The two most recent NFL MVPs. Record-breaking contracts and record-setting performances. As we delve into the NFL top 100 for the 2021 season, prepare to be surprised who is within the top five. Also, prepare to disagree with where one future Hall of Fame quarterback is ranked.
Swipe down to see our NFL top 100 picks, or tap here to jump to our top 50.
100. Fletcher Cox, defensive tackle, Philadelphia Eagles
Fans looking at the Eagles’ 2021 schedule don’t have a lot to look forward to this season. Fortunately, Fletcher Cox remains capable of dominating as he enters his 30s. Cox, the 310-pound defensive tackle, recorded 43 total pressures (PFF) this past season and should remain a pass-rushing force a little longer.
Related: Philadelphia Eagles 2021 schedule and predictions
99. Marcus Maye, safety, New York Jets
If the New York Jets aren’t careful with their underwhelming offers to Marcus Maye, they’re going to lose their best player. Maye does it all at safety, shining in pass coverage and making a strong impact against the run. A top free agent in 2022, this may be Maye’s last year with New York.
Related: New York Jets 2021 schedule and predictions
98. Frank Ragnow, center, Detroit Lions
There’s a reason the Detroit Lions made Frank Ragnow the highest-paid center in NFL history. A phenomenal run blocker and pass protector, the 2018 first-round pick deserves every penny of his contract. Detroit is building its foundation in the trenches and Ragnow is integral to the club’s long-term plan.
Related: Detroit Lions 2021 schedule and predictions
97. Joe Burrow, quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals
We blame the Cincinnati Bengals for Joe Burrow not being higher on our NFL top 100 players list. He shined in 10 games this past season, posting an 89.8 passer rating and 13-5 TD-INT ratio before his offensive line failed him. If the Bengals keep him protected, Burrow is poised for a huge season.
Related: Cincinnati Bengals 2021 schedule and predictions
96. Josh Jacobs, running back, Las Vegas Raiders
The only other member of this Las Vegas team to crack the top 100 aside from Waller, Jacobs was absolutely sensational as a rookie. The former Alabama star tallied over 1,300 total yards at a clip of 5.0 yards per touch. Due to injuries and lackluster play to the Raiders’ interior offensive line in 2020 — and the fact that their defense was bad and caused them to abandon the running game earlier than they’d have liked — Jacobs saw his yards per carry drop below four in his second season. It’s only a matter of time before he finds more running room.
Related: Las Vegas Raiders 2021 schedule and predictions
95. Bryce Callahan, cornerback, Denver Broncos – Best slot cornerback in NFL
Slot corners don’t get a lot of love, even in the age of teams using more three-receiver sets. While Bryce Callahan isn’t the most popular member of the Denver Broncos defense, keep his name in mind. As Pro Football Focus notes, quarterbacks had just a 46.9 passer rating when throwing in Callahan’s direction
94. Leonard Williams, defensive tackle, New York Giants
A change of scenery can do wonders for a player. Leonard Williams, the No. 6 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, has become a disruptive force since being traded to the New York Giants. The 6-foot-5 defensive tackle racked up 30 stops and 14 sacks this past season. Even if he doesn’t repeat some of those numbers, he can dominate in 2021.
93. Chris Godwin, wide receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With so many mouths need to feed in Tampa Bay, it’s no surprise Tom Brady and Chris Godwin didn’t connect as often in 2021. But the Buccaneers know his value, it’s why they’re determined to sign a long-term deal next offseason. Once Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski are gone, Godwin’s stats will reflect his talent.
92. Justin Herbert, quarterback, Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert broke single-season NFL rookie records last season, everyone knows that. An underrated stat, he posted the highest passer rating (99.4) of all quarterbacks under pressure. Behind a revamped offensive lone, Herbert could take an even bigger step forward this fall.
91. J.J. Watt, edge rusher, Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals made a huge investment in J.J. Watt, which might cost them Chandler Jones. While we certainly question the decision, given where both rank in our NFL top 100 players list, Watt is still an excellent player and will make a great impression on his new team.
90. Derwin James, defensive back, Los Angeles Chargers
When healthy, Derwin James Jr. is legitimately one of the best defensive players in the NFL. He played at an All-Pro level as a rookie and if he stays on the field, we could see him reach another stratosphere under the tutelage of defensive guru Brandon Staley.
89. Keenan Allen, wide receiver, Los Angeles Chargers
Keenan Allen thrived with Philip Rivers at quarterback and he’s doing the same with Herbert rocketing footballs his way. A four-time Pro Bowl selection, you can guarantee Allen will deliver another 1,000-yard season this year after falling eight yards shy in a 14–game campaign in 2020.
88. Andrew Whitworth, offensive tackle, Los Angeles Rams
Entering his 16th NFL season, this might be the last ride for Andrew Whitworth. If that’s the case, the Los Angeles Rams are going to rely on him to defy Father Time once more. The 39-year-old left tackle allowed just six pressures and didn’t surrender a sack in 600 snaps last year, per PFF. Quite frankly, that’s on par with Brady’s play.
