Prisco's Top 100 Players of 2017: Tom Brady is the GOAT, but he's not No. 1

Change is inevitable in the NFL.

But now it seems it happening faster all the time. Consider this: On my list of the top 100 NFL players from last summer, 38 players are not on this year's list. That includes Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who was 12th last season but is coming off a miserable post-MVP year.

Newton looked like a shell of himself last season, which is why he's not on the top-100 list this season.

The top 10 hasn't changed much, though. Of the players in the top 10 a year ago, eight are back again, led by Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the top spot. He gets the edge over Tom Brady, who is the greatest quarterback of all-time, because I think Rodgers is the better player right now.

The biggest riser up the list is Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. A year ago, he was 90th on the list -- and I took heat for that -- but after his MVP season he is all the way up to the No. 8 spot, the third quarterback on the list.

Ryan was sensational last year in leading to the Falcons to the Super Bowl with the top-ranked offense.

The players who fell out of the top 10 from a year ago were Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith, and each had some injury issues last year. The two new entries are Ryan and his receiver, Julio Jones, who is up from No. 13 to the No. 6 spot.

When I do my list, I take into account the 2016 season, but it's mostly looking ahead to the 2017 season, which is why Houston's J.J. Watt and New England's Rob Gronkowski are both in the top 10. When healthy, and they are said to be healthy now, they are both top-10 players.

Both players coming off back injuries, which is concerning, but indications are both will be fine when the season begins.

So dive into the list, moan and groan about how it's put together, and send all your complaints into the social media world. I'm sure I will see them.

