10. Bobby Wagner, ILB, Seattle Seahawks (Last year: 17th)
The 29-year-old heart and soul of the Seattle Seahawks defense has ascended into the best at his position. Luke Keuchly for a long time, was considered the best linebacker, but in recent years in my mind, Bobby Wagner took over that spot. Wagner not only makes the top ten of the DTR 100 but he also became one of the exclusive 99 overall rated players in the Madden 20 video game. It’s not hard to see why when you turn on the film of Wagner.
Wagner, since entering the league in 2012 has never missed a season without having 100 tackles. He’s a tackling machine, he’s one of the best coverage linebackers and the guy can blitz when need be. Wagner just has a nose for the football and has displayed the desire to get even better each year. That is why he ranks in the top ten.
9. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans (Last year: 15th)
DeAndre Hopkins was overshadowed in the draft by the likes of Tavon Austin, but he is, in fact, the one that got the last laugh. Hopkins is one of the best in the business, but furthermore, he did something last year, not many have accomplished as number one receiver. Hopkins went all of 2018 without dropping one pass on the season. He was targeted 169 times and came down with 120 of them but as far as passes that hit his hands? He was impeccable last season for Deshaun Watson and the division-winning Houston Texans.
Hopkins has hauled in 48 touchdowns and is already at 7,675 career receiving yards in his NFL career. The 27-year-old is finally starting to get the recognition he deserves and I do belong in that boat as well. He’s been fairly under-the-radar but the Texans wideout made the top ten of the DTR 100 and received a 99 overall rating in the new Madden 20 video game.
8. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (Last year: 36th)
Drew Brees is incredible. He’s the all-time passing yards record-holder, he’s thrown 520 touchdown passes, has the single-season passer rating record and so many more achievements including a Super Bowl win. Brees to add to that has accumulated at least a 70 percent completion percentage five times in his career. He’s thrown for at least 5,000 passing yards five times and at least 30 touchdowns ten times. Brees is one of the top five greatest signal-callers in league history.
He ranks in the top ten in the NFL and DTR 100 because of the fact he’s still a top quarterback. Last year, he was up for the MVP vote, an award he’s somehow never won. The 12-time Pro Bowler only has one thing on his mind though, and that is getting the Saints back to the Super Bowl.
7. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (Last year: NR)
The new face of the New York Giants is Saquon Barkley. The former Penn State Nittany Lion was taken second overall by the Giants in a decision that was highly-scrutinized. Barkley however, won the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award and went to the Pro Bowl in his first season. What was even more impressive with Barkley was how well he produced for a team that had hardly any talent on their offensive line. Barkley started in all 16 games, ran for 11 touchdowns, 1,307 yards and averaged five yards per carry. On the other side of his game, Barkley displayed his elite ability as a pass-catcher with 91 receptions, 721 yards, and four touchdowns.
As far as Barkley goes, people can keep complaining that the Giants took him with the second overall pick and over a quarterback. However, Barkley is already the second-best running back in the NFL, in my opinion. As long as he stays healthy, Barkley will likely be in for a bigger year two.
6. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns (Last year: 6th)
For my money, Odell Beckham Jr. is the best receiver in the league. He’s a four-year 1,000-yard receiver that has 44 touchdown receptions over 56 starts. Beckham Jr. has a career catch percentage of 62.7 and has 390 career receptions. The problem with OBJ has been the injuries that have recently come up over the last two years. The other problem was the fact he and Eli Manning had a serious rapport until the injuries.
The New York Giants ended up traded Odell because of his antics? They didn’t receive a ton for him, but now he’s in Cleveland and upgraded teams and his quarterback. In steps young Baker Mayfield into the picture who will be the one throwing footballs to Odell now. At only 26-years-old, Beckham Jr. has come out and has expressed his desire to play in the NFL until he passes Jerry Rice‘s records. He was on a high pace up until the injury-ridden 2017 season. With Odell in one of the most dangerous offenses in the league on paper, one could expect him to reach even another level of production in 2019.
5. Khalil Mack, DE, Chicago Bears (Last year: 11th)
Khalil Mack is one of only a few select players that you trade your entire draft to acquire. The Bears did just that, and he was worth every single draft pick and penny they paid him. Mack didn’t put up the stats he is entirely capable of, and I expect that to come down the line. However, the 27-year-old pass rusher changed the Bears defense. The Bears defense before Mack was excellent. Once the Bears added Mack to the fold, the Bears outstanding defense became the best defense in football. Mack forced six fumbles, recovered two fumbles, took one interception back for a touchdown and had 12.5 sacks. Those were all in the span of 13 starts.
Mack has accounted for 386 quarterback pressures, 53 sacks, 255 tackles and most importantly 14 forced fumbles in the NFL. When you have a player that is a straight-up sack artist, it boosts your defense. However, when you have a player that can force turnovers, that’s even better. Mack is a special player and should only continue to produce more as he gets acclimated to the new system run by new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.
4. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams (Last year: 5th)
The best running back in the NFL is Todd Gurley. That might change down the road, but with the here and now, it’s Gurley. Why is Gurley the best? Sure, he had a horrific sophomore slump but once Sean McVay came to town Gurley had completely gone as one person mentioned: from Eddie George to Marshall Faulk. The argument against Gurley would be his total fall from grace in year two and how McVay magically “fixed” him. However, it’s important to go back to his rookie year with Jeff Fisher‘s St. Louis Rams in which Gurley ran for over 1,000 yards and put himself onto the scene, adding 10 touchdowns to go along with that.
In discussing why Gurley is the best now, here’s a list of running backs who have 40 total touchdowns over the last two seasons: Todd Gurley. That’s it. That’s the list. Gurley has amassed 40 touchdowns, almost 4,000 yards from scrimmage in 29 games. Gurley’s 2018 campaign put him on the LaDainian Tomlinson record watch before nagging injuries, and the act of giving up touchdowns for the good of the team came along.
Do not listen to the doubters on Gurley’s knee in regards to his immediate short-term future. The reason is that Gurley is the most valuable running back in the NFL and he’s the engine that drives the Rams offense.
3. Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Kansas City Chiefs (Last year: NR)
What can you say about Patrick Mahomes II? My top quarterback prospect in the 2017 draft was forced to sit out the whole season until week 17. The Chiefs had a playoff team and a capable starting quarterback in Alex Smith. You felt Mahomes taking over might disrupt that at the time. However, the next season makes you wonder what Mahomes could have done last season. The second-year NFL quarterback tossed 50 touchdowns, 5,000 passing yards and finished with a monster 113.8 passer rating and led the league in QBR with 82.0. The Texas Tech product cemented himself in one season as a top-five quarterback and cemented the Chiefs a Super Bowl contender.
What is even scarier is the fact Mahomes is only turning 24-years-old this year and might already be the next Aaron Rodgers with an elite tight end and receiver in his arsenal. Not to mention, one of the best offensive minds in the game, Andy Reid. One more season could put Mahomes in the conversation of number one on the DTR 100 list.
2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (Last year: 1st)
Aaron Rodgers is 35-years-old which is hard to believe. The Green Bay Packers franchise quarterback has started 158 games in his NFL career. In those games, Rodgers has been magical. A 100-57-1 record to go along with a career 64.8 completion percentage, just under 43,000 passing yards, 338 touchdown passes, only 80 interceptions and a career 103.1 passer rating. I often make the argument that Rodgers is quite possibly the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. With those stats, the film and the mobility this man has it’s hard to doubt that. Rodgers to go with his gaudy passing numbers has rushed for 5.2 yards per carry, 2,939 yards, and 27 touchdowns. He’s had four seasons of over 300 rushing yards and four seasons with at least four rushing touchdowns.
The former Super Bowl champion has missed some games due to recent injuries. However, one thing that you cannot knock about Rodgers is his durability and overall toughness. Rodgers will play through enormous amounts of pain and has over the last few seasons. One thing’s for sure, when Rodgers is unable to suit up the Packers go from a Super Bowl contender to not even being a playoff contender. He didn’t grab number one for the second-straight year because Aaron Donald took his game to a level we haven’t seen.
1. Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams (Last year: 2nd)
He’s the best player in the NFL, and it doesn’t matter if he throws a football or not. Aaron Donald as a defensive tackle almost broke the sack record, the same year he didn’t record a sack until week four in the season. Donald has upped the ante each season since entering the NFL. You could tell he was going to be something special his rookie year and he only built off of that. Pro Football Focus has graded him as an elite defensive tackle in all five of his seasons. Donald currently has 419 quarterback pressures, 59.5 sacks, 13 forced fumbles, nine batted passes, 263 tackles and 97 tackles for a loss. He’s just another level and if he continues playing like he has he will be considered the greatest NFL player ever.
Why did Donald overtake number one from Aaron Rodgers this past year? It had zero to do with Rodgers and more to do with Donald. While every position can be argued as to who the best is, you cannot say anyone is more talented, more productive, or better as a defensive lineman than Aaron Donald. That is why he is number one on the DTR 100.
DTR 100 Honorable Mentions:
QB: Matt Stafford, Kirk Cousins, Deshaun Watson