The annual hoopla has finally ended, and for once, a quarterback was not considered the #1 player in the NFL. This year, defensive end J.J. Watt took the cake. The NFL's top 100 list is one of the most ballyhooed offseason filler each summer, and since its rankings are determined by votes from the NFL players themselves, fans tend to give it more credibility than the never ending top-whatever lists made by analysts, blog writers, and other uninformed fanatics.
This year, the Crimson Tide placed four of its former players in the top 100 list: C.J. Mosley, Eddie Lacy, Marcell Dareus, and Julio Jones. Roll Tide.
After being picked 17th overall in last year's draft, rookie C.J. Mosley was thrust into the role of replacing the recently retired, all-universe, future Hall of Fame, Ravens linebacker, Ray Lewis. And he did so much more admirably than anyone could have expected. He ended the season with 133 tackles, the 7th most of any player in the NFL. He also added two interceptions, a forced and recovered fumble, and 3 sacks.
Mosley was the runner up for defensive rookie of the year, and became the first Baltimore Raven to make it to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. For his efforts, the players voted him at 94th overall. Very few players make it into the top 100 after just one season, so even being in the 90s should be an honor to Mosley, who will likely shoot further up the list next year.
Eddie "Circle Button" Lacy exploded into the NFL in his rookie season, and then came back this past year for seconds. The bruising running back for the Green Bay Packers has consistently exceeded expectations and shattered stereotypes in his two years of terrorizing defenses in the NFL. Listed at around 230 pounds, Lacy looks more like 260, and hits like it too. Lacy had the 7th most rushing yards in the NFL last season with 1,139. He added 427 receiving yards to that total, and was also tied for 5th in the league with 13 total touchdowns.
After his rookie season, Lacy was named Offensive rookie of the year, was selected to the pro bowl, and was a second team All-Pro. Despite having an even more impressive sophomore campaign, Lacy was not selected to the Pro Bowl or All-Pro teams. The NFL players, however, recognize how difficult it is for Lacy to be stopped while on the football field, and voted him up to 60, up 30 spots from his 90th ranking last year.
Drafted 3rd overall in 2010, Dareus has been a consistent force along the defensive line for the Buffalo Bills, and has only gotten better every season. This past year, he led all defensive tackles with 10 sacks, which also ranks him 7th of all players (including pass rush specialist linebackers and defensive ends). He added 48 tackles, a forced fumble, and a deflected pass to his stats for the season.
Dareus was selected to both the 2014 and 2015 pro bowls, and was also given All-Pro honors after this season. He has bumped up about 10 spots in the rankings, and is now considered the 53rd best player in the NFL.
Selected three picks after Dareus in the 2010 draft, Julio Jones was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, who gave up both arms and both legs in a trade just for the chance to draft him. And Julio has not disappointed. This year, he was third in the league in both receiving yards and receptions, with 1,593 yards on 104 catches. Julio added 6 touchdowns and garnered the respect of the entire nation with a 259-yard outing against the Packers in December.
Julio Jones was selected to the 2013 pro bowl, but missed most of the next season with a foot injury. After his earth-shattering comeback, Julio was selected to the 2015 pro bowl this year. Inexplicably, he was not voted All-Pro this year. Regardless, his fellow players thought highly enough of him to rank him as the 13th best player in the NFL.
Next year, with Dont'a Hightower coming back from injury, and guys like Amari Cooper, Landon Collins, and T.J. Yeldon entering the NFL, you can expect to see even more of a Crimson invasion in the NFL's top 100. That, and Julio Jones is bound to transcend this mortal planet one of these days.