A few caveats to this list. I did not include anyone not in the league last year, even if they were an elite player previously (see: Gronk, Trent Williams) and I also didn't include anyone that's either opted out or going to miss the season due to injury (see: Brandon Brooks). But this is a list of players I think are the best players right now going into this season:
*Note: Number in parenthesis next to team name is where that player fell on the NFL's Official Top 100 Players of 2020
40) DT Fletcher Cox - Philadelphia Eagles (73)
So dependable with only three missed games in his eight year career he is great at being slippery up front and disrupting while also being the anchor on defense to stop the run for the Bird gang. I once broke down his game for a Smitty blog in what seems like forever ago.
39) LB Lavonte David - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (100)
#1 ranked LB in coverage per PFF, but also a monster in the run game. Instinctive as heck and having watched a ton of him over the years, he's as good and as consistent as they come. I mean look at this range and closing speed:
38) OT David Bakhtiari - Green Bay Packers (62)
PFF's number two Tackle in pass blocking. Has such an impressive kick slide and doesn’t even look at the rusher. Remarkable if you haven't seen it. Breakdown of it 1:31 in in the vid below:
37) EDGE Myles Garrett - Cleveland Browns (80)
He just got PAID and set the bar for defensive players before Joey Bosa's new deal surpassed his. He's what you want when you draft an EDGE rusher 1st overall. cc: Jadeveon Clowney
36) RB Dalvin Cook - Minnesota Vikings (21)
Started off 2019 super fast and was a legit MVP candidate, but slowed down as the year went on. His game is built on speed and it looks like he's always got the speed burst button on. He's also going into a contract year. If he can stay healthy, he'll have a big year and get paid.
35) WR Davante Adams - Green Bay Packers (57)
Haters will point to the fact that he only has one 1,000 yard season to his name, but he missed time last season with turf toe and has just developed at a normal pace. In the past four years he's averaging a clean 10 TDs/game and he's on another level with his releases, footwork, and route running.
34) RB Ezekiel Elliott - Dallas Cowboys (24)
Steady Eddie at the position. He does everything well. He was able to step in as a rookie because he could pass block and run routes and he's continued to stay in top form and is now getting paid like a top back. And how many RBs do you know that can lay out a DE like this?
33) CB Richard Sherman - San Francisco 49ers (28)
Not the player he used to be entering year 10 at age 32 years old, but he can still lock down his side of the field.
32) LB Darius Leonard - Indianapolis Colts (50)
The only knock on him would be that he's missed four games in two seasons. The Maniac is an absolute freak. Plays with a chip on his shoulder and has so much production. He will win multiple Defensive Player of the Year honors.
31) DT Chris Jones - Kansas City Chiefs (52)
31.0 sacks the past three years from an interior rusher, yowzas! Patrick Mahomes took a team friendly deal so they could keep Jones and others around. Jones can do things like this against good competition in the Super Bowl:
30) TE Travis Kelce - Kansas City Chiefs (18)
He's the top receiver on the #1 offense in football and been to five straight Pro Bowls. He's so difficult to cover, especially when you have Tyreek Hill taking the top off the defense.
29) WR Mike Evans - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (30)
If he has over 1,000 yards this season, which seems like a safe bet with Tom Brady at QB, he'll be the only receiver ever to start his career off with seven straight 1,000 yard seasons. He's overlooked because Tampa Bay hasn't been good lately, but he'll be a Hall of Famer when all is said and done.
28) DE Cam Heyward - Pittsburgh Steelers (84)
He doesn't get the love that other interior rushers get, but 29.0 sacks in the last three years combined for a 3-4 DE is incredible. He's also the #3 interior defender vs. the run per PFF. Pretty lethal combination.
27) QB Deshaun Watson - Houston Texans (20)
This guy is so dang clutch. Five game winning drives in each of the past two seasons which is the most (10) in that time period.
26) EDGE Cam Jordan - New Orleans Saints (23)
A traditional 4-3 DE, he's bigger than you think at 6'4" 287 lbs. He does everything well. Had 15.5 sacks in 2019 and five straight seasons of 15+ TFLs. A force against the run and can rush with speed and power, he is a dominant player.
