The Atlanta Falcons may not have the national brand that teams like the Packers, Cowboys, or equally popular teams may have, but they are represented well by the talent they have.
The NFL Top 100 is an annual list of players, voted on by their peers, and counts down the Top 100 players in the League. This is far from the most accurate or fool-proof way to compile a list, but who better to poll than the individuals who actually play the game and game plan for their opponents?
The Falcons are well represented on the 2012 list so far, and I believe that there will most likely be another addition to this list.
Michael Turner is listed at No. 88 on this list. That is not a huge shocker, as he has slowed down the last couple seasons and doesn’t have quite the breakaway speed that he had his first couple seasons in Atlanta. However, he is still incredibly talented, and his placement in the Top-100 is warranted, and quite fair.
Roddy White was the second Falcon to be named. He came in at No. 65 on the list, which is almost 40 spots lower than he was ranked in the 2011 edition of this list. There is no denying that he suffered a lot last season with a horrendous bout of the drops, and last year was not his finest by any stretch of the imagination. Still, White is a physical receiver who has a lot of speed, and is a very reliable target for Matt Ryan. I can’t argue too much with his placement on this year’s list.
The real surprise was that Tony Gonzalez was listed as the 53rd best player in the NFL. When you consider the supremely talented individuals who play in the League it is incredible that Gonzalez, one of the elder statesmen of the League, is this high on the list. After No. 70-61 were named last week, I wasn’t sure that Gonzalez would be named at all. But I think the players understand just how much Gonzalez understands this game, to what extent he does the little things that go unnoticed during the game or during a reception on TV, but are crucial for his team winning games week in and week out. It says a lot about a guy that he is ranked so highly.
Those are the Falcons that have been named so far. I think there are two others that may be on this list: one player could be here, and the other would be foolish to be left off.
Julio Jones has potential to be on this list. Sure he only played 13 games in his rookie season and it took him a while to make a real impact on this team, but Jones is extremely talented, and could take over games by himself. His size, speed, strength, and hands could place him in the top-50 on this years list, or certainly in the top-100 in future editions of this list.
It would be an absolute travesty if Matt Ryan were left completely off the 2012 Top-100 list. He was ranked No. 52 in 2011, and by all accounts that was a tremendous season. He struggled at times last season, but I think players in the league recognize his talent and he will be on the list in the next couple weeks. One pundit for NFL.com said that he would not be surprised at all if Ryan was left off the list completely. Don’t get me wrong, the Falcons were not as successful in the regular season as they were in 2010, and Ryan’s stats were only slightly better in the 2011 season, so I would not have been surprised to see him bumped down a few spots on the list. We don’t know that he will be on the list this year, but at this point there are only two options: Ryan was left off the list completely, or he moved up a couple spots from the 2011 Top-100 list. I believe he is on the list, and that he climbed a few spots up the rankings. He will not be in the top-10, but I’m sure he will be on this list. If he is not, I would be floored.
While the top-100 is an interesting thing to look at and talk about from a fan perspective, this does little to really cement a player’s legacy, or make his team better. It is simply a list to generate conversation among the fans, and to gauge a player’s respect among his peers (the other NFL players). I am very proud to have the Falcons that have already been named on my team. I am also curious to see if the players gave Ryan more respect than last year, or give him a slap in the face by leaving him off the list completely in favor of guys like Joe Flacco. I am also curious if Julio Jones is on the list. If he is, he would be ranked higher than fellow 2011 Draft Class WR A.J. Green. The opinions of the NFL players are interesting, and clearly fans (including me) and dying to hear their opinions.