Like I do every year once the official player’s countdown is fully released, I wanted to make my own top 100 list. There is a serious misconception about the voting process. While opinions are heavily based on last year, this list is about the 2018 NFL season. It’s not about grading what they did last year alone, but rather what to expect from them this upcoming campaign. That’s why it is the top 100 players of 2018. I mean only 12 teams even played this year so far. Of course you should have recency bias to some degree, but you also have to look at the body of work and what you believe they are capable of. Without any further ado, here’s what I came up with:
1. Aaron Donald
2. Tom Brady
3. Antonio Brown
4. Aaron Rodgers
5. Von Miller
6. Le’Veon Bell
7. Julio Jones
8. Todd Gurley
9. Bobby Wagner
10. Luke Kuechly
To me there is no doubt about who should be on top of this list. Donald is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, coming off a season in which he led the league with a ridiculous 91 total pressures and recorded 16 tackles for loss, despite playing in just 14 games.
Brady on the other hand just won the MVP and once again took the Patriots to the Super Bowl, where he was a Hail Mary away from becoming the only player to ever win six Lombardis. He is the most efficient signal-caller in the game.
Brown would have had a serious shot at taking home MVP honors had he not gotten hurt in week 15. Even pretty much with three less games, he still ended up leading the league in receiving yards and routinely came up clutch in the biggest moments.
The guy who could end up being number one at the end of the 2018 once again is Rodgers. When he is healthy and has weapons around him, he is borderline unstoppable. He can carve defenses up from within the pocket, but nobody is more dangerous on the move.
Miller is still the standard for edge rushers to me. His combination of first-step quickness and bend around the corner is unmatched. He has finished with double-digit sacks in four straight seasons, but also recorded 17 TFLs last year and is underrated in coverage.
Bell is my number one running back, because he does everything so well. He is the prototype slow-to-it, blow-through-it zone runner, he can split out wide and run routes better than the majority of receivers and he is one of the better pass protectors in the league as well.
The reason I “only” have Julio at number seven is due to the fact we’ve seen him disappear in some games. While some of the blame goes to his OC, I remember Xavier Rhoades holding him to two catches. Regardless, when he gets going, nobody can cover him.
Coming it at number eight is the league’s reigning touchdown leader Todd Gurley. The Rams workhorse not only found the end-zone 19 times, but he also amassed 2093 yards from scrimmage.
Wrapping up the top ten are two middle linebackers. I don’t think anybody was better at the LB position in 2017 than Bobby Wagner. He is incredibly instinctive, has sideline-to-sideline speed and did not miss a tackle until the final three weeks of the season, when he was banged up.
Kuechly on the other hand has been the standard for middle linebackers basically since his sophomore campaign. I’d still give him the nod over Wagner in terms of coverage ability, but he has missed ten games over the last three years.
11. Khalil Mack
12. DeAndre Hopkins
13. Jalen Ramsey
14. Russell Wilson
15. Calais Campbell
16. Cameron Jordan
17. Harrison Smith
18. Fletcher Cox
19. Drew Brees
20. Carson Wentz
Just outside my top ten lands Khalil Mack. He might not be the type of fluid, bendy edge guy Von Miller is, but boy is he whupping people. He is a terror in the run game and takes offensive tackles back for a ride into the quarterback’s lap routinely.
D-Hop has emerged as one of the premiere receiving threats in the game and there is no doubt about it. In the last four years with a combination of nine different quarterbacks, he has averaged 1266 yards and nine TDs per year, but he just punked defenders last season.
It is only fitting to put his arch nemesis and division rival Jalen Ramsey right behind him. I was extremely high on Ramsey coming out of FSU, but not even I could have imagined him being the league’s top corner coming into just his third season.
Wilson might be the most valuable player in the NFL if you really look at what he means to his team. He hasn’t had a somewhat competent offensive line in front of him in a couple of years now, he has never had a true outside weapon and he still carries them to nine or ten wins every season.
