With the NFL’s offseason having quieted down to a whisper over the last few months, football fans everywhere have been optimistically anticipating the opening of training camps in late July. In the meantime, the staff at Pro Football Network recently took part in a survey to identify the top 100 NFL players of 2020. After all, what better time than now to wade into the murky waters of ranking the game’s best players?
To be clear, the PFN staff was asked to identify who they believed were the best players in the NFL heading into the 2020 season. Each participant provided a list of their top 100 NFL players. Then using a weighted formula, these lists were used to compile the final rankings you see below.
Throughout the week, a new installment of these rankings was released daily with commentary provided by various PFN writers and podcasters. Today marks the completion as we unveil our top 10 players of 2020.
PFN’s Top 100 NFL Players of 2020: 100 through 76
100) Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Playing alongside one of the best pass-catchers in the NFL should benefit anyone’s career. However, since entering the league out of Alabama in 2018, Calvin Ridley is proving he’s no sidekick.
In his debut season, Ridley led all wide receivers with 64 receptions, 821 yards, and ten touchdowns. As a rookie, the Alabama product finished the season in the top 15 of Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric.
While the Falcons rough start to 2019 stunted Ridley’s progression, the sophomore wideout still finished the year with over 800 yards receiving. Despite missing the final three games due to injury, Ridley still managed to lead the Falcons with seven touchdown receptions.
If Ridley’s first two seasons are any indication of where his career is headed, there’s a strong chance the 25-year-old pass-catcher will continue to climb PFN’s list in the future.
99) Joe Thuney, OG, New England Patriots
For a team that has no problem letting go of their top-end talent, there’s a reason Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots placed their franchise tag on offensive guard Joe Thuney.
The Ironman workhorse has been a staple in Tom Brady’s protection in New England. Since entering the league in 2016, Thuney has started every contest for the Patriots. On his way to earning an NFL second-team All-Pro nod in 2019, the 27-year-old turned in a clean sheet for the Patriots, committing zero penalties.
After coming in at number seven in Matthew Valdovinos’ Pro Football Network Interior Offensive Line Rankings, Thuney breaks just inside the PFN Top 100.
98) Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
When he entered the NFL, Nick Chubb joined a backfield with a pair of proven veterans in Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson Jr. However, it only took the rookie back a handful of games to be anointed Cleveland’s lead back. As a rookie in 2018, Chubb ranked behind only Mark Ingram in Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric among running backs.
In his second season, Chubb doubled-down on his impressive rookie campaign. As the feature back in Cleveland, the Georgia product scurried to nearly 1,500 yards on the ground with eight touchdowns. The former second-round draft pick’s 1494 yards rushing was second in the league behind only Tennessee’s Derrick Henry.
If Chubb can parlay his sophomore run into another jump in year three, expect Baker Mayfield’s backfield mate to be listed significantly higher on PFN’s top 100 list next year.
97) Frank Clark, DE, Kansas City Chiefs
If you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. In dialing up eight sacks on his way to a Super Bowl run, it’s safe to say Frank Clark walked the walk. After racking up 32 sacks over three seasons in Seattle, Clark moved from the Pacific Northwest to the Kansas City Chiefs.
In his first season with the Chiefs, the former Michigan Wolverine linked up with Chris Jones to form one of the league’s toughest defensive line duos. With the pressure leveling up in the playoffs, Clark turned up the volume. Number 55 led the postseason with five sacks and ranked behind only San Francisco’s Nick Bosa for pressures with 17.
After a thrilling playoff run, Clark earned the number 97 spot in the PFN Top 100.
96) Laremy Tunsil, OT, Houston Texans
At the start of training camp, the Miami Dolphins set off an NFL earthquake by dealing former first-rounder Laremy Tunsil to the Houston Texans. Despite his high cost, the Ole Miss product proved worthy of his price tag during his first season in Houston.
Since joining the Texans, Tunsil has been in charge of protecting prized quarterback Deshaun Watson. With Tunsil in front of him, the former Clemson Tiger signal-caller passed for 3,852 yards and 26 touchdowns. Tunsil’s massive frame and high caliber athletic ability helped anchor the Texans offensive line in their run to the AFC South crown.
After earning a bid to the Pro Bowl in his Houston debut, the Texans rewarded their left tackle by signing him to a three year, $66 million contract.
At only 25-years-old, if Tunsil can continue to improve, 2020 won’t be the last time he lands in the PFN’s Top 100.
95) Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans
After a handful of injury-laden and underwhelming seasons for the Miami Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill looked like his career was heading to the bench. Over the 2019 offseason, the Dolphins moved their former first-round selection to the Tennessee Titans. After backing up Marcus Mariota for six weeks, Tannehill was handed the keys to the Titans offensive attack.
The former Texas A&M quarterback (and wide receiver) led the Titans to seven victories in their final 10 weeks. On his way to earning the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award, Tannehill passed for 22 touchdowns and six interceptions as the starter in Tennessee. Although Derrick Henry accounted for a bulk of the run, Tannehill was a key factor in Tennessee’s streak to the AFC Championship Game. In the playoffs, the 31-year-old passer threw for 369 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.
While he may be number 95 on the PFN Top 100, Tannehill posted the top Offensive Share Metric score on PFN’s scale in 2019 at 34.36.
94) Richard Sherman, CB, San Francisco 49ers
If this list was formed a few years in the past, there’s a strong chance Richard Sherman would find his name somewhere near the top. However, don’t let the age fool you, the five-time Pro Bowler is still producing at a very high level.
Sherman helped captain one of the league’s best defenses on a trip to the Super Bowl for San Francisco. Beyond arguably the NFL’s top defensive front, Sherman picked up a trio of interceptions, a pick-six and 11 pass deflections. The 32-year-old corner earned second-team All-Pro honors for the first time since 2015. However, Sherman’s numbers in the box score may not do him justice.
The Stanford product is the unquestioned leader of San Francisco’s top defense. The leadership Sherman brings to the young 49ers is worthy of him getting a spot on PFN’s top 100 list.
93) Marcus Williams, S, New Orleans Saints
While Marcus Williams will always take jabs from a handful of notable bad plays, the New Orleans Saints’ safety has quietly developed into one of the league’s most underrated defensive backs. Williams wasn’t able to match his play from his exciting rookie campaign in year two. However, the former Utah Ute bounced back in a big way in 2019.
In 15 starts, Williams was listed third in the league for safety pass deflections with a career-high 13. Williams added a bevy of turnovers for the Saints defense with four interceptions (one pick-six) and a forced fumble. Since joining New Orleans, the 23-year-old’s 10 career interceptions rank higher than his Pro Bowl teammate Marshon Lattimore (8).
If Williams can replicate his production from last season in 2020, he’ll quickly fade the noise from his past mistakes as he approaches Pro Bowl territory for the first time
92) Marlon Humphrey, CB, Baltimore Ravens
In only three seasons in the NFL, Marlon Humphrey has already cemented himself as one of the league’s top corners. The former Baltimore Ravens’ first-rounder enjoyed a breakout season in 2019 that led to a Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro nod.
Humphrey posted 14 pass deflections, three interceptions, three fumble recoveries with two going for touchdowns, and a pair of forced fumbles.
Despite his already long list of NFL accolades — including “member of the PFN Top 100,” Humphrey is only 24-years-old with plenty of room to grow. The Nick Saban product ranked at number four in PFN’s top 25 cornerbacks heading into the 2020 season.
91) Dont’a Hightower, LB, New England Patriots
With the move from Tom Brady to Cam Newton, the New England Patriots are going through a transition on offense. However, on the defensive side of the football, one constant remains the same. In 2020, Dont’a Hightower will return to the middle of Bill Belichick’s defense for the ninth consecutive season.
In 2019, the veteran linebacker enjoyed a well balanced season that filled the stat sheet. Hightower ripped off 5.5 sacks (his high since 2014), 71 total tackles, 13 quarterback pressures and a new career-high in pass deflections with four. Hightower’s rejuvenated 2019 earned him not only a spot in the PFN Top 100 but a ticket to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2016.
90) Stephon Tuitt, DT, Pittsburgh Steelers
When looking at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense, Pro Bowlers and former first-round picks pop up all over the field. The Steelers have one of the league’s star-studded defensive units from TJ Watt and Cameron Heyward to Minkah Fitzpatrick, Joe Haden and Devin Bush. While the aforementioned group is flooded with accolades, Stephon Tuitt is quietly creating a name of his own.
After a handful of solid seasons in Pittsburgh, Tuitt competed at an All-Pro level in 2019 before an injury disrupted his effective campaign. In six games, the former Notre Dame standout registered six tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, seven quarterback hits and 22 combined tackles. Tuitt’s season ended with a torn pectoral muscle he suffered in Week 6.
If Tuitt can match his 2019 production in 2020, the Steelers defensive lineman will quickly move up the PFN Top 100.
89) Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Since joining the Los Angeles Rams, Robert Woods has served as the ultimate complement alongside Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp in Sean McVay’s offense. With a down year from Cooks in 2019 and Kupp coming off an injury, the USC product recorded his highest OSM score of 36.93 since 2016. It was the first time Woods ranked in the top 10 in Offensive Share Metric for wide receivers. After recording back-to-back seasons with over 1,100 receiving yards, Woods recorded 90 receptions for the first time in his career in 2019.
Although Woods may not lead the conversation when discussing the league’s top-passer catchers, number 89 on the PFN list is one of the NFL’s most consistent wideouts.
