Splash’s Top 100 (2020): Players 60-51
Dec 29, 2019; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters (24) celebrates a play in fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitchell Layton-USA TODAY Sports
It’s time to continue identifying the NFL’s top 100 players, continuing with Nos. 60 through 51.
No. 60: Chris Godwin, Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
After two solid seasons, Godwin exploded in 2019. He was third in the NFL in receiving yards and fourth in touchdowns despite missing a pair of games. Godwin averaged an exceptional 95.2 receiving yards per game, good enough for 1,523 yards had he played all 16 games. Only Michael Thomas had more 100-yard games than Godwin’s six. There are two camps around Godwin: the underrated camp and the overrated camp. The underrated camp points out that Godwin shares targets with the historically great Mike Evans who is one of two players (Randy Moss) to have six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to open a career. On the other hand, the overrated camp points out that Godwin is likely drawing easier matchups because of Evans. Either way, Godwin is a gifted receiver and should move higher in the 2021 Top 100.
No. 59: Kevin Byard, Safety, Tennessee Titans:
Byard is far from a household name, but he has the talent and the production to be one. He has 17 interceptions since 2017, by far the most in the NFL. He also has an impressive 33 pass deflections. Byard is one of seven players with at least 50 disruptions since 2017. He has just one Pro Bowl appearance and one First-Team All-Pro nod, but Byard makes plays. He is the best defensive player on a team that is 36-28 with three playoff wins in his career. Byard is one of the most underrated players, and he consistently contributes to winning football. There are no empty stats with Byard.
No. 58: Marcus Peters, Cornerback, Baltimore Ravens:
Speaking of interceptions, Peters has quite the reputation for being a boom-or-bust player. In five seasons, he has 27 interceptions, returning six for touchdowns. In 2019, he became one of just 29 players to have three pick-sixes in a season. A mid-season trade sent Peters to Baltimore, and he shined. In 10 games with the Ravens, Peters had his most pass deflections since 2016, and he made his second All-Pro team and third Pro Bowl. Peters has been much maligned for allowing touchdowns and missing tackles, but he seemed to clean up his act in Baltimore, allowing a 63.4 passer rating compared to a 91.8 with the Rams in 2019 (111.0 in 2018). Tackling wise, Peters was a much more willing tackler with the Ravens, and he shaved his missed tackle rate nearly in half.
No. 57: Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers:
Aaron Rodgers is not as good as he once was. However, he has perfected the art of game management. Even without much in the way of receiving weapons (outside of a player to be mentioned later), Rodgers plays clean, efficient football. His touchdown rate has dipped by about two percent from his 2008-2017 average, but he has compensated by trimming his record-low interception rate to a mind-boggling 0.51 percent. Rodgers has six interceptions in his last 1,166 passes. For context, Jameis Winston threw seven picks in 97 attempts in Weeks 6 and 8 (Week 7 bye). Moving into his age-37 season, Rodgers should have just enough in the tank to keep the offense competent.
No. 56: Dalvin Cook, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings:
Cook left a bad taste in the mouths of fans after a putrid 3.0 yards per carry in the playoffs, but he had an explosive season. He had 1,135 rushing yards (10th) and 13 rushing touchdowns (fourth) plus 53 catches and 519 receiving yards. Cook cooled off in the second half of the season to the tune of just 3.32 yards per carry, but he stayed reasonably productive in the passing game. Cook was only one of four players to have five games with at least 110 rushing yards. The production is there, but Cook needs to stay consistent and healthy in 2020.
No. 55: Davante Adams, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers:
Davante Adams is the unluckiest wide receiver in NFL history. 29 players have combined for 30 seasons with a receiving yards total between 990 and 999. Adams is the only player to do it twice, coming excruciatingly close with 997 yards in 2016 and 2019. If 997 yards was chosen as the arbitrary mark for an elite receiver, Adams would have crossed the boundary thrice, but he is stuck with just one 1,000-yard season (1,386 in 2018) in his career. Curiously, Adams translated 2016 and 2019 into mammoth playoff performances. In 2016, Adams had 217 yards and a pair of touchdowns in three playoff games. In 2019, Adams had 298 yards and a pair of touchdowns in two games, the 12th-most playoff yards in the decade and the second-most by someone who played only two games (T.Y. Hilton, 2013). Adams is unquestionably elite.
No. 54: DeForest Buckner, Interior Defensive Line, Indianapolis Colts:
The 2018 Pro Bowler and Second-Team All-Pro was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in March, fetching a first-round pick for the 49ers. In four years with San Francisco, Buckner had 28.5 sacks over 63 games, adding 38 tackles for loss. In the 2019 playoffs, Buckner popped with 2.5 sacks and a pair of tackles for loss. Moving to the AFC might help Buckner even more as 39 percent of his sacks have come against AFC teams in only 25 percent of games. Buckner moves into an improving defense, and he should be the focal point of an above-average pass rush in Indianapolis.
No. 53: Eric Kendricks, Linebacker, Minnesota Vikings:
After four seasons of being a pretty good linebacker for the Vikings, Kendricks was a superstar in 2019. Kendricks made his first Pro Bowl, and he even slid into the All-Pro First-Team. Kendricks excelled in coverage, and he dropped his passer rating allowed mark without picking off a pass. Kendricks lowered his completion percentage allowed by 16 percent, yards per target by nearly two yards, and passer rating allowed by 7.9 points. The Vikings have lost lots of defensive talent in recent months, but they will have the best coverage linebacker manning the middle of the field in 2020.
No. 52: Joey Bosa, EDGE, Los Angeles Chargers:
Joey may be the less popular Bosa brother, but he has four seasons worth of production compared to Nick’s lone season. After 40 sacks, 53 tackles for loss, and 82 quarterback hits, the elder Bosa signed a massive extension in the offseason. Bosa is one of five players to have 10 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and 20 quarterback hits in three of the last four seasons (Aaron Donald, Chandler Jones, Cameron Jordan, and Von Miller). Bosa recently turned 25, and he should have many seasons of elite production left. 2020 could be Bosa’s third trip to the Pro Bowl and first appearance as an All-Pro.
No. 51: Tyrann Mathieu, Safety, Kansas City Chiefs:
The Honey Badger just makes plays. An All-Pro in 2019, Mathieu recorded his fifth straight season with an interception and a sack. It is a low bar, but only Jamie Collins has done it. Moving back to Mathieu’s rookie season, only he, Collins, Luke Kuechly, and Kenny Vaccaro have an interception and a sack in six different seasons. For Mathieu, versatility is the name of the game. He lined up at safety, slot corner, and outside linebacker at least 100 times, and he even played a handful of snaps at inside linebacker and boundary cornerback. Mathieu will be working toward his second ring in 2020.