It's that time of year again, when NFL players cast their votes to identify the best in the league heading into the 2021 NFL season. Check out the results of this year's voting to see where your favorite players rank.
Between monitoring the middle of the field, defending tight ends and stuffing the run game, Kendricks does a bit of everything for the Vikings. He was producing at the highest clip of his career before a calf injury sidelined him for the final five games of the season. A struggling Minnesota defense caved in his absence. It’s expected to rebound this year in part because of him. Only a few inside linebackers have been better than Kendricks in recent years, and he’s just as important to his team’s defensive success.
In 2016, he was drafted to be the Jeff Saturday to Andrew Luck’s Peyton Manning. If only Luck had played behind this version of Kelly (and the Colts’ offensive line). The former first-rounder has grown into one of the league’s top centers, helping to solidify one of the league’s best units. Prior to 2020, he signed the biggest contract for his position. It paid off in Year 1 and will look like a steal if he continues at his current trajectory.
This is a defining year for Jacobs. The former first-rounder will be eligible to sign an extension and looks to be battling for carries with Kenyan Drake. The latter’s acquisition was a curious offseason move by the Raiders given Jacobs’ workhorse potential and age (23). His rate stats were a bit down last season, though that might have been a reflection of an offensive line that has since been reshuffled. Jacobs still earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2020 after again topping 1,000 yards while scoring 12 touchdowns. He does a bit of everything out of the backfield.
After 10 years with the Seahawks, Wright is no longer in his prime. But he’s more than viable. His inclusion on this list incidentally marks his first appearance. The outside linebacker is coming off another productive season in Seattle, demonstrating that he can still cover (he had double-digit pass deflections for the second straight year) and be disruptive (11 tackles for loss). What he’s lost in athleticism over the years, he’s gained in intelligence. Here’s guessing Wright will be a solid starter for someone in 2021.
He’s the only non-quarterback to appear on this list in each of the past eight seasons. He’s been the highest-rated defensive player three times and was the first to be voted No. 1 overall. The question as he enters his 11th season and first with the Cardinals is whether he’s still an impact player. He was in 2020, despite what his five sacks suggest. No edge rusher was double-teamed more than Watt, and he registered 14 tackles for loss anyway while consistently generating pressure on quarterbacks. A change of scenery might be exactly what the 32-year-old needed.
Life without Julio Jones figures to be different for Ridley. That’s not to say it will be worse. The fourth-year wideout came into his own in 2020 while his future Hall of Fame cohort battled injuries. Ridley hauled in 90 balls for 1,374 yards -- both career highs -- and nine touchdowns to crack this list for the first time. How he did it was just as impressive. Ridley won’t wow you with his physical traits, making him a bit of an outlier among No. 1 targets, but squeezes the most out of his ability. He has no discernible weaknesses.
He’s long been a catalyst for some great defenses. Dennis Allen’s scheme asks a lot of Davis, and the inside linebacker gives even more. His 119 tackles in 2020 were the second-most of his career and earned him second-team All-Pro honors. Davis hasn’t missed a game in his nine-year career and has averaged 110.7 tackles since becoming a starter in 2013, thanks to an uncanny ability to process plays and finish them. Your best seasons aren’t supposed to come after turning 30, but here the 32-year-old Davis is.
As the Eagles defense has eroded in recent years, Cox remains a dominant defensive tackle. With opposing offensive lines able to focus on him more than ever, he still was able to regularly collapse the pocket while earning a sixth consecutive Pro Bowl selection. In 2020, he was good for 6.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss, though even that productivity pales a bit to his performance level. Any decline in Cox’s numbers is really a reflection of the decline in his supporting cast.
Julio Jones figures to draw the most attention this year among Titans receivers. That could be a big mistake. No young wideout in the game has a definitively higher ceiling than Brown, whose per-game production improved across the board. The dynamic 24-year-old made the first of likely many Pro Bowl teams and is now averaging 17.4 yards per catch through his first two seasons. Tennessee will need even more of his big-play ability with Derrick Henry coming off a 378-carry season and Arthur Smith no longer pulling the offensive strings.
The 2020 No. 2 overall pick often looked like he was simply relying on his physical prowess in Year 1, ad he was devastatingly good. Young’s disruption while coming off the edge was a primary factor in Washington becoming one of the league’s top defenses. Not even a well-rounded stat line (7.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, 44 tackles, four forced fumbles, four passes defensed, three fumble recoveries, one touchdown) does the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year justice. The best part? Young loves to talk, and he backs it up.