88) Demario Davis, LB, New Orleans Saints
In the ever-evolving game of football, the linebacker position is going through some changes. Speed and coverage ability are becoming more important compared to previously when downhill hitters once thrived. Despite consistent modifications to his post, Demario Davis has grown with the curve during his eight-year career in the middle of the field. For the third straight season, Davis record over 100 tackles, while swiping four sacks.
In 2019, Davis separated his game in coverage, deflecting a career-high 12 passes. The Arkansas State product added one interception as well on his way to earning first-team All-Pro honors.
Although he’s entering 2020 at 31-years-old, Davis’ continued progression in New Orleans could earn him another bid on the PFN Top 100 next year.
87) Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions
Despite only having Matthew Stafford for eight games, Kenny Golladay still recorded a noteworthy season in his third NFL campaign. With only 65 receptions for Detroit, Golladay was the definition of a big-play threat. The Northern Illinois phenom tallied receptions of 75, 66, 59, 47 and 42 on the season. Golladay ranked in the top 10 in receiving with 1,190 yards while grabbing double-digit touchdowns for the first time in his career. The third-year receiver topped the NFL with 11 touchdown receptions in 2019.
The former third-round pick capped off his breakout season with a PFN OSM score of 27.69 in 2019, the highest score of his young career. After recording back-to-back 1,000 yard receiving seasons, expect Golladay to continue his run through the PFN Top 100 with a healthy Stafford under center.
86) Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders
The first rookie to crack the PFN Top 100 comes in at number 86 with Josh Jacobs of the Las Vegas Raiders. The Alabama product quickly proved he was worthy of the first-round pick, rushing for 1,150 yards in only 13 games in the Raiders’ final season in Oakland. Jacobs added seven rushing touchdowns on his way to earning a spot on the PFWA All-Rookie Team.
Featured | PFN Mock Draft Simulator
In his first season, Jacobs (16.14) ranked ahead of fellow running backs Ezekial Elliott (15.05), Dalvin Cook (14.73) and Alvin Kamara (13.69) when it came to PFN’s Offensive Share Metric for 2019.
With the Raiders going through a transition period in their first season, Jacobs could be in line to take over as the new face of Silver and Black football in Las Vegas.
85) Ryan Kelly, C, Indianapolis Colts
While guard Quenton Nelson gets much credit for the Indianapolis Colts’ nasty interior offensive line, Ryan Kelly has earned his spot in the PFN Top 100 for a reason.
Since getting drafted by the Colts in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Kelly has quickly taken over as one of the league’s top centers. Kelly served as the glue inside Indianapolis’ top-five rushing attack.
After dealing with injuries in 2017 and 2018, Kelly returned to the field strong, allowing only one sack on the season. The former Alabama center collected his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2020. With a contract year on the horizon, Kelly could double-down on his breakout campaign to earn a significant payday.
84) Mark Ingram, RB, Baltimore Ravens
After New Orleans split up one of the league’s best one-two punches with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, the former Alabama All-American joined Baltimore’s backfield. Alongside the Raven’s sophomore signal-caller, Ingram joined forces with Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill to form one of the league’s most dynamic rushing attacks. Ingram set the tone for the Ravens campaign with a bang, rushing for 107 yards and two touchdowns in week one against the Miami Dolphins.
Ingram ended his first season with the Ravens tallying 1,018 yards and 15 touchdowns — the highest scoring total of his career. The veteran running back earned his third trip to the Pro Bowl on his way to a 16.78 PFN OSM score in 2019.
Even if Ingram’s play falls off in 2020, the Baltimore running back should receive a nod in the PFN Top 100 for his hypnotic hype of the defending Most Valuable Player. Big Truss.
83) Lavonte David, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Since getting drafted out of Nebraska in 2012, Lavonte David has quietly proven he’s not only one of the league’s best linebackers, but also one of the NFL’s best all-around defensive players. Since entering the league, David leads all linebackers in solo tackles, forced fumbles and tackles for loss since 2012. Over his career, David has only had one season where he didn’t record 101 or more tackles.
In 2019, the Buccaneers’ defensive captain showed no signs of slowing down. David filled the stat sheet with 123 combined tackles, seven pass deflections, seven quarterback hits, three forced fumbles and a sack. Late in the season against the Atlanta Falcons, David became one of three Buccaneers to surpass 1,000 career tackles.
Sound good enough for a spot on PFN’s Top 100? No doubt.
82) Casey Hayward Jr., CB, Los Angeles Chargers
In the middle of one of the league’s most talented secondary is veteran Casey Hayward Jr. In his time with the Chargers, Hayward flourished from a slot corner to a versatile weapon in the Los Angeles defense.
The Vanderbilt product can line up from the inside to the boundary. Since coming to Southern California, Heyward Jr. often draws the task of handling the opposing team’s best pass-catcher. In 2019, Hayward Jr.’s pair of interceptions and eight pass breakups earned him the number 82 spot in PFN’s Top 100.
The Chargers had three players rank in Pro Football Network’s top 25 cornerbacks heading into 2020, with Heyward Jr. earning the highest spot of the trio at number 6. With a healthy Derwin James, and Chris Harris Jr. added to the mix, Hayward Jr, will get the chance to show off his versatility in the LA defensive backfield.
81) Calais Campbell, DT, Baltimore Ravens
If PFN put together a list of the top 100 players for each of the last 10 seasons, there’s a strong chance Calais Campbell’s name would be inked in every edition. In 2020, nothing is different; the veteran defensive tackle comes in just outside the top 80 in PFN’s top 100 list.
Campbell didn’t match his production from 2017 and 2018, but he still turned in a strong performance in 2019. The 12-year veteran recorded 56 combined tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Campbell added a pair of pass deflections and a fumble recovery touchdown.
As apart of the Jacksonville Jaguars exodus of the 2020 offseason, Campbell joined the AFC North champion Baltimore Ravens. At age 33, Campbell will have the chance to compete for a Super Bowl alongside Matthew Judon, Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe.
80) Byron Jones, CB, Miami Dolphins
Since joining the NFL in 2015, Byron Jones has backed up his elite athletic prowess to prove he’s much more than a combine all-star. Over his five year career, The UConn product has earned much praise for his coverage skills. Despite his lack of interceptions, Jones’ athleticism has transitioned into a weapon of versatility in the NFL. With a solid frame, football IQ and sound technique, Jones can line up all over the field in any type of defensive scheme.
After signing a five-year deal worth $82.5 million with the Miami Dolphins, Jones production could finally blossom into a number that matches his skill set. Lining up next to first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene and fellow PFN Top 100 member Xavien Howard, opposing teams will have no choice but to test Jones. If the new Dolphins’ defensive back can translate more targets into turnovers, I’ll bet he’ll be higher on the PFN Top 100 in the future.
79) Eric Kendricks, LB, Minnesota Vikings
As the league continues to slant towards pass-happy offenses, coverage linebackers are becoming more and more valuable. After showing off as one of the league’s most reliable linebackers in coverage over his first four seasons, Eric Kendricks elevated his game to an elite level in 2019.
The Minnesota linebacker registered 110 tackles, two forced fumbles and a career-high 12 pass deflections. For the first time in his career, the UCLA product earned spots on the Pro Bowl roster and the NFL’s first-team All-Pro list.
As our rankings begin to countdown, more of the Vikings’ defensive players will be highlighted. However, number 79 on the PFN Top 100 may be the glue that holds Minnesota’s defensive attack together.
78) Bradley Chubb, OLB, Denver Broncos
Although his sophomore season was limited to four games due to a knee injury, Bradley Chubb’s rookie campaign was worthy of a spot in the PFN Top 100. After being picked by the Denver Broncos with the fifth overall selection in the 2018 draft, the decorated NC State product quickly burst onto the AFC West scene.
Alongside Von Miller, Chubb record 12 sacks and two forced fumbles in 16 starts in 2018. Chubb’s debut season in Denver earned him a place on the PFWA All-Rookie Team. After adding several high-powered offensive weapons, Vic Fangio will count on Chubb to have a bounce-back injury return as the Broncos make their climb out of the rebuilding stage.
77) Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
There’s no doubt Carson Wentz’s talent as a passer is special enough to earn him a spot on our top 100 list. Despite an underwhelming start to 2019, Wentz turned it on in the second half of the season. After dropping four straight games, Wentz helped lead the Eagles to four consecutive victories and a trip to the postseason.
While his 2019 performance didn’t align with his All-Pro campaign in 2017, the former number two overall pick passed for a career-high 4,039 yards. For the first time since his rookie season, Wentz started all 16 games. However, a concussion injury against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs closed out Wentz’s season on the sideline.
In 2020, Wentz will have the opportunity to improve his top 100 ranking with a newly installed group of speedy Philadelphia pass catchers.
76) Jaire Alexander, CB, Green Bay Packers
Taking the final spot in the first quarter of PFN’s top 100 ranking is Green Bay’s gritty defensive back Jaire Alexander. After earning a spot on the PFWA All-Rookie Team in 2018, Alexander built off a steady debut season in his second act.
The Louisville product started all 16 contests for Green Bay in 2019, improving his numbers in nearly every statistical category. The sophomore corner totaled 58 combined tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble. Alexander led the Packers while ranking in the top five of the NFL with 17 pass deflections.
In PFN’s top 25 cornerbacks heading into 2020, Alexander came in at number 7 on the list. After two steady seasons, Alexander is a prime candidate to make the jump to the Pro Bowl and beyond in 2020.