87. Demario Davis, linebacker, New Orleans Saints
Scooped up from the New York Jets after the 2017 season, Demario Davis has been one of the best off-ball linebackers in the NFL ever since landing in New Orleans. Entering his age-32 season, there’s no reason to suspect his play will decline this year.
86. Brian Burns, edge rusher, Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers saw a supremely athletic edge rusher in the 2019 NFL Draft and didn’t waste a moment before selecting him. Brian Burns, the No. 16 pick, is headed for a Pro Bowl selection in 2021. After registering 21 quarterback hits and nine sacks in 15 games last year, those numbers will climb even higher this fall.
85. Tristan Wirfs, offensive tackle, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rookies, especially along the offensive line, aren’t supposed to be this good so quickly. Tristan Wirfs was legitimately one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL last year, Tampa Bay doesn’t win a Super Bowl without him. By this time in 2022, Wirfs might move into the top 50 on our NFL top 100 players list.
84. Harrison Smith, safety, Minnesota Vikings
Will this be the final year Harrison Smith takes the field for the Minnesota Vikings? The best player on Minnesota’s defense since 2015, you can bet head coach Mike Zimmer will do everything in his power to make sure Smith finishes his career in Minnesota.
83. Terron Armstead, offensive tackle, New Orleans Saints
After surrendering four sacks in 2017, New Orleans Saints left tackle Terron Armstead has surrendered that same number across 2,394 pass-block snaps in the past three years (PFF). Let that stat tell you everything you need to know about this 6-foot-5 tackle out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
82. A.J. Brown, wide receiver, Tennessee Titans
It’s fitting that A.J. Brown and Julio Jones are teammates. Brown, who has 2m126 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns in his first two seasons, views Jones as a role model. After admiring his game from afar for years, the 24-year-old now gets to work alongside the future Hall of Fame receiver. The future is obviously very bright for No. 11.
81. Ezekiel Elliott, running back, Dallas Cowboys
Despite a down 2020 season (by his standards), Zeke is still one of the top 100 NFL players heading into the 2021 campaign. The three-time Pro Bowler is averaging 1,668 total yards and 11 touchdowns throughout his five-year career. After battling COVID in 2020, we’re expecting him to be 100% once Week 1 comes calling.
Related: Dallas Cowboys 2021 schedule and predictions
80. Chase Young, edge rusher, Washington Football Team
Don’t let the stats (12 quarterback hits, 7.5 sacks in 15 games) fool you, Chase Young is quickly becoming one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Keep in mind, he posted those numbers when he wasn’t completely healthy and without a full NFL offseason because of COVID-19. With experience under his belt, Young will flash some of that NFL Defensive Player of the Year talent.
Related: Washington Football Team 2021 schedule and predictions
79. Allen Robinson, wide receiver, Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears don’t seem very serious about making Allen Robinson part of their long-term plans. It’s a mistake by the organization because this is the most underrated wide receiver in the NFL. Justin Fields will love throwing to A-Rob in 2021. After that, a new quarterback will benefit from a top weapon.
Related: Top NFL free agents of 2022 – Davante Adams set to break the bank
78. John Johnson III, safety, Cleveland Browns
Recognizing a need at safety, the Cleveland Browns struck quickly to sign John Johnson III. A 2017 third-round pick, the 6-foot-1 defensive back from Northwestern excels in pass coverage and is strong against the run. Looking at the talent on the roster tells you exactly why our Browns’ schedule forecast is so optimistic.
Related: Cleveland Browns 2021 schedule and predictions
77. Lavonte David, linebacker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If we’re being honest, Lavonte David deserved Super Bowl LV MVP honors. He was the most important part of a championship-deciding performance by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. David is also the reason why the Bucs earn the top spot in Sportsnaut’s 2021 NFL defense rankings.
76. James Bradberry, cornerback, New York Giants
The New York Giants prioritized James Bradberry as a top free-agent target in 2020, signing him to a $43.5 million contract. In his first season for the G-Men, Bradberry held opposing quarterbacks to a 70.1 passer rating when targeted and blanketed No. 1 wide receivers.
75. Ryan Ramczyk, offensive tackle, New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints weren’t ever going to risk losing Ryan Ramczyk. He’s now the highest-paid right tackle in NFL history and the 27-year-old earned every penny of it. The last pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, teams certainly regretting passing on a player with just three quarterback hits allowed in the past two years.
74. Adrian Amos, safety, Green Bay Packers
The Chicago Bears didn’t value Adrian Amos enough to keep him in the Windy City, so he went to the NFC North rival Packers. Last season, Amos led all safeties in PFF’s coverage grades and was the No. 2-rated player at the position overall. He and Jaire Alexander make a pretty killer combination in Green Bay’s defensive backfield.
73. Marlon Humphrey, cornerback, Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens defense blitzes more than any other unit in the NFL. A defensive coordinator is only comfortable doing that when there’s a cornerback like Marlon Humphrey in the secondary. Once a star for the Alabama Crimson Tide, Humphrey (8 forced fumbles in 2020) displays that same playmaking ability heading into his fifth NFL season.
