally when a poll or survey is being conducted, the subject will be given a set of guidelines or rules to follow in answering the question being asked.
Setting criteria gives a standard by which the rankings can be judged or decided. Setting no criteria allows the top 100 list to be picked apart. Maybe that's what the NFL Network was going for when it created the format.
With the title "The Top 100 Players of 2012," it needs to take the players' performance from 2011 and combine it with a prediction for 2012. With the NFL truly being a year-to-year league, it's better to let facts from the previous season and a bit of foretelling form the top 100.
Another interesting viewpoint on the rankings would be the way Matt Miller does his B/R NFL 1,000 series. Break down each position and grade it on different attributes/characteristics. For example, when grading a cornerback, you would grade him on agility, ball skills, burn rate, coverage, awareness, range, run defense, speed, tackling, health and his overall rating.
Issue No. 2: Voting
It would be nice to know how many players cast a vote, who cast a vote and how many votes each player had. There's no reason for any of that to be secret information; the rankings would probably carry more merit if we knew the underlying details.
Some players and analysts have taken to Twitter to express their questions about who really voted. Sirius NFL Radio host Ross Tucker talked to Brian Urlacher, who had this to say:
Do Urlacher's comments reflect a crippled process, or were some players just unconcerned with the process as a whole?
Then there is the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Last year, Derrick Mason said, "I don't think I ranked all 100 players. I think I ranked maybe 20 guys." Click here to read his complete interview with 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore.
After hearing both sides of the story, it makes one wonder about the overall participation. My guess would be the overall number of participants was low.
Issue No. 3: Popularity
By going down the list of the top 100 players, it is easy to see why people describe it as a popularity contest. Someone please explain to me why Jimmy Graham is 14th on the list and Rob Gronkowski is 21st.
There is no justification as to why Ben Roethlisberger, Frank Gore and Andre Johnson are in front of Eli Manning. His late-season stretch from Week 17 onwards allowed the Giants to hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in five years.
Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com had this to say about the inclusion of Ndamukong Suh, one of the so-called "famous" players:
This "Top 100" list is full of great players, but it's also full of famous players. Suh is famous. Or notorious. He's talked-about, and he has commercials, so players vote for him. Suh had just four sacks last season. His tackle total was cut almost in half. There's no way he was even the best defensive lineman on his own team, much less one of the elite players in the league. Even Suh said he wants to put last season behind him.
Rosenthal adds, "The vote also is an indication of how good players believe Suh can be. It doesn't reflect the player Suh has been."
Tim Tebow is another "famous" player who doesn't belong on the list. Tebow's counterparts had him as the 95th-best player of 2012, pretty far-fetched considering I can name 95 quarterbacks who are better than him.
The names of undeserving players could go on for as long as you wanted it to. But the thing is, the list creates conversation, and it's safe to say this won't be the last time we discuss the series.