75) Xavien Howard, CB, Miami Dolphins
Head coach Brian Flores is busy putting together one of the best defensive rosters in football through multiple free agency additions. However, their best player on defense may just be the homegrown talent of cornerback Xavien Howard. The lengthy corner is known for jumping routes and taking advantage of quarterback mistakes which resulted in him tying for the league lead with 7 interceptions during the 2018 season. The former second-round pick was off to a strong 2019 before landing on IR with a knee injury.
Now paired with Byron Jones, these two will form one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL. In a division that is up for grabs for the first time in decades, Howard and Jones will prove pivotal to the Dolphins taking the next step as a franchise. If Howard can bounce back from the knee injury, he could easily climb the 2021 list and crack the top 50.
74) Jason Kelce, C, Philadelphia Eagles
There is no question that center Jason Kelce will forever be a legend in Philadelphia for his Super Bowl LII Championship Ceremony display. Now Kelce will go down as one of the most criminally underrated players on this list. He has been an iron man for the Eagles, playing all 16 games in each of the last four seasons. At 32 years of age, he is showing no signs of slowing down, having earned three consecutive first-team All-Pro selections.
Kelce, who was penalized a career-low three times last season, is entering his tenth season as the Eagles starting center. With quarterback Carson Wentz entering a critical year, their relationship is more important than ever for Philadelphia. The NFC East is wide open and a strong season from Kelce could keep the Eagles atop the division for another year.
73) David DeCastro, OG, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ask any “yinzer” what they think about David DeCastro and after they are done waving their Terrible Towel at you, they will probably hit you with the word “stalwart.” The offensive guard has been incredibly consistent for the Pittsburgh Steelers, earning five straight Pro Bowls while sprinkling in a pair of first-team All-Pro selections. He dominates defensive tackles as a pass protector and is a mauler in the run game.
DeCastro was a key cog in the Killer B’s offense of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell that set the league on fire. While two-thirds of that group has moved on, DeCastro still holds strong along the Pittsburgh interior. Running back James Conner certainly owes a debt of gratitude to him for opening up holes the size of Mack trucks to run through.
72) Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints had long been known as a team that had to outduel their opponents in offensive shootouts to consistently win. When CB Marshon Lattimore was drafted in 2017, that notion started to change in the Big Easy. He put the league on notice immediately with a stellar rookie season including five interceptions, 18 passes defensed and a defensive touchdown to go along with a Pro Bowl selection and being named the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Lattimore’s interception numbers have not been able to match his rookie year, but he has still managed 26 passes defensed over the last two seasons and was a 2019 Pro Bowler despite dealing with a nagging hamstring injury. And at just 24 years old, the sky is truly the limit for Lattimore moving forward. He will surely be one of the next young corners to earn a mega-contract once his rookie deal is up.
71) A.J. Bouye, CB, Denver Broncos
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been a disaster since their loss to the New England Patriots in the 2017 AFC Championship Game. Their once-vaunted defense was quickly dismantled over the last few years, including the trade of cornerback A.J. Bouye to the Denver Broncos. Head coach Vic Fangio only had to ship a fourth-round selection to the Jaguars to acquire Bouye, who is an immediate upgrade and scheme fit in his defense. As a solid tackler who has the ability to play on both sides of the field, he should have no problem fitting in with his third NFL team.
Bouye’s numbers have fallen off since finishing tied for second in the league with six interceptions in 2017. How much of that is due to his own play and how much is down to a team that has completely imploded is up for discussion. Back-to-back seasons with just one interception and single-digit pass deflections are not ringing endorsements, but a change of scenery could be what is best for Bouye. And if anyone can figure out how to use his talents, it is Vic Fangio.
70) Brandon Scherff, OG, Washington Redskins
There have not been many bright spots for the Washington “To-Be-Determineds” over the years. Brandon Scherff is one of those bright spots, having been named to three Pro Bowls in his five seasons. He excels as a run blocker that gets to the second level in order to wash out linebackers from any snap. Scherff’s play has been good enough that Washington slapped the franchise tag on the former fifth overall pick.
Over the last two seasons, Scherff has only allowed 2.5 sacks and has played a huge role in Adrian Peterson’s resurgence. Peterson has racked up 1,940 yards on the ground well into his thirties and he enjoyed much of that success running behind Scherff’s true road-grading style. With a contract year looming, Scherff can be expected to put together the best season of his career.
69) Kevin Byard, S, Tennessee Titans
Over the last three seasons, no one has more interceptions than the 17 that Kevin Byard has posted for the Titans. His 8 in 2017 led the league and landed him both a Pro Bowl selection and first-team All-Pro selection. Byard has also been an ironman in Mike Vrabel’s defense, having not missed a single game in his four-year career. Safety is a physically demanding position that takes its toll on everyone — except seemingly Byard.
Fans in Nashville will bemoan that he is woefully underrated when it comes to the top safeties in the league and this ranking likely will not quiet those voices. Tennessee certainly does not undervalue Byard when they inked him to a five-year, $70.5M contract before last season. As long as Byard stays healthy and continues to produce the way he has the last three seasons, he is going to be a very worthwhile investment.
68) Justin Simmons, S, Denver Broncos
Justin Simmons may have found himself taken 34 picks after Kevin Byard in the 2016 NFL Draft, but now finds himself one spot ahead on this year’s top 100 list. He is another player playing the 2020 season under the franchise tag as the Broncos try to see if he is worth spending the big bucks on. Simmons enjoyed a career year in 2019 with four interceptions and 15 passes deflections in his first season in Vic Fangio’s defense. That success led to his Second-Team All-Pro selection.
Fangio values versatility and Simmons has displayed the ability to play both safety positions. He is a natural athlete that uses his range and strength to patrol the back end of the Broncos’ defense. Simmons has progressed each year in the league and should continue to flourish in his second year in the same scheme.
67) Cameron Heyward, DT, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ask any yinzer what they think about Cameron Heyward and after they are done waving their Terrible…wait, that has already been said about David DeCastro. However, the point stands. Heyward, like DeCastro, has been a stalwart in Western PA for nearly a decade. His last three seasons have been particularly dominant from the defensive interior and have earned him a spot on two of the last three All-Pro first-teams.
Defensive tackle has been a position long overlooked as just run stuffers, but players like Heyward have been doing their best to transform that thought process. He has 29 sacks over the last three seasons and is consistently rated at the top of his position. Heyward is a powerhouse up the middle who works tirelessly to not only get his sacks but occupy blocks so T.J. Watt (more on him later) and Stephon Tuitt can get theirs. Steelers Nation has to hope that Heyward can get back to a fourth consecutive Pro Bowl this year.
66) Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Something about the Los Angeles Rams just screams blonde hair. Sean McVay, Jared Goff, and, of course, Cooper Kupp. Despite the Rams weathering the dreaded Super Bowl hangover, Kupp had a career year by topping 1,100 yards receiving while hauling in 10 touchdowns and finishing as WR3 in PFN’s Offensive Share Metric. Since being the 69th pick in the 2017 draft, Kupp has been a reliable target for Goff and a key component of McVay’s explosive offense. He has averaged five catches a game as a dynamic option out of the slot.
The wide receiver unit in LA was crowded last season between Kupp, Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks. The latter became a cap casualty and was shipped to the Houston Texans. This should lead to an increase in targets for Kupp, who will be looking to eclipse his already stellar numbers. The slot receiver has become increasingly important and McVay has his slot receiver of the future with Cooper Kupp.
65) Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It is almost unfathomable to believe that a quarterback with six Super Bowl rings is this far down the list, but 2020 is a strange year. Just a few years ago, Tom Brady would have graced the top 5 without even a thought. Now, for the first time in his career that has spanned two decades, a 43-year-old Brady will not be playing in New England and will not playing for head coach Bill Belichick.
Brady, whose numbers have been declining for the past two seasons, will be joining a supporting cast of skill position players better than he has had in years. His new head coach Bruce Arians is also considered somewhat of an offensive guru that knows how to get the best out of his players and should have no problem coaxing whatever Brady has left in the tank. Brady will have to prove that he still has it justify Tampa’s Super Bowl talk.
64) Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns
Odell Beckham Jr. is another player that is surprising to see ranked this low. While the consensus is that OBJ had a down year in 2019, he did post over 1,000 receiving yards for the fifth time in his career despite the struggles from the Cleveland Browns and quarterback Baker Mayfield. Beckham still displayed impeccable route running to create space and home run ability after the catch. However, his four touchdown catches were a career-low for a season in which he played at least 12 games.
2020 could bring OBJ back to the forefront of NFL wide receivers as Cleveland has made plenty of changes to the roster and organization. Gone is former head coach Freddie Kitchens, replaced by former Vikings’ offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski. His experience working with talented receivers like Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen will make utilizing Beckham’s incredible skillset all the easier.
63) Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks have long been able to turn over the reins of a game to quarterback Russell Wilson and allow him to create as he pleases. Part of the reason is that he is surrounded by playmakers like Tyler Lockett, who finished 2019 as WR5 in PFN’s Offensive Share Metric. Once one of the most electric return men in the game, Lockett has grown each season as a receiver and was finally able to crack 1,000 receiving yards last year. His 12.9 yards per catch was down from 2018, but that speaks to his consistency as a receiver with 25 more catches.
Now lined up across from sophomore DK Metcalf, Lockett will continue to develop his skills as a possession receiver. Wilson will need the help when the Seahawks’ lackluster offensive line inevitably allows a play to breakdown. Lockett has worked hard to fill the shoes of the retired Doug Baldwin and succeeded during his first year in that role.