Related: Baltimore Ravens 2021 schedule and predictions
72. Eric Kendricks, linebacker, Minnesota Vikings
Eric Kendricks is easily one of the best cover linebackers in the NFL. A second-round pick in 2015, he earned first-team All-Pro honors two years ago and might have earned that nod again if not for a five-game absence. With Kendricks healthy, the Minnesota Vikings defense will rebound in 2021.
71. Darren Waller, tight end, Las Vegas Raiders
Darren Waller is the NFL’s story of redemption. Drug addiction nearly ended his pro career as the former sixth-round pick spent several years either suspended or at the bottom of the Ravens’ roster. After getting his life in order, the Raiders signed him in 2018 and the rest is history. There’s no doubt he is one of the best tight ends in the NFL.
70. Justin Simmons, safety, Denver Broncos
All-Pro talent is found in every round of the NFL Draft. Justin Simmons, the 98th pick in 2016, was named second-team All-Pro in 2019 and earned a Pro Bowl selection this past season. The 6-foot-2 safety out of Boston College has 37 pass deflections and 16 interceptions across his first five seasons. Yeah, there’s a reason he is the highest-paid safety in the NFL.
Related: Denver Broncos 2021 schedule and predictions
69. Adam Thielen, wide receiver, Minnesota Vikings – Best undrafted player
After injuries limited Thielen to just 30 catches for 418 yards during 2019, he bounced back with 74 receptions, 925 yards and ranked third in the NFL with 14 touchdown grabs last season. The Minnesota State product was an undrafted free agent back in 2014. Combined, Thielen tallied north of 200 catches for nearly 2,600 yards in 2017 and 2018, too. Thielen and Justin Jefferson form one of the league’s premier receiving duos for quarterback Kirk Cousins.
68. Grady Jarrett, defensive tackle, Atlanta Falcons
There’s a reason the Falcons signed Jarrett to a massive contract extension in July 2019. One of the biggest steals of the 2015 NFL draft, Jarrett has ascended from fifth-round pick to an All-Pro defensive tackle in a few years. With 77 quarterback hits and 51 tackles for loss in 93 games, few interior linemen can match his disruptive abilities.
67. Cameron Jordan, defensive end, New Orleans Saints
One of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league, all Jordan has done since New Orleans made him a first-round pick back in 2011 is show a level of consistency few others have reached. He’s put up 7.5 sacks or more in each of the past nine seasons while playing extremely well against the run. At this point, Jordan seems to have Hall of Fame credentials.
66. Aaron Jones, running back, Green Bay Packers
It’s still baffling that Jones is not talked about among the game’s elite backs. All the former mid-round pick from UTEP did last season was record 1,459 total yards and 11 touchdowns, even as quarterback Aaron Rodgers was in the midst of his own MVP season. Plus, the team had invested a second-round draft pick in AJ Dillon. None of that fazed Jones. He’s among the most electrifying playmakers who could make or break whether or not the Packers make a third straight conference title game in 2021.
65. Myles Jack, linebacker, Jacksonville Jaguars
There haven’t been a lot of bright spots for the Jaguars of late. One of the few, Jack becoming one of the NFL’s best linebackers. He is outstanding against the run, excels in coverage and can rush the passer. Under contract through the 2023 season, Jack is the heart of Jacksonville’s defense, which will hopefully get a morale boost from an offense led by No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence.
Related: Jacksonville Jaguars 2021 schedule and predictions
64. Ryan Tannehill, quarterback, Tennessee Titans
Tannehill’s career resurgence was one of the best ongoing stories in the NFL. He went from backup quarterback to leading the Titans to the AFC Championship Game in only a few months. He’s now one of the NFL’s highest-paid quarterbacks, and he earned the raise by taking Tennessee back to the postseason and winning the AFC South in 2020.
63. Devin White, inside linebacker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
We discussed earlier how Lavonte David doesn’t get his due for Tampa Bay, and part of that may be White’s fault. He’s the much more explosive athlete who’s still polishing up his gap discipline and technical work in pass coverage. Nevertheless, White is a supreme athlete and possibly the most freakishly gifted ‘backer in the entire NFL. He shined during the Bucs’ Super Bowl LV run with multiple big plays, and is a lethal interior blitzer who had a whopping nine sacks during the 2020 regular season.
62. Shaq Barrett, outside linebacker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Yet another former undrafted free agent, Barrett flew under the radar during a five-year stint with Denver. That changed big time after signing a free-agent deal in Tampa Bay ahead of the 2019 season. The Colorado State product responded by racking up 37 quarterback hits while leading the NFL with 19.5 sacks, and backed that up with a phenomenal performance when it mattered most as part of a championship defense. Barrett earned a lucrative payday this offseason to stay with the Bucs, and deservedly so.
61. Julio Jones, wide receiver, Tennessee Titans
It’s hard to imagine that Jones is in his 10th season in the NFL after Atlanta pulled off the blockbuster trade for the Alabama product during the 2011 NFL Draft. Despite some bumps and bruises throughout said career and appearing in only nine games in the latest season, Jones remains among the best receivers in the game when healthy enough to play. As professional and consistent as they come, Jones averaged 104 receptions for 1,565 yards from 2014 through 2019. Now, the Tennessee Titans might have an X-factor to give them legitimate Super Bowl hopes.
60. Saquon Barkley, running back, New York Giants
Historical. Electric. That’s what we saw from Barkley as he ended up winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2018. That season saw the Penn State product gain a league-high 2,028 total yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging nearly six yards per touch. Injuries hampered Barkley to an extent as a sophomore, but he was still able to go for 1,441 yards in 13 games. Sadly, the injury bug bit again in 2020. The hope is Barkley can return to an improved Giants team in 2021 at full strength.
Related: New York Giants 2021 schedule and predictions
59. Budda Baker, safety, Arizona Cardinals
Thanks to his ability to blur the line between linebacker and safety with his unique physicality and skill set, Baker earns a spot pretty high up on this list. Although he’s predominantly a defensive back, there’s no question the Cardinals can get as creative as they are on defense thanks to Baker’s versatility and a knack for playing in coverage and getting physical versus the run.
58. Dak Prescott, quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
Something tells us Jerry Jones and the Cowboys will regret not signing Prescott to a long-term extension sooner. After losing Prescott to that gruesome, season-ending injury, the Cowboys wound up falling short of the playoffs despite the NFC East being won by Washington with a losing 7-9 record. With each passing loss, Prescott’s asking price went up, and Dallas wisely secured him on a multi-year contract this offseason.
57. Za’Darius Smith, outside linebacker, Green Bay Packers
The Packers heard plenty of skepticism when they signed Smith to a $66 million contract a couple offseasons ago.Two years later, the deal looks like a bargain after Smith recorded 60 quarterback hits and 26 sacks while helping Green Bay get to within one win of a Super Bowl berth in consecutive seasons.
56. Jack Conklin, offensive tackle, Cleveland Browns
Conklin turned out to be a home-run free agency signing by new Cleveland GM Andrew Berry, who was the youngest in his post in NFL history but retooled the Browns roster amid yet another regime change within the organization and helped them finally return to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Not bad for a first season’s work as the top executive. However, Conklin had to go out and play right tackle at an elite level to justify his acquisition, which is precisely what he did throughout Cleveland’s surprisingly successful 2020 season.
55. D.K. Metcalf, wide receiver, Seattle Seahawks
Metcalf proved to be more than just a workout warrior in his rookie season. He posted some gaudy stats (900 receiving yards, seven touchdowns) for a rookie and it turned out we were just seeing glimpses of his potential. The rising star has proven to be a fantasy football monster after an 83-catch, 1,303-yard, 10-touchdown stat line from 2020. Now that the Seahawks are breaking in a new offensive coordinator, Metcalf could wind up ascending even higher.
54. Calvin Ridley, wide receiver, Atlanta Falcons
For all the deserved love Julio Jones got in Atlanta, Ridley has proven more adept at getting it done on the most important downs in the scoring zone. In only three seasons as a pro, Ridley’s 26 receiving touchdowns are almost half of Jones’ career total of 60. Whether that’s thanks in part to the attention Jones attracts in the red zone is unclear, but Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan sure likes to look Ridley’s way when he needs a score. It’ll be interesting to see how Ridley is utilized in new head coach Arthur Smith’s scheme with Jones gone.
Related: Atlanta Falcons 2021 schedule and predictions
53. Danielle Hunter, defensive end, Minnesota Vikings
When the Vikings invested a third-round pick in Hunter, they hoped he could develop into a productive pass rusher. He blossomed into an unstoppable force off the edge. Just look at Hunter’s career stats (54.5 sacks in 78 games) and appreciate it. Even after neck surgery cost him the 2020 season, Hunter is on a new contract in Minnesota and should be fresh and primed for another monster year.
Related: NFL mock draft 2022 – Quarterbacks once again dominant
52. Justin Jefferson, wide receiver, Minnesota Vikings
It takes a lot for a rookie to jump onto the NFL top 100 players list during the season. However, Jefferson is quickly proving he deserves the recognition. Despite dealing with some middling quarterback play especially early on, he recorded an even 1,400 receiving yards in his first year. We knew the 2020 draft class was loaded at receiver, but Jefferson might prove to be the best.
51. Nick Chubb, running back, Cleveland Browns
Chubb is one of the most difficult players to tackle in the NFL. He rushed for nearly 1,500 yards behind a bad offensive line in 2019, which the Browns addressed in a big way by bringing aboard Jack Conklin, drafting Jedrick Wills and getting incredible play from Wyatt Teller at guard. Injuries didn’t stop Chubb from piling up 1,067 yards rushing (5.6 yards per carry) and 12 scores in just 12 games last season. Don’t be shocked if Chubb helps Baker Mayfield carry Cleveland deep into the playoffs this year.
Next Up: The NFL Top 50
50. Stephon Gilmore, cornerback, New England Patriots
One of the very few big-time free-agent successes around the NFL in recent years, Gilmore earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors for the Patriots two seasons ago. It’s a campaign that saw him record league highs in passes defended (20) and interceptions (six). Gilmore also yielded a sub-50 passer rating when targeted, but with so many Pats opting out of the 2020 season, the New England secondary suffered, and Gilmore regressed. Nevertheless, he’s still among the 50 best players in the game.
