It's easy to say Aaron Rodgers had a down year in 2015. That's because he did -- by his standards.
Even so, he's the best player in the NFL, and the No. 1 player on my Top 100 list.
For starters, Rodgers' position is the most important, which helps puts him at No. 1. But despite losing his top receiver in the preseason in 2015, seeing his offensive line go through injury issues and his No. 2 receiver Randall Cobb struggling in the No. 1 role, Rodgers still threw 31 touchdown passes and eight interceptions.
Things got so bad at one point for the offense that Packers coach Mike McCarthy took the play-calling duties back from associate head coach Tom Clements. That's how off the Green Bay offense looked at times, yet Rodgers still rolled.
Yes, his numbers were down from the year before and some of his other special seasons, but 2015 was truly a year he put the Packers on his back. He nearly got them to the NFC Championship Game.
It was trendy to question Rodgers last year, but I still think he's the NFL's best player -- and 2016 will once again show us that.
That's why he's atop my rankings, which I've been doing since 2001. Back then, it was just a top 50, but when the copycats came, I increased it to 100. My rankings are based on play from last season, with a big eye on this season.
If a player is scheduled to miss a majority of the season, like Kansas City's Justin Houston, he isn't on the list. He'd be a top-15 player if he was healthy, but his ACL surgery takes him off.
I do take into account injuries from last season. Players who missed time and are expected back are included. Even guys coming off major surgeries.
So dive in, look around, complain, question and eat the list alive.
I know you will.
Ask any general manager which player they would take if they had one pick from among all the league's players, and Rodgers would be the winner hands down. He's still the NFL's best.
He was bothered by a variety of injuries last season and still dominated the position. He led the NFL with 17.5 sacks and was named the Defensive Player of the Year for the third time. He is on his way to Canton.
He was a dominant inside force for the Rams last season, breaking out into the star category of players. Donald is so quick and strong, even if he is undersized. He had 11 sacks last season and was outstanding against the run. Check out this play that shows his great get-off and quickness. At the snap, he knifes inside of guard Justin Britt and beats center Patrick Lewis to the runner. The ability to get off the ball as quickly as he did sets him apart from the rest of the defensive tackles in the league.
The Super Bowl MVP remains the game's best pure edge rusher. He had 11 sacks during the regular season, and then had five in the postseason, including 2.5 each in both the conference title game and the Super Bowl. Sack, fumble, big play is his calling card.
Brady continued to show why he's an all-time great. He threw for 4,770 yards and 36 touchdown passes as he led the Patriots to the AFC title game. Will he ever start to show signs of age?
He had 72 catches, but it's the 16.3 yards per catch that is truly impressive. He had 22 receptions of 20 yards or more, which was fourth best in the league. That's unreal for a man his size.
Injuries limited him to 11 starts last season and his numbers were down. He threw 21 touchdown passes after throwing 32 the year before. He did have the highest completion percentage of his career at 68.0. He will bounce back big if he stays on the field this season.
He tied Atlanta's Julio Jones for the league lead in catches with 136 and was second to Jones in yards. He also had 10 touchdown catches and 25 receptions of 20 yards or more, tying Jones for second in the league. He did it with his starting quarterback missing five games. That's why he's ahead of Jones.
He finished second to Watt in sacks with 15.0 in his breakout season. This second-year player from Buffalo will push Von Miller to be the best edge rusher in the league in 2016. Mack is also good against the run.
Smith is outstanding in pass protection, but he also does a great job in the run game. He is strong and can move people off the line. That's impressive for such an athletic tackle.
He has a great nose for the football. He can get to the ball in the run game, but he's also one of the best coverage linebackers in the league. He is a perfect modern-day middle linebacker.
The reigning NFL MVP is coming off his best season. He led the Panthers to the Super Bowl and did so because he improved greatly as a passer. He threw 35 touchdown passes and 10 picks and he also ran for 636 yards and scored 10 rushing TDs.
He tied Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown for the most catches in 2015 with 136. Jones led the NFL in receiving yards with 1,871 and he had eight touchdowns. He did most of that without much help from the other receiving options on the Falcons.
