Inside the Top 100 voting process

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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?”

Our buddy Pat McAfee, who punts for the Colts, chimed in that he “[l]ove[s] this tweet.”

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.

7 responses to “Inside the Top 100 voting process

  1. Avoiding “Recency” in evaluations isnt a new thing. There are about a million examples from corporate America that can help them streamline the evaluation process to reflect true value rather than what a player did this week.

  2. Ideally the votes would only be made up of players voting only for players against whom they have played. They have studied their opponents on video and played them on the field – that’s credible. Add to the voting process that only linemen, rb/lb & TEs can vote for each other, and that QBs can vote for the entire defense. That would make a list that is worth looking at. As it is, it’s just a popularity contest on part with a SportsNation poll. I never watch this top 100 cuz it is just so poorly put together.

  3. If NFL Network wanted to avoid a mess (ie seeing John Kuhn in the Top 100 in 2012) why do they not take the Pro Bowl votes from players and rank the players based on that?

    It makes sense because it still does mean that the players rank their peers.

    The fan votes are calculated and we see who’s leading the way at every position and in vote quantity.

    It actually doesn’t hurt to do it that way because you can avoid the John Kuhn/Jacoby Jones embarrassment better than this current method.

    Just let the 481 players (for example) break any ties at positions or total vote quantity and that’s it.

  4. I love the Top 100. Regardless of the position, I love to hear what fellow players have to say about individuals. My personal favorite from this year is Richard Sherman. He talks a lot of smack, but on the Top 100 segments he is humble and respectful. It brings a certain gentleman’s light to the sport. I appreciate that as well as respect for opponents. I think that has been lost within the NFL and needs to come back.

  5. I’m not sure why this is generating so much controversy other than there’s nothing to talk about until training camp starts.

    We’re really that concerned about whether the guy ranked #88 is actually better than the guy ranked #90? Seriously?

    You’d swear Charlie Batch was rated higher than Aaron Rodgers from the amount of time wasted arguing the point and/or the process for the rankings.

  6. So, in other words it’s about as useful as teets on a boar. It also would explain why a player at a high impact position, that was selected as a first string pro bowler, and was 4th in the league in sacks, is rated 89th.

    Apparently, a monkey pulling names out of a hat would provide an equal or better listing than the one generated by the NFL Network. Based on the methodology and results, I’d put more stock in the monkey.

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