Related: New England Patriots 2021 schedule and predictions
49. Michael Thomas, wide receiver, New Orleans Saints
More history in the NFC South. Throughout the start of his young career, Thomas recorded 470 receptions for 5,512 yards and 32 touchdowns in four seasons. He broke the single-season mark for receiving yards last season with 1,725. Thomas is also catching a ridiculous 77.6% of the passes thrown in his direction thus far. However, the Saints are in a bad salary cap situation for the foreseeable future, and the quarterback situation is uncertain. Oh, and Thomas appeared in only seven games in 2020 and made waves within the organization. All of these elements are suddenly leaving Thomas’ future in New Orleans up in the air.
Related: New Orleans Saints 2021 schedule and predictions
48. Chandler Jones, outside linebacker, Arizona Cardinals
Looking back to ahead of the 2016 season, it seemed to be a fantasy to believe Jones would turn into one of this generation’s top-100 players. He had performed well with New England in 2015, recording 12.5 sacks. Since then, the former first-round pick has been on an upward trajectory. This includes Jones tallying 98 quarterback hits and 60 sacks in four prior seasons with the Cardinals. Unfortunately, his 2020 campaign got cut short to a right biceps injury, and he might not be in Arizona much longer.
47. Garett Bolles, offensive tackle, Denver Broncos
This past November, Bolles agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $68 million, proving he’s worth every penny in 2020 with an elite year at the left tackle spot. That deal made him the fourth highest-paid player at his position in the league. No matter who the quarterback is in Denver going forward, the Broncos have found a key piece in the trenches in Bolles, a 2017 first-round pick who’s living up to his potential.
46. Jessie Bates III, safety, Cincinnati Bengals
Guess who was PFF’s highest-graded safety last season? Not many would have Bates at the top of the list. Alas, there he was, playing incredible ball for a lost Bengals team whose roster was much worse than previously feared. Just about every area of the team has room to improve in Cincinnati, but the safety position is one exception. That’s largely thanks to Bates, who will soon be up for a massive contract when he hits free agency in 2022 unless the Bengals step in and ink him to a lucrative extension first.
45. Mike Evans, wide receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Only two players in NFL history recorded 1,000 receiving yards in each of their first six seasons: Hall of Famer Randy Moss and wide receiver Mike Evans, who developed excellent chemistry with TB12 as a member of the Super Bowl champion Bucs. Evans did Moss one better by eclipsing 1,000 yards once again in 2020, and hauled in a personal-best 13 touchdowns.
44. Cameron Heyward, defensive tackle, Pittsburgh Steelers
One of the unsung heroes of Pittsburgh’s sensational defense, other studs at flashier positions such as T.J. Watt or Minkah Fitzpatrick get more exposure than Heyward. Meanwhile, the 10th-year pro continues to go about his business and trucks along as one of the most consistent players in the entire league. Heyward was a first-team All-Pro in 2017 and 2019. Even at this relatively later phase of his career, the 31-year-old is a critical building block for the Steelers’ D.
43. Corey Linsley, center, Los Angeles Chargers
PFF ranked Linsley as 2020’s top-graded center, as he snapped the ball to MVP winner Aaron Rodgers and made sure the superstar signal-caller was checked into all the right protections and blocking schemes upfront. On the first day of NFL free agency for the 2021 season, the Los Angeles Chargers rewarded Linsley with a huge contract.
42. Bobby Wagner, linebacker, Seattle Seahawks
An unheralded second-round pick out of Utah State in 2012, Wagner became one of the best linebackers of the decade. A seven-time Pro Bowl selection and six-time All-Pro, Wagner is living the dream and will one day be a Hall of Famer.
41. Minkah Fitzpatrick, safety, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Minkah Fitzpatrick trade might go down as one of the best moves in the Steelers’ recent history. He made the same impact for Pittsburgh’s defense that he did for Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Frankly, he is one of the NFL’s best playmakers and is showing no signs of slowing down with a long career ahead of him.
Related: Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 schedule and predictions
Next Up: The NFL Top 40
40. Kyler Murray, quarterback, Arizona Cardinals – NFL breakout player
The Grand Canyon-sized leap we saw from Lamar Jackson from 2018 to 2019? Something similar happened this past year with Murray, who became a more decisive, devastating ball-carrier and improved as a passer. He fits perfectly into Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme, and the addition of DeAndre Hopkins is paying off big time. Murray was on pace to become the first quarterback in NFL history with 4,000-plus passing yards and 1,000-plus rushing yards in a season, but got banged up down the stretch. It’s very possible Murray hits those historic numbers in 2021.
Related: Arizona Cardinals 2021 schedule and predictions
39. Zack Martin, guard, Dallas Cowboys
Martin could retire today and probably be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The decision to draft him over Johnny Manziel pays off to this day and he could well be considered one of the best guards ever when he’s finished playing. Before going down with a calf injury last season, Martin further proved his value and versatility by excelling at right tackle for an injury-depleted offensive line.
