Andy Benoit, who writes for Sports Illustrated’s The Monday Morning Quarterback, recently dropped the biggest offseason list of all, when he revealed his MMQB 400. Yep, you guessed it, he somehow found the time to rank his four hundred top players in the NFL.
I guess it’s fitting that he waited until most of the other publications and websites are all listed out, this way, the spotlight would be all on his monster of a ranking. He had the usual suspects near the top of his creation, Tom Brady #1, J.J. Watt #2, Von Miller #3, Aaron Rodgers #6, Julio Jones #9, Aaron Donald #13, etc...
As with any list, he had a few surprises and a few snubs, but like all lists, they’re just something to get the people going.
As far as the Chicago Bears, Benoit had eight of them on his list.
Here’s what he had, followed by a few thoughts from me.
362 - Jaye Howard - 3-4 DE
After missing eight games with a hip injury last season, the Chiefs decided that a few million in cap savings were worth more to them than Howard was. That's Chicago's gain. When Howard's right, he's a force in run defense.
Howard was such a late free agent signing by GM Ryan Pace, but if he can come all the way back from his injury, he’s a solid player.
255 - Pernell McPhee - 3-4 OLB
He can come off the edge, but really, I would love to see him more often as a standup interior pass rusher in Chicago's scheme, like what McPhee did at times in Baltimore.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio did have McPhee’s lining up all over the place his first year with the Bears. If he’s healthy all through camp, expect to see him all over the front seven. Key word there, healthy. I’d love to see what he can do in a full 16 games.
247- Willie Young - 3-4 OLB
He's proficient as a looper or penetrator on stunts, and is capable of setting the edge in run defense. The Bears edge-rushing group'with Young, Leonard Floyd and Pernell McPhee'is underappreciated.
I’m hoping to see Young go fishing about 10 more times this year.
232 - Leonard Floyd - 3-4 OLB
Floyd showed intriguing flashes of edge bendability last year. Don't be surprised if he makes a quantum leap in 2017.
I’m not sure if Benoit planned to have Chicago’s top three OLBs pop up like this on his list, but if Floyd’s speed can compliment those other two guys, suddenly the Bears’ pass rush has some teeth.
214 - Josh Sitton - LG
Sitton is a steady veteran who has great vision when it comes to getting off a block to make another.
Sitton was fun to watch last year. His veteran presence was a boon for Cody Whitehair.
213 - Akiem Hicks - 3-4 DE
His best plays can look as dominant as almost any 3-4 end's best plays. Hicks needs to produce them a little more often, but overall, he's a really, really challenging player with the suddenness and strength to stun blockers.
If Hicks has another good year, he’s going to get paid as a free agent. The Bears are going to extend him soon aren’t they?
111 - Jordan Howard - RB
Howard is the best all-around zone runner in football. He has the wheels and body lean to flourish on outside zone, following his O-line's cohesive run blocks toward the sideline. On inside zone, he's excellent at fitting the ball between the tackles behind double-team blocks.
Say what? “Howard is the best all-around zone runner in football,” but I’ll put six running backs in front of him on the list.
Most teams run a zone blocking scheme these days, including a couple guys listed ahead of Howard.
59 - Kyle Long - RG
Long is a tremendous athlete who should keep getting better given that he's only been playing offensive line since 2011 (his first year at Oregon) and has been shuffled around various positions in the NFL.
The o-line shuffle might continue in 2017, because the Bears are thinking about swapping he and Sitton, making the more athletic Long at left tackle, with the mauler Sitton on the right side. I’m fine with this move, but they need to get Long up to speed and healthy as soon as possible.
So what do you guys think?
Any other Bears you feel should be on this list?