The most amazing thing about Tom Brady getting No. 1 in NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players” show this year is there was no real argument against him.
When the annual list started this offseason, we all knew what the conclusion would be. As expected, when the end of the countdown was revealed on Monday night, Brady held the top spot. Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown was No. 2, and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was ranked third.
While the NFL Network’s list is far from perfect — every year there are some head-scratching rankings— it’s a popular summer show that players take note of. The list is voted on by players. And since the show’s debut in 2011, the one constant has been Brady being near the top.
A remarkable streak of top finishes for Brady
Again, even if you’re cynical about the NFL Network’s top 100 list, Brady’s streak of high finishes is amazing. This is where Brady’s fellow players have ranked him, starting with the first season of the show in 2011: 1, 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 1, 1.
Let that sink in for a moment. In eight seasons, Brady has never finished lower than fourth among all NFL players in a ranking voted on by active players. That’s simply unbelievable, and no matter how long the NFL Network continues this show, it’s a streak that probably won’t be matched. He has three first-place finishes, including two in a row. This year’s honor comes for his age-40 season.
Brady isn’t universally loved outside of New England, for a lot of petty reasons. But this much is practically indisputable, if you don’t let bias get involved: Brady has the best resume of any quarterback who has ever played the game. He probably has had the best career of any NFL player, period.
Who might beat Brady in 2018?
Even though Brady will be 41 years old this season, it’s probably a good bet he’ll get another top-4 finish, health permitting. There are a few players who could steal the No. 1 spot, however.
Wentz, whose No. 3 finish was the highest of any player making his “Top 100 Players” debut, is the most obvious candidate. He was on an MVP pace last season when he tore his ACL. If he returns from his injury and picks up where he left off, he could make a run at the top spot. So could Brown, who always puts up huge numbers. The rest of the top five was Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones at No. 4 and Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell at No. 5. Some players coming back from injury, like Aaron Rodgers and Odell Beckham, also have the talent to finish No. 1 next year.
But for now, the title still belongs to Brady.
How long can Brady keep finishing in the top four?
Brady said recently that retirement could come sooner rather than later, but then hinted that he still wants to play until age 45. So he might get in the top four a few more times, even though history isn’t on his side. But that hasn’t mattered yet.
The success rate of quarterbacks beyond 40 years old is pretty much zero. The only two great seasons for a 40-year-old quarterback are Brady last year and Brett Favre in 2009. There has never been a truly great quarterback season from anyone older. But Brady has shown no signs of slowing down. He’s coming off a season in which he won NFL MVP, then threw for a record 505 yards in a Super Bowl but didn’t get any help from his defense in a loss to the Eagles.
And, as we all could have guessed a few weeks ago, he was voted by his peers as the best player in the NFL, yet again.
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