At 15 I have the new mayor of Sacksonville. The Jaguars already had a lot of talent, but once Calais Campbell came into town, he changed the culture and helped their defense become a dominant unit, as he recorded a total of 73 pressures, rushing inside and out.
Cam Jordan might have just been the most underrated player in the entire league heading into 2017 and I’m still not sure if he gets the credit he deserves. This was his third straight year of more than 50 pressures and he took his game to a new level with 74 a piece, 12 batted passes and a touchdown.
The blame game continues. Can someone please explain to me how Harrison Smith was not voted into the Pro Bowl? At least he still made the trip as an alternative and was named first-team All-Pro. Smith is the most complete safety in the league and received PFF’s highest grade ever at the position.
While I believe Aaron Donald is the unquestioned premiere interior D-lineman, Cox would reign supreme without him. While he is not quite as quick as Donald, Cox is the most powerful force on the inside. He excels in both the run and pass game.
Next up are my last two quarterbacks in my top five. Drew Brees is still among the elite in the game, completing 72 percent of his passes with a 3:1 TD-to-INT rate and a QB rating of 103.9. With a more run-centric offensive approach his totals went down a little, but when his team really needed him, like they did against the Redskins last season, he can still take over games.
Wentz was my league MVP through week 13 last year. I was as surprised as anybody about how the Eagles train just kept on going all the way to a Lombardi trophy, but don’t let that fool you about Wentz’s greatness. His numbers were off the charts, but the situational excellence and ability to extend plays were even better.
21. Patrick Peterson
22. David Johnson
23. Travis Kelce
24. Cameron Heyward
25. Xavier Rhodes
26. Jadeveon Clowney
27. Geno Atkins
28. Joey Bosa
29. A.J. Green
30. Odell Beckham Jr.
While we love the brash, young Jalen Ramsey making big plays and talking the talk, Patrick Peterson has been pretty quiet recently. That’s because he has been locking down one side of the field on a game-by-game basis and rarely has quarterbacks looking his way.
Johnson missed all but one game in 2017 to a wrist injury, but looking back at him the year before, I could not leave him off the list. He recorded 2118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns that year. He could put up similar numbers once again this upcoming season.
Here it is – Travis Kelce is the best tight-end in the league for me. I know Gronk can take over games and just bully defenders, but Kelce is a much better route-runner and makes people miss after the catch constantly. Just look at what happened to the Chiefs once he went down in the Wildcard Round.
Heyward is another guy, who just doesn’t get the love he deserves. The Steelers had eight Pro Bowlers, but he wasn’t voted in. As a five-technique, Heyward recorded 12 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. Those are crazy numbers at that position.
“Rhodes” were closed in 2017. The Vikings’ number one corner erased some of the league’s premiere receivers every week. Rhodes held Michael Thomas, Mike Evans and Julio Jones to an average of 43 yards against him.
I’m not sure if there is a more frightening player in the league to line up across from than Jadeveon Clowney. Looking at what he does to opposing tight-ends is absolutely disrespectful. He came in as a raw athletic monster, who was labelled as a bust early on, but he has developed into a menace in all facets of the game.
Before Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox emerged, Geno Atkins was the gold-standard for three-technique defensive tackles. While those two guys have taken away some shine from the Bengals’ eight-year vet, he has still produced 70 total pressures last season.
Bosa has been one of the elite players in the NFL ever since he entered the league in 2016. No defensive end coming out of college was as technically refined as the Ohio State product. In his two-year career he has notched 134 total pressures, despite missing his first four games his rookie campaign.
2016 was the only of his seven years in the league, A.J. Green came up just short of 1000 yards on the season. His body control and catch radius are crazy. He can get off the line against press as well as any receiver and he rarely drops any catchable balls.
When Odell is right, mentally and health-wise, he is one of the biggest talents we have seen in the league in some time. I don’t like the antics or the off-field stuff, but I certainly believe that he wants to be great and can change the complexity of a game in a heartbeat.
