Last night the NFL revealed 50-41 on their top-100 list for the 2013 season, and quarterback Cam Newton was ranked by his peers as the 46th best player in the league. According to the fembot voiceover after Newton's highlight package was over, there are no more Panthers on the list.
This didn't sit well with Panthers Nation, as many fans thought defensive end Charles Johnson deserved a spot in the top-100 ranking because many feel that he out-performed several of the defensive ends who have already made the list -- notably former Panthers and current Chicago Bears star Julius Peppers and New York Giants pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, who checked in at #54 and #55 respectively.
The Panthers fan in me is outraged that Johnson won't be included on the list, because as a Panthers homer I fully believe he should be on there. Does his production in 2012 match up to my preconceptions though? Should he really be on the list? Do we have a right to be upset?
The short answer is yes, but I don't want to give the short answer. I want to give the long answer, so bear with me as we take a look at the numbers and show exactly why Charles Johnson was snubbed for whatever reason -- small market, unknown name, whatever.
Before we get started we should probably throw down some numbers so we know what we're talking about, so take a look at the chart below to see Johnson's production from 2012 (stats courtesy of ESPN):
Not too bad for a season's work if you ask me, but how does he stack up with Peppers and Pierre-Paul -- the two defensive ends who many fans think shouldn't have made the list above Johnson? Let's take a look at their 2012 stats and find out (stats courtesy of ESPN).
As you can see, Johnson out-performed Peppers in all statistical categories except for fumble recoveries, passes defended and stuffs. Johnson out-performed Pierre-Paul in both sacks and forced fumbles, yet both Peppers and Pierre-Paul are being lauded by their peers as top-100 players and Johnson is getting the shaft.
What I fail to understand is that while NFL players like to look at the sexy stats -- like sacks and forced fumbles -- as a basis for their ranking, Johnson is still shunned by his peers even though he gathered more sexy stats than both Peppers and Pierre-Paul in his 2012 campaign.
If they wanted to use the one hit wonder excuse, that one's no good either. Johnson has been consistent in his production for the last three seasons. Don't believe me? Take a look at the chart below (stats courtesy of ESPN).
So if his stats show that he should get in based on what he did in 2012, and his stats show that he should get in based on what he's done over the last three seasons -- what gives? Why isn't Charles Johnson on the list of the NFL's Top 100? I have two theories.
1. The fembot was wrong and Charles Johnson is on the list.
2. The NFL players are playing favorites.
Since the fembot wouldn't have said there were only three Panthers on the list if there were more than three, I'm thinking that theory number two is the correct one. If you're like me -- you're not surprised.
What this list has proven -- as if we didn't already know -- is that the "Top 100 of 2013" is a complete and utter sham. It's a popularity contest that NFL Network uses to prop up their favorites, simple and plain. I can understand Jason Pierre-Paul being on the list because while he didn't register a lot of sacks, he did collect a lot of tackles and stuffs, and even scored a touchdown on an interception. However, Julius Peppers being #54 on a list of the best players when he was out-played by someone in a smaller market in every important statistical category is beyond absurd.
There's absolutely no reason that Peppers should be ranked higher than Charles Johnson, unless of course the players are counting things like "the effect he has on the field without doing any thing but standing there taking up space and making fans scream at their televisions wondering when he's going to put forth some effort". If that's the case, then one has to wonder why Peppers wasn't in the top ten.
Hopefully the rest of the league will take notice of Big Money in 2013, because if he plays anywhere close to the level he played in 2012 the players will have no excuse to keep him off the list again. Of course, I'm sure they'll shun him once more, but if they do that just gives us one more chip to put on our shoulders -- we can always use more of those.