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SportThe top 100 players in the NFL today

18:05  17 july  2019
18:05  17 july  2019 Source:   touchdownwire.usatoday.com

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With the NFL celebrating its 100 th season in 2019, you’re going to see all kinds of top - 100 lists to mark the occasion. This one is a little different. Recently, I compiled 14 different lists of the 11 best players at every position. And of those names, I then compiled this list of the top 100 players in the NFL today .

Who are the top 100 players in the NFL today ? Find out who made the list, and watch video profiles for each player below!

The top 100 players in the NFL today© Getty Getty

With the NFL celebrating its 100 th season in 2019, you're going to see all kinds of Top 100 lists to mark the occasion. Hopefully, this one is a little different.

Recently, I compiled 14 different lists of the 11 best players at every position. And of those names, I then compiled this list of the top 100 players in the NFL today. In this top 100, I forced myself to stick to players I had named in the positional lists, to avoid overdoing "skill position players" at the expense of slot cornerbacks, offensive guards, and interior defensive linemen. By drawing from a full list of positions as opposed to loading this with the most popular or highest-paid players, hopefully it gives a better and wider sense of the talent around the league than some lists might.

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The NFL Top 100 is an annual list that features the top one hundred players in the National Football League ( NFL ), as chosen by fellow NFL players .

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That said, this policy made for some weird decisions. Because when you limit yourself to the top 11 players at any position, you're invariably going to leave some players out who deserve to be in. What if there are three or four really great slot cornerbacks, and 14-15 really great quarterbacks? You still have to leave Cam Newton off the list, which seems odd. Or, if DeForest Buckner doesn't make your top 11 in a league where the group of interior defensive linemen is absolutely stacked, you have to omit him, too. Not ideal.

But as they say, perfect is the enemy of good, and I wanted to stick with this particular paradigm. So, there are quite a few honorable mentions who didn't make it, but certainly would have if the list was 10-20 players longer.

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Here are the 100 best players in the NFL , as voted on by CBSSports.com experts.

Adam Thielen, DeForest Buckner, Laremy Tunsil, Cam Newton, Kevin Zeitler, Deion Jones, David Johnson, Damon "Snacks" Harrison, Danielle Hunter, Ryan Ramczyk, Dak Prescott, Jake Matthews, Jadeveon Clowney, Brandon Williams, Byron Jones, Telvin Smith, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Joel Bitonio, and Frank Clark are among the players who just missed the cut. This should in no way be seen as me maligning their value as players… it's just that there are only so many slots for any of these guys.

So, here are the ones who did make the cut. Here are my top 100 players heading into the 2019 NFL season.

100. Ryan Kerrigan, EDGE, Washington Redskins

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It seems that Kerrigan isn't name-checked enough as one of the NFL's premier edge defenders, which raises the question, "Why not?" Over the last five seasons, he's never had fewer than 61 total pressures, 10 sacks and 26 stops. Last season was another great one for the Purdue alum, as he racked up 61 total pressures, 14 sacks, six quarterback hits, 41 quarterback hurries, 19 tackles, 10 assists, and 28 stops - all while providing outstanding run defense when required.

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Luck back in the top -20 for the second time in his career, and the first since 2015. Injuries pushed Luck entirely off the Top 100 last season, but there's no doubt he will remain The NFL announced earlier this month that Hill would not serve a potential suspension for off-the-field conduct, and he has since

In fact, Kerrigan's ability to stop the run might be his most underrated attribute, and it's the thing that put him on this list. No matter how wide he's aligned pre-snap, Kerrigan has an excellent ability to read the run play, shoot past the gaps to get to the middle, and stop the back from getting anywhere. As a pass rusher, Kerrigan works with speed and power. He has the leverage when taking angles to push opposing tackles right back into the pocket, and even when he's blocked out of the play, he has the change-of-direction skills and determination to reset and complete the pressure. Kerrigan deserves more mainstream praise than he gets.

99. Taylor Lewan, OT, Tennessee Titans

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The Titans signed former Rams guard Rodger Saffold to a four-year, $44 million deal in the offseason to help the left side of their offensive line, but Lewan didn't need much assistance as a pass-protector or run-blocker in 2018. The three-time Pro Bowl left tackle, Tennessee's first-round pick out of Michigan in the 2014 draft, allowed just two sacks, two quarterback hits and 16 quarterback hurries in 852 snaps last season.

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Whether he's executing a tackle pull to the right side, wrestling a speed-rusher around the edge, or power-blocking a defensive tackle out of the Octagon, Lewan brings a formidable combination of agility, strength and technique to the field every week. He's especially effective when pinching inside to open gaps for Tennessee's power running game, which makes him an important asset in the red zone and in other situations where pure power is required.

98. Zack Martin, G, Dallas Cowboys

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There wasn't much question about Martin's ability to dominate when he came out of Notre Dame; that's why the Cowboys took him with the 16th overall pick in the 2014 draft, and Martin has proven the wisdom with Pro Bowl berths in every one of his NFL seasons, along with three first-team All-Pro nods. In 2018, he missed two games with a knee injury but put forth his usual strong work, allowing three sacks and 21 total pressures in 1,009 snaps.

Martin comes off the snap low and with aggressive intentions, and he's great at bulling defensive tackles and getting up to the second level to deal with linebackers. Few defenders can match his strength at the line of scrimmage. And in pass protection, he's agile enough to hand off assignments in zone schemes, and even if he gets bent back to the pocket, he has the power to recover and give it right back.

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97. Micah Hyde, S, Buffalo Bills

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A highly valuable Swiss army knife defender, Hyde played 201 snaps in the box last season, 120 snaps at slot defender and 523 snaps at free safety. Wherever Hyde lined up, he didn't give much away - he was targeted 30 times, allowing 20 receptions for 179 yards, 58 yards after the catch, two interceptions and three pass breakups.

When Hyde plays the deep third, he has the ability to turn and run on deep posts and seam routes, When he's in the box, he can flare out to curl/flat responsibilities, and he can create stops in the run game. Safeties like Hyde who excel at two or three positions give their defensive coordinators new and rare flexibility in deploying their other defenders. It's an invaluable set of skills.

96. Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles

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Ertz put together his best season in 2018, with 116 receptions (an NFL record for a tight end) on 156 targets for 1,163 yards and eight touchdowns. And though he saw passes of 20 or more air yards on just 3.9% of his targets (as opposed to Dallas Goedert's 11.6%), Ertz caught five deep passes on six targets for 154 yards. Interestingly, none of his receiving touchdowns came on deep passes or from the slot.

An old-school player in that regard, Ertz is tremendously effective when aligned to the formation, especially as a red zone target. He's elusive in short areas and turns corners quickly to shake coverage. Ertz has a veteran's eye for open areas of the field, and he understands the nuances of route running in ways that allow him to peel off potential coverage at the last second. Factor in his plus-level blocking, and it's clear that Ertz is a complete player coming into his best NFL seasons.

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95. Joe Staley, OT, San Francisco 49ers

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In June, the 49ers signed Staley to a two-year contract extension that will keep him on the roster through the 2021 season. Staley will be 37 at that point, but there's no reason to doubt his ability to play well through that new contract. San Francisco's first-round pick in 2007, Staley has developed from a raw prospect out of Central Michigan into one of the most reliable tackles in the league, especially in the pass-blocking department. He hasn't allowed more than four sacks in a season in five of the last six years, and in 2018, he gave up four sacks, seven quarterback hits and 14 quarterback hurries.

Staley comes out of his stance quickly and with a straight-back backpedal that allows him to handle pass rushers from either side. When he engages, he can extend his arms to keep defenders out of the pocket, run them out of the arc or seamlessly handle an end-tackle stunt. Whether Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard or Nick Mullens, Staley was able to keep his quarterback upright no matter who he was.

94. C.J. Mosley, LB, New York Jets

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The Jets signed the former Ravens star to an astounding five-year, $85 million contract with $51 million guaranteed in March. That head coach Adam Gase was reportedly unhappy with the size of Mosley's contract says more about the clown car that front office had become than anything to do with Mosley's talent. Last season, he had 85 tackles, 27 assists, 46 stops and 44 receptions on 60 targets for 408 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and three pass breakups.

One of the league's best off-the-ball linebackers over the last few seasons, Mosley has amazing closing speed, and the quickness to roam from sideline to sideline to snuff out snort and intermediate passing plays. He can also sift through blocks to stop running backs, but Mosley's primary attribute is what he does when he's in space.

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93. Le'Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets

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Bell sat out the entire 2018 season in a contract dispute, and after the Steelers finally decided to cut bait, the Jets signed him to a four-year, $52.5 million deal in March puts him squarely as the epicenter of New York's offense. One wonders just how much Bell has left in the tank after missing a full season - but if he's still got a few years left at his optimal level from his days in Pittsburgh, the Jets will get their money's worth.

Bell is lauded to a fault for his patient running style, in which he'll wait and wait for an opening and then blast right through it, but he doesn't get nearly enough credit for his receiving skills. The Steelers aligned him all over the formation, and he would make plays you'd expect from a top slot or outside receiver. From 2013 through 2017, Bell had the most targets among running backs (397), the most receptions (312) and the most receiving yards (2,660). Add in his estimable rushing ability, and it's easy to see how any team could view Bell as a pace-setter in ways modern running backs aren't usually seen. Now, we'll just have to see how things work out for him in a conditioning and talent retention sense, but he's earned his place on this list on potential alone.

92. Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

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In early June, the Eagles signed Wentz to a four-year, $128 million contract extension with over $107 million in guarantees that will ostensibly keep him with the team through 2024. Based on performance, there's nothing wrong with that-with Wentz, the issue has been more about availability. He suffered season-ending injuries in both 2017 and 2018, but when on the field, he's had more than enough franchise-defining moments to make the deal a must for general manager Howie Roseman and his staff.

In 2018, Wentz completed 69.6% of his passes for 3,074 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His adjusted completion percentage of 78.7 tied for fourth-best in the NFL with Patrick Mahomes, and he was efficient - if not spectacular - as a deep thrower and under pressure. Through his first three NFL seasons, Wentz is tied for fifth in NFL history in combined passer rating behind Russell Wilson, Dan Marino, Dak Prescott and Jared Goff.

Wentz has the arm to make any throw and mobility reminiscent of Ben Roethlisberger's, but his development has shown in his ability to run a complex offense, peel off and throw to his second and third reads, and sneak throws into tight spaces, making contested catches easier for his receivers. At this point, Wentz's injury history is the only thing keeping him from the quarterback pantheon, and the Eagles obviously believe he's there anyway.

91. Ryan Kelly, C, Indianapolis Colts

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Kelly has missed 13 games in the last two seasons because of injuries, and that may be the only reason he isn't higher on the list. In any case, the 18th overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Alabama has been a highly touted player since his rookie season, and for good reason. In 885 snaps in the 2018 season, Kelly allowed one sack, three quarterback hits and eight quarterback hurries, and he put up strong performances when asked to turn on the power in the running game.

Kelly has the footwork and backpedal you'd expect from a tackle, and he flares out with a wide base when he's dealing with interior pass rushers. He's also more than capable of peeling off and helping his guards against the pass rush - not that Quenton Nelson and Mark Glowinski need a lot of help. Dominant at the line of scrimmage and when he kicks up to linebacker depth, Kelly has the potential to be the best center in the league. The Colts pushed the button on his fifth-year option, and if he stays healthy, Kelly will be an integral cog in Indy's high-powered offense.

90. Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns

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There were a lot of questions about Mayfield's NFL viability before and after the Browns made him the first overall pick in the 2018 draft. Some league insiders were turned off by his brashness, and others wondered if he would be able to adapt to more complex defenses after his time in Lincoln Riley's hothouse offense. To complicate matters, the rookie had to go through the first half of his first season with a head coach in Hue Jackson who seemed blissfully unaware of his potential.

