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.
On this particular segment, you find two pairs of teammates. One being the fresh corner tandem down in Jacksonville. The other being a pair of leaders on a team sure to be in the thick of things in this year’ NFC East title run. Other players include a wide receiver coming off a phenomenal freshman season and an established veteran QB who I personally felt should’ve been a bit higher. Read more below!
Let us know who we had ranked too high/too low in the comments below! Feel free to reach out to us on Twitter.
91: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jalen Ramsey was the fifth overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft and had an excellent rookie season. Even after his rookie season Ramsey is viewed by some as a top ten cornerback. Going into his second season, Ramsey is expected to lead a talented secondary and help the Jaguars defense take the next step forward in 2017. Already the Jaguars ‘number one cornerback, Ramsey can follow the opponents top receiver all over the field. At 6’1″ Ramsey has the size and speed to cover both the bigger and faster receivers in the league. He had two interceptions and 14 pass break ups as a rookie. Expect those numbers to increase in his sophomore season and don’t be shocked to see Ramsey higher on this list next season as I had him ranked 9th on my own ballot, much higher than the consensus.
92: Olivier Vernon, DE, New York Giants
Jerry Reese’s spending spree in the offseason started with signing Olivier Vernon to a 5 year $85 million contract. In his first season with the Giants he lived up the hype starting all 16 games collecting 8.5 sacks and 46 total tackles. He finished behind Eagles Brandon Graham in hurries by only 3. Vernon had a total of 37 hurries on the year. Vernon played a whopping 95% of the snaps last year. Jason Pierre-Paul and Vernon will look to set the edge for the Giants along with Damon Harrison in the middle. Vernon was snubbed from the Pro Bowl in 2016 but expect him to dominate the edge this upcoming season. The defensive line was a huge part of the Giants’ success in 2016 and they will need the D-line to replicate the same production if they want to win the division – Vernon is a key component in doing so.
93: Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins
2016 Kirk had a solid season. He was named a Pro Bowl alternate, finished 3rd in passing yards with 4,917 and 25 TDs. To go along with those stats Cousins finished in the top 10 (7th) in quarterback rating. Over the last two seasons Kirk Cousins has showed that he can be a franchise QB for the Redskins. Washington is full of young talented playmakers like Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder. Look for Cousins to have another strong season in 2017 as he vies for yet another new contract.
94: Cameron Wake, DE, Miami Dolphins
Almost immediately following former teammate Olivier Vernon, we find Cameron Wake on the list. Don’t let his age fool you. At 35, Wake remains one of the most ferocious pass rushers in the game and has cemented himself as one of the most consistent in recent years. Wake comes off an 11.5 sack season – matching his 2014 total. After drafting Charles Harris in the 1st round, Wake finally has a capable pass rusher starting opposite him which should open up even more opportunities for Wake in 2017. Perhaps the best product the CFL has ever produced.
95: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
Michael Thomas was the 47th overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. After starting his rookie season slow, Thomas became more involved in the Saints offense. Closing out the 2016 season with a bang, Thomas had ten catches for 156 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons. Thomas was so impressive as a rookie the Saints felt confident enough to trade number one wide receiver Brandin Cooks in the offseason. With Cooks in New England, Thomas is the Saints new number one receiver and expected to take his game to the next level this season. At 6’3”, Thomas fits the ideal mold as a number one receiver. With a good blend of size and speed, he can develop into an elite receiver during his sophomore season. With 92 catches for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie, expect those number to improve this season and for Thomas to be higher on this list next season.
96: Desmond Trufant, CB, Atlanta Falcons
Desmond Trufant may be the most underrated cornerback in the NFL. Ranked 96 overall by the Breaking Football Staff, Trufant just made the cut into the top 100 list. This is partly due to him being injured in week 9 and missing the rest of the season, including the playoffs. When Trufant is on the field, he usually locks down his side of the field with his sticky coverage. The one weakness Trufant has in his game are his hands, which is evident when looking at his career interception total of only seven in four seasons. If Trufant can bounce back from his injury he will have a chance to prove that he belongs in the conversation when talking about the best defensive backs in football. Trufant will still only be 27 years old when the upcoming season begins and he will look to add to the Falcons defense as they look to make another Super Bowl run.
97: Ryan Kerrigan, EDGE, Washington Redskins
Ryan Kerrigan comes in listed at 97 on our list but I personally think he should be ranked higher. Since entering the league in 2011, Ryan Kerrigan has never missed a game. Kerrigan is an underrated pass rusher because since he has entered the league he has been on one of the worst defenses in football. No matter how bad the Redskins have been defensively it has not stopped Ryan Kerrigan from putting up solid numbers. When watching Kerrigan’s 2016 tape, he left a lot of sacks on the table as quarterbacks were able to slip away from his grasp a handful of times. Even with all of the missed sacks, Kerrigan still finished with double-digit sacks which tied him for 8th in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Kerrigan ranked fourth in pass rush productivity in 2016. Since 2014, Von Miller and Khalil Mack are the only two outside linebackers to have more total pressures than Ryan Kerrigan, which puts him in elite company. Ryan Kerrigan might be in line for the best season of his career in 2017 because the Redskins defense has a plethora of pass rushers who will play opposite of Kerrigan. Trent Murphy, Preston Smith, Junior Galette, and rookie Ryan Anderson will rush the passer opposite of Kerrigan which should allow for him to have more one on one matchups with the offensive line and the healthy rotation of pass rushers should keep him fresh during the game.
98: A.J. Bouye, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars
The breakout star from 2016 cashed in over the offseason as he signed a 5 year/$67.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Bouye now joins forces with Jalen Ramsey, who also appears in this segment, to form one of the best, young CB tandems in the entire NFL. Bouye has lockdown corner capabilities and was quietly one of the best in the league last year. According to PFF, Bouye allowed the fewest yards per attempt last season in zone coverage. With a blossoming Ramsey and now Bouye on the outside, the Jaguars will be much improved guarding the pass this season.
99: Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
I was pleasantly surprised to find the feisty, competitive veteran make the list, although I had him marginally higher on my personal ballot. Philip Rivers returns for his 12th season as the starter for the Chargers, coming off his 4th consecutive 4,000 yard season where he threw 33 TD passes – the 2nd most in his career. On the flipside, he also threw for a career-high 21 interceptions. Still, Rivers remains one of the most consistent QBs in the league and a fiery leader under center. With his top weapon returning to full health (hopefully) in Keenan Allen, the poised breakout of Tyrell Williams, the deep threat prowess in Travis Benjamin, the drafting of Mike Williams with the 7th overall pick and arguably the top TE tandem in Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates, Rivers is well on his way to another ultra productive season in the Chargers’ move to La La Land.
100: Malcolm Jenkins, S, Philadelphia Eagles
The unquestioned leader of the Philadelphia Eagles defense, Malcolm Jenkins has been the lone bright spot of Philly’s secondary for the past couple of seasons despite aging. Jenkins is the ultimate sparkplug at the safety position as he brings tremendous versatility to contribute in every way imaginable, including his ability to assume the slot when needed. If the Eagles are able to put together any chance at a playoff appearance, the vocal leader would have played a monumental role throughout the year. Malcolm Jenkins is the perfect player to round out this list.