Top 100 Players of 2019, Nos. 30-21: Odell Beckham rises

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  • By Logan Reardon NFL.com
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It's that time of year again, when NFL players cast their votes to identify the best in the league heading into the 2019 NFL season. From July 22 through the 31st, NFL Media will reveal a new set of 10 names daily from the "Top 100 Players of 2019." Check in here and on NFL Network each day at 9 p.m. ET to see where your favorite players rank.

30
Eddie Jackson
FS
Bears
2018: N/A

The string of young safeties continues as we went the top-30. Jackson was drafted in 2017 with Jamal Adams, but went 106 spots lower. Now, he joins the Top 100 with Adams, but seven spots higher. Jackson is now the third Bears defender to make the list, joining Akiem Hicks (39) and Kyle Fuller (95). His career is young, but Jackson already has a knack for finding the ball and taking it to the house. He had two touchdowns as a rookie -- a 75-yard fumble return and a 76-yard interception return, in the same game! Jackson followed that up with three defensive touchdowns in 2018, all coming in separate games this time. Defensive touchdowns are usually more random, but Jackson clearly has something figured out.

29
George Kittle
TE
49ers
2018: N/A

Kittle makes it consecutive late-round 2017 draftees after Eddie Jackson. The former fifth-round pick establishved himself as a top tight end in 2018. Kittle and Travis Kelce were the only two tight ends in the NFL with 85-plus catches and 1,300-plus receiving yards -- and his 1,377 yards were a record for a tight end. Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in Week 3, so most of Kittle's production came with C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens at quarterback. If Jimmy G can look as good on the field as he does off, Kittle could be in for an even better year in 2019.

28
Fletcher Cox
CT
Eagles
2018: 69

One year after winning the Super Bowl, Cox makes a huge leap in the Top 100. And for good reason as Cox set career marks in sacks (10.5), tackles for loss (12) and quarterback hits (34) in 2018. Cox has been a stabilizing force for Philadelphia since he was drafted in 2012. The Eagles made a huge bet when they handed him $63 million guaranteed after his first Pro Bowl season three summers ago. Fair to say it has paid off, as he's made three straight Pro Bowls since re-signing. Next season will be a new challenge for Cox. The Eagles lost Michael Bennett and Chris Long, two key pass rushers who won a Super Bowl alongside Cox. Reinforcements are coming in the form of Malik Jackson and former Eagle Vinny Curry, so don't expect much drop off from the 28-year-old.

27
Jalen Ramsey
CB
Jaguars
2018: 17

Last year was a humbling season for Ramsey. In 2017, Jacksonville was a shiny new toy that everyone wanted to play with. Led by Ramsey, who was one of the best corners in football, their defense was young and exciting -- and a few plays away from a Super Bowl. The shine wore off in 2018. The Jags' defense was still stout, finishing fifth overall compared to second in 2017. But Ramsey's numbers regressed slightly and the Blake Bortles-led offense stumbled. Ramsey is still a top corner in the league, but he's got competition at the top. If Nick Foles can make some of his Philly magic happen in Jacksonville this season, Ramsey will have a chance to show everyone just how good he is.

26
Darius Leonard
LB
Colts
2018: Not in league

The 2018 draft class has been littered all over the Top 100. Last year, the highest defensive rookie in the Top 100 was Mashon Lattimore at 82. Leonard is the fourth defensive freshman ranked at 82 or higher this year. The three before him ( Bradley Chubb, Leighton Vander Esch, Derwin James) were all first-round picks, while the Colts stole Leonard in the second. The South Carolina State product led the NFL in tackles (163) -- just the fourth 160-plus tackle season since 2013. More importantly, Leonard led a turnaround on the Colts' defense, which jumped from 30th overall in 2017 to 11th. The Colts also made their first playoff appearance since 2014. Looks like Leonard has already earned the respect of his peers.

25
Russell Wilson
QB
Seahawks
2018: 11

This is one of the more confusing drops in the Top 100. Wilson was objectively better last season than in 2017, yet he falls 14 spots. He threw one more touchdown pass, four fewer interceptions and led the Seahawks back to the postseason after missing it in 2017. Quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have all aged gracefully into their 30s, so even as Wilson turns 31 in November, he shouldn't be too worried. Wilson has been scaling back his rushing attempts gradually, and it's going to help him down the line as his mobility inevitably goes down. Again, this is a questionable decision by the voters here.

24
Luke Kuechly
LB
Panthers
2018: 12

When you get in the top-25 of this list, it gets tough to differentiate between players. Everyone is ridiculously good in this range. Hot take, I know. Kuechly is no stranger to the Top 100 -- he's been on the list each year since he was eligible in 2013, and in the top-25 for the last six. Last season was Kuechly's seventh straight with 100-plus tackles, his sixth straight Pro Bowl and his fifth first-team All-Pro in six years. The accolades are beginning to mount for the 28-year-old from Boston College. If the Panthers can get back to the playoffs in 2019, expect Kuechly to rise right back into the top-20.

23
Odell Beckham Jr.
WR
Browns
2018: 77

Health thrusts OBJ back into the top 25 this season. He only played four games in 2017, so the players penalized Odell and threw him to the bottom quarter of the Top 100. He was in the top-10 both years prior, and if he works with Baker Mayfield as well as most anticipate, he could get back there next season. 2018 wasn't the best for Beckham, but he eclipsed 1,000 yards for the fourth time in his career and still had 77 catches despite only playing 12 games. Odell is a prime candidate to reemerge in 2019. Playing alongside his college teammate and good friend Jarvis Landry, the Browns have two of the more explosive wideouts in football.

22
Stephon Gilmore
CB
Patriots
2018: N/A

The Patriots' first player in the Top 100 since Devin McCourty at No. 89. That's a long wait for the Super Bowl champs, but I think they'll take the rings over the rankings. In 2017, New England uncharacteristically paid Gilmore like a No. 1 corner with a five-year, $65 million deal. Now, that's looking like a team-friendly deal. Gilly had an up-and-down first season as a Patriot, but ever since his season-saving deflection in the AFC Championship Game vs. Jacksonville, he's been dominant. He was named to the first-team All-Pro in 2018, and he had a legit case for Super Bowl LIII MVP. Gilmore had five tackles, an interception and a forced fumble in the Patriots' defensive masterpiece. He's still just 28, so this could be the first of multiple Top 100 bids.

21
Travis Kelce
TE
Chiefs
2018: 24

With Rob Gronkowski retired (at least for now), Kelce officially takes the throne as the league's best tight end. If you've been paying attention, though, you would've seen that Kelce actually should've worn the crown for the past three years. Kelce was good with Alex Smith in 2016 and 2017, but Patrick Mahomes changed his career. In 2018, Kelce had 103 catches, 1,336 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. It marked his third straight 1,000-yard season, the first tight end to do so since Greg Olson from 2014 to 2016. It's tough to imagine the Mahomes-Kelce connection will get better in 2019, but they did things we've never seen before in 2018, so why not get crazy?

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