Top 100 Players of 2019, Nos. 10-1: Aaron Donald takes No. 1 spot


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.

10
Von Miller
LB
Broncos
2018: 9

This marks four straight top-15 rankings for Miller. He peaked at No. 2 in 2017 after winning Super Bowl 50 MVP, and he's been hanging around the bottom of the top-10 ever since. Von isn't as dominant throughout the regular season as he was early in his career, but he's still worthy of this spot. Miller's 14.5 sacks in 2018 was the second-highest total of his career. Former AFC-rival Joe Flacco is now his quarterback, which could be good or bad, depending on what you think of the former Super Bowl MVP. Not sure if anyone has realized it, but the Broncos are one of two teams in the NFL with two former Super Bowl MVPs on their roster. Getting back to the postseason in 2019 could go a long way for Miller in next year's Top 100.

9
Julio Jones
WR
Falcons
2018: 4

Julio takes a bit of a slide here after another strong season. He did go the first seven weeks of the season without a touchdown, but once he lifted that burden it was a bad scene for opponents. Jones had eight touchdowns in the final nine games of the season. Matt Ryan is still playing at a Pro Bowl-level. Steve Sarkisian is out as offensive coordinator. The Falcons should be back in the playoff mix next season and Julio will be the driving force. His No. 3 ranking in 2017 might be unattainable, but this seems like a healthy range for Julio over the next few years.

8
Aaron Rodgers
QB
Packers
2018: 10

Rodgers refused to let his Week 1 injury define his season. He played all 16 games, recording a league-low two interceptions for a remarkable 0.3 interception percentage. Unfortunately for Rodgers, the Packers struggled to a 6-9-1 season, firing head coach Mike McCarthy after Week 13 and missing the playoffs for consecutive years. The poor record this season didn't matter to voters, as he has finished in the top-11 every year since the Top 100 began in 2011. Rodgers is now joined by another offensive head coach in Matt LeFleur. Matt Ryan won MVP while working with LeFleur in 2016, so just imagine what Rodgers -- regarded by many as the most talented quarterback in the league -- will do.

7
Antonio Brown
WR
Raiders
2018: 2

We're not going over the AB-JuJu beef again. Just know that Brown's final season in Pittsburgh didn't go according to plan and now he's a Raider. AB set a career-high with 15 touchdowns in 2018, but failed to make first-team All-Pro for the first time since 2013. Brown is one of the league's best receivers, there's no way around it. But we're going to see what he's really made of in 2019. It'll be his first season without Big Ben, and Derek Carr hasn't exactly been great since signing his huge extension in 2017. The Raiders didn't have a receiver with over 70 catches in 2018, but Brown hasn't had under 70 catches since 2012. If Brown ends up back in the top-10 next year, for what would be the sixth straight year, things went as well as possible in Oakland.

6
Tom Brady
QB
Patriots
2018: 1

It's not often a quarterback wins the Super Bowl and drops five spots in the Top 100. But when you're at No. 1, there's only one way to go. Brady and the Patriots weren't as good during the regular season, finishing with their lowest win total since 2009. The only thing that matters for Brady at this point is being ready for December and January. The Patriots shifted to a power-run team with Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead during the playoffs, and that could be a preview of what we'll see for the majority of 2019. So while Brady might be done putting up elite passing numbers, he's still going to make the right plays and put his team in a position to win. For how long, nobody knows. This has gone on longer than anyone could've dreamed, so any good years that Brady has left are just a nice treat for Pats fans.

5
Todd Gurley
RB
Rams
2018: 6

Before injuries derailed the end of his season, Gurley was blowing away the league's best running backs. He only played 14 games, but he still led the league with 17 rushing touchdowns and was third with 1,251 rushing yards. His season was ultimately defined by the playoffs, where Gurley was forced to the sidelines for most of the biggest games of the Rams' season. Head coach Sean McVay insisted multiple times that he was healthy, but to only have four rushing attempts in the NFC Championship Game and 10 in the Super Bowl led many to believe otherwise. The Rams added Darrell Henderson in the draft, so it's fair to speculate that Gurley will get less work this regular season.

4
Patrick Mahomes
QB
Chiefs
2018: N/A

Here's that Mahomes guy we've been talking about. Mahomes blew past any expectations the league had for him during his debut season -- 50 touchdowns, 5,097 yards and an MVP trophy. He established himself as a top quarterback in the NFL. No other quarterback in the league can make the no-look, on the run passes that Mahomes makes -- especially during a game. In those ways, he's changing the way people look at the quarterback position. Mahomes can get out of the pocket and run if he needs to, but he has exceptional pocket awareness and rarely runs when he doesn't have to. At just 23 years old, Showtime has all the tools to be the best quarterback in football for a long, long time.

3
Khalil Mack
LB
Bears
2018: 16

The Bears were going to be good in 2018 with or without Mack. I think that's fair to say. But when Chicago pillaged the Raiders and acquired the former Defensive Player of the Year just before the regular season, their expectations changed. His first game as a Bear set the tone for the season -- a forced fumble, a recovered fumble and a pick-six. The Bears won 12 games and made the postseason for the first time since 2010. Mack, the fourth Bears defender in the Top 100, shifted the culture of that unit. Continuity should only help the Bears in 2019. Mack didn't join the Bears until after Week 4 of the preseason last year, so a full summer as a group could make them even more dangerous.

2
Drew Brees
QB
Saints
2018: 8

Brees matches his highest Top 100 ranking (2012) after another record-setting season. The former second-round pick set the NFL record for all-time passing yards and career completions in 2018 and led the Saints to the NFC Championship Game. We all know what happened there, but that doesn't take away from Brees, or limit his future potential. All the accolades and records are great, but 2019 marks the 10-year anniversary of Brees' first and only Super Bowl win (and appearance). It's crazy to think it's been that long since we've seen Brees and Sean Payton on the big stage, especially considering how good the Saints have been the past two years. We aren't far removed from talking about Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, so a Super Bowl bid this season isn't far-fetched. One more Super Bowl would do wonders for Brees' legacy.

1
Aaron Donald
DT
Rams
2018: 7

Donald finally got paid last summer -- and here's how he's paying the Rams back. This is his fourth top-15 ranking in his five-year career, and 2018 was his best season yet. Donald led the league with 20.5 sacks, 25 tackles for loss and 41 quarterback hits -- and he didn't even show up until after the preseason. All this happened while he faced frequent double teams. The Rams made it to the Super Bowl, but Donald was largely neutralized in the game, finishing with five total tackles and no sacks. The summer of 2019 was Donald's first with the team since 2016. Does that mean he's going to be better this season? No player has ever three-peated as Defensive Player of the Year, but Donald is aiming to be the first.