After trimming down last season, the sleeker version of Peterson was outstanding. He matched up against the league's best receivers and had his best season.
You put on the tape of Yanda and see a guy who can get it done in both the run game and the passing game. This former college tackle has made himself the league's best guard.
He is a true hybrid, a player who can line up on tight ends, cover the slot, blitz, play corner. He is a perfect player for the way the game is played. He is coming off ACL surgery, but he's on pace to be ready for the 2016 season.
I loved this kid coming out of college, and he has paid off big for the Patriots. Collins can cover. He can blitz. He is good in the run game and has the speed to chase down runners. Again, he's another player perfect for the current game. Here's an example of him running down a speedy back. It came against the Bills. Working against a really good guard in Richie Incognito, Collins was able to use his quickness and recognition to react to the play before Incognito had a chance to cut him off. He then was able to beat the wham block of the tight end to dump LeSean McCoy.
He's the ball-hawking safety that all teams crave in the middle of the field. He was bothered some by injury last season, but he remains the standard in the middle of the field in the NFL.
He plays the game with a swagger, and he backs it up. He can play outside, but he's really good when matched up inside. He had one bad game against Antonio Brown in 2015, but he didn't let that get him down. That's the sign of a great corner.
At 32, he had a season where he looked 25 again. Marshall caught 109 passes and 14 touchdown catches, which tied him for the league lead. It's no wonder he wants Ryan Fitzpatrick back under center.
In their pass-first offense, he is a perfect guard. He is smart, knows how to use his techniques and provides room in the middle for Aaron Rodgers. He isn't overpowering in the run game, but he gets by with his smarts and technique.
After tearing an ACL in 2013, it took Atkins a year to get back to being the same player he was before the injury. We saw that player in 2015. He had 11 sacks from his inside position. He was again dominant against the run.
Bryant played in only nine games and was clearly not the same player he was in 2014. A foot injury impacted his entire season and forced him to miss seven games. Bryant had just 31 catches after having 88 the year before. Not having Tony Romo hurt too, but he is said to be healthy again and should be back putting up big numbers.
Green continued to be one of the NFL's top receivers, catching 88 passes for a 15.1 average and 10 touchdowns. He put up those numbers even though starting quarterback Andy Dalton missed three games.
Thomas remains one of the best pass-blocking tackles in the league. If there is a knock on him, it's his run blocking. He's not special in that area. He's been one of the best tackles for a long time.
McCoy's play slipped off some last season from 2014, but he is still one of the better inside players. He had 8.5 sacks last season, but his run play wasn't as good as in years past. Then again, he didn't have as much help around him.
He put his name up with the league's elite receivers in 2015 by catching 111 passes with 11 touchdowns. He did so despite mediocre quarterback play and little help on the other side. Hopkins was the No. 1 priority for opposing defenses, and he still made plays.
Here's another corner with a swagger who continues to play at a high level. There will be some who say he is a product of their scheme, but I think he'd succeed in any scheme. He is long and smart and can run with receivers.
The perception is that he wasn't as good last season as he was as a rookie in 2014. Yet he had more catches, yards and touchdowns receptions. But he played 15 games compared to 12 in 2014 and didn't make the leap many expected -- the one to the top of the receiver list. Could this be the year?
On a bad defense the past two years, he's been the best player -- by far. If the Falcons were better, he'd get much more attention around the league. He's a true cover corner who can play in any scheme.
Peterson came back in 2015 and didn't show much rust after missing most of 2014 with a suspension. He led the league in rushing with 1,485 yards and at age 31 doesn't seem to be slowing down.
He is coming off a career year that saw him become a top corner. Norman is a great zone player, and some question his man-cover skills. The Redskins made a move to get him and he will show off more of that cover skill in their defense.
Pop on his tape and watch him make plays. He is strong and quick and gets penetration in the run game and in the passing game. He had 9.5 sacks last season.
The Saints gave him a long-term contract extension this spring for a reason. He's a rising star at the position. He excels in both the run game and in pass protection, which is important for Drew Brees. He turns 25 in July.
