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WATCH: Patriots defenders Dont’a Hightower and Malcolm Butler make NFL Top 100 Players of 2017

The linebacker and the cornerback are the first Patriots to appear on the list.

With the 2017 NFL draft over, the league is entering the slowest periods of the calendar. In order to fill the relative void of news, NFL Network introduced its list of the Top 100 players in 2011. The first episode of this year’s edition aired yesterday – and featured two members of the New England Patriots:

#94: LB Dont’a Hightower

#99: CB Malcolm Butler

The first Patriot to be revealed is cornerback Malcolm Butler, coming off his first ever All Pro nomination. Among the players introducing the 27-year old is New York Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins: "To me he’s a shutdown guy [...] and he shows it week in and week out." Former Houston Texan and current free agent Charles James praised Butler by calling him "one of the most scrappy dudes" out there.

However, as is the case with most members of the Patriots’ defense, Butler, as evidenced by his ranking, flies under the radar. Even though he was part of the top scoring defense in the NFL, Jenkins notes as follows: "I just feel like he’s one of those guys that doesn’t really get talked about."

The same goes for the second member of the defense to make the Top 100 list, Dont’a Hightower. Just like Butler, Hightower makes his first appearance on a Top 100 list. And just like Butler, his ranking does not properly reflect his abilities and impact as a football player during the 2016 season.

The 27-year old, who re-signed with the Patriots earlier this offseason, made one of the biggest plays in Super Bowl LI. Naturally it gets mentioned – and shown – a lot. "Him making plays like that on that big of a stage is no surprise to me at all," says Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels, who calls Hightower one of his "all-time favorite players".

Hightower, who is a defensive captain and the unit’s signal caller is also praised for his smarts and mentality. "He understands how to play middle linebacker," Janoris Jenkins points out before adding that "he also understands the defense he plays in". "He plays football the way it is supposed to be played," notes Daniels.

To watch the clips, click here:

‘Top 100 Players of 2017’: No. 99 Malcolm Butler

‘Top 100 Players of 2017’: No. 94 Dont’a Hightower