To preview the 2020 NFL season, we asked more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to help us stack the top 10 players at 11 different positions (sorry, special-teamers). The results might surprise you. They surprised me.
Here's how it worked: Voters gave their best 10 to 15 players at a position, then we compiled the results and ranked candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, interviews and research. We had several ties, so we broke them by isolating the two-man matchup with additional voting and follow-up calls. Each section is packed with quotes and nuggets from the voters on every guy -- even the honorable mentions.
The objective is to identify the best players right now for 2020. This is not a five-year projection or an achievement award. Who's the best today? Pretty simple.
We'll roll out a position per day over the next 11 days. Here's the schedule:
They are still top-10 quarterbacks in their 40s, but the grip is slipping, and you can see it with the results of this list. Mobility, athleticism and throwing on the run are qualities prioritized by all teams now, which explains why four of the league's top five quarterbacks use those traits as a weapon. Aaron Rodgers is the rare late-30s quarterback who can still pull off that routine.
The pass rushes are too good, the secondaries too sophisticated for quarterbacks to drop back and wait five seconds before throwing. Another thing evaluators prioritize when evaluating QB greatness: universal skill sets. Which quarterbacks truly could play for any team, in any system? Many of these players fit that description.
This year's top-10 quarterback list features a few surprises, a few legacies cemented, the Dak vs. Wentz debate settled, and an incredibly tough call at the 10th spot.
Age: 24 | Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: 4
Nearly 30 voters were polled, and all but one picked Mahomes first overall.
"Everything else is a grab bag," one AFC exec said. "He's the face of the league." That was evident by the Chiefs' signing Mahomes to a record 10-year, $450 million extension Monday, with a total package that can push the 12-year pact (he had two years left on his rookie deal) up to $503 million.
It's easy to detail Mahomes' dominance statistically and anecdotally:
second player to win a Super Bowl and MVP in his first three seasons
QB ratings of 113.8 and 105.3 as a two-year starter
304 yards and 2.53 passing touchdowns per game
arm talent to complete passes from all bodily contortions
leads NFL with 22 touchdown passes of 20-plus yards downfield and 17 touchdown passes on the run since 2018
But the biggest impact is creating big plays when he decides it's time to win -- like uncorking a 44-yarder to Tyreek Hill from deep in the pocket on third-and-long in the Super Bowl.
"Talk to 31 defensive coordinators, they'd all say they are least excited about playing this guy," one NFL veteran assistant coach said. "Only getting better with dealing with defenses, too."
The Chiefs rave about his relatability and leadership, as well.
One knock is unnecessary risk-taking.
"Our coach came in our meeting room [before a Chiefs game] and said, 'Listen guys, his model is touchdown or touchback,'" one veteran NFL cornerback said. "He's gonna launch it. You saw it in the Super Bowl. They keep airing it out. So there are chances to get him."