As part of its mid-summer NeverEnding Story, the NFL Network has completed 80 percent of its Top 100 Players of 2013. In a countdown that actually had a pre-show the week of the 2013 draft, it continues to drone on interminably – like a team-by-team "32-in-32" segment or a Mount (or Mt.) Rushmore of every team that effectively filled up two weeks-plus of content.
The sad thing about the countdown, other than it has taken nine weeks and has become a tad more anticlimactic every week despite being subject to scorn and ridicule, is that it becomes a slap in the face of NFL players in some respects. They don't all have college degrees – they were in college for a reason – but they can do the math.
The NFL Network released Nos. 30-21 of its list of the 100 most influential players of 2013. That leaves 20. For weeks, players with NFL-sized egos have hoped to see their names … at some point. Nobody wanted to hear their name at Nos. 100-91. But the longer their names haven't come up, the more they may be getting a little salty. Most have come to the conclusion that they aren't showing up.
Say what you want about the list, but for our money, we would take Kyle Rudolph over Dennis Pitta, Heath Miller and Antonio Gates ever day – and twice on Sundays. We would take John Sullivan over Max Unger – the only center on the list. We would take Harrison Smith over Troy Polamalu or Charles Woodson (who was ironically listed as a cornerback on the list, a position he hasn't played in some time).
To date, the list has included 15 wide receivers, 12 linebackers, eight running backs, cornerbacks and tight ends, seven quarterbacks and defensive ends, five defensive tackles, four offensive tackles and safeties, and one guard and center. There are only 20 left.
The crack Viking Update I-Team investigators got on the job and, as a crack team can do, reversed engineered the list and these are their findings – there are going to be a couple guys who won't be happy.
Our team donned their lab coats and came away with the following: There are 17 players who, beyond any doubt have to be on the list. From the boys in the lab coats, those 17 players are, in the most likely order, as follows:
1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Peyton Manning
3. Adrian Peterson
4. Drew Brees
5. Tom Brady
6. Calvin Johnson
7. J.J. Watt
8. Patrick Willis
9. Arian Foster
10. Matt Ryan
11. DeMarcus Ware
12. A.J. Green
13. Ray Rice
14. Robert Griffin III
15. Von Miller
16. Jimmy Graham
17. Aldon Smith
What's good about the deconstruction is that the staff eliminated the list from 20 down to three. No argument can be made that has a basis in reality that can deny any of the players on this list. They're on it. Much like a political team doing a body count of representation, there are only three spots legitimately up for inclusion.
But who gets those three spots? There are several players that have expected to see their names. Blair Walsh gave up his hope the Thursday after the draft – if he wasn't on, what kicker would be? Going 10-for-10 on field goals of 50 yards or longer would make him the lone kicker on the list if there was going to be one.
But, the players who have yet to be named are the ones that are going to be the most interesting. An argument can be made for seven players, although cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and Joe Haden are likely to be very disappointed that they weren't included and a safety like Woodson is listed as a cornerback.
Who doesn't make the list? The five players with a legitimate argument are two quarterbacks (Joe Flacco and Tony Romo), one running back (Jamaal Charles), one wide receiver (Andre Johnson) and one offensive tackle (Ryan Clady).
With a gun to the head, the argument can be made that you can't keep the defending Super Bowl winning quarterback from being on the list. Flacco makes it.
Johnson has been a stud with Houston since the offense was in its infancy and he is still the head-and-shoulders go-to receiver. You can't put both Jacoby Jones and Anquan Boldin on the team and not put Andre 3000.
For No. 20? Clady seems like a safe choice. Romo and Charles will be extremely upset that they're viewed so minimally, but that's the beauty of lists that take months to play out. There are going to be hurt feelings. There already have been by those players who came to the realization that they weren't going to be on the list.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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