prisco-2017-top-100-1-10.jpg
1
Aaron Rodgers Green Bay QB
There was misguided talk early last season that he wasn't the same player as he had been in the past. That changed when he led his team to the conference finals. He isn't slowing at all.
2
Tom Brady New England QB
At his age, to be doing what he's doing is simply amazing. Some are expecting him to slow down soon, but I don't. He's a machine and the greatest quarterback of all time.
3
Aaron Donald L.A. Rams DT
It's too bad the Rams haven't been good in his time with the team. He's a force on their line who doesn't get the due he deserves.
4
J.J. Watt Houston DE
He's coming off a back injury that shortened his season in 2016, so there is uncertainty. But if he can come back to full strength, he will again be one of the game's best defensive players -- if not the best.
5
Von Miller Denver OLB
He had 13.5 sacks last year and was again really good against the run. He is a disruptive player who has to be accounted for on every snap.
6
Julio Jones Atlanta WR
It helps Matt Ryan to have the best receiver in the league. Jones is big, strong, fast and a handful for any defensive back who dares cover him in a one-on-one situation.
7
Khalil Mack Oakland DE
His sack numbers fell from 15 to 11, but he was still a dominant force off the edge with a lot of pressures. He's good against the run and is the current NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
8
Matt Ryan Atlanta QB
The league MVP last season quieted a lot of doubters by leading the Falcons to the Super Bowl. He's among the best passers in the game right now and showed just how good in 2016.
9
Antonio Brown Pittsburgh WR
For a guy his size, he does some amazing things. He can also kill you in the return game. Brown is one of the great draft values in the league coming in the sixth round.
10
Rob Gronkowski New England TE
He is coming off an injury-shortened season, but he remains the game's best tight end when he's on the field. I expect him to get back to that level in 2017.
prisco-2017-top-100-11-20.jpg
11
A.J. Green Cincinnati WR
He needed more help last season, but he still put up good numbers. Green, like Jones, is a tall receiver who can get down the field. He just isn't as strong as Jones.
12
Joe Thomas Cleveland T
He remains a rock at left tackle for the Browns, one of the best in the league and a potential Hall player down the road. He's much better in pass protection than as a run blocker.
13
Drew Brees New Orleans QB
He led the NFL in passing yards with 5,209, and he threw 37 touchdown passes to finish third in the league. At the age of 38, he isn't slowing down at all.
14
Elliott was special as a rookie, leading the Cowboys to a division title. He plays behind the best line, but he's a special back doing special things.
15
David Johnson Arizona RB
He was second in the NFL in rushing and he caught 80 passes. His versatility is perfect for the Arizona offense and their passing game.
16
Luke Kuechly Carolina MLB
His play wasn't as good as the year before and he ended the season with concussion issues. Even so, he remains a big-time player in the middle of their defense.
17
Chris Harris Denver CB
This self-made former undrafted player has made himself an elite corner -- even if some won't give him that due. He can play outside and does a nice job when he moves inside.
18
Zack Martin Dallas G
He is a mauler in the run game, helping lead Ezekiel Elliot to a big season in 2016. He isn't as good in pass protection, but he's not far off in that area. I think he's the best guard in the league.
19
Marshal Yanda Baltimore G
He remains one of the league's best guards, arguably the best. They moved him to tackle last season -- his college position -- because of injuries and he held up there as well.
20
Le'Veon Bell Pittsburgh RB
He is a big threat both as a runner and receiver. He averaged 4.9 yards per rush and caught 75 passes. He's perfect for their offense.
prisco-2017-top-100-21-30.jpg
21
Joey Bosa L.A. Chargers DE
This is a star in waiting. He was special as a rookie once he got on the field, getting 10.5 sacks in 11 starts, and I think he could be the league's next great pass rusher. This might seem high, but when I put Khalil Mack high on the list two years ago, people scoffed as well.
22
Odell Beckham N.Y. Giants WR
He had 100 catches last season, but his yards per catch average fell from 15.1 to 13.5. He has to get that number back up again.
23
Eric Weddle Baltimore SS
In his first year with the Ravens, he continued to be a playmaker on the back end. He has range and will tackle. That's a must in today's game.
24
The Dolphins had issues against the run, but it wasn't because of Suh. He was really good inside last year, but his big contract clouds the judgment of some.
25
Landon Collins N.Y. Giants SS
He had his breakout season in 2016, a big-hitting safety who improved in coverage by trimming down. He should be on this list for a long time.
26
Cameron Jordan New Orleans DE
On a bad Saints defense last year, he was a star. He's good against the run, but he's also a heck of a pass rusher. He should get more attention than he gets.
