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
10) EDGE Khalil Mack - Chicago Bears (19)
His numbers were down a bit in 2019, but he drew even more attention. He was facing double and sometimes even triple teams and makes the offense need to call out where he is before every snap.
9) WR Julio Jones - Atlanta Falcons (11)
Is it possible Julio Jones is still underrated? He's the best receiver in the league still at age 31. While his numbers aren't the best, if you put him in any system he's who you'd want. 6'3" 220 lbs. with a 4.34 40 yard dash and incredible hands. DBs aren't sleeping well when the Falcons come to town. When espn ranked their top 10 WRs, they asked more than 50 league execs, coaches, and scouts and the expectation was a close race between Julio, Michael Thomas, and DeAndre Hopkins. But Jones got more than half the overall votes for the top WR. While Thomas may have had better numbers, Jones is definitely the better Receiver.
8) CB Stephon Gilmore - New England Patriots (9)
First CB to win Defensive Player of the Year in 10 seasons. Coming off career best year with 6 INTs and 20 PBUs with 2 defensive touchdowns. He is one of the last of a dying breed, a true Lockdown Corner.
7) RB Christian McCaffrey - Carolina Panthers (6)
There isn't anything he can't do. #1 player on all fantasy boards. Almost 1,400 rushing yards while averaging 4.8 YPC, 100+ receptions in back to back seasons, and he can pass block. But what makes him ultra special are his footwork and route running. How do you stop this?!
6) QB Lamar Jackson - Baltimore Ravens (1)
Reigning MVP was #1 on player's list, but faltered in post-season after Titans got the lead. But still had 43 total TDs to just 9 INTs on the year. Only 23 years old but already a veteran's mindset. Will only continue to get better. And don't be fooled, he's not just a runner. Yes, he had 1,200 rushing yards last year, but he can also drop DIMES:
5) QB Russell Wilson - Seattle Seahawks (2)
Coming off arguably his best season, he saw his intercepted pass rate at a career low (sub 1.0%). Also had four 4th quarter comebacks and five game winning drives. Even if you get in the backfield and have a clean shot on him, he's not easy to bring down:
4) TE George Kittle - San Francisco 49ers (7)
He is the best Tight End since Gronk and his ceiling may be even higher. Only in his 3rd season he's made two Pro Bowls and last season made 1st Team All-Pro. He's so good as a receiver, but even better as a blocker. He has no weaknesses.
3) OG Quenton Nelson - Indianapolis Colts (29)
The best Offensive Lineman in Football. He has no weaknesses. Reigning Steven Cheah's B.O.Y. award winner as well.
2) QB Patrick Mahomes - Kansas City Chiefs (4)
Had a down year statistically last year coming off his MVP season, but I think he'll take the Super Bowl MVP trophy instead. He willed that team to the win vs. San Francisco. Best QB in the game without question.
1) DT Aaron Donald - Los Angeles Rams (3)
He's produced 44.0 sacks the past three seasons as an interior rusher. He can do it all. 90+ grades from PFF in both pass rushing and run defense. He's the best player in football and it's not close.
My final ranking isn't universally accepted. In taping today's Going Deep podcast, Willie actually argued that Saints WR Michael Thomas is the #1 Player in the NFL. I almost blew a gasket when he said Michael Thomas was better than Aaron Donald. We also talked to Geoff Schwartz about my final Top 100 rankings and the NFL's official Top 100 Players of 2020. Check out our new pod anywhere you listen to pods: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher.