RADIO.COM’s Top 25 NFL Players of 2020

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By RADIO.COM

Derrick Henry was Hercules in cleats last year, pillaging the league for an NFL-best 1,540 rushing yards (896 of which were accomplished over his final six regular-season contests) while shepherding the Titans, who barely fit the league’s postseason requirements at an unconvincing 9-7, to within a game of Super Bowl LIV. A physical marvel at 6’3”/247, Henry was relentless in the playoffs, effectively ending New England’s Tom Brady Era with a Wild Card mic drop for the ages (34-182-1) before steamrolling Lamar Jackson’s top-seeded Baltimore Ravens in equally heroic fashion a week later, all while never playing a down on Tennessee’s home turf.

And in the end, none of it was enough to propel Henry into our Top 25 player rankings. Some may perceive that as blasphemy (Henry just missed our cutoff at No. 27), but really, it’s much more a statement of the NFL’s endless reserve of talent. At least Henry has good company in Snub City, a community inhabited by the likes of two-time rushing champ Ezekiel Elliott (No. 26), Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller (No. 34) and Tom Brady (No. 40), the latter garnering but a single vote among our five RDC panelists, a roster that includes myself as well as central-team writers Jordan Cohn, John Healy, Tim Kelly and Dan Mennella.

The Chiefs and Seahawks were the most represented teams in our rankings, each landing three players in the Top 25 with Arizona, Indianapolis, New Orleans and San Francisco all appearing twice. Consider this list a reimagining of the entertaining, albeit deeply-flawed (I think we can all agree slotting Patrick Mahomes at fourth overall was an egregious oversight) annual NFL 100 ranks.

In total, our Top 25 is comprised of 13 skill-position players (five quarterbacks, four receivers, two running backs and two tight ends), one offensive lineman and 11 defenders (six edge rushers, two off-ball linebackers, two defensive backs and one D tackle). Together, this eclectic crew has produced a combined four league MVPs (including two-time winner Aaron Rodgers), three Defensive Player of the Year recipients and four Rookie of the Year Awards (three defensive, one offensive) along with 83 Pro Bowl invites and 59 All-Pro selections. Now you can see why Henry and so many others with similarly polished resumes were denied a seat at the prestigious Top 25 table.

Now that we’ve set the stage, here are RADIO.COM’s Top 25 NFL players for the upcoming 2020 season.

25. Darius Leonard, LB, Indianapolis Colts

He’s a maniac, MANIAC. Coming from humble small-school beginnings at FCS South Carolina State (just 2,500 undergrads), Leonard aka “Maniac” exploded onto the scene with a franchise-record 163 tackles in his debut 2018, standing tallest in a stacked rookie class featuring, among other first-year difference-makers, Derwin James, Bradley Chubb, Leighton Vander Esch and Denzel Ward. When others may have rested on their laurels, Leonard kept his foot firmly on the gas, tallying five interceptions (tops among linebackers) en route to another All-Pro season in 2019. With Luke Kuechly deservedly enjoying the fruits of retirement (hopefully he’s relaxing on a beach somewhere, cocktail in hand), the title of best off-ball linebacker in football is suddenly up for grabs. Along with Seattle’s Bobby Wagner, the imposing, 6’2,” 230-pound Maniac is very much in that conversation. — Jesse Pantuosco

24. Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns

Myles Garrett runs out of the tunnel
Photo credit Kirk Irwin, Getty Images

The top overall pick in 2017 has quickly established himself as one of the game's top pass-rushers, notching 30.5 sacks in his first 37 career games. Garrett was on pace for an impressive 16 sacks in 2019 when his season was cut short by suspension after an ugly helmet-swinging brawl with Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. He was reinstated after missing his team's final six games, the second-longest ban ever handed down for an on-field indiscretion. With that incident fortunately behind him and a new contract in hand, look for the 25-year-old to unleash his usual brand of terror on opposing QBs throughout the upcoming 2020 season. — Dan Mennella

23. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

I think he should be higher, I really do. He may not have the hands of Michael Thomas or the ability to rip through defenses like Julio Jones, but the blinding speed Hill possesses and uses to terrorize defenses puts him on an athletic plane rarely inhabited. Defenders simply can’t keep up—that’s the long and short of it. Having Patrick Mahomes in the saddle helps a great deal, but there’s only one target in the NFL capable of unlocking Mahomes’ full potential and they call him Cheetah. Hill’s explosiveness and penchant for game-altering plays is unmatched in the league today and may be unrivaled in NFL history by the time his career is over. — Jordan Cohn

22. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

I firmly believe that if Saquon Barkley is healthy, he can climb to the very top of this list. For as game-changing a talent as Christian McCaffrey is, I’m not so sure you couldn’t plug Barkley into that same Panthers offense and net similar, if not slightly better results. We’ve already seen what he’s capable of at full strength—the former Penn State standout has cracked 100 yards from scrimmage in 20 of 29 career games and figures to benefit immensely from the Giants’ improved O line in 2020 (a unit headed by first-round rookie Andrew Thomas). It wouldn’t surprise a soul if the monstrously-talented Barkley cleared 2,000 total yards this upcoming season. — Jordan Cohn

21. Jamal Adams, S, Seattle Seahawks

The Adams trade saga was one of the more polarizing storylines of the NFL offseason, with the outspoken All-Pro all but forcing his way off the dysfunctional Jets after months of bitter negotiations. The Seahawks surrendered their first-round picks in both 2021 and 2022 to pry the hard-hitting safety away from Gang Green. Some say Seattle gave up too much, but both picks currently project in the 15-30 range since the Seahawks figure to contend each of the next two seasons. The Seahawks’ history of using athletic dynamos to disrupt action in the defensive backfield suggests they have big plans for Adams. — Dan Mennella

20. Cameron Jordan, DE, New Orleans Saints

An All-Pro in 2017, Jordan has racked up 87 sacks in nine NFL seasons, with 40.5 of those coming over the last three seasons. At age 31, Jordan is playing as well as he ever has and should remain a difference-maker well into his 30s. That said, with 2020 expected to be the final season of Drew Brees’ illustrious career, this may be Jordan’s last, best chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. — Tim Kelly 

19. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

Travis Kelce hoists the Lombardi Trophy following the Chiefs' Super Bowl win over San Francisco
Photo credit Tom Pennington, Getty Images

Travis Kelce is not just one of the best tight ends in today’s game, but he’s quickly entering the all-time conversation. Last year, Kelce became the first tight end to post four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He reached 500 receptions in just 95 career games—fewer than any other tight end in NFL history. His combination of size, speed and athleticism makes him one of, if not the most important weapon in a loaded Chiefs pass-catching corps. — John Healy

18. Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans

Losing a target of DeAndre Hopkins’ elite caliber certainly doesn’t help a quarterback on his quest for success, but Nuk’s departure could illuminate just how talented Watson is. The Clemson legend won’t need Hopkins to remain an incredible quarterback—Hopkins said so himself—and he’ll have a chance to prove that this year using his wealth of new toys, including Brandin Cooks, David Johnson and Randall Cobb. Coming off a somewhat disappointing year, at least relative to his breakthrough 2018, Watson still threw for nearly 4,000 yards with 26 touchdowns last season while leading Houston to its second straight AFC South title. Yet to enter his athletic prime, Watson uses his legs as well as anyone at the quarterback position and could be a top-ten fixture on this list before long. — Jordan Cohn

17. Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks

While Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson are rightfully showered with praise for the stability they’ve brought to the Seahawks’ organization for the better part of a decade now, Wagner deserves to be mentioned along them. A rookie in 2012 (the same year Wilson debuted), Wagner has achieved Pro Bowl status in six of his eight NFL seasons. In his age-30 campaign, he’ll aim for a fifth straight All-Pro selection. His Hall-of-Fame candidacy grows stronger with each accolade. — Tim Kelly 

16. T.J. Watt, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers

If there was any lingering uncertainty in the Watt power rankings, 2019 surely tipped the scales back in T.J.’s favor. Older bro J.J. is as dominant as anyone when healthy, but so is T.J., as evidenced by his NFL-leading eight forced fumbles and career-high 14.5 sacks last season. Watt is one of just two players—the other being two-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald—to rank among the league’s top five in both sacks and quarterback hits over the past two seasons. That’s not bad company to be in and Watt’s emergence was likely the reason Pittsburgh limited opponents to a league-worst 4.7 yards per play in 2019. — Jordan Cohn

15. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

Rodgers isn’t the player he once was, but even a diminished version puts him among the top couple-dozen players in the NFL. The two-time MVP has strung together a pair of healthy seasons after being limited to just seven games during an injury-plagued 2017. In that span, he registered 51 touchdowns compared to only six picks, eclipsing 4,000 yards passing while leading the league in interception rate both seasons. The raw counting stats aren't what they once were, though that could easily be explained by a regime change in Green Bay and an appalling lack of pass-catching talent (Davante Adams notwithstanding). But in the meantime, Rodgers is still dangerous and plays nearly mistake-free football. There's a good chance Rodgers’ apparent decline can be attributed to the Packers' transition in leadership and that the 37-year-old could experience a career resurgence playing elsewhere, as many prominent minds have suggested. — Dan Mennella

14. Nick Bosa, DE, San Francisco 49ers

Nick Bosa falls on a Browns fumble
Photo credit Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images

Let the record show, Bosa placed third overall in my personal rankings. That’s how dominant a force I believe he can be. In his rookie season, Bosa compiled nine sacks, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. On a unit loaded with high draft picks and perennial Pro Bowlers, Bosa emerged as the unquestioned anchor of the NFL’s No. 1 defense. If that’s what Bosa did as a rookie, just imagine what he’ll accomplish as a sophomore in 2020. — Tim Kelly 

