Every NFL offseason, the league names its top one hundred players, an honor that not only comes with bragging rights and trophies but also serves as a solid bargaining chip while negotiating future contracts.
The NFL Top-100 list was just released, and for the first time in three years, the number one player was not New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, though the GOAT did easily make the Top 10.
Instead, the top tribute goes to a player on the other side of the ball, and here we take a closer look at the NFL’s yearly tribute to its best players, including the Top-100’s origins, who decides on the list and how it’s determined, and even a brief analysis of the top ten players who made this enviable list in 2019.
What exactly is the NFL Top-100 Players list?
As wonderful as it must be to receive accolades from sportswriters and fans, there is no higher honor to an NFL player than to be celebrated by the other talented men with whom you compete.
The NFL Top-100 List is just that – the best one hundred players in the National Football League according to all the players who are out battling on the professional gridiron.
It’s a badge of honor to make the NFL Top-100 list in any season, and even more desirable making the top ten, and part of the fun for fans is seeing where a player falls on the list from year to year because it tracks their impact on the game as they gradually improve and then age.
How are the NFL Top-100 Players chosen?
The NFL organizes a poll every offseason and hands ballots out to every active player in the league.
This year, NFL Films said they collected 1,098 ballots and interviewed 136 players in front of the camera to get their overall impression of certain top players.
The players rate their peers on their performance during the most recent NFL season, and then the league ranks and lists the one hundred best on the NFL Network.
Who qualifies for the NFL Top-100 list?
Only players who played during the most recent season qualify to make the list.
Also, they only qualify if they are not retired for the next season.
When did the NFL Top-100 List begin?
The first NFL Top-100 list was created in 2011 and included players who were active in the 2010 season.
That list was aired on the NFL Network in April of that same year.
Quarterback Tom Brady was ranked number one that year after taking his Patriots to the Super Bowl for the fifth time, and ranked second on that first Top-100 list was quarterback Peyton Manning, who had just finished what would be his last season with the Indianapolis Colts.
Has any NFL player been number one more than once?
Only one player has been ranked number one on the Top-100 list more than once, and of course, it’s the GOAT.
Tom Brady has been ranked first in the NFL Top-100 list three times – in 2011, the first year of the list, and in 2017 and 2018, after two more Super Bowl appearances and yet another Lombardi Trophy and ring.
No other player has been number one more than once, which goes to show what overall dominance Brady, the forty-two-year-old wunderkind, has had on the NFL during his two-decade pro football career.
How can I watch the NFL Top-100 Greatest Players television broadcast?
The NFL Top-100 list airs on the NFL Network, as it has since it started in 2011.
Check your local listings to watch the ongoing episodes and as with most shows on that network, there are fortunately many repeated broadcasts.
Who were the Top 5 players of the 2018 NFL Top-100?
Here are the top five players who made the list last season.
It’s interesting that none of them made it to the top five this year, and only one of them, Tom Brady, made it to the top ten list in 2019.
It’s why this list is so popular among the players – it truly is based on what the players have done lately, as noticed by their peers.
Remember, this 2018 list is based on how these players performed in 2017.
2018 Top 5 Finishers:
5) Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers running back
Bell actually played football during the 2017 season and ran and caught the ball well enough to make it to the top five of the NFL Top-100 last year.
Of course, Bell didn’t play in 2018 so he is not anywhere on the current list.
4) Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver
During the 2017 season, Jones caught 88 balls for 1,444 yards and 3 touchdowns, averaging 9.8 yards per target as his Falcons worked their way to the divisional round of the playoffs that year.
His production actually increased in 2018 (see below) but his injured Falcons failed to make the playoffs and as a result, Jones slipped down on the current list.
3) Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback
In just his second season, Wentz played in thirteen games during the 2017 season and posted a 11-2 record while completing 265 passes for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns with just 7 interceptions.
As has become Wentz’s calling card, injuries continued to limit his playing time in 2018 and as a result he has slipped down to number ninety-six on the current list.
2) Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver
2017 was a solid year for Brown, but certainly not his most productive as he caught 101 balls for a league-leading 1,522 total yards and 9 touchdowns as his Pittsburgh Steelers made it to the Divisional Playoffs that year.
Last season, the Steelers didn’t make the postseason, and Brown’s production fell, as did his ranking on this list, sinking down to number seven.
1) Tom Brady, New England Patriots quarterback
Despite losing in the Super Bowl in 2017, Brady ranks top of this list, probably because he was named the league MVP at the age of forty after throwing for 4,577 yards and 32 touchdowns with 8 interceptions during the regular season.
Despite winning the Super Bowl in 2018, Brady has slipped down on the current list, although he still remains easily in the top ten.
Who are the Top 10 players of the 2019 NFL Top-100 List?
Here are the best of the best in the NFL this season, the top ten players to make the 2019 NFL Top-100 list.
There are just three defensive players in the top ten this year, including the number one overall player, and of the offensive players, there are four quarterbacks, two wide receivers and a running back.
Only one player in this year’s top ten, Tom Brady, made last year’s top five, but seven of this year’s top ten were in the top ten last season, as well.
10) Von Miller, Denver Broncos linebacker
2018 Rank: #9
2018 Stats Line: 14.5 sacks and 48 total tackles (14 for loss), 26 quarterback hits, 4 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 3 passes defended and an interception.
Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller was already great, but adding Bradley Chubb to the roster took a lot of the double teams off of Miller and for the fourth season in a row he has cracked the top fifteen list.
