The NFL wrapped up its annual list of the top-100 players on Monday by revealing the order of the top-10. It also revealed, like it does every year, that lists like these are flawed, biased, and a victim of popularity influence over talent. That being said, one cannot really measure talent or make an impenetrable argument that one player is better than another closely-related player … except that I can, and I did, and I am now revealing who the top-100 players of 2019 will be.
For the purposes of their list, players vote on who their most talented colleagues are and the results are … well, they are certainly results. Like did you know that Carlos Hyde was better than Dion Lewis, Marshawn Lynch, and Jordan Howard? Even though the 49ers chose to replace him with Jerick McKinnon, he actually is. Read the list. It’s undeniable now. Derek Carr is better than Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith, and Dak Prescott. So is Case Keenum. Don’t believe me? Then I guess you better check the list again.
Lists are perfect and this is one of them. Many players are not on it, and that’s because they won’t be in the top-100 most-talented players next season. Instead, the following 100 will be and exactly in this order, for the reasons listed below. Have a disagreement? Take it up with the list.
100. Johnny Hekker, P, Rams
Immediately breaking the rule of “No specialists allowed,” Hekker earns a rightful place among the century club because the NFL took heed of his warning in 2018 after they left both him and teammate Greg Zuerlein (and any other kicker or punter) off of the list.
99. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Rams
Suh’s played with DeAndre Levy, Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Nick Fairley, Ezekiel Ansah, Olivier Vernon, Cam Wake, and Kiko Alonso, but he’s never had a front-seven teammate like Aaron Donald. That could dampen the focus on his impact a little bit (plus, no shame, he’s 31 now) but he’s still going to be considered the 99th-best player in the game. That’s guaranteed.
98. Jason Kelce, C, Eagles
Kelce gets on the top-100 as a center because he makes an impassioned speech about it.
97. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
The first time Fitzgerald ranked outside the top-70 because a late-season retirement announcement costs him votes.
96. Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Bears
Matt Nagy is a good, offensive-minded coach, Allen Robinson is a good receiver, Kevin White is frustrating but might actually be healthy, and Trubisky will be the 96th-most-good player in the league.
95. Earl Thomas, FS, Seahawks
Thomas, like all players unhappy with their contract situation, can threaten a holdout. And Thomas, like almost all players, will eventually return without a new contract. And he’ll still be the elite free safety we remember, but not as many people are looking Seattle’s way anymore.
94. Fletcher Cox, DT, Eagles
Of all the great defensive linemen in Philadelphia, Cox is one of them.
93. Lavonte David, LB, Bucs
Telvin Smith may be the only better run-stopping linebacker in the NFL, but next season also happens to be a season where David racks up some interceptions and sacks.
92. Sony Michel, RB, Patriots
Hey look, it’s Dion Lewis? Sort of. In a way.
91. Jared Goff, QB, Rams
Goff may suffer from the same “Yes the numbers are good, but is he actually that good?” disease that Derek Carr has.
90. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Saints
It’s impressive that New Orleans has seven players on next year’s top-100, but even more surprising is that three of them are on defense.
89. Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions
Stafford was 31st in both 2017 and 2018, so what happened? Nothing, this ranking isn’t so bad, and Stafford’s ranking the previous four years were 76, 100, off, and off.
88. Kevin Byard, FS, Titans
Tennessee’s 2016 draft haul included Byard, Jack Conklin, Derrick Henry, Tajae Sharpe, Kevin Dodd, and Austin Johnson. If the end result after a few years are just Byard and Conklin, that would be better than most Titans draft classes.
87. Kawann Short, DT, Panthers
Hard to say why Short won’t be snubbed next year like he was for the last two, but Carolina’s still got a few elite players to play with.
86. Bradley Chubb, Edge, Broncos
Why wait? Chubb can do it now.
85. T.J. Watt, OLB, Steelers
84. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers
Pittsburgh does pretty well — despite some high-profile players having “down” seasons, they’ve done a noteworthy job reloading.
83. Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Saints
The good news for New Orleans is that they finally have an elite offensive lineman .. oh, wait, no they find those every single year while other teams keep swinging and missing.
82. William Jackson III, CB, Bengals
Quietly dominant. Next season won’t be so quiet.
81. Allen Hurns, WR, Cowboys
Dallas plans to utilize Hurns as a number one receiver and with the talent on that offense, he’ll do even better than he did in 2015 (64 receptions/1,031 yards/10 touchdowns) when he was having to pull in the balls from Blake Bortles.
