The sports world is enamored by lists, and we’re not immune. Heck, one of our favorite segments of our own PODcast is the LISTCAST™.
The latest list to draw national attention is ESPN’s top 100 players of the 2018 season. Unlike the popular NFL Network list, this isn’t voted on by players, but rather a panel of over 50 different ESPN analysts. Here’s how they describe the methodology:
“We asked a panel of ESPN NFL experts to rate players based on how good they will be in 2018, using a scale from 0-100. We asked them to not emphasize past performances or positional value — only greatness this season. We then averaged their ratings to create the top 100.”
So how were the Detroit Lions represented in the list? Well, actually a little better than the NFL Network counterpart. While Detroit only managed to have two players on NFLN’s list, three Lions made ESPN’s list. Let’s take a look at who made the cut, and where they checked in on the list.
Matthew Stafford: No. 35
Stafford was unsurprisingly the Lions’ highest-ranked player. At 35, Stafford was behind only six other quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers (1), Tom Brady (2), Drew Brees (6), Carson Wentz (17), Ben Roethlisberger (18), and Matt Ryan (21).
This is pretty similar to where Stafford landed on the NFL list. His peers ranked him 31st overall, behind eight different quarterbacks.
Darius Slay: No. 67
Slay came in significantly below where he ranked on NFL Network’s list (49). Even more surprising was that Slay barely cracked the top 10 at his position on ESPN’s list. Seven other cornerbacks ranked above Slay: Jalen Ramsey (9), Patrick Peterson (20), Marshon Lattimore (26), Xavier Rhodes (34), A.J. Bouye (47), Marcus Peters (48), and Casey Hayward (66).
“He has the speed to keep up with any receiver, the leaping ability to break up passes and the confidence to be one of the league’s top corners,” wrote ESPN’s Michael Rothstein on his reasoning for the placement.
Ezekiel Ansah: No. 77
Yes, this was just as shocking to me as it probably is to you. Predicting Ansah to have an outstanding 2018 season is just something I’m not willing to do considering his injury history over the past two seasons.
Of course, it’s worth mentioning that even with Ziggy’s injury-plagued 2017 season, he still amassed 12.0 sacks, tied for eighth-most in the NFL. That shows just how valuable he can be when he’s at full health. However, the fact that he missed the first week or two of training camp after reportedly tweaking his hamstring during conditioning drills isn’t exactly promising for his availability this upcoming season.
But Ziggy is in a contract year, and not many players across the entire NFL have more to gain or lose based on their 2018 performance. Return to form, and Ansah is in for a huge payday next offseason. If he struggles through injuries again, and it would be hard to justify anything other than a prove-it contract in 2019.