The kickoff of the NFL regular season is just about two months away. Typically conceived as the dry spot of the offseason, and for good reason with the NFL Draft already 2+ months in the books and free agency way behind us. With not much going on, we decided here at Breaking Football to put together a list of our Top 100 Players for the 2017 season. Yes, based on what they do at NFL Network. However, we wanted to get it right.
Instead of just one writer presenting their list, we instead combined the ballots of 7 different writers and in-turn compiled a consensus ranking of Breaking Football’s Top 100 Players for 2017. The writers who submitted ballots were: Chris Gragnani (@GragnaniReport), Dimitriy Leksanov (@dimitriy_l21), Matt Cardona (@matttcardona), Mike Fanelli (@MikeSports22), Richard Gerber (@RichardGerber3), Tony Jaramillo (@tonyjaramillo_7) and myself.
Every writer had a different method which went into their individual ballots. For the most part, we tried to weigh projection mostly, because well, this is a list for this season, right? However, overall talent and past production of course played a role.
What we will do is release our consensus ballot in segments of 10 players, just like they do it at NFL Network. Writers will be assigned to cover each player and provide a short paragraph of insight on each player’s success in 2017, and mention other variables such as: strengths, production, role and their personal ranking, among other factors. We hope you enjoy our list and find it to be a breath of fresh air.
This installment could prove to be our most controversial as you’ll find our first and only rookie. You see a pair of polarizing QBs – both of whom were former #1 overall picks. Who deserves to be higher: Jameis Winston or Cam Newton? A trio of veteran defenders get a share of recognition along with a 2nd year wide receiver with potential to be a stud and a wide receiver in a new home.
Let us know who we had ranked too high/too low in the comments below! Feel free to reach out to us on Twitter.
81: Calais Campbell, DL, Jacksonville Jaguars
Calais Campbell takes his place at number 81 on our list and it is well deserved for the ten-year veteran. Campbell has been a consistent force in the middle of that Arizona line since he stepped foot into the league. Campbell filled up the stat sheet racking up 8 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries (one he returned for a touchdown), and even registered an interception. Calais Campbell is one of the better pass rushing defensive tackles in the game and he also has the versatility to move all around the defensive line. Going into the 2017 season, Campbell will now be playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars and should be a strong veteran presence for a really young defense. Playing alongside Yannick Ngakoue, Dante Fowler Jr., and Malik Jackson, Campbell should help take pressure off the younger guys and this line can possibly become one of the best in football. Campbell has the talent around him to have another successful season in his new home of Jacksonville.
82: DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans
Murray went from leading the league in rushing yards back in 2014 and rushing touchdowns with 1,845 yards and 13 TDs to disappearing in the Eagles offense in 2015. Murray found himself once again with a new team this past season. Murray in 2016 was a great workhorse back for the Titans finishing top 3 in rushing with 1,287 yards and top 10 in rushing TDs with 9. 2016 was one of Murray’s best receivings years as he caught 53 passes for 377 and 3 TDs. It really was a bounce back year for Murray showing he still has a lot to offer. The Titans gave Derrick Henry limited snaps because Murray was doing so well. 2017 should be another solid campaign for Murray as he continues to be the workhorse of this Titans offense.
83: Eric Weddle, S, Baltimore Ravens
Eric Weddle enjoyed a rebound season in 2016 after an injury plagued 2015 spent with the then San Diego Chargers. In his first year in Baltimore, Weddle shined. He showed off why he was considered one of the leagues best safeties. And as has been the case for the majority of his career, he was overlooked constantly by the media. Despite grabbing four interceptions (he would’ve had close to double digits had he not dropped some easy interceptions) and being one of the best run defenders in the league, he barely made the Pro Bowl as an alternate. Matched now with Tony Jefferson, Weddle will revert back to free safety after playing strong safety in 2016. This will let him show off his incredible range and ball instincts. He is a passionate leader and will look to become a major staple of the Ravens defense in 2017.
84: Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Entering his third season in the league, Jameis Winston is expected to take his game to the next level. During the offseason the Buccaneers invested heavily in providing weapons for Winston. After signing DeSean Jackson as a free agent, they drafted O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin with two of their first three draft picks. After throwing for over 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, Winston is expected to become a more efficient passer. During his pro career, Winston is known as a turnover machine; having thrown 15 and 18 interceptions during his first two years in the league. The next step in Winston’s development is to cut down on the bad throws and interceptions. Last season Mike Evans was the focal point of the passing game; but with all the added weapons, Winston should be able to take his game to the next level. Don’t be shocked if Winston is in the top 40 of this list next season.
