The NFL’s list of its Top 100 Players has become a thing over the last nine years. Debuting on April 30, 2011, the annual list is voted on by active players. Essentially, it’s who the players think are the best of their peers. While this list hasn’t always been kind to the Texans, this year’s version put a spotlight on three H-Town stars.
#66 Laremy Tunsil
First up, the list tossed accolades at the highest paid offensive lineman in all the land, Laremy Tunsil.
Laremy Tunsil made the #NFLTop100 at No. 66.— PFF HOU Texans (@PFF_Texans) July 28, 2020
Tunsil's 88.2 pass block grade in his first season as a Texan was 3rd among tackles and set a franchise-record for the position. pic.twitter.com/LJZFb2ZinX
While Tunsil wasn’t the best offensive lineman in the league last year, he was a dramatic upgrade at left tackle for the Texans. With the exception of Duane Brown, Tunsil is likely the best blindside protector Houston has ever had. If he can clean up his play in 2020, he should land much higher on this list in 2021.
Pro Football Focus gave Tunsil a 75.8 overall grade last year. While this wasn’t good enough to put him in the Top 25 NFL linemen as of December 19, 2019, he did hold the #1 spot in another area: penalties. Tunsil’s 18 infractions ranked first for offensive linemen league-wide. Hopefully another year in the system, some major cash in his pocket, and the calming presence of Deshaun Watson will settle him down and Tunsil lands much higher on the Top 100 next year.
#45 J.J. Watt
There was a time when Watt was a guaranteed Top 10 name on this list; in 2015, he was #1. Unfortunately, a spate of injuries dramatically lowered his production and ability to impact a season; that has taken a toll in the eyes of his fellow players. However, Watt is clearly still respected - and feared - across the land, just as he should be.
Since 2013, J.J. Watt is the highest-graded EDGE defender in the NFL (94.2)— PFF (@PFF) July 28, 2020
Watt ranks 13th overall on the PFF50 entering the 2020 season.https://t.co/xJvQINHlTD
When all is said and done, J.J. Watt’s face will be on the Mount Rushmore of NFL defensive linemen alongside Bruce Smith and Reggie White. The list of Watt’s accomplishments is longer than the phone book in his hometown of Pewaukee, Wisconsin.
- Three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
- Five-time First Team All-Pro.
- Five-time Pro Bowler.
- First NFL player with multiple 20-sack seasons.
- Top Five player in NFL Top 100 three times.
If Watt can stay injury-free in 2020, those accomplishments will just keep piling up.
#20 Deshaun Watson
Despite the diss from Madden ‘21, Deshaun Watson jumped more than 30 places this year on the list from where he was last year. from 51 to 20 overall. And how could he not, considering that last season he threw a touchdown pass with a size 20 cleat in his eye, miraculously escaped a double sack in the NFL Playoffs to throw the game-winning pass, and generally just made miracles happen time and again throughout the 2019 season.
While Tunsil and Watt have both landed their uber-paydays over the years, Watson is still in queue for his. Based on what he’s done for the franchise, behind a worst-to-average offensive line, with only one dependable wide receiver (who’s now gone), a relatively anonymous list of skill position personnel, and an offensive game plan that reportedly changed all the way up to Friday afternoon before the game, it’s amazing Watson has been able to have any success at all. But, with all those things working against him, he still thrives.
One of the more telling stats about how instrumental Watson is to the Texans’ success is how many games Houston has been out of it late in the game. Since 2018, the Texans have lost four games (2018 wild-card, Week 11 of 2019, Week 14 of 2019, 2019 divisional) by two scores or more. In the nine other losses in that span, the Texans were in every contest, and it was because of Watson.
As long as Watson remains healthy, the Texans have a chance to win on any given Sunday. Hopefully, with a “new” strategy from freshly minted offensive coordinator Tim Kelly, Watson will take another exponential leap forward in 2020 and find himself in the Top 5 of the Top 100 list next season.
What do you think? Puzzled why another Texan isn’t on this list? Think these players should have ranked higher? Convinced this Texans trio will outplay their slot? Share your thoughts below.