Splash’s Top 100 (2019): Players 40-31

#40: Antonio Brown, Wide receiver, Oakland Raiders:

The owner of seven Pro Bowl and four All-Pro nods, Antonio Brown will be terrorizing a different set of cornerbacks this season as he was traded to the Oakland Raiders. Brown has caught more than 100 passes in each of the last six seasons and has recorded seven 1,000-yard years. Brown led the NFL in receiving touchdowns last year despite missing Week 17 due to a feud with Mike Tomlin. While on the field, Brown is as talented as they come, but off the field, Brown was a head case for Pittsburgh over the course of his nine years in the Steel City. In his first year in Oakland, he will look to control his ego and produce on the field.

#39: Leighton Vander Esch, Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys:

Vander Esch may only have 16 games and 11 starts under his belt, but he established himself as an elite linebacker in the middle of the Dallas defense after Sean Lee went out with injury. Vander Esch recorded 140 total tackles including 102 solo efforts. Vander Esch made the Pro Bowl after being a first-round pick in the 2018 draft. Alongside Jaylon Smith, Vander Esch will lead the next great corps of Dallas linebackers.

#38: Zach Ertz, Tight end, Philadelphia Eagles:

Ertz had a breakthrough campaign in 2018, catching a tight end-record 116 balls, adding 1,163 yards, and adding eight more touchdowns to his career tally. A two-time Pro Bowler, Ertz has established himself as a high-level tight end over the course of the last six seasons. A key cog in the Eagles’ Super Bowl-winning roster from a season ago, Ertz will look to have yet another productive campaign with a full year of Carson Wentz delivering him passes this season.

#37: Tyron Smith, Offensive tackle, Dallas Cowboys:

One of the most dominant left tackles in the sport, Tyron Smith has rattled off six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances and a pair of All-Pro selections at the highly contested position. Despite only playing 13 games in each of the past three seasons, Smith has still been a stalwart offensive tackle for the Cowboys, helping Ezekiel Elliott rush for thousands of yards since 2016 and providing enough time to throw for Dak Prescott.

#36: Jason Kelce, Center, Philadelphia Eagles:

A two-time reigning All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowler at center, Jason Kelce is the leader on the Eagles’ offense. Kelce has started every game for the past five seasons and has recorded 16 starts in six of his eight seasons as the center for the Eagles. Kelce can engage as a run blocker and as a pass blocker to aid the Eagles’ offensive line. The Eagles generally have one of the best offensive lines in football, and much of the credit belongs to Kelce for being the vocal leader of the line.

#35: Darius Leonard, Linebacker, Indianapolis Colts:

In just 15 games, Darius Leonard led the NFL in tackles as a rookie. While tackles are not a great way to measure how good a player is, within context, it shows how effective Leonard is using his 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame to slash the holes and tackle running backs and other players before they can escape down the field. Leonard also had seven sacks and pair of interceptions in the middle of the Colts’ vastly improved defense.

#34: Alvin Kamara, Running back, New Orleans Saints:

Kamara has been an electric addition to the Saints’ offense over the past two seasons. He has over 3,000 yards from scrimmage and 31 total touchdowns, including 14 rushing touchdowns in 2018. A threat out of the backfield, Kamara has recorded a total of 162 catches in his two seasons, averaging out to more than five per game. While backfield-mate Mark Ingram has left for Baltimore, Kamara should be able to take on a larger carry load and keep producing at a high-level.

#33: Christian McCaffrey, Running back, Carolina Panthers:

Similar to Kamara, McCaffrey has exploded onto the scene as both a runner and receiver. McCaffrey has recorded more than 3,000 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns in two years with the Panthers. McCaffrey posted nearly 1,100 yards from the ground this season and had an impressive 867 yards through the air on a running back-record 107 catches. McCaffrey should reach the 2,000 yards from scrimmage mark coming into his third season as he becomes more efficient with turning targets into catches and yards and if he can maintain the five-yards-per-carry rate he had in 2018.

#32: Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints:

Brees has continued to set the bar of excellence in the NFL, setting a new record for completion percentage in this season and having an absurd six-to-one touchdown to interception ratio in 2018. He slipped late in the season and during the playoffs, but Brees had every right to be in the top five of the MVP and Offensive Player of the Year voting. In 2018, Brees led the NFL in passer rating for the first time since 2009 and led the league and completion percentage for the fifth time of his career. Despite a dip in yards and attempts, Brees was more efficient with touchdowns, posting his highest touchdown percentage since 2011.

#31: Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers:

Rodgers had an enigmatic campaign in 2018. He had his lowest completion percentage since 2015 and his fewest number of touchdowns in a full campaign since 2010, but he only threw two interceptions to 25 touchdowns, and absurd 12.5 to one ratio. Rodgers may not have been the special version of himself that he had been earlier in his career, but he is still one of the best in the business. Rodgers still projects to be a top-five quarterback in the NFL in 2019 and beyond and the Packers look to ride his arm back into the playoffs.

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