There is always talk about how the Jets might move him. Why? He's a force. Wilkerson is big and can move. He had 12 sacks last season, but was even better against the run.
He is moving back to the outside this season, which is where he should play. The Packers played him more on the inside last season, which hurt his sack numbers, as they were down from 11 to 6.5. They should be back to double-digits this season.
He can play in the middle of the field, but he's also a playmaker near the line. He is big and can move for a safety. There is great value in his skill set.
He had a meltdown in the NFC Championship Game, but had a great season to get the Cardinals there. Palmer came off a torn ACL in 2014 to throw 35 touchdown passes and 11 picks.
His numbers don't do him justice. He had 10 sacks last season, but he's far more disruptive than that. He can rush from the outside and the inside, which is where he really can cause problems for an offense.
After having three consecutive double-digit sack seasons, Quinn had five in an injury-shortened season in 2015. He played just eight games because of a variety of injuries, including knee, hip and back issues. When on the field, he is still an elite edge rusher.
When you ask Quinn what tackle is the best he's faced, he answers Staley. Their division battles have been good ones to watch. Staley continues to keep his name among the best tackles.
He had his breakout season for the Panthers in 2015, getting 11 sacks after having five combined in his first two seasons. He was a big part of why the Panthers went to the Super Bowl. He's only now scratching the surface of what he can be as a player.
He isn't the quarterback he was a few years ago, which placed him on the top-10 list here, but he can still roll up big numbers and move the football. He led the league in passing yards with 4,870 yards and also in completion percentage at 68.3.
His 2015 was a disaster. He started slow and then was injured twice, the last one knocking him out for the season. Luck had 15 touchdown passes in his seven games, which projects to just over 34 in a 16-game schedule, so he wasn't nearly as bad as the experts portrayed. He is still a top-level quarterback and should bounce back this season.
He came on strong as a passer last season, improving from the pocket. His ability to create with his legs outside of it remains a big part of his game. He threw 34 touchdown passes and only eight picks playing behind a bad line that saw him get sacked 45 times.
This 2013 first-round pick had his breakout season in 2015 with 14.5 sacks. He now has 30 for his career and has emerged as a force off the edge.
There was a perception that he didn't play well in his first season with the Dolphins. That's not true. Suh didn't put up big sack numbers, but he still pushed the pocket and was good against the run.
Like Collins, he's another big part of the New England defense. He can run and cover -- not quite like Collins, but he's also a better rusher than Collins. He turned 26 in March.
The Bears moved him to right tackle last season late in the summer and he responded by playing solid football. But he's a much better guard, which is where he will play this season. That's the wise move.
He's not a kid anymore, but at 31 he can still get the job done. The Chargers didn't bring him back, but he will be a big part of what the Ravens do on defense. Weddle has range, and he's a willing tackler.
He doesn't pile up big sack numbers, getting just five last season, which leads to his being overlooked at times. That shouldn't be the case. He is a good pass rusher, and he's good against the run. With the addition of Chandler Jones this year, he might put up bigger sack numbers.
On a bad defense last season, he was one of the few good players. Jordan went to the Pro Bowl and he earned it. He had a career-best 10 sacks and had a lot of pressures. He also did a nice job in the run game.
He is solid, steady and a major part of why the Bengals offense has taken big steps in the past few seasons. Whitworth is coming to the end of his career, but he remains a top-tier tackle. I think he can be a Pro Bowl guard if they move him inside again.
After his best season in 2014, Thomas saw his numbers go down in 2015. With the move to a more run-oriented system and Peyton Manning missing time and then not being the same quarterback he was the year before, Thomas didn't put up the same stats. But he did catch 105 passes. His touchdowns went down from 11 to six.
The Cowboys feature a dominant line, and Martin followed up on his excellent rookie season in 2014 with another good year for the Cowboys last season. He is on the verge of claiming the spot as the league's best guard.
His ability to run and chase is huge for the Seattle defense. He is fast and athletic, and that shows up on tape. He wasn't as good in 2015 as he was the year before, but he was still really good.