But when Freddie Kitchens took over as the team's offensive coordinator, everything changed. Cleveland finished first overall in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted passing metrics in the second half of the 2018 season after finishing 29 th in the first half of the season, and Mayfield - who didn't even start a game until Week 4 against the Raiders -set the rookie record for touchdown passes with 27 and proved to be a prodigy in just about every way.

Three-pick games against the Texans and Ravens dinged his efficiency to a degree, and there were some rookie issues to work out, but Mayfield completed 63.8% of his passes for 3,725 yards, 27 scores, and 14 picks. Seven of those picks came under pressure - often when he was trying to make too much out of a busted play under pressure - but eight of his touchdown passes happened under pressure. He had more deep passing touchdowns (11) than Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, and Philip Rivers. Mayfield's ball placement and accuracy on deep throws were particularly revelatory.

Especially in Kitchens's offense, when things opened up for him, Mayfield displayed a sense of timing and anticipation on intermediate and deep passes that made Cleveland's offense as dynamic and explosive as any in the NFL. There is a gunslinger element to his play that will lead to the occasional head-shaking mistake, but he's more well-developed as a total quarterback than his detractors imagined.

89. Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans Saints

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Lattimore wasn't quite as dominant in 2018 as he was in 2017, when he allowed a catch rate of 53.8% and an opponent passer rating of 51.2 (per Pro Football Focus), but he was still very good in his second NFL season, as he shouldered more of the responsibilities attendant to a defense's No. 1 cornerback, and injuries slowed his progress a bit. The Ohio State alum allowed 54 catches on 84 targets last season for 841 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 85.5. Improving as the season went on, he was especially important in the Saints' playoff run.

At 6'0" and 192 pounds, Lattimore will occasionally get bodied out by bigger receivers, but that doesn't stop him from being effectively aggressive at the line of scrimmage, and he has all the short-area quickness and deep boundary speed you'd want in a top pass defender.

88. Rodney Hudson, C, Oakland Raiders

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Throughout his time with the Chiefs and Raiders, Hudson has put up more than enough tape to establish himself as the premier power center in the league. At 6-2 and 300 pounds, Hudson may be "undersized," but he certainly doesn't present himself like that on the field. And he's an outstanding pass protector as well, allowing just five total pressures and no sacks in 1.042 total snaps last season.

With his freakish upper-body strength, Hudson is expert at getting his hands on any defender, and he can throw guys around who outweigh him by 30 to 40 pounds. And with his quick feet, he can transition seamlessly from defender to defender in zone schemes. In pass protection, he backpedals quickly, keeps his head on a swivel and strikes out against interior defenders with power and accuracy. Hudson is a free agent after the 2019 season, and the Raiders would be wise to start contract negotiations sooner than later.

87. Zach Brown, LB, Philadelphia Eagles

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The Eagles lost star linebacker Jordan Hicks to the Cardinals in free agency in the offseason, but typical of Howie Roseman and his staff, there was a plan in place. That plan was to add Brown, the former Redskins standout who was signed to a one-year deal after Washington released him in a salary cap move. Bad news for the Redskins, who will certainly miss a guy who amassed nine pressures, 74 tackles, 17 assists and 35 catches allowed on 48 targets for 160 yards and no touchdowns. Coverage was an issue with Brown in previous years, but he really put that skill together last year, and that will serve him well in an Eagles defense requiring its linebackers to cover a ton of ground.

One of the most assignment-correct linebackers in the NFL, Brown has a great ability to tear off to either sideline and still keep his body under control to make the tackle. There are few wasted steps and movements in anything he's doing, whether he's blitzing up the middle or taking a receiver down in slant/flat coverage.

86. Desmond King II, DB, Los Angeles Chargers

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A fifth-round pick out of Iowa in the 2017 draft, King is one of several young players on this list who have established their attributes in the NFL as a primary slot defender. Last season, King played 768 of his 910 total snaps in the slot, and allowed 51 receptions on 65 targets for 425 yards, 357 yards after the catch, one touchdown, three interceptions and an opponent passer rating of 79.8.

Two of those interceptions came against Baker Mayfield in the Chargers' 38-14 Week win over the Browns. In both plays, King showed his ability to match receivers through their routes and the timing to jump routes for big plays. That timing also helps him a great deal in zone coverage, and in a defense that puts as many as seven defensive backs on the field more than any other NFL team, having a resourceful inside cornerback like King is a huge advantage.

85. Duane Brown, OT, Seattle Seahawks

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When Tom Cable ran Seattle's offensive line from 2011 through 2017, that line was one of the worst in the league - not only because of Cable's coaching, but also because Cable seemed singularly unable to find and develop blocking talent at the college level. Cable is Oakland's problem now, but one wise thing the Seahawks did was to trade for Brown, the former Texans left tackle, in October 2017. Brown immediately gave the Seahawks stability not seen during Cable's reign of personnel misfires, and when Cable was replaced by Mike Solari before the 2018 season, it all got a lot better. Last season, Brown allowed four sacks, two quarterback hits and 17 quarterback hurries in 1,122 total snaps, and his run blocking was a big part of Seattle's turnaround in that department.

At 6 feet 4 and 315 pounds, Brown has the quickness and agility to mirror any pass rusher through the arc, and he's smart enough to know when the change of direction is coming. As Seattle starts to try and put a championship line together, the team will lean heavily on Brown's energy and expertise.

84. Kawann Short, DT, Carolina Panthers

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Carolina's defensive line wasn't exactly a hotbed of quarterback pressure in 2018, with end Mario Addison leading the team at nine sacks. And the line also struggled against the run at times, but that wasn't Short's fault - he was the one point of consistency throughout the season. In 2018, he put up 34 total pressures, 29 tackles, six assists and 29 stops.

Capable of wrecking enemy offenses against the run or pass everywhere from nose tackle to five-tech end, Short has formidable quickness for his size, meaning that he can win against guards and tackles with everything from gap runs to swim and club moves to straight-up bull rushes. And with newcomer Gerald McCoy now a part of Carolina's interior line, Short should have more opportunities to make impact plays, as opposed to holding the line on his shoulders.

83. Jurrell Casey, DT, Tennessee Titans

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One of the most versatile defensive linemen of his era, Casey has moved all around Tennessee's lines since the Titans stole him out of USC in the third round of the 2011 draft. And everywhere from end to nose tackle, Casey brings pressure and stops the run consistently. In a league where the ability to move from gap to gap is indispensable, Casey has proven to be just that. In 2018, he had 44 total pressures, eight sacks, six quarterback hits and 30 quarterback hurries. He also had 38 tackles, 15 assists and 35 stops.

Quickness and agility are Casey's two primary attributes - whether he has his hand on or off the ground, he moves a lot like a 260-pound edge rusher as opposed to the 6-foot-1, 305-pound behemoth he is. Casey is also a master at exploiting leverage and angles; it's a joy to watch him carry a guard on his outside shoulder, then move in with an inside counter. And if you leave a gap open on a pull or slide, watch out, because Casey's coming right through that to the quarterback. Casey has become the very embodiment of the positionless defensive lineman in all the right ways.

82. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks

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In 2018, Lockett put up an absolutely crazy statistic: When targeted by Russell Wilson, he was good for a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Basically, when Lockett was Wilson's read, Seattle's passing offense was as good as it could be. And this wasn't just a bunch of short, easy passes, either - Lockett was targeted on 22 passes of 20 air yards or more, catching 17 for 638 yards and seven touchdowns. With Doug Baldwin's retirement, Lockett will become Seattle's primary receiver, which means he'll have to maintain his efficiency and capacity for big plays. Even in Seattle's conservative offense, that will require more than 57 catches on 70 targets.

Lockett is still getting the hang of more complex stop/start, angular and option routes, but there are few more dangerous receivers in a straight line on vertical concepts. He has a great feel for the holes in deep coverage and defensive mismatches. More will be expected of him in 2019, and Lockett seems ready for that challenge.

81. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Baltimore Ravens

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The Ravens have had a top-3 pass defense in each of the last two seasons, and it's no coincidence that Humphrey joined the squad in 2017 as the team's first-round pick out of Alabama. Entering a highly complex system, Humphrey didn't miss a beat-he's allowed fewer than half the passes thrown to him to be completed in his two NFL seasons, and his opponent passer rating of 65.0 in combined seasons is among the NFL's best.

Why has Humphrey been able to defeat the league's learning curve at the position? Whether he's playing tight to the receiver or in off-coverage, he has a great understanding of the timing and angles of routes, allowing him to close on the ball efficiency and accurately. Equal parts athlete and technician, Humphrey should continue to rise on lists like these.

80. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Is Evans the most underrated big receiver of the decade? There's an argument to be made. He's managed to exceed 1,000 receiving yards in every season of his five-year career, despite monumental quarterback inconsistency. Last season, he finished fourth in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted season-long efficiency metrics, alternating between average performances from Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick. If there's one receiver on this list who could make the argument that he's transcended his offenses, it's Evans, and it will be extremely interesting to see how he benefits from Bruce Arians' favorable concepts - especially if Arians can use his "Quarterback Whisperer" mojo to take Winston to the proverbial next level.

At 6 feet 5 and 231 pounds, Evans has the size and physicality to win any contested-catch battle. And if you put a smaller cornerback on him in press coverage, the play is basically over before it begins.

79. Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati Bengals

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Selected by the Bengals in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Atkins is one of many defensive tackles of his era undervalued because they didn't fit an arbitrary size requirement. But the 6-foot-1, 300-pound Georgia alum caught my eye in his first NFL preseason, and it's been all uphill ever since. Atkins put up yet another monster season in 2018, with 64 total pressures, nine sacks, nine quarterback hits and 46 quarterback hurries. He added 24 tackles, 14 assists and 28 stops to his statistical palette.

What some people don't seem to get about shorter defensive tackles from John Randle to Atkins to Grady Jarrett to Aaron Donald is that the leverage created by height deficits is actually a huge advantage. Atkins has always been able to parlay this into an ability to get after quarterbacks and stop big plays. And while he's always been great at getting under the pads of blockers and pushing them off their feet, he's still quick enough to run right past any opponent to get into the backfield. Coming into his 10 th NFL season, Atkins hasn't lost a bit of his edge.

78. Todd Gurley II, RB, Los Angeles Rams

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How badly was Gurley hurt in the 2018 season, for how long did he play through injury and how might it affect his NFL future? Travelle Gaines, Gurley's trainer, has said there's an "arthritic component" to Gurley's knee that should raise several red flags. The Rams gutted out their Super Bowl run with C.J. Anderson as Gurley's reserve, and they selected Memphis running back Darrell Henderson in the third round of the 2019 draft. Though Henderson is a different kind of back, it seems the team is assembling contingency plans.

It's a shame because Gurley was very efficient when healthy, ranking first overall in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted per-play and overall metrics for running backs. He also led the NFL in rushing touchdowns for the second straight season and broke 42 total tackles as a runner and receiver. Gurley benefited from Sean McVay's expansive offense in that he faced stacked boxes on just 8.2% of his carries, but he also brought more to the table than your average back would.

The healthy version of Gurley would be higher on this list based on his vision, ability to move through the hole in a big hurry, and his impressive ability to power through second- and third-level defenders just as easily as he can juke them out of position and take off for the end zone.

77. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Miami Dolphins

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Fitzpatrick played six different positions for Nick Saban at Alabama - every possible iteration of a defensive back's responsibility - so it's no surprise that the Dolphins moved him all over the place in his rookie season after selecting him 11 th overall in the 2018 draft. Per Pro Football Focus, Fitzpatrick played 23 snaps on the defensive line, 95 in the box, 166 at free safety, 281 at wide cornerback and 379 in the slot. When he was deployed in the slot, no other interior pass defender with at least 20% of his team's snaps at that position allowed a lower opponent passer rating than Fitzpatrick's 53.4. He allowed just 20 slot receptions on 39 targets for 200 yards, 111 yards after the catch, one touchdown and two interceptions.

