Tonight, NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2019 (as voted on by the players) premieres with No. 100-91. Because the NFL Top 100 is starting later this season, ten players will be released every day at 9:00 PM ET instead of every week. The guy that had his peers vote him the No. 1 player in the league heading into 2019 will be released on Wednesday, July 31, but with the rankings getting started tonight, this is how I think the top-ten will end up. Keep in mind, these are predictions for what I believe will be the top ten in several weeks, not what I personally think should be the top ten.
10. Antonio Brown
Last year, Antonio Brown was voted as the second-best player in the National Football League on the NFL Top 100, and he had another spectacular season with 104 receptions for 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns. I know that a lot of the voting takes place during the season, so many ballots were filled before AB forced his way out of Pittsburgh; but his forced exit could’ve rubbed some players that voted later the wrong way. Also, former teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster had an exceptional season himself and might have taken some attention away from Brown, hurting his vote total.
9. Drew Brees
It ended up being a runaway MVP win for Patrick Mahomes last season, but Drew Brees was in the mix and thought of as the potential favorite to win the award in middle of last season. Again, much of the voting appears to take place during the year when all the players are together (though it isn’t entirely clear what the breakdown is), and Brees almost certainly received a good number of No. 1 votes from his peers. Overall, with Mahomes and Tom Brady also in the mix at quarterback, Brees will probably settle into the back half of the top ten like last year (he was No. 8).
8. Saquon Barkley
Some NFL players might feel Giants’ sensation Saquon Barkley needs to prove it for more than one year before he can be included among the top five or ten players in football, but Barkley is a model citizen that likely immediately gained the respect of everyone around the league. Barkley set the NFL record for most scrimmage yards by a rookie, most 100+ yard scrimmage games from a rookie, and most receptions by a rookie running back in 2018.
7. DeAndre Hopkins
The voting for the NFL Top 100 is far from perfect, but it can sometimes give a pretty good idea of where players really should rank compared to thoughts from the media. DeAndre Hopkins—fresh off one of four 99-overall ratings in Madden 20—is an example of this. Many in the media assert that he’s the top receiver in football, but the players had him ranked No. 13 last year. However, Hopkins might have had his best season yet in 2018, so he’ll almost certainly get into the top ten—just not ahead of a receiver that we’ll get to later.
6. Todd Gurley
If the majority of voting took place after the season, Todd Gurley would almost certainly be lower than this because of the uncertainty surrounding his knee. But while the voting took place, most players probably assumed Gurley would be his usual self in 2019 (which he still might be). If so, there’s no question the former Offensive Player of the Year will get a top-ten spot, and No. 6 feels right after he was ranked there last year.
5. Khalil Mack
Khalil Mack was ranked No. 5 in 2017 before he dropped to No. 16 in 2018, and he’ll probably leap back into the top ten after a season in Chicago. One, he was probably near the top of many players’ minds while they were casting their ballots, as his trade was one of the biggest stories in the league just before the start of the regular season. And two, Chicago had an elite defense last year, and Mack was a huge part of it while causing major disruption off the edge.
4. Julio Jones
The media might not be as into Julio Jones as they are more flamboyant receivers in the league, but the players have enormous respect for the all-time great. Jones was ranked fourth in the Top 100 ahead of last season, and he blew his previous season’s numbers away with 113 receptions for 1,677 yards and eight touchdowns. Julio averages the most receiving yards per game in NFL history, and I’ll be shocked if the players don’t rank him in the top-five for the third consecutive season.
3. Tom Brady
I won’t be surprised if Tom Brady is No. 1 for a fourth time this year (he’s already the only player to be voted No. 1 three times), but No. 3 feels about right for him behind the reigning Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year from last season. Brady likely has more respect from his peers than any player in any other spot, and he probably received consistent top-five votes on most ballots.
2. Aaron Donald
Aaron Donald was up to No. 7 in the NFL Top 100 in 2018, but he’ll likely shoot up to the top-three after his second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award and a career-high 20.5 sacks for a team that went to the Super Bowl. Donald taking the top spot should be a decent possibility, as nearly every lineman he’s been up against probably put him near No. 1, while defensive players probably want one of their own to claim the honor for the first time since J.J. Watt in 2015.
1. Patrick Mahomes
Similar to Saquon Barkley, some players might not be ready to place someone high in the Top 100 after one season, no matter how amazing it was. However, for most people, Patrick Mahomes’ success is impossible to ignore after he threw for 50 touchdowns and over 5,000 yards for a top-seeded Chiefs team. Mahomes’ celebrations and ability to throw no-look passes with ease might have gotten slightly annoying to defenders, but I still think the players have voted him the top player in the league entering 2019.