Top 100 Players of 2020, Nos. 10-1: Lamar Jackson reigns supreme

It's that time of year again, when NFL players cast their votes to identify the best in the league heading into the 2020 NFL season. From Sunday through Wednesday, NFL Media will reveal a new set of names from the "Top 100 Players of 2020." Check in here and on NFL Network each day at 8 p.m. ET to see where your favorite players rank.

10
Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans · RB

Akin to the locomotive he often resembles on the gridiron, Henry has gained some steam and, from a No. 99 ranking last year, he’s moved up an astounding 89 spots. Impressive enough was Henry’s regular season, as he rumbled to the rushing title with 1,540 yards on a league-high 303 carries, putting together his second straight 1,000-yard campaign and earning his first Pro Bowl trip. However, it was in the postseason in which Henry left would-be tacklers in his wake and truly put the Titans on his back and took the NFL world on a ride. In huge upsets over the Patriots and Ravens, Henry rolled to 182 and 195 yards, respectively, becoming the first NFL player to tally 175-plus yards rushing twice in the same postseason as he carried Tennessee to its deepest playoff run since 2002. Over four seasons, including two playoff trips, Henry has totaled 13 100-yard games and the Titans are 13-0 in those tilts. In other words, as Henry goes, so too do the Titans.

9
Stephon Gilmore
Stephon Gilmore
New England Patriots · CB

Now firmly entrenched as one of the best defenders in the league, Gilmore is the reigning AP Defensive Player of the Year after keying a suffocating Patriots defense. A lockdown corner with the numbers to back it up, Gilmore tied for the league-high in picks with six while leading the NFL with 20 passes defended. Success was rarely found by trying Gilmore, who relinquished a passer rating when targeted of just 48.0 and a completion percentage less than 50%. Though 2019 is likely to be remembered as a turning point for the Patriots in terms of change, it’s also the season in which Gilmore truly emerged as one of the elite, earning a second All-Pro accolade, a third Pro Bowl bid and top-10 status among his fellow players.

8
DeAndre Hopkins
DeAndre Hopkins
Arizona Cardinals · WR

When the Texans traded away Hopkins to the Cardinals this offseason, anyone with an eye on the gridiron seemed stunned. It seems a bit more stunning with the realization that Houston shipped away the No. 8 player in the Top 100. In 2019, Hopkins was an All-Pro for a third straight season, an accomplishment no other wide receiver can boast. Following his latest campaign in which he caught 104 balls for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns, Hopkins has recorded four Pro Bowl trips, five straight 1,000-yard years and three campaigns of 100 catches. He proved clutch in the postseason with 15 catches and 208 yards in two games. There’s no doubt Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals are excited to welcome him.

7
George Kittle
George Kittle
San Francisco 49ers · TE

This is the highest spot ever claimed by a tight end, as Kittle surpasses Rob Gronkowski’s No. 9 recognition in 2016. As Kittle and Travis Kelce continue to battle it out in others’ discussions for top tight end honors, the Niners’ dynamic threat takes this one. Having earned a 95.0 grade from Pro Football Focus, Kittle earned the site’s Dwight Stephenson Award for the best/highest-graded player in the NFL. Kittle was an All-Pro and Pro Bowler in his third season and his 85 receptions, 1,053 yards and five touchdowns were each tops for the reigning NFC champions. Over his first three seasons, Kittle has more receiving yards (2,945) than any tight end before. It’s not just the production that is attention-grabbing for Kittle, as he’s a beast after the catch who electrifies a crowd and rallies his team and he's a ferocious and willing blocker. Kittle comes with a complete package every week and his peers clearly recognize that.

6
Christian McCaffrey
Christian McCaffrey
Carolina Panthers · RB

Running and receiving, juking and hurdling and jumping up 36 spots goes CMC. It’s the kind of thing that happens in the aftermath of just the third 1,000-1,000 season in NFL lore. McCaffrey’s 1,387 yards rushing and 1,005 yards receiving added up to a league-leading 2,392 scrimmage yards that stands as the third-highest total in NFL history. His 116 receptions are the most for a running back in a single season ever (he broke his own record). A versatile and dazzling threat who’s already one of the most complete backs in NFL history, McCaffrey is the new face of the Panthers -- and he’s now the top back in the game, according to those he takes the field with.

