KIRS Top 100 NFL Players of 2014: 20 – 11
Rob: We agreed pretty roughly with everyone in this section of players to a certain extend, with the exception of Luke Kuechly.
I have Kuechly as my 32nd best player in the NFL in 2014, the 11th best defensive player, and the 2nd best linebacker. You have him as the 13th best player, 6th best defensively, and your top linebacker.
For the most part, we have a similar number of defensive players, although I lean towards interior linemen and corners where you favored pass rushers and safeties.When it came to linebackers, we were about even, with you bumping your defensive signal-callers a little higher than did.
So I cede the floor to you; sell me on Kuechly as one of the 13 best players in football.
Stan: Luke Kuechly is one of my favorite players in the league. He’s becoming the face of the Carolina Panthers (he probably would be already if not for Cam Newton) and he’s great at what he does. He’s always in the top 3 in tackles and when he isn’t making the tackle, he’s definitely in the mix. I might be a little high on him as an overall defensive player but I do believe he’s the best linebacker in football. He’s a consistently elite player. Plus he’s a beautiful man and I’m not afraid to say that.
Rob: I never really bought into the Kuechly appeal, from his days at BC to now. There is no arguing that he is a great player, and his overall skill set is a really good package, not to mention his sideline-to-sideline quickness is unmatched, I have always had him a step below other players at more impactful positions. I think I always bang on him for the opportunity cost of taking an inside linebacker that high in the draft as opposed to a more difficult position to fill. The Panthers are desperate for help at pass rusher, receiver, offensive tackle, and corner, and that is what happens when you devote assets to inside linebackers. The Seahawks took Bobby Wagner in the second round of the same draft, and in my opinion got a superior player at a fraction of the cost.
Stan: I agree with you about the Panthers not filling their needs. It’s what they always do. I can’t fault Luke Kuechly for the Panthers making terrible decisions. Like how Tampa Bay passed on Kuechly to take Mark Barron. Ugh. I also feel like while Bobby Wagner is a better player at times, he’s also playing for Pete Carroll…I hate that I said that by the way.
So what about Demaryius Thomas
? I ranked four spots ahead of you. I think we agree on where he is in terms of our rankings. Could we make the case for him being higher or lower?
Rob: Thomas is the most boring name in this group in terms of our rankings. Guy shows up and gets the job done. Great after the catch but doesn’t fight for the ball like an elite, elite receiver. He is just really good. Right where he should be.
I think how we ranked Manning and Rivers is interesting. One after the other 14 spots apart. I gave Rivers the edge.
Stan: I gave Manning credit for being really good in the first three quarters of the season. Rivers was masterful with what he was given and if the Chargers had made the playoffs, I would have given him the edge as well. I think a year from now my rankings will look a lot different in terms where I rank Rivers and Manning. Peyton used to be the 6’5 laser rocket armed quarterback according to those Sprint commercials from years ago. Now hes more like the 6’5 noodle armed quarterback with a fused neck. Or at least that’s what he looked like down the stretch.
You ranked Jordy Nelson
three spots ahead of me and once I saw that, I realized that Nelson is totally worthy of being inside my top 20 as well, even though 21 is pretty close. What can we say about the best white receiver in the league?
Rob: I think both of the quarterbacks left just a bad enough taste in my mouth that I felt comfortable dropping them to the back half of the top 20.
Jordy Nelson absolutely deserved a top 20 ranking. So many people give such adulation to Aaron Rodgers
, and we are going to as well next week, but Nelson and Cobb are masterful receivers. They do so many things well, they both find ways to get open, they make people miss after the catch. Nelson specifically is the best in the league and cutting back against the grain with the ball
to completely disorient defensive backs angles.
The guy has transcended the best white receiver tag, and he deserves to be mentioned up with the best. Now, if this was the best receivers for 2015, Dez, Julio, A.J. Green
, and Calvin Johnson
are far and away the top four guys, and then there is a drop off. Those guys have the ability to go up in the air to play the ball in a way that others don’t. But for 2014, Nelson was one of the top three receivers in the league, no caveat needed.