38. Chris Jones, defensive tackle, Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes might have won Super Bowl LIV MVP, but the Chiefs don’t complete that fourth-quarter comeback without Jones. He earned every dollar of that $85 million contract and will be essential for this team to become the next NFL dynasty. He responded to his lucrative long-term deal with a 7.5-sack 2020 campaign and graded as PFF’s No. 2 interior defender behind only Aaron Donald.
Related: Kansas City Chiefs 2021 schedule and predictions
37. Dalvin Cook, running back, Minnesota Vikings
A monster in fantasy football and a dangerous all-purpose threat on the field, Cook is the engine that drives the Vikings’ offense. If Minnesota can upgrade at quarterback from Kirk Cousins someday, perhaps Cook can be even more dangerous in the prime of his career now that his future with the franchise is secure with a long-term contract.
Related: Minnesota Vikings 2021 schedule and predictions
36. Tre’Davious White, cornerback, Buffalo Bills
It would have been devastating for the Bills if Tre’Davious White opted out of the 2020 NFL season. Fortunately, he decided to play and helped boost Buffalo to the AFC Championship Game. The All-Pro cornerback deserves to see his previous Madden rating (90) go up. As strong as the Bills’ secondary is across the board, White is definitely the best player in their defensive backfield.
35. Tyrann Mathieu, safety, Kansas City Chiefs
Honey Badger’s story is of consequence. Here’s a dude that was kicked off the LSU football team due to off-field issues. Mathieu then entered the NFL as a major question mark after Arizona made him a third-round pick back in 2013. Since then, he’s morphed into an elite-level cover safety. Mathieu led the Chiefs to a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance this past season, earning first-team, All-Pro honors for the third time in his career and second year in a row.
34. Darius Leonard, linebacker, Indianapolis Colts
From second-round pick in 2018 to instant star. Leonard didn’t just win Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, he was also named first-team All-Pro as a rookie. From FCS star to one of the game’s best linebackers, Leonard proves NFL teams can find talent anywhere.
33. Khalil Mack, defensive end, Chicago Bears
A former NFL Defensive Player of the Year with the then-Oakland Raiders, Mack has not lost a step since the Bears acquired him in a blockbuster trade ahead of the 2018 season. Mack has put up 129 quarterback hits and 70.5 sacks in seven NFL seasons. That sustained success has led to six consecutive Pro Bowl trips.
Related: Chicago Bears 2021 schedule and predictions
32. George Kittle, tight end, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco made him the highest-paid tight end in NFL history for a reason. George Kittle’s stats are certainly gaudy with 2,430 yards over the prior two seasons and 634 yards receiving in only eight 2020 games, but ruthless pancake blocks like this make him the best overall tight end in football other than Travis Kelce.
Related: San Francisco 49ers 2021 schedule and predictions
31. Lamar Jackson quarterback, Baltimore Ravens
It’s been a disappointing 2020 season for Jackson to follow his MVP award-winning effort as a second-year stud, but a lot of this falls on the Ravens. The offensive line took a massive step back, no receivers can get open and Greg Roman’s offense is being called out by defensive players. Eventually things will get turned around, but the good news is, in the midst of all that, Jackson managed to earn his first playoff win, which is a huge confidence boost going forward for one of the game’s most incredible talents.
30. Nick Bosa, defensive end, San Francisco 49ers
Not only did Bosa earn Defensive Rookie of the Year honors last season, he put up one of the greatest initial seasons in NFL history. The Ohio State product recorded 25 quarterback hits, nine sacks and one crazy interception last season. He also put up an absurd 102 pressures. One. Hundred. Two. The only question: how will he look in 2021 coming off a torn ACL?
29. Joey Bosa, defensive end, Los Angeles Chargers
Signed to the richest contract for a defender in NFL history at the time he put pen to paper, Bosa has more than lived up to that billing. The former No. 3 overall pick from Ohio State has recorded 109 quarterback hits and 47.5 sacks in five NFL seasons. Bear in mind that he missed four games as a rookie, nine in 2018 and four this past season. Provided he stays healthy in his prime, Bosa has the production and elite skill set to ascend much further up the NFL top 100 list.
Related: Los Angeles Chargers 2021 schedule and predictions
28. Fred Warner, linebacker, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco found a gem in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Warner is emerging as one of the NFL’s best young defenders with a track record of causing problems for the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers.
27. Brandon Scherff, guard, Washington Football Team
A fixture on Washington’s front ever since being chosen fifth overall in the 2015 draft, Scherff is slated to hit free agency this offseason, and the Football Team would do well to re-sign one of football’s premier interior offensive linemen. Scherff is a four-time Pro Bowler who will be a key building block for whichever offense he’s playing for in 2021 and beyond, and is truly capable of playing anywhere in the trenches if need be. His dependability and versatility warrant a high NFL top 100 bid.
26. Jalen Ramsey, cornerback, Los Angeles Rams
Some fans may think he is one of the most overrated players in the NFL, but that feeling isn’t shared around the league. Ramsey is a shutdown corner and an incredible trash talker, who deserves the record contract he received in the form of five years and $105 million.
