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The NFL top 10: Did Russell Wilson get snubbed?

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Philadelphia Eagles v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The NFL Top 100 is just about done with its latest edition. The list is not meaningful in any way other than it incites discussion during a dead period of football news — which is what is happening. Right now. As I write this and eventually as you read this. That’s it, but let’s do it anyway.

In case you missed it, Russell Wilson came in at 11, the highest ranking of his career despite some murmur that the 2018 leader in touchdowns had a down year. You could argue Wilson as higher or lower, but like all things, that’s relative. It’s convenient that Wilson was listed at 11 because it gives us an opportunity to say, “He was one spot away from the top 10.” And now that we know who the top 10 is (order comes next week), we can begin to ask ourselves, “Would you rather have Wilson or that other guy?”

When I look at this list, the first thing I wonder is which players stand a good chance of returning to it next year. I immediately cross off running backs in that case — Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, your jobs are just too hard and demanding and dependent on those around you. Bell’s been worked to a high degree, leading the NFL with 321 carries last season, plus 85 receptions and 25 more touches in the postseason. I have plenty of reservations about Bell, who is on the franchise tag once again even though “the running back position is not being devalued,” say some.

Gurley flew so close to the sun last year that he only needs to “gym, laundry” to complete the trifecta (welcome back to Jersey Shore references, everyone), and I’m always wary of running backs attempting a follow-up to an MVP-hyped season. If the question is, “Would I rather have Wilson or Gurley or Bell?” the answer seems too obvious. If the question is, “Is Wilson more talented than Gurley or Bell,” I’d give Bell a considerable edge, but I don’t think that for me it would still be very close to Wilson.

I recognize both my bias towards Wilson and against running backs. Let the record show that.

Only Aaron Donald and Von Miller represent the defensive side of the ball in the top 10, and while Donald seems a fair lock for being a top-5 player in the NFL, Miller could potentially be trending the wrong way. Even a year ago, I’d wonder if guys like Cam Jordan, Joey Bosa, Jaylen Ramsey, Bobby Wagner, and Calais Campbell surpassed him last season. Given that this is a list voted on by players, it seems it is hard to get them to kick old habits like saying that Von Miller is still perhaps the most dominant player on defense. That may be true, but it’s not as obviously true as it may have seemed a couple years ago.

Antonio Brown belongs. Would I rather have him over Wilson? No. But Brown is trending in a direction that leaves me completely unsure of just how great his greatness will be when he retires. When I think of “Who are the undeniable top 10 players in the league?” I don’t think I could name 10 undeniable players, but guys like Donald and Brown are there for me, absolutely.

Tom Brady and Drew Brees could fall off the list next year if they hit a wall because that just happens at some point to every quarterback. It’s still fair for me to see them, and Aaron Rodgers, listed where they are. Carson Wentz, however, seems to be the sore thumb. It’s nearly as impressive to see what Wentz did in his second year as it was to see how Wilson was playing by his second year — and both helped their teams win the Super Bowl that season — but for Wilson, that second year was five years ago. He’s not old and he’s had six years of experience under his belt to learn NFL defenses, the players, the habits, the game study, to work with his longtime weapons like Doug Baldwin, his head coach Pete Carroll ... everything would seem to be advantage: Wilson, but Wentz is shiny and new. And he was a high draft pick, which also seems to tip things in your favor for as long as you’re in the league.

Wentz posted really good numbers in 2017, but did trend down over his final six games before tearing his ACL: 58% completions, 6.94 yards per attempt. Compared to his first seven starts of the year, that’s a dip of 3% on the completions and over a yard per attempt. His TD:INT ratio remained steady and good throughout the year, but we aren’t asking if Wentz is a good quarterback — we know that he is — it’s about being put in the elite company and being ranked ahead of some other players who could or should still be considered better.

Though this is still fairly subjective and if he’s able to shake off his ACL tear and get back into the swing of things without any setbacks, maybe Wentz can make that leap into not just being better than Wilson, but being the best quarterback in the league. We’ll see, I’m just not there quite yet.

Neither apparently is Wilson.

Reminder again that this list is far from great:

Poll

Which player in the top 10 should Wilson most-obviously be ranked ahead of?

This poll is closed

  • 69%
    Carson Wentz
    (786 votes)
  • 1%
    Le’Veon Bell
    (19 votes)
  • 9%
    Todd Gurley
    (105 votes)
  • 8%
    Von Miller
    (91 votes)
  • 2%
    Antonio Brown
    (26 votes)
  • 3%
    Other
    (45 votes)
  • 5%
    None
    (58 votes)
1130 votes total Vote Now