62) Terron Armstead, OT, New Orleans Saints
For a long time, quarterback Drew Brees has depended on Terron Armstead to cover his blindside and keep him upright. And for a long time, Brees has been very happy with Armstead’s ability to do just that. The 6’5”, 304 pound mountain of a man has made back-to-back Pro Bowls for his excellent pass protection and is known for just as much off the field as he is on. Armstead was named the Saints’ Walter Payton Man of the Year representative for 2019.
The main thing keeping Armstead from being higher on this list is durability. He has yet to put together a full 16-game stretch in any of his seven seasons. Last year was his healthiest when he only missed a single game — but before that, he had not played more than 10 since 2015. As Drew Brees progresses into the twilight of his career, he will have to hope that Armstead can go each and every Sunday.
61) Harrison Smith, S, Minnesota Vikings
Since being drafted at the tail end of the first round in 2012, Harrison Smith has been as consistent as it gets for the Minnesota Vikings. The Heartbreak Kid’s resume reads as follows: five consecutive Pro Bowls, one first-team All-Pro, 23 career interceptions, four defensive touchdowns and 13 career sacks from his safety position. That is the type of production that any coach dreams of.
More impressive is that Smith has been this successful despite never having a consistent partner at safety in Minnesota. While the other safety position has been in a never-ending flux, Smith just shows up and does his job well. Incredible athleticism and instincts make him seem like he is always in the right spot at the right time. Although, as he exits his prime, he may come to depend on the latter more and more.
60) Mitchell Schwartz, OT, Kansas City Chiefs
In eight seasons as a professional right tackle for the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs, Mitchell Schwartz has missed exactly three offensive snaps. To reiterate, in 8,434 possible offensive snaps, Mitchell Schwartz has played 8,431 at one of the NFL’s most grueling positions. Those numbers are borderline incomprehensible in an age when defenders are bigger, stronger and faster than ever.
Schwartz played a pivotal role in getting quarterback Patrick Mahomes an unprecedented ten-year extension. That extension does not necessarily happen if the Chiefs had not snapped their 50-year title drought. Schwartz’s performance in the playoffs was as close to legendary as it gets. He allowed zero sacks and had zero penalties despite Kansas City rallying from double-digit deficits in each of their three playoff victories. Offensive line is often a thankless position but I think Mahomes may have something in mind for Schwartz and company in KC.
59) Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What is more important to Mike Evans’s production — arm talent or quarterback IQ? That will be answered very early in the 2020 season as Evans goes from having Jameis Winston hucking the ball around to playing with one of the greatest of all time, Tom Brady. Evans’ ability to stretch the field as a big-bodied receiver has allowed him to never finish a season with less than 1,000 yards receiving.
His consistency is almost nauseating to defensive coordinators that must scheme how to stop him on a weekly basis. While never playing in a steady quarterback situation, Evans remained one of the top targets in the game. Frankly, this is a player that should not see themselves outside of the top 50 on a list such as this one. Evans has only missed six games in his six-year career. The name of the game for him is reliability — the exact opposite of the quarterbacks Evans has spent his career carrying.
58) David Bakhtiari, OT, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers can be added to the list of players that have benefitted from a resolute left tackle over the years. David Bakhtiari has been one of the best left tackles in the league over the past four seasons, earning either first or second-team All-Pro nods in each. Playing opposite right tackle Bryan Bulaga, they formed an incredible tackle tandem to anchor the high-powered Green Bay offense. Now that Bulaga has joined the Los Angeles Chargers, Bakhtiari, and his beer-chugging skills, will be counted on to lead a revamped offensive line in Green Bay.
Bakhtiari’s pass blocking skills are still top-notch as he enters his age 29 season. As head coach Matt LaFleur looks to ease the pressure on Rodgers, Bakhtiari will also have to continue to develop as a run blocker. He is on the last year of his deal and will be looking to either snag a lucrative extension from the Packers or will be one of the most sought-after free agents in recent memory. Either way, Bakhtiari’s success in 2020 will have far-reaching consequences felt around the league.
57) Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
The curious case of Matthew Stafford, who finished an injury-shortened 2019 season as QB2 in PFN’s Offensive Share Metric, will always perplex football fans. The former first overall pick has long been one of the supreme arm talents among all the quarterbacks, but he could never lead his team over the top. Many point to the Detroit Lions being unable to surround him with the right talent, coaching or depth. When he was linked together with wide receiver Calvin Johnson, it was much-watch TV for anyone that enjoyed big play highlights. Since Megatron’s early retirement, the spark has left the Lions.
Stafford’s career numbers are very impressive when you look back at his eleven years in Detroit. Compiling over 40,000 yards passing, 256 touchdowns and a 62.5% completion percentage has landed him in the conversation of elite quarterbacks. However, his career record of 69-79-1 has kept him from joining those ranks. For better or worse, quarterbacks get too much credit for wins and too much blame for losses and Stafford’s legacy will reflect such.
56) Fred Warner, LB, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers swung and missed big time when they drafted linebacker Reuben Foster in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Foster flamed out spectacularly after multiple off-field incidents and left a void in the middle of the San Francisco defense. That void was filled with Fred Warner, who was drafted a year later in the third round. Since then, he has vaulted himself into the upper echelon of three-down linebackers in the NFL.
Warner’s experience as a safety in college has served him well at the next level as the game continually moves more and more towards a passing league. His pass coverage skills are unmatched as a linebacker and allowed Warner to stand out on a 49ers defense full of standouts. He led San Francisco in tackles in both years with the team and added a pair of important interceptions, one returned for a touchdown against the Rams and one in the Super Bowl. If his play continues to trend upward, this could be the last time he is featured in the back half of our top 100.
55) Marcus Peters, CB, Baltimore Ravens
Marcus Peters has had a rollercoaster of a career. He is a supremely talented cornerback that has worn his welcome thin on two separate teams. Case in point, he had pick-sixes for both the Rams and Ravens last season. His ability to read the quarterback’s eyes and jump routes are second to none. Peters’ boom-or-bust play style has allowed him to lead the league with five interceptions returned for touchdowns since being drafted 18th overall in 2015.
For now, it appears that Peters has found a comfortable home with the Ravens. He produced three interceptions and ten passes defensed during his ten games in the purple and black last season. The Ravens boast one of the deepest cornerback groups in the league and they will need that group to keep the wide receivers locked down with the weakness of their defense being up the middle.
54) Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
When he was drafted in the third round in 2017, Alvin Kamara entered the league and set it on fire as one of the most dynamic dual-threat running backs. His numbers took a dip in 2019, however, which led to him landing outside the top 50 on our list. Kamara’s 18 total touchdowns during his sophomore campaign vaulted him to stardom, a level of production and excellence that has proven hard to maintain. His 1,330 total yards and six touchdowns last season were both career lows.
While Kamara has never cracked 900 yards on the ground as a rusher, he has had 81 receptions on the nose for three consecutive seasons. He will look to make it four straight Pro Bowls in 2020 in head coach Sean Payton’s potent offense. If the Saints want to overtake the 49ers in the NFC, they will need Kamara to get back to his dominant 2018 form.
53) Za’Darius Smith, OLB, Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers worked hard to overhaul their pass rush before the 2019 season by bringing in the Smith Brothers: Preston and Za’Darius. Both enjoyed career years, but Za’Darius stood out as particularly impressive. His 13.5 sacks were more than he had the three previous seasons combined. Smith added his first Pro Bowl to his resume in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme.
Smith went from being primarily a pass rush specialist in Baltimore to much more of an every-down player last season. His 84% of defensive snaps were easily a career high and 17% higher than his final year in a Ravens’ uniform. That jump in play time led to not only a jump in numbers but a jump in effectiveness. Next Gen Stats credited Smith with a league-leading 84 disruptions as his plethora of pass rush counters make him unpredictable. The Packers are entering a pivotal season for the franchise and will depend on Smith to repeat his career-best numbers.
52) Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
To holdout or not to holdout, that tis the question for Dalvin Cook. The former second round pick is entering his contract year, a key moment for running backs who have the shortest lifespan of all players. Cook has demonstrated that once he was healthy, he could live up to the potential that everyone saw in him coming out of Florida State University. He had career highs in most major categories, including 1,135 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground.
Cook was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2019 and was the first Vikings running back not named Adrian Peterson to cross 1,000 rushing yards since 2006. The Vikings offense relies on Cook to balance out the somewhat unpredictable Kirk Cousins. Will a different scheme under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak bring Cook the same amount of success that leads to a big payday?
51) DeForest Buckner, DT, Indianapolis Colts
Rounding out the bottom half of PFN’s Top-100 Players is DeForest Buckner, a player who made a name for themselves in San Francisco before being shipped to Indianapolis for a first-round pick. Buckner is an exceptionally large man. At 6’7”, 300 pounds, he is one of the more imposing individuals in the league. Buckner utilizes his length to burst through offensive lines and disrupt plays before they even have a chance to get started.
Elite defensive tackles will always be better than their numbers suggest, and Buckner is no exception. He has only broken double-digit sacks once in his career, but playing alongside the remarkably talented 49ers defensive line caused his numbers to take a bit of a dip. The Colts must be drooling at the thought of Buckner eating up blocks in front of Darius Leonard. It is only fitting that one of the most underrated players in the game is underrated on this list, too.
