The 2020 NFL season is just over a week away, so it’s time for our annual ranking of the league’s top 100 players. What can we expect from the game’s best players?
We asked a panel of 46 ESPN NFL experts to rate players based on how good they will be in the 2020 season in comparison to their peers. Emphasis was entirely on expectations for the upcoming season — that means injured safety Derwin James won’t make the list — and predicting potential greatness, rather than past performance, career résumé or positional value. From those ratings, we were able to rank the best of the best, 1 to 100.
For the second straight year, the Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints led the way with seven players apiece, and the Minnesota Vikings joined them this year following the trade for pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue. Twenty-eight teams in all were represented by at least one player, with the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Washington Football Team coming up empty. Positionally, edge rusher and wide receiver most populated the top 100 with 17 names each, followed by quarterback (15). And with regard to last year’s list, 65 players returned for another appearance.
For each player, our NFL Nation reporters weighed in on his 2020 outlook and asked a player, coach or executive from the league what makes him so dominant. Then ESPN Stats & Information provided a signature stat, and fantasy analyst Mike Clay projected a stat line for this season. Here’s the full list, starting with the reigning Super Bowl MVP:
See more: Experts pick snubs, more
QB | Chiefs
2019 rank: 2
Over the past two seasons, Mahomes was No. 1 in many key stat categories including QBR (79). And at 24 years old, he should only continue to get better. Plus, the Chiefs gave him yet another high-end offensive asset in the draft when they took running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round. — Adam Teicher
Signature stat: He has played 36 games in his career, including the postseason, and never lost by more than one score or posted a Total QBR below 50 in a game. In other words, Mahomes has never had a below-average game. It’s by far the most consecutive games with a QBR of 50 or greater to start a career since the metric was first calculated in 2006.
What they are saying: “If there was ever a player that was truly deserving of the largest contract in U.S. sports history, it’s definitely Pat Mahomes.” — Brett Veach, Chiefs GM
2020 projection: 4,477 passing yards, 33 TDs, 10 INT (281 rushing yards)
DT | Rams
2019 rank: 1
Donald declared, heading into his seventh NFL season at 29 years old, that he feels like he’s in better shape than ever before. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year led all interior linemen last season with a pass rush win rate of 24.5%, and that could still increase in 2020 if new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley’s scheme goes as planned. Staley has made it his mission to get Donald, who absorbs among the most double-teams of any lineman in the NFL, into more one-on-one situations. — Lindsey Thiry
Signature stat: Over the past three seasons, Donald has recorded the first pressure on 175 plays. The next-highest total by an interior lineman in that span is 99 (Fletcher Cox). For context, the difference between Donald and Cox in that time frame is the same as the difference between Cox and the players tied for 53rd.
What they are saying: “It just shows up every day how hard he works in practice, how hard he works in the weight room, how hard he studies film. It truly makes everyone else bring their level up higher when they see the best player on the field, arguably the best player in this league, working as hard as he does every day. I expect him to have another Defensive Player of the Year type of year.” — Jared Goff, Rams quarterback
2020 projection: 49 tackles, 10 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
QB | Ravens
2019 rank: NR
Jackson became the second unanimous NFL MVP after leading the league with 36 touchdown passes and setting the single-season mark for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,206. What’s scary is he still can make strides as a passer, especially on downfield throws. Could Jackson follow Patrick Mahomes‘ path by capturing a Super Bowl a year after winning MVP? — Jamison Hensley
Signature stat: Jackson posted a 91.0 Total QBR when facing man coverage last season, the highest in the four seasons in which that data has been tracked (NFL Next Gen Stats). His 25 touchdowns against such coverage were also the most by anyone with one or no interceptions in that same span.
What they are saying: “He’s the best player I’ve ever been around, and he works hard. So, I think you are going to see an even more polished and an even more ready Lamar than you saw last year. That almost sounds unbelievable, but the guy is incredible, and he’s a winner.” — Mark Andrews, Ravens tight end
2020 projection: 3,427 passing yards, 26 TDs, 10 INT (901 rushing yards)
QB | Seahawks
2019 rank: 9
Wilson led the NFL last year with 22 completions that traveled at least 25 yards beyond the line of scrimmage and has the most such completions of anyone since his rookie season in 2012 (139). The Seahawks have the speed at wide receiver to complement what might be their quarterback’s biggest strength: throwing the deep ball. Seattle added Phillip Dorsett to a group that returns Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf and David Moore — all of whom have 4.40 speed or better. Wilson’s durability and his recent MVP-level trajectory, plus the potential for more explosive plays, set him up for a strong 2020 season. — Brady Henderson
Signature stat: Last season, Wilson’s 6.2 TD-INT ratio was the second highest of any player who was sacked at least 40 times in a single season (Aaron Rodgers, 12.5 in 2018).
What they are saying: “He works harder than anybody I know. From a mental standpoint, knowing the game, knowing offense, knowing defenses … From a physical standpoint, the work that he does … to make sure he’s out there every week. It’s second to none.” — Duane Brown, Seahawks offensive tackle
2020 projection: 3,668 passing yards, 29 TDs, 9 INT (397 rushing yards)
WR | Saints
2019 rank: 10
Not only did Thomas shatter the NFL record with 149 catches last season, but he also shattered the argument that his success is tied to quarterback Drew Brees. When Brees missed five-plus games with a thumb injury, Thomas caught 50 passes for 616 yards and three touchdowns from backups Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill. — Mike Triplett
Signature stat: Thomas has 470 career catches, which is 11 away from tying Jarvis Landry for the most in a player’s first five seasons. But Thomas has that total through four seasons.