85: Brandin Cooks, WR, New England Patriots
Cooks is about as well-rounded as a deep-threat receiver can be. Though his size (5’10”) limits him from being a jump ball target, he excels in almost every other aspect of the game. His speed (4.33) is in the same class as other burners like DeSean Jackson, Will Fuller, and Tyreek Hill. On top of that, he excels at releasing off the line, which lets him victimize slower corners like Sean Smith in last year’s opening game. However, his hands are what truly separate him from other deep threats. Last year, he made numerous catches downfield either coming back for a ball or securing the ball while taking a hit. He is also highly consistent, with only three drops last season on almost 120 targets. This makes him a triple threat downfield: he can beat corners off the line, burn them and track a deep ball, or secure an underthrown ball with his strong hands. At only 23 years old, Cooks should only continue to grow with the Patriots. No longer having to split reps with Michael Thomas, Cooks should surpass his previous stat lines, and could reasonably be a 1,300 yard, 10-touchdown receiver in years to come.
86: Myles Garrett, EDGE, Cleveland Browns
The only rookie to make the 2017 projection list, Myles Garrett was the number one overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. He has been claimed by some to the savior of the franchise. Given the success he had at Texas A&M it is understandable why he made the list. During his three year career at Texas A&M Garrett had 31 sacks so it’s fair to expect him to make an impact early as a rookie, especially when you factor in his skillset. Garrett along with Emmanuel Ogbah gives the Browns one of the best young pass rush duos in the league. Having already suffered a minor foot injury during offseason workouts, the team might limit Garrett’s snaps as a rookie much like they were at Texas A&M. However, Garrett has the potential to get double digit sacks as a rookie if he can play all 16 games. If he can stay healthy for all 16 games, expect Garrett to be much higher on this list next year.
87: Brandon Graham, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles edge rusher Brandon Graham checks in at number 87 on our list. I believe Graham is one of the better pass rushers in this league but does not get his due respect because he does not post-up the high sack totals that some other pass rushers do. Graham is consistently pressuring opposing quarterbacks, which can be just as disruptive to the opposition. Last season, Brandon Graham finished 2nd in the NFL in QB pressures, trailing only Khalil Mack. So, while Graham does not put up the flashy stat line that some casual fans are looking for, when watching the tape you can see that Brandon Graham is one of the most disruptive pass rushers this league has to offer.
88: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Newton has the most unique skillset of any quarterback in the NFL. He has a world-class arm, easily the strongest in a league that features gunslingers like Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Ben Roethlisberger. This allows him to find receivers downfield at any point in his progression, and is a major reason why wide receiver Ted Ginn found more success on the Panthers with Cam throwing to him than on any other team, despite being past the age of 30. This, coupled with his prowess in the pocket, makes Newton a premier deep passer, while also allowing him to fit the ball into quickly closing windows on the intermediate level. However, where Newton truly stands out is in his running ability. With a 6’5”, almost 250-pound frame, Newton can run with far more power than any other quarterback, and even some running backs. This makes Newton a nearly unstoppable force at the goal-line, and it shows. During his 2015 MVP campaign, Newton ran for a whopping ten touchdowns–along with his 35 through the air. Though his carries were cut last year, likely due to injury, he still managed five, and figures to get more this coming season with Christian McCaffrey now in the picture. Though some may see his 52.9% completion percentage and call him an inaccurate passer, that figure has much to do with both his injury and his play style as a pure vertical passer. As a physical beast of a quarterback, Newton still is a borderline top-ten player at his position, and should remain that way for years to come.
89: Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
The former 4th pick in 2015 out of Alabama, Cooper has tallied consecutive 1,000 yard season. He has totaled 155 receptions and 11 TDs in two seasons on his way to back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances to start his career. Cooper has shown that he can be the future #1 wideout for the soon to be Las Vegas Raiders. In 2016 Cooper dropped too many easy catches. Many people like myself expect Cooper to take a giant leap in 2017. With a solid offensive line and great young QB ,Cooper has the skills and support to breakout as one of the league’s best.
90: C.J. Mosley, LB, Baltimore Ravens
Mosley is coming off a Pro Bowl year in which he racked up 92 tackles and four interceptions in just 14 games. Mosley has stepped up and become a leader on a feared Ravens’ defense. Going into 2017, he will have the spotlight on himself to command what should be one of the best defenses in the league. The two time second-team All-Pro selection became a well-balanced linebacker in 2016, showing good coverage instincts as well as wrap up ability. While he didn’t record a sack in 2016, his seven career sacks shows he can get after the quarterback. The pointer is way up on the young, budding star linebacker. He was arguably a top 10 linebacker in the league in 2016, and there’s no reason he can’t have similar success in 2017.