We’re nearly to the end of list-a-mania time in the National Football League, with the regular season set to get underway in just a little over two weeks. However, the folks in Bristol have decided to put together one more list to rank players before the 2016 NFL season gets underway.
ESPN had a panel of “more than 50” NFL analysts, reporters, statisticians, and so on rank NFL players on a scale of 1 to 100. They put the list out in three installments, and conveniently enough, there is one member of the Minnesota Vikings in each installment.
We’ll start at the top, where running back Adrian Peterson is the highest-ranking member of the purple on the list. He comes in at #12, with an average rating of 92.6. (For perspective, the #1 overall player, Houston Texans’ defensive end J.J. Watt, had an average rating of 97.87.) Here’s the commentary on Peterson’s ranking by ESPN’s Vikings blogger, Ben Goessling:
Last season, Peterson became the first 30-something running back in 11 years to lead the NFL in rushing, and he needs only 1,065 yards this season to move into seventh place on the NFL's all-time rushing list. Another rushing title would be Peterson's fourth, and would tie him for the second-most in league history.
Peterson’s placement makes him the second-highest rated player from the NFC North on the list, behind only Aaron Rodgers (who came in at #2). He’s also, quite easily, the highest-rated running back on the list. . .the next highest player at the position was Los Angeles Rams’ running back Todd Gurley, who appears at #29.
In the second portion of the list, covering the 26-50 spots, we find safety Harrison Smith coming in tied for 41st overall, collecting an average rating of 86.0.
Smith briefly became the league's highest-paid safety this summer, though his profile might still not be as high around the league as it is with his Vikings teammates. "I think people should know enough about him right now," quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. "I feel like he's one of the most underrated players in this league. I get to compete against him every day. He's out there doing some things that just make you say, 'Wow.'" Smith, who made his first Pro Bowl last season, tied for third in the league with five interceptions in 2014.
Last, on the third installment of the list, we have linebacker Anthony Barr. Barr is down the list a bit, coming in at a tie for the 93rd position with an average rating of 80.4.
Barr's numbers don't pop off the page yet, in part because of injuries that have dogged him during his first two seasons. The 6-foot-5 linebacker, however, might be one of the most important players in the Vikings' defense because of what he means to their vaunted double-A gap blitz package. Barr posted 3.5 sacks last season, broke up seven passes, forced three fumbles and had a 32-yard return off an interception of Peyton Manning last October.
I’m a bit surprised that players like Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen didn’t make this list, but given that there are 100 spots, having three players make it is just about right. Hopefully, when ESPN does this list leading up to the 2017 season, we will see an increase in the amount of purple and gold stars on there.