It’s a tradition around The Shop to get together the night after the championship game – most of the regulars had no problem rolling in on Christmas night since they had about enough of their families for one holiday. We always get together to toast the champion (who happened to be me this year…again) and we get the fellas to do our annual informal rankings for the 2018 season.
When we first started doing this about 20 years ago, some of the boys would completely forget players who were injured. Since then, despite adult beverages being involved in the process, we’ve seen much more thought and effort put into it.
With differing opinions coming into play, the results never fail to produce some surprises. The fellas were to rate the top 10 players at each position for 2018. This is what they came up with. Players listed received more than one vote.
QUARTERBACK – 1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay; 2. Carson Wentz; 3. Russell Wilson; 4. Deshaun Watson; 5. Drew Brees; 6. Tom Brady, 7. Cam Newton; 8. Andrew Luck; 9. Matthew Stafford; 10 Matt Ryan; 11. Jared Goff, L.A. Rams; 12. Kirk Cousins; 13. Ben Roethlisberger; 14. Jimmy Garoppolo.
RUNNING BACK – 1. Ezekiel Elliott; 2. Le’Veon Bell; 3. David Johnson; 4. Todd Gurley; 5. Kareem Hunt; 6. Devonta Freeman; 7. Leonard Fournette; 8. Jordan Howard; 9. Alvin Kamara; 10. Melvin Gordon; 11. LeSean McCoy; 12. Dalvin Cook; 13. Jay Ajayi; 14. C.J. Anderson; 15. Mark Ingram; 16. Christian McCaffrey.
WIDE RECEIVER – 1. Antonio Brown; 2. Odell Beckham Jr.; 3. DeAndre Hopkins; 4. Julio Jones; 5. Mike Evans; 6. A.J. Green; 7. Michael Thomas; 8. Keenan Allen; 9. Tyreek Hill; 10. Davante Adams; 11. Doug Baldwin; 12. Jarvis Landry; 13. Adam Thielen; 14. Demaryius Thomas; 15. Julien Edelman; 16. T.Y. Hilton; 17. Dez Bryant.
TIGHT END – 1. Rob Gronkowski, New England; 2. Zach Ertz; 3. Travis Kelce; 4. Jimmy Graham; 5. Evan Engram; 6. Greg Olsen; 7. Jordan Reed; 8. Tyler Eifert; 9. Hunter Henry, L.A. Chargers; 10. Delanie Walker, 11. Kyle Rudolph; 12. David Njoku; 13. O.J. Howard.
At quarterback, I was a little surprised that amount of love that Brees and Brady got because both of them, while winning, aren’t the every-week studs they used to be. Luck appearing in the top 10 was also a bit of surprise, as were the four votes Garoppolo got on a small sample size.
Running back was the most consistent position across the board with the top four guys being the top four picks (just in a different order) of all 12 owners. It’s no surprise that two Saints backs made the team given the year they put together. The takeaway for me was that, of the 16 players who received votes, five of them were rookies and didn’t include Joe Mixon or Samaje Perine – both of whom will likely be high draft picks.
Wide receiver, as always, had the most guys gets votes and there weren’t too many surprises. How Dez Bryant got two 10th place votes was beyond me, but all I do is tabulate them. The same was true with tight end, where I didn’t vote for Jordan Reed because I’ll never draft him simply because he gets hurt too often and misses way too much time. But, like Dez, he gets enough love that he’ll be drafted next year…just not by me.
As we put up the “Closed” sign for another year, all of us at The Shop would like to wish you and yours all the best in 2018 and hopefully you will end next season with a fantasy championship. We’ll always have a chair open for you and don’t be shy about being a heavy tipper. See you next year.
Year-end razor’s edge: Teams in crisis
- This Mistake By the Lake Continues – The Cleveland Browns have stockpiled draft picks, but have consistently avoided drafting a franchise QB and watched other teams benefit from it. They’ve got a new G.M. and have won just one game in two years, so they should have a new head coach. This is an organization that needs new ownership if it ever wants to succeed because fans will quit paying top dollar to watch a loser year after year after year. They’ve been through enough.