27
Geno Atkins Cincinnati DT
His quickness inside allowed him to get nine sacks last season, and he again was good in the run game. He isn't a power player at this point, but his quickness makes him a dominant player.
28
His ability to lock up on the opposition's best receiver is a big part of their defense. He has moments where he gets beat, but that happens when you play the best in man situations.
29
Aqib Talib Denver CB
He was outstanding again last season for the Broncos. He remains a top cover corner when locked in man coverage.
30
Tyron Smith Dallas T
He wasn't as good last season as he's been in the past, but injuries factored in there as well. When he's right, he's arguably the best in the league.
prisco-2017-top-100-31-40.jpg
31
Trent Williams Washington T
He continues to play at a high level in a good offense protecting the backside of Kirk Cousins. He missed four games for a league suspension for violating the league's policy for substance abuse.
32
Mike Evans Tampa Bay WR
He had 96 catches with 12 touchdowns in a season where he saw a lot more double-teams. With DeSean Jackson on board now, his numbers should be even better.
33
Leonard Williams N.Y. Jets NT
He was the best defender on the Jets defense last season in a big way. Unlike some of his defensive line mates, he plays hard all the time.
34
Eric Berry Kansas City SS
After returning from his battle with cancer, he emerged as a better player in coverage, which showed up on tape. He is a big part of their defense.
35
Ben Roethlisberger Pittsburgh QB
He missed two games with injury last year, and his numbers haven't been the same since 2014, but he remains one of those quarterbacks who can carry a team to a title on his right arm.
36
Yes, he talks a big game, but he backs it up. The idea he couldn't play in any other system is off base. But he is perfect for their scheme.
37
Vic Beasley Atlanta OLB
He led the NFL with 15.5 sacks in his breakout season. But he can do a lot more. They schemed him up to get sacks last season, but now I think he takes it to the next level with his ability to win in one-on-one rush situations.
38
In 2014, if you would have said he'd be this high, I would have said you were nuts. But he's had consecutive seasons of 109 and 107 catches. He's more of a possession receiver now, but still a playmaker.
39
When he was hurt last season and missed time, the Seattle defense looked like a different group. He is the guy who makes it go up front.
40
Philip Rivers L.A. Chargers QB
He hasn't had a lot of help in recent years, yet he continues to play at a high level. With better play up front, he should have another nice season in 2017.
prisco-2017-top-100-41-50.jpg
41
Andrew Luck Indianapolis QB
After an injury-marred 2015 season, he came back and had his second-best year for the Colts in 2016, throwing for 4,230 yards with 31 touchdown passes.
42
Russell Wilson Seattle QB
He's grown a ton as a passer from the pocket, which is why he's higher on this list than in recent years. It's too bad his line stinks in front of him.
43
Travis Kelce Kansas City TE
Baby Gronk has emerged as the second-best tight end in the league. He creates all types of matchup issues for defenses with his ability to run.
44
Bobby Wagner Seattle MLB
He is a fast, athletic linebacker who can fly to the football. Wagner's speed is a big part of why Seattle has been so good on defense.
45
Gerald McCoy Tampa Bay DT
His play tailed off some from a few years ago, but he's still a good inside player in their defense. Surprisingly, he's never had a season with double-digit sacks.
46
Mike Daniels Green Bay DE
He might not put up big sack numbers from his down spot, but he pushes the pocket and influences quarterbacks. He's also a good run player.
47
The anchor in the middle of the Dallas line is an outstanding run blocker and a good pass protector. He's the game's best center.
48
Kam Chancellor Seattle SS
I have to give him a ton of credit. After making him my choice for the league's most overrated player last summer, he bounced back with his best season. Kudos to him.
49
David Bakhtiari Green Bay T
His pass protection for Aaron Rodgers at left tackle is among the best in the NFL. He has developed into a top-tier player at his position.
50
Devin McCourty New England FS
His range on the back end of their defense is such a big part of what they do. He can cover in man situations, which a lot of safeties struggle to do.
prisco-2017-top-100-51-60.jpg
51
Finally healthy, he had his best season in 2016. He didn't roll up giant sack numbers, getting just five, but he did get pressures and he was really good against the run. He will be higher on this list next year.
52
Malcolm Butler New England CB
He was one of the better cover players last season, which makes the Patriots' reluctance to pay him a bit odd. He's a self-made player who has become more than just a Super Bowl hero.
53
Kawann Short Carolina DT
He wasn't as good last season as he was in the Super Bowl year of 2015, but he did play more like himself in the second half of the season.
54
Andrew Whitworth L.A. Rams T