What they are saying: “His level of preparation, intensity, expectation level and just how he approaches each and every day and each and every game [stand out]. And there’s always a place where Mike is gonna create some separation or give you a place where you can throw the ball where he can get it and the other guy can’t.” — Drew Brees, Saints quarterback
2020 projection: 114 catches, 1,352 yards, 9 TDs
RB | Panthers
2019 rank: 22
McCaffrey became the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season in 2019. That’s why the Panthers are building around him and why they gave him an extension that made him the highest-paid back ($16 million per year) in the league. Beyond talent, he has the work ethic new coach Matt Rhule wants the rest of his team to replicate. He’s as complete a player as there is in the league. — David Newton
Signature stat: McCaffrey is the only player in NFL history with at least 2,500 rushing and receiving yards each over his first three NFL seasons.
What they are saying: “I don’t look at Christian as just a running back. We see him as a weapon. We see him as a person that can be a receiver, a running back, a returner. As important as anything else is, the true leader [he is] on the team, and he does everything the right way. I don’t think he’s the type of player you can pigeonhole into one position.” — Matt Rhule, Panthers coach
2020 projection: 1,051 rushing yards, 735 receiving yards, 11 scrimmage TDs
CB | Patriots
2019 rank: 33
Gilmore became just the 12th NFL player since 2000 to post back-to-back seasons with at least 20 passes defended. Entering his ninth NFL season, the 6-foot-1, 202-pound Gilmore still has the combination of size, speed, athleticism and football sense that makes him a true lockdown corner. — Mike Reiss
Signature stat: As the nearest defender when lined up in press coverage against a tight-window target, Gilmore allowed an NFL passer rating of 0.0 last season with a league-best three interceptions, via NFL Next Gen Stats.
What they are saying: “Everyone knows he’s a quiet guy. We call him the Quiet Assassin. He doesn’t want to let guys catch passes on him in walk-through and he takes that demeanor onto the field each and every day.” — Jason McCourty, Patriots cornerback
2020 projection: 56 tackles, 3 INT
WR | Cardinals
2019 rank: 5
Since he came into the league in 2013, there have arguably been only two other receivers better than Hopkins: Julio Jones and Antonio Brown. But while both are trending downward, Hopkins’ stock is still rising. He’s a 1,000-yard machine, hitting the number in five of his seven seasons, including 1,165 receiving yards last season and another 208 in two playoff games. His ability to play inside and outside makes him even more of a threat, and now he gets to take his talent to one of the budding offenses in the NFL. — Josh Weinfuss
Signature stat: Hopkins and Michael Thomas are the only players to post at least 100 catches and 1,100 receiving yards in each of the past two seasons.
What they are saying: “He’s the total package … you can move him in the slot and he can have that feel and savvy inside and then you can go outside and he can do his thing there. And that’s one of the great appeals to his game when I’m watching him as a playcaller.” — Kliff Kingsbury, Cardinals coach
2020 projection: 93 catches, 1,144 yards, 8 TDs
TE | 49ers
2019 rank: 42
Kittle already has more receiving yards than any tight end through his first three seasons in league history, so what could possibly make him better in Year 4? Fresh legs and a deeper connection with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, to name two. The addition of Jordan Reed could help spell Kittle in addition to complementing him and creating more favorable matchups. Having a second full season with Garoppolo should also serve the duo well, meaning more big-play opportunities for Kittle. — Nick Wagoner
Signature stat: Kittle caught 79% of his targets last season, the highest percentage in a single season by a tight end with at least 900 receiving yards since 2001.
What they are saying: “I think we don’t have to say how important George is to us and not only as being the best tight end to me in the league, but also the type of person he is.” — Kyle Shanahan, 49ers coach
2020 projection: 80 catches, 998 yards, 6 TDs
QB | Texans
2019 rank: 47
Watson lost DeAndre Hopkins, but he has more depth at the position, including three speedy receivers in Will Fuller V, Brandin Cooks and Kenny Stills. Watson has 47 completions of 30-plus yards since 2018, and that should be an area he excels in even more next season. — Sarah Barshop
Signature stat: Watson joined Steve Young (1994, 1998) as the only players in NFL history to have 25 touchdown passes and five rushing touchdowns in multiple seasons. Watson is the only one to do it in consecutive years (2018-19).
What they are saying: “One of his greatest traits is that he really has an understanding and he can see the field really well. He makes good decisions. I think from where he was a rookie to where he is now, it has improved leaps and bounds and will continue to get better with all the reps and how well he really understands the pro game now.” — Bill O’Brien, Texans coach
2020 projection: 4,029 passing yards, 27 TDs, 12 INT (518 rushing yards)
WR | Chiefs
2019 rank: 16
Hill’s numbers were down last season mainly because he missed all or most of five games due to injuries. But he was still an effective deep threat. Nineteen percent of Hill’s catches went for 20 yards or more, and his 44-yard reception in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV sparked the Chiefs’ comeback. — Adam Teicher
Signature stat: Hill was considered open on 31.5% of his targets last season, the second-highest rate among wide receivers with at least 80 targets (Jamison Crowder, 32.8%).
What they are saying: “He would have been a great center fielder. He has the unusual ability to follow the ball down the field.” — Andy Reid, Chiefs coach
2020 projection: 79 catches, 1,121 yards, 8 TDs
DE | Browns
2019 rank: 21
Garrett has vowed to earn the offseason contract extension that made him the highest-paid non-QB in NFL history. There’s compelling evidence to believe him. Over his first three seasons, Garrett ranked fourth in the league with 0.82 sacks per game. He has the talent and the experience, and now finally the help around him. — Jake Trotter
Signature stat: Garrett beat his block by 2.0 seconds on 32 pass rushes last season, which was second behind only Aaron Donald through Week 11, when Garrett was suspended for the rest of the year (NFL Next Gen Stats).
