The folks at Pro Football Focus have started releasing what they call their list of the 101 best players in the NFL right now. They did a list earlier this offseason that included the best players of 2016, but this list is different, as they tell us in the article.
Up until now, the PFF Top 101 has always been about looking back at the season that was, evaluating nothing beyond the 21 weeks of football action from the regular and postseason games to tell you who the best-performing players were for that particular year.
This list is going to be something a little different, and will become a new feature at PFF intended to look beyond that narrow band of play, and instead start to quantify who the best players are in the league right now from all of the available data.
They're releasing the list in four different groups, and they're already through the first two. Two members of the Minnesota Vikings have appeared on the list thus far, which means they fall between 50 and 101.
The first player on the list, at #91, is defensive tackle Linval Joseph. We've been singing Joseph's praises all offseason to this point, and the folks at PFF seem to like him. . .but think that he could end up being significantly higher on the list at this time next year.
If I could guarantee the player we saw in 2015 was the player we would get in 2016, Linval Joseph may well make the top 10 of this list. He was staggeringly dominant at times, and his destruction job on the Rams in Week 9 may have been the single-best game any interior defender had all year. He was pretty much unblockable in that meeting, and just laid waste to the Rams' running attack by tossing blockers into the backfield and then diving in on top of them. Joseph has always graded well for us in the recent past, but this season, his second in Minnesota, was a completely different thing. It was such a deviation from his career baseline that I just can't put faith in it repeating until I see it happen. If and when it does, his ascent up this list will be stratospheric.
Joseph really was incredible last season when he was on the field. I think he's the most irreplaceable player on the Minnesota defense, but I can also understand why a lot of voters lean towards Harrison Smith (who I'm thinking we'll eventually see on this list.
The other Vikings' player on the list at this point is running back Adrian Peterson. In a ranking that I'm sure will be met with nothing but calm and well-reasoned disagreement, PFF has put Peterson at #78 on their list.
With the ball in his hands, Adrian Peterson can do spectacular things. This is a player that will soon start knocking off all-time greats on the all-time rushing list, but more and more his game is being defined by what it lacks. The fumbling problem from his early career came back to haunt him again in 2015, and in a league that is ever more pass-oriented, the Vikings don't trust him to pass-block or pass-catch, and consequently often don't even have him on the field in their most crucial game situations. If I had to hand a back the ball three times to get 10 yards, there may be nobody I'd want hand off to than Peterson, but that isn't today's NFL, and he is too lacking in other areas to be at the sharp end of this list.
Do I think there are 77 players in the NFL better than Adrian Peterson? No. Can I argue with PFF's reasoning? Also, no.
The remainder of the list will be revealed over the next two days. How many more Vikings do you think will be on the list?