We’re closing in on the beginning of the 2019 NFL season (less than two weeks!) which is very welcome news for those of us that have been wandering through the desert of the offseason. That’s all of us, by the way.
As we are approaching the start of the season, we’ve reached the eleventh hour for predictions. This is true for everyone which obviously includes various media entities, networks, programs, you get the picture.
On Monday, the worldwide leader in sports published what they believe will be the top 100 players across the National Football League this season. This is sort of a preseason version of the NFL Top 100 except this is ESPN’s rankings and not what NFL Network tells us is the players voting.
Again, this is a list of players that ESPN collectively believes will be the 100 best players throughout football this season. The list is ranked from the top spot through the 100th and 6% of it features players that wear stars on their helmets:
- 16th: Ezekiel Elliott
- 30th: DeMarcus Lawrence
- 39th: Zack Martin
- 50th: Tyron Smith
- 54th: Amari Cooper
- 96th: Jaylon Smith
Nobody is arguing that these players are going to be pivotal to the success the Cowboys hope to have in 2019, but would you say that you believe these are the six best on the team as of today?
It’s hard to measure things like this because positions like quarterback are inherently more valuable than others. While one could (I’m not going to) make the argument that Dak Prescott belongs on this list, it seems like a bigger deal that someone like Byron Jones isn’t here.
The most egregious error here though doesn’t concern either of those players... how is Leighton Vander Esch not on this list?!
The Wolf Hunter quickly became one of the best linebackers across the league throughout his rookie season and now suddenly he isn’t worthy of being one of the best 100 players in the game? It’s worth noting that Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard (who beat out Vander Esch for Defensive Rookie of the Year) is ranked 44th, there’s no possible way that LVE is so significantly far behind in terms of however you want to calculate this that he would be outside of the top 100.
What’s more is that Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson is ranked 77th here. He’s a great cornerback, but he’s suspended for the first six games of the season. How can he possibly be ranked ahead of Vander Esch? There are other players where that feels just the same, but that one stands out for obvious reasons.
Lists like these always seem to have one weird misstep or bad calculation. Apparently Leighton Vander Esch is going to have to prove to some people that what he did throughout his rookie season wasn’t a fluke.
It will be fun to watch him do that.