What they are saying: “Myles as a player, from the first day he has been on the practice field, you can tell he was something special. The way he moves and the way he bends, it’s just stuff you only see in a few guys in the NFL. It’s been really impressive. If he puts together a whole season this year, really there is no limit on his success.” — Joel Bitonio, Browns guard
2020 projection: 45 tackles, 11 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
WR | Falcons
2019 rank: 7
Jones continues to be one of the most explosive threats in the NFL and is arguably the league’s top receiver. His career average of 96.2 receiving yards per game is the best mark in history. Jones’ combination of size, speed and physicality makes him nearly impossible to handle one-on-one. The Falcons have to get him the ball more in the end zone. — Vaughn McClure
Signature stat: Jones has six straight seasons with 1,300 receiving yards, tied with Torry Holt for the longest such streak in NFL history.
What they are saying: “He is just so explosive. In and out of his cuts, he’s shaking guys loose, creating separation. I’ve never seen anything like that.” — Hayden Hurst, Falcons tight end
2020 projection: 89 catches, 1,246 yards, 7 TDs
QB | Saints
2019 rank: 11
No, the 41-year-old doesn’t throw deep as well as he used to. But that makes his success even more impressive as he keeps adapting. Over the past two years, Brees had the two best passer ratings of his career and the two lowest interception rates of his career. — Mike Triplett
Signature stat: Brees owns the top three single-season marks in completion percentage in NFL history, all of which have come in the past three seasons.
What they are saying: “Every day he’s coming to work with energy, like nobody’s gonna outwork him. He’s the hardest-working guy. He reminds me a lot of Peyton [Manning].” — Emmanuel Sanders, Saints wide receiver
2020 projection: 4,010 passing yards, 30 TDs, 9 INT
DE | 49ers
2019 rank: NR
Despite his rapid ascent to this spot on the list, Bosa is his own biggest critic. He spent the offseason self-scouting and came away believing he could have done more. That counts as harsh criticism considering Bosa was second in the NFL in total pressures (60) as a rookie. But Bosa says he wants to do a better job finishing his rushes and going into games with a better plan, both of which should allow him to improve on the 9.0 sacks he had as a rookie and solidify himself as one of the game’s best young edge rushers. — Nick Wagoner
Signature stat: Bosa’s pass rush win rate was tops among rookies at 21.8%. Bosa was one of three rookies with a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and an interception in 2019 (Devin White, Devin Bush).
What they are saying: “I think very highly of Nick and think he can do anything he wants to out there. He’s extremely talented and he worked extremely hard out there so the sky is the limit for him.” — Arik Armstead, 49ers defensive tackle
2020 projection: 58 tackles, 11 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
RB | Giants
2019 rank: 12
There aren’t many running backs who can top 1,000 yards rushing in a down year that was marred by injury. But Barkley is that talented. Now throw that talent into an offense that will put an even greater focus on the Giants’ most dangerous skill position player, and it sets him up for a huge season in Jason Garrett’s running back-friendly system. — Jordan Raanan
Signature stat: Barkley had five rushes last season on which he reached 20-plus mph, second most in the NFL behind only Dalvin Cook (6).
What they are saying: “If he stays healthy, he’s the best running back in the game. Most dynamic. He can score any time he touches the ball. He has proven that.” — an anonymous NFC executive
2020 projection: 1,162 rushing yards, 460 receiving yards, 11 scrimmage TDs
TE | Chiefs
2019 rank: 18
The Chiefs do many things with Kelce, and his ability to do them well is one reason for Kelce’s consistency. He lined up as a slot receiver or wideout most often, and he caught more passes (73) from these spots than when he lined up as a traditional tight end (24). — Adam Teicher
Signature stat: Kelce is the first tight end in NFL history with four straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons, a streak that’s still active heading into 2020.
What they are saying: “They’re asking Kelce to do some things that are very, very difficult, and he pulls it off. It’s maddening to not only our team but, I think, any team that plays the Chiefs.” — Jon Gruden, Raiders coach
2020 projection: 88 catches, 1,093 yards, 9 TDs
DE | Chargers
2019 rank: 25
Moments before reporting to training camp, Bosa agreed to a five-year, $135 million extension that set a new defensive player record with $102 million guaranteed. The first Chargers player to earn a $100 million contract, Bosa produced 11.5 sacks last season, and he says he has a couple more moves in his arsenal that he’s working to perfect as he enters his fifth NFL season. — Lindsey Thiry
Signature stat: Since coming into the league in 2016, Bosa has the fourth-highest sacks per game rate at 0.78. His 40 sacks ranks second behind Leslie O’Neal’s 42.5 for the most by a Chargers player in his first four NFL seasons.
What they are saying: “He’s going to have a great season. … He’s a hard worker, and he’s actually talking more this year, believe it or not, surprisingly, and then you can tell that he’s having fun and he loves to be around us. He’s a great team guy.” — Derwin James, Chargers safety
2020 projection: 70 tackles, 10 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
S | Seahawks
2019 rank: 61
Adams’ 6.5 sacks last season were two more than any other NFL defensive back and 2.5 more than any other Seahawks defender. The Seahawks view Adams as a “chess piece,” in the words of one source. They plan to take advantage of his versatility, including his skills as a blitzer, knowing they need to generate more pressure than they did in 2019. — Brady Henderson
Signature stat: Since coming into the league in 2017, Adams has 32 QB pressures (second-most by a DB in the NFL) and the fourth-lowest comp percentage allowed (50.4%) as the nearest defender among safeties in coverage (NFL Next Gen Stats).