He missed two games with concussion issues last season and was slowed by a hamstring issue for much of the season. Even so, the talk of his demise is greatly exaggerated. He's still a good cover corner. He just might not have Revis Island anymore.
As a rookie, he flashed star potential. This top-10 pick from the 2015 NFL Draft ran for 1,106 yards in 12 starts, but the impressive thing was his average of 4.8 yards-per-rush. Imagine what he can do if the Rams can actually pass the ball?
Olsen caught 77 passes and averaged 14.3 per catch last season as the top target for Cam Newton. With little help outside, he was a valuable crutch for Newton in their passing game.
He was on his way to another big season when he tore up his knee in Week 6 against Cincinnati. He had 556 yards and 24 catches when he got hurt. The Steelers offense was much different when he wasn't in the backfield, even if DeAngelo Williams did a nice job replacing him.
He finished second in the league in yards passing with 4,792 yards. He had 29 touchdown passes and 11 picks playing behind a banged-up line that saw him get sacked 40 times.
He started just eight games last season because of calf, groin and hamstring injuries. In a contract year, he caught only 54 passes with four touchdowns. Even so, the Bears put the franchise tag on him for this season, and I see a big year coming.
For a guy who looked to be on his way out in 2014, Fitzgerald responded with a great season in 2015. He tied Brandon Marshall for fifth in the league with 109 catches and had nine touchdown receptions. His per-catch average was down to 11.1, which was a career low.
Peters missed time with back and ankle injuries last season, and at 33 he might be starting to come to the end. But when he's healthy -- and he was early last season -- he is still a good left tackle. Health is key for him, like all players.
He showed off his ball-hawking skills by tallying eight picks as a rookie to tie Reggie Nelson for the league lead. He is a long corner who can excel in man coverage. He does gamble at times, but he has the skill-set to be a top-level corner for a long time.
In 2015, his third season in the league, Slay took a major step forward. He improved greatly as a coverage corner. At 25, he has a lot of good football ahead.
Here's one of the most-underrated players on this list. He is a workmanlike, tough defender who deserves to get more recognition for being a heck of a player. He had only four sacks, but that's not his role in their defense.
Is he worth the contract the Giants gave him to come over from Miami? Of course he isn't. Is he a good, pass-rushing end? Yes. And the best is yet to come, even if the bullseye is on him now.
He signed a mega-deal with the Jaguars as a free agent after an impressive 2015 season and playoffs. He's not going to post big sack numbers, but he's an effective down player who can push the pocket. He's really good against the run, too.
He's a smaller corner but is tough and feisty. He does a nice job in coverage, and can play inside or outside. He seems to embrace the challenge of matching up with big-play receivers.
Robinson led the NFL with 31 catches of 20 yards or more and went to his first Pro Bowl. He had 80 catches with 14 touchdown receptions as he made leaping, snatch-the-ball catches his signature play.
He had his best season in 2014 and showed why the Vikings paid him big to come over as a free agent two years ago from the Giants. He was especially good against the run for the Vikings. When he missed four games, his absence was noticeable.
The Cowboys have the best offensive line in the league, and they also have the best center. He is a force in the run game, which will be key this year with the addition of running back Ezekiel Elliott.
He's a consistently good player on their line, but he did have his problems in the NFC wild-card game loss to the Packers. Even so, he's among the better tackles in the game.
Playing on a bad team, he doesn't get the attention he should. Casey is a force for the Tennessee defense. He is strong and can get penetration in the pass rush.
Josh Sitton is the better guard on the Packers, but Lang is the better run-blocker. He has really improved in pass protection as well. Like Sitton, he does a great job with his techniques.
This playmaking safety is coming off an impressive season for the Dolphins. He had five interceptions and 124 tackles, yet was only an alternate for the Pro Bowl. That was wrong.
He had 364 yards in five games before he tore his ACL against the Bears. He was averaging 5.1 yards per rush for the season. He turns 30 in December, so age is starting to become an issue, and he's coming off a major injury.
A lot of the attention on the Seattle defense goes to the front, the back end and Bobby Wagner. But Wright's ability to cover and also be good against the run is key to that defense as well. He closes fast to the football.
