Just. Not. Interested.
That's how I felt when I saw the NFL Network's commercials that they were going to be starting back up with their Top 100 players for 2013. If you are unfamiliar, the network polls players around the league for them to give their top guys based on the previous season and what they expect for the coming season.
Therein lies the crux of the issues I have with the list. For one, players rarely get to evaluate other players around the league unless they appear on each other's schedule. Players also have their own biases. We see these things play out over the years with the Pro Bowl nominations which are one-third based on player voting.
Don't think players can be biased? Then explain how a recent player poll listed Dez Bryant as one of the most overrated players in the league when he was a Top 5 receiver and didn't make ANY post-season listings? Who exactly was overrating him then? Oh, you mean you just don't like Dez Bryant? Got it.
Also, I just can't respect any listing that put Tim Tebow near the vicinity of Tony Romo. That wasn't the only eyebrow-raiser, but it was the one that hit closest to home for me.
So while they are slowly counting down the 2013 list, I want to bring people's attention to a couple other rankings they might agree are a little better constructed.
As is probably well known around these parts, PFF grades each player in the NFL on each play of every game. It's by no means a perfect mechanism but they are, by far, the best source for for player grades. If you know the limitations of their system and how the grades given are based on accumulation then you're in good shape. Now with that said, these rankings aren't solely based on their player grades. Hey, at least they are by people charged with watching everyone.
PFF thinks that over the course of the 2012 season, four Cowboys were in the Top 101 of the NFL, none of which were ranked in 2011.
96. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys (Unranked)
The scary thing about Bryant is that even with 1,382 yards he could have had so much more. A quite fantastic end to the season shouldn’t make you forget a somewhat inconsistent start where big plays mixed with equally big disconnects with his quarterback. His final eight games though, including that game versus New Orleans, should put all the NFL on notice for 2013.
Best Performance: Week 16 versus New Orleans, +4.2
Key Stat: His five touchdowns on passing thrown over 20 yards in the air were second most in the entire league.
77. Jason Hatcher, DE, Dallas Cowboys (Unranked)
Of all the players on the Cowboys’ defense, Hatcher isn’t a guy who you automatically think of as being one of their best players. That is changing though after his breakout 2012. Coping with his most significant amount of playing time (784 snaps), by the end of the year you were wondering just why it took him so long to have such a prominent role. Stepped up on every down.
Best Performance: Week 16 versus New Orleans, +4.3
Key Stat: His 42 quarterback disruptions were third-most of any 3-4 defensive end.
66. Anthony Spencer, OLB, Dallas Cowboys (Unranked)
If you had predicted one Cowboys outside linebacker to make the list before the year, odds are it wouldn’t have been Spencer. However, the Cowboys’ franchise player had his best season as a pro where he delivered on a far more consistent basis then he’s more recognizable partner in crime. His return of 40 quarterback disruptions was extremely healthy, while his work setting the edge was really what set him apart from the crowd.
Best Performance: Week 10 versus Philadelphia, +4.8
Key Stat: His 41 stops in the run game were 11 more than the next best 3-4 outside linebacker.
62. Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys (Unranked)
While there was a sentiment that Witten benefited from simply been throw to a lot (146 times to be precise), there’s no denying he turned many of those catches into significant plays for the Cowboys. What’s more, Witten backed up his receiving with some fine blocking, even after overcoming an injury that most felt would see him miss considerable time.
Best Performance: Week 8 versus New York Giants, +7.0
Key Stat: His 56 combined first-down and touchdown receptions were the 14th-most of any offensive player.
I'll be honest; I had never heard of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio before I kept seeing #RSPWP2 on my timeline over and over again. 2013 was the first year that I dove into draftnik-dom. I had heard of Matt Waldman but wasn't aware of this resource.
Anyway, Waldman put together what in effect is a fantasy football draft for current NFL players at every position. He then collected 32 of the best football minds the internet could find to "GM" franchises. We're talking Sigmund Bloom, Dane Brugler, Chris Burke, Russ Lande, Aaron Schatz, Scott Kacsmar, Joe Goodberry, Mike Tanier, Danny Kelly and a host of other guys who flat-out know football.
I'd put their knowledge of who is a quality NFLer right up there with people who actually are involved in the game.
The goal they set out to meet is to create a starting lineup for 32 teams (22 positions) and to this point they've made it through most of 17 rounds. Their draft, in effect, puts a pretty good spin on ranking the most important players in the NFL.
Here is a look at where every Cowboys player has been selected, along with the genius GM that wanted said player on his team.
So what do you think, BTB? Do these guys have a good pulse on where the Cowboys players rank across the league? Check out the links to the complete exercises (the titles) and come back to share your opinions on things. By the way, no Cowboys player has been named thus far in NFL Network's exercise that has covered 100-61.