The NFL offseason is a time that provides us with stuff to talk about that, in season, we would probably ignore for the most part. But, since there isn't much going on, the NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2013 (even though it is about the 2012 season) is being discussed amongst fans and media - most of the discussion centering around where the rankings were wrong.
I don't put much stock into these rankings at all, nor should you. They are way too inconsistent, as some are truly focused on this past year (like it is supposed to be according to NFL Network) while others seem like career recognition. The list is based off of players' voting, but again, I don't know how accurate it is.
Despite my reservations about the list, it is at least something to talk about and a list that included a few Colts players. We'll look at the Colts on the list and give a quick recap of their seasons and whether or not they truly deserved the spot they earned on this list.
80. Dwight Freeney, OLB
The most surprising Colt on the list, this one most definitely fits into my category of "career-based" achievements. Freeney put together the worst season of his career and notched the lowest sack total of his career as well with five. Freeney struggled with injuries and was forced to adjust to playing 3-4 outside linebacker instead of 4-3 defensive end, which he had played for the entirety of his career up to 2012. That said, Freeney rushed with his hand on the ground and from his traditional spot often, so his lack of production was even more disappointing. But while I would strongly disagree that there were only 79 players in the NFL better than Freeney last year, I will agree that his impact was a lot greater than most people say. Freeney's leadership, example, and poise helped the young team greatly and the fact that he is Dwight Freeney forced defenses to have to focus on him anyways, allowing the other pass rushers (like Robert Mathis) to get to the quarterback more easily. There is no denying that when Freeney was on the field last year, the defense played better. Because of that, I would say that his season wasn't as bad as his stats suggest (and those stats are only bad because they're being compared to his other seasons) but he was in no way the 80th best player in the league last year.
* Dwight Freeney is now with the San Diego Chargers after the Colts opted not to re-sign him this offseason.
74. Robert Mathis, OLB
Freeney's counterpart, Robert Mathis, also made the list, and he was much more deserving of a spot than Freeney was. Mathis notched 8 sacks and his first career interception while also making the switch to 3-4 outside linebacker. He was always regarded as a more natural fit for a 3-4 defense than Freeney was, and it showed too. Mathis' impact, like Freeney's, was much greater than even his stats show - and those stats weren't that bad, either. For much of the season Robert Mathis pretty much was the entire Colts pass rush and he was a huge part of the defense. His leadership was also tremendous, and while I don't know if that factors into the voting or not, I'll say it here that Mathis was indispensable for the Colts last year due to his play on the field and more importantly due to his great leadership. I'd say that Mathis is pretty deserving of this spot.
23. Andrew Luck, QB
I only have one problem with where Andrew Luck is ranked on this list, and that is because the Colts' superstar quarterback was behind the Redskins' Robert Griffin III. According to this list, Luck was the 8th best quarterback in the league last year, and I'm ok with that. But RG3 at number 15 ahead of Luck? Really? And Joe Flacco ahead of Luck at 19? Really? I never thought that I'd be calling a rookie quarterback ranked as the 23rd best player in the league underrated, but it's hard for me to see how guys like Griffin or Flacco were really better than Luck last season. I always hate putting rookie quarterbacks into the discussion of best quarterbacks because one of the most important things a quarterback needs to be elite is consistency, but when talking specifically about one year, I can. And I see no way that RG3 was better than Andrew Luck in 2012, and I also see no way that Joe Flacco was better than Luck in 2012, other than the fact that he made one great pass in the divisional round of the playoffs to beat the Broncos. That's it. Flacco's season rides on one pass, and RG3 wasn't asked to do even close to what Luck had to do. Sure, Griffin's stats look great, but stats aren't everything. I'm not sure how I feel about Luck at 23 - I guess it's probably accurate - but I do have an issue with placing some of those guys ahead of him. But we've been making the argument for Luck all season long here on Stampede Blue, and I'm afraid we're probably going to have to keep doing so. The good thing is, it's only going to get easier as Luck is only going to get better.
21. Reggie Wayne, WR
If you made me choose only one Colts player who deserved to be on this list, I would have said Reggie Wayne. Reggie was ranked as the 21st best player in the league last year and was the fourth best receiver on the list. Reggie's impact has been understated a lot, but the video of his entry on this list was actually very well done. Reggie put together the finest season of his career, considering the circumstances. He came back to a young team that was supposed to win just a few games all year and immediately stepped up into the leadership role. He was always there for the rookie Luck and for parts of the season he carried the offense. No game showed that better than the Colts' come-from-behind upset of the Green Bay Packers, where Wayne turned in the greatest single-game receiving performance in NFL history. Battling for their leukemia-stricken head coach, Reggie - a good friend of Chuck Pagano - wasn't going to let his team lose that game. His orange gloves caught everything thrown his way and he hauled in 13 passes for 212 yards and the game-winning score in the final minute of the team's first game without Pagano. That game was symbolic of Reggie's season - he stepped up as a leader and was absolutely crucial to the playoff run the Colts had in 2012. He totally deserves to be ranked this high on this list - and probably even higher.
Two former Colts also made the list:
Tim Jennings, cornerback for the Chicago Bears, was ranked 69th - he was drafted by the Colts in 2006 and played with them through 2009. Watch the video on Tim Jennings's 2012 season and him being ranked 69th here.
Peyton Manning, quarterback for the Denver Broncos, was ranked 2nd. He was drafted by the Colts in 1998 and was with them through the 2011 season, though he missed that entire year due to injury. Watch the video on Peyton Manning's 2012 season and him being ranked 2nd here.
What say you about these rankings, Colts fans? Were they too high? Too low? Any snubs you can think of? (yeah, me neither, but thought I'd at least ask for the sake of discussion).