31. Trent Williams
32. Tyron Smith
33. Rob Gronkowski
34. Chandler Jones
35. Earl Thomas
36. LeSean McCoy
37. Landon Collins
38. A.J. Bouye
39. Matt Ryan
40. Ezekiel Elliott
Williams missed ten games over the last two season, but when he is healthy, he is my number one offensive tackle in the league. He is similar to Clowney, in terms of putting fear into opponents’ hearts when he moves towards them and he dominates in pass pro as well.
Right behind Williams I have the second guy, who I consider to be competing for that top tackle spot. Smith has missed three games in each of the last two seasons and Dak felt his lack of presence (see six sacks given up by his backup versus Adrian Clayborn). Let’s see if he can back to his 2015/16 form.
Like I said, there is no tight-end who is more physically dominating than Gronk. I still believe he is a tremendous player and I remember him completely taking over the Steelers game in week 15. However, he hasn’t played a full NFL season since 2011 and his physical gifts will relinquish soon.
Chandler Jones was already a nightmare for offensive tackles, but his 2017 season was phenomenal. He led the league in sacks (17) and tackles for loss by a wide margin at 28 total (seven more than the next-closest). Yet, his total pressure numbers were not quite as high as the pass rushers ahead of him.
While I don’t believe he is the best overall safety in the league anymore, Thomas is still the premier center-fielder in those one-high safety schemes. His range to make plays on the ball outside the numbers as well as the way he races up and leverages himself from that free safety spot are outstanding.
Shady has probably been the most elusive runner in the league since Marshall Faulk. The way he can cut on a dime and set defenders up in the open field is still the best in football. Last season, McCoy carried the Bills to a playoff seed, as Buffalo relied heavily on him with almost 350 touches.
Collins’ ranking on the actual player’s list took a massive bump due to the Giants lackluster season, but he is still one of the top players in that role. Collins had a forgettable rookie campaign, in which the G-Men asked him to play a lot of single-high, but once they limited him to one side of the field or let him drop down, he has become a beast at racing up against the run and making plays in coverage.
I don’t want people to fail at giving Bouye the credit he deserves just because he plays on the opposite side of Jalen Ramsey. He had a phenomenal season, allowing a league-low passer rating of 31.6 and not surrendering a single touchdown, outshining his partner in crime for stretches.
Matty Ice couldn’t quite reproduce the numbers from his MVP season the prior year, but he was still one of those guys just outside the elite quarterback range. I can’t remember someone having that much bad luck in one season. Seven of the 12 interceptions he threw came off the hands of one of his receivers.
Zeke missed six games due to suspension in 2017 and saw a big drop in his ranking, from number seven overall to outside the top 50. However, I still see him as a top five running back in football. His combination of explosiveness and power is unmatched.
41. Keenan Allen
42. Eric Weddle
43. Matthew Stafford
44. Casey Hayward
45. Marshal Yanda
46. Marshon Lattimore
47. Brandon Graham
48. Michael Thomas
49. Kawann Short
50. Ben Roethlisberger
I’m so glad to see Keenan Allen finally stay healthy and put it all together. He hadn’t found a way to play a full season since his rookie campaign, but last year he became one of the premiere receiving weapons. Nobody had a four-game stretch quite like Allen, when he amassed 547 yards over that stretch.
When people talk about the best safeties in the league, Weddle’s name rarely ever gets mentioned, but he has been excellent for almost a decade now. He moves around a ton before the snap, disguising what the defense will do, and shows up all over the field.
Stafford is finally beginning to get the credit he deserves. I know he has yet to win a playoff game or any big game of relevance for that matter, but there is no more gritty quarterback, who always seems to find a way to lead his team down the field at the end of a game.
I didn’t go crazy when Hayward had seven picks last year, but watching him grow over his time in the league, I have to say – this guy is legit. Not only does he make plays on the ball constantly, he is usually in good position in general. Hayward received PFF’s highest grade since Darelle Revis’ 2009 season and according to advanced metrics, he spent the most coverage snaps in tight coverage.
I know he only appeared in two games last year, but Yanda to me is still the premier guard in the league. He has shown continuous excellence in the six years prior, providing a nasty attitude as a run-blocker and not having allowed a sack since the start of the 2015 season.
