It is that point in the offseason where you see tons of content basically predicting players who will succeed during the 2019 season. One popular way to do that is by ranking the top players.
Doug Farrar of Touchdown Wire, tried to put a spin on making a top 100 NFL players list that would help give fair representation towards all positions instead of over valuing certain positions.
Recently, I compiled 14 different lists of the 11 best players at every position. And of those names, I then compiled this list of the top 100 players in the NFL today. In this top 100, I forced myself to stick to players I had named in the positional lists, to avoid overdoing “skill position players” at the expense of slot cornerbacks, guards and interior defensive linemen. By drawing from a full list of positions as opposed to loading this with the most popular or highest-paid players, hopefully it gives a better and wider sense of the talent around the league than some other lists might.
Farrar also talks about doing it this way helps avoid including players based solely on popularity or how much they’re paid as well. It honestly makes a ton of sense, and it makes it hard to get too upset with the rankings, because clearly this wasn’t thrown together half haphazardly for clicks.
Bengals fans will likely find a problem with the fact that only Geno Atkins was included from Cincinnati.
79. Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati Bengals
Selected by the Bengals in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Atkins is one of many defensive tackles of his era undervalued because they didn’t fit an arbitrary size requirement. But the 6-foot-1, 300-pound Georgia alum caught my eye in his first NFL preseason, and it’s been all uphill ever since. Atkins put up yet another monster season in 2018, with 64 total pressures, nine sacks, nine quarterback hits and 46 quarterback hurries. He added 24 tackles, 14 assists and 28 stops to his statistical palette.
What some people don’t seem to get about shorter defensive tackles from John Randle to Atkins to Grady Jarrett to Aaron Donald is that the leverage created by height deficits is actually a huge advantage. Atkins has always been able to parlay this into an ability to get after quarterbacks and stop big plays. And while he’s always been great at getting under the pads of blockers and pushing them off their feet, he’s still quick enough to run right past any opponent to get into the backfield. Coming into his 10th NFL season, Atkins hasn’t lost a bit of his edge.
These are points that just about every Bengals fan should know about Atkins. He has been the team’s best defender for several seasons now, and his ability to disrupt the middle of an opponents offensive line has been crucial for any sort of success the defense has had over his tenure.
Any top 100 ranking without Atkins should be heavily scrutinized. He may not be as productive as someone like the Rams’ defensive lineman Aaron Donald, but he is still one of the most disruptive interior defenders in the NFL.
What most fans will probably be upset about (and rightfully so) is the exclusion of one A.J. Green. This is a list of top 100 NFL players going into 2019, so him having a down year due to injury last season isn’t an excuse for him missing like it is for lists about top 2018 players.
Again, I don’t want to be hard on Farrar. It is entirely subjective who the top 11 wide receivers in the NFL are (even if he does split them up between slot and outside receivers). There are so many great receivers right now, and they all seem to do it differently. You could probably ask 100 different people to rank the top 14 receivers and never get a duplicate.
Unfortunately, this is a more widespread problem of national media and analysts falling out of love with Green, which I would argue that they are doing too early. Sure, Green will be turning 31-years-old at the end of July, but receivers don’t traditionally fall off like we see running backs do when they get to that 30 range. Especially with guys like Green who have made a point to properly take care of their body over their careers.
You could also make the point that Green could be rejuvenated by an offense that should have more modern offensive tactics in it. Over the past few years the Bengals have struggled to scheme ways to get Green open.
Last year was one of the first seasons Green saw extensive time lining up in the slot to help get him some easy completions. It seems like such a simple concept, but for whatever reason Cincinnati just hadn’t looked for ways to maximize Green’s talent and production. We could easily see that with Zac Taylor’s system.
It isn’t surprising to see only one or two players from the Bengals on these kinds of lists. The fact is the Bengals have been disappointing for three years, and they didn’t make any sort of splashes outside of hiring Taylor as their new head coach. If the Bengals want to see more players included, 2019 needs to be one where wee see some real improvement.