- Sleepwalking In Seattle – There’s no arguing that Russell Wilson is an elite quarterback, but the championship window on this version of the Seattle Seahawks is closing. They’ve gone from a two-time Super Bowl team that should have won back-to-back titles to a team struggling to make the playoffs despite playing in what has been regarded as the weakest division in the league. They still have a lot of individual talent, but their offensive line is a mess, their committee approach to running the ball has been a joke and their defense is starting to show the signs of age and wear. Unless they commit to free agency to fill in the gaps, they may not have enough time through the draft to keep themselves near the top of the league.
- Chicago Burns Again – You knew there was trouble in Chicago when they hired John Fox as their head coach, bringing a 3-4 defense to a franchise that had never run it. The fact that they moved up in the draft to take a quarterback and the G.M. didn’t tell Foxy because he was convinced he would blab it to one of his media cronies doesn’t bode well in a division that annually has three playoff contenders and the Bears are likely going to be also-rans on an annual basis. With the big investment they made in Mitch Trubisky and the clear rift between management and coach, a change is needed or the Bears will be at the bottom of the NFC North for years to come.
- Spit Out of Luck – The Indianapolis Colts have had the best of all worlds by going the last 20 years with just two quarterbacks – Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. When Manning missed a season, the Colts sucked for Luck and, with him out this season, they’ve stunk again because they don’t have dynamic players on either side of the ball. With mystery surrounding the future of Luck, a defense that is soft and the rise of the Jaguars and Titans, the Colts could be a last-place team for the next few years.
- Retiring In Arizona – The Arizona Cardinals have been an enigma the last few years – staying in contention and even thriving with a cast of older veterans who got the job done consistently for a long time. But, you can only expect Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer to go so long. With the emergence of the Rams, the late surge of the 49ers and the individual stars that remain in Seattle, the Cardinals look like the odd team out in the NFC West and things could get dicey until they find adequate replacements for their veterans, they will struggle to find the top of the division any time soon.
- Back to the Days of the Bungles – It used to be the biggest complaint about Marvin Lewis was that his teams got to the playoffs every year and fizzled out once they got there. Coming off back-to-back nine-loss seasons, Lewis has all the looks of a dead man walking and the Bengals have a lot of improving to do in a division where Pittsburgh and Baltimore seem better equipped for sustained success and the Browns are eventually going to put enough blue-chip draft picks together to finally improve. They need a change and putting Lewis out to pasture will be the first step, but could end up breaking up the band when a new staff with new ideas come in.
- Exposing Yourself – The Green Bay Packers have had an organizational arrogance for years that they don’t need to use free agency to fill voids on the roster because they have had the rare luxury of having Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers for the last quarter-century. When they lost Rodgers and had pedestrian QB play, all their warts on both sides of the ball were exposed for the world to see and it wasn’t pretty. Once Rodgers comes back next season, the Packers could well be a playoff team once again, but their depth issues are going to be a recurring theme that comes back to bite them and their 100,000 “owners.”
- The Return of the Yuccaneers – Nobody was a bigger Cinderella type pick prior to the start of the season than Tampa Bay. They had a young defense that was showing promise and some electric players on offense they needed to compete with the other high-powered offenses in the NFC South. But, while the other three teams may all end up in the playoffs, not only are the Bucs on the outside looking in, they appear to be quite a distance behind the pack, which isn’t good – short-term or long-term.
- The Defense Nevers Rests, But the Offense Does – It’s rare when a team with double-digit losses has been leading the league in defenses the entire season. That has been the story of the Denver Broncos, who have played revolving door at quarterback and an offense that has limped throughout the season. If G.M. John Elway replicates his formula for a ring by bringing in a veteran outside QB to take care of one side of the ball, the Broncos could rebound in a division that appears up for grabs, but defense wins in the NFL, except in Denver this year.
- Shooting Down a G-Man – The New York Giants entered the 2017 season looking to be the primary competition for the Cowboys to win the NFC East. Neither would be a factor, but the Giants stunk out loud. Injuries were one thing, but the defense stunk all year and Eli Manning looks like he hit the wall at high speed and came out worse for wear from the experience. They’ve already fired the head coach, so change is coming, but the Giants are likely going to enter 2018 as the prohibitive favorites to finish last in the NFC East – even when OBJ and the crew come back. When you’re in the largest market in the NFL and you’re worse than the Jets, that’s saying something.