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ESPN released its annual “Top 100 NFL Players” list and, as usual, there are some massive errors. The easiest position to focus on is quarterback. Jalen Hurts and Dak Prescott are massively overrated. Kirk Cousins, also as usual, is underrated.
ESPN puts Jalen Hurts as the third-best player in the NFL
Let’s pump the brakes here. Jalen Hurts is a player that the Philadelphia Eagles weren’t certain was good enough to be their starting quarterback prior to last season. They gave him a chance and he rewarded them with an NFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl.
The Eagles faced a very easy path to the Super Bowl, facing a Giants team that upset the 13-4 Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card Round and then they beat the San Francisco 49ers who played practically the entire NFC Championship game without a functional quarterback.
Credit where credit is due: Jalen Hurts played excellent in the Super Bowl, but his team lost. He had a great season last year, there’s no doubt. But Cam Newton had a very similar season in 2015. And then he never really returned to those heights. Pretty similar story for Lamar Jackson, too. Both of those players won an NFL MVP, while Hurts finished second to Patrick Mahomes.
The point is simple though: Jalen Hurts does not deserve to be ranked as the third-best player in the NFL — behind only Patrick Mahomes and Justin Jefferson — after one surprising season. Could he be? Maybe. But this is a perfect example of recency bias. Way too much weight on last season, and playing on one of the best rosters in the league.
Putting him ahead of Joe Burrow and Josh Allen is ridiculous. Period.
Dak Prescott ranked inside the Top 40
I actually like Dak Prescott more than most people. The Cowboys did the right thing in signing him to an extension, although that nearly $60 million cap hit next season is tough to swallow. Still, he’s a competent NFL quarterback that gives the Dallas Cowboys the best chance to win this season.
All that said, he doesn’t belong at #38 overall, which is where ESPN ranked him. Putting this together with the Hurts ranking, there’s a clear bias going on here for the NFC East. Especially for the Eagles and Cowboys, two of the more popular franchises in the NFL.
This ranking puts Dak Prescott as the ninth-best quarterback in the league right now. And, to be honest, that’s probably not unfair . His career record looks great: 61-36. Until you look at his playoff record: 2-4. I don’t believe it’s fair to put all the onus on the quarterback when it comes to team success. But at some point, those regular season wins have to translate in the postseason.
However, he can be the ninth-best quarterback without being one of the Top 40 players in the league. He’s ranked 53 spots ahead of Jared Goff and 56 spots ahead of Kirk Cousins. Personally, I think Cousins is better than Prescott. But even if you disagree, he belongs in a tier with those guys. Not 50 spots ahead of them.
Kirk Cousins continues to receive disrespect from ESPN, sports media
Cousins is a far better quarterback than nearly any media member — except myself — than anyone wants to admit. Whereas Hurts and Prescott benefit greatly from the teams –and organizations — for whom they play, Cousins has not gotten nearly that kind of draw. He spent six seasons in Washington, which was a complete dumpster fire under Dan Snyder.
Then, he signed in Minnesota. That’s where he had head coach Mike Zimmer for four seasons. Nothing against Zimmer, who seems like a great dude, but he’s the picture of mediocrity. I said prior to last season that it was a huge year for Cousins, finally playing for a head coach — Kevin O’Connell — who could help him unlock all of his gifts.
Sure enough, Cousins flourished and led the NFL with a ridiculous eight game-winning drives and eight fourth-quarterback comebacks. He threw for over 4,000 yards for the seventh time in his career. Cousins is a career 67% passer in the NFL. He’s certainly better than Jared Goff, Dak Prescott and Tua Tagovailoa — three quarterbacks ranked above him.
Cousins and the Vikings are going to be better than people expect yet again this season. And I suspect it won’t change anyone’s mind about him. Oh well, I’ll hang out on the Cousins bandwagon by myself.
Tua Tagovailoa is ranked just behind Dak Prescott at #45 overall and as the 10th best quarterback in the NFL. I’m not sure I need to say anything more than Tua Tagovailoa is not one of the 50 best players in the NFL. He’s arguably the Dolphins 9th or 10th best player, at best.
Sauce Gardner is ranked as the 14th-best player in the league and the top cornerback. Again, recency bias + east coast bias +New York bias = overrated. I like Gardner and think he has a chance to be the best defensive back in the league. But the jump to anoint him as the #1 corner after just one season is ridiculous. And to put him as one of the league’s 15 best players — ahead of guys like TJ Watt, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs and Cooper Kupp — is nonsensical.
There are other quibbles I could make with the list, but I’ve given ESPN enough attention for today. They wanted argument and disention and I gave it to them.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on X – formerly known as Twitter: @RealDanZak