[su_button url=”https://www.profootballnetwork.com/top-100-nfl-players-2020/3/” style=”flat” background=”#540008″ color=”#ffffff” size=”5″ wide=”yes” center=”yes” text_shadow=”0px 0px 0px #000000″]Next Page: Players 50-26[/su_button]
50) Tyron Smith, OT, Dallas Cowboys
Tyron Smith is a two-time All-Pro and arguably the best player on what has been considered one of the top offensive lines in the league for the past several years. PFN NFL Draft analyst Matt Valdovinos has him ranked as the 3rd best offensive tackle in the league. He’s a tremendous athlete for his size, and when he is on the field there isn’t a pass rusher in the league he can’t stone wall.
He has missed three games per season since 2016. While people point to the absence of Ezekiel Elliott as the reason for Dak Prescott’s rare struggles, they should actually be mentioning how Smith’s absence is detrimental to the Cowboys. Games missed is the only reason Smith isn’t higher on this list.
49) Darius Leonard, LB, Indianapolis Colts
Darius Leonard has had as impressive a start as possible to his football career. As a second-round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Leonard earned first-team All-Pro honors as a rookie, leading the league in tackles and being one of the leaders of a defense that ranked 10th in Football Outsiders DVOA and 13th in yards per play allowed at 5.5.
With back to back seasons of over 100 tackles and an All-Pro selection already on his resume, Leonard has one of the brightest futures among the young defensive stars in this league.
48) Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
It’s a little ironic that Dak Prescott and Smith are so close in the rankings considering what was pointed out about Prescott’s success in Smith’s write up above. That said, the Cowboys have not known a losing season since Prescott took over in 2016. Wins are not necessarily a quarterback stat, but quarterbacks do matter the most when it comes to winning games.
In 2019, Prescott was 2nd in passing yards, 4th in passings touchdowns, and 6th in yards per attempt. He also produced impressive numbers in his NextGen passing stats as well. Prescott was 5th in intended air yards per attempt (how far the ball traveled before it reached the receiver), 3rd in completed air yards, and completed 2.5% more of his passes than his expected completion percentage suggests he should’ve completed.
Prescott also finished the 2019 season as QB5 in PFN’s Offensive Share Metric.
47) Derwin James, S, Los Angeles Chargers
Like Leonard, Derwin James earned All-Pro honors as a rookie with the Chargers. The 17th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft allowed the 9th fewest yards per target amongst defensive backs according to Pro Football Reference advanced stats. He also ranked 6th in combined tackles, 8th in solo tackles, and 2nd in pressures amongst DB’s.
James played just five games in 2019. Without him, the Chargers pass defense went from the 10th ranked unit in DVOA in 2018 to the 20th ranked unit in 2019. His impact on the field was sorely missed and will be a welcome addition to the Chargers’ 2020 squad.
46) Brandon Brooks, OG, Philadelphia Eagles
PFN Draff analyst Matt Valdovinos ranks Brandon Brooks as the 3rd best interior offensive lineman in the league. Some would even say that’s too low. Brooks has been as consistent as they come, missing just two games during his time with Philadelphia, six overall since his 2013 sophomore year.
According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles ranked 2nd in runs to the middle/guard, 14th in adjusted line yards, and 11th in adjusted sack rate. A steady force like Brooks is hard to come by. The Eagles will sorely miss him in 2020.
45) Grady Jarrett, DT, Atlanta Falcons
Grady Jarrett was one of the steals of the 2015 draft, falling all the way to the 5th round because of his size, as Valdovinos points out in his top-20 interior defensive linemen rankings.
Jarrett has been one of the most dominant interior pass rushers in the league the past two seasons, producing 13.5 sacks and 54 pressures. He produced the 6th most pressures in 2019 amongst interior defensive lineman.
44) J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
The five-time All-Pro’s 2019 season was cut short due to injury, but J.J. Watt still proved he was near the top of his game. His 24 pressures extrapolated to a full season (48) would’ve landed him inside the top 10 in the league. He had the same amount of QB knockdowns (12) as Nick Bosa as well two more than Jadeveon Clowney, despite playing just half the season.
Watt proved he could still play at a high level in his 9th season. The only question is if he can make a full recovery and continue to be a force in 2020.
43) Fletcher Cox, DT, Philadelphia Eagles
If it weren’t for Aaron Donald, Fletcher Cox would be the top interior defensive lineman in the league. Cox has missed just two games for the Eagles since 2016, helping them rank no worse than 6th in Football Outsiders adjusted line yards in that time frame. Cox earned AP first-team All-Pro honors in 2018 as well. Here’s what Matt Valdovinos has to say regarding what Cox puts on tape:
What can really be said about how good Fletcher Cox is? He’s been at the top of the league since he first put on an Eagles jersey. He’s an outstanding athlete who is simply devastating as a pass-rusher. Cox can win at any alignment with an elite blend of speed, power, leverage, and hand usage. He wrecks gameplans consistently.
42) Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Kansas City Chiefs
I’m not sure why Tyrann Mathieu has been on three teams in three years, but the Chiefs aren’t complaining. The 69th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft earned his second AP first-team All-Pro selection in 2019, aiding the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl victory under Andy Reid.
Mathieu helped improve the defense from the 26th ranked unit in DVOA to the 14th, including a jump from the 12th ranked pass defense to the 6th. The Chiefs also went from 24th in yards per play allowed (5.9) in 2018 to 16th (5.4) in 2019.
His 56.5% completion allowed was 11th amongst safeties, while his 5.1 yards per target was 5th amongst safeties, 9th lowest allowed in the league. I’d say the Chiefs are happy with their acquisition.
41) Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Minkah Fitzpatrick’s advanced cover metrics won’t wow you by any means. According to Pro Football Reference’s advanced defensive stats, he gave up the 9th most yards per completion (14.9) and 12th most yards per target (9.3) amongst safeties in the league. Where he made his impact felt in 2019 were the turnovers he created. Fitzpatrick had the 2nd most interceptions of any defender (5), three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, two defensive touchdowns, and a partridge in a pear tree.
His playmaking ability earned him AP first-team All-Pro honors in just his second season. The young defensive star should only continue to improve under Mike Tomlin.
40) Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
In this day and age where running backs are considered mostly replaceable, Ezekiel Elliott did enough at Ohio State to convince the Cowboys to select him with the 4th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. And to be fair to Elliott, his production hasn’t disappointed.
Elliott led the league in rushing in 2016 and 2018, while also leading the league in yards per game from 2016-2018. While it can be argued his production is largely replaceable, the fact simply is that he has been very productive since joining the league in 2016.
39) Lane Johnson, OT, Philadelphia Eagles
Lane Johnson, the 4th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, has certainly lived up to his billing. Aside from 2016, he has missed just 10 games in six seasons, earning an AP first-team All-Pro selection during the Eagles Super Bowl run in 2017.
PFN’s Matt Valdovinos has him ranked as the 5th best offensive tackle in the game. Here is what Matt has to say about the seven-year pro.
Lane Johnson went from being the third tackle taken in his draft class to one of the top tackles in the NFL. Johnson was a special athlete coming out of Oklahoma, but many thought he was raw and would need time to develop. Johnson had a quality rookie campaign but really stood out in his sophomore year.
Since then, Johnson has continued to refine his technique as he utilizes his impressive physical tools. Johnson has become a wall in pass protection and a key component of the Philadelphia run game.
38) Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
If it weren’t for Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz might be considered the best receiving TE in the league the past few seasons. Ertz ranked 12th overall in targets in 2019 (2nd amongst TE’s) while earning the 6th most targets in 2018 (1st amongst TEs). His drop% is actually lower than Kelce’s as well over the past two seasons (3.2 and 3.7 for Ertz compared to 4.7 and 5.9 for Kelce).
Ertz has been Carson Wentz’s most consistent target throughout his career, and that could very well continue in 2020.
37) Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Tyreek Hill is one of those players defenses need to be aware of every time he is on the field. His game-changing speed is a critical reason for the Chiefs passing attack being so potent the past four seasons. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, his 3.2 yards of separation when the football reaches his hands was top-10 in the NFL in 2019.
In just four seasons, Hill already has two AP first-team All-Pro selections under his belt, one of which came in 2018 when he led the league in yards per touch with 15. Hill’s uniqueness is what separates him from the pack of NFL wide receivers.
36) Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
Davante Adams was selected in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL Draft. It took a couple of seasons, but Adams has developed into Aaron Rodgers’ top target, leading the Packers in target share since 2017. His 28% and 29% marks in 2018 and 2019 respectively were both top-3 in the league.
Adams is one of the most nuanced route runners in the NFL and a threat to lead the league in receiving yards or touchdowns in a given season. Adams finished 2nd in 2017 and 2018 in receiving touchdowns amongst receivers. It’s totally reasonable to say Adams is the best WR in the league.
35) Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers was long considered the best quarterback talent in the game during his prime. While he is no longer among the elite QBs in the league, Rodgers has shown he still has plenty of winning football in him.
In his first season with Matt LeFleur, Rodgers was 8th in intended air yards per throw (8.9), threw for just over 4,000 yards, and had a fantastic TD/INT ratio of 26/4. The Packers also won 13 games and reached the NFC title game. Despite being a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Rodgers has a lot to prove after the Packers selected Jordan Love with their 1st round pick in the most recent NFL Draft.
34. Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns
After posting seven sacks as a rookie in 2017, Myles Garrett had a breakout sophomore campaign in 2018. He registered 13.5 sacks and 48 pressures, both ranking 6th in the NFL. Despite a suspension shortened 2019 season, Garrett’s 2.9 pressures per game would’ve put him on pace for right around 48 pressures, matching his 2018 total. He also posted a robust 10 sacks in just 10 games, an obviously ridiculous pace.