What they are saying: “There’s some real similarities [between Adams and Troy Polamalu] … It’s the nature that they play with is similar. They play with such amazing confidence that when they see things, they go get things.” — Pete Carroll, Seahawks coach
2020 projection: 82 tackles, 2 INT
QB | Cowboys
2019 rank: NR
He is coming off a season with career highs in passing yards (4,902) and touchdown passes (30) and is being paired with a coach, Mike McCarthy, who has succeeded with quarterbacks at every stop in his career as an assistant or head coach. With another 3,000-yard, 20-touchdown pass season, Prescott would join Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson as the only QBs with five straight such seasons to open a career. — Todd Archer
Signature stat: Since Prescott entered the NFL in 2016, he’s tied for second in wins and game-winning drives, and tied for fourth in offensive touchdowns among starting QBs over that span.
What they are saying: “Dak’s so good at commanding a room, commanding a huddle, getting guys on the same page. Obviously we’re taking the time to build a chemistry as a football team. It’s different every year, but it is nice having some familiarity at that position and someone who is such a great leader and role model for everyone on the offense and the whole team.” — Zack Martin, Cowboys guard
2020 projection: 4,291 passing yards, 27 TDs, 11 INT (248 rushing yards)
OLB | Bears
2019 rank: 3
Mack had a mediocre 2019 (8.5 sacks, five forced fumbles) by his lofty standards. A former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Mack remains a dominant pass-rusher with double-digit sacks in four of the past five seasons. Chicago believes the addition of veteran outside linebacker Robert Quinn will make Mack even more dangerous in 2020. — Jeff Dickerson
Signature stat: Mack is one of six players to have a pass rush win rate of at least 20% in each of the past three seasons as an edge rusher. The others: Preston Smith, Von Miller, Robert Quinn, DeMarcus Lawrence and Jadeveon Clowney (NFL Next Gen Stats).
What they are saying: “You know, Mack’s just Mack. He’s going to always work hard and things like that, that’s just him. That’s his character and, you know, that doesn’t change. He’s going to always be that stand-up guy. So it’s the same thing since he walked through the door. Nothing’s changed. No slacking. Everything is just up. He’s working harder but he’s always working hard.” — Eddie Jackson, Bears safety
2020 projection: 51 tackles, 9 sacks, 5 forced fumbles
WR | Buccaneers
2019 rank: 36
There were some questions about Tom Brady’s underneath style of play meshing with Evans’ above-the-rim style of play. But early on in camp, it’s clear that not only can Brady hit Evans deep on passes traveling 35, 40 and 50 yards through the air, but Brady will help Evans open up a new dimension in his game: yards after the catch. Brady’s ball placement has been strong, allowing Evans to make catches in stride. — Jenna Laine
Signature stat: Evans has posted 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first six NFL seasons, joining Randy Moss as the only players to do that in NFL history.
What they are saying: “He’s deceptively fast. He’s obviously got the size, but his catch radius is ridiculous. The only guy recently that I can compare him to — who was a little bit faster — was Calvin Johnson as far as sizewise and a catch radius. But his numbers speak for themselves.” — Bruce Arians, Buccaneers coach
2020 projection: 77 catches, 1,171 yards, 9 TDs
QB | Packers
2019 rank: 6
Year 2 in Matt LaFleur’s system should see an increase in Rodgers’ production from his 26-touchdown season of 2019. Immediately after the NFC title game loss, Rodgers pointed to how much of the offense the Packers never were able to install in Year 1. Plus, he now has the added motivation of showing everyone that Green Bay moved too soon to pick his heir apparent in the 2020 draft. — Rob Demovsky
Signature stat: Rodgers has seen his Total QBR decrease in each of the past three seasons. His 50.4 QBR in 2020 was the lowest in his career.
What they are saying: “I’ll tell you what, he’s been so much fun to be around not only on the field but in the meeting room as well. He’s bringing great energy, he has been super positive and I’m really excited to be in Year 2 with him.” — Matt LaFleur, Packers coach
2020 projection: 3,873 passing yards, 26 TDs, 9 INT (205 rushing yards)
RB | Cowboys
2019 rank: 15
When he has played a full season, Elliott has rushed for at least 1,357 yards. Is he the same back he was as a rookie? He had just four carries of 20 yards or more in 2019, the fewest among the league’s top 10 rushers. But the Cowboys firmly believe he is still a difference-maker and can become their closer under Mike McCarthy. — Todd Archer
Signature stat: Since entering the league in 2016, Elliott has a 55% rush success rate, highest in the NFL (how frequently a rusher gains 50% of necessary yardage on first down, 70% on second or 100% on third and fourth). During that span, he has also led the NFL in rushing yards (5,405) and recorded the second most rushing touchdowns (40).
What they are saying: “He’s a great football player, and at the end of the day, he’s still had a very successful season and he’s done a great job training. I know he spent a lot of time with Dak and that offensive group really getting himself in top shape. I think Zeke’s one of the best, if not the best, running back in the NFL, and certainly he’s been very consistent throughout his career on his production.” — Stephen Jones, Cowboys executive vice president
2020 projection: 1,237 rushing yards, 456 receiving yards, 12 scrimmage TDs
OLB | Cardinals
2019 rank: 65
Jones has been perhaps the most underrated player in the NFL in quite some time despite being one of the league’s most productive pass-rushers. He’s coming off a 19-sack season (second in the NFL). His size and length make him a unique challenge for offensive linemen, and he has an aptitude for strip sacks if he can’t get the quarterback down. Jones has a streak of five straight seasons with double-digit sacks, but the stat that’s most telling about Jones is that he leads the NFL in sacks since 2013. — Josh Weinfuss
Signature stat: Jones leads the league in sacks per game (1.02) since 2017. Last season, he generated a sack on 3.6% of his pass rushes, ranking him second in the NFL behind only Shaquil Barrett per NFL Next Gen Stats (minimum 200 pass rushes).
