I know better than anyone that “list stories” evoke a cascade of reaction, or in some cases, an overreaction.
Wanna get people riled up? Run a “list story.” I have been raked over the coals more times than I can count on my “list stories.”
But today’s list isn’t mine. It’s the NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players of 2020” and it certainly has caused plenty of people to sit up and take notice.
One of those is Kansas City wunderkind quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who surprisingly to many was just the No. 4 player on the list despite the fact he willed the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl championship in 50 years. Mahomes posted a cryptic message that gave the impression he’s “taking notes.”
Mahomes also was rewarded with by far the largest contract in NFL history as the Chiefs locked him up for what they hope to be the rest of his career.
Tops on the list is Lamar Jackson, the Baltimore quarterback and reigning MVP. Now it’s tough to argue his selection as he had an incredible season last year, only to see it somewhat sullied by a disappointing early exit from the postseason.
NFL Network is banking that Jackson not only will approach his 2019 standards, but improve on them. He’s still not a polished passer, but is getting better. He is this era’s version of Michael Vick as he does more damage with his legs than his arm.
I believe Jackson’s ranking also has to do with the Ravens upgrading the talent around him. From top to bottom, Baltimore has the most talented and deepest roster in the NFL. But Jackson needs a championship for his validation.
Also ahead of Mahomes are Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson and the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive lineman Aaron Donald.
Wilson has far exceeded expectations as a pro. He has kept the Seahawks among the NFL’s elite since entering the league and has a Super Bowl ring. But to put him ahead of Mahomes, it’s one I have to question.
No doubt Donald is a powerhouse and the best in the NFL at his position. But he plays an underappreciated position and I still think he won’t make the impact of Mahomes.
After Mahomes at No. 4, New Orleans wide receiver Michael Thomas rounds out the Top 5.
The remaining Top 10 includes Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey at 6, San Francisco tight end George Kittle at 7, new Arizona wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins at 8, New England corner Stephone Gilmore at 9 and Tennessee running back Derrick Henry at 10.
The biggest reach for me is Kittle at No. 7. He came out of nowhere last year, but I would have Henry in that spot.
McCaffrey, to me, could have been in the Top 5 as while Thomas puts up All-World numbers for the Saints, he picks up a lot of cheap yards on short outs that are nothing more than long handoffs.
Other Kansas City Chiefs in the Top 100 include tight end Travis Kelce (No. 17), receiver Tyreek Hill (22), safety Tyrann Mathieu (39), defensive tackle Chris Jones (52) and defensive end Frank Clark (95).
When looking at the NFL list, my two biggest dissents are Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott at No. 24 and New York running back Saquon Barkley at No. 31. I know the running back position has been devalued in this pass-happy era, but both backs are such catalysts in their offenses. Are we really to believe Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook is going to have a bigger year than Elliott and Barkley? I know Barkley plays for a wretched team, but he’s an incredible talent.
One other player I believe is too high is San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo at No. 43. Yes, he did lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl and played three good quarters against the Chiefs. But he hasn’t proven he can put a team on his back.
Here is the list and I’ll let you ponder the picks:
1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
2. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
3. Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams
4. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
5. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
6. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
7. George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers
8. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals
9. Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots
10. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
11. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
12. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
13. Bobby Wagner, MLB, Seattle Seahawks
14. Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
15. Chandler Jones, OLB, Arizona Cardinals
16. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
17. Nick Bosa, DE, San Francisco 49ers
18. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
19. Khalil Mack, OLB, Chicago Bears
20. Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
21. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
22. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
23. Cameron Jordan, DE, New Orleans Saints
24. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
25. T.J. Watt, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
26. Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos
27. Jamal Adams, S, Seattle Seahawks
28. Richard Sherman, CB, San Francisco 49ers
29. Quenton Nelson, OG, Indianapolis Colts
30. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
31. Saquon Barkley , RB, New York Giants
32. Shaquil Barrett, OLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
33. Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
34. Joey Bosa, DE, Los Angeles Chargers
35. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Pittsburgh Steelers
36. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
37. Jalen Ramsey, CB, Los Angeles Rams
38. Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
39. Tyrann Mathieu, S, Kansas City Chiefs
40. Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings
41. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Seattle Seahawks (2020 free agent)
42. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
43. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers
44. Mark Ingram, RB, Baltimore Ravens
45. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
46. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
47. Tre'Davious White, CB, Buffalo Bills
48. Za'Darius Smith, OLB, Green Bay Packers
49. Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys
50. Darius Leonard, OLB, Indianapolis Colts
51. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
52. Chris Jones, DT, Kansas City Chiefs
53. Marcus Peters, CB, Baltimore Ravens
54. Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills
55. Zack Martin, OG, Dallas Cowboys
56. DeForest Buckner, DT, Indianapolis Colts
57. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
58. Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings
59. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns
60. Logan Ryan, CB, Tennessee Titans
61. Jarvis Landry, WR, Cleveland Browns
62. David Bakhtiari, OT, Green Bay Packers
63. Preston Smith, OLB, Green Bay Packers
64. Harrison Smith, S, Minnesota Vikings
65. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks
66. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Houston Texans
67. Demario Davis, OLB, New Orleans Saints
68. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans
69. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
70. Fred Warner, MLB, San Francisco 49ers
71. Jurrell Casey, DT, Denver Broncos
72. Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders
73. Fletcher Cox, DT, Philadelphia Eagles
74. Ronnie Stanley, OT, Baltimore Ravens
75. Earl Thomas, S, Baltimore Ravens
76. Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans Saints
77. Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
78. Tyron Smith, OT, Dallas Cowboys
79. Calais Campbell, DE, Baltimore Ravens
80. Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns
81. DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
82. Ryan Ramczyk, OT, New Orleans Saints
83. Eric Kendricks, MLB, Minnesota Vikings
84. Cameron Heyward, DT, Pittsburgh Steelers
85. Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
86. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Baltimore Ravens
87. Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills
88. Jaylon Smith, MLB, Dallas Cowboys
89. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
90. Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals
91. Grady Jarrett, DT, Atlanta Falcons
92. Darius Slay, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
93. Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears
94. Jason Kelce, C, Philadelphia Eagles
95. Frank Clark, DE, Kansas City Chiefs
96. Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks
97. Budda Baker, S, Arizona Cardinals
98. Brandon Brooks, OG, Philadelphia Eagles
99. Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders
100. Lavonte David, OLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Previous No. 1 picks:
2019: Aaron Donald
2018: Tom Brady
2017: Tom Brady
2016: Cam Newton
2015: J.J. Watt
2014: Peyton Manning
2013: Adrian Peterson
2012: Aaron Rodgers
2011: Tom Brady