While no one player is responsible for a team’s overall metrics, the Browns went from the 7th ranked defense in passing success rate (via Sharp Football stats) from Weeks 1-11 to the 26th ranked unit in Weeks 12-17. Garrett belongs in the conversation of elite pass rushers in the league, and should only continue to improve.
33) Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chris Godwin exploded on the scene in 2019, posting 86 receptions, 1,333 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns in 14 games while also finishing as the WR7 in PFN’s Offensive Share Metric. He was 4th in the league in yards per target (11.0) and 2nd in yards per game (95.2). His 71% catch rate amidst a 10.4 average depth of target was higher than even DeAndre Hopkins.
The addition of Tom Brady will probably lead to a down-tick in Godwin’s overall numbers, but he and Evans form by far the best WR duo in the league. Both should make Brady look good in 2020.
32) Zack Martin, OG, Dallas Cowboys
When people talk about the Cowboys offensive line, the first name that comes up is often Zack Martin. It is not without good reason. The four-time first-team All-Pro has missed just two games in his six-year Cowboys career. The Cowboys have long been considered the best offensive line in the league, and Martin is the prime reason for that. PFN’s Matt Valdovinos sums up Martin’s placing in the league perfectly:
Martin has been the best guard in the NFL for the past five years. While he’s not the physical specimen Nelson is, he has the best hands and feet in the league, and his ability to leverage his body is elite. People take Martin’s excellence for granted simply because he has been doing it for years.
31) Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings
Danielle Hunter burst on the scene in his sophomore season, posting 12.5 sacks as a pass-rush specialist for the Vikings. After a season of getting acclimated to a full-time starter, Hunter has registered back-to-back 14.5 sack seasons, good for the 4th most in each season. He ranked 16th in the NFL in pressures with 38 in 2018 and followed that up with another 36 in 2019, good for 13th most in the league.
After releasing Everson Griffin, the Vikings will be looking to Hunter as their top pass rusher in 2020. If the past two seasons are any indication, Hunter will be up to the task.
30) Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
While getting a bit long in the tooth, Drew Brees has still kept his spot amongst the game’s elite QBs. The Saints don’t ask Brees to challenge teams downfield much, as his 6.7 and 7.1 intended air yards per throw (how far the ball travels before it reaches the target) respectively in 2018 and 2019 rank near the bottom of the league the past two seasons. However, he has been remarkably accurate, even for a short-range thrower. He finished 1st in completion percentage above expectation in 2018 (+6.9) and 2nd in 2019 (+6.3) en route to finishing as 2019’s QB6 in PFN’s Offensive Share Metric.
But as we all know, above all else, QBs are judged by wins. Brees is not lacking in that department either, finishing 8-3 in 2019 and 13-2 the previous year. I’m not sure how much longer we will have Brees for, but let’s just enjoy arguably the most accurate quarterback to ever play the game while he is still playing.
29) Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
The Giants selection of Saquon Barkley with the 2nd overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft sparked a lot of discussion regarding positional value and draft strategy in the NFL. While running back is by and large considered the most replaceable position on offense, there’s no denying Barkley’s athletic prowess. That elite athleticism has translated to immediate results on the field.
As a rookie, Barkley led the league in yards from scrimmage with 2,028, while earning 121 targets and 261 carries. Despite missing three games in 2019, Barkley was still 11th in receiving yards amongst RBs (438) and 8th in targets (73). Both figures were right above Ezekiel Elliott. He reached 21.87 miles per hour on his 67-yard rushing touchdown in Week 17, faster than even Kansas City Chiefs rookie speedster Mecole Hardman. While Christian McCaffrey is by and large considered the best back in the league, Barkley would be my pick. At the very least, it’s a razor-thin margin between the two.
28) Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos
Von Miller has been the model of consistency during his career in Denver. The three-time AP first-team All-Pro has missed just one game since the 2014 season. Up until last year, Miller had recorded double-digit sacks every season since 2013, where he played just nine games.
Despite only posting eight sacks, Miller ranked 12th in pressures in 2019 with 37. Oddly enough, that was two more than he recorded in 2018 when he posted 14.5 sacks. I have no doubt the sack total will spike again for Miller, as he has shown no signs of slowing down.
27) Ryan Ramczyk, OT, New Orleans Saints
While Zack Martin has been widely considered the best guard in the league, the best offensive tackle has been a little bit more of a debate. Some would put Ryan Ramczyk’s name at the top of the list, and they’d have a compelling argument in doing so.
Ramczyk earned his first AP first-team All-Pro selection in 2019. He has missed just one game in his three-year career with the Saints, playing 100%, 95%, and 99% of all snaps since 2017. As noted by PFN’s Matt Valdovinos, Ramczyk surrendered zero sacks in 2019, more than earning his All-Pro selection. His stellar pass blocking was a major contributor to the Saints offensive line ranking 3rd in Football Outsiders adjusted sack rate in 2018 and 2019.
Ramczyk has also shown prowess in the ground game. The Saints ranked 5th in adjusted line yards on runs behind the right tackle in 2018 and 7th in 2019. Ramczyk should continue to be a force on the edges during his time in the NFL.
26) Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
If it weren’t for an inordinate lack of touchdowns, Julio Jones might be considered far and away the best wide receiver in the league. During his stellar career, he has led the league once in receptions, twice in receiving yards and targets, and three times in receiving yards per game and yards per touch. He even led the league in yards from scrimmage in 2015 with 1,871.
The two-time first-team All-Pro showed no signs of slowing down in 2019, ranking 6th in receptions, 2nd in targets, 2nd in receiving yards, 3rd in receiving yards per game, and 5th in target share. If you want to call Jones the best wide receiver in the NFL, I won’t argue with you. Ignore the most volatile stat of all stats (touchdowns), and he has as strong a case as any to hold that moniker.
25) Nick Bosa, DE, San Francisco 49ers
With a family history of excellence in the NFL and a reputation formed by a dominant college career, there was pressure on Nick Bosa to succeed immediately after being selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the second overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Bosa exceeded expectations and then some in 2019. He was twice named NFC Defensive Player of the Week and voted the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year after a season that saw him contribute nine sacks, 16 tackles for loss, and 25 quarterback hits. Only three 49ers players have had more sacks in their rookie season and his four postseason sacks rank second all-time in the NFL for a rookie.
After an impressive rookie campaign, expect Bosa to dominate for the 49ers defense again in 2020.
24) Chris Jones, DL, Kansas City Chiefs
Since being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 37th pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, Chris Jones has consistently been one of the most disruptive defensive players in the NFL. He has led the Chiefs in sacks and quarterback hits for the past two seasons, including logging the third-highest sack numbers in the NFL with 15.5 in 2018. He also became the only player in NFL history to log a sack in 11 consecutive games.
Although 2018 stands as his best season statistically, with 19 tackles for loss and 29 quarterback hits in addition to his sack totals and a second-team All-Pro nod, Jones’ most valuable contribution to the Chiefs was the pressure he put on Jimmy Garoppolo in Super Bowl 54 that led to an interception and the Chiefs’ eventual victory.
After being franchise-tagged earlier this offseason, Jones and the Chiefs have agreed to a contract extension for big money that will keep the star in Kansas City for the next several years. Expect Jones to continue to show his worth throughout the life of this new deal.
23) Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
Is there a better sight in the NFL than watching Derrick Henry bulldoze his way from the backfield to the end zone?
Henry’s 238-yard, 4-touchdown night in the Tennessee Titans’ Week 13 win over the Jaguars included the 99-yard touchdown run that stands as one of the highlights of his career and introduced him to the world.
Since then, Henry has established himself as one of the most dangerous running backs in the NFL. Those 238 yards helped him achieve his first 1,000 yard season in 2018 before dominating 2019 to the tune of 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns. He led the NFL in yards, touchdowns, and yards per game in last season as well as finishing as the RB1 in PFN’s Offensive Share Metric.
At 6’3″ and 247 pounds, Henry can be virtually unstoppable and the Titans rode him all the way to the AFC Championship Game in 2019.
22) Ronnie Stanley, OT, Baltimore Ravens
Notre Dame has consistently produced NFL quality offensive lineman, and Ronnie Stanley continued that trend when he was selected with the sixth overall selection of the 2016 NFL Draft. Since then, Stanley has been an almost constant presence on the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive line.
Other than his rookie season, the Ravens have finished in the top 10 for fewest sacks allowed in every year that Stanley has been their left tackle. He is one of the highest performing linemen in terms of sacks allowed and pressures allowed. Stanley’s ability in pass protection was one of the reasons that Lamar Jackson has been able to flourish as a passer in the NFL.
His ability was finally recognized in 2019 with a first-team All-Pro nod and PFN’s own Matthew Valdovinos ranks Stanley as the fourth-best tackle in the NFL heading into the 2020 season.
21) Cameron Jordan, DE, New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints gave Cameron Jordan a three year, $52.5 million dollar contract extension in June last year. The perennial Pro Bowl defensive end rewarded them with a career-high 15.5 sacks, good enough for third in the league in 2019.
Jordan has been a beast for the Saints since he arrived in the NFL in 2011. He has the combination of size, speed, and strength that make him incredibly difficult to contain no matter where he lines up on the field. He has the ability to rush the passer off the edge but is equally adept at forcing pressure from the inside. His 2017 first-team All-Pro season showcased that he is more than just a pass rusher, with 11 pass breakups and an interception in addition to 13 sacks and a career-high 28 quarterback hits.