What they are saying: “Chan’s a top-tier rusher. He’s so different with his body type. He’s so long, and it’s kind of awkward, but he has power in that body, he has quickness in that body, and he obviously has length in that body.” — Vance Joseph, Cardinals defensive coordinator
2020 projection: 49 tackles, 10 sacks, 6 forced fumbles
CB | Bills
2019 rank: 97
It’s a massive jump up this list for White, who made a similarly sized jump with his play last season. The first pick of the Sean McDermott/Brandon Beane era cemented himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the league with an NFL-high six interceptions last season, including two in a playoff-sealing win against the Steelers in Week 15. White was a first-team All-Pro selection for the first time last year, and if he continues his level of play from 2019, that honor won’t be his last. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Signature stat: White had 84 targets without allowing a touchdown when he was targeted as the nearest defender in coverage. Only Stephon Gilmore had more targets (96) without allowing a TD, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
What they are saying: “There’s not a plateau in sight, and that’s a good thing for us. I mean, he wants to get better, and as long as he’s challenging himself and we’re challenging him as well, he will get better.” — Leslie Frazier, Bills defensive coordinator
2020 projection: 63 tackles, 3 INT
ILB | Seahawks
2019 rank: 20
You know you’ve set a high standard when you can have what some considered a down season and still be named First Team All-Pro for the fifth time in six years. Reasons to believe Wagner will get back in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year in 2020: (1) He might not have as much on his plate as he did last season, when the Seahawks ran an abnormal amount of base defense; and (2) he’ll have another front-seven playmaker in Jamal Adams for opposing offenses to worry about. — Brady Henderson
Signature stat: Wagner has posted at least 100 tackles in each of his eight NFL seasons. The only players since 2001 with longer streaks are London Fletcher (13) and Keith Brooking (9).
What they are saying: “His consistency is really obvious. In everything that he does, he’s just so first class, so on it, so squared away.” — Pete Carroll, Seahawks coach
2020 projection: 147 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 INT
RB | Titans
2019 rank: NR
Henry’s jump comes after leading the NFL in rushing yards (1,540) and tying for the league lead in rushing touchdowns (16). The Titans will once again rely on Henry to be the focal point of the offense this season, especially after signing him to a four-year, $50 million deal. Henry’s 6-foot-3, 247-pound build and his conditioning make him fully capable of another 300-plus-carry season. — Turron Davenport
Signature stat: Over the past two seasons, no one has more rushing yards, rushing yards after contact and rushing TDs when facing a loaded box (8-plus defenders) than Henry.
What they are saying: “Derrick really does a great job when we go out on the field, he sets the tone. When he goes, he goes. God has blessed him in a lot of ways. I give him credit for how he takes care of his body. His workout regimen through the offseason, you see his videos. He works hard to take care of himself.” — Tony Dews, Titans running backs coach
2020 projection: 1,308 rushing yards, 212 receiving yards, 12 scrimmage TDs
DT | Chiefs
2019 rank: 40
The Chiefs signed Jones to a long-term contract this year because he has unusual ability to rush the quarterback from a defensive tackle spot. Jones had a 20.4% win rate as an interior rusher the past two seasons, which is third best in the league, per NFL Next Gen Stats. He pressured Jimmy Garoppolo into throwing an interception in Super Bowl LIV. — Adam Teicher
Signature stat: Over the past two seasons, Jones’ 23.5 sacks when lined up at DT are second in the NFL, trailing only Aaron Donald’s 30 such sacks.
What they are saying: “Chris has really proven to be an elite player at his position and really one of the best defensive players in the National Football League. With his age and his talents, we’re certainly expecting more great things to come.” — Brett Veach, Chiefs GM
2020 projection: 43 tackles, 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
DE | Saints
2019 rank: 34
There was a time when lofty sack totals were the only thing missing for the well-rounded Jordan, whose credits include rushing the passer, stopping the run, batting down passes and a 144-game iron man streak. Well, now he has those, too. He ranks third in the NFL with 40.5 sacks over the past three years. — Mike Triplett
Signature stat: Including the playoffs, Jordan is one of two players with at least 30 sacks and 15 batted passes over the past three seasons (Chris Jones).
What they are saying: “He’s a special talent. A lot of pass-rushers just focus on pass rush, and a lot of guys you feel like you can get your advantage back in the run game. But Cam is kind of wearing you out in both. His size and the movement abilities are unique to have both.” — Terron Armstead, Saints offensive tackle
2020 projection: 53 tackles, 9 sacks, 1 forced fumble
OLB | Steelers
2019 rank: 83
As the cornerstone of the Steelers’ defense, Watt has made big strides every year since he was drafted — and 2020 will be no exception. He’ll be able to build off of his disruptive season — 14.5 sacks, 36 quarterback hits and 8 forced fumbles — with another year of playing alongside Bud Dupree, who’s back on a franchise tag. Chasing James Harrison’s 16-sack single-season team record, Watt is also in line for a monster contract in the offseason to keep him in Pittsburgh for a long time. — Brooke Pryor
Signature stat: Watt is one of six players with active streaks of multiple 10-sack seasons (2). Since sacks became official in 1982, there have been only two Steelers players to have a longer streak (James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, 3).
What they are saying: “You all will come out here and look at the field and he is out there playing football with the ball like a little kid. He loves it. He loves the game.” — Keith Butler, Steelers defensive coordinator
2020 projection: 56 tackles, 11 sacks, 5 forced fumbles
QB | Buccaneers
2019 rank: 4
Brady might have had a down year in 2019, but he looks reinvigorated and will have a lot of freedom with coach Bruce Arians, who has been more than willing to collaborate with this six-time Super Bowl winner. This is also arguably the best cast of receivers Brady has ever had, with Pro Bowlers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin along with young speedster Scotty Miller, go-to tight end Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. — Jenna Laine
Signature stat: Brady averaged 7.1 air yards per attempt last season, his lowest since it was first tracked in 2006. Bruce Arians-coached QBs have averaged 9.8 air yards per attempt since he took over the Cardinals gig in 2013.
What they are saying: “He’s the GOAT on and off the field. It’s crazy. He’s a superstar — the most accomplished player in our game in history — and he’s just like everybody else. He works extremely hard, he’s always taking care of his body, he loves his family, he loves family time and he’s just cool. He’s a real down-to-earth guy.” — Mike Evans, Buccaneers wide receiver
2020 projection: 4,431 passing yards, 31 TDs, 9 INT
WR | Packers
2019 rank: 56
It’s time to put Adams in the same category as Jordy Nelson when it comes to his rapport with Aaron Rodgers. There’s a reason Adams has been targeted 296 times over the past two seasons — he produces. He came up three yards short of 1,000 last season despite missing four full games and part of another because of turf toe. — Rob Demovsky
Signature stat: Adams was targeted on 31% of his routes last season, which trailed only Michael Thomas (32%) for the highest rate among wide receivers.
What they are saying: “It all starts with Davante and his abilities. He’s a dynamic player. When you have a dynamic guy like that, he opens up the field for the rest of the guys.” — Aaron Rodgers, Packers quarterback
2020 projection: 91 catches, 1,153 yards, 7 TDs
OT | Packers
2019 rank: 32
If Kenny Clark was priority No. 1 for the Packers to sign to a contract extension, Bakhtiari is No. 1B, especially after they let right tackle Bryan Bulaga leave in free agency last offseason. He has made an All-Pro team (second team last year) each of the past four years, and he’s still only 28 years old (he turns 29 on Sept. 30). — Rob Demovsky
Signature stat: Bakhtiari led the league in pass block win rate as a tackle this season, sustaining blocks for 2.5 seconds on 95.7% of chances. Bakhtiari was second in PBWR as a tackle in 2018 and first in 2017, per ESPN blocking metrics powered by NFL Next Gen Stats.
What they are saying: “He brings that leadership, and he brings that energy, man. For me to go up against him every day, man, it’s only making me better as a player too. So I think that’s why I’m becoming so great at what I do, because I’m going up against the best each and every day.” — Za’Darius Smith, Packers outside linebacker
CB | Rams
2019 rank: 24
Despite the unusual nature of it, Ramsey will benefit from an offseason and training camp with the Rams after he arrived in L.A. in mid-October last season. He hinted that new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley will utilize him beyond his lockdown cornerback role, perhaps indicating that he will have the opportunity to make more plays on the ball. — Lindsey Thiry
Signature stat: Ramsey did not allow a touchdown when he was the nearest defender after his trade to the Rams. However, he did allow the sixth-highest completion percentage relative to expectation in that situation in the NFL after his Week 7 debut with the team (NFL Next Gen Stats).
What they are saying: “Him having a full season with the team, and getting a feel for guys and being around guys and him being a leader, I’m definitely expecting huge things from him this year.” — Aaron Donald, Rams defensive tackle
2020 projection: 65 tackles, 1 INT
S | Chiefs
2019 rank: 86
Mathieu has an impact from a variety of spots. He actually lined up more times last season as a slot corner (411) than as a free safety (359). It’s why he was named All-Pro as a defensive back and not a safety. He also was a linebacker on a significant number of plays (223). — Adam Teicher
Signature stat: Mathieu has a league-high 13 interceptions since 2013 when lined up at slot corner, five more than any other player. While Mathieu is listed as a safety, he has lined up at slot corner for 2,384 snaps, his most at any pre-snap position.
What they are saying: “He’s kind of fun to be around. He’s [all] business. He shares that with the guys around him. He has those instincts, you can’t teach that part.” — Andy Reid, Chiefs coach
2020 projection: 76 tackles, 3 INT
QB | Falcons
2019 rank: 37
Folks are no longer mentioning Ryan among the elite QBs even though the one-time MVP continues to play at a high level. He led the league with 408 completions last season, and his completion percentage of 66.2% ranked in the top seven. At 35, he’s not going to suddenly become a mobile threat, but Ryan can still be one of the most accurate QBs around. — Vaughn McClure
Signature stat: Ryan has an active streak of nine straight seasons with 4,000 passing yards, which is the second-longest such streak in NFL history behind only Drew Brees (12).
What they are saying: “There’s always going to be people who take their shots and are critical because there wasn’t a Super Bowl attached to [Ryan]. Matt is a top-tier quarterback in this league. We all know that.” — Thomas Dimitroff, Falcons GM
2020 projection: 4,523 passing yards, 28 TDs, 12 INT
DE | Texans
2019 rank: 14
Watt said he feels the best he has since 2015, when he was NFL Defensive Player of the Year. When healthy, the 31-year-old shows no signs of slowing down. Watt enters 2020 four sacks short of 100 for his career, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t eclipse that quickly with good health. — Sarah Barshop
Signature stat: Watt has the highest sacks per game (0.86) in the NFL since sacks became a statistic in 1982 (minimum 30 games played). He is one of four players with 80-plus sacks and 30-plus batted passes over the past 10 seasons.
