As expected, the two-hour TV special unveiling the top 10 players in the NFL Network’s ranking of the top 100 for 2016 didn’t feature any defensive backs. And at the same time, it kind of did.
After All-Pro and Pro Bowl and all-everything-else breakout star cornerback Josh Norman made the list at No. 11 in the previous episode, it was safe to assume there would be no DBs in the top 10. But this episode did include a segment on the next 10 who just missed the top-100 cut, otherwise known as Nos. 101 through 110. And that group included three defensive backs:
104. Vontae Davis, CB, Indianapolis Colts — The two-time Pro Bowler and former first team All-Pro had 48 tackles, 16 pass breakups and four interceptions in what was kind of a lost season for the Colts due to QB Andrew Luck‘s injuries. With Luck back (and PAID) this year, Davis should be doing his thing on bigger and brighter stages again.
105. Devin McCourty, FS, New England Patriots — He has only made the Pro Bowl once, and that was six years ago as a rookie, but McCourty has consistently (and apparently quietly) been one of the best safeties in the NFL throughout his career. Last season he registered a career-low 64 tackles with one sack and one interception, but it was still good enough to get recognized by his peers with a spot just outside the top 100.
107. Malcolm Jenkins, FS, Philadelphia Eagles — According to Jenkins, the only safety in the league who can do what he does is Tyrann Mathieu of the Arizona Cardinals, who was voted 28th on the top 100. What Jenkins does is possess the ability to play any position in the secondary at a high level and shine as a playmaker. He notched 109 tackles last season (sixth among NFL defensive backs) along with three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and two interceptions, one of which he returned 99 yards for a touchdown in a late-season upset win over Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Also making an appearance was Charles Woodson, the future Hall of Famer who retired this year after an 18-year career in which he starred at both safety and cornerback playing for the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers. Since the NFL Network’s top 100 only includes players who are active for the upcoming season, 2015 retirees like Woodson, Peyton Manning, Marshawn Lynch and Calvin Johnson were honored in their own segment.
Woodson’s resume includes winning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1998, making the Pro Bowl nine times, being named All-Pro eight times, and picking up a Super Bowl ring with the Packers. He also won the Heisman Trophy, the Jim Thorpe Award and a national championship at the University of Michigan.
The rest of the DBs who made cameos on the top-10 special either had speaking roles commenting on their peers, or they unfortunately showed up as co-stars — a.k.a. victims — on the highlight reels of superstars like Odell Beckham Jr., Rob Gronkowski, Julio Jones, Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Antonio Brown, Brady and the new No. 1 man on the list, Cam Newton.