NFL Network is presently in the process of releasing its Top 100 NFL Players List for 2016, as new shows each week reveal another 10 players, as we count down from 100. Those selected are not voted on by a bunch of analysts and writers, though; instead, they've been voted on by their fellow players. Players 100-41 have been released, and they include two former 'Nole 2013 national champions. We'll update this piece as more Seminoles are added to the list, but for now, here's the first two honorees:
- No. 83: Linebacker Telvin Smith, Jacksonville Jaguars (FSU 2010-2013)
Smith, who's set to begin his third year in the NFL, didn't make this list last year, but it seems that his colleagues can no longer ignore his prodigious talent. Smith was described as "Making a name for himself as one of the most versatile -- and best -- linebackers in the NFL."
An FSU teammate of Smith, quarterback Jameis Winston, now of the Tampa Bay Bucs, voted Smith considerably higher: "He's gonna be in my top 22. You better believe it."
Former Florida State running back Devonta Freeman, a current member of the Atlanta Falcons, praised Smith as well: "Telvin Smith, he's one of my favorite players," said Smith, before recounting the number of doubts levied at Smith's game after his career in Tallahassee: "'He's too small. He's skinny. He wasn't going to be successful in the League.'" What a difference a couple of years can make. Refuting those early critiques, Freeman put into persecutive just how far Smith has come: "Now I look at Telvin-- and he's one of the best linebackers in the League. . . I'd love to have him on my team. Every day, I would go to war with him. Any and every day."
- No. 50: Running Back Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons (FSU 2011-2013)
Freeman is another new addition to the the Top 100 after a breakout season in 2015 that saw him finish top-five in yards from scrimmage. And the compliments his colleagues issued are a reflection of the strides he's taken.
Bucs linebacker Levonte David is quite familiar with Freeman, and the challenge he poses: "I got to play against him twice a year, so I know what type of threat he can be."
Said Bucs safety Major Wright of Freeman: "I gotta play him again? Alright. I know I gotta bring my A game. Because he can shake you, you can run past you, or he can run through you. It puts him in that category of, okay, how can we stop him?" Wright followed up: "He attacks you. What he put on film is just unbelievable. It's unbelievable."
One player who knows, firsthand, about Freeman is Browns lineman Cameron Erving, who blocked for Freeman at FSU. Erving detailed exactly what makes Freeman such an imposing threat: "He made the Pro Bowl. He has really good feet. He can make people miss. He has really good vision."
Chicago Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman spoke to Freeman's versatility, praising his ability as a receiver out of the backfield as well: "He can run all the routes. He's a dynamic guy." And Indianapolis Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson added another line to Freeman's resume: "You know one thing he really does well? Pass protection. They keep him in to protect Matt Ryan."
Freeman's own appraisal of his place on the list? "I feel like I should be one of the top 100 players because I'm an all-around complete back; I can do it all. It's just all about getting the opportunity." He certainly showed what he could do with that opportunity in Tallahassee, and now he's doing the same in Atlanta. And Arizona Cardinals safety Durell Eskridge thinks Freeman will only get better. When asked who the top player for 2016 will be, Eskridge doesn't skip a beat: "Devonta Freeman . . . I definitely feel like he'll be the No. 1 player in 2016." Eskridge cites Freeman's outstanding work ethic in explaining. Falcons safety Kemal Ishmael concurs with that reasoning: "He's more driven than anybody I've ever seen."
So as the list evolves, which 'Noles do you think might -- and/or should -- be included in the NFL Top 100?