There isn’t a ton of news during the off-season after free agency & the draft finish. The NFL network has done a decent job of creating news out of nothing. One very successful program has been their NFL Top 100 series. Each year they manage to get 11 shows (with another 11 reaction shows & endless bits of commentary) out of a simple concept. They poll the players & based on that poll, they show the top 100 players, 10 per episode except for the final two, where only 5 players are shown. It is a fun program & it always gets a big reaction from players and fans about why they or their favorite player weren’t ranked or weren’t ranked high enough.
I usually just enjoy it & don’t think too much about it. This year the indignation in the press & fan blogs for one perceived snub made me want to dive into it a bit more.
In 2015 Andrew Luck was named the 7th best player in the NFL. In 2016, he fell all the way to number 92.
The media, sensing an opportunity for some eyeballs, went nuts. The USA Today said “And this is exactly why NFL players do not, and should not, vote on major awards or All-pro teams.” Chris Wesseling of Around the NFL referred to Luck’s “preposterously low ranking.” That was one of the calmer reactions. Luck has been considered the next great NFL quarterback since the Colts seemingly tanked their entire season to draft him as the #1 pick in the 2012 draft. It seemed crazy that he wouldn’t be highly ranked by the players despite missing most of the year with injury.
I actually think that he was lucky to make the list at all. Part of that is based on his play in 2015 & part of it is based on how the list is compiled. Let’s look at both aspects.
In 2015, Andrew Luck played in only 7 games. There is a pretty good argument that he was injured & hurting during at least a few of those games, but the NFL chose not to look into the Colts potentially gaming the injury reports (can you imagine what they would have done if it had been Tom Brady?). In those 7 games, the team won 2 & lost 5 games.
If you look at the NFL statistics page where they rate quarterbacks by 16 metrics & then rank them, you will see that Andrew Luck rated 32nd for 2015 among quarterbacks. He managed to rank one spot higher than his backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, despite Hasselbeck having an 84 QB rating compared to Lucks 74.9. At least 3 quarterbacks who ranked above Luck have lost their starting job this year (Brian Hoyer, Nick Foles, & Josh McCown). There are a couple others who may not end up starting the majority of their games this year. Hasselbeck has retired, but is worth noting that he led the Colts to 5 of their 8 wins in 2015.
In 7 games, Luck threw 12 interceptions. At that rate, he would have thrown more than 27 interceptions in a 16 game season. For comparisons sake, 27 interceptions are more than Tom Brady has thrown in the last 3 years combined (25).
One other statistic is worth noticing. In the today’s NFL with the rules geared towards the passing game, starting quarterbacks are expected to complete at least 60% of their passes. In 2015 Luck completed 55.3% of his. That completion percentage places him #63 out of the 72 quarterbacks ranked. That is terrible.
The other aspect of his ranking that we should look at is how the votes are tallied. There isn’t actually a vote of the top 100 NFL players. There is a ballot where players list their top 20 players. Points are assigned for votes from 1-20 & the players with the top 100 point totals are chosen. There is actually a huge difference between the two systems. For one thing, one or two players ranking a player on their team in the top 5 can shoot them up in the polls. For another it can leave out or lower the number for a player who isn’t a star, but is legitimately a player that everyone would agree was a top 80 player but not a top 20 player.
Looking at the Andrew Luck situation through that prism, it is kind of amazing that enough people chose him as one of the 20 best players for him to make the list. If I were to make a list of the top 40 players in the NFL it would be hard to include him. Off the top of my head, do you think Luck is really playing better than these guys…
|Geno Atkins||Jamie Collins||Tyran Mathieu||Ben Roethlisberger|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||Fletcher Cox||Gerald McCoy||Richard Sherman|
|Le’Veon Bell||Larry Fitzgerald||LeSean McCoy||Ndamukong Suh|
|Eric Berry||A.J. Green||Von Miller||Earl Thomas|
|Tom Brady||Rob Gronkowski||Cam Newton||Joe Thomas|
|Drew Brees||Todd Gurley||Greg Olsen||J.J. Watt|
|Antonio Brown||DeAndre Hopkins||Adrian Peterson||Muhammed Wilkerson|
|Dez Bryant||Julio Jones||Patrick Peterson||Russell Wilson|
|Kam Chancellor||Luke Kuechly||Darrelle Revis||Jason Witten|
|Jamaal Charles||Zack Martin||Aaron Rodgers||Marshal Yanda|
That certainly isn’t a definitive list. If I made a new one tomorrow, I’m sure I would change out 4-5 players. The point is that Luck wasn’t better than 21 of these guys.
Every year is a new year & a new chance for players to rise above their past performance. Every year time catches up with a great player & their level of play drops. Next year at this time, Luck may have established himself as a top 20 player, but he hasn’t so far. Chris Wesseling & some other pundits should take a chill pill.