25) EDGE T.J. Watt - Pittsburgh Steelers (25)
He's all gas no breaks (shoutout the Chicago guys). The lesser known Watt brother has crazy long arms nad huge hands to be able to get into Offensive Tackles chest. He also had a mind blowing 8 PBUs last season which is a silly number for an EDGE rusher.
24) S Jamal Adams - Seattle Seahawks (27)
He'll be interesting in Seattle who play are pretty basic when it comes to coverages. Adams is best lined up in the box and it an outstanding blitzer where players just can't block him.
23) OT Tyron Smith - Dallas Cowboys (78)
He would probably be the #1 Offensive Tackle if it weren't for durability concerns. He's missed exactly three games over each of the past four seasons. Incredible player in both the run and pass games. Enormous specimen.
22) OT Mitchell Schwartz - Kansas City Chiefs (N/R)
Hasn't been to a Pro Bowl which is criminal, but is beyond consistent having played and started in all 128 games he's been in the league for. Incredibly valuable piece for Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes.
21) EDGE Nick Bosa - San Francisco 49ers (17)
Seemed to hit the rookie wall a bit last year after finishing the regular season with only 2.0 sacks in the final nine regular season games. But got right for the playoffs with 4.0 sacks in the post-season. He can do it all and has great hand usage for a young guy, a Bosa signature (shoutout his D-Line coach at Ohio State, Larry Johnson for helping hone that skill).
20) EDGE Joey Bosa - Los Angeles Chargers (34)
The Bosa brothers are so even, but I feel like Joey has the slight edge right now. He's 15 lbs. heavier than Nick and is just a top level technician. He got paid like a top level guy too resetting the market and is now the highest paid non-QB in the league after his 5-year $135M extension.
19) WR Tyreek Hill - Kansas City Chiefs (22)
He's been in the league four years and been to four Pro Bowls. Nobody can match the speed of the Cheetah and he's in a perfect situation with a Quarterback who isn't afraid to chuck it deep at any time. This is a great breakdown of how his speed impacts the game even when he doesn't get the ball:
18) OG Zack Martin - Dallas Cowboys (55)
He's played six seasons, been to six Pro Bowls and made four 1st Team All-Pros. He's going to be in Canton one day and sets the tone for that talented Offensive Line.
17) OT Ryan Ramczyk - New Orleans Saints (82)
PFF's top overall Tackle, he's been terrific since his rookie season and a huge reason for the Saints resurgence.
16) CB Tre'Davious White - Buffalo Bills (47)
0 TD passes allowed against him in 2019. Overlooked because he's in the same division as Stephon Gilmore, but it's 1a and 1b as far as Cornerbacks.
15) WR DeAndre Hopkins - Arizona Cardinals (8)
He's been to four Pro Bowls and made three straight 1st Team All-Pro teams. Now he'll have a change of scenery as he heads to the desert. He's so reliable and probably has the best hands in the league. He always seems to get open and has a terrific catch radius despite being only 6'1".
14) OT Ronnie Stanley - Baltimore Ravens (74)
It looks like gas mask or not, the Ravens made the right call taking Stanley over Laremy Tunsil. Stanley has been so consistently excellent since he stepped into the league. Helped pave the way for the league's leading rushing attack in 2019 and is PFF's top pass blocking tackle by a fairly wide margin.
13) WR Michael Thomas - New Orleans Saints (5)
When you have a twitter handle that reads @cantguardmike, you definitely have some swagger. Thomas put up an eye popping 149 catches last year and dominates smaller DBs. While he's not Julio, he's on his way to dethroning him.
12) EDGE Chandler Jones - Arizona Cardinals (15)
He's been in Arizona for four seasons and is averaging 15.0 sacks during that time. Not on the national radar, but he's coming off a 19.0 sack season with 8 forced fumbles. He's very nifty with his counters and just knows how to get home.
11) RB Saquon Barkley - New York Giants (31)
He's what you would design in a lab if you wanted an RB. 5'11" 233 lbs. with 4.40 speed and a legs that look like tree trunks. He can do it all. He just needs a little more game-to-game consistency, but he'll be challenging McCaffrey for the top spot soon.
Is anybody on this list too high or too low? Let me know in the comments or on twitter. And stay tuned for #1-#10 on Thursday morning. While you wait, give the Going Deep podcast a listen. You can get it anywhere you listen to pods: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher.