Six Seahawks Named to NFL Network's Top 100 Players List

Doug Baldwin, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson all made the NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2016 list.

The NFL Network finished its Top 100 Players of 2016 countdown Wednesday night, and while no Seahawks cracked the top 10 this year, Seattle's roster was well represented on the list overall.

The Seahawks placed a total of six players in the top 100, which is voted on by current NFL players: receiver Doug Baldwin, free safety Earl Thomas, defensive end Michael Bennett, strong safety Kam Chancellor, cornerback Richard Sherman and quarterback Russell Wilson.

The Seahawks were one of two teams, along with the Cincinnati Bengals, to have six players on the list. Only the Kansas City Chiefs (9), Carolina Panthers (7) and Denver Broncos (7) had more than six players voted into the top 100.

No. 72: Receiver Doug Baldwin

Baldwin cracked the top 100 for the first time thanks to a spectacular finish to the 2015 season that saw him catch 11 of his league-high 14 touchdowns in the final seven games of the season.

Baldwin recorded career highs in receptions (78), receiving yards (1,069) and touchdowns (14), the latter of which also established a franchise record. Baldwin was the Seahawks' first 1,000-yard receiver since 2007 and one of just three players in franchise history, along with Steve Largent and Joey Galloway, to have 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns in the same season.

Baldwin's stellar season also helped him earn a contract extension to keep him in Seattle long-term.

"Doug has the most confidence in the world, and he's going to absolutely show you," Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu said during the segment announcing Baldwin's rank. "He's always ready. I appreciate competing with him."

No. 66: Safety Earl Thomas

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll once described Thomas' ability to limit big plays as a "crucial aspect” of Seattle’s defense, noting, "He plays a lot of deep-middle responsibility, and people don't appreciate that (opponents) don't throw post routes for touchdowns on us, and how many times they don't throw seam routes for touchdowns on us. That happens all the time, every single day in football, and we're great at taking care of that."

Thomas' value to Seattle's defense, which has allowed the fewest points in the NFL for four straight seasons, goes well beyond his stats, though he did lead the team in interceptions with five last season, which is why he is the only Seahawks player to make the top 100 in each of the past five years.

"The safety I probably respect the most is Earl Thomas," Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins told the NFL Network. "When we play the same teams, I'll watch to see how Seattle played them, and I want to see what Earl saw."

Since coming to Seattle as the 14th pick in the 2010 draft, Thomas has been named a Pro Bowler five times, first-team All-Pro three times and second-team All-Pro once.

"He's a guy I look up to," Mathieu said. "One of the only safeties in this game I look up to, because of what he does every play. Most guys take plays off, Earl doesn't take a snap off. This dude is 110 miles an hour the entire game, full of energy."

No. 59 Defensive End Michael Bennett

One of the best free-agent signings in franchise history, Bennett has become a crucial part of Seattle's pass rush, along with Cliff Avril, since the two signed in free agency prior to the 2013 season.

In 2015, Bennett enjoyed the best season of his career with 10 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, 52 tackles and 30 quarterback hits, helping him earn Pro Bowl honors for the first time while also making the top 100 for the second straight year.

"He's, in my opinion, probably the top defensive end in the NFL," 49ers defensive end Joe Staley said of Bennett at the Pro Bowl. "He does so many different things, so he's hard to prepare for. It's hard to describe it too, it's kind of a slipperiness. It's hard to get your hands on him. He does a good job of controlling his body and fighting off blocks and taking away your game plan against him."

No. 32: Safety Kam Chancellor

Chancellor makes the top 100 for the third straight season, showing he remains one of the most feared defensive players in the NFL.

"You gotta account for that guy," Steelers receiver Darius Heyward-Bey told the NFL Network. "He's a linebacker playing safety. He's the best safety in the league."

Added Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert: "He's a punisher. Any opportunity he gets, he's going to make you pay, make you wish you didn't come his way."

A four-time Pro Bowler and two-time second-team All-Pro, Chancellor has become not just a tone-setter for Seattle's defense with his physical style, but also a leader in the locker room, role that continues to grow.

"He has been awesome," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said earlier this offseason. "He has been such a great leader for us. He has been just on point. Really, he's got the experience, the wisdom of listening and hearing and watching what's going on. He can sense what's going on with the young guys and he's quick to straighten them out, get them on the right path. He's got a big voice here; when he speaks, everybody shuts up and listens, and he's just as tough as you can get in terms of playing the game. He has practiced every day, he has been at it. He has been a thousand-percenter for us, he has been great. It's been a fantastic offseason for him."

No. 20: Cornerback Richard Sherman

Since arriving in Seattle as a fifth-round pick in 2011, Sherman has established himself as arguably the best cornerback in football. A four-time All-Pro (first-team three times) and three-time Pro Bowler, Sherman, has the most interceptions in the NFL since his rookie season with 26, including eight interceptions in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons before it became a regular occurrence for opposing offenses to just stop throwing the ball his direction. Sherman's 83 passes defensed since 2011 is also a league high.

"He can get into your head," Cowboys receiver Terrance Williams told the NFL Network. "He'll let you know, he'll let the whole world know, that nothing's going down today."

Last season more than ever before, Sherman spent time moving around the field to cover opponent's top receivers, helping limit the productivity of fellow top-100 players like Antonio Brown, A.J. Green and Dez Bryant, all of which helped him make the top 100 list for the fourth straight year.

Sherman showing he could do more in 2015, along with the flexibility of defensive backs like Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead to play multiple positions, is a big reason why Carroll said the 2016 Seahawks have, "as good of flexibility as we've ever had."

"We're going to be incredibly versatile, we're going to be incredibly experienced," Sherman said earlier this offseason. "There aren't going to be a lot of people we can't match up with individually or collectively as a group. It's going to be a fun challenge to put out there."

No. 17: Quarterback Russell Wilson

This is Wilson's fourth appearance on the top 100 list in as many years, a testament to the player he has been thus far in his career. Even better for the Seahawks, however, is that Wilson should only get better going forward.

"He has had a great camp," Carroll said at the end of Seattle's offseason workout program. "You guys have asked me, 'When's he going to arrive?' or 'How long is it going to take?' and all that, and I kept telling you, it's going to be down the road. It takes four, five, six years—you don't know—for these guys to develop. He has made a clear step ahead. His command is all-time. His ability to move defenders with his eyes to set up some things—he's consistently doing that, almost unconsciously, he's so clued in. We saw him throw the ball all over the field throughout the offseason and he's been strong and accurate and really precise about stuff. He has had a great offseason.

"This is year five. It has taken all of this time to get to this point, and he'll still improve, but you can really see him as a real true vet now. I think coming off of last year, with the great success of the second half of the season, he has taken it right in the offseason and here we go. It's been our best offseason and I think it's an indication of the development of our guys."

While Wilson may have room for improvement, he was already one of the league's best quarterbacks in 2015, finishing the season with a 110.1 passer rating. Wilson also set franchise records with 4,024 passing yards, 34 touchdowns and a 68.1 completion percentage. Wilson was particularly impressive in the second half of the season, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to have five straight games with three or more touchdowns and no interceptions.

"When the game's on the line, when their team needs a play, he'll find ways to beat you," Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis told the NFL Network. "That's who he is."


Not included this year, however, was linebacker Bobby Wagner, who was 69th on last year's list. Wagner appeared to express his displeasure with that omission via Twitter last night:

Other Seahawks on the list last year who were not on this year's top 100 were tight end Jimmy Graham, who missed the final five games of the season with a knee injury, and running back Marshawn Lynch, who retired.

Check out which Seahawks were named to NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2016, a list voted on by NFL players.

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