Next Up: The NFL Top 25
25. Christian McCaffrey, running back, Carolina Panthers
Historic. Any attempt to explain what McCaffrey did in his first three seasons would fall short. In 2019 alone, McCaffrey led the NFL in touches (403), total yards (2,392) and total touchdowns (19). He also averaged north of 100 receptions per season leading into 2020. Then, he dealt with injuries and appeared in just three games. With a hopefully improved quarterback situation next season and superior health, perhaps McCaffrey will get back to the phenomenal form that once had him much higher in the NFL Top 100.
Related: Carolina Panthers 2021 schedule and predictions
24. Jamal Adams, safety, Seattle Seahawks – Best safety
A malcontent during his three-year stay with the New York Jets, Adams finally got his wish and was shipped off to the Pacific Northwest. He’ll now act as the face of a secondary previously known as the “Legion of Boom” after earning consecutive Pro Bowl trips in Jersey. One of the best safeties in the NFL, Adams recorded 190 tackles, 21 quarterback hits and 19 tackles for loss in his last two seasons with the Jets, and fought through multiple injuries in his maiden year with Seattle to put up 83 combined tackles (11 TFL) and 9.5 sacks in 12 games.
23. Alvin Kamara, running back, New Orleans Saints
Kamara fought through a variety of injuries during the 2019 season, which limited his explosiveness and hurt his production. Now that he’s healthy, Kamara is back to doing jaw-dropping things on the football field. He finsihed with 932 yards rushing and 756 receiving last season, as he continues to rank alongside Christian McCaffrey as the best all-around offensive weapons out of the backfield in all of football.
Related: New Orleans Saints 2021 schedule and predictions
22. DeAndre Hopkins, wide receiver, Arizona Cardinals
Here ends the run of wide receivers. Shockingly acquired from the Houston Texans, Hopkins has been a dominant force throughout his career. We’re talking about a young man who is producing at a rate unmatched by anyone in the NFL right now. In his first year with Arizona catching passes from Kyler Murray, the Cardinals’ newest playmaker to take up the mantle from future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald put up 115 receptions, 1,407 yards and six touchdowns.
21. DeForest Buckner, defensive tackle, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts could have taken their chances on a rookie with the No. 13 overall pick. Instead, they traded it for Buckner. After making him one of the highest-paid defensive players in NFL history, we expected the All-Pro defensive tackle to push this team into the playoffs, and he did just that with an exemplary 2020 in which he 58 combined tackles and 9.5 sacks as PFF’s fifth-ranked interior defender.
Next Up: The NFL Top 20
20. Wyatt Teller, guard, Cleveland Browns
Cleveland dominates with its running game and Teller is pivotal to that success. A fifth-round pick in 2018, turned out to be an absolute steal for the Browns in a seemingly trivial trade carried out by departed GM John Dorsey. Teller absolutely dominates as a run blocker, and now that he’s thriving with a full-fledged starting opportunity, Teller can prove he is the best guard in the NFL in 2021.
19. Xavien Howard, cornerback, Miami Dolphins
Is it buying into coach Brian Flores’ system, the presence of Byron Jones, or both that has led to a renaissance for Howard in 2020? The issue is, Howard has flashed this type of brilliance before, only to see his production and player grades fall off a cliff the next year. When he’s locked in, Howard has the tools to be as good as any player at his position. Until he strings together multiple top-shelf seasons, though, it’s hard to push him higher in the NFL top 100 list. No less, he’s here after a mind-boggling 10 interceptions last season.
Related: Miami Dolphins 2021 schedule and predictions
18. Jaire Alexander, cornerback, Green Bay Packers
Meet the NFL’s new shutdown corner. Alexander is proving to be the top cover player in the NFL, shadowing No. 1 wide receivers and routinely taking them off the map. Keep in mind, he’s doing this with a defense that doesn’t have much in the way of cornerback depth. Alexander seemed like almost a certain lock to earn first-team All-Pro honors, but he made the second team in 2020 — despite being PFF’s top-graded corner. Expect that to motivate him to go to another level as he tries to will the Packers to a Lombardi Trophy next season.
17. Trent Williams, offensive tackle, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco lost left tackle Joe Staley and replaced him with another top pass protector. Even after a year away from football, Williams has shown everyone why his new teammates were so elated to land him, earning PFF’s No. 1 overall grade for offensive tackles.
16. David Bakhtiari, offensive tackle, Green Bay Packers
It’s fitting that a team with a rich history in the NFL thrives at finding offensive linemen late in the draft. Bakhtiari, a fourth-round pick in 2013, has become an outstanding pass protector and a pillar on the left side protecting Aaron Rodgers. Now the highest-paid tackle in NFL history, Bakhtiari will be anchoring left tackle in Green Bay for years to come. Unfortunately, he’s recovering from a season-ending knee injury suffered just before the Packers’ playoff run in practices leading up to Week 17.
15. Tyreek Hill, wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
Electric. That’s been the name of the game for this two-time All-Pro since the Chiefs made him a fifth-round pick back in 2016. Hill is only continuing to evolve as a receiver. Despite some injury and off-field issues, he remains one of the game’s top playmakers. That’s not going to change moving forward.