That's a lot to hand a rookie, but Fitzpatrick is obviously up to the challenge. He has the footwork to match with any receiver, and unlike a lot of former Alabama players, backpedaling doesn't seem to be a problem - impressive, since Saban doesn't really teach it. If Fitzpatrick has another season like his rookie campaign, he might be at the top of this list a year from now.

76. Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

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Gordon missed four games in 2018 because of injuries and gained just 55 yards on 26 carries in the playoffs, but overall he was as important to the Chargers' success as anybody on offense. Gordon ranked third overall in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted efficiency metrics for running backs, and managed 885 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns on just 175 carries. Factor in his 50 catches for 490 yards and four touchdowns, and it's easy to see why the Chargers should see their way clear to extending him beyond a rookie contract that will expire after the 2019 season.

Gordon has a great sense of when gaps will open and when to react with quickness, which makes him a really good red zone option when he's healthy. And his downfield acceleration, combined with impressive balance after contact, makes him a consistent weapon in any field zone.

75. Harrison Smith, S, Minnesota Vikings

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Smith was voted NFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 1 of the 2018 season, but he seemed to be a bit under the radar over the rest of the season. The stats and tape tell a story of a player who had the kind of high-quality season we've come to expect. On 36 targets, Smith allowed 24 receptions for 336 yards, 90 yards after the catch, one touchdown, three interceptions, two pass breakups and an opponent passer rating of 71.1. Perhaps it was because Smith couldn't have the kind of season he had in 2016, when he allowed a ridiculous 29.9 opponent passer rating (enemy quarterbacks would have been better off throwing the ball away than into his area), but Smith still played very well.

If there's a more aware safety in the league than Smith, that player would have to be on a very short list. Whether he's up in the box ready to stop a run play, or in the deep third calling the shots for the pass defense, Smith aligns his athleticism with a seemingly psychic understanding of what's about to happen in the passing game. That's made him an incredibly valuable asset in Minnesota's defense throughout his career.

74. Kenny Moore II, DB, Indianapolis Colts

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Who is Moore and why is he second on this list? If you're not a Colts fan, you may well wonder. But in his second NFL season, the undrafted Valdosta State alum became a star slot defender in many ways. Moore was targeted 68 times in the slot in 2018, allowing 54 receptions for 429 yards and 265 yards after the catch. He gave up one touchdown to four interceptions, and allowed an opponent passer rating of 73.3.

Moore is nimble when asked to mirror routes, he's efficiently aggressive at the line of scrimmage, and he's got a knack for peeling off and jumping routes that makes him an asset in zone coverage. He's also a highly effective blitzer, with five sacks and 13 pressures in the 2018 season - including two sacks of Patrick Mahomes in the divisional playoffs. If this is the first you've heard about Moore, he's officially a name to know.

73. Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Dallas Cowboys

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Though Sean Lee hasn't been able to live up to his potential because of a long and frustrating injury history, the Cowboys have gone out of their way to fortify the linebacker position with Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, and it's easy to argue that Dallas has the NFL's best linebacker group. In his rookie season, Vander Esch ranked second behind Indianapolis' Darius Leonard in solo tackles (125), stops (62) and targets 94). The first-rounder out of Boise State allowed 78 catches on those targets for 432 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.

An atypically large linebacker for the era at 6-4 and 256 pounds, Vander Esch still has the agility to turn his hips and run with slot receivers and tight ends up the seam. He reads quarterback intentions very well, which puts him where he needs to be to snuff out big plays, and he's strong enough to stack and shed blockers to get to the ballcarrier with ease. Vander Esch should only get better as he continues to refine his game.

72. Bryce Callahan, DB, Denver Broncos

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With the additions of Callahan and Kareem Jackson in free agency, and the raise they just gave Chris Harris, Vic Fangio's Broncos now have three of the top slot defenders in the league. It's going to be interesting to see how that plays out on the field, but in Callahan's case, Fangio certainly knows what he's getting - Denver's new head coach was the Bears' defensive coordinator from 2015 through 2018, which is Callahan's exact timeline with the team.

One of the most technically proficient slot guys in the league, Callahan gave Fangio freedom to deploy his outside cornerbacks more aggressively, because the coach knew things were tightened up at all times inside. He was lost late in the season to a broken foot but should be good to go for 2019.

71. Jaylon Smith, LB, Dallas Cowboys

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Had Smith not torn an ACL and LCL in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State, the Notre Dame alum would have been my No. 1 overall prospect in the 2016 draft class regardless of position. His athleticism allowed him to play any linebacker position in any scheme, and his playing speed put him on a dangerous path to any ball carrier. Selected in the second round of the 2016 draft by the Cowboys despite his injuries, Smith really came around in his third season and rewarded Dallas for its faith in his potential. Last season, Smith had four sacks and 17 total pressures, 98 total tackles with 23 assists, and 48 catches allowed on 60 targets for 276 yards and one touchdown.

Smith has retained the physical skills to do everything he did in college, and he has the acumen to do it all at the NFL level. Whether he's attacking gaps on a delayed blitz, charging through run fits to create a tackle for loss, or covering a tight end on a seam or slant/flat assignment, there isn't anything he can't do that you'd expect of a modern linebacker, and that's great to see after an injury that would have stopped a lot of players in their tracks.

70. Andrew Whitworth, OT, Los Angeles Rams

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With young quarterback Jared Goff still learning how to get things done against better defenses, and franchise running back Todd Gurley dealing with a lot of injury issues, Sean McVay's Rams offense needed a standard-bearer to get to the Super Bowl last season. And there's no question who that was - the seemingly ageless Whitworth, who had one of his best seasons as he celebrated his 37 th birthday. Whitworth was involved in 1,246 snaps last season, allowing just five sacks, four quarterback hits and 25 quarterback hurries, adding outstanding run-blocking along the way.

From his Bengals days, when he played guard and tackle at a Pro Bowl level, Whitworth has never been the most agile blocker. There are times watching his tape where you're sure a younger, faster edge rusher is going to get the drop on him. But just in time, the veteran will use his understanding of angles and leverage to erase the defender, allowing skill-position players to do their thing. Whitworth will return for his 14 th season, and the Rams should be very happy to have him back.

69. Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland Browns

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The fourth overall pick in 2018 had rough games against the Saints, Chargers, and Steelers early on in his rookie season, but Ward really started to lock things down as the year went on, allowing a 50% catch rate (11 receptions on 22 targets) for 106 yards, no touchdowns, and an opponent passer rating of 63.6 in the four games he played in the second half of the season. A concussion stopped Ward from seeing more time, but his Pro Bowl berth was legitimate, as is his incendiary potential.

Ward got off to an amazing start with two interceptions against Ben Roethlisberger in Week 1, and he took the attributes that allowed those picks throughout his rookie campaign-a smooth backpedal, great quickness in short areas and speed downfield, and the understanding of how and when to jump a route. His ceiling is as high as anyone's who plays the position today.

68. Joey Bosa, EDGE, Los Angeles Chargers

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Bosa missed the first nine weeks of the 2018 season with a foot injury, and according to recent reports, he's still dealing with foot soreness - a fact that should make the Chargers nervous. But even with that, he was still a force when he was on the field, amassing 37 total pressures, seven sacks, four quarterback hits and 26 quarterback hurries. He also had 15 tackles, four assists and 15 stops in just 427 snaps. If Bosa is able to play throughout the 2019 season, one should expect a campaign more like his 2017 season, when he racked up 75 pressures, 13 sacks, 11 hits, 51 hurries and 41 stops.

A star from the time the Chargers took him with the third overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Ohio State, Bosa has every attribute required to be an exceptional edge defender. He comes off the snap with furious speed and energy for a 6-5, 288-pound player, he knows how to keep his pad level down for maximum power and leverage at contact, he turns the edge of the pocket with athleticism and efficiency, and he's got more than enough power to eliminate enemy blockers with a bull rush. Bosa and Melvin Ingram may very well be the NFL's best pass-rushing duo.

67. Ronnie Stanley, OT, Baltimore Ravens

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When a coaching staff completely changes an offensive game plan halfway through the season, it's harder on the offensive linemen than you may think - especially when the change comes with a corresponding quarterback switch. That's what the Ravens did last season in switching from Joe Flacco and a more traditional offense, to Lamar Jackson and a more run-heavy system. But whatever was thrown at him, Baltimore left tackle Ronnie Stanley handled it all with aplomb, proving his status as one of the best tackles in the NFL. In 1,144 snaps last season, he allowed just two sacks, two quarterback hits and 14 quarterback hurries, and his run-blocking was top-notch.

No matter the play, Stanley comes to it with great mobility out of the snap and tremendous upper-body strength that allows him to deal with premier edge rushers snap after snap. Perhaps the clearest exhibition of this was in Baltimore's playoff loss to the Chargers last season, when Los Angeles end Melvin Ingram dominated at the line of scrimmage. But he did very little when he was lined up against Stanley, and Stanley handled Joey Bosa just fine. He's not a big name just yet, but Stanley deserves to be one.

66. Earl Thomas, S, Baltimore Ravens

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Through his first six NFL seasons, Thomas didn't miss a single game, and he became the standard-bearer for the safety position, wresting that spot from Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. The only reason Thomas isn't higher on this list right now is his recent injury history - he's missed 19 games in the last three seasons, and though he has just about every bit of his skill set when he is on the field, the absences start to add up, especially with Thomas having turned 30 in May.

Still, the Ravens signed the ex-Seahawk to a four-year, $55 million contract in the offseason, hoping they're getting the guy who redefined the center-field safety through his first two contracts. It's a relatively safe bet based on performance, as Thomas still has the intensity, field awareness and demonic speed to shut down just about any intermediate-to-deep route and the closing acceleration to negate shorter passes and runs as he blasts downfield.

65. Jason Kelce, C, Philadelphia Eagles

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A sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft out of Cincinnati, Kelce is one of the best draft bargains of his era. He's allowed just 11 sacks and 138 total pressures in 7,902 career snaps, and over the last few seasons, he's transformed himself from a mobile, agile center with some strength issues into the most complete center in the NFL. In 2018, he allowed no sacks and just 11 total pressures in 1,153 snaps.

Kelce has always been tremendous when on the move - he targets at the second level exceptionally well, and he gets on the hoof on sweeps and pulls with quickness and a consistent pad level. What's been different in recent seasons is how he uses leg drive, a low pad level and active arms to work bigger defenders out of the play - and to the ground, if necessary. Kelce's career is an optimal example of how a player can come into the NFL with a few attributes and over time, become a total player - and the best player at his position.

64. Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE, Jacksonville Jaguars

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A third-round pick out of Maryland in 2016, Ngakoue didn't generate a lot of buzz in his draft class, but he's become one of the premier edge defenders in the NFL over the last three seasons. He dealt with an ankle injury in 2018, but that didn't stop his production - he totaled 64 pressures, with 10 sacks, 24 quarterback hits and 30 quarterback hurries, along with 14 tackles, five assists and 21 stops.

Ngakoue works very well in conjunction with Calais Campbell in packages that put Campbell inside the tackle and Ngakoue outside, but it doesn't really matter who's around him. Ngakoue makes life very difficult for enemy blockers with a ridiculously fast first step, and at 6-2 and 246 pounds, he's got more power to push with a bull rush than you might imagine. He's also improved as a run defender in every year of his career - a dynamite inside counter might have something to do with that - and he should continue to become one of the league's most dangerous guys on the outside.

Ngakoue recently held out of OTAs because he wants a second contract, and he's earned that. He's slated to make a bit over $2 million in his fourth professional season, and he deserves far more.

63. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

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Very few Packers players benefited from Mike McCarthy's final season in Titletown, which proved to be the nadir in the era of one of the NFL's most maddeningly generic and obstinate game-planners. But within all that mess, Adams managed a career year with 111 catches on 169 targets for 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was especially reliable for Aaron Rodgers on deep isolation routes in which the receiver is tasked to win physical one-on-one battles with the cornerback with little to no schematic help (an unfortunate McCarthy specialty). From short to intermediate to deep, Adams somehow made the most of a passing game that, were it not for Rodgers' improvisational gifts, should have been locked in a shed somewhere.

It's tremendously impressive how Adams has taken to the subtleties of the position through his five-year NFL career. He's become a rare scheme-transcendent receiver because he's developed all the tools to master overage, and it will be fascinating to see what advantages new head coach and offensive play designer Matt LaFleur brings him.

62. Demarcus Lawrence, EDGE, Dallas Cowboys

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In April, the Cowboys gave Lawrence a new five-year, $105 million contract with $65 million in guarantees that makes a clear statement about his status as the most important person in their defense. Over the years, Lawrence has earned that distinction, and his 2018 season was no exception. In 848 snaps, Lawrence was good for 66 total pressures, 13 sacks, 12 quarterback hits and 41 quarterback hurries, along with 47 tackles, seven assists and 49 stops. One of the most complete edge defenders in the league, Lawrence makes an impact in every possible category for his position - everything from edge rushing to consistent run defense.

At 6 feet 3 and 265 pounds, Lawrence brings more than enough speed to the table, but one thing that stands out on tape is his awareness of when to press blockers and when to back off and either neutralize them with hand stabs or work a counter to the other side. He's also perfectly capable of using pure power to hang up the best tackles in the league on his way to the quarterback. And as a run defender, he has the vision and awareness to break off from pressure assignments to negate the big play.

61. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

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After just four starts in his first two NFL seasons, Henry became the Titans' primary back in 2018 and defined "exotic smashmouth" as an explosive power back. At 6 feet 3 and 247 pounds, Henry cut a wide swath through Tennessee's opponents, breaking a league-best 45 tackles on just 215 carries. Henry had just nine carries of 15 or more yards last season, but this 99-yarder against the Jaguars made up for any statistical shortcomings.

Arm-tackling Henry in the open field is an invitation to embarrassment - he's far too powerful on the move to be dissuaded by that. For his size, he's proved able to confound defenders with quick jump cuts and downfield acceleration, but Henry's game is mostly about power with a speed element, and 2018 was the season in which that all came together.

60. David Bakhtiari, OT, Green Bay Packers

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Green Bay's offense was a hot mess over the last couple of seasons under Mike McCarthy, which is one reason McCarthy was fired in December. Though new head coach and offensive play designer Matt LaFleur may have a few issues getting Aaron Rodgers to buy into his system, one problem LaFleur won't have is the lack of a high-quality left tackle.

Selected in the fourth round of the 2013 draft out of Colorado, Bakhtiari started out raw in the NFL, but he's developed into a fine pass protector with the ability to run-block when there's a functional run game in Titletown. In 2018, Bakhtiari allowed four sacks, three quarterback hits and 18 quarterback hurries in 1,032 total snaps. This is especially impressive because under McCarthy, Rodgers (and his backups) had to wait for prehistoric route concepts to open up, forcing them to wait and float in the pocket.

Bakhtiari will occasionally lose power battles at the line of scrimmage, and he loses engagement at the back of the pocket once in a while, but when his technique is on, he gets around the arc and into his stance in a big hurry, and he's able to hold off edge rushers consistently. He's also capable of pinching inside to open run gaps and hitting the second level with quickness and accuracy.

59. Darius Leonard, LB, Indianapolis Colts

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Well, this was a surprise. Selected in the second round out of South Carolina State, Leonard won the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award, was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week in weeks 2 and 17, and was the AFC Defensive Player of the Month in December. From the start of his rookie season, Leonard proved to be a force multiplier in a Colts front seven in desperate need of one. He led the NFL in among linebackers with 141 solo tackles, 66 stops, five forced fumbles, and 110 targets. Among those targets, he allowed 93 receptions for 942 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. It was one of the most prolific seasons by a first-year linebacker in NFL history.

At 6-2 and 234 pounds, Leonard is credited with 4.7 speed, but he's much faster on the field, and that's what really pops out when you watch his tape. He can cover sideline to sideline as a big safety would, but he tackles very much like an old-school linebacker. And his diagnostic abilities, which impress for a fifth-year player - never mind a rookie - allow him to be in the right place at the right time, nearly all the time. Leonard may have come out of nowhere in a relative sense, but nothing about his 2018 season was a fluke.

58. Brandon Carr, CB, Baltimore Ravens

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Perhaps the most underrated player on this list. Carr had a really rough time in coverage his last few seasons with the Cowboys, but his two seasons in Baltimore have been a revelation. In 2017, he allowed 56% of his 84 targets to be caught for an opponent passer rating of 69.1, and in 2018, he allowed 47 catches on 83 targets for a catch rate of 56.6%, 625 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 70.6.

What's caused this remarkable consistency late in Carr's career? The 33-year-old veteran diagnoses routes as well as anyone in the business, and he's still outstanding in short-to-intermediate coverage because he's so good with his feet off the line of scrimmage, and in matching quick, angular routes. Carr will occasionally get beaten over the top, but that's the only glaring issue for a guy who was thought to be washed up a few years back, and has reinvented himself rather impressively.

57. George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers

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Kittle set the NFL's single-season record for receiving yardage for a tight end at 1,377 in just his second NFL season, and it was a big stretch over the 515 he had in 2017. There's no reason to believe he won't keep the numbers up in a Kyle Shanahan offense that has always benefited tight ends to an extreme degree.

As the stats show, Kittle didn't get a lot of deep throws - he caught just three passes of 20 or more air yards on 12 targets for 145 yards and one touchdown, but it's easy to imagine Kittle getting a lot more opportunities if Jimmy Garoppolo is playing a full season.

An outstanding route runner, Kittle fits perfectly in a Shanahan system that asks its tight ends run everything from Texas routes to Y-Throwbacks. He also has the speed off the line and second-level acceleration to beat safeties and linebackers, which adds to the inherent advantage he derives from pre-snap motion. Yes, Kittle is in the perfect system for his skill set, but he also gives his coaches a level of performance they'd be hard-pressed to find from any other player at his position.

56. Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars

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Jacksonville's defense fell off last season from a championship course, going from first in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted metrics in 2017 to sixth in 2018. The buy-in didn't seem to be what it was before, and schematic issues seemed to pop up more than expected. Still, the Jaguars' outside cornerbacks-Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye-were strong for the most part, and Ramsey maintained a lockdown style for the most part, allowing 53 catches on 97 targets for 749 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Ramsey will always be a boom-and-bust player because he's so aggressive, but when he's playing on point, he's very hard to deal with. Few cornerbacks in the league have his combination of length, quickness, and downfield speed.

55. Malik Hooker, S, Indianapolis Colts

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In just his second NFL season, Hooker became the recipient of the ultimate gesture of respect given a defensive back - an extreme lack of targets in relation to his snap totals. He was on the field for 977 snaps and saw just nine targets all season. He gave up four catches for 51 yards, 25 yards after the catch, one touchdown, two interceptions, two pass breakups and an opponent passer rating of 60.2.

Part of this has to do with Hooker's role in the Colts' defense. He's the last line in the deep third either as a single-high or split safety, so he's seeing a lot of completions underneath his position. Then, it's his job to go get the receiver, which he does with outstanding diagnostic skill and speed. But when you do throw deep in Hooker's area, your chances of success are not good. He'll either take over the route up the boundary or jump your receiver's route over the middle. Championship defenses need deep-third safeties who can shut things down play after play, and the Colts are in very good shape with Hooker in that role.

54. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

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As dynamic as Hill is in the slot - he demolished interior defenders for 43 passes on 71 targets for a league-leading 913 yards and a league-leading nine touchdowns at that position - he's also very dangerous when deployed outside. That's where he can really use his speed to take the top off a defense. Last season, he led the league with 21 receptions on passes traveling 20 or more yards in the air for 796 yards and seven touchdowns, and even with all those deep targets, Hill gave Patrick Mahomes a 113.4 passer rating when thrown to, making them a perfect combination of explosiveness and efficiency.

As is the case when he's running past interior defenders from the slot, Hill makes things very difficult for outside cornerbacks as well because of his natural speed, but it's his acceleration downfield that really sets him apart. Just when you think you have a bead on Hill downfield, he'll kick it into another gear and make the big play.

53. Melvin Ingram III, EDGE, Los Angeles Chargers

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Ingram was great all the way through the 2018 season, but his performance against the Ravens in the wild-card round may have been the most dominant single-game performance any edge defender enjoyed last year. He had two sacks, seven solo tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. It was the best distillation of Ingram's game last season, but the former first-round pick was consistent throughout the season, both as an edge rusher and as a run stopper. Wherever he lined up, Ingram was highly effective.

In 2018, Ingram totaled 70 pressures, with 11 sacks, 10 quarterback hits and 49 quarterback hurries, adding 33 tackles, 10 assists and 38 stops. As was the case when he played everywhere from nose tackle to wide end in college, Ingram is a tone-setter wherever he's placed. Those not in the know may credit his production in part to the presence of Joey Bosa, but the tape tells the real story; more often than not, opposing offenses have to focus in Ingram and work their way from there.

52. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts

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One of the league's most esteemed deep threats since he was taken in the third round of the 2012 draft out of Florida International, Hilton has taken the top off defenses even when Andrew Luck was injured. Last season, with Luck playing at a Comeback Player of the Year level after missing the entire 2017 campaign, Hilton caught 76 passes on 120 targets for 1,270 yards and six touchdowns. And as a deep threat, he was just about impossible to stop, with 16 catches on 17 catchable deep balls for 602 yards and two touchdowns.

Hilton has great downfield speed and separation ability, but it's his footwork at the line of scrimmage, and understanding of subtle route adjustments, that make him more than just another downfield speed guy.

51. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

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McCaffrey gained just 435 rushing yards and was far more of a receiving threat in his rookie season of 2017, when the Panthers seemed to want to turn the 5-11, 205-pound Stanford product into a between-the-tackles power back. Scheme met talent in a more favorable sense in 2018, as McCaffrey went over 1,000 yards on the ground and became one of the NFL's most versatile backs with 1,965 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns. He ranked seventh in Football Outsiders' efficiency metrics as a rusher and fifth as a receiver among running backs, and broke 53 total tackles as a runner and receiver.

While he has worked on his musculature to become a good inside runner with power out of his compact frame, McCaffrey really makes it go with vision and burst through open lanes, and agility and acceleration in the open field. As a receiver, he can turn a simple screen into a big play because he's so good at waiting for his blocks after releasing into the flat with perfect timing.

50. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

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Ryan's severe drop in production from 2016 to 2017 was an object lesson in the importance of aligning a quarterback with an expansive offensive coordinator (Kyle Shanahan) as opposed to an overwhelmed one (Steve Sarkisian). In 2018, with Sarkisian still at the helm, Ryan proved to be more than a product of his system by completing 69.7% of his passes for 4,924 yards, 35 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. With Dirk Koetter now on board in Sarkisian's former role, Ryan's numbers could continue to move the needle, but 2018 was singularly impressive for the quarterback regardless of scheme.

Last season, Ryan was effective in every way - as a deep thrower, under pressure and with and without play-action; that was true regardless of how much time he had in the pocket. Of particular interest were his numbers on the move and as plays extended and broke down at times - he threw 15 touchdowns and two picks on plays lasting 2.5 seconds or more, and eight touchdowns to four interceptions when under pressure. Not quite the numbers he had with Shanahan scheming his targets open to an extreme degree, but better than one would expect after his 2017 regression.

