I believe in our electoral system here at NFL Network. The league's free and fair annual selection process for the Top 100 Players is a shining example of democracy in sports media, a true city on Taysom Hill. The result is a representative will of the people, which, in this case, are the super-human athletes employed by the 32 teams.
However, though I accept the results of this year's election, I have some questions about the winners, and I demand to speak to a manager.
Instead of writing my congressperson or reply-guying NFL Network social media posts, I've done my own research and taken a shot at critiquing this year's edition of the Top 100 Players. Here are five things the voters got wrong.
1) Misidentifying the head of State Farm
Let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). Or is it the end? Is this a countdown or a ranking? It's up to you to decide, dear reader. Time and order don't exist in the digital space. On the football field, however, they certainly do. And these factors, I assume, are what led the league's players to rank Patrick Mahomes -- the 2018 MVP and reigning Super Bowl-losing QB -- No. 1, two spots ahead of his insurance-slinging compatriot Aaron Rodgers, the reigning MVP and QB who lost to Tom Brady's Buccaneers right before Mahomes in the 2020 postseason.
Through the '20 campaign, Mahomes, fresh off a Super Bowl title, was on the periphery of the MVP conversation the entire season, never at the forefront. Rodgers, on the other hand, unleashed a vindicating vendetta, relying mostly on one bona fide star among his skill-position players, as his front office-appointed successor waited in the wings. It was an all-time season for Rodgers, especially at his age, that was even more efficient than Mahomes' 2020. As a soon-to-be 26-year-old, Mahomes is still in the early stages of his career. Rodgers, who'll soon turn 38, is nearing the end of his, per Packers GM Brian Gutekunst's actions. I suspect this is how the players, most of them in their 20s, reasoned that despite Rodgers' MVP campaign, Mahomes is the game's top player and its future, one in the same. But if Rodgers has taught us anything from his spiritual sojourn this summer, it's that we should live in the present and enjoy the spectacular now. And right now, Rodgers is the best QB, and player, in the National Football League.
2) Forgot about Dak?
As quarterbacks drive interest in this league, so too do they drive fascination with and anger at this annual tradition. There are many issues to be had with the QB rankings in the Top 100 Players. Why is Russell Wilson, an MVP candidate for much of the 2020 season, out of the top 10, falling 10 spots from last year to No. 12? I won't even get into Deshaun Watson (No. 18) and the troubling situation surrounding the Texans QB. Why is Baker Mayfield (No. 71) in front of Ryan Tannehill (No. 83)? But the major beef I have is not with where a signal-caller was slotted, but why he didn't even make the cut. I'm talking, of course, about Dak Prescott.
Through the first four games of 2020, the Cowboys QB had completed 68 percent of his passes, was averaging 422.5 passing yards per game and was #ONPACE to break the single-season passing mark by nearly 1,300 yards. Then he fractured his ankle in Week 5 and was lost for the remainder of the season, so lost that his peers apparently forgot about him when voting time came around. Shame. Shame. Shame. The Cowboys had enough belief in Prescott that mid-rehab they rewarded him with a $160 million contract. But on the 2021 Top 100, Prescott, who was No. 46 in 2020 (still low at that time, trust me, I have receipts), fell all the way out of the ranking. This is the Top 100 Players of 2021, right? Not the Guys Whose Highlights Were All Over 'The Aftermath' in December?
Prescott's fall is also a pretty embarrassing conclusion from the players because other colleagues who dealt with major injuries last year did not suffer entirely the same fate. George Kittle (No. 7 in 2020) fell 43 spots after missing half the season. Christian McCaffrey (No. 6 in 2020) played three games and dropped 38 spots. Prescott's own teammate, Zack Martin (No. 55 in 2020), missed six contests and still came in at No. 85 this year. NFL players can't get their head around Prescott's career. He debuted at No. 14 after winning Offensive Rookie of the Year, dropped out entirely for two years, re-emerged ahead of the 2020 season, only to be cast off once again despite playing the best he's ever played, prior to suffering the injury. Make up your mind, voting body.
No player who was on last year's ranking saw as great a rise up this edition's charts as Cardinals safety Budda Baker. The fifth-year defensive back was named first-team All-Pro for the second time, made his third Pro Bowl in four seasons and posted a career-high two interceptions. He was also involved in perhaps the most memorable defensive play of the 2020 season -- a 90-yard interception return against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football in Week 7. The only problem with said return was that Baker got caught from behind by a blazing-fast DK Metcalf inside Seattle's 10. The immediately memeable play, followed by a Seahawks goal-line stand, made Metcalf a star and Baker a brief punchline. The real kicker, though, should've been Metcalf catching Baker again, this time in the Top 100 ranking. Like Baker, Metcalf (No. 81 in 2020) shot up the charts, 59 spots to No. 22, just three behind the Cards safety. I have no scientific or critical basis for arguing strongly for Metcalf to move ahead of Baker in the rankings. I'm just here to point out the players missed a golden opportunity to have this annual work of art imitate life.
4) No love for the 2020 Jets
Every year I argue for every team to be included in the Top 100 Players countdown. This time around, every team is represented ... technically. All 32 clubs have at least one player on the 2021 roster in the Top 100 list. But there's one organization whose 2020 roster is not represented at all: the New York Jets. Gang Green's offering this year, wide receiver Corey Davis, was a member of the Tennessee Titans last year and joined New York via free agency in March. There are former Jets on the list -- Jamal Adams at No. 31, Demario Davis at No. 64, Leonard Williams at No. 84 -- but no players from the 2-14 2020 roster. This is my petition, in the spirit of fairness, to add at least either Quinnen Williams or Mekhi Becton, the Jets' two top trench talents, to the ranking. Whom to replace? No offense to any of these players, but let's go either K.J. Wright (No. 67), who is a free agent, Brandon Graham (No. 99), who is graded by Pro Football Focus nearly identically to Williams (81.5 to 81.4), or Cole Beasley (No. 96), who's never started more than 10 games or hit the 1,000-yard mark in a season.
5) Let's get weird
After years of avoiding the quirkiest positions in football, the players finally acquiesced and selected a fullback to the Top 100. By my TI-89 calculations, Kyle Juszczyk (No. 97) is the first FB to make the list since 2012, when Green Bay's John Kuhn and Baltimore's Vonta Leach cracked it at No. 92 and No. 45 (!), respectively. But why stop there? For the second straight year, I am asking the board to consider star specialists in their ranking. Where's the love for kickers Younghoe Koo, Daniel Carlson or future Hall of Famer Justin Tucker? What about up-and-coming booters Jack Fox, Jake Bailey and Michael Dickson? The thought of All-Pro Morgan Cox or former Lions ironman Don Muhlbach, fired on his 40th birthday, long-snapping into the sunset without a Top 100 honor breaks my heart. Football discourse and fandom have been dominated too long by those who produce fantasy points -- quarterbacks, skill-position players and defensive disruptors. It's time for the players, many of whom got their start on special teams, to give the kickers, punters, returners and long snappers their flowers while they can still smell them as relevant pros.