PFN Top 100 NFL Players of 2020: 25 through 11
Commentary provided by PFN Analytics & NFL Draft writer Oliver Hodgkinson. Follow him on Twitter @ojhodgkinson.
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.
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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.