Lattimore was crazy good as a rookie. I charted his targets through week ten and his numbers were astonishing. His arrival in Big Easy completely changed the Saints defense, as it allowed them to leave Lattimore one-on-one with the opponent’s number one receiver for the most part.
Graham has routinely been underrated because he never used to put up any big sack number, but he has been putting pressure on QBs and taking down ball-carriers in the backfield for a while now. He finally reached double-digit sacks in 2017 and got the game-deciding strip-sack in the Super Bowl.
In his rookie season, I was already incredibly impressed by Thomas’ advanced route-running and understanding of coverages, but he took his game to another level in year two. Big Mike has become a more physically imposing version of the security blanket Drew Brees once had in Marques Colston.
Kawann Short has been one of the supreme one-gap disruptors in the league for the last three years. During that span, he has registered 60+ pressures every year and the Panthers defense has allowed just 89 yards per game on average, making his mark against both the run and pass.
There’s very few (ever), who can take their team down the field in just a few moments like Roethlisberger can. However, he had a few instances where he looked old and with offensive line in front of him as well as the weapons around him, I expect a lot from the 14-year veteran.
51. Malcolm Jenkins
52. DeForest Buckner
53. Eric Berry
54. David DeCastro
55. Alvin Kamara
56. Lane Johnson
57. Melvin Ingram
58. Darius Slay
59. Jurrell Casey
60. Zach Ertz
Jenkins is one of the best combo-safeties in the league. After starting his pro career on the outside, he was moved to safety and has developed into an excellent player. Jenkins can play free safety in base packages and then drop down into the slot on third downs.
Buckner is one of the up-and-coming young superstars in this league. I already had him headlining my top breakout candidates ahead of last season and he is well on his way. You could see flashes of his athletic supremacy when he overpowered opponents despite bad technique as a rookie, but once he started stringing his upper and lower body together, we saw what he is capable of.
A victim of the players not understanding that the list is about this upcoming season, Eric Berry went from being the top-rated safety to not even making the cut this year. When healthy, Berry’s versatility and leadership are what make this Chiefs defense tick.
With Yanda out of the picture, it was DeCastro’s time to shine last season. The Steelers’ six-year veteran played like the best guard in football, creating movement in their zone run-game and not allowing a single sack as well as just one hurry over the course of the year.
The Offensive Rookie of the Year comes in at number 56. Kamara was special his first year in the league. Unlike NFL teams, I had him as a borderline first-round pick because I already saw the shiftiness and contact balance, but obviously nobody expected this. After just one year in the league I’m not quite ready to put him among the elite though.
Lane Johnson is the best right tackle in football. There’s a misconception that you need a great left tackle and on the opposite side you can put some scrub. In today’s NFL however, some of the best edge guys come off the left side, such as Von Miller, DeMarcus Lawrence and Cam Jordan.
Melvin Ingram is one of those guys, who rush off the left edge primarily and he is killing people from that spot. I labelled the speedy D-end a first-round steal when the Chargers selected him 18th overall in 2012 and now the athletic freak has become one of the game’s best, forming the premiere edge duo with Joey Bosa.
The “Slay”maker comes in at number 58. Being tied for the lead-league in interceptions with eight and standing alone with 34 total pass-deflections, Slay is a threat whenever the ball is in the air. The Lions match him up with 1s on a weekly basis, which allows them to roll the other way.
One of my favorite guys to watch in the league is Jurrell Casey. His unique movement skills for a guy his size are remarkable. Casey is only starting to get the recognition he deserves among NFL fans, but AFC South guards have been fearing him for years now.
Behind Kelce and Gronk, Ertz is clearly the third-best tight-end in the game right now. More similar to Kelce, Ertz wins with route-running, smarts and hands. He has recorded 800+ receiving yards for three straight years now and scored the game-winner in the Super Bowl.
