NFL’s Top 100: Xavier Rhodes (#55)

Xavier Rhodes

The Minnesota Vikings have arguably the NFL’s best defense.

Last season, they led the league in fewest points allowed (15.8 ppg) and fewest yards allowed (275.9 ypg), and ranked second in fewest rushing yards allowed (83.6 ypg) and second in fewest passing yards allowed (192.4 ypg).

An argument within that argument that may be more even interesting is just who is the Vikings’ best defensive player.

On their way to a 13-3 record and an appearance in the NFC title game, Minnesota had five defenders named to the Pro Bowl and three were All-Pro. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Casey Hayward (#59)

Casey Hayward

After leading the NFL in interceptions in 2017 with seven picks, Casey Hayward entered the 2017 season vying for the unofficial title of the league’s best cornerback.

The Los Angeles Chargers star played well enough to stay in that competition, and moved up five spots to No. 59 on this year’s edition of the NFL Network’s Top 100 player ranking.

Hayward was named All-Pro second team along with Jacksonville cornerback A.J. Bouye, behind first-teamers Jalen Ramsey of the Jaguars and Xavier Rhodes of the Vikings. There are a few other corners that get more mainstream attention than Hayward, such as Washington’s Josh Norman, San Francisco’s Richard Sherman, and the L.A. Rams duo of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Micah Hyde (#62)

Micah Hyde

Usually, it’s better for a pro athlete to play for a big-market or high-profile team if they seek the awards and accolades that come with individual excellence. The difference between being underrated and properly rated (or even overrated) can often come down to location and the logo on one’s uniform.

Defensive back Micah Hyde has gone against the grain in that regard.

After playing his first four NFL seasons with the ever-popular and perennially successful Green Bay Packers, Hyde signed with the Buffalo Bills last season and had a breakout campaign. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Richard Sherman (#64)

Richard Sherman

The Bay Area is apparently the place to be for superstar athletes getting a fresh start in 2018 while recovering from major Achilles’ tendon injuries.

On the hardwood, the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors made the most surprising free-agency addition of this offseason by signing DeMarcus Cousins. The two-time All-NBA center suffered a torn left Achilles in January, missed the rest of the season, and is now aiming to prove he can still be an elite player in the league once he’s recovered.

On the gridiron, the San Francisco 49ers — far removed from their last Super Bowl championship but putting together the pieces to regain their past glory after three straight losing seasons — also pulled a free-agency surprise by signing Richard Sherman. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Kam Chancellor (#75)

Kam Chancellor

It appears Kam Chancellor‘s pro football career is over.

The two-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowl strong safety announced this summer that he had to walk away from the game after eight seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, citing an injured neck.

The timing of his announcement, along with the unveiling of the NFL Network’s Top 100 list for 2018, made Chancellor the first retired player to earn a spot on the annual list, as he was voted No. 75 by a panel of NFL players. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Marcus Peters (#79)

Marcus Peters

One of the most surprising moves of the NFL offseason was the Kansas City Chiefs trading cornerback Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams.

Peters has been one of the league’s best since the Chiefs drafted him three years ago. He was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2015 and led the league with eight interceptions; he was first team All-Pro in 2016; and he led the league in interception return yardage in 2017, gaining 137 yards on five picks. Since entering the league, Peters’ 60.7 passer rating allowed is second-best to Jacksonville Jaguars CB A.J. Bouye.

Going into the 2018 season, Peters is slotted No. 79 on the NFL Network’s Top 100 player ranking, which is voted on by NFL players Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Kevin Byard (#80)

Kevin Byard

Thanks to today’s NFL media climate, in which Twitter beef can generate more attention than an All-Pro selection, Kevin Byard made as much of a name for himself online as he did on the field.

In his second pro season and his first as a full-time starter, Byard established himself as one of the best safeties in the league while being chosen as a Pro Bowler and first team All-Pro. He helped the Tennessee Titans make it to the playoffs and advance to the AFC divisional round, where they would lose to the New England Patriots.

Byard’s efforts were good enough to get him voted into the No. 80 slot on the NFL Network’s Top 100 player ranking for 2018, a list that is determined by NFL players. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Marshon Lattimore (#82)

Marshon Lattimore

One sign that cornerbacks are getting more respect and recognition in the NFL these days is that, on the 2018 edition of the NFL Network’s Top 100 ranking, the 12 cornerbacks listed tied with defensive end for the most popular defensive position.

Another sign is that when Marshon Lattimore was voted NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year this past season, he became the second cornerback in the last three years to win the award.

Before that, the last corner to earn DROY honors was Charles Woodson in 1998. Prior to Marcus Peters winning DROY for 2015 and Lattimore winning it for 2017, only five other cornerbacks had their names on the trophy. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Chris Harris Jr. (#86)

Chris Harris Jr.

Last season was another typically unimpressive one for Chris Harris Jr. in terms of statistics. But anyone who is familiar with his work knows that the Denver Broncos’ veteran cornerback is defined by the lack of numbers he puts up.

Harris recorded 40 tackles, two interceptions, seven pass breakups and one forced fumble in 2017.

Those numbers are what they are in large part because Harris is such an effective cover corner that quarterbacks often don’t throw in his direction. That means he doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to make tackles or get picks. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Landon Collins (#92)

Landon Collins

If you were wondering how much team success or failure can impact an individual athlete’s reputation, look no further than New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and strong safety Landon Collins.

During the 2016 NFL season, when the Giants went 11-5 and made it to the playoffs, Manning was being talked about as a future Hall of Famer, and he won the NFL’s Man of the Year award. Collins received first team All-Pro honors, and he was heavy in the conversation for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

In 2017, the Giants went 3-13 and finished with the second-worst record in the league. Continue reading

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