The New England Patriots were the NFL’s best team in 2016. They won the Super Bowl, finished with a league best 14-2 record and fielded the top-ranked defense in the game. The offense, especially after the return of quarterback Tom Brady, was no less impressive.
Consequently, it is no surprise to see the unit featured on NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2017 list. Yesterday, the first two members were revealed:
#71: WR Julian Edelman
#80: RB LeGarrette Blount
After cornerback Malcolm Butler and linebacker Dont’a Hightower were ranked 99th and 94th, respectively, Blount was the next Patriot to be featured. And just like his two defensive teammates Blount appears on the Top 100 for the first time in his career. However, unlike Butler and Hightower, his ranking seems fair if not too high.
"Definitely a physical runner," New York Giants running back Shaun Draughn said about the NFL’s 2016 touchdown leader, before Buffalo Bills linebacker Preston Brown specified: "He has better feet than people think; he makes a lot of people miss."
Still, despite last season being Blount’s most productive as a pro – 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns –, the 30-year old remains an unrestricted free agent. While he might return to Foxboro, it seems as if the Patriots have moved on from their workhorse running back of the last four years.
The team’s top receiver of the last four years, Julian Edelman, is still on the team – and like Blount, he is featured on the Top 100 list. After being ranked 91st in 2015 and 87th in 2016, Edelman comes in at 71 this year. But despite him slowly climbing the list, he still feels a bit underrated.
The 30-year old remains one of the NFL’s most consistent wide receivers and finished the 2016 season with 98 catches, 1,106 yards and three touchdowns. "He’s got a running back mentality," Washington Redskins linebacker Zach Brown had to say about Edelman, praising his run-after-the-catch abilities.
His toughness and mentality are not the only traits mentioned. "He’s a lot craftier than guys think he is," Houston Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson had to say about Edelman. "He is a tough cover in the middle of the field."
To watch the clips, click here: