5 Biggest Surprises So Far in the 2021 NFL Top 100

| August 18, 2021 4:41 am PDT

The NFL Top 100 list was unveiled this weekend. The NFL prefers to release certain groups one by one as opposed to the top 100 all at once. Because of that, the NFL released players 100-41.

For those who aren’t familiar, the NFL has been making their top 100 list since 2011. Active NFL players vote for the players based on the previous year’s performance.

With any NFL rankings list, you have players that were overrated and underrated. The first release of the NFL Top 100 for 2021 certainly had some shocking inclusions.

Let’s look at five surprises from the initial release of the NFL’s top 100 list.

5. K.J. Wright (No. 67)

K.J. Wright’s inclusion on this list is interesting to say the least. Wright was always an underrated member of the Legion of Boom for the Seattle Seahawks, and he did make the Pro Bowl in 2016.

It’s interesting because after all the great years he has had, this is his first time making the list. The thing is, Wright is a free agent.

I understand he turned 32 in July but if he is really a top 70 player, how can he not be on an NFL team?

Wright had a combined seven tackles in his first two games in 2020. His production did pick up with at least seven tackles in three of his next four games. That stretch included four tackles for loss, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries.

His next five games featured his only two sacks of the season. This was Wright’s first sack since 2016.

Unfortunately, Wright didn’t force a turnover for the remainder of the season.

Here are his final stats from 2020.

  • 86 tackles
  • 2 sacks
  • 10 tackles for loss
  • 1 forced fumble
  • 2 fumble recoveries
  • 1 interception

He had a solid season, but it wasn’t anything special. This is the first time he didn’t record 100 tackles in a 16-game season since 2013. In fact, his 86 tackles ranked outside the top 50 last season.

I just don’t understand how he made it this season, but not years past. This was arguably his worst season since 2013. He only played five games in 2018, but every other season since 2013 was better than 2020.

Right now, we don’t know if Wright will sign with a team ahead of the 2021 season. There’s still a chance he returns to Seattle, but shouldn’t other teams come calling for a top 70 player?

We’ll see if he returns value this season.

4. James Bradberry (No. 74)

Following four solid seasons with the Carolina Panthers, James Bradberry entered free agency as one of the top cornerbacks on the market.

Ultimately, the New York Giants signed him to a three-year, $45 million deal.

While people wondered if the deal was too big for Bradberry, his play last season justified the money.

Bradberry kicked off his Giants tenure with five tackles and a forced fumble in his first game. It took just two games for him to record his first interception of the season. Across his first three games, Bradberry had nine passes defended.

He didn’t have a pass defended over the next two games, but he did recover a fumble in week 4 against the Los Angeles Rams.

Over his final nine games of the season, he recorded at least one pass defended in eight games. He also had an interception in back-to-back games, as well as a pair of seven tackle games.

While he did have a career-worst 54 tackles, Bradberry showcased his elite coverage skills. Check out his interceptions and passes defended last season compared to his first four seasons.

Year Interceptions Passes Defended
2016 2 10
2017 2 10
2018 1 15
2019 3 12
2020 3 18

The 18 passes defended ranked second in the league. His stellar season earned Bradberry his first career Pro Bowl nod.

Bradberry was always a solid corner in Carolina, but he was never among the league’s elites. That’s why a lot of people questioned the Giants decision to hand him $15 million a year. Now, Bradberry can say he is one of the league’s best corners.

Fans can argue if he is truly a lockdown corner, but I think he is better than the 74th best player. I think we’ll see him improve his game even more this season as he has had a full offseason to become even more comfortable with an underrated Giants defense.

3. Michael Thomas (No. 72)

What have you done for me lately?

Last season, Michael Thomas ranked fifth on this list for good reason. He was coming off a season where he broke the NFL record for most receptions in a season with 149. Thomas also had 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns.

Most people knew he would struggle to replicate his season, but he would still be one of the top wide receivers in the league. However, things went downhill at the beginning of the season.

Thomas had three receptions and 17 yards in week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Unfortunately, a high ankle sprain sidelined him for a few weeks.

The New Orleans Saints planned to bring him back in week 5, but the team didn’t allow him to play after he punched a teammate in practice.

He finally made his return in week 9 against Tampa Bay. Thomas had five receptions for 51 yards. He only played five more regular-season games. Here are his numbers from those games.