He remains a quality left tackle at the age of 34. He gives the Rams a nice back-side protector for young quarterback Jared Goff.
55
He signed as a free agent with the Raiders and helped make their line one of the best in the NFL. This former tackle has made a smooth transition inside to guard.
56
K.J. Wright Seattle OLB
He sometimes doesn't get the credit he deserves in their scheme with so much talent around him. He is a perfect run-and-chase linebacker for what they do.
57
When he's healthy, he's one of the best safeties in the game. But he missed 10 games in 2016 after tearing a rotator cuff. The Dolphins still gave him a five-year contract extension, which tells you what they think of his play.
58
Earl Thomas Seattle FS
When he went down last season, the Seattle secondary struggled. His range is so important to what they do on the back end, even if he hasn't played as well lately. How he comes back from a broken leg will be key to that unit this season.
59
Greg Olsen Carolina TE
He caught 80 passes with three touchdowns and a 13.4 average for an offense that had issues. He was their go-to player in the passing game -- and will be again.
60
T.Y. Hilton Indianapolis WR
He had 91 catches, averaged 15.9 yards per catch with six touchdown receptions and led the league in receiving yards. His speed is a threat down the field on every play.
prisco-2017-top-100-61-70.jpg
61
He came back from a torn Achilles tendon to get 11.5 sacks to tie him with Seattle's Cliff Avril for sixth in the league. At 35, he played like a man much younger than that.
62
Calais Campbell Jacksonville DT
He had eight sacks and was again a force against the run for the Arizona Cardinals last season. He signed with the Jaguars as a free agent this spring and will be a big part of their defense in 2017.
63
Derek Carr Oakland QB
He was having his breakout season with 28 touchdown passes and six picks when he went down in the Week 16 with a broken leg. He was a legitimate MVP candidate last season.
64
Jordy Nelson Green Bay WR
He came off a major knee injury in 2015 to catch 97 passes with 14 touchdowns and liven up a Green Bay offense that struggled without him the year before.
65
LeSean McCoy Buffalo RB
He averaged an impressive 5.4 yards per rush last season, totaling 1,267 yards with 13 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 50 passes.
66
Fletcher Cox Philadelphia DT
His play slipped some from 2015 in their new scheme, but he remains a force inside who can get push with his pass rush. He had seven sacks last season.
67
Melvin Ingram L.A. Chargers OLB
The Chargers did the smart thing to make sure he didn't leave in free agency by putting the franchise tag on him. He has 18.5 sacks the past two seasons and had a lot of pressures as well.
68
Alex Mack Atlanta C
His addition to the Falcons' line last year solidified that group and allowed Matt Ryan to play with a lot of clean pockets. He was the best free-agent addition of 2016.
69
Dont'a Hightower New England MLB
His ability to do a lot of things is important to their scheme. He can cover and blitz and does a nice job in the run game. They were smart to bring him back.
70
His numbers fell last season because of poor quarterback play and a lot more attention. But he still remains a big-time threat. He had just four touchdown catches last season, though.
prisco-2017-top-100-71-80.jpg
71
Brandon Graham Philadelphia DE
He had six sacks last season, but he spent a lot of time getting pressures. The next step is getting the quarterback on the ground more.
72
Janoris Jenkins N.Y. Giants CB
He signed a big-money deal as a free agent last year, and then had his best season. His ability to play man is huge in the Giants' scheme.
73
Justin Houston Kansas City OLB
Injuries have limited him to 16 starts the past two seasons, five last year as he came off ACL surgery. He ended up with four sacks, but he's back healthy again and that number should get back into double-digits.
74
Dez Bryant Dallas WR
He played just 13 games last season and had 50 catches, but he averaged 15.9 yards per catch and had eight touchdowns. Those numbers should go way up with Dak Prescott in his second season -- if Bryant can stay on the field.
75
Harrison Smith Minnesota FS
His play slipped a bit last season, but he's still a productive player who does a lot of things in their scheme. He can cover, rush and play the run.
76
Marcus Peters Kansas City CB
He has 14 interceptions the past two years, including six last season. That number was down from his rookie year, but he still did a lot of good things in coverage.
77
Brent Grimes Tampa Bay CB
He was outstanding in their defense last year, a coverage machine. He turns 34 this year, but you wouldn't know it by the way he played last season.
78
Julian Edelman New England WR
He is the go-to receiver for Tom Brady. He had 98 catches for 1,108 yards with three touchdowns. He's a chain mover who knows how to get open.
79
Sean Lee Dallas OLB
When he's on the field, he's impressive. He can run to the football and he's a good tackler. He's a bright spot on a defense that doesn't have a ton of them.
80