13. Chandler Jones, OLB, Arizona Cardinals

When I sat next to a gigantic man with an enormous appetite (his usual breakfast consisted of … everything) as a sophomore at Syracuse University, I had no idea I was in the presence of greatness. Sure, I knew Chandler Jones had a chance to be drafted and perhaps become a useful edge presence at the NFL level, but I never could have envisioned my bagel-gorging philosophy classmate becoming a perennial Pro Bowler and one of the most prolific pass-rushers in all of football. Jones took no prisoners in 2019, breaking his own franchise mark with 19 sacks (0.5 behind NFL pace-setter Shaq Barrett of Tampa Bay) while tying for the league-lead in forced fumbles with eight. Closing in on 100 QB takedowns for his career, the younger brother of UFC heavyweight Jon “Bones” Jones has totaled an NFL-best 49 sacks—almost exactly one per game—over his last three seasons with so sign of slowing down. Just think of all the bagels Jones can buy with his $67 million in career earnings. — Jesse Pantuosco

12. Quenton Nelson, OG, Indianapolis Colts

Since being selected with the sixth overall pick in 2018, Nelson has quite simply been one of the sport’s best players. The Notre Dame product has been an All-Pro in each of his two seasons, a pretty remarkable accomplishment to open his career. It’s unfortunate he only got to play one season with Andrew Luck, but the Colts have a “big blue wall” of elite offensive lineman to protect Philip Rivers and create running lanes for Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines. Nelson is why some are pegging the Colts as a dark-horse Super bowl contender in 2020. — Tim Kelly

11. Khalil Mack, OLB, Chicago Bears

Last season, Mack finished with 8.5 sacks, 14 quarterback hits, five forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. That was a down year for him. Mack is, without a doubt, one of the most feared pass-rushers in football. He is a disruptive force for offensive linemen and a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. When he was traded to the Bears in 2018, his impact was felt immediately as Mack’s mere presence changed how the league viewed Chicago’s defense. Now playing opposite fellow Pro Bowler Robert Quinn, 2020 could be Mack’s biggest year yet. — John Healy

10. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Jones may be on the wrong side of 30, but he has been a bastion of consistency throughout his entire NFL tenure and is showing no tangible signs of decline. The Alabama alum has accumulated 1,300+ yards in each of his last six seasons and is two years removed from leading the league in that category. His 12,125 receiving yards and 797 career receptions rank third and fourth respectively among active players. With former MVP Matt Ryan still wheeling and dealing for Atlanta, look for the seven-time Pro Bowler to put up another monster stat line in 2020. — John Healy

9. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals

DeAndre Hopkins during a Cardinals training camp session
Photo credit Christian Petersen, Getty Images

The second receiver drafted in 2013 following jack-of-all trades Tavon Austin (a costly reach for the Rams at eighth overall), Hopkins has more than lived up to his first-round billing, emerging as arguably the most sure-handed pass-catcher of the past decade. Clemson has churned out an ungodly amount of receiving talent in recent years (Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams, Martavis Bryant, Hunter Renfrow and Tee Higgins are among Dabo Swinney’s many prized pupils), but no Death Valley Mount Rushmore would be complete without Hopkins, a likely Hall of Famer whose immaculate NFL resume includes five 1,000-yard seasons, three 100-catch campaigns and four All-Pro selections, three of those being of the first-team variety. Not a burner (4.57 forty) or particularly large for his position (6’1”/212), Hopkins has done it the old-fashioned way, winning 50/50 balls at a prolific rate while creating separation with his superior route-running and Jedi-like instincts. Remarkably, Nuk didn’t drop a single one of his 163 targets (fifth-most in the NFL that year) in 2018. Stunningly consistent with a flair for the spectacular, Houston's decision to let Hopkins leave the nest will forever keep Bill O’Brien up at night. — Jesse Pantuosco

8. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

McCaffrey made headlines for signing a record-breaking extension with the Panthers this offseason, then for spiking the proverbial football on critics who said his deal was shortsighted. The all-world back led the entire NFL in touches, combined yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns last season. Carolina struggled despite his huge year, renewing the analytics-driven debate positing that running backs are essentially fungible. McCaffrey wasn't shy about his feelings on the matter, dismissing that school of thought as "asinine." In any event, the multifaceted McCaffrey is the league’s best all-around back by a healthy margin. — Dan Mennella

7. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

It’s taken only four years for Michael Thomas to establish himself as the cream of the NFL’s receiving crop. He’s led the league in receptions each of the last two years including a single-season record 149 catches in 2019. Thomas also paced the NFL in receiving yards last year with 1,725. The ruthlessly efficient Thomas has converted over 80 percent of his targets over the past two years. Whatever your statistical preference, the numbers all tell the same story—Thomas is the NFL’s best and brightest at the wide receiver position. — John Healy

