First things first. The NFL Network's Top 100 list is what it is. It's an imperfect set of rankings based on player votes.
It's imperfect because it's subjective. There's no infallible system of grading one player at one position against another player at another position. Therefore it should come as no surprise that ranks are going to vary wildly from team to team and player to player.
It's also imperfect because there are varying degrees of seriousness players take when it comes to filling out their ballots. When players put pen to paper last December, some in the Patriots locker room placed their teammates higher than most unbiased parties ever would. Some took it seriously and put thought into how they ranked the best of the best from around the league. Others take a . . . unique . . . approach. I spoke to one Patriots player last year who didn't rank Tom Brady. As he explained it, he simply assumed Brady would win and everyone else was vying for second. He had Rob Gronkowski ranked No. 1.
That player was right. Brady was voted the top player in the NFL yet again. It was the quarterback's second consecutive No. 1 ranking and his third overall (2011, 2017, 2018).
Imperfect as the Top 100 list may be, it's interesting to look back at the history of the Top 100, which began in 2011, almost a full decade after Brady won his first Super Bowl, and compare Brady's ranks against his peers. There is no real comparison.
In the eight years the Top 100 has been compiled, Brady is one of only two players to be ranked inside the top 25 all eight years. And in that span, he's never ranked outside of the top five.
Brady’s ranking each year...— Kevin Duffy (@KevinRDuffy) June 26, 2018
2018: No. 1
2011: 1 https://t.co/5HkNByRkYx
Peyton Manning? He never fell outside of the top five, either, but he made the list just four times since 2011. Aaron Rodgers? He's the other other player to be a top-25 guy all eight years, but he's fallen outside the top five on six different occasions. Drew Brees has six top-25 appearances but just one top-five mention (No. 2 in 2012). Between Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan there are just three top-10 seasons and only one top-five season (Newton was No. 1 in 2016).
There are players at offensive skill positions who have received almost as much fellow-player love as Brady over the years, but those flashes of brilliance tended to burn out more quickly. Adrian Peterson, for instance, has received five top-10 nods and four of those (2011, 2013, 2014, 2016) landed him in the top five. Antonio Brown (No. 2 in 2018) has spent the last five years in the top 25 and the last four years in the top 10. Calvin Johnson had a tremendous run from 2012-2015 when he went No. 3, No. 3, No. 2, No. 6. AJ Green has made it inside the top 25 five times and one of Brady's all-time favorite targets, Gronkowski, has been a top-25 choice on six different occasions, but he's only cracked the top 10 twice.
You can go over to the defensive side of the ball and it's more of the same. There's no one who can sniff Brady's track record when it comes to the annual player vote. Luke Kuechly and Patrick Peterson, believe it or not, have the longest runs inside the top 25 with five years each. Peterson never placed inside the top 15, though, and Kuechly was a top-10 player just once (No. 7 in 2016).
Hall of Fame-caliber talents like JJ Watt (three top-five finishes), Von Miller (three top-10 finishes), DeMarcus Ware (three top-12 finishes) and Ed Reed (three top-20 finishes) all had nice runs for themselves but nothing approaching Brady. Even Brady's longtime nemeses at corner -- Darrelle Revis (four top-25 seasons) and Richard Sherman (four top-25 seasons) -- don't come close.
It's an imperfect system. It's imperfect list. Of course it is. But for Brady to be held in such high esteem by his peers for so long, without interruption, is yet another indicator that -- especially when it comes to consistency and longevity -- he is in a class of his own.