2013 NFL Top 100: Does Greg Hardy deserve to be on the list?

Look out NFL, The Kraken is ready to eat in 2013. - USA TODAY Sports

With quarterback Cam Newton, linebacker Luke Kuechly and wide receiver Steve Smith representing the Panthers on the top-100 list at #46, #79 and #84 respectively, Carolina's representation is now complete. A lot of fans are upset that defensive end Greg Hardy wasn't featured, but do those fans have just cause for their outrage? Let's look into the numbers and find out.

Last Thursday 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 Greg Hardy 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.

If you recall, I posted the case for Charles Johnson on Friday, and after some thought I decided to post the case for Hardy because -- just like when I found out Johnson was being shunned -- I was outraged when I realized he wouldn't be included. The Panthers homer in me feels that Hardy's inclusion on the list should be a no-brainer, but what do the stats say? Does his production in 2012 match up to my preconceptions of how good he was? Should he really be on the list? Do we have a right to be upset?

The short answer is yes. But, let's take a look at the long answer. Let's take a look at the numbers and show exactly why Greg Hardy 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 Hardy's production from 2012 (stats courtesy of ESPN):

15 61 41 20 11
2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 4 9 0

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 him? Let's take a look at their 2012 stats and find out (stats courtesy of ESPN).

Greg Hardy
15 61 41 20 11 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 4 9 0
Julius Peppers 16 39 32 7
11.5 4
0 0 0 0 0 2
Jason Pierre-Paul 16 66 43
6.5 1
1 10 1

As you can see, Hardy collected more tackles and stuffs than Peppers, and more sacks and forced fumbles than Pierre-Paul, yet both Peppers and Pierre-Paul are being lauded by their peers as top-100 players and Hardy 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, Hardy is still shunned by his peers even though he gathered more sexy stats than Pierre-Paul and was near equal to matching Peppers' sexy stat production in his 2012 campaign.

If they wanted to use the one hit wonder excuse, that could hold some merit, since Hardy exploded onto the scene in 2012 after two less than stellar years in 2010 and 2011. However, Justin Houston had a breakout year in 2012 for the 2-14 Chiefs and he made the list at #49, so keeping Hardy out because of the one-hit wonder thing really doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

So if his stats show that he should get in based on what he did in 2012, and another possible one-hit wonder from one of the worst teams in the league was able to make the top-50 -- what gives? Why isn't Greg Hardy on the list of the NFL's Top 100? I have two theories. (Note: if you read the Charles Johnson article, the theories are the same)

1. The fembot was wrong and Greg Hardy 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 still haven't figured out any other way to explain how Julius Peppers, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Justin Houston all made the list but Greg Hardy didn't. Hardy was comparable to Peppers and Pierre-Paul in most statistics, and Hardy was also a breakout star like Houston - only Hardy did it on a better team.

(I know, I know. The Chiefs beat the Panthers last year. But, anything can happen on any given Sunday, and the 2012 Panthers went 7-9 while the 2012 Chiefs went 2-14.)

There's absolutely no reason that Hardy shouldn't be on the list. He was good enough in 2012 to be included over several other guys who made it, and the fact that the rest of the league gave him the shaft is beyond frustrating.

Hopefully the players will take notice of The Kraken in 2013, because if he plays anywhere close to the level he played in 2012 his peers 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.

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