NFL Network is bridging the dead period of the offseason by counting down the "Top 100 Players of 2016". And because the list is being dragged out over a traffic-optimizing but exasperatingly long time, many NFL fans and analysts are creating Top 100 lists of their own.
Rather than waiting until NFL Network's countdown comes to a close, we'll check out USA Today's Steven Ruiz,who published his own Top 100 last week. The top Bengals on the list are Geno Atkins and A.J. Green, who finished 43rd and 50th overall on Ruiz's list, but neither player was among the top five AFC North players in the countdown. Here's the list of AFC North players who made the cut in Ruiz's Top 100 list:
|43. Geno Atkins, DT||8. Antonio Brown, WR||15. Marshal Yanda, OG||10. Joe Thomas, OT|
|50. A.J. Green, WR||16. Ben Roethlisberger, QB||78. Brandon Williams, DT||- -|
|57. Andrew Whitworth, OT||18. Le'Veon Bell, RB||- -||- -|
|86. Carlos Dunlap, DE||34. David DeCastro, OG||- -||- -|
|88. Tyler Eifert, TE||- -||- -||- -|
There's are obviously many things that can be criticized about Ruiz's list, or any list attempting to rank the NFL's top 100 players, for that matter. Let's save that discussion for another day.
With the abundance of talent in the AFC North, I was presented with a hypothetical. Blogging the Boys did a great piece, sparking my attention, in which the blog asked readers which player from each NFC East team fans would like to see in Dallas. I felt it was a great idea, so I'm doing the same.
In Cincinnati, Bengal fans might argue Andy Dalton, Giovani Bernard, Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones should be included among the top 100 players in the NFL. In Pittsburgh, Steelers fans probably would've liked to see Maurkice Pouncey, Cam Heyward or Lawrence Timmons get some recognition. Ravens fans would most likely argue that Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Justin Tucker deserve more respect. And finally, in Cleveland, Browns fans would point out that Joe Haden should've made the cut.
With all of that said, the question remains: If you could have one player from each AFC North team for the Bengals' 2016 roster, which three players would you pick?
Here are my picks:
Steelers: Antonio Brown may be one of the best wide receivers, if not the best wide receiver, in football. That being said, the Bengals have two elite pass-catchers of their own in Green and Eifert, so adding Brown might be more overkill than actual help. And even if he were able to gel with his teammates and fit in Cincinnati's scheme, I'd argue there's a better choice. Center Maurkice Pouncey is an easy choice for me. Though he's struggled to stay healthy, he's one of the best players at his position when he's on the field. And because the current starting center, Russell Bodine, has been very durable throughout his career, he'd be able to back up Pouncey with ease.
Ravens: Baltimore has a couple of terrific edge rushers in Suggs and Dumervil, and both players would be hard to pass up in this exercise. Brandon Williams just might be the best nose tackle in all of football, so there's a compelling argument to make there, too--though it's worth mentioning he might not fit in the Bengals' 4-3 scheme as well as he's been in the Ravens' 3-4 defense. Finally, Marshal Yanda is the best interior offensive lineman in the NFL, which makes him the hardest player to pass over. But for me, the selection is easy. Kicker Justin Tucker has a cannon for a leg, and when he's on his game, he can be the best kicker in football. Mike Nugent has nailed a few memorable kicks in his Bengals tenure, but he's also getting up there in age. Adding Tucker would provide youth at the position and allow the Bengals a chance to attempt more long field goals rather than punting.
Browns: Joe Thomas and Andrew Whitworth are two of the three best offensive tackles in the NFL, and while having two elite tackles would be nice, it wouldn't be necessary. Rather, I'd like to take a chance on Joe Haden, who was in the discussion as one of the best corners in the NFL only a year ago before enduring a nagging ankle injury as well as multiple concussions in 2015. Additionally, it would help the Bengals' offense, as A.J. Green has struggled mightily when facing Haden one-on-one. Additional reps against Haden in practice, as well as the fact that he wouldn't face Haden in two games every year, would be largely beneficial for Green in particular.
So there you have it. Rather than taking three of the NFL's 20 best players, I ended up choosing a center, a kicker and a corner. In retrospect, maybe I should've just taken the best player available, but I'm going to stand by my selections.
Over to you: Which players would you pick and why?