What they are saying: “There are things that you see, for a man of his size and athletic ability, every day. You definitely say to yourself, ‘Wow, that’s a pretty special player.'” — Bill O’Brien, Texans coach
2020 projection: 50 tackles, 12 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
QB | Eagles
2019 rank: 31
Wentz has added 13 pounds of muscle, is as agile as ever and seems perfectly comfortable and in command of Doug Pederson’s system. He earned a good deal of respect in the locker room by carrying a depleted offense into the playoffs last season. Wentz should enjoy a statistical surge with an improved supporting cast around him. — Tim McManus
Signature stat: Last season, Wentz became the first 4,000-yard passer in NFL history to do so without a 500-yard wide receiver, per Elias Sports Bureau.
What they are saying: “I’ve been thoroughly impressed. He has come into camp in tremendous shape. He’s the leader of our football team. He is coaching up the young players, which is great to see.” — Doug Pederson, Eagles coach
2020 projection: 3,798 passing yards, 27 TDs, 9 INT (213 rushing yards)
WR | Browns
2019 rank: 13
OBJ might be coming off the worst statistical season of his career, save his injury-shortened one in 2017. Yet despite playing through a sports hernia all year, he still had more than 1,000 yards receiving. When healthy, Beckham can be as electric as any playmaker in the league. And after undergoing offseason surgery, he’s finally healthy again. — Jake Trotter
Signature stat: Since 2014, Beckham has 14 receptions of 50-plus yards, including 11 receiving touchdowns. He ranks second in both categories in the NFL during that span, trailing only DeSean Jackson.
What they are saying: “I think the unique thing with him would be the ball skills. When the ball is in the air, he has a knack of getting it any which way he can — one-handed, two-handed, along the boundary. I just think he is special in that regard.” — Kevin Stefanski, Browns coach
2020 projection: 72 catches, 1,012 yards, 7 TDs
RB | Vikings
2019 rank: NR
The Vikings are 12-3 when Cook has at least 100 scrimmage yards in a game, versus 6-9-1 when he has fewer than that. If he plays his first full NFL season, expect 350 touches at minimum and an increased role in the passing game. — Courtney Cronin
Signature stat: Cook ranked second among running backs in average speed at the line of scrimmage on rushing plays in 2019 at 10.93 mph, trailing only Raheem Mostert (11.34), according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
What they are saying: “Cook is a very bright guy. He’s got as good a grasp at what we do and how we go about it — Dalvin could teach class. He’s that bright and that smart of a football player.” — Gary Kubiak, Vikings offensive coordinator
2020 projection: 1,041 rushing yards, 538 receiving yards, 11 scrimmage TDs
S | Steelers
2019 rank: NR
In a new rap song, teammate Terrell Edmunds calls Fitzpatrick a “cheat code.” That about sums it up. The young, versatile safety barely scratched the surface of his abilities in his first season in Pittsburgh after joining the team via trade after Week 2. Fitzpatrick saw a ton of production early on with five interceptions in his first seven games before teams started avoiding him. This season, defensive coordinator Keith Butler plans to move Fitzpatrick around to keep him involved. Quarterbacks, beware. — Brooke Pryor
Signature stat: According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Fitzpatrick was targeted as a defender quite a bit less in the second half of the season. During Weeks 3-9, Fitzpatrick’s target rate was 8.3%. He was targeted 16 times (2.7 times per game). In Weeks 10-17, Fitzpatrick’s target rate was 3.5%. He was targeted eight times (exactly once per game).
What they are saying: “We tried to limit the amount that we put him with in the first couple weeks we had him and then we realized he could handle a lot more than we were giving him at times … Obviously, we think he is a top-tier guy in the league.” — Keith Butler, Steelers defensive coordinator
2020 projection: 68 tackles, 3 INT
OT | Ravens
2019 rank: NR
Stanley has developed into one of the most well-rounded blockers in the game. He excelled in protecting the blind side of NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, allowing the fewest pressures (six) by an offensive tackle in 14 years. He also opened holes for the NFL’s all-time best single-season rushing attack on the left side, where Baltimore averaged 7.2 yards per rush. — Jamison Hensley
Signature stat: Stanley’s pass block win rate (ability to sustain blocks for 2.5 seconds) has increased each of the past two seasons. His 94.1% rate last season as a tackle ranked fourth-highest in the NFL, per ESPN blocking metrics powered by NFL Next Gen Stats.
What they are saying: “I really think he took giant leaps last year as a player, as a professional. With Marshal [Yanda] gone now, Ronnie is really stepping up into that leadership position, and he does a great job just being himself and we love him. He’s really becoming one of the best offensive tackles in football.” — Greg Roman, Ravens offensive coordinator
G | Colts
2019 rank: 52
The Colts have had a completely different offensive line since they selected Nelson with the No. 6 pick in the 2018 draft. His desire to play until he hears a whistle and be the ultimate teammate has trickled across the entire line. The Colts gave up the fewest sacks in the NFL in 2018 (18) and were No. 7 in the league in rushing with Nelson anchoring the line. — Mike Wells
Signature stat: Nelson is the only drafted offensive lineman to be named First-Team All-Pro in each of his first two seasons since the 1970 merger, per the Elias Sports Bureau. Nelson ranks ninth among qualifying guards since 2018 in ability to sustain blocks for 2.5 seconds, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
What they are saying: “I mean, he is the best in the business. I mean, I think that is known across the league. He is the best in the game at the position, so to have the chance to learn from him is something that I’m really looking forward to.” — Danny Pinter, Colts guard
G | Cowboys
2019 rank: 39
Martin is as technically precise as any lineman the Cowboys have ever had. Teammates marvel at his balance and how he rarely goes to the ground. He rarely commits a penalty, too — he has not committed more than two in a season dating back to 2015. Martin has the power to handle tough interior defenders but can also get out in space to lead Ezekiel Elliott. — Todd Archer
Signature stat: Martin’s pass block win rate of 95.6% when lined up at guard ranked fifth among those players last season. Martin allowed first pressure on a play that ended in a sack one time in 405 pass-blocking plays all season (ESPN/NFL Next Gen Stats).