14. Josh Allen, quarterback, Buffalo Bills
We doubted Allen coming into the season, as accuracy was an alarming concern. While there is still the occasional erratic play from the 24-year-old gunslinger, his 69.2% completion rate last season was a stunning improvement over his mark in 2019 (58.8%). Plenty of credit goes to offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and receiver Stefon Diggs, but Allen’s progress is undeniable, and arguably the biggest Year 3 progress leap an NFL quarterback has ever taken.
Related: Buffalo Bills 2021 schedule and predictions
13. Quenton Nelson, guard, Indianapolis Colts
It was somewhat of a surprise that Indy exhausted a top-six pick on a guard back in 2018. At the very least, it was a surprise to those who didn’t see Nelson dominate at Notre Dame. He’s a generational talent, and has proven that in three seasons. Still so young, Nelson already seems to be on the trajectory that will land him in Canton as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Related: Indianapolis Colts 2021 schedule and predictions
12. Myles Garrett, defensive end, Cleveland Browns
Myles Garrett will forever be known for striking Mason Rudolph in the head with his helmet. But, there’s also no denying he is one of the best defensive players in the NFL. We told you he could’ve won Defensive Player of the Year before this last season and with 12 sacks, he is well on his way to achieving that accolade soon enough.
11. Stefon Diggs, wide receiver, Buffalo Bills
There were some concerns about how Diggs would fare in Buffalo with Josh Allen, a shared belief that a quarterback with ball placement issues would be a major problem. It turns out, this is the perfect pairing. Diggs wound up leading the NFL with 127 receptions and 1,535 yards receiving in 2020. It’s scary to think what the Bills could accomplish offensively in 2021 with Allen’s improvement and Diggs having an entire offseason to gain more chemistry with his cannon-armed QB.
Next Up: The NFL Top 10
10. Derrick Henry, running back, Tennessee Titans – Best NFL running back
Derrick Henry averaged 126.7 rushing yards per game this past season, cracking the 2,000-yard mark. Keep in mind, he did a majority of that damage against stacked boxes. Imagine what this 6-foot-3 bulldozer is going to do now that NFL defenses have to focus on Julio Jones and A.J. Brown.
Related: Tennessee Titans 2021 schedule and predictions
9. Deshaun Watson, quarterback, Houston Texans
The allegations against Deshaun Watson are alarming. Despite the uncertainty, NFL teams see a quarterback who played at an MVP-caliber level on one of the worst rosters in football. On pure talent in a better situation, Watson could become a top-5 player.
Related: Houston Texans 2021 schedule and predictions
8. T.J. Watt, outside linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers – Best NFL edge rusher
A look at T.J. Watt’s stats tell you everything about how good this All-Pro edge rusher is. With 98 quarterback hits and 42.5 sacks in his last 47 games, the Pittsburgh Steelers need to reward him with a record-breaking contract. If they don’t, other teams are happy to write a blank check.
7. Davante Adams, wide receiver, Green Bay Packers – Best NFL wide receiver
Davante Adams wants to be the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL and for good reason. Coming off a 14-game season with 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns, this All-Pro wideout is poised to break some single-season NFL records in 2021.
6. Russell Wilson, quarterback, Seattle Seahawks
The drama between the Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson is settled…for now. He’s determined to prove he can still lead a team to a Super Bowl and with the improvements made on offense, we feel safe putting this team in our NFL playoff projections.
Related: Seattle Seahawks 2021 schedule and predictions
Next Up: The NFL Top 5
5. Travis Kelce, tight end, Kansas City Chiefs – Best NFL tight end
Travis Kelce already holds NFL records for most 1,000-yard seasons by a tight end (five), single-season receiving yards by a tight end (1,416) and most 100-receptions seasons by a tight end (two). In the prime of his career, we can’t wait to see what Kelce does for an encore in 2021.
4. Tom Brady, quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Best quarterback of all-time
A seven-time Super Bowl champion and five-time Super Bowl MVP, that isn’t enough for Tom Brady. Entering his age-44 season, Brady is the biggest reason why his team is atop Sportsnaut’s NFL power rankings entering the season.
Related: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2021 schedule and predictions
3. Aaron Rodgers, quarterback, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers returns to the Green Bay Packers very motivated for the 2021 NFL season. Considering how he played with a little to prove, winning this third NFL MVP award, we’re putting opponents on the Packers’ schedule on notice.
Related: Green Bay Packers 2021 schedule and predictions
2. Aaron Donald, defensive tackle, Los Angeles Rams – Best defensive player
Aaron Donald is the reason why, despite key losses, the Los Angeles Rams are high on Sportsnaut’s NFL defense rankings. When you see 93 quarterback hits, 59 tackles for loss and 46.5 sacks across games, then remember how he sets up teammates, there’s no question Donald is the best defensive player in the NFL.
Related: Los Angeles Rams 2021 schedule and predictions
1. Patrick Mahomes, quarterback Kansas City Chiefs – Best player in NFL
The highest paid player in the NFL is Patrick Mahomes and he is the NFL’s top quarterback. The player who makes no-look throws seem routine will play behind an improved offensive line in 2021 and that may lead to another NFL MVP award.