Jordan is an all-round baller on the field, but just as important is a force in the community off it. He was the Saints nominee for the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year.
20) Jamal Adams, S, New York Jets
Don’t be distracted by the ongoing off-field shenanigans surrounding him, Jamal Adams on-field contributions for the New York Jets since being drafted in 2017 have been nothing short of sensational.
He truly is a do-it-all defensive leader. Adams has the versatility to influence a game from anywhere on the field. Need him to cover? He can do it, as evidenced by his 25 career pass breakups. Need him to disrupt the run game as a box safety? Sure. Want him to blitz the quarterback? He’s got you covered there, too, with an average of four sacks per year over his three career years.
After making the NFL All-Rookie Team in 2017, and a second-team All-Pro nod in 2018, Adams’ play was recognized with a first-team All-Pro nod in 2019. It is unclear where he’ll play in 2020, but you can expect more of the same.
19) Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks
Is Bobby Wagner the best linebacker in the NFL? Quite probably. What is certain is that he is an absolute tackling machine. In 2017, he set the Seattle Seahawks franchise record for tackles with an NFL leading 167 total tackles. The heart of the Seattle defense has logged 100+ total tackles in all of eight seasons since being drafted with the 47th selection of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Wagner’s dominance as a middle linebacker is further demonstrated by four consecutive seasons as a first-team All-Pro from 2016 to 2019, with another appearance in 2014. The Seahawks have ranked in the top half for defensive yards and points allowed in all but one of the seasons that Wagner has been a fixture in the middle of that defense, including four seasons where they allowed the least points in the NFL.
With the ability to wreak havoc in all phases of defense, there is no doubt that Wagner is headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame once his playing career is over.
18) Jalen Ramsey, CB, Los Angeles Rams
Much was expected of Jalen Ramsey when he was drafted with the fifth overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. It’s safe to say he didn’t disappoint, becoming a key cog of a suffocating Jaguars defense on their road to an AFC Championship Game in 2017 and one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
His time in Jacksonville may have been tumultuous, but there’s no denying that Ramsey is a dangerous playmaker in the secondary. He made an immediate impression, landing on the NFL All-Rookie Team in 2016 before being voted as a first-team All-Pro in that 2017 season that saw him log 17 pass breakups, including four interceptions.
Although his time with Jacksonville ended under a cloud, and 2019 saw a relative down year transitioning to the Los Angeles Rams, he remains a true lockdown corner and 2020 should bring a return to his All-Pro form.
17) Tre’Davious White, CB, Buffalo Bills
It may be a surprise to some to see Tre’Davious White ranked ahead of Jalen Ramsey, but since being drafted in 2017, White has been a dominant force in the Buffalo Bills secondary. After an extremely impressive 2019 campaign that helped lead the Bills to the playoffs for the second time in three years, White is beginning to garner the respect of the league.
Last season, White was twice voted the AFC Defensive Player of the Week on his way to a first-team All-Pro appearance. He snagged a career-high six interceptions, bringing his career total to 12, an average of four per season. Despite being targeted more in 2019 than the previous year, he allowed just a 50% completion rate, solidifying himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
16) Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
As the dust settles on the mega-deal that the Kansas City Chiefs handed to Patrick Mahomes last week, attention turns to how the Houston Texans might seek to secure the man they selected just two picks later. Deshaun Watson may not have a Super Bowl ring, but he has arguably been as impressive in a situation that is undeniably less stable than the one Mahomes finds himself in. Watson, in fact, has finished inside the top 11 in PFN’s Offensive Share Metric in each of the past three seasons — including a QB10 finish in 2019.
Watson has dragged the Texans to the playoffs in two straight seasons with a combination of accurate passing, competitive toughness, and mobility and escapability that Harry Houdini would be proud of. Toughness is a prerequisite of playing behind a Texans’ offensive line that allowed Watson to be sacked a league-high 62 times in 2018.
Watson is one of the most entertaining players to watch in the NFL, and despite the Texans’ questionable off-season moves, will continue to be one of the best quarterbacks in the league in 2020.
15) Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
With Rob Gronkowski’s retirement at the end of the 2018 season, the conversation of who can be classed as the greatest tight end in the history of the game reared its head. If we weren’t talking about Travis Kelce in that conversation yet, then we certainly should be by now.
Kelce heads into the 2020 season with four consecutive 1,000 receiving yard season. Other than his rookie season, he has accounted for a minimum of four touchdowns in every season of his seven-year career. Kelce has been a reliable pair of hands for Patrick Mahomes as he has forged a reputation as the best quarterback in the game. The Chiefs are simply better when he is on the field.
Kelce’s career to date draws favorable comparisons to some of the greats at the position like Gronkowski, Kellen Winslow, and Jason Witten.
14) DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals
The Houston Texans trading DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals in the off-season may stand as one of the most head-scratching roster moves of all-time. To my mind, Hopkins is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and the Texans gave him away for an absolute pittance.
Hopkins has secured 1,000 receiving yard seasons in five of his seven career years, missing out on a sixth by a measly 46 yards in 2016. He has registered double-digit touchdown seasons three times, with a career-high and NFL leading 13 in 2017. The wide receiver has been a first-team All-Pro in each of the last three seasons.
With Watson as his quarterback the last two season, Hopkins has averaged a 70% catch completion percentage, reinforcing the opinion that he is one of the safest pair of hands in the NFL whilst wowing with circus trick catches on the sideline.
In Kliff Kingsbury’s high-octane offense in 2020, Hopkins could well have a career year out in the desert.
13) Joey Bosa, DE, Los Angeles Chargers
The fact that Joey Bosa secured the 2016 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award despite only playing in three-quarters of the season should tell you everything you need to know about the dominant force the former Ohio State defensive end is on the field.
When fully fit, there may not be a more terrifying sight for a quarterback than Bosa bearing down on you. In four seasons, he has three with double-digit sack totals, tackles for loss, and quarterback hits. Bosa is coming off a 2019 season where he ranked in the top 10 for both tackles for loss and sacks whilst registering an impressive 54 quarterback pressures.
After the Chargers picked up his fifth-year option, Bosa will be looking to secure a big payday with a standout 2020 campaign. It isn’t crazy to suggest that he may lead the league in sacks this coming season.
12) T.J. Watt, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
When your older brother is one of the most fearsome defensive players of the past decade, there is a level of expectation that follows you into the NFL. T.J. Watt has lived up to the expectation over the past three years and may well be the player you’d least like to encounter in 2020.
The outside linebacker has built a fierce reputation as a heavy-hitting, tough tackling, machine of a man in his short time in the NFL. Watt jointly led the NFL in forced fumbles in 2019 with eight, taking his career total to an impressive 15.
The most troublesome thing for opposing offenses is that he is still getting better. Watt has increased his production in terms of forced fumbles, sacks, and tackles for loss every year so far which resulted in him being named as a first-team All-Pro in 2019. And his best may be yet to come.
11) Chandler Jones, DE, Arizona Cardinals
For a long time, Chandler Jones was seen as being unheralded and under the radar with regards to the best pass rushers in the NFL. After a 2019 season that saw him finish second behind Stephon Gilmore in the vote for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, that narrative has finally been quashed.
The former first-round pick of the New England Patriots has secured more sacks and tackles for loss than any other player in the NFL since his arrival in the league. He has been in the top 10 for sacks for five consecutive years, leading the league in 2017 and finishing second with a career-high 19 sacks in 2019. Jones also shared the league lead for forced fumbles with T.J. Watt last season.
With an improved unit around Jones in 2020, including first-round pick Isaiah Simmons, expect Jones to be defensively dominant again as the Cardinals look to challenge in the NFC West.
[su_button url=”https://www.profootballnetwork.com/top-100-nfl-players-2020/5/” style=”flat” background=”#540008″ color=”#ffffff” size=”5″ wide=”yes” center=”yes” text_shadow=”0px 0px 0px #000000″]Next Page: Top 10[/su_button]
10) George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers
For many years now, the first tight end that has come to mind when the position was mentioned has been Rob Gronkowski. Kittle is now ready to take that title (if he hasn’t already) as a tight end that can be a threat both as a receiver and a blocker.
In terms of his receiving skills, Kittle has been superb since entering the league. In his three years with the 49ers, Kittle has ranked in the top 10 at the position in Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM). Additionally, he has gone over 1,000 receiving yards in each of the previous two seasons, ranking in the top 20 in the league when it comes to yards per game. His hands are also as safe as they come, with just two drops and a 79.4% catch rate in 2019.
However, if this placement was all about pass-catching then we might be looking at Travis Kelce in the top 10 rather than Kittle. What Kittle brings to the table on top of his pass-catching is his physicality, be that after the catch or in his blocking assignments. That ability to be dominant in both facets of his game is what makes Kittle a top-10 player when we are discussing the very best players in the NFL.
— NFL (@NFL) December 8, 2019
9) Khalil Mack, OLB, Chicago Bears
Mack is coming off his worst season since his rookie year back in 2014. However, even a down year for Mack is still a strong year on the stat sheet, with 8.5 sacks, 4 passes deflected, 5 forced fumbles, and 14 QB hits. While he ranked tied for 27th in sacks and tied for 46th in QB hits, he was fourth in forced fumbles.
In terms of pressures according to Pro Football Reference, Mack ranked tied for seventh in the league in 2019 with 45. He also ranked second in the league when it came to quarterback hurries, behind just Aaron Donald with 30. Those numbers are extremely close to what he put up in 2018, demonstrating that his sub-par production numbers in 2019 are perhaps more due to circumstance than his own performance.
