Let’s continue with Splash’s Top 100 players in the NFL as we break into the Top 50.
No. 50: David Bakhtiari, Offensive Tackle, Green Bay Packers:
Bakhtiari has been a bastion of protection for Aaron Rodgers for seven seasons now, starting 106 of 112 possible games. According to PFF, Bakhtiari allowed just two sacks on over 1,000 offensive snaps, effectively keeping pass rushers at bay. He was a Pro Bowler in 2019, his second nomination, but he was usurped by Ronnie Stanley of the Ravens for the first-team All-Pro nod. Since 2016, Bakhtiari has been a consistent top-five tackle, and he should have plenty of seasons left as a top tier tackle. With 2019 draft pick Elgton Jenkings in at left guard, the Packers have one of the strongest sides to an offensive line in the NFL.
No. 49: Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints:
Brees is no longer a threat for 5,000 passing yards in a season, but he seems to be the peak of game management. In 2019, the Saints set a record for fewest turnovers in any NFL season (16-game or otherwise) with just eight. Naturally, their sterling record came to a comical comeuppance as Brees was intercepted and lost a fumble in the playoffs. Otherwise, Brees was reliable and efficient in 2019. He posted the second-highest completion percentage in NFL history, falling 0.1 percent shy of his 2018 record. Brees had a career-high touchdown rate and helped Michael Thomas to a record-setting season. He is not a 400-completion machine anymore, but Brees seems to have some juice left in the tank.
No. 48: Odell Beckham, Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns:
It is a testament to Beckham’s talent that back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons is considered a disappointment. Beckham is just one of 11 receivers to have 1,000 yards in both 2018 and 2019. His first season in Cleveland was tumultuous as the three-time Pro Bowler had some great performances mixed with headscratchers. Beckham only hauled in 74 passes in 16 games, well short of the 106 he averaged per 16 games with the Giants. Talent-wise, there are few in NFL history that can match Beckham, but he needs to return to form in 2020. On the bright side, 2019 was Beckham’s healthiest year as he played in all 16 games and played in 95 percent of Cleveland’s snaps.
No. 47: Nick Chubb, Running Back, Cleveland Browns:
Chubb has powered for 2,490 yards in two seasons including 1,494 in 2019. He has finished in the top-10 in rushing in both seasons. He has also been efficient, averaging 5.1 yards per carry over his 490 rushes. Even if you exclude his 92-yard and 88-yard touchdown runs, he averages a robust 4.7 yards per tote. Chubb is an excellent blend of power and speed, and he is rarely caught from behind. He is one of the most productive backs after contact, and the Browns bolstered the offensive line to give him even more holes to run through in 2020. Chubb has not shown too much as a pass-catcher, but he has had to share the backfield with Duke Johnson and Kareem Hunt in his two years.
No. 46: Demario Davis, Linebacker, New Orleans Saints:
In his first seven seasons, Davis was a pretty solid linebacker with the Jets, Browns, and Saints. He was nothing spectacular, but he was a reliable tackler and playmaker at times. From 2013 to 2018, he averaged three pass deflections, three sacks, eight tackles for loss, eight quarterback hits, and over 100 tackles a season. However, Davis blossomed into a star linebacker in 2019, being named to the All-Pro team for the first time in his career. The raw numbers are in line with his career averages for the most part, but Davis was stellar in coverage in 2019. Opponents’ passer rating fell from over 111 to 75.8. Davis turned 31 in January, so a decline may be imminent, but he should hold down the fort while 2020 draft pick Zack Baun learns the position.
No. 45: J.J. Watt, EDGE, Houston Texans:
Somehow, Watt is just coming into his 10th NFL season. He is a five-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler who has been sapped of 16 games played since 2015. When he plays, he is generally the best player on the field. However, health has been a concern over the last four seasons. Had he played a full season, 8.0 sacks and 42 quarterback hits would have been a solid season, but he will need to stay. In 2018, Watt played 16 games, had 16 sacks, and had a mind-boggling 60 pressures. He should have some production left in the tank, and he should be a sure-fire bet to reach 100 sacks in 2020, but the prime is over. At his peak, Watt had an argument of being the best EDGE player in NFL history.
No. 44: Danielle Hunter, EDGE, Minnesota Vikings:
The second-straight player in the list to have 50 sacks before their age-26 season, Hunter has been decimating offensive lines for half a decade now. Since 2015, Hunter ranks sixth in the NFL in sacks and eighth in tackles for loss. In 2019, Hunter tied his career-high with 14.5 sacks and posted a career-high 22 quarterback hits along with 36 pressures. In the playoffs, Hunter practically ate New Orleans and San Francisco to record 2.5 sacks and five quarterback hits. Hunter had three separate streaks of games with sacks including six in a row to end the season including the playoffs (excluding a game he played one snap). Hunter has still yet to turn 26, so he likely has five or more years as an elite pass rusher left.
No. 43: Laremy Tunsil, Offensive Tackle, Houston Texans:
Tunsil had a bad reputation for taking penalties as he averaged one false start per game in 2019, but during active play, few were better than Tunsil. Despite protecting notorious sack-taker Deshaun Watson, Tunsil only allowed three sacks in 915 offensive snaps. Tunsil had a limited preseason with the Texans in 2019, so he should come back even better in 2020 with a full season of rapport with his teammates. Tunsil has yet to play all 16 games in a season, but he has never missed more than three games in any season. The former first-rounder made his first Pro Bowl in 2019.
No. 42: David DeCastro, Interior Offensive Line, Pittsburgh Steelers:
DeCastro has rattled off five consecutive Pro Bowl nods despite playing at an increasingly crowded guard position. In those seasons, he has a pair of first-team All-Pro nods, and he has only missed four games since the start of 2013. While Pittsburgh has had some fraudulent Pro Bowl selections at times due to the popularity of the team (especially the offense), DeCastro is routinely deserving of the recognition. Only 30 years old, DeCastro has time to continue to solidify a resume that could send him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has steep competition for All-Pro spots as Quenton Nelson and Zack Martin are historically great at left and right guard respectively, but DeCastro should continue to make Pro Bowls for the next few seasons.
No. 41: Cameron Jordan, EDGE, New Orleans Saints:
Jordan made his fifth Pro Bowl in 2019, pairing with his fifth season with at least 10 sacks. Only Chandler Jones has managed to get to 10 sacks six times since 2013. Jordan does not have the name recognition value of players like J.J. Watt or Von Miller, but Jordan is often every bit as good as those players, especially when one looks at his all-around game. Jordan is consistently great as a pass rusher and a run stopper. He only has one All-Pro nod, but he is still playing at a high level, so he could pull one off in his early 30s. Jordan has never missed a game, and he would pass the 100-sack plateau with his third career 13.0 sack season.
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