Earlier this week, Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback released its 400 best players in the NFL, as ranked by Andy Benoit. You may remember Benoit from his recent smash hit, “backup quarterbacks better than Colin Kaepernick,” plus the terrific “Is Richard Sherman on the decline?” column (citing precisely zero statistics to back anything up), and the 2015 classic, “Move over Seattle, the Rams have the NFC West’s best defense.”
Okay, before we get to the meat of the story, here’s how Benoit’s rankings system came together:
Ranking football players is an imperfect science; one position is far too different from the next. To counter that, the criteria for The MMQB 400: Does Player A do his job better or worse than Player B does his job? If it was too close to call, then the Player with the more significant job got the nod.
A player’s raw talent, cultivated skill set, and role within his team’s system were taken strongest into consideration. It was all film-based; very rarely were stats a factor. Ninety nine times out of 100, the film shows what the stats tell anyway. The beauty is the film shows it with context.
Special-teamers and rookies were not included. (Special teamers change jobs so much from year to year, plus there are significantly fewer special teams snaps each game than offensive and defensive snaps. And rookies cannot be evaluated on jobs they have not started yet.)
Benoit had twelve Seahawks on the list, with Earl Thomas ranked at 12th and as the #1 overall safety. Russell Wilson is down in 139th, with this little blurb written on his improved ability to play (clap emoji) from (clap emoji) the (clap emoji) pocket:
I didn't think he could become a quality NFL pocket passer. And, to be clear, because of his height, there are still plays from the pocket that he simply can't make. But to Wilson's immense credit, and to Seattle's, he has discovered some dropback discipline on quick-strike throws out of spread sets. The beauty is that this doesn't come at the expense of his sandlot abilities.
That’s all fine and dandy, but where does Wilson rank among the 23 quarterbacks deemed to be among the 400 best players in the league? Not even in the top-10!
Andrew Luck (whom Benoit once called the NFL’s best running QB), Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr, and Joe Flacco are all ranked higher than Russell Wilson. Hey, he said “very rarely were stats a factor,” and that’s frankly the best way to deny Wilson his spot as a top-10 quarterback and inexplicably have Eli in there. I’m also gobsmacked that Carson Wentz is almost in the top-200, as well as Sam Bradford ahead of Marcus Mariota.
Circling back a bit to the intro paragraph, I suppose that you can’t write a baseless “Is Richard Sherman on the decline?” take without ranking Sherman as not even the second-best cornerback in his own division.
(Note: There are other cornerbacks ranked below Casey Hayward, this screenshot is just the top-half.)
The Sherman blurb:
The question is: How much did his undisclosed knee injury impact him last season? We'll find out this year. The Seahawks need him to be better versus in-breaking routes. Against vertical routes along the boundary, he's still as good as anyone.
Anyway, not only is Patrick Peterson evidently far and away the best CB in Benoit’s world, but Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes is not even in the top-5. Vontae Davis is a top-100 player in 2017 because ... reasons. Joe Haden is four spots ahead of Richard Sherman because ... I don’t know.
Benoit did have Kam Chancellor as his #5 safety, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril as the respective #2 and #3 4-3 defensive ends, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright as the #2 and #4 respective Stack linebackers, Jimmy Graham as the #5 tight-end, and Doug Baldwin as the 20th best wide receiver.
You can peruse the entire rankings here, then perhaps immediately regret your decision to do so.