80. Melvin Ingram, Edge, Chargers
He gets to be a disruptive force on any defense, but on a defense with Joey Bosa, he’ll be so good that he has to consider holding out in 2019.
79. Jurrell Casey, DT, Titans
The Titans are so 9-7 that you’d think Jeff Fisher never left, but Casey is among the standouts.
78. Cam Heyward, Edge, Steelers
It only took seven years, but Heyward finally outplayed his late-first round draft status from 2011. But praise is sort of like breaking into TV writing: Once you’re in, you’re in.
77. Geno Atkins, DT, Bengals
Since 2011, he has the same number of sacks as Calais Campbell and is only a hair behind Everson Griffen and Cam Jordan; but Atkins does it from the inside, and more importantly, plays for the Bengals.
76. Jimmy Graham, TE, Packers
Signing Graham is an indication that Green Bay’s not even going to pretend to care about the run. But they do care about the pass, and that’s good for Graham.
75. Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings
This is a better situation for all parties involved. (Gotta be careful saying “parties” around the Vikings, though.)
74. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Vikings
He wasn’t as good in 2017 as he was in 2016, but that didn’t stop him from moving up the rankings. He may be better in 2018 than he was in 2017, but that won’t stop him from moving down.
73. O.J. Howard, TE, Bucs
The league’s next great tight end, Howard doubles his targets and his touchdowns.
72. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
Not a lot of people know this, but next season, Green will post career lows in catches and yards, even if he’s still a great player. The only way you could have known that was by reading this list.
71. Richard Sherman, CB, 49ers
This will be the sixth year in a row that Sherman has dropped down the list, from a high of seventh in 2014 to this. It doesn’t mean he’s bad though; did you know that being the 71st-best player in the NFL would be a good thing?
70. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks
The NFL’s best slot receiver, in large part because he’s reliable like a 5’10 guy but plays like a 6’5 dude who can go up and get anything. He’s not just a high-percentage target, he has some of the best catches on film:
69. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
McCaffrey has a couple great seasons in his career and this is one of them; this is indisputable.
68. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
Gronk actually petitions to be one spot lower.
67. Andrew Norwell, OG, Jaguars
Undrafted in 2014, still unknown for most of 2017, $66.5 million from Jacksonville in 2018, a high-key praised lineman in 2019.
66. Tre’Davious White, CB, Bills
The Bills are on the list! Here. (Spoiler: Only here.)
65. Pat Mahomes, QB, Chiefs
If Marcus Mariota can be ranked 110th this year, then certainly it’ll only take 20 touchdowns for Mahomes to land at 65. Which is where he will wind up.
64. DeForest Buckner, DT, 49ers
When the Niners’ defense works, it works in large part because of Buckner. It will work — sometimes — next season.
63. Ezekiel Ansah, Edge, Lions
Putting up 12-sack seasons with very little attention. Hi, I play for the Detroit Lions.
62. Budda Baker, S, Cardinals
The Seahawks could have taken Baker, a local kid, in the draft last year, but they went with Malik McDowell instead. Speaking of the Seahawks…
61. Frank Clark, Edge, Seahawks
Seattle lost Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Kam Chancellor, and Sheldon Richardson. Not making a point, just sulking on the part of Seahawks fans.
60. Corey Davis, WR, Titans
I mean, someone from the 2017 receiver class needs to step up and Davis is the first to do so.
59. Deion Jones, LB, Falcons
He’s like a combination of Deion Sanders and Chandler Jones … in name, at least. On the field, he’s just Deion Jones, and that makes him no worse than 60th and no better than 58th.
58. Zack Martin, G, Cowboys
For $84 million, he’ll need to be the top-ranked guard in the league.
57. Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
Jason got the weight, but Travis got the height. Jason got the ring, but Travis got the coveted No. 57 spot.
56. LaMarcus Joyner, FS, Rams
Players tend to get rewarded with praise when teams show financial commitment to them. He’s also a better free safety than he is a cornerback.
55. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
His 406 touches in the regular season were too much and Bell will need more of a break than most backs. He may still be the best back in the NFL, but that does not mean he will be the most successful, by nature of the position.
54. Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings
There’s nothing wrong with Adam Thielen, who drops off the list, but Diggs overtakes Cousins’ attention and some other receivers do just a little bit better.
53. Todd Gurley, RB, Rams
This type of drop will not be well-received by all, but Gurley’s 343 touches takes a toll on him just as that type of responsibility has on other backs in recent seasons.
