NFL Network’s annual ‘NFL Top 100’ list is typically a controversial mess, but — seeing as it’s voted on by the players — there is a certain fraternal honor that comes along with cracking the century mark.
This week’s version was no different in terms of its ensuing uproar, but it’s tough to argue with the top choice.
League MVP Cam Newton, quarterback of the Carolina Panthers, was the man at No. 1.
The former Auburn star, national champion and Heisman Trophy winner fought off New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (No. 2) and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (No. 3) — last year’s No. 1 — for the crown.
Other high-ranking former SEC stars included Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (No. 8), New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. (No. 10) and Cincinnati Bengals receiver A.J. Green (No. 16).
Newton won the 2015 NFL MVP award after an excellent season that featured 4,473 total yards and 45 total touchdowns.
The Panthers reached the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2003 season, but fell short against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Newton caught flak for his postgame press conference — or lack thereof — but it obviously did not cost him points with his fellow players.
Last year, he was No. 73 on the same list. Now, he’s ahead of Brady and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, two players who combined for four of the past eight MVP trophies before Newton’s breakthrough in 2015.