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 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:
Following his retirement this offseason, Luke Kuechly will be missed. But plenty of linebackers are ready to fill the void. Our linebacker rankings feature a clear-cut No. 1, established veterans vying for the next four spots and ascending young players trying to unseat the second- and third-contract guys.
The linebacker position -- all inside linebackers here, along with outside linebackers in a 4-3 alignment and hybrid options -- has at least five first-round picks from the past two years who earned top-10 votes.
But older NFL players have problems with some of the young guys who like to rack up tackles.
"Turnovers and ball disruption," a veteran NFL linebacker said. "That's what it's about. The young guys can get a lot of tackles but it takes a while to learn how to take the ball away."
With that in mind, here's how the young players fared compared to the thirtysomethings. And a shout out to Ryan Shazier, who, at age 27, would undoubtedly be high on this list if not for the severe 2018 back injury that required spinal stabilization surgery.