The Wolverine

September 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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SEPTEMBER 2020 THE WOLVERINE 7 BY AUSTIN FOX N FL Network releases a list of the top 100 players in the league heading into every sea- son (as voted on by the NFL ath- letes themselves), and wrapped up this year's edition July 29. Two former Michigan players found themselves listed in the 2020 version, with Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady checking in at No. 14 overall and Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark slot- ting in at No. 95. Brady was tabbed to the No. 6 spot heading into the 2019 cam- paign. His eight-notch drop was largely due to the fact he only completed 60.8 percent of his passes last year (his lowest since connecting on 60.5 percent in 2013) and compiled his fewest touchdowns through the air (24) since injuries limited him to one game and no TD tosses in 2008. Even at age 43, however, Brady is still viewed as one of the game's best signal-callers, only checking in behind the Balti- more Ravens' Lamar Jackson (No. 1 overall), the Seattle Seahawks' Rus- sell Wilson (No. 2), the Chiefs' Pat- rick Mahomes (No. 4) and the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees (No. 12) on the list. "Thrice the No. 1 name on this list, Brady's final season in New England saw No. 12 take No. 14," writer Grant Gordon noted. "It's a stumble of eight spots from last year's ranking and his lowest rating since The Top 100's genesis in 2011. None- theless, it's still telling how highly regarded the GOAT remains even in the shadows of a 'down' season. "Eclipsing 4,000 yards passing for the third straight campaign and an astounding 11th time in his career, Brady's play captained the Patriots to an 11th consecutive AFC East crown." Gordon went on to point out it was also the 11th consecutive season Brady racked up 10 or more wins as a starting quarterback, and how continuing that trend is now what Tampa Bay is "banking on [Brady] continuing." "He's the greatest of all time," New England Patriots running back and three-year Brady teammate Rex Bur- khead said during the reveal. "His leadership, his competitiveness, his preparation every single day — you understand why he's been great his whole career." Clark, meanwhile, dropped 10 spots to No. 95 after being pegged at No. 85 on the list heading into last year, but like Brady he has also established himself as a bona fide NFL stud. He compiled 35 sacks dur- ing his four years with the Se- ahawks from 2015-18, and then enjoyed a smashing debut with the Chiefs in 2019 by accumu- lating eight more quarterback takedowns en route to a Super Bowl title. "After a bitter end to 2018, [Kansas City head coach] Andy Reid knew that to win the Super Bowl, he'd have to upgrade the defense," explained in their recap of the defensive end's ranking. "In free agency, the Chiefs reeled in Frank 'The Shark' Clark. "From week one, their new big fish showed an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time. The bigger the game, the better Clark was. In the Chiefs' three playoff wins, he had five sacks. In each game, the opponent's last gasp was snuffed out by The Shark." Clark's most notable postseason sack occurred with just 1:25 remain- ing in the Super Bowl, when he took down San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on a fourth-down play with the 49ers attempting to dig themselves out of a 24-20 deficit. The defensive end's five playoff sacks as a whole were the most for any NFL player in a single postsea- son since the Denver Broncos' Von Miller matched that total in 2015. ❑ Inside Michigan ATHLETICS Tom Brady And Frank Clark Tabbed As Two Of The 100 Best Players In The NFL Brady is the only player to be No. 1 on the NFL Network's Top 100 list of the league's best players multiple times, but he checked in at No. 14 heading into 2020 — his first time not among the top 10 in the 10-year existence of the rankings. PHOTO COURTESY TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

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