Stan: I love seeing teams line up in man coverage with a safety over the top against Jordy Nelson. How can they continue to make this mistake? And you know what? A lot of credit should go to Jordy for his ability to cut back to the ball and make defenders miss like you mentioned.
Now on to Marshawn Lynch
. I ranked him four spots ahead of you but we feel the same way about Beast Mode. The main reason I like him is because he shows up and does his job. What’s not to love about a guy?
By the way, we both mentioned Chris Borland
earlier in the rankings but with his sudden retirement, I thought it would be worth talking about. I like the fact that he’s got enough self awareness to be able to say “I’m walking away from this great opportunity so that I can be healthy later on in life.” I think it sends a great message to the league that these guys don’t have to kill themselves if they don’t want to. Some people will call it cowardly but I think it’s more courageous than a lot of other things I’ve seen. He’s a talented player and it’s going to suck to see him retire but who am I to judge someone for living their life the way they chose to?
Rob: Borland is close to a non-story to me. It’s like gay marriage, I get why people care, but anyone who hasn’t come to their senses on the issue yet, well frankly we are probably just going to have to wait them out at this point.
Lynch is a beast. Going back to the conversation about Jordy not being one of the four “superstar wideouts” but being one of the best players at the position, Lynch is both. If you had to take four runners just on talent, you would unquestionable have Lynch there at this point (the others: Adrian Peterson
, Jamaal Charles
, LeSean McCoy
). Guy just churns out good football.
and Tony Romo
are another pair of quarterbacks we had ranked one after another. Both were phenomenal in 2014, and both had legitimate claims to the MVP. What Brady did with that offense following the blowout loss to the Chiefs was miraculous, through the playoffs, despite having to rely on a bunch of players on offense that outside of his tight end didn’t really sniff this list.
Romo was possibly more impressive. Imagine how you would have ranked him had he not missed six quarters of football in two losses, and the Cowboys were 14-2 with a first-round bye and home field advantage in the NFC.
Stan: I totally agree with you on Brady and Romo. It seemed like Brady really willed the team after that blowout and guys responded well. Edelman stepped up in the second half of the season and the running game exploded to the point where it seemed like anyone could line up back there and get four touchdowns…provided they were playing the Colts of course.
I thought about bumping Romo under Brady because I don’t like the Cowboys, but I also don’t like the Patriots. So my hatred of both franchises sort of forced me to objective. Also, I wanted to give Brady a little more credit because Romo has a far superior offensive line, a better (when healthy) running back, and an absolute beast of a (mom-beating) wide receiver. But to Tony Romo’s credit, the team wasn’t the same when he wasn’t there. A lot of people thought that Brandon Weeden
could step in and do well but clearly Tony Romo makes that engine go.
Rob: Hey, Brandon Weeden was mentioned for the first time ever while discussing a list of the best 100 players in the NFL. That is pretty funny.
Any thoughts on Justin Houston
or Richard Sherman
? Houston sacked a lot of quarterbacks and Sherman remains a dominant corner that white journalists like to describe as “eloquent”, because in their minds saying something positive about a black man gives them street cred. The only thing better than white-guilt is false white post-racialism.
Stan: Anyway, I feel like I was a little high on Justin Houston but how can I not be for a guy who was on pace to break the single season sack record? The weird thing is, he doesn’t do in a necessarily flashy way. He doesn’t get a lot of the attention that a guy like JJ Watt and maybe he shouldn’t because Watt eats other humans, but Houston is a solid player.
As far as Sherman goes, I’m really looking forward to his post football career when he runs for public office. Think about it, in 20 years when he’s a Senator from California, how many times are they going to bring up his angry Erin Andrews rant?
I guess my point is that these guys are who we think they are and belong here in the rankings…more so for Sherman. I think Houston is great but let’s see another 20+ sack season.
Rob: Another 20+ sack season? That is a high bar you’re setting Stan. Do you know how many players in NFL history have reached 20 sacks more than once? (Hint: He plays for the Texans)
Stan: You’re probably right but his sack totals have increased every year since he’s come into the league. I’d expect at least 15 next year barring any injury.
Rob: It’s a new league. Sacks are up seemingly across the board. I’m sure he’ll have a shot to get there. Maybe next year he can jump into the top ten.