Ryan isn't ever going to threaten defenses as a pure runner, but he's got great pocket mobility - he has the footwork and field awareness to avoid pressure in short areas, and he's great at stepping up away from pass rushers. And he has the arm talent to make deep accurate throws to all areas from different platforms. Ryan has been a smooth and accurate passer for a long time, but even in an offensive structure that has given him little in comparison to what he had under Shanahan, Ryan has expanded his excellence in the little things.

49. Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings

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Diggs and Adam Thielen comprise one of the NFL's most productive and hard-to-stop receiver duos in the NFL today, and that's despite a list of quarterbacks who either had the talent but couldn't stay healthy (Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater) or are subject to their own limitations (Case Keenum, Kirk Cousins). That's limited Diggs' production over the last four seasons, especially when it comes to his potential as a deep receiver - in 2018, with Cousins as his quarterback, Diggs had six catchable deep passes in 23 targets, and he caught all six for 231 yards and three touchdowns.

Limited in his particular skill set by quarterback circumstance as he may be Diggs is still able to create big plays on every kind of pass with his speed, agility, and ability to win vertical battles at the catch point.

48. Myles Garrett, EDGE, Cleveland Browns

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The first overall pick in the 2017 draft had a second NFL season that validated that position and established him as one of the best young defensive linemen in the game. With 67 total pressures, 15 sacks, 16 quarterback hits and 36 quarterback hurries, Garrett has become a key cog in Cleveland's impressive defense, and things could be even better in 2019 with Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson on that line, along with the criminally underrated Larry Ogunjobi. Garrett amped up from 518 to 1,012 snaps last season, and he proved entirely able to handle that workload.

At 6-4 and 272 pounds, Garrett perfectly combines speed, agility and root strength to create a near-perfect pass-rushing profile. He has a great burst off the snap, and when he sets his hand movements against opposing tackles, he's very tough to deal with. And he's strong enough to not only bull-rush tackles into the pocket, but to do so with one hand while taking the quarterback down with the other.

Deshaun Watson can testify to that.

47. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts

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The Comeback Player of the Year last season after missing the entire 2017 campaign following shoulder surgery, Luck had little trouble getting back on track in 2018, completing a career-high 67.3% of his passes for 4,593 yards, 39 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Luck flourished in Frank Reich's offense, the most diverse and effective he's has since Bruce Arians ran things early in his career, and though he was a bit cavalier with interceptions on deep throws and under-pressure plays, he was good enough overall to rank seventh in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted quarterback metrics, and ninth in per-play efficiency.

Luck came into the league as gifted as any other quarterback of his generation, and he's developed those skills beyond his Stanford days. Mobility in and out of the pocket, preternatural understanding of defensive structure, and the kind of not only arm strength but arm talent that allows him to make throws other quarterbacks can't? When he's healthy, Luck has it all, and he has the capability to singe defenses as well as any quarterback in the NFL.

46. Chris Harris, DB, Denver Broncos

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Harris is the best slot cornerback in the game, the best of his era, and probably the best of all time-but throughout his career, he's also developed into a top-level outside cover man capable of taking any "X" receiver through his paces. Last season, Harris allowed 40 catches on 64 targets for 365 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 63.6, with 264 of his 747 snaps lined up outside.

As is the case when he's in the slot, Harris uses his abilities in man and match coverage to shut down opponents all over the field. With free-agent acquisitions Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan on board-both estimable slot defenders in their own right-Harris could see more outside coverage responsibilities in 2019.

45. Cameron Heyward, DL, Pittsburgh Steelers

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Heyward wasn't quite as dominant in 2018 as he was in 2017, when I would have rated him the second-best interior defender in the NFL behind Aaron Donald. But he was still above the bar, amassing 59 total pressures, 11 sacks, nine quarterback hits and 39 quarterback hurries. Heyward also had 31 tackles, 10 assists and 29 stops.

An upscale technician with tons of power, Heyward is capable of affecting the offense on any snap everywhere from nose tackle to end. He can bring a bull rush, slow-roll a double team with speed to power, skirt the edge around a tackle or confound with an inside counter. It's not that 2018 was a down year for Heyward; it's more that he set a personal standard in 2017 that he could well live up to again in 2019.

44. Jamal Adams, S, New York Jets

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The Jets are trying to recover from a down period in which their roster may have been the NFL's least talented. Adding Adams with the sixth overall pick in the 2017 draft was a step in the right direction, as the LSU alum has become a fulcrum in a defense in need of on-field pace-setting. In 2018, he allowed 24 catches on 48 targets for 291 yards, 122 yards after the catch, one touchdown, one interception, six pass breakups and an opponent passer rating of 67.3. He also had 94 tackles, 44 stops and three forced fumbles.

Adams' recovery and closing speed jump off the tape, and they're key attributes when it comes to what he does. Yes, he can blaze through a run fit to create a negative play or blitz off the edge, but what puts him on this list is his additional ability to play intermediate to deep coverage, moving through swaths of field in a big hurry to negate what might be big plays without his presence.

43. Quenton Nelson, G, Indianapolis Colts

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There are those who believe it's unwise to select a guard in the first 10 picks of a draft no matter how good that player may be. Those people may want to revise their opinion based on Nelson's 2018 tape. Taken sixth overall by the Colts in the 2018 draft out of Notre Dame, Nelson immediately took a skill set that had me thinking he was the most talented player in his draft class regardless of position right to the NFL. In his rookie season, Nelson gave up two sacks early in the season and none thereafter, with 24 total pressures.

It doesn't matter how aggressive the defender is Nelson's facing; he can match that aggression and force a draw with a solid base and aggressive hand movement. He's also great at the second level, and when he engages a defender and starts bulling an opponent back, things can get weird for the defender in a big hurry. Ask Jadeveon Clowney about that.

42. Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals

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Not much went right with the Cardinals in 2018, as the team's offensive and defensive coaches seemed uniquely ill-equipped to maximize the talents of their players. This affected Peterson as well. The Cardinals played man coverage on just 28.4% of their snaps-third-lowest in the league-and he's one of the best man-coverage cornerbacks of his generation. Still, Peterson managed to allow just 30 receptions on 52 targets for 364 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 82.5.

Peterson has always had unbelievable footwork, hip turn, and the ability to trail receivers downfield, and he's just added to that physical skill set over the years with his understanding of offenses and route concepts. He'll be 30 in 2019, but Peterson can still bring it with the best. He'll miss the first six games of the 2019 season due to a violation of the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, but when he does return, new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will at least have the good sense to have Peterson stacking No. 1 receivers as he was built to do.

41. Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers

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Kuechly has been sidelined by a number of concussions over the last few seasons, which is always a frightening thought for the future of any player both on and off the field. But in the prism of on-field performance, he's the same great player he's always been. In 2018, Kuechly was good for 114 solo tackles, 17 assists, 12 total pressures and 40 catches allowed on 53 targets for 350 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Kuechly has been renowned for his diagnostic skills since his Boston College days, and they have served him well throughout his NFL career. He's perfectly capable of blowing up running backs and tight ends on his way to the ballcarrier, but he's better at reading his gaps and blowing through at top speed. In coverage, he keeps everything in front of him and has a preternatural ability to know what's coming. Adding Gerald McCoy to a Panthers interior line already starring Kawann Short should provide Kuechly with even more opportunities for big plays.

40. Derwin James, S, Los Angeles Chargers

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Perhaps no young safety typifies the value of positional versatility than James, the Chargers' first-round pick in 2018 who wasted no time becoming the epicenter of Gus Bradley's defense. James allowed 44 catches on 62 targets for 364 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in his rookie campaign (with six pass breakups and an opponent passer rating of 76.3), but that's far from the whole story.

James was also a highly valuable blitzer off the edge, racking up four sacks, three quarterback hits and 14 quarterback hurries. In addition, he was a great run-stopper, with 91 tackles and 47 total stops - most in the league among safeties. Whether he was playing deep, peeling off pressure looks to engage in slant/flat coverage, or getting after the quarterback, James was a revelation in his first NFL season, and the best is yet to come.

39. Kareem Hunt, RB, Cleveland Browns

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Hunt will be suspended for the first eight games of the 2019 season for violations of the NFL's personal conduct policy, and as is the case with former teammate Tyreek Hill, there's no way to know if this is going to bite Hunt's team down the road in any other sense. But the Browns took a shot on him for obvious reasons - he's a big play waiting to happen, and even the Chiefs' amazing offense felt the effects of his absence down the stretch following his release.

It's also not known how the Browns will manage Hunt's inclusion into Freddie Kitchens' offense with Nick Chubb firmly established as a potentially elite back in his own right. But Hunt led the NFL in rushing yards in his rookie season, and he's a constant nightmare for opposing defenses with his knack for the big play.

Few backs can match Hunt's extra gear once he's released from contact, but he's more than just a speed guy; he uses his 5-11, 216-pound frame to bounce off potential tacklers and give impressive stiff-arms to extend plays in space. Any defensive coordinator daring to put a slow linebacker on him in pass coverage will quickly regret it as he watches Hunt scream down the field.

38. Chris Jones, DL, Kansas City Chiefs

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The Chiefs obviously thought Jones was going to be an impact player when they selected him in the second round of the 2016 draft out of Mississippi State, and he did a fine job of wrecking the intentions of opposing quarterbacks in his first two seasons. But 2018 was the breakout season in which Jones truly became one of the league's best defensive players. He totaled 79 pressures, with 16 sacks, 15 quarterback hits and 48 quarterback hurries, adding 19 tackles, five assists and 27 stops for good measure.

While Jones has the wherewithal to play the run well from the three-tech or end positions, he's best served going after the quarterback as one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, regardless of gap responsibility. Tall for a defensive tackle at 6-6 and 310 pounds, Jones nonetheless creates leverage by getting low off the snap and poleaxing guards and centers with a difficult combination of speed and power. He also has the upper-body strength to stack and shed blockers, take them where he wants them to go, and close to the pocket through the empty spaces he creates.

Kansas City's defense was a problem last season, but Jones was the rare standout, and he could be even more effective with new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and his variable pressure packages.

37. Von Miller, EDGE, Denver Broncos

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Since he was selected by the Broncos with the second overall pick In the 2011 draft out of Texas A&M, Miller has been the NFL's premier speed rusher, with 609 pressures, 111 sacks, 111 quarterback hits and 387 quarterback hurries over eight seasons. Last season was another banner year for Miller, with 64 total pressures, 16 sacks, 10 quarterback hits and 38 quarterback hurries. Though run defense isn't his forte per se, Miller has improved in that department over the last few seasons; in 2018, he had 29 total stops.

At age 30, Miller has the same ridiculous turn-and-burn around the pocket, and his inside counter is just about impossible to stop when he gets the tackle looking outside. But he's also wonderful in open space when he has to chase a quarterback down. His closing speed is exceptional, he closes quickly and with excellent technique, and he has more pure power than you'd expect from a 6-3, 250-pound player. If Miller was just a speed guy, his effectiveness would start to wane at this point in his career. It's a testament to his complete skill set that he's just as good as he's ever been.

36. Xavien Howard, CB, Miami Dolphins

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The Dolphins gave Howard a five-year, $76.5 million contract extension in early May, making him the highest-paid cornerback in the league. It's also the biggest extension for any player at his position in NFL history. Whether a player "deserves" a contract is always a subjective discussion, but Howard has shown consistent improvement through his three-year career, and 2018 was his best season yet. That's when the Baylor alum allowed 29 catches on 57 targets for 469 yards, four touchdowns, and a seven-pick total that tied for the league high.

An opportunistic defender who uses angles and leverage to stick and stay with his targets, Howard has also developed the on-field acumen to know when to break off from his own assignment to break up a play or steal a pass. If he plays as he did in 2018 over the next few seasons, he could make that contract look like a relative bargain.

35. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

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Over the last five seasons, Kelce leads all tight ends in targets (492), receiving yards (4,372) and touchdowns (27). His 343 receptions in that span are matched only by with Zach Ertz. Last season, Kelce was the most prolific deep target at his position with 19 targets over 20 air yards, nine receptions and 243 yards, Only Eric Ebron had more deep touchdowns with three. Whether his quarterback has been Alex Smith or Patrick Mahomes, Kelce has been the pace-setter in Andy Reid's offense since 2014, his second NFL season. He's gained over 1,000 yards in each of the last three seasons, and he can beat defenders from anywhere in the formation - aligned to the offensive line, in the slot or outside.

Why is Kelce such a dangerous receiver? Simply because he does everything well. If he needs speed off the line of scrimmage to beat a defender, he has that. But he's also great at delaying a route to trick an opponent, and when it's time to make a contested catch, few are better. Not only can Kelce body a cornerback or safety for the key catch in the red zone, but he's also great at moving through a defender to grab the ball. Factor in his improvement as a blocker over his career, and Kelce has become the gold standard at the position.

34. Grady Jarrett, DT, Atlanta Falcons

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The Falcons recently gave Jarrett a four-year, $68 million contract, resolving their franchise-tag drama and rewarding one of the NFL's best-and most underrated-defensive linemen. When I watched Jarrett's college tape, I thought he'd go in the second round at worst. Everything about him screamed "top-level NFL prospect." Apparently, I forgot about the NFL's ridiculous bias against shorter defensive tackles, despite the fact that shorter defensive tackles have natural leverage if they know how to use it.

The NFL's myopia was to the Falcons' benefit, as they were able to commit grand larceny by getting Jarrett in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. A part-time player in his rookie season, Jarrett has been a star ever since, both in the regular season and postseason. Had the Falcons not blown the most famous 28-3 lead in sports history in Super Bowl LI, Jarrett had a good shot at Super Bowl MVP with his three sacks of Tom Brady. Last season provided more of the same, as Jarrett amassed 53 total pressures, six sacks, 11 quarterback hits and 36 quarterback hurries. He also put up 35 tackles with 14 assists and 30 stops.

Jarrett is especially effective at nose tackle, where he uses his 6-foot, 305-pound frame to create power pushes inside. But he can also play three-tech very well with his strength and agility, and he's got the edge bend and inside counter to play end in certain packages. Wherever he lines up, Jarrett knows how to stun enemy blockers with stab moves right off the snap, and he gains the advantage from there.

33. Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns

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Last season, Beckham caught just 77 passes on 124 targets for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games. Missing time with a quadriceps injury didn't help his totals, and neither did having Eli Manning at quarterback. Manning frequently proved unable to use Beckham's downfield speed on deep balls, or connect with him on the timing of simple slants and drags. Basically, Beckham's talent went to waste in Big Blue's offense in 2018. What does it mean now that he's been traded to the Browns and Baker Mayfield is his quarterback? Per Pro Football Focus, Beckham had nine catchable opportunities on 23 deep passes, and he caught them all. The ones he didn't catch were often balloons that allowed defenders to easily converge at the catch point.

In addition to his obvious speed, agility and acrobatic tendencies when it comes to difficult-to-catch balls, Beckham also has an impressive toughness in traffic which makes him a very well-rounded receiver. It will be quite exciting to see what he does with Mayfield throwing him those deep passes in 2019.

32. Mitchell Schwartz, OT, Kansas City Chiefs

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When we talk about the value of right tackles in the modern NFL, we might as well start with Schwartz, who's the best player in the league at his position. A second-round pick for the Browns out of Cal in 2011, Schwartz struggled in pass protection his first few seasons, but really came around in 2017 and 2018, and he was a major part of Kansas City's incendiary offense last season. In 1,178 total snaps, he allowed four sacks, eight quarterback hits and 14 quarterback hurries, and put up solid tape when run-blocking as well.

Not only does Schwartz have to maintain his pass pro against some of the best edge rushers in the league, he also has to do it as Patrick Mahomes improvises in and out of the pocket, which complicates things for any blocker. But he's such a good technician, he can catch defenders through the arc and into the pocket, work them from side to side as they try counters, and bull them out with his arms. Schwartz will occasionally let a better edge rusher slip by, but for the most part, he's as reliable as they come.

31. Tre'Davious White, CB, Buffalo Bills

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Most young cornerbacks find themselves in a vicious learning curve when transitioning from college to the NFL-receivers are better and smarter, route concepts are far more complex, and coverages are more variable. White has proven the exception to the rule. He allowed a 48.1% catch rate and an opponent passer rating of 64.9 in his rookie season of 2017, and given equivalent opportunities in 2018, White showed that he doesn't know what a sophomore slump looks like-he allowed 30 catches on 52 targets for just 357 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 75.6.

Whether he's playing bail or press coverage down the boundary or following a receiver through a crossing route or deciphering his assignment on a route combination, White has an impressive combination of savvy and aggressiveness that belies his relatively short time at the NFL level.

30. Shaq Mason, G, New England Patriots

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One of the things that makes Mason such an effective player is that he doesn't defer to anybody - in Super Bowl LIII, he did a job on Aaron Donald that most guards could only dream of. This jibed with his performance all season; he was the primary wrecking ball in a Patriots run game that became a major part of New England's sixth Lombardi Trophy under Bill Belichick. In 2018, Mason allowed one sack and 20 total pressures in 1,202 total snaps. Not bad for a fourth-round pick in the 2015 draft.

Mason strikes out with low pads and heavy leverage in the run game, pushing defenders back as a matter of course. A good hand strike from him can push a defender back a few yards, and Mason can follow up by moving that defender clear out of the play. And as a pass blocker, he does a great job of stabbing with his hands, moving tackles off their landmarks. Mason is the NFL's best guard because he uses technique and power in a package that makes it nearly impossible for defenders to beat him on a consistent basis - no matter how good they are.

29. Terron Armstead, OT, New Orleans Saints

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In a high-volume passing game like the Saints', the offensive tackles had better be able to pass-protect from down to down on a highly consistent basis. Give up a pressure too often, and things start to fall apart. New Orleans has a fine right tackle in third-year man Ryan Ramczyk, but it's Armstead who really holds it all together on the left side. Despite a shoulder injury that cost him six regular-season games last season, Armstead allowed just two sacks, three quarterback hits and eight quarterback hurries in 742 total snaps.

Armstead's game is all about using his speed and quickness off the snap to negate his opponent's burst to get to the pocket. He gets into his stance quickly off an agile kick-slide, and he can "catch" a defender just as easily as he can extend his arms and set the tone. And with all his technique, he's perfectly happy to shoot inside on a power running play and engage a defensive tackle with his hands on the numbers.

28. Cameron Jordan, EDGE, New Orleans Saints

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The Saints defense has improved drastically in the last two seasons, moving from 31 st in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted efficiency metrics in 2016 to eighth in 2017 and 11 th in 2019. But even in the lean years, when the secondary was a mixed bag at best and the linebackers were underperforming, Jordan was the one guy the team could count on to bring it every week. That hasn't changed in recent seasons - it's just that now, Jordan has enough talent around him to be the epicenter of an above-average defensive unit. Last year was another stellar season for the four-time Pro Bowler, with 72 total pressures, 13 sacks, nine quarterback hits, 50 quarterback pressures, 39 tackles, eight assists and 41 stops.

An outstanding technician, Jordan can flummox opposing tackles with rip, swim and arm-over moves. He also brings a formidable bull rush, and shuffles through blockers astutely and with excellent quickness to release to the quarterback. A master of angles and leverage, he can run the inside counter just as well as he can take a blocker to the edge of the pocket, disengage, and stun the ball carrier. He's also a great run defender, one reason he's so high on this list. The Saints recently signed Jordan to a three-year, $52.5 million extension with over $42 million in guarantees, and it's a well-earned bump for one of the best in the business.

27. Eddie Jackson, S, Chicago Bears

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Jackson had a decent rookie season in 2017, but things really came together for him in 2018, when he became among the NFL's best cover safeties. Last season, he allowed just 24 receptions on 44 targets for 256 yards, 158 yards after the catch, three touchdowns, six interceptions, eight pass breakups and an opponent passer rating of 54.9 - the best rating among safeties with at least 25 targets. He also had 45 tackles and 18 stops.

Jackson has an uncanny nose for the ball in intermediate and deep coverage, which allows him to time throws and routes and jump those routes with alarming regularity. He closes to the receiver well in and out of his area, and if you want to know how efficiently opportunistic he is, consider that his five defensive touchdowns over the last two seasons (three from interceptions, two from fumbles) are three more than any other player during that time.

26. Calais Campbell, EDGE, Jacksonville Jaguars

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Edge rushers tend to fall off in consistency and productivity when they hit their 30s, but Campbell didn't get the memo. He'll be 33 years old when the 2019 season starts, but his two years in Jacksonville (after nine seasons in Arizona) have been as productive as any in his career. In 2018, he was good for 53 total pressures, 11 sacks, 11 quarterback hits and 31 hurries. Stout against the run as well, he compiled 50 tackles, 12 assists and 56 stops, which led all edge defenders.

At 6-8 and 300 pounds, Campbell's ability to stay at the top of his profession is even rarer because he doesn't have the typical edge rusher's frame. He's fast enough to get around the edge to the quarterback, but it's his pure strength, technique and understanding of timing and tempo off the snap that make him special. The way he (No. 93) throws Texans right tackle Kendall Lamm (No. 74) out of the club on his way to a sack of Deshaun Watson is a perfect example.

Campbell is great off the edge, but he can also create pressure from the three-technique and nose tackle positions. He's especially effective when aligned on the same side as fellow pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue in a package the Jaguars should use more often.

25. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

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Throughout Sean Payton's tenure as the Saints' head coach and offensive play-designer, he's always been able to create schemes that give ideal opportunities to versatile backs. Payton helped to create the base nickel defense when he kept flaring Reggie Bush from the backfield to the slot and embarrassing third linebackers about a decade ago, and with Kamara, Payton may have the ultimate distillation of his desire for a back that can do just about everything at a ridiculously high level. Kamara hasn't had a 1,000-yard rushing season yet, but he led the league in yards per carry in his rookie year of 2017, and boosted his rushing touchdown count in 2018 from eight to 14. He scored 32 total touchdowns in his two NFL seasons - only Todd Gurley had more in 2017 and 2018.

Backs are expected to run more than dinky screens in Payton's offense, and Kamara complies by getting open on everything from slants from the slot to deep vertical concepts outside. And though he's been a rotational back so far in his NFL career, it doesn't take too many plays to see Kamara consistently running through tacklers to pick up extra yards - proof that he does have what it takes to be a primary back, if that's ever the Saints' modus operandi .

24. Kyle Fuller, CB, Chicago Bears

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Only Kansas City's Stephen Nelson was targeted more among cornerbacks last season than Fuller was, and he kept things close to the vest through all those challenges. In 2018, the Bears' top cornerback allowed 69 catches on 113 targets for 819 yards, four touchdowns, and a seven-interception mark that tied for the league lead. Fuller also allowed an opponent passer rating of 69.2 with all those targets.

One of the most consistent cornerbacks in the league, Fuller has been outstanding whenever he's been healthy, and he has everything you want at the position-a quick and seamless backpedal, the ability to mirror receivers through angular routes, and an excellent sense of when to jump the route for the big play.

23. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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Last season, Roethlisberger managed a typically productive season despite Le'Veon Bell's yearlong holdout and Antonio Brown seeming less than ideally interested at times. Things may be less dramatic in 2019 with both players off the roster, but Big Ben's numbers may take a hit. Still, he completed 67% of his passes in 2018, led the league in attempts (675) and completions (452) and passing yards (5,129), and hit his targets for 31 touchdowns and a league-leading 16 interceptions.