52. Darius Slay, CB, Lions
When players who go from six interceptions in four seasons to eight interceptions in one season, you tend to think that they’ll reverse back into their typical amount of production. But, I mean, I don’t know how many players have really done that before, and Slay is named “Slay,” so I’m rooting for him.
51. Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs
Kansas City added Sammy Watkins, which didn’t at all prevent the Rams from giving the ball to Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods. Hill won’t slow down, either.
50. Cam Jordan, Edge, Saints
He’s really good.
49. Chris Harris, CB, Broncos
A high-quality player.
48. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
A true talent.
47. Patrick Peterson, CB, Cardinals
The 47th-best player in football.
46. Trent Williams, OT, Washington
Not at all bad.
45. Keanu Neal, FS, Falcons
Neal confirmed that he was named after Keanu Reeves even though he’s not really a fan himself, but I want to point out that he was born a month after Johnny Mnemonic hit theaters so really it’s understandable why he has a bad association with it.
44. Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
Far be it from me to argue about ranking one player over another, but Derek Carr at 60 and Dak not even in the top-110 is certainly worth an interesting conversation between two people who have nothing else to do.
43. Harrison Smith, FS, Vikings
You could argue Smith in the top-20, but as has been said in the past, you could argue for just about anything. Anything is “arguably” true.
42. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
He avoids a suspension and also most run defenders by playing behind this offensive line, so it’s a quick ride to 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns.
41. Davante Adams, WR, Packers
Jordy Nelson’s departure opens the door for a 1,406-yard season from Adams (don’t dispute this, it is factually going to happen and these rankings are 100 percent correct) and the torch is passed on for the next great Green Bay receiver.
40. Tyron Smith, OT, Cowboys
He’s a five-time Pro Bowler and he’s still younger than SZA.
39. A.J. Bouye, CB, Jaguars
How many elite players on a roster does it take to screw in a lightbulb while Blake Bortles is chucking rocks at them from the kitchen?
38. DeMarcus Lawrence, Edge, Cowboys
Just when the Cowboys thought they were out of salary cap hell, Lawrence pulls them back in.
37. Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans
36. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans
When playing with Watson, Hopkins caught 62 percent of 71 targets and had seven touchdowns. When playing with anyone else, Hopkins caught 50.4 percent of 103 targets and had six touchdowns. It’s gonna get even better, is what I’m saying.
35. Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
He was Kareem Hunt before Kareem Hunt and he’ll be Kareem Hunt after Kareem Hunt.
34. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers
He only needed five starts (and just one without an interception) to land at 90 on this year’s list, so I can’t imagine it’s going to take Garoppolo much to land in the top 40.
33. Yannick Ngakoue, Edge, Texans
Just taking this opportunity to say that the coolest “Yannick” name in NFL history is still Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil.
32. Marshon Lattimore, CB, Saints
Remember when there was a learning curve for cornerbacks? Lattimore doesn’t.
31. Myles Garrett, Edge, Browns
Cleveland had no players on the top-100 this year but they added two players from it (Jarvis Landry, Carlos Hyde) and will have two new additions on next year’s list. With this kind of talent infusion, Hue Jackson actually wins more than one game.
30. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars
His impact in 2017 was overrated, but his job also won’t be as difficult in 2018.
29. David Bakhtiari, OT, Packers
He’s the best pass blocker in the NFL, and as long as Rodgers stays healthy for a whole season, that will actually matter.
28. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
In only two years, Thomas has more career receptions (196) than Tavon Austin, Sammy Watkins, or Kelvin Benjamin.
27. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers
Hunter Henry’s torn ACL in May seemed like an earlier-than-usual sinking of LA’s season, but Rivers is also gaining Mike Williams, Forrest Lamp, and Mike Pouncey. And Nelson Spruce. Did I mention wide receiver Nelson Spruce?
t-25. Bobby Wagner, LB, Seahawks
t-25. Luke Kuechly, LB, Panthers
These two inside linebackers have been tied together since the 2012 draft, but this is the year that neither will be the top-ranked middle linebacker in the league.
24. Josh Gordon, WR, Browns
If it’s a list based on talent more than value, then how has Gordon not been on the list? He’s Calvin Johnson with a bad reputation.
23. Von Miller, OLB, Broncos
Miller drops because of voter fatigue from him being so consistently great.