Week Receptions Yards Touchdowns
10 2 27 0
11 9 104 0
12 4 50 0
13 9 105 0
14 8 84 0

Across his seven games in 2020, Thomas had 40 receptions, 438 yards, and most surprising of all, zero touchdowns. If he kept up his pace over a full 16-game season, he would’ve set career lows for all three stats.

If you want to take away a positive, Thomas did record a touchdown in the Saints first playoff game.

When healthy, I believe Thomas is a top 10 wide receiver, but what did he do last season to warrant this kind of recognition? Even if he played all 16 games, I don’t think his numbers would’ve been good enough.

Thomas is better than other wide receivers on the 2021 NFL Top 100 list, so I wouldn’t entirely remove him. However, I’d move him closer to the bottom of the list.

2. Jessie Bates (No. 90)

Some people will tell you Jessie Bates is the best safety in the NFL. While I’m not sure he is number one in the league, I think he is one of the best up-and-coming defenders.

His 2020 season warrants a higher placement than 90th.

Bates had just five tackles in week 1, but he did record a pair of passes defended. He rebounded with a pair of 10 tackle games over the next four weeks.

From week 6 to week 11, Bates recorded three interceptions and had six passes defended.

While he recorded just two passes defended over his final six games, Bates was racking up tackles. He recorded at least four tackles in all six games, including a season-high 13 against the Tennessee Titans.

Here are Bates’ final stats from the season.

  • 109 tackles
  • 2 tackles for loss
  • 1 forced fumble
  • 3 interceptions
  • 15 passes defended

His 15 passes defended were sixth in the league but led all safeties. They also marked a career high.

He was a big Pro Bowl snub last season, but his great season didn’t go unrecognized. The NFL named Bates to the All-Pro Second Team.

When you look beyond the stats, it’s not hard to realize that Bates is one of the league’s premier safeties.

According to Pro Football Focus, Bates had the highest overall grade among safeties. His coverage grade also ranked above 90.

Bates was one of two players to achieve that mark last season.

There’s no doubt that Bates deserves more respect. Ranking him 90th is far too low for someone who is likely a top-five safety in the NFL. I think a lot of it has to do with his team, the Cincinnati Bengals, not receiving a lot of attention.

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, we’ll see if the Bengals make him the highest-paid safety.

1. Allen Robinson (No. 87)

I understand Allen Robinson has played with below-average quarterbacks his whole career, but this ranking is flat-out disrespectful.

Coming into this season, I ranked Robinson as the fifth best receiver in my 2021 NFL wide receiver rankings. I wouldn’t blame you for moving him down a little bit, but there are guys above him nowhere near my top 10.

Robinson’s season got off to a decent start with a combined eight receptions and 107 yards in his first two games. His next three games likely represented his best stretch of the season.

Week Receptions Yards Touchdowns
3 10 123 1
4 7 101 1
5 10 90 0

He scored just one touchdown over his next five games and failed to reach 100 yards. Robinson did close the season strong though. He had over 70 yards in five of his final six games, including a pair of 100+ yard games.

For the season, Robinson finished with a career-high 102 receptions, 1,250 yards, and six touchdowns. Both his receptions and yards ranked top 10 in the league.

Robinson managed to put up these numbers despite splitting time between quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles. Honestly, neither quarterback stood out last season.

Trubisky had the 21st best QBR and 20th best passer rating. Foles was much worse, ranking outside the top 25 in both categories.

Some wide receivers ranked ahead of Robinson didn’t surprise me because they had a great 2020 season. However, I’m not sure how guys like Chris Godwin and Tyler Lockett beat out Robinson. I would’ve added Adam Thielen to that, but he did have 14 touchdowns last season.

Both Godwin and Lockett had more touchdowns, but they also played on much better offenses. Robinson beat both players in receptions and yards.

If you give Robinson an elite quarterback, I think he easily makes the top 50 on this list. Either way, he should’ve been higher than 87th this season.

Who Will Be #1 in the 2021 NFL Top 100?

The NFL will continue to roll out their top 100 rankings piece by piece. On August 28, they’ll reveal the top 10.

Lamar Jackson had the number one spot last season after winning the 2019 MVP.

I know this player didn’t win MVP last season, but I think Patrick Mahomes takes the number one spot this season. In my mind, there is no player in this league better than Mahomes. He’ll look to lead his Kansas City Chiefs to a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance.

For more NFL content as the 2021 season approaches, check out the posts below.

Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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