Top 100 Players of 2019, Nos. 20-11: Best RB-WR duo move up

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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.

20
Andrew Luck
QB
Colts
2018: N/A

Luck back in the top-20 for the second time in his career, and the first since 2015. Injuries pushed Luck entirely off the Top 100 last season, but there's no doubt he will remain as long as he's healthy. With a new coach (Frank Reich) and a talented group of rookies ( Quenton Nelson, Darius Leonard) in 2018, Luck brought the Colts back to the postseason after a four-year hiatus. The 2018 Comeback Player of the Year was a viable MVP candidate had it not been for Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees. With another healthy year away from the shoulder injury and another year in Reich's offense, Luck should only be better in 2019.

19
Tyreek Hill
WR
Chiefs
2018: 40

Hill went from very good to great in 2018. He was fourth in the league in receiving yards and touchdowns, and first in receptions of 20 yards or more. The NFL announced earlier this month that Hill would not serve a potential suspension for off-the-field conduct, and he has since returned to participate in Chiefs training camp.

18
Ezekiel Elliott
RB
Cowboys
2018: 54

Zeke made his Top 100 debut at No. 7 in 2017 after his rookie season, but a suspension in 2017 cost him 47 spots. He's slowly working his way back up, and the Cowboys' competitive young core will only help. Elliott only rushed for six touchdowns in 2018, but he led the league in rushing yards (1,434) for the second time in three years. The only reason he didn't lead the league in rushing yards in 2017 was because of the suspension -- as evidenced by him leading the league in rushing yards per game in each of his three seasons. Last year's No. 54 ranking was a huge overreaction, and this range is probably more fair.

17
Philip Rivers
QB
Chargers
2018: 56

Along with Andrew Luck, Rivers was another guy who was a potential MVP if Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees didn't exist. Rivers has been doing this for years now -- including seven straight with 4,200-plus passing yards and 28-plus touchdowns -- but he hasn't garnered the respect from his peers in the Top 100. This is his first top-25 ranking. But 2018 was the Chargers' first double-digit win season since 2009, and there was no Top 100 in 2009. Plenty of quarterbacks put up empty stats for losing teams, and Rivers proved again in 2018 that he could put up stats and wins big games. His comeback wins in Pittsburgh and Kansas City highlighted a renaissance season for Rivers, and he has the weapons to do it again in 2019, even at 37 years old.

16
Saquon Barkley
RB
Giants
2018: Not in league

Selecting Barkley No. 2 overall last season was controversial. The Giants needed a quarterback, but Barkley was the most talented player on the board. The first-round quarterbacks that went behind him -- Sam Darnold, Josh Allen. Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson -- all showed certain flashes as rookies, but none were as good as Saquon. He led the league with 2,028 yards from scrimmage, 34 more than Ezekiel Elliott had as a rookie. There's no denying how effective his rookie season was, but the Giants didn't reap any benefits in the win column. For Barkley to keep rising up the Top 100, the Giants have to win some more games.

15
Bobby Wagner
LB
Seahawks
2018: 21

Wagner and Luke Kuechly combine to form one of the best middle linebacker duos ever drafted in the same year. Wagner, like Kuechly, has over 100 tackles in each of his seven seasons. Seattle's defense has overgone plenty of turnover since the Legion of Boom days, but Wagner has been one of the survivors. The most impressive aspect of Wagner's career so far has been his tackling. Over the past two seasons, he's missed only five tackles on 277 attempts, according to PFF. Kuechly missed nine in just 2018. Wagner is one of those guys that feels like he's been in the league forever, then you look up his birthday and see that he's only 29. So, he's probably going to end up in the Top 100 for a while longer.

14
Alvin Kamara
RB
Saints
2018: 20

According to the numbers, Kamara wasn't as good as Saquon Barkley in 2018. He had fewer rushing yards and receiving yards by a significant margin (436 yards). The difference between the two that puts Kamara higher in the Top 100 is simple. First is sustainability. Kamara has done it for two years now. He's proven that the Year One wasn't a fluke. And second is team success. The Saints have made extended playoff runs in each of the past two seasons. Barkley hasn't proven he can contribute to a winning team in the NFL, while Kamara has only played for winning teams. He also forms half of the best running back-wide receiver duo in the NFL...

13
Michael Thomas
WR
Saints
2018: 81

...and here's the other half! Funny how that worked out. After his 2018 season, Thomas has a legit claim as the No. 1 wideout in the NFL. He led all wide receivers with an absurd 85.0 catch percentage and 125 receptions. So not only was he getting the most passes thrown his way, he was also catching more than anyone else. Drew Brees has never quite had a target as good and reliable as Thomas. Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham were good, but never as consistent as Thomas has been since he was drafted in 2016.

12
J.J. Watt
DE
Texans
2018: 84

If you wiped 2016 and 2017 from Watt's career, 2018 would've been his fifth straight first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl appearance. But those two seasons, filled with a multitude of injuries and setbacks, are part of what makes last year so impressive. Watt led the league with seven forced fumbles and added 16.0 sacks. In any other year, he wins Comeback Player of the Year, but Andrew Luck stole it from him in 2018. Last year, Watt was likely ranked No. 84 out of respect. It seemed like it would be his last Top 100 bid, because he simply couldn't stay on the field. Now, as he begins his age 30 season, the next challenge is sustaining his health and making a playoff run.

11
DeAndre Hopkins
WR
Texans
2018: 13

We go from back-to-back Saints to back-to-back Texans. If you wanted to tell me Hopkins is the best wideout in the league, I wouldn't argue. Look no further than 2015, when he accumulated 1,521 receiving yards while catching passes from Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden. Last year was Hopkins' first full season with Deshaun Watson and his game only got better. He racks up yards and touchdowns regardless of the quarterback, but his catch percentage -- which was in the 50s each of his first five years -- spiked to 70.6 percent. So, I guess I'm saying that Hopkins could get even better in 2019.

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