I’ve said before that I believe Tyron Smith is the best offensive lineman on the Cowboys, but Zack Martin is the best when ranked across their respective position groups. Tyron may be the best, and most talented, of the linemen that wear stars on their helmets, but odds are there’s a better left tackle in the game than him than the idea there’s a better guard than Zack Martin (however infinitesimally unlikely it is there’s a better tackle than Tyron).
Since it’s the offseason, it’s sometimes not enough to accept simple truths like this. People feel the constant need to rank things, list them out, on a perceived mission of determining who’s the best.
There’s no better example of this than the annual NFL Top 100. NFL Network does a great job of shoving this list down our throats every year, always making sure to reinforce that this list is voted on BY THE PLAYERS. What’s failed to also be mentioned is that it’s hardly a legitimate process. For perspective, Case Keenum ranked ahead of Ezekiel Elliott this year.
The list revealed 10 more players on Monday night, and Tyron Smith was among them. He is apparently perceived to be the 39th best player, and if you don’t think that’s fishy just know that Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff ranked ahead of him at #38.
Tyron was ranked 18th last year (his highest placing ever on the list), and you could make a legitimate argument that the 2017 season only further accented just how good he is considering the slide the Cowboys suffered without him. While a year ago was his highest ranking, it wasn’t his highest-ever Approximate Value grading from Pro Football Reference, so how can that have been his best in the eyes of the NFL Top 100?
What if I told you that there was another list that tried to rank Tyron Smith, though? And what if I also told you that they ranked Tyron even lower than the NFL Top 100? Sometimes the world really is just that unbelievable. PFF is doing a top 50 list and ranked Tyron 46th.
Let’s be fair to PFF here in that there are often times when we take one of their evaluations and applaud it (typically it’s one that is in favor of a Cowboys player). There is context required for everything, and context here is important.
Say you believe that Tyron Smith is the best left tackle in the game. While it can be argued someone else may be better (there are solid left tackles in the NFL), this is at the very least fair. There are maybe 10 quarterbacks who are individually better at their craft than Tyron is, maybe 10 total defensive players, how can anyone logically conclude that Tyron is 39th or 46th?
This really is the problem with these lists (and any list really). There’s no explanation for how exactly these are evaluated. Is this a ranking of most valuable, best individually, best overall, who knows? Lists innately lose meaning from the jump for this very reasoning.
Certain things become exhausting to argue. Jordan or LeBron? Is a hot dog a sandwich? Where does Tyron Smith (or any athlete) rank on a list of athletes?
Lists are subjective, meaning they are inherently flawed. Trying to rank what might be the best of something against the best of other things is a bad idea, so maybe people should stop trying to do it.