After several breakout campaigns and unfortunate injuries, the No. 90-81 spots on the NFL’s top 100 look much different than they did last year.
After NFL Network released the Top 100 Players of 2020 and Pro Football Focus (PFF) published a list of the top 50 players entering 2020, I decided to throw my hat into the arena. I’ve compiled a list of the top 100 players entering the upcoming season based on a combination of skill, production, and proven staying power.
For those who are new to the series, free agents, rookies, and players who opted out of the 2020 season don’t appear in the top 100. This series is not a ranking of the best players from last season. Last year’s production is only one part of the evaluation process. Several players who missed significant portions of 2019 with injuries received top 50 selections.
If you haven’t already, I suggest checking out the rankings for Nos. 100-91 to get a better understanding of the upcoming list. This is an 11-part series that’s getting released over the next two and a half weeks. Hopefully, you’ll check back every few days for the latest edition as we climb to the top of the NFL.
90. Matt Judon, OLB, Baltimore Ravens
Last season, Judon served as the premier pass rusher on one of the NFL’s most talented defenses. After losing Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs in free agency, Baltimore needed a big year from Judon. The former fifth-round pick responded by setting single-season career-highs with 9.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and 33 quarterback hits.
For his efforts, Judon made the Pro Bowl. The Ravens used their franchise tag on the fifth-year pro this offseason. Under the deal, Judon makes roughly $16.8 million. While Baltimore added more sack artists in free agency, including Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe, Judon is still the most integral part of the team’s pass rush.
Judon and the Ravens didn’t get a long-term deal done this offseason, which is hardly surprising. Baltimore generates outside linebackers like the Pittsburgh Steelers churn out wide receivers. That’s why the team didn’t re-sign Smith last offseason and used the franchise tag twice on Suggs during the linebacker’s prime.
Overlooking any contractual issues, Judon is a critical part of Baltimore’s stacked defense, but he isn’t an All-Pro.
89. Kevin Byard, S, Tennessee Titans
The Middle Tennessee State product initially made a name for himself in 2017. That year, Byard intercepted a league-leading eight passes while defending another 16. The Associated Press (AP) rewarded him with a First-Team All-Pro selection, and the second-year pro also went to the Pro Bowl.
However, despite continuously performing amongst the best players at his position, Byard hasn’t made a Pro Bowl since his breakout campaign. That didn’t stop Tennessee from giving the former third-round pick a record-setting extension last July. Byard and the Titans agreed to a five-year, $70.5 million deal.
While he isn’t a top-five safety in the NFL, Byard still receives a top 10 spot at his position in most rankings.