61. Gerald McCoy
62. Taylor Lewan
63. Jason Kelce
64. Demarcus Lawrence
65. Philip Rivers
66. Kevin Byard
67. Zack Martin
68. Kareem Hunt
69. Micah Hyde
70. C.J. Mosley
As far as three-tech penetrators go, Gerald McCoy is still in the conversation for one of the best in the league. His numbers have taken a little dip recently, but he is still a frequent visitor in the backfield despite not having a lot of help off the edges, forcing QBs to step up into him.
Lewan didn’t quite reach the level he did in 2016 last season, but I still believe he will be one of the premiere offensive tackles for the next five plus years. He brings a nasty, old-school attitude and has the athleticism to stay in front of the best pass rushers.
Last year, Kelce was the best center in the league in 17. His football IQ and mobility from that spot stand out. I think Lane Johnson is the best overall player on the Eagles offensive line, but Kelce is the most important one due to his ability to communicate and making different blocking schemes work.
I felt Lawrence was one of the more underrated young defensive linemen for a few years now, but in 2017 he took his game to another level and led the league in sacks for long stretches. The two things I really like about him is the effort he showcases against the run and the technically refinement with his hands.
Similar to Big Ben, Rivers looked like he was on the downfall early on in the season, but reassessed himself as one of the game’s best during the Chargers playoff rally. He struggled mightily against the Chiefs, but outside of those two meetings, he threw for 27 touchdowns compared to only four picks.
Byard has emerged as one the premiere young defenders and playmakers. Not only did the ball seem to find him magically, as he tied Darius Slay with those eight INTs, but he made an additional 16 plays on the ball and gets involved all over the field from his free safety spot.
That six-year, 84-million dollar contract extension Martin just received lets you know what kind of player he is. I’d still take a healthy Marshal Yanda and David DeCastro over him, but Martin is clearly the future at the guard position. He is an incredible zone-blocker and pass protector.
Rookies have led the league in rushing in consecutive years now and while Hunt didn’t quite take the league by storm like Zeke did, his debut against New England might have been the best we’ve ever seen. I even thought the Chiefs should have handed it to him some more, but he also caught 53 passes.
One of the most instinctive defensive players in all of football, Hyde really made a name for himself in 2017. I already loved watching him play in Green Bay, but in his first season with the Bills, he proved to be a playmaker all over the field.
When I ranked the top players at each level, before putting this list together, I came away with one observation – Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner are far and away the best two at inside linebacker. After them you can argue who’s next, but I went with Mosley because he is the total package.
71. Telvin Smith
72. Alex Mack
73. Everson Griffen
74. Tre’Davious White
75. Deion Jones
76. Jimmy Smith
77. Chris Harris
78. David Bakhtiari
79. Derek Carr
80. Travis Frederick
Telvin Smith was the second guy I considered for that third-best linebacker in the league. However, he is a much different type of player. At 6’3’’, 215 pounds, Smith has wide receiver size and he runs faster than most of those pass-catchers, showing up in places you just wouldn’t expect him to.
Mack got the nod a year ago as my top center, because he really brought that Falcons O-line together and consistently performed at an extremely high level. There’s not much difference in his play last season. The unit overall took a slight step back, but they will be key to their success in 2018 once again.
I usually give Griffen a lot of love, but I was really surprised to see him land inside the top 20. He is a very powerful defensive end and often doesn’t get mentioned enough, but he is in that group with a bunch of really good edge rushers.
White was the only player, who really was in the conversation with Marshon Lattimore for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He could have easily won, but I’d take Lattimore slightly above him for the future. I thought he was better suited to play nickel coming out of LSU, but he definitely proved he can get it done outside.
Similar to Telvin Smith, Deion Jones is another one of those modern-day undersized linebackers, who runs sideline to sideline. I argued for him to win Defensive Rookie of Year in 2016 because he did it over the course of the season, but he was a game-changer last year as well.
Jimmy Smith. If this guy could ever stay healthy. In seven seasons, he has appeared in 12 games or less five times. When he is on the field however, he is a shutdown corner. In my cornerback rankings through ten weeks, I mentioned that Smith had recorded more yards on returns than he had given up against him, despite dealing with an achilles injury.