Miller’s 14.5 sacks were the most of any other linebackers last season and tied for the fourth-most overall, so expect him to continue his dominance in the upcoming season while adjusting to new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.
9) Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver
2018 Rank: #4
2018 Stats Line: 113 receptions for 1,677 total yards and 8 touchdowns for a catching percentage of 66.5.
Despite his Atlanta Falcons’ injury-laden, playoff-free 2018 season, receiver Julio Jones had a big year, leading the lead in total receive yards with 1,677 of them.
His reputation for lack of red-zone receptions aside, Jones has tremendous hands and the ability to run with the ball after the catch, which explains why he’s cracked the top ten of this prestigious list for the last four seasons in a row.
8) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers quarterback
2018 Rank: #10
2018 Stats Line: 372-of-597 for 4,442 yards and 25 touchdowns with 2 interceptions for a completion percentage of 62.3 and a quarterback rating of 97.6.
Aaron Rodgers had a terrific 2018 season despite his Week 1 knee injury, and his league-low two interceptions gave him a 0.3 interception percentage, his individual numbers far more respectable than the Green Bay Packers’.
The Pack failed to make the playoffs for the second season in a row, this time with a 6-9-1 record, and for that long-time coach Mike McCarthy was let go, so a healthy Rodgers and his newly led team may take a season to adjust to all the new upgrades.
7) Antonio Brown, Oakland Raiders wide receiver
2018 Rank: #2
2018 Stats Line: 104 receptions for 1,297 total yards and 15 touchdowns for a catching percentage of 61.9.
He may be suiting up for the Oakland Raiders these days, but those above numbers were posted for the Pittsburgh Steelers, where despite no playoff appearance Brown still became the league leader in touchdown receptions with 15 of them last season.
Now Brown will be catching balls thrown by Derek Carr on a brand new offense (to him) run by second-year offensive coordinator Greg Olson, so right now his future is as up in the air as the balls he’s being paid to pull down.
6) Tom Brady, New England Patriots quarterback
2018 Rank: #1
2018 Stats Line: 375-of-570 for 4,355 yards and 29 touchdowns with 11 interceptions for a completion percentage of 65.8 and a quarterback rating of 97.7.
Once again, quarterback Tom Brady cracks the Top 10 list of the NFL’s best players, though it seems highly suspicious that he slipped down from last year’s first-place finish after winning a Super Bowl this year, but that’s the beauty of this particular list.
But don’t feel sorry for Brady – he’s been ranked first on this list three times (see above), and that’s twice more than any other player in the history of this yearly honor.
5) Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams running back
2018 Rank: #3
2018 Stats Line: 256 carries for 1,251 yards and 17 touchdowns and 1 fumble along with 59 receptions for 580 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Keep in mind that Gurley did all that damage in just fourteen games last season, and though he and the team deny any serious injury it does seem suspect that he was used so little in the postseason (just 4 carries in the NFC Championship, 10 carries in the Super Bowl).
Rumors of Gurley having arthritis, if true, could explain his lack of production towards the end of the regular season and during the playoffs, but regardless he was the fifth-best player in the league last year.
4) Pat Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback
2018 Rank: N/A
2018 Stats Line: 383-of-580 for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns with 12 interceptions for a completion percentage of 66.0 and a quarterback rating of 113.8.
2018 was Mahomes’ first full season starting under center in the NFL, and he did not disappoint, leading the league in total touchdowns with fifty and throwing for the second-most total yards with 5,097, often playing like a magician making impossible plays happen.
In order to play in the Super Bowl next season, Mahomes and the Chiefs must get past Brady and the Patriots, and an improved defense, an active Tyreek Hill and arguably the best receiving tight end in the league in Travis Kelce are exactly what’s needed to get the job done.
3) Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears linebacker
2018 Rank: #16
2018 Stats Line: 12.5 sacks and 47 total tackles (10 for loss), 18 quarterback hits, 6 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 4 passes defended and an interception that he ran back 27 yards for a touchdown.
After sitting out the Oakland Raiders’ 2018 preseason before being traded to the Chicago Bears, Mack quickly proved himself worth the drama by having himself the third-best season of all players in the NFL.
The Bears would have been good without him, but they were great with Mack on their roster as his defense led Chicago to the postseason for the first time in eight seasons.
2) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints quarterback
2018 Rank: #8
2018 Stats Line: 364-of-489 for 3,992 yards and 32 touchdowns with 5 interceptions for a completion percentage of 74.4 and a quarterback rating of 115.7.
The second-best player in the league last year didn’t have the best numbers among his quarterbacking peers, but what Drew Brees did have was a record-breaking season as he led his New Orleans Saints to the Divisional Playoffs and one horrible call away from the Big Game.
Brees looked tired towards the end of the season, but despite that, the forty-year-old Purdue alumni from Texas set the NFL record for all-time passing yards (74,437) and career completions (6,586).
1) Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle
2018 Rank: #7
2018 Stats Line: 20.5 sacks and 59 total tackles (25 for loss), 41 quarterback hits, 4 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and 1 pass defended.
As Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Luechly says about Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, you don’t get 20 sacks by accident, but by being disruptive, which perfectly describes the way Donald plays the game of football.
It’s no wonder the Rams played in last year’s Super Bowl, with the first and fifth-ranked players in the league suiting up for them, but Donald, more than most players on the list, is one of those once-in-a-generation players that even his peers understand is destined for the NFL Hall-of-Fame.
More NFL news, here.