In the six years that Mack has been in the league, he has been named a first-team All-Pro three times. Only three defensive players and five players in total have received that honor more times than Mack while he has been in the league.
8) Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
Ever since he entered the NFL, Michael Thomas has been a good receiver. But over the last two seasons, he has taken that jump to be considered the very best receiver in the league. The 2018 and 2019 seasons saw Thomas go over an 80% catch rate, both of which rank in the top 5 all-time at the wide receiver position since targets and catch percentage were first tracked in 1992.
In 2019, Thomas led the league in targets, receptions, and yards per game, as well as finishing tied for fourth in touchdowns with nine. That was the third time in four seasons that Thomas has caught nine touchdowns in a season since entering the NFL. 2019 was also the third year in a row in which Thomas had over 100 receptions, as well as the fourth-straight season over 1,000 yards receiving. Thomas was so dominant in 2019 that he broke Marvin Harrison’s long-standing reception record with more than a game to spare.
When it comes to his PFN OSM ranking, Thomas has finished third and fourth in the last two years respectively. That demonstrates that despite playing in a great offense, he has been performing strongly when it comes to factors within his control. What makes his catch rate over 80% even more impressive is that Thomas ranked in the bottom half of the league in separation, meaning that he is usually covered tightly.
Thomas’ effect on the Saints’ offense was clear to see in 2019, as he ranked first in the league in expected points added (EPA) by pass catchers. When that EPA is broken down on a per-play basis, only Chris Godwin and Tyreek Hill ranked above Thomas while seeing over 100 targets last season. Thomas may not be the most devastating receiver in the league when it comes to breaking games open, but no pass-catcher is more reliable than Thomas right now.
7) Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
After entering the league with a number of question marks about how his game will translate from college to the NFL, Jackson has taken the league by storm in the last year and a half as the Ravens starting quarterback. While Pro Football Network’s Shane Tyler ranked Jackson eighth in his recent top-25 quarterback rankings, he also stated that “no quarterback graded higher than Jackson in 2019.”
Jackson led the league in touchdown passes and touchdown percentage in 2019, while also ranking in the top 10 in completion percentage, interception percentage, quarterback rate, and adjusted net yards per attempt. According to PFN OSM, Jackson ranked 14th at the position — but that ranking does not take into account the significant portion of value that he brings using his legs as a runner.
Jackson led the quarterback position when it came to rushing yards and even ranked sixth in the entire league. He contributed seven touchdowns and 71 first downs with his legs, demonstrating the value to the Ravens that his running game brings. At 6.9 yards per attempt, he led the entire league when it came to qualified players, topping second-placed Raheem Mostert by 1.3 yards per attempt.
Jackson was the second quarterback in as many years to win the MVP in his first full year as a starter, following in the footsteps of Patrick Mahomes. Jackson will need to continue to improve as the league now has an entire season of tape with which to study. If Jackson can continue to be as dominant in 2020 as he was in 2019, then expect to see him even higher on this list next year.
6) Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
The value of running backs in the NFL has been something of much scrutiny over the past decade. With the position seemingly becoming more replaceable on a season-by-season basis, it is somewhat surprising to see a running back in the top 10 of our rankings.
That ranking is further called into question when McCaffrey ranked just 14th amongst running backs when it came to his PFN OSM grade in 2019. McCaffrey ranked just ninth in the league in terms of yards per carry, but did manage to find the end zone the third-most with 15 rushing touchdowns last season. However, McCaffrey is far more than just a running back, as he doubled as a receiver in the Panthers offense in 2019.
McCaffrey ranked first among running backs with 142 targets, which placed him eighth in the league overall. With a catch rate of over 80%, he ranked second in the league in receptions per game, adding 1,005 yards receiving and four receiving touchdowns. In 2019, McCaffrey ranked 13th in the league in terms of EPA/play on receptions as well as 12th among the position in EPA/play when it comes to rushing.
5) Quenton Nelson, OG, Indianapolis Colts
Since entering the league as the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, Nelson has become something of a legend. When he scored a touchdown in November 2019, Twitter exploded with delight to see such a respected player get his opportunity in the limelight. The touchdown may not have counted, but the reaction told you everything about the way Nelson is viewed.
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) November 17, 2019
The Indianapolis Colts offensive line had widely been viewed as a joke for much of retired quarterback Andrew Luck’s time with the team. However, the arrival of Nelson changed all of that, as the Colts offensive line immediately became a top-10 unit. While that is not all thanks to Nelson, his presence in the middle of the line goes a long way towards giving that line the solidity required.
To be selected as a first-team All-Pro twice in your first two seasons is an extremely impressive feat. Nelson’s strength, agility, and technique saw Pro Football Network’s Matt Valdovinos refer to him as his “1B” among the top interior offensive lineman in the league back in May. However, Nelson’s raw skills are arguably on another level compared to Valdovinos’ number one in Zack Martin, so to see him as the top interior offensive lineman and a top-5 selection on our list is no surprise.
4) Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots
Gilmore was already considered among the best in the league at the cornerback position prior to his 2019 season. Leading the league in both interceptions and passes deflected has only served to increase his reputation as the top of the position.
When it comes to his completion percentage allowed in 2019 (50.5%), Gilmore ranked 18th in the league, and seventh among players to have seen more than 75 targets. In his 101 targets in 2019, Gilmore did not allow a single touchdown to be scored, while allowing the third-lowest QB rating when being targeted.
The 2019 season was the second in a row that Gilmore was voted a first-team All-Pro. His numbers in 2019 were extremely impressive, especially the six interceptions and being the only cornerback to see over 100 targets and not allow a single touchdown. Gilmore is consistently viewed as a player that opposing teams need to throw the ball away from, which he demonstrated to great effect last season.
3) Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Wilson has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks since he entered the league in 2012. In the past five years, he has thrown for over 3,950 yards four times, and thrown more than 30 touchdowns passes four times. Amazingly, Wilson is still somewhat underrated, with other quarterbacks seemingly stealing the spotlight from him on a yearly basis.
While Wilson did not lead the league in any positive statistical categories over the past two seasons, he is consistently in the top 5 or 10 across the board. In 2018, his touchdown percentage was 1.3% higher than the player who ranked third, Ryan Fitzpatrick, but was overshadowed by the incredible season put together by Patrick Mahomes. Then in 2019, everything Wilson did was seemingly overshadowed by Lamar Jackson.
However, the reason Wilson is so incredible is that he succeeds despite not always having the most talented supporting cast. This is emphasized by his PFN OSM grades over the past four years, which have seen him ranking in the top 5 at the position three times and includes a QB3 finish in 2019. Wilson has succeeded despite ranking in the bottom 5 in sack percentage in the past two years playing behind offensive lines that have ranked 30th and 24th in pass blocking in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
The Seahawks have always had a strong defensive unit during Wilson’s time in the NFL. However, he has put up strong numbers offensively despite being surrounded by a generally mediocre group of players on offense. Sure he has had the odd standout, such as Marshawn Lynch and Doug Baldwin, but rarely has he been surrounded by elite offensive talent.
Entering 2020, Wilson is finally looking at an offense loaded with playmakers. Could this be the year that we finally see Wilson win the coveted MVP award, of which he has shockingly never even received a single vote in his career?
2) Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes’s impact on the NFL over the past two seasons has been huge. In his first full season as a starter, he led the league in touchdowns, touchdown percentage, and adjusted yards per attempt. The only thing that stood between him and the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl that season was an ill-timed Dee Ford offsides penalty helping the New England Patriots advance to the Super Bowl and win their third championship in the last six years.
In his recent top 25 quarterback rankings, PFN’s Shane Tyler ranked Mahomes second but acknowledged just how close it was between Mahomes and Wilson for that number one spot. Part of that reasoning is how much Wilson elevates his team compared to Mahomes, who has the privilege of playing with a superb collection of offensive talent. Across the last two seasons, Mahomes has ranked 15th and 17th when it comes to PFN OSM in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
However, when you watch the film on Mahomes, the talent is obvious. Mahomes has a rocket for an arm and ranked in the top 10 in Intended Air Yards per attempt. Additionally, he carries the ball smartly, averaging 4.75 yards per attempt, having picked up 34 first downs with his legs in the last two seasons. On top of that, he is capable of producing huge plays with his legs when his team needs him to step up, such as in the AFC Championship Game last season.
Another somewhat underrated element of Mahomes’ game is his ability to avoid sacks. Across the past two seasons, he has ranked in the top 6 in the league in sack percentage, with there being numerous instances of Mahomes avoiding pass rushers and making plays with his legs.
1) Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams
There were really only ever two candidates for this top spot and Donald just edged Mahomes in our voting. Donald has now earned five-straight first-team All-Pro selections, racking up double-digit sacks in four of those five years in addition to winning the AP Defensive Player of the Year award twice. He has also led the league in tackles for loss in each of the last two seasons.
His 12.5 sacks last season placed him seventh in the league, while he ranked 11th in QB hits. If we dig deeper into the stats, Donald also ranked second in pressures while leading the league in QB hurries. In fact, it is the second-straight season that he has ranked in the top two of those two categories.
Only a select few defensive players see opponents devise entire game plans in an attempt to neutralize them. What is even rarer is when that player is still able to be among the very best at his position despite opposing coaches’ best efforts to minimize his impact. Donald is a gameplan destroyer and frankly one of the very best to ever play.