The interception issue has been a thing over the last few seasons as Roethlisberger has scattershot tendencies in bunches, but as a deep thrower (15 touchdowns and two interceptions on passes of 20 or more air yards), he's one of the best in the league. Throwing under pressure, formerly a Roethlisberger specialty as he'd make stick throws with defenders hanging all over him, has become a problem. Last season he threw eight picks and just five touchdown passes when under pressure.

When Roethlisberger stays within himself and his ideal mechanics, he's still quite able to make any throw, including the toughest ones - but there is a rogue element to his game that will have him testing lurk safeties on skinny posts when he really shouldn't. Regardless, he's still got enough to transcend the loss of two of the league's most prominent offensive weapons.

22. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

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If you're of the opinion that Elliott is primarily the beneficiary of Dallas' outstanding offensive line, you'll have to explain how he led the NFL in rushing yards in 2018 with 1,434 despite a front five that underperformed because of various injury issues - the Cowboys' offensive line dropped from fourth in Football Outsiders' "adjusted line yards" metric to eighth in 2018. Not a catastrophic regression, but Elliott had more to do with his run game holding up last season than anybody blocking for him. Facing a loaded box on about 25% of his snaps, Elliott broke 41 tackles on his 350 carries and led the league by far with 28 carries of 15 yards or more.

Perhaps the most complete running back in the league, Elliott has expanded on the attributes that made him a star at Ohio State: his power through contact, his outstanding vision and acceleration, his receiving ability on a number of route concepts, and the fact that he's a willing and outstanding blocker.

21. Trent Williams, OT, Washington Redskins

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Williams has missed nine games over the last three seasons with injuries, and he's played hurt when he could, which makes his performance level all the more impressive. In 792 snaps last season, he allowed one sack, nine quarterback hits and 20 quarterback hurries, and maintained his outstanding run-blocking as a true physical presence.

Williams brings outstanding technique to the field, to be sure, but what really sets him apart is a combination of raw strength and a nasty streak unparalleled in the game today. When he's healthy, there simply isn't another offensive tackle in the NFL capable of matching his ability to physically dominate his opponent. Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey of the Titans, a Pro Bowl-level player in his own right, would likely agree.

20. Kevin Byard, S, Tennessee Titans

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This particular millennium hasn't been a great one for safeties wanting to rack up huge interception numbers. Since the 1970 merger, 11 safeties have grabbed at least 10 interceptions in a season, and none of them did it after 1986, when Ronnie Lott had 10. A handful of players at the position have nine picks since 2000 (Darren Sharper three times and Ed Reed twice, among them), so Byard's eight-interception season for the Titans in 2017 was remarkable. He followed up with four more picks in 2018, proving that, as a deep safety, he's no fluke when it comes to patrolling the deep third of a defense and taking the ball away. In 2018, Byard allowed 21 catches on 30 targets for 172 yards, 83 yards after the catch, one touchdown, two pass breakups and an opponent passer rating of 55.8. No one-trick pony, he also registered a sack, seven total quarterback pressures, 62 tackles and 17 stops.

Byard brings every possible attribute you want in a deep safety to the field. Not only does he have the lateral quickness and range to cover to either boundary seamlessly, but he also has an impressive ability to read quarterback intentions and receiver routes. This gives him an additional athletic advantage as he closes to the ball - at times, it looks as if he's running the route for the receiver. Byard's status as the NFL's best safety is well-earned.

19. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

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Brady will turn 42 on Aug. 3, and as he gets older, it seems some analysts want to bury him as a player before the all-timer is ready to bow out. Before we do that - and this is not to specifically malign Chris Simms, who actually logged time in quality control with the Patriots - let's take a look at what Brady did last season. He completed 65.8% of his passes for 4,355 yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Ad after a slow start, he eventually outsmarted one of the NFL's best defenses to pick up his sixth Lombardi Trophy. Brady might not be at his peak, but anyone who thinks he's holding the team back at this point in his career is simply misinformed.

Think his deep ball is gone? Nope. Brady threw 10 touchdowns and just two picks on throws of 20 or more air yards. Think he can't handle pressure at the same rate? He thrives in a quick passing game, but Brady also threw nine touchdown passes under pressure (though his five pressured interceptions represent a slight red flag). And he was nearly as efficient on long-developing plays as he was on three-step-and-throw stuff.

Brady wins in the pre-snap phase better than any quarterback in NFL history, and his pocket movement has been a master class for years. As was the case with Drew Brees, Brady worked strength training and mechanical improvement into a greatly improved intermediate and deep-passing game once he got into the NFL, and even as time has taken a bit of the edge off, Brady has more than enough left in the tank to dominate for a few more seasons.

18. J.J. Watt, EDGE, Houston Texans

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Injuries limited Watt to just 374 total snaps in 2016 and 2017, but he came back in 2018 and had the kind of season we've come to expect from the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Watt led the league with seven forced fumbles; amassed 78 total pressures with 17 sacks, 13 quarterback hits and 48 quarterback hurries; and added 38 tackles, seven assists and 51 stops.

Watt leads with absolutely freakish speed around the edge for his 6-5, 288-pound frame - he can bend the edge like a guy 30 pounds lighter, and that doesn't stop him from moving between the tackles and showing guards around like a 310-pound defensive tackle. Watt can push a tackle into the pocket, he can use his hands to separate, and he can confound with an inside counter. Watt's comeback was one of the most remarkable stories of the 2018 season, and at age 30, he appears to have several quality seasons left if he can stay healthy.

Of course, it helps Watt's case if you "block" him as the Jaguars did on this sack of Blake Bortles:

17. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

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The last two seasons have been rough for Rodgers. Between injury issues and the nadir of the Mike McCarthy era, it's seemed like he's outside the discussion more and more when we talk about the NFL's best passers. Things should improve schematically for Rodgers as soon as he gets on the same page with new head coach Matt LaFleur, and the hope is that Green Bay's young receivers will take the proverbial step - outside of Davante Adams, who's already a top-five talent.

Still, as disconnected from his offense as he may have been last season, Rodgers still threw just two interceptions in 597 passing attempts. His 62.3% completion rate and 25 touchdowns weren't exactly all-time, but Rodgers is still perhaps the most gifted pure passer in NFL history, and we'll see that again if his passing game can crawl out of the Paleolithic Era.

From a purely physical perspective, there is no better quarterback than Rodgers, and that's been the case for a number of years. Tom Brady once said that Rodgers would throw for 7,000 yards in a season if he had the benefits of Brady's offensive system, and that might not be an exaggeration. Nobody in the game today - and perhaps ever - can match Rodgers' ability to make ridiculous tight throws under pressure and on the run. Living in McCarthy's regressive offense has given Rodgers a bit of balkiness when it comes to committing to his reads at times, so one hopes he'll get over it under LaFleur, and that he'll have the kind of offense that can match his superlative talents.

16. Akiem Hicks, DT, Chicago Bears

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A bit of an afterthought as a third-round pick of the Saints out of Regina (Canada) in 2012. Hicks has developed over time into one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the league - to the point where there isn't much difference between what he puts on tape and what Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox, the consensus best players at that position over the last few years, tend to do. In 2018, Hicks set the interior edge of the Bears' top-level defense with 53 total pressures, eight sacks, 11 quarterback hits, 34 quarterback pressures, 46 tackles, four assists, 48 stops and three forced fumbles.

What makes Hicks so effective - and so much fun to watch on tape - is that he's an absolute wrecking ball between the tackles with violent intentions on every play. Whether he's lined up at nose tackle or three-tech, he nails guards and centers with a vicious sideswipe move, and he then shoots through gaps in a big hurry. Far quicker than you'd expect from a guy with a 6-5, 332-pound frame, Hicks has perfectly merged strength and technique and become a prototype player at his position.

15. Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers

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Rivers led the league with 21 interceptions in the 2016 season, and at that point in his career, he seemed to be an especially and disconcertingly random quarterback with little consistency. Things have improved considerably over the last two seasons - Rivers threw a combined 22 picks in 2017 and 2018 - and his 2018 tape showed a guy who was certainly on the ball enough to be considered a premier player at his position.

In 2018, Rivers completed 68.3% of his passes for 4,308 yards, 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Five of those picks came on deep throws, but he also threw eight touchdown passes on plays of 20 or more air yards, and he maintained an impressive composure under pressure.

Rivers has always had an unconventional three-quarters delivery, and he pushes the ball to a point, but he's made his mechanical idiosyncrasies work for him. He'll never be the subject of a "How to Play Quarterback" guide from that perspective, but most quarterbacks would do well to emulate his accuracy, ability to find targets in tight spaces to all areas of the field, and toughness in the pocket.

14. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

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People gave Giants general manager Dave Gettleman a lot of static when he made the decision to select the former Penn State running back with the second pick in the 2018 draft. After all, this is not an era in which running backs are that highly prized. As is his wont, Gettleman was defiant, insisting that any notion of a positional value overdraft was a "crock."

Gettleman has made more than his share of mistakes as a GM both with the Panthers (Steve Smith says "Hi") and with Big Blue, but it's hard to argue against the Barkley pick, especially given the production he put up around a passing game that seemed to devolve a little bit more every week. Barkley led the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage, had 15 total touchdowns and proved to be an evolved player as both a running back and receiver from day one.

Down after down, Barkley will impress as no other current back does with his ability to create separation in small spaces and read openings to bigger plays. And if he's running a draw play and defenders have already committed to their reads, good luck catching up to him. If a defense foils Barkley between the guards, it had better be ready for a two-gap jump cut that will leave the linebackers out of place. Though he was limited by the Giants' quarterback situation (i.e., Eli Manning's regression), he's proved able to win against coverage from just about anywhere on the field.

It takes a lot to put a player at the top of any positional list after just one season, but Barkley earned it.

13. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

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You knew that Thomas had the talent to succeed in a high-volume passing offense like the one Sean Payton brilliantly designed and Drew Brees runs to perfection in New Orleans, but what the Ohio State alum has brought to the equation has transformed the Saints' passing game as much as anybody Brees has thrown to since he showed up in 2006. Brees has had a ton of talented targets, and he's elevated every one of them, but he's never had anybody with Thomas' ridiculous combination of consistency, efficiency and nose for the big play. Thomas led the NFL in 2018 with 125 catches, amassing 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns, and over his three-year career, he's developed his skill set to the point where he's just about impossible to cover on a snap-to-snap basis.

Thomas' get-up speed is absolutely ridiculous - God help you if you leave him a hole in zone coverage - and he has the instincts to beat tighter coverage concepts with quick cuts and leans into the open field. Add in his physical nature and contested catch ability, and it wouldn't be surprising if Thomas was at the top of a list like this in a year or two.

12. Antonio Brown, WR, Oakland Raiders

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The Steelers certainly won't miss the drama that ultimately led general manager Kevin Colbert to trade Brown to the Raiders, but there's no way Ben Roethlisberger won't look at his targets in the 2019 season and wonder if something could have been worked out. Yes, JuJu Smith-Schuster is an enviable No. 2 receiver with some No. 1 potential, and third-round receiver Diontae Johnson does have some of Brown's characteristics in a nebulous sense, but replacing Brown entirely really isn't possible. Conversely, Oakland quarterback Derek Carr has to be counting his blessings.

Will Brown miss Roethlisberger as much? Carr isn't the deep thrower or natural improviser that Roethlisberger is, and Oakland's system is ostensibly a bit more structured, but Brown can make it work in any system. There is no better route runner in the NFL, and Brown's ability to break off route concepts to adjust for the quarterback has been leaving cornerbacks in his dust for years.

11. Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots

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Per Sports Info Solutions, no NFL team played more man coverage last season than the Patriots at 56.8% of their snaps, and when you consider that Gilmore was most often covering the opponent's best receiver in those situations, you have a defender who can do the toughest thing any cornerback can do-erase top receivers in coverages that don't frequently give the advantages of natural safety coverage.

Gilmore has become a perfect Bill Belichick defender because he's asked to do a lot of things, and he does all of them well-he's also one of the game's best slot cornerbacks when put in that position. Wherever Gilmore is, his ability to match to any receiver through their routes stands alone. Last season, he allowed just 48 receptions on 109 targets for 611 yards, four interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 65.2. Best known for the interception that clinched Super Bowl LIII, Gilmore was on lock all season.

10. Fletcher Cox, DT, Philadelphia Eagles

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To put up more than 100 total pressures in a season is an amazing achievement for any player. Last season, regardless of position, Cox and Aaron Donald were the only players to do it. Donald led the league with 113, but Cox was right on his heels with 101. To put that in perspective, Dee Ford of the Chiefs (now of the 49ers) led all edge defenders with 83. Cox's previous best was 77 in 2015, which indicates just what a breakout season this was for a guy who's already been one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL for a good long time. Cox divided his pressure numbers with 11 sacks, 25 quarterback hits and 65 quarterback hurries, adding 28 tackles, 10 assists and 33 stops. It's his relative misfortune to have his first seven NFL seasons during a time when Donald and J.J. Watt were redefining with interior defensive linemen can do. In a lot of eras, Cox would be the consensus top man at his position.

Unless the guard or center facing Cox gets a quick set and establishes strength with his lower body, he has no chance against Cox's formidable bull rush, which might be the league's best. But there's a lot more to his game than brute force - even at 6-4 and 310 pounds, he has the speed and agility to run the edge against tackles, or back off a double team and run point to the quarterback to either side. There's no question about Cox's greatness; he's on a Hall of Fame track.

9. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

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Wilson led the NFL with 34 touchdown passes in 2017 and came back in 2018 with 35, but there could have been more in an offense less risk-averse than Seattle's. He did benefit from a functional offensive line for the first time in years last season, though he was still pressured on 39.2% of his throws; only Josh Allen, Deshaun Watson and Josh Rosen had a higher pressure percentage. Typically, Wilson thrived when others would wilt, throwing 10 touchdowns and just three picks when pressured.

Wilson was also the NFL's most prolific and efficient deep passer last season, with 15 touchdowns and just one interception on throws of 20 or more air yards. And he accomplished all this on just 427 pass attempts - it's almost as if Pete Carroll and his staff should make him a more featured part of Seattle's offensive plan. Give this guy 600 passing attempts in a season at this point in his career, and we're having a different MVP discussion.

At times, Wilson will bail out of the pocket when he still has time, running himself into sacks and denying himself opportunities. This is likely a response to an NFL career in which he's been running for his life behind some really bad protections. When he's on, there's no quarterback in the league who makes more out of a scramble drill, has a better sense of how to direct his receivers on plays outside of structure, and nails deep throws on time and on target. And for his height, Wilson maintains the ability to make stick throws from the pocket as he has since his college days.

8. Tyron Smith, OT, Dallas Cowboys

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Take out the eight sacks Smith allowed as a right tackle in his rookie campaign in 2011, and he's given up just 18 quarterback takedowns over the last seven seasons, and just six total in the last three years. In 981 snaps last season, he allowed just one sack, two quarterback hits and 15 total pressures.

Never mind the left tackle position - you'd be hard-pressed to find a better and more consistent technician among NFL blockers at any spot than Smith. He kick-slides perfectly, he extends his arms with a jolt that keeps opposing defenders from entering the pocket and getting the upper hand on him, and when he gets set in his base, he's just about impossible to counter because he's so good with his hands and he knows how to use his ridiculous wingspan. Agility and flexibility allow him to jump gaps seamlessly. And as a run-blocker, he simply envelops his targets - at 6-5 and 320 pounds, he makes defensive tackles look like linebackers and defensive ends look like safeties.

7. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

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When assessing the characteristics that define a No. 1 receiver, it's relatively easy to identify relative weakness in any player's profile. This receiver may be a big guy and estimable red-zone target, but he doesn't have the speed that allows downfield separation. That receiver may be able to blow the top off intermediate and deep coverage, but he struggles with contested catches. Then there's Jones, who now has eight NFL seasons without one clear liability. The guy who can do everything had yet another tremendous season in 2018, leading the NFL with 1,677 receiving yards, and catching 113 passes on 170 targets for eight touchdowns.

Standing 6-3 and weighing 220 pounds, Jones can beat coverage with physical dominance just as easily as he can win with track speed downfield. And he's developed a great sense of the subtleties of the position, as well as an unparalleled awareness of small openings in coverage. The only people able to stop him in the red zone are various Falcons coaches who prefer to use him as a decoy in scoring situations.

6. Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks

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Being a great linebacker is about making big plays, yes, but it's primarily about loss prevention. Your job is to keep the defense in step with the fewest mistakes possible. And no modern linebacker is more mistake-proof than Wagner. Last season, he was involved in 999 snaps, with 108 tackles and 34 assists. He had 41 stops and didn't allow a single touchdown on 71 pass targets. Perhaps the most amazing stat from Wagner's 2018 season, though, was his two missed tackles. When you're tackling with the range demanded of today's linebacker, to make the plays you're supposed to make without errors to that degree is truly impressive.

Wagner plays seamlessly everywhere from the middle to the slot because he's so good at reading his keys, and his technical understanding of his position allows him to take perfect angles to the ballcarrier. In coverage, he rolls to his assignments with a minimum of movement, he's a great blitzer who gets through his gaps quickly, and his tackling technique is obviously without peer. Wagner has been the standard-bearer at his position over the last couple of seasons, and to call him the best linebacker in the NFL is simply to state the obvious.

5. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

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Why is Hopkins the best receiver in the NFL today, regardless of position? Well, he's as physically gifted and productive as any star receiver, but when you look at the guys throwing passes to him since he came into the league in 2013 … yikes.

Only Antonio Brown has more targets than Hopkins' 898 through that span, and Brown benefited just a bit from Ben Roethlisberger's presence. Only four receivers caught more passes than Hopkins' 528. Only Brown and Julio Jones amassed more receiving yards than Hopkins' 7,437, and only Brown had more touchdown catches than Hopkins' 47. Imagining Hopkins with a competent quarterback throughout his career (and even in Watson's case, imagining a great quarterback who isn't pressured on half of his snaps due to a horrid offensive line) is to imagine an NFL in which there is Hopkins as the league's dominant receiver, and everybody else in second place.

Hopkins makes everything look easy on the field. He's not regarded as a downfield burner, but watch him press a cornerback in off coverage and move right by him down the boundary, and you'll see that he has all the speed he needs. Hopkins also brings a highly effective ability to adjust to the ball while he's tracking it in the air without losing his bearings; this makes him a credible deep threat with a crazy catch radius no matter how the ball is thrown. And if you want consistency … well, Hopkins didn't drop a single pass in the 2018 season. There are a lot of great outside receivers in the NFL, but at this point, Hopkins does more with less than anybody else.

4. Khalil Mack, EDGE, Chicago Bears

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In his first season with the Chicago Bears after a trade that somehow netted the Raiders a " Best Transaction" award at the MIT Sloan Analytics Sports Conference, Mack totaled 73 total pressures with 13 sacks, nine quarterback hits and 51 quarterback hurries. It was par for the course for a player who's been wrecking opposing offensive tackles since he came into the NFL in 2014. Meanwhile, the players who worked the edge for the Raiders in 2018 totaled four sacks, 20 quarterback hits and 49 quarterback pressures, so maybe that award was a little hasty. Mack also had 31 tackles, four assists, 31 stops and six forced fumbles.

Mack is the most effective edge rusher in the NFL because he has a comprehensive grasp of every possible technique required of his position. He uses his ridiculous closing speed to gain on the ball carrier quickly after slow-rolling blockers at the line of scrimmage. He had the best bull rush in the league at his position - he's capable of turning tackles back with the strength of a top-level defensive tackle. He can burn a blocker with the "dip-and-rip" at any time, and his hand moves allow him to blow past blockers before they even know what's happening. With optimal power, speed, athleticism and technique, Mack is by far the best edge defender in the league, and that could continue for a good long time.

3. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

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As is the case with Tom Brady, people have been wanting to throw dirt on the idea of Peak Brees for a few years now. Brees will turn 41 in January, and at this point in his career, he seems bound and determined to pick away at every naysaying argument at a Hall of Fame level. In 2018, he completed an absolutely insane 74.4% of his passes, breaking his own NFL record from 2017 by 2.4 percentage points. In fact, Brees has four of the top five completion percentage seasons in NFL history, and the two best seasons happened in the last two years.

Given the narrative that his deep arm is shot, you might assume that Brees is inflating these numbers with nothing but dink-and-dunk throws. Not really. Last season, he completed 31 of 64 passes of 20 or more air yards for 977 yards, and those numbers may have been even more impressive were it not for a mysterious drop in effectiveness that beleaguered him late in the season. We'll see if that moves into 2019, but if it doesn't, it's clear that Brees is anything but washed up.

Listed as a generous 6 feet, Brees is able to transcend any height concerns in and out of the pocket because he's so aware of his line splits, and how the timing of blocking openings corresponds to the timings of his receivers' routes. He understands and reads defenses at a scientific level, and when he's healthy and mechanically sound, he can rip those defenses apart with timing throws to every area of the field.

2. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

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As a rookie in 2017, Mahomes completed 22 of 35 passes for 284 yards, no touchdowns and one interception … so, of course, we all saw one of the most statistically impressive seasons in NFL history coming in 2018, right?

Probably not, unless your name is Andy Reid.

Mahomes completed 66% of his passes last season for 5,097 yards, 50 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. He joined Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks ever to throw 50 or more touchdown passes in a season, and given that this was his first time as a game-to-game NFL starter, the ways in which he did it were truly remarkable. We all know about his eye-popping mobility and impressive proclivity for trick passes most NFL quarterbacks wouldn't dream of attempting,

Mahomes had by far the most deep-ball attempts in the 2018 season with 108, and he completed 48 of those passes for 1,658 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. Eight of his interceptions came under pressure, but 10 of his touchdown passes did, as well. His "adjusted net yards per pass attempt" of 8.89 was the sixth-highest in NFL history, and he led the league in Football Outsiders' play-by-play and cumulative quarterback efficiency metrics. Not bad for a guy who will turn 24 in September.

Mahomes has a stunning trick-shot ability to make accurate throws to moving targets from all kinds of platforms, but he wouldn't be No. 1 on this list if he were just a gimmick guy. He brings an uncanny sense of timing and accuracy for his age and experience, his throwing ability on the run is positively artful at times, and there isn't an NFL throw he can't make. There's a lot of talk about how Mahomes will inevitably regress in 2019 and beyond, but it would be a fool's errand to bet on that.

1. Aaron Donald, DL, Los Angeles Rams

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Of all the players on all these positional lists, setting Donald at the top of his position is the easiest call of all. He's the best defensive lineman in the NFL, the most impactful defensive player, and - it could easily be argued - the best player in the NFL. The 2018 season was another masterstroke for the back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year, as Donald amassed an absolutely ridiculous 113 total pressures, with 21 sacks, 24 quarterback hits and 64 quarterback hurries. He also had 37 tackles and eight assists, and his 56 stops were the most for any defensive tackle.

It's especially insane that Donald puts up pass-rushing numbers that would represent a career year for any edge defender, because he's absolutely the focus of every offensive line at the snap. Whether he's playing three-tech or 4i in a four- or five-man front, or big end in a sub package, there isn't a move Donald can't use at a very high level. He can swim or rip past blockers, shoot through gaps right at the snaps with his amazing quickness, or simply bull-rush a center or guard right off the screen. Since he came into the league in 2014, Donald has set the pace for all interior defensive linemen, and he's now setting the pace for all NFL players, regardless of position, at historic levels.

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