As familiar as the longing sense for football that occurs in June and July, our craving to begin the NFL season is somewhat eased by the NFL’s Network annual TV special: the NFL Top 100 show. Ranked by current NFL players, the poll (in its fourth season) closed on Wednesday and featured four members of the Carolina Panthers. Reviewing the list, we breakdown each Panther who made the peer voted survey.
#93 Ryan Kalil-Center
In the prime of his career, the former USC Trojan has elevated his play in each full season he has played as a member of the Panthers and is certainly one of the best centers in the NFL. Limited to only five games in 2012, Kalil, like Carolina, had a year of rebirth competing in 16 games and was selected for the first time in his career to join the AP All Pro First Team. The only center on the list and named the ninth best offensive lineman this upcoming year, the four time Pro Bowler is considered in the top tier of one of the most cerebral positions in the game. He definitely deserved a position in the top 100, perhaps a spot even higher.
#53 Greg Hardy-Defensive End
Coined the Kracken, Hardy was ferocious for the Panthers front-line; and his nickname certainly fits the destruction he created in opposing backfields. Racking up fifteen sacks, (third most in the NFL) Hardy, along with Charles Johnson, anchored one of the best defensive lines in the league last season and looks to put up similar numbers again this upcoming year. Standing at six foot four and weighting at 290 pounds, Hardy has become a disruptive force with his mind boggling athleticism. Being placed under the franchise tag for this season indicates Hardy will look to put up similar statistics again.
#24 Cam Newton-Quaterback
Moving up 22 spots from last year’s ranking, Newton (in his 2013 season) took his play to another level by grasping the subtle nuisances that goes along with playing the quarterback position. Posting a career high in completion percentage and touchdowns thrown, Cam lead the Panthers to their first playoff berth since 2008. With his impressive numbers, Newton was the best offensive player for Carolina as he also put together four comeback victories throughout the season. Breaking records once held by the likes of Dan Marino and Peyton Manning, it is scary to considered that Cam has not even reached the peak of his prime.
#15 Luke Kuechly-Linebacker
The highest ranking member of the Panthers to crack the top 100, Kuechly was deservedly placed as the best linebacker in the sport coming off the year he had completed. Tying a NFL record with 24 tackles in a week 15 match-up against the New Orleans Saints, being selected as the AP Defensive Player of the Year, and being named as an All Pro and Pro Bowl member are just a handful of the accomplishments the third year veteran has earned. Only 23 years old, Kuechly has shown the promise to take the mantle of best inside linebacker in the league. With the preparation and skills he brings to the game, it is only a matter of time until Kuechly breaks into the top ten.