clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

ESPN: Oliver Vernon, Eli Manning, Odell Beckham in the top 100 players in the NFL

New, comments

Three Giants are among the top players in the league, but where does ESPN rank them?

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

It's not quite football season yet, so that means we still aren't out of list season.

ESPN turned to a panel of (more than) 50 NFL reporters, analysts, and statisticians to rank the top 100 players in the NFL. Each player was given a grade of 1 to 100 based on how good they are, then ranked based on their average score.

Only three Giants made the list, but they're all pretty good, so let's count 'em down.

91. Olivier Vernon, DE, Giants

Avg. rating: 80.67 | 2015 rank: NR

Don't be fooled by the 7.5 sacks last season. Vernon was third in the NFL with 36 quarterback hits. Only J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald had more. Vernon was also solid against the run, and his all-around game is showing this summer. "I've heard from guys. Guys are raving about 54 right now," said Giants linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, who was also a teammate of Vernon in Miami. "Not just because of his work ethic but because what he brings to the field right now." The money came for a reason.

The Giants coaches, and his teammates, have been raving about Vernon's impact since he arrived. We've all seen his impact on the field, getting pressure and sacks on opposing quarterbacks while staying stout against the run. What we haven't seen is the leadership he brings behind the sceenes. He has talked about working with fellow Hurricane alum Ereck Flowers to help the young tackle improve and reach his full potential.

As well, Vernon's work ethic is contagious, with Jason Pierre-Paul joining him in wind sprints when other units are doing drills. It's a habit that has caught on around the team, with other units putting in extra work as camp wore on. He just made the Top 100 this year, but so far he is making the Giants happy they signed him.

78. Eli Manning, QB, Giants

Avg. rating: 81.56 | 2015 rank: 84

Like a fine wine, Manning is improving with age, throwing a career-best 35 touchdown passes in 2015. Only Tom Brady threw more. With Manning, it's more than physical skills. Sometimes, it's over before he even gets his hands on the ball. "Eli Manning right now in the presnap phase is as good as any quarterback in the league," former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said. It's one of the reasons that in his third year in Ben McAdoo's offense, Manning could be in for his best year yet.

It seems as though the rest of the world is finally realizing what Giants fans have known for years: When Manning is given the chance to diagnose a defense and call the game at the line of scrimmage, he is among the very best. Why he wasn't given that opportunity outside of the two-minute drill before the arrival of Ben McAdoo, we may never know.

It's also worth mentioning that Eli's physical skills seem to be improving as well. His release and footwork have markedly improved since McAdoo had him completely rebuild his mechanics in the 2014 off season. His throwing motion is quicker and he throws with more effortless "zip" since looking to pitching coaches for new ways to strengthen and condition his arm in the 2015 offseason.

13. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants

Avg. rating: 92.16 | 2015 rank: 21

Nobody has had more receiving yards (1,755) in his first two professional seasons than Beckham. Nobody has had more touchdown receptions in the past two years than Beckham. The 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year and two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver can do it all. And he's only 23 years old. His potential is endless. "Watching what he has done in his first two seasons is tremendous," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said late last year. "He really has an opportunity, I think, to be one of those guys -- you'll talk about him and Jerry Rice."

Was there ever really any question about who an ESPN panel would vote as the Giants' best player? The electric sophomore has had one of the best starts to a career in the history of the league, and the only player to come within five touchdowns of Beckham over the last two years is Rob Gronkowski -- according to the panel, the 3rd best player in the league. Making the comparison to OBJ and Gronk even more interesting, Beckham not only scored five more touchdowns (as a rookie and sophomore, no less), he did so in three fewer games.

The scary thing, as far as opposing defense should be concerned, is that Manning not only believes that OBJ can get better, Eli thinks he will.

Final Thoughts

Personally, I think I would have voted Damon Harrison and Weston Richburg. Harrison might not offer much in the pass rush, though denying the quarterback a pocket in which to step up makes life easier for the edge rushers and occupying the double team frees up the other interior rusher or any blitzers, he is probably the league's premier run defender. While this is a "quarterback driven league", denying the offense the ability to run the ball is the first step in getting to the passer.

Richburg, on the other hand, is one of the top two or three centers in the league. Centers are the only position besides quarterback to touch the ball every play, and the importance of a good center can't be understated. It's his job to call the protections on the line, to get the quarterback the ball, and is often the first blocker to engage with the the defense.

So then, did ESPN get their rankings right with respect to the Giants?