The Broncos defense had a down-year in 2017 and so did the next player up, but Harris is still one of the most versatile cover-guys. As a far as nickelbacks go, he might still the top guy, but he will likely stay on the perimeter this upcoming season with Aquib Talib being dealt to L.A.
With Trent Williams and Tyron Smith hurt, you could easily argue Bakhtiari was the best left tackle in the game last season. He was definitely the best pass protector at the position and his work in the weight room has not only helped him deal with bull-rushers, but also in terms of his run-blocking.
At number 79 I have the guy who I said last year would soon be one of the great QBs in the game. Carr took a step back from his 2016 campaign, when I looked at him as an MVP candidate. I still strongly believe in him, because he can make some huge plays and has the ability to buy time.
There’s a lot of people who think Frederick is the premier center in the league. While I “only” have him at number three, I think he has been tremendous ever since entering the league. He gets overpowered every once in a while, but is asked to make tough one-on-one reach blocks in Dallas’ outside zone game routinely.
81. Leonard Williams
82. Melvin Gordon
83. Kirk Cousins
84. Devonta Freeman
85. Lavonte David
86. Yannick Ngakoue
87. Mark Ingram
88. Andrew Whitworth
89. Davante Adams
90. Jarvis Landry
Williams was my number one prospect back in the 2015 NFL draft and while that year provided a special class of running backs (Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, David Johnson and Jay Ajayi), the Jets D-linemen has been the most consistent player of that class. His combination of athleticism and effort is outstanding.
Over the next few spots, I have three backs who I have rated very similarly. I went with Gordon over the other two because of his involvement in the passing game. The former Wisconsin member finally reached the 1000-yard mark last season, after coming three yards short in 2016, but he also caught 58 balls.
The first man ever to get a 84-million dollar contract fully guaranteed, Cousins still is one of the most underappreciated quarterbacks in the league. In his three years as a full-time starter, he has completed exactly two third of his passes (66.7 percent) for 81 touchdowns compared to 36 INTs. He has yet to win the really big game, but he hasn’t always had the most to work with.
I have Freeman coming up next. He would have probably been higher had he not missed any time, but his numbers went down a little and he had six games with less than 50 yards rushing. Regardless, he is one of the angriest runners in the entire league and plays with incredible balance.
Nobody talks about this guy anymore, but I still think Lavonte David is one of the best linebackers in the NFL. He can sink in coverage, erase tight-ends as well as guys coming out of the backfield and shows up in the behind the line against the run time and time again.
Ngakoue is becoming the league’s next strip-sack artist. His unbelievable burst off the line and ability to flip his hips towards the quarterback led him to force six fumbles coming off his 12 sacks. Oh, and this was just his second season down in Sacksonville.
I actually wanted to put Ingram a little higher on the list, but him being suspended for the first four games of this upcoming season, I thought this spot was right for him. He and his division rival Devonta Freeman are very similar in terms of being violent runners with the ball in their hands.
Whitworth came over from Cincinnati a year ago and instantly transformed the Rams’ offensive line. He gave them stability on the left side and made everybody on that front step up their game. Whit will turn 37 this season and we saw some signs of him slowing down late in the season, but he definitely deserves a spot on the list.
I know Jordy Nelson had been the favorite target of Aaron Rodgers for years now, but Davante Adams has developed into the Packers’ top receiver and made Nelson expendable. His total numbers decreased slightly with Rodgers missing half the season, but he is almost untouchable off the line, goes over the top of the defenders and is hard to bring down with the ball in his hands.
In his first four years in the league, Jarvis Landry has caught a total of 400 passes. Last season he came up just short of the 1000-yard mark and the Dolphins traded him because they saw him as “just” a slot receiver, but I love the fire he plays with and he will be reliable target in Cleveland.
