The NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2012 was finalized on Wednesday night and the Falcons had three players on the player-nominated list this year. After the 2011 season they have five, including Roddy White, Matt Ryan, John Abraham, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner. Turner, White and Gonzalez remained on this year's list.
It's possible all three could return to the 2013 list and Ryan and/or Abraham could make a return after their year absence. Are there any other Falcons players that could make next year's list?
Four players from the 2011 rookie class made this year's list, including Cam Newton, Von Miller, Patrick Peterson and A.J. Green. There were plenty that believed Julio Jones, Atlanta's rookie wide receiver, deserved to be included in that list. Since the list is voted on by the players, they perhaps didn't feel his 959 yards and rookie-leading eight touchdown receptions in 13 games was enough.
Jeremiah thinks a number of last year's rookies will be added to the list after how they perform during the upcoming 2012 season and Jones is at the top of the list. Tyron Smith, Andy Dalton and Aldon Smith are the others from the 2011 class he thinks will see a rise this season.
Much of the offseason's talk about the Falcons has been focused on Jones. With a full offseason to work with coaches and teammates, a step forward into an elite class is expected after such a stellar rookie season where he struggled with injuries and little opportunity of an offseason to learn the offense.
"Jones is an extremely explosive and physical wideout and I expect his numbers to jump significantly in his second NFL season," Jeremiah wrote. "He should be a lock to crack the "Top 100" in 2013."
Although he wasn't a rookie last year, Sean Weatherspoon enters his third season in the NFL and there's a strong chance he could make next year's list as well. Already regarded as one of the best young outside linebackers in the league by those that follow the NFL closely, Weatherspoon appears to take the next step as the defensive leader of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's new scheme with the Falcons.
Weatherspoon will be relied on as a play caller for the defense and a tone setter, letting his strong personality work to lead the Falcons defense. He finished among the top linebackers last season in many of the key defensive statistics and with another season of play like last year's, there's a good chance the difference maker on defense for the Falcons will make his way onto the list.