6. George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers

A relatively unheralded fifth-round draft pick out of Iowa (the only FBS school to offer him a scholarship), Kittle graduated from promising up-and-comer to generational talent in record time, surpassing Rob Gronkowski (the player his skill set most resembles) as the NFL’s single-season receiving yards leader among tight ends in 2018. Remarkably, most of that production came with undrafted Nick Mullens under center. The 6’4,” 250-pound Kittle delivered even more heroics in year three of his San Francisco reign, leading the Niners to Super Bowl LIV, where they would lose a heartbreaker to Patrick Mahomes’ high-powered Chiefs. The football analytics community hasn’t found a way to quantify guts yet, but if they ever do, rest assured, the People’s Tight End would undoubtedly lead the league in that metric—he played through a literal broken ankle most of last season. Easily the sport’s best blocking tight end and at worst the second-best pass-catcher at his position (there’s an argument to be made for Travis Kelce), Kittle’s emphatic, fourth-down rumble to seal the Saints’ fate in Week 14 was one of the most breathtaking NFL plays in recent memory. — Jesse Pantuosco

5. Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots

Shutdown corners are quickly becoming a thing of the past, but Stephon Gilmore is working his tail off to keep the lights on. Note there isn’t a single cornerback other than Gilmore in our top 25. He’s that much better than the rest, a gulf in talent reflected by Gilmore’s phenomenal counting stats including a league-high six interceptions, 20 deflected passes and a stingy 44.1 opponent passer rating last season. The repeat first team All-Pro took home Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2019, becoming the first defensive back to claim the award since Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu in 2010. With several of his New England teammates bowing out due to COVID concerns, Gilmore will really need to flex his coverage muscles in 2020. — Jordan Cohn

4. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson jets to the end zone for six
Photo credit Todd Olszewski, Getty Images

The NFL Top 100 put Jackson at No. 1 following his unbelievable MVP season and breakout 2019 campaign. There’s certainly an argument he deserves that top spot. He became the first player in NFL history to total 3,000 passing yards and over 1,000 rushing yards in a single season. We have not seen a dual-threat QB like this in the NFL since Michael Vick and Jackson may already be a better version of Vick. However, Lamar enters 2020 with a clear target on his back and an army of skeptics who wonder whether he has what it takes to lead his team to Super Bowl glory—something the two quarterbacks ahead of him on this list have already accomplished. — John Healy

3. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

Dismissed early on as a game manager and broken-play specialist on the ground-and-pound Seahawks, Wilson has evolved, adding more firepower to what was already a considerable arsenal. Over the past three seasons, “DangeRuss” has thrown 100 touchdowns to only 23 interceptions—better than a 4-to-1 ratio—while completing a respectable 65 percent of his attempts. He hasn't been as effective on the ground of late (which makes sense now that he's in his 30s), but as a pure passer, Wilson is as dangerous as ever. Better still, the ultra-durable 31-year-old has yet to miss a game in his eight-year NFL career. — Dan Mennella

2. Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams

I don’t think there’s ever been a more apt description of Donald than the one given by former Deadspin columnist Drew Magary, who famously called the Rams’ 29-year-old havoc-wreaker “Bane in pads.” Already one of the most decorated defensive tackles to ever lace up a pair of Nikes, L.A.’s muscle-clad goliath has always carried himself with a certain supervillain quality, never giving an inch while overpowering offenses with his Hulk-like physique (Donald is every bit of his listed 280 pounds). Interior defenders aren’t typically known for their pass-rushing prowess, but Donald, a six-time Pro Bowl attendee (one for each year he’s been in the league) and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, refuses to be pigeonholed—his 20.5 sacks in 2018 were the seventh-most in league history. Donald plays with a razor’s edge (maybe it’s because dodging literal knives has become a staple of his offseason training regimen), slicing up opposing linemen with surgical precision. Scientists claim 60 percent of the human body is composed of water, but I’m skeptical those percentages apply to Donald, a run-swallowing cyborg who fills his Gatorade jug with Pennzoil. The Hall of Fame may as well take Donald’s measurements now so his gold jacket will be ready well in advance of his inevitable Canton enshrinement. — Jesse Pantuosco

1. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes’ first two years as an NFL starting quarterback can only leave you with one conclusion—we may be watching the best ever. Over the last two years, Mahomes has tossed 76 regular-season touchdowns with a skill set resembling a hybrid of Aaron Rodgers and his Packers predecessor, Brett Favre. Equipped with a potent skill-position corps of Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman and first-round running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Mahomes enters 2020 as the clear MVP frontrunner and a good bet to lead Kansas City back to the Super Bowl.— Tim Kelly

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