91. Tyreek Hill
92. Marcus Peters
93. Ryan Kerrigan
94. Mike Daniels
95. Alex Smith
96. Ndamokung Suh
97. Larry Fitzgerald
98. Stefon Diggs
99. Akiem Hicks
T.-100. Tyrann Mathieu
T.-100. Terrell Suggs
At 91 we have an absolute speedster and game-wrecker. Similar to DeSean Jackson back in the day, Tyreek Hill can change the momentum of a game on any given play thanks to his ability to take the top off the opposing defense, catch a simple screen or return a kick the distance.
His former teammate Peters comes in next. I don’t see the young corner as one of the best overall players at the position, but nobody is more dangerous to throw against. Peters’ short-area quickness and lack hesitancy to jump any route can pay off at any point of the game. And he’s a strip specialist.
Kerrigan is another guy, who simply doesn’t get the love he deserves. I think he made the players countdown once and has been to the Pro Bowl the last two years, as he reached double-digit sacks consecutively, with 13 a piece last season plus he added 15 tackles for loss.
Daniels missed a couple of games last year and was forced to play hurt for stretches, but he was dominant in a few games and I had to put him on here. The former Iowa D-lineman is the tone-setter for this Packers defense up front and he puts fear into the hearts of opposing linemen.
Same old Alex Smith? Not so much. Smith is still a creature of habit, who has his areas of the field he wants to attack and checks it down at a high rate, but he stretched the field vertically in 2017. While he led the league in passer rating, he was also third in 40+ yard completions.
I haven’t been really high on Suh for years now. His first few seasons in the league I thought he would become one of the game’s most disruptive forces. While his PFF grades in Miami were actually better than the ones he had in Detroit, his attitude (and I mean the good parts) hasn’t been. Let’s see what happens when he is paired up with Aaron Donald now.
I love Fitzy. I have been a fan of him ever since I started watching football. His intelligence, passion and productivity is pretty much second to none. I still think he is an excellent player, but he is not the 27th-best player in the NFL at this stage of his career.
With the season Adam Thielen had for the Vikings, I was close to putting him on the list as well, but I’d take Diggs over him any day of the week. I might have been one of the first ever to give Thielen props, when I saw him hustle his ass off in preseason years ago, but Diggs is such a smooth route runner, while providing explosive elements to his game at the same time.
Akiem Hicks is probably the least talked about player on my entire list. However, he had a phenomenal 2017 season. In what Pro Football Focus calls defensive stops – therefore tackles for two yards or less in the run – he was second in the entire league, with 15 of them going for a loss. He added 49 total pressures as well.
Deion Sanders called Tyrann Mathieu the league’s top safety and while he still has to win that title back, I had him as my number one overall DB on my list two years ago. With two forgettable season, in which he was banged up, I can’t put him above some other guys up here, but I won’t count him out.
I couldn’t leave Suggs off the list. The long-time Ravens outside linebacker is still wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. He is so crafty and powerful. He might not quite have the cat-like quickness he once did, but the way he sets the edge and uses his hands to shed blocks is excellent.
Will be there next year: DeShaun Watson, Dalvin Cook, William Jackson III, Reuben Foster
When I made my 2015 list, I had David Johnson as one of those guys who I thought were fixtures on the countdown the following season. Like him after his rookie campaign, I feel strong about these four young games making the jump, but they just didn’t have enough playing time for me to put them on the list. Watson was an electric playmaker, who led the league in touchdowns before he got hurt. Cook looked like the top-ten draft prospect I had him as and was first in rushing yards after his first four games. William Jackson allowed just 34.9 percent of the passes thrown his way and the least amount of yards per coverage snap, but was on the field for less than half the plays. Foster looked like the next great linebacker, flying around and punishing offensive player, but has to prove he can stay healthy for a full season as well.
TBD – J.J. Watt
Watt has been the most dominant defensive force we’ve seen since Reggie White probably, but he has played just eight games in the last two years and didn’t look the same he had done. If the three-time Defensive Player of the Year is back to 100 percent, he could easily return to the status of one of the elite players in the entire league, but until he shows that he is the still the same guy, I’m not comfortable with putting him anywhere on this list.
The next 30 guys:
Glover Quin Jr.