The Broncos excelled at coverage last season because of Talib and Chris Harris Jr. Talib is a big corner who does a nice job in man coverage. He turned 30 in February, so age is starting to be a bit of an issue.
He had seven interceptions last season, which earned him a franchise tag from the Rams. He is a long corner who has a chance to be much higher on this list next year.
After sitting out part of 2014 as he battled cancer, Berry returned to the field last season and was again a big part of the Kansas City defense. His ability to play in coverage gives the Chiefs a lot of options with what they can do on defense.
He looked comfortable in his second season in the Ben McAdoo offense, throwing a career-best 35 touchdown passes. He did throw 14 picks, which continues to be a career-long problem for him. The lack of a good running game didn't help him either.
He was a big part of the Cincinnati offense last season, catching 52 passes, with 13 of those going for touchdowns. He did have ankle surgery in May, but he is expected back for the regular season.
He played in only four games because he broke his collarbone twice in the same season. Romo wasn't putting up big numbers when he was on the field, but he is still capable of being a 4,000-yard, 30-touchdown passer.
He missed all of 2015 after tearing his ACL in the preseason. That's part of the reason he's down here so low. How does he come back? Will he be the same player? He was never a burner, but does he slow down? One thing is for sure: The Packers were a different team without him.
He missed the first four games of 2015 in a league-imposed suspension for violating the substance-abuse policy. When he returned, he was right back to being a disruptive down player. He had five sacks after getting eight in 2014. He could face another suspension to open this season.
After starting his career at guard, he is back playing center, which was his college position. Richburg is a smart player who has emerged as one of the league's best centers. He's good in pass protection, which is important for Eli Manning in the middle.
He had 48 catches in 11 games last season before tearing the patella tendon in his right knee. He started slowly after coming to Seattle in a trade last spring, but he did have an eight-catch, 140-yard game against Carolina. He's still an elite pass-catching tight end when healthy.
His numbers were down some last season, but he played behind a bad line and with limited weapons outside of Julio Jones. He also seemed miscast at times in the Kyle Shanahan offense. His completion percentage of 66.3 was higher than Tom Brady's (64.4).
Dunlap saw his sack numbers go from eight in 2014 to 13.5 last season as he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. Dunlap isn't a pure speed rusher, but he is big, athletic and strong enough to find ways to get to the passer. At 280 pounds, he can also be an anchor against the run.
He was having his best season until he suffered a broken thumb making a tackle in Week 13 against Pittsburgh. Dalton had 25 touchdown passes and seven interceptions when he was lost for the season and seemed to be a much more confident quarterback than at any time in his career.
In 14 games, with eight starts, he was able to catch 87 passes with 11 touchdowns. When he's on the field, he's a game-changing pass-catching threat.
He caught 61 passes in nine games last season, but a foot injury limited him for much of the season. He did come back in the AFC playoff game against the Chiefs to catch 10 passes for 100 yards. His value to their offense is immense.
He is a perfect linebacker for the way the game is played and especially for Mike Zimmer's scheme. He can run. He can cover. And he can blitz. Barr, entering his third season, is improving game by game.
He had a resurgent season in 2015, finishing second in the league in rushing. That earned him a long-term deal from the Bucs this spring.
He moved from Baltimore to Chicago as a free agent last spring and showed why he's a rising player as an outside rusher. He only had six sacks on the season, but he was able to get a lot of pressures. As the players around him improve, he will have even better sack numbers.
The Cardinals landed what they think is a really good edge rusher in a trade with the Patriots. Jones, who is just 26, had a career-best 12.5 sacks for the Patriots last season. He did have some off-field issues, but he should liven up the Arizona pass rush.
As a rookie, he flashed star potential. This 2015 first-round pick was really good against the run and had four sacks on the season. I expect a lot more in 2016.
In his first full season as a starter, he threw for over 4,000 yards and had 35 touchdown passes, tying for second-best in the league. He does need to cut down on his interceptions after having 18 last season. But he played in a lot of come-from-behind situations.
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