Jalen Ramsey Jacksonville CB
In a few years, he might be the best corner in the league. He is long and athletic and can run. He doesn't back down from a challenge either.
prisco-2017-top-100-81-90.jpg
81
Jordan Howard Chicago RB
He finished second in the league in rushing behind a so-so line and without much help from the passing game. The most impressive thing about his rookie year was his 5.2 yards per rush average.
82
Jack Conklin Tennessee T
As a rookie, he was the best right tackle in the league. He was supposed to be a mauler, but he was much better in pass protection than expected.
83
Olivier Vernon N.Y. Giants DE
He's another player who was in the spotlight after signing a mega-deal as a free agent and responded with a really good season. He only had 8.5 sacks, but he stacked up a lot of pressures and was really good against the run.
84
Chandler Jones Arizona OLB
He came over in a trade with the New England Patriots and responded with an 11-sack season while spending a lot of time around the quarterback.
85
Jason Pierre-Paul N.Y. Giants DE
A full year removed from his fireworks mishap, he had a good season playing with his injured hand. He had seven sacks, loaded up the pressures and was good against the run.
86
Jurrell Casey Tennessee DE
He has settled in nicely in their 3-4 scheme and went to the Pro Bowl last season. He doesn't put up gaudy sack numbers (five last season), but he influences the game in a lot of ways.
87
Jamie Collins Cleveland OLB
He had a tendency to get out of position in New England, so the Patriots traded him and his great athletic talents to the Browns last year. In Cleveland, he again showed that he could be a top-tier run-and-chase linebacker.
88
Jason Peters Philadelphia T
At 35, he continues to play at a high level -- even if he isn't as dominant as he used to be. The question is when does he start to fade?
89
Malik Jackson Jacksonville DT
He signed a big deal as a free agent with the Jaguars last season and played to that deal. He didn't get a lot of sacks, but he was a force on their defense.
90
His play dropped off last season in a big way, but he still has the talent to be a dominant force up front. He needs to be more focused at times.
prisco-2017-top-100-91-100.jpg
91
Markus Golden Arizona OLB
He had 12.5 sacks in his second season and showed he can be a force off the edge. He's also solid against the run.
92
Cliff Avril Seattle DE
He finally got to the Pro Bowl last season for the first time after getting 11.5 sacks for the Seahawks. He is their best edge pass rusher.
93
Everson Griffen Minnesota DE
He has 30.5 sacks the past three seasons, including eight last season. He's become one of the better edge rushers in the league and he's decent against the run.
94
Jay Ajayi Miami RB
After a slow start to the season, he came on strong to finish with 1,272 yards and three games of 200 or more yards.
95
Grady Jarrett Atlanta DT
That three-sack game you saw in the Super Bowl is where he is heading as a player. I would expect him much higher on this list next season.
96
He didn't have Calvin Johnson for the first time in his career and he still played at a high level. He's averaged 28 touchdown passes a season the past six years and has thrown for over 4,200 in each of those seasons.
97
David DeCastro Pittsburgh G
He is coming off his best all-around season and is a big reason why Le'Veon Bell ran so well. He has improved in pass protection as well.
98
He is a threat to run it and also in the passing game, which gives him a lot of touches. He has big-play ability that the Falcons utilize to their advantage.
99
Taylor Lewan Tennessee T
He is bruiser at left tackle, excelling in the run game. He's also improved each year in pass protection.
100
Deion Jones Atlanta MLB
He impressed as a rookie in 2016, growing up each week. His speed started to show up in a big way when he grasped the mental side of the game, which means he should be even faster this year.

Just Missed

Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins; Malcolm Jenkins, S, Philadelphia Eagles; Terron Armstead, T, New Orleans Saints; Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins; Desmond Trufrant, CB, Atlanta Falcons; Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers; Casey Hayward, CB, Los Angeles Chargers; Keanu Neal, S, Atlanta Falcons; Tony Jefferson, S, Baltimore Ravens; Whitney Mercilus, OLB, Houston Texans; Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins; Nick Perry, OLB, Green Bay Packers; Ryan Kalil, C, Carolina Panthers; Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, New York Giants; Brian Orakpo, OLB, Tennessee Titans; Noah Spence, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Bud Dupree, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers; Bruce Irvin, OLB, Oakland Raiders; Matt Paradis, C, Denver Broncos; A.J. Bouye, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars; Tyrann Matheiu, S, Arizona Cardinals, Josh Norman, CB, Washington Redskins, Xavier Rhodes, CB, Minnesota Vikings 

Graphic illustrations created by Mike Meredith.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories