Seahawks Place League-High Eight Players On NFL Network’s Top 100 Players Of 2017

The NFL Network finished announcing its Top 100 Players of 2017 Monday night with the final 10 players, and while no Seahawks cracked that Top 10, Seattle did finish with a league-best eight players on the Top 100 list: cornerback Richard Sherman, quarterback Russell Wilson, safety Earl Thomas, safety Kam Chancellor, linebacker Bobby Wagner, defensive end Michael Bennett, defensive end Cliff Avril and receiver Doug Baldwin.

And Seattle’s talent extends far beyond that impressive list. In addition to those eight players in the Top 100, the Seahawks also have, to name a few players, linebacker K.J. Wright, who made his first Pro Bowl last season; tight end Jimmy Graham, a four-time Pro Bowler who last year set franchise records for catches and yards at his position; All-Pro kickoff and punt returner Tyler Lockett; center Justin Britt, who was a Pro Bowl alternate in his first season at center; and defensive end Frank Clark, who is coming off of a 10-sack season.

This is the second time in three years that the Seahawks have had eight players make the Top 100, which is voted on by current NFL players, and they had six on last year’s list.

You can find the full Top 100 here, and below is a look at the eight Seahawks who made this year’s list.

No. 88: Receiver Doug Baldwin

Baldwin made the Top 100 for a second straight year, this time after a 2016 season in which he earned Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his career. Baldwin had a franchise-record-tying 94 receptions in 2016 and a career-best 1,128 yards last season, becoming just the fifth receiver in franchise history to record consecutive 1,000-yard seasons along with Steve Largent, Darrell Jackson, Joey Galloway and Brian Blades.

“The thing about Doug, you can pretty much move him all over the place,” Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson told the NFL Network. He’s a slot receiver at times, he’s an X at times. You have to definitely keep an eye on him, because he can go outside and run deep routes… In my opinion, Doug doesn’t get enough credit. He’s very elusive, he’s very tough too, that’s what people don’t know about him.”

Added Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas, “That’s a guy who plays with a chip on his shoulder. He plays way bigger than what his size is.”

No. 56: Defensive End Cliff Avril

Cliff Avril had a big 2016 both on and off the field, making a big difference both to the Seahawks defense, and to numerous people in Haiti, his parents’ home country. Avril, who made the Pro Bowl for the first time after recording 11.5 sacks in 2016, funded the construction of 12 new houses in Haiti for those sacks. He also has made two trips to Haiti dating back to last spring, helping to build a school. For both his play on the field and his actions off of it, Avril was the Seahawks’ nominee for the 2016 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.  

Avril’s 11.5 sacks were a career best, and his five forced fumbles, most of which came on strip sacks, brought his career total up to 29.

“He does a great job getting off the ball, he times up the snap well,” said Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas. “… A lot of times the difference between a Pro Bowl or a Hall of Fame defensive end and just a backup is the ability to run though contact and get there right before the ball is thrown.”

Added Chicago Bears tackle Bradley Sowell, who spent last season with the Seahawks, “How good is Cliff at getting that ball out? He’s really good at hitting the elbow. He has a very good first step. He can make you panic.”

No. 46: Defensive End Michael Bennett

Bennett made the Top 100 for the third straight year and saw his ranking improve for a second straight year despite missing five games in 2016 due to injury, just another sign of how well-respected he is among fellow players.

“Michael Bennett’s a freak,” Buffalo guard Richie Incognito said. “He is super disruptive. The guy is all over the place. The guy is super dynamic, he plays with great leverage… He’s really the guy who stirs the drink up front for the Seattle Seahawks.”

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end David King, who spent two seasons in Seattle, called Bennett “probably the smartest defensive lineman I’ve ever played with. He studies, and he’ll know what play is coming before it happens, that’s why he’s in the backfield so much.”

Since arriving in Seattle as a free agent in 2013, Bennett has become a key part of one of the league’s best defenses while establishing himself as one of the NFL’s most disruptive linemen. In December, he signed a contract extension with Seattle that he hopes will allow him to “be a Seahawk for the rest of my life.

No. 39: Linebacker Bobby Wagner

Wagner was grateful to be recognized by his peers with a spot in the Top 100, but a case could be made that he should have been quite a bit higher on the list after a dominant 2016 season.

“Bobby is one of the best players in the NFL,” Bennett said late last season. “He’s one of the top five players in the NFL.”

Wagner led the NFL with 167 tackles in 2016, a total that also established a franchise record, and added 4.5 sacks. He earned first-team All-Pro honors for the second time in three years, and has been a Pro Bowler for three straight seasons.

“Sideline to sideline, downhill, he’s physical,” said Bills fullback Mike Tolbert. “He has speed, he can cover. He’s the ultimate defensive player… He is, in my opinion, the second-best defensive player in this league.”

No. 34: Safety Kam Chancellor

A four-time Pro Bowler, Chancellor made the Top 100 list for the fourth straight year, and while limited to 12 games because of injuries, he was one of his team’s best players when on the field, recording 85 tackles, two interceptions and eight passes defensed. Chancellor earned NFC Player of the Week honors for his play in Seattle’s Week 10 victory at New England.

“You want to talk about that in-the-box safety who is the punisher, the enforcer, Kam Chancellor probably leads in that category,” said Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.

Chancellor was also named the team’s Steve Largent Award winner in 2016, his second time winning the player-voted award, which goes to the player who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of the Seahawks. He is only the second player, along with fullback Mack Strong (five times), to win multiple Largent Awards.

“First off, there’s his physical nature on the football field, his physical presence,” Baldwin said last season. “He kind of brings a swagger to the defense, and to the whole team really. There aren’t many people who can go up against Kam and win that battle, so he kind of brings the hammer for the whole team. Then obviously his leadership in the locker room, he’s just one of those guys who is down to earth. He can talk to anybody, have a conversation with anybody, cares genuinely about everybody, and he brings everybody together.”

No. 30: Safety Earl Thomas

Thomas, who started every game of his career through his first six seasons, went down with a broken leg in December, an injury that only reinforced how important the free safety is to Seattle’s defense.

“He’s probably one of the most dominant defensive players in our game today,” Baldwin said, “… When he’s in the game, he changes the element. Offenses have to account for him. They can’t throw it down the middle of the field, they can’t throw it deep, because Earl Thomas is back there.”

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has talked numerous times about how important Thomas is to Seattle’s defense because of his ability to take away big plays from opposing offenses.

“It’s enormous,” Carroll said last season of the role Thomas has in the defense. “It’s an extraordinarily significant role. Post routes and seam routes, those happen in football a lot and, you don’t see it happen much over the years. You can probably count them on one hand if there’s that many. That’s because he’s been so disciplined and so strict about it. (Defensive coordinator Kris Richard) has done a great job of making sense of about how much of a factor that is, and he’s been really phenomenal. It’s very subtle because you don’t get any points for that, but when they just don’t happen and they don’t happen, it’s a big deal.”

No. 24: Quarterback Russell Wilson

Wilson had a tough year, physically, battling through knee and ankle injuries, but he never missed a game and helped lead the Seahawks to an NFC West championship for the third time in four years and to the postseason for a fifth straight year. Wilson, who has made the Top 100 in each of his five seasons, established franchise records for pass completions (353) and passing yards (4,219) in a season despite being limited by injuries, and now ranks third in career touchdown passes with 127 after adding 21 more to his total last season.

“With him, it’s kind of pick your poison if you want him out on the run or you want him standing back there in the pocket,” said Bills linebacker Jerry Hughes. “He can also deliver some dimes (from the pocket) as well.”

And for all Wilson has accomplished so far in his career, Carroll is only expecting to see more growth in 2017 and beyond.

“It will be just continued comfort with what’s going on,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at the end of last season. “His sense for anticipation of stuff, all of those things, just the feel. I think he’ll feel the pocket better, I think he’ll feel his receivers better, I think he’ll feel the urgency more clearly. You just get better. Remember that we’re comparing him to guys that have played for 11 and 12 and 13 years. We compare him to the best in the world, because he’s worthy of that, but look at them when they were 6-years-old (in their careers). What were they doing, how many of those guys won so many games, how many of those guys were in the playoffs five times? I don’t know how many games he has won but he has won probably as many as anyone who’s ever started playing the game. He has been in position to do a lot of stuff and he has had a good team around him to do that, of course, but he has still got tons of growth.

“It’s going to be thrilling to watch what happens in the next three or four years. Get him to year eight or nine and see where he’s going to be, you know?”

No. 21: Cornerback Richard Sherman

Sherman, a four-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro, cracked the Top 100 for the fifth straight season. With four interceptions in 2016, Sherman brought his career total to 30, the most in the NFL since 2011. He also leads the league in passes defensed over that span. Sherman, who has started 102 straight games, playoffs included, since taking over a starting role in 2011, has also spent more time over the past two seasons shadowing opponents’ top receivers rather than staying on one side of the field. Despite that added challenge, he remains one of the toughest corners to throw against, with opposing quarterbacks managing a passer rating of just 60.2 when targeting Sherman over the past three seasons, the lowest passer rating allowed by a cornerback during that time, according to Pro Football Focus.

 “I like Sherm, he has a good high-to-low ratio,” said Washington cornerback Josh Norman. “I feel like he’s at his best when he’s over the top. If you’re throwing the ball up in the air, he’s going to come down with it. He definitely feeds off of the intensity level, which he brings not only to himself but his teammates.”

Related

A total of eight Seahawks players made NFL Network's Top 100 of 2017. 

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