Every year at this time, NFL Network fills the post-draft void with a countdown of the top 100 players in the NFL, as determined by the players.
But the players do some strange things, like putting Ravens receiver Jacoby Jones higher on the list than Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin. And when we pointed that out on Friday, Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said via Twitter, “[E]veryone knows no players actually vote for who’s on that list right?”
So we asked NFL Network to explain the process, and to confirm that players indeed cast ballots for the list.
Ideally, all players would do it. This year, the league says only 481 of them actually did. That’s 28.3 percent of all active players.
“All players are given the opportunity to vote through ballots we send to all 32 teams around Thanksgiving,” NFL Network spokesman Alex Riethmiller told PFT via email. “For convenience sake, we try to time it with Pro Bowl balloting, so they can do them together. In addition to ballots collected that way, we also give ballots to many of the players that we interview for our shows. This year, in total, we received 481 votes.”
To vote, each player lists only his top 20 players in the league. The player listed at No. 1 gets 20 points, the player listed at No. 2 gets 19 points, and the process continues until the player listed at No. 20 gets one point.
So it’s really not a “top 100” list. It’s the 100 players who received the highest vote totals from players who attempted to list their personal top 20, presumably without the benefit of all 32 rosters or starting lineups or Pro Bowl qualifiers or anything else that would ensure they aren’t accidentally overlooking someone as they pull 20 names out of thin air.
The voting period extended from late November 2012 through early April 2013. That range undoubtedly accounts for Jones getting more points than Harvin. During those months, Harvin didn’t play at all; Jones was responsible for postseason heroics in Denver and New Orleans, where he arguably should have been named Super Bowl MVP.
So when giving a player a piece of paper and saying, “List your top 20 NFL players,” chances are that any ballots cast in February, March, and April would have had Jones higher than the out-of-sight-out-of-mind Harvin.
Regardless, that outcome shows that, for the list to be more credible in the future, the process needs to improve. Preferably, the league would come up with a computer-based ballot that makes it easy — and fun — for players to drag and drop names into their own list of one through not 20 players but 100 players.
While there’s no guarantee that more than 481 players would do it, those who choose to spend the time presumably would be more conscientious than those who scribble down the names of the first 20 great players who come to mind while sitting in the locker room or hanging out in an NFLN green room.