5
Michael Thomas
Michael Thomas
New Orleans Saints · WR

Following a single-season NFL-standard 149 catches, Thomas’ peers see him as the premier wideout in the game and it’s arduous to argue. All by his lonesome, Thomas had more catches than the WR units of the Raiders, Ravens, Eagles and Vikings -- the latter three all playoff squads. A mover of the chains as evidenced by his league-high 91 catches for first downs, Thomas tallied his second straight All-Pro nod, a third consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl, just as many straight 100-catch seasons and has eclipsed 1,000 yards in all four of his NFL seasons. Often overlooked with the acclaim for Thomas’ receptions record is that he likewise led the NFL with 1,725 yards receiving and 107.8 yards per game. Considering all that, perhaps the most impressive note on Thomas’ historic season is that opposing defenses knew just who the Saints were going to throw to and Thomas still could not be stopped.

4
Patrick Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · QB

Two seasons as a starter and the magnificent Mahomes seemingly knows no bounds when it comes to the acclaim and accolades he can garner or the splendid success and statistics he can compile. A consecutive No. 4 spot has been bestowed Mahomes and the only question is likely if it was high enough? A season after earning MVP honors and putting up an assortment of mind-spinning numbers, Mahomes went out and piloted the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl championship in half a century, orchestrated a trio of historically tremendous comebacks and brought home the SB MVP. Twenty-four-years-old and the NFL world is Mahomes’. Fleet of foot when needed and able to seemingly sling it from any angle and hit his receivers at any distance, Mahomes somehow missed only two games after dislocating his knee this past season. It’s no wonder the K.C. wunderkind is the $500 million-dollar man. 

3
Aaron Donald
Aaron Donald
Los Angeles Rams · DE

A chiseled pass rusher disguised as a defensive tackle, Donald might well have fallen from his No. 1 perch of last year, but that’s likely due to the Rams’ fall from Super Bowl participant to playoff outsider. Donald’s dominance continued amid a mercurial Rams campaign. With six splendid seasons down in his career, Donald’s 72 sacks are the most for a defensive tackle in his initial six years. He’s made the Pro Bowl in every season he’s played and earned a fifth consecutive All-Pro nod following a season with a league-high 20 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks, earning a 93.6 PFF grade that was No. 2 overall and tops among defenders. No. 1 on this list or not, Donald remains the otherworldly force he’s been for some time now. 

2
Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson
Seattle Seahawks · QB

In the aftermath of perhaps his finest individual season, Wilson vaults 23 spots up to his best ranking yet at No. 2. As fresh stars such as Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes become faces of the NFL, Wilson is as phenomenal as ever eight seasons in. Despite being sacked a league-high 48 times, Wilson started every game as he always has -- 128 straight to start his career -- and became just the fourth quarterback in NFL history with 30-or-more TD passes (31) and five or fewer interceptions (five) in a season. Other sterling numbers such as 4,110 yards and a 106.3 passer rating accompanied his sixth Pro Bowl season (third consecutively), as Wilson’s prowess as one of the best deep-ball passers and clutch fourth-quarter passers (NFL-high 28 fourth-quarter/overtime game-winning drives since 2012) continued. As long as the Seahawks have Wilson, a chance for victory never seems too far removed.

1
Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson
Baltimore Ravens · QB

Jackson made a habit of doing things nobody else had done before on a football field during his 2019 tour de force, so perhaps it shouldn’t be all that startling that the second-season sensation went from unranked straight to No. 1. Never before has somebody’s debut been in the top spot and nobody can ever surpass his 100-spot ascension in The Top 100 -- they can only equal it. It’s hard to fathom anyone having quite the impactful season as Jackson, though. On the ground and through the air, he was an unstoppable star, turning in a QB-record 1,206 rushing yards, leading the NFL with 36 TD throws and becoming the first player to put up 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing. Baltimore built an offense around Jackson and opponents were most often left wondering how to track him down. The reigning NFL MVP is No. 1.

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