Every year, the NFL Network's ranking of the top 100 players in the NFL receives mixed reviews. The list is voted on by players, but it's questionable what the criteria is or how accurate the list truly is at determining the best players.
That discussion again surfaced on Wednesday night, as Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was ranked as the 56th-best player in the NFL. For those not keeping track at home, that's much higher than Indianapolis Colts quarterback, who was ranked 92nd (a drop of 85 spots from last year). In other words, NFL players voted Blake Bortles as the best quarterback in the AFC South.
Of course, we all know that's absurd - even though Bortles was very good in 2015. He completed 58.6% of his passes for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns, though he also threw 18 interceptions. Without a doubt, he took major steps forward and proved that he is capable of being the franchise quarterback that the Jaguars thought he could be. But is he really better than Andrew Luck?
It's easy to forget that we are just one season removed from Luck completing 61.7% of his passes for 4,761 yards and 40 touchdowns against 16 interceptions, and that led to him being ranked as the seventh-best player in the entire NFL by the players. Again, that doesn't mean the rankings are perfect, but you get the idea: Luck was tremendous, and his first three years in the NFL were more than enough to prove that he is capable of being a franchise quarterback.
Andrew Luck is better than Blake Bortles; it's as simple as that. Understand that I'm not arguing that Bortles doesn't belong on this list, as his play in 2015 indeed warrants it. But Bortles being ranked well above Luck reveals the biggest problem with NFL Network's annual rankings: we don't know what it's supposed to be ranking.
It's absurd to suggest that Blake Bortles is actually a better player than Andrew Luck, but it's not absurd to suggest that Blake Bortles had a better 2015 season than Andrew Luck. So is this list supposed to be ranking the top 100 players in the NFL period or just the top 100 players from 2015? Often, it seems like it's a mix of both, which makes it hard to analyze.
Furthermore, it just goes to prove even more that lists like this one have a lot of trouble figuring out how to rank players who missed significant time due to injury. So much of analysis covering sports is plagued by recency bias - that is, whatever happened most recent is the main thing people remember. This ranking doesn't seem to remember Bortles's 11 touchdown, 17 interception season in 2014 but only his 35 touchdown, 18 interception campaign last year. Similarly, the list doesn't seem to remember Luck's 40 touchdown, 16 interception year in 2014 but only his 15 touchdown, 13 interception season in 2015. That criteria would be perfectly fine if the list is solely based on 2015 play, but we've seen plenty of times before examples where players make the list mainly because of name recognition. Heck, even Andrew Luck making the list this year could perhaps be considered at least in part due to his name (though, granted, we did see him play well for moments such as the Broncos game).
If this ranking wants to assert the notion that Blake Bortles was better than Andrew Luck in 2015, that's fine. But the criteria for the list needs to either be changed or clarified, as the overwhelming majority of people realize that Andrew Luck is a better quarterback than Blake Bortles - and I have a feeling that next year's ranking might reflect that, too.