The future 100? An excerpt from The Athletic’s upcoming ‘Football 100’ book | ET REALITY


Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from “The Football 100,” the definitive ranking of the 100 greatest NFL players of all time. The book goes on sale Tuesday, October 24. Reserve it here.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame requires a five-year waiting period from retirement before players can be considered for enshrinement. The delay allows time for reflection, so that recency bias does not influence decisions. Some players are so special, almost from the beginning, that they seem destined for Canton or, in this case, possibly destined to appear in later versions of The AthleticThe 100 best.

go deeper


The NFL 100: From Derrick Brooks to Tom Brady, The Athletic finds the best players in football history

(Denny Medley/USA Today)

Kelce arguably already belongs in the top 100. He has more receiving yards than four of the five tight ends on the list (Tony González is the only one with more) and is the only tight end in league history with 1,400 receiving yards. a season. He only needed 15 games to reach that milestone in 2020.

Kelce also owns the most productive three-year stretch for a tight end in league history, with 3,918 receiving yards gained between 2018 and 2020. To adjust for eras, The Athletic divided each tight end’s top three-year yardage total by the NFL-leading total, regardless of position. Kelce’s yards from 2018 to 2020 were 96.1 percent of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ league-best total during those seasons. Kellen Winslow (1980-82, 1981-83) and Charle Young (1973-75) are the only other tight ends to reach 90 percent of the leader’s total in a three-year period.

Jefferson needed just 15 games into his third NFL season to break Randy Moss’s single-season team yardage record. He also set the NFL record for receiving yards in the first 49 games of his career. The top five players on that list include a quick starter who failed (Odell Beckham Jr.) and three true all-time greats in Julio Jones, Moss and Jerry Rice.

That’s the kind of company Jefferson kept early in his career. He’s the elite of the elite, and it’s not like Jefferson landed in an incredibly favorable situation in terms of scheme, quarterback or any of those variables that can make a difference.

(Troy Taormina / USA Today)

Watt’s 77.5 sacks in the first 87 games of his career rank second since 1960, according to Pro Football Reference, which has unofficial sack totals dating back to that date. That’s also the second-best total since the NFL made sacks an official statistic in 1982. Only Reggie White (94) had more in 87 career games.

White, Smith and the older Watt are already in the Top 100. The younger Watt has a chance to join them if he can physically hold up. He missed just four games in his first five seasons before missing seven in 2022.

(Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today)

The best pass rushers can contort their bodies, duck and spread while turning the corner on offensive tackles on their way to the quarterback. When Garrett was just a rookie in 2017 and teammate Joe Thomas was a 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle entering his final NFL season, the veteran blocker called Garrett “twice as good” as then-runner-up Von Miller in Defensive Player of the Year voting, in this differentiating ability.

Only Reggie White and the Watt brothers had more sacks than Garrett through the first 84 games of his career. Garrett had a 74.5, putting him just ahead of such luminaries as Miller, Derrick Thomas, Bruce Smith, Andre Tippett and Richard Dent.

Only a six-game suspension in 2019 and a car accident in 2022 managed to disrupt Garrett as he continues to set a pace of Hall of Fame production over his first six seasons.

(Sam Navarro / USA Today)

Hill has been arguably the most feared player in the NFL throughout his career. A seven-time Pro Bowl selection in seven seasons, he reached 75 touchdowns faster than all wide receivers except Jerry Rice and Randy Moss. Hill has 10 touchdowns on receptions, carries or returns that cover at least 75 yards. Only Devin Hester (14), Ollie Matson (13), Bobby Mitchell (12) and Dante Hall (11) have more. Of those players, all but Hall played at least 40 more games than Hill has played to this point in his meteoric career.

Instead of experiencing a drop in productivity after being traded away from Mahomes and Kansas City in the 2022 offseason, Hill set career highs with 113 receptions for 1,632 yards in Miami, both totals behind only Jefferson.

(Joe Rondone/USA Today)

Parsons is only two seasons into his career, so we’re too early to include him on that list. But none other than Lawrence Taylor called Parsons “special” at the start of the Dallas star’s second season.

Parsons, like Taylor, was the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Taylor was Defensive Player of the Year in each of his first two seasons, and again after his sixth season, when he was also league MVP. Parsons was second in Defensive Player of the Year voting and first-team All-Pro as a rookie after racking up 13 sacks and 20 tackles for losses months after being selected with the 12th pick out of Penn State.

Parsons leads the NFL in Pro Football Focus pressure rating through his first two seasons. But, as Taylor reminded, it’s early.

“Let’s see if he can keep it up for fucking 13 years,” Taylor said, referencing the length of his own Hall of Fame career.

(Darren Yamashita/USA Today)

Williams has earned Pro Bowl honors in each of the last 10 seasons he has played, and seemed to improve with age. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound Williams is widely considered the league’s best at his position two years after Washington traded him to the 49ers entering his age-32 season, which came after Williams missed the 2019 season after elimination. of a rare and life-threatening cancerous growth on his scalp.

“You just look at every game, every clip, he just physically dominates every person that’s in front of him, and the fact that he’s not talked about more, I think it’s scandalous,” his San teammate told reporters. Francisco, George Kittle, in 2021. Williams’ 11th in the league. “He is a great football player who needs much more recognition.”

Extracted from “The Football 100” published by William Morrow. Copyright © 2023 by The Athletic Media Company. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

Leave a Comment