Over the summer, we produced an 11-day project ranking the top 10 NFL players at each position, compiling votes from 50-plus executives, scouts, coaches and players. The project is extensive, culling league-personnel-driven scouting reports on nearly 200 players. The goal: Find out exactly how the league feels about your favorite stars.
Revisiting those results nearly six months later, after 16 weeks of NFL football, is telling. Some bold projections look smart. For instance, Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons was the No. 6 interior defensive lineman. He wasn't a marquee name among casual fans but played at a Pro Bowl-level this season.
But the omissions are glaring, revealing more about leaguewide groupthink than some would like to admit. Some veterans get pigeonholed, some young players are undervalued because of a lack of tenure in the league, and too many deserving players are left as honorable mentions. And of course, sometimes it's as simple as a player having one special, unexpected year that will catapult the rest of his career. That happened last year with Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and it's happening again this year at almost every position.
So we went back to execs, scouts and coaches all over the NFL to determine the biggest risers for each of the 2021 top 10 lists -- players who were either ranked too low or not ranked at all, including two potential record-breakers at the skill positions.