22. J.J. Watt, DL, Texans
After missing 24 of 32 games in the last two seasons, Watt still landed at 84 on the latest top-100. So he really only need to play in like half of 2018 to make it back into the top-25.
21. Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, Giants
If there’s any doubt that Beckham is a top-three receiver, he may just have to sub in for Eli Manning on a play and throw an 80-yard touchdown to himself.
20. Telvin Smith, LB, Jaguars
I mean, at some point there had to be someone better than Kuechly and Wagner.
19. Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
Being ranked 20th was too high for Kamara in 2018, but 19th may be too low for him in 2019. Do not try to “logic” me on this one.
18. Chandler Jones, Edge, Cardinals
Arizona will finish last in the division because you can have multiple top-tier players, but if one of them is not your quarterback, it may not matter.
17. Calais Campbell, DL, Jaguars
Now take what I said above and try to apply it to Jacksonville, but then remember that it doesn’t matter because almost no team in the AFC has a top-tier quarterback.
16. Casey Hayward, CB, Chargers
The Chargers finally opt to play football in September, giving them a leg up on the No. 1 seed in the AFC. That also helps people recognize that Hayward may actually be the game’s best corner.
15. Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles
This seems like it would have been a fair spot for Wentz this year, though voters put him all the way up at No. 3. So if his recovery from ACL surgery slows him down any and makes him roughly the 30th best player in the NFL, then I suppose he’ll land at 15.
14. Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
Not even Steve Sarkisian could waste the talent around Ryan.
13. Khalil Mack, Edge, Raiders
Oakland added three defensive linemen in the draft (P.J. Hall, Arden Key, Maurice Hurst) and signed veterans Ahtyba Rubin and Frostee Rucker, not to prepare for life without Mack, but to try and give opposing offensive linemen anyone else to block besides Mack.
12. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
Jones won’t miss any games from his holdout, but rookie Calvin Ridley takes some pressure (and targets) away from him.
11. Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jaguars
In Week 1 against the Giants, he’ll have a pick-six on Eli, then go rip off Manning’s jersey and wear it for the rest of the game.
10. Joey Bosa, Edge, Chargers
He’s gonna be J.J. Watt for some time.
9. Drew Brees, QB, Saints
He’ll become the NFL’s all-time leading passer by October, maybe even sooner with Mark Ingram out for the first few games.
8. Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants
I don’t agree with drafting a running back in the top-10, but the position is so fickle that there’s no reason a rookie can’t be here; Zeke was ranked seventh in 2017.
7. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
This is the lowest Brown’s been ranked since 2015 when he was eighth; a tiny byproduct of Ben Roethlisberger missing the list for the first time due to age and Ben-related injuries, however Mason Rudolph makes a push for Offensive Rookie of the Year since he gets to throw to Brown, Smith-Schuster, and former Oklahoma State teammate James Washington.
6. Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
Seattle’s focus on improving the run game this year still involves Wilson doing basically everything.
5. David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
Johnson landed at No. 12 on this list a year ago before a wrist injury cost him most of the season, and now he’s in a contract dispute because he found out that a simple wrist injury could threaten your career. Johnson leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage for the second time in three years, because Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen probably aren’t going to be moving the Arizona offense down the field in big (or small) chunks.
4. Jadeveon Clowney, Edge, Texans
The return of Watt becomes the emergence of Clowney, as the pending free agent totals 16 sacks and four forced fumbles during a breakout campaign. Really he started “breaking out” two years ago, but QB hurries and run stops don’t have as good of a PR department as sacks do.
3. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Sign that Brady is getting older: He drops from first to third. Oh, the horror of being 41. Brady was human down the stretch in the regular season, but then dominated in the postseason; Brady had more playoff touchdowns last year (eight) than all other over-40 quarterbacks in playoff history combined (seven).
2. Aaron Donald, DT, Rams
Donald doesn’t get a new contract, reports in Week 1, becomes third player after Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt to win back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards, and the Rams are forced to make him the first non-QB to make $20 million per season.
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
No team has a greater gap in competitiveness with or without their quarterback than Green Bay does with Rodgers. He’s so well respected that he landed at 10 this year despite basically only playing in five full games, not including the rush job to get him back on the field in time for a playoff push that didn’t happen. In his first season with Jimmy Graham, Rodgers leads the NFL in touchdown passes and wins a third MVP trophy, landing atop the top-100 for the first time since 2012. Voters also overlook yet another postseason mishap that leaves Rodgers shy of a second Super Bowl trophy.