What they are saying: “What I like about him is not only is he a great player but just his steady, professional approach. He brings such a high level of professionalism the way he operates. You can see that just during the offseason. He’s one of those guys that’s always in the building and does it the right way. He’s a great example for our young guys.” — Mike McCarthy, Cowboys coach
OLB | Broncos
2019 rank: 8
If Miller has his way, this ranking will look far too low by the time December rolls around. Miller was so frustrated with the 2019 season that he was already back working out just 72 hours after the season ended. He has flashed plenty of power and speed in the early going at training camp, and Jurrell Casey‘s arrival and Bradley Chubb‘s return from an ACL tear will also give the Broncos more options with Miller. — Jeff Legwold
Signature stat: Miller’s quarterback pressure percentage of 12% ranked No. 6 in the NFL last season, a jump from 26th in 2018 (minimum 200 pass-rushing snaps).
What they are saying: “I do think he’s had a hell of an offseason. … I know he has worked extremely hard. I do sense that he’s got a hunger to his game and to his attitude that I don’t think he’s had the last few years in the league.” — Vic Fangio, Broncos coach
2020 projection: 52 tackles, 10 sacks, 1 forced fumble
QB | Cardinals
2019 rank: NR
The reigning Rookie of the Year quickly established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Despite the Cardinals’ 5-10-1 record last year, Murray shined, completing 64.4% of his passes, the highest rate among rookies, while throwing for 3,722 yards and 20 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. Murray got better as the season went on, figuring out when to take a sack and when to try to make a play. — Josh Weinfuss
Signature stat: Murray joined Cam Newton as the only rookies in NFL history with 3,500 passing yards and 500 rushing yards.
What they are saying: “What stood out to me the most about Kyler is his progression. If you look at him at Week 1 through 4, and you look at him in the last four games he played, not two totally different players but two different players. … For him to have more weapons, DeAndre Hopkins, Larry [Fitzgerald] and Christian Kirk — I don’t want to say too much but I’m excited to watch them.” — Chandler Jones, Cardinals outside linebacker
2020 projection: 3,814 passing yards, 26 TDs, 12 INT (471 rushing yards)
TE | Eagles
2019 rank: 23
Ertz has more catches through the first seven seasons of his career (525) than any other tight end in NFL history, set the single-season record for most catches by a tight end in 2018 (116) and has led his team in receptions and receiving yards in each of the past four seasons. Yet he still doesn’t get the same respect offered to Travis Kelce and George Kittle. Ertz was double- and triple-teamed for much of last season due to Philly’s lack of weapons but should have a lot more room to work now that there are more playmakers on the outside to attract attention. — Tim McManus
Signature stat: Since 2016, Ertz’s 3,719 receiving yards and 26 receiving touchdowns each rank second among tight ends in the NFL.
What they are saying: “Ertz’s track record is pretty impressive, what he’s been able to do year after year. I love that guy to death. He’s always open.” — Carson Wentz, Eagles quarterback
2020 projection: 78 catches, 822 yards, 7 TDs
DT | Eagles
2019 rank: 29
Coming off foot surgery, Cox was not himself for much of last season. Now healthy, he should be back to his game-wrecking ways. It will help to have Javon Hargrave and Malik Jackson by his side — two gifted players in their own right. Their presence should drop the amount Cox is double-teamed at least a little bit. — Tim McManus
Signature stat: Since 2017, Cox has recorded 140 quarterback pressures, good for second among defensive tackles in the span, trailing only Aaron Donald’s 207 (NFL Next Gen Stats).
What they are saying: “I don’t know if he’s going to share any of his secrets, but I’m just hoping I can get some of them secrets and help me build my career.” — Javon Hargrave, Eagles defensive tackle
2020 projection: 44 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
RB | Saints
2019 rank: 26
The Saints’ dual threat has exactly 81 catches in each of his three seasons, despite missing two games last year and being limited by knee and ankle injuries over the final three months. Healthy again, Kamara should get back to averaging more than 100 scrimmage yards per game with double-digit TDs. — Mike Triplett
Signature stat: Kamara is one of four players in NFL history with 2,000 rushing yards and 2,000 receiving yards in his first three seasons (Herschel Walker, Roger Craig and Christian McCaffrey).
What they are saying: “That’s a jack-of-all-trades. He can run the ball, he can catch the ball, he can just be that all-around dynamic back for the whole offense. He can go out wide, he can come in the slot, he can come out of the backfield. It throws a team off by seeing a guy like him.” — C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Saints safety
2020 projection: 875 rushing yards, 600 receiving yards, 11 scrimmage TDs
DT | Colts
2019 rank: NR
The Colts gave up the No. 13 pick in last spring’s draft for a player who has top-10 talent in Buckner. His addition in the middle should allow more opportunities for the defensive ends to get to the quarterback and open lanes up the middle for the linebackers. Buckner may not top the 7.5 sacks he had last season in San Francisco, but his presence will be felt on all layers of the defense for the Colts. — Mike Wells
Signature stat: Buckner is one of 10 defensive linemen with at least 30 QB pressures and 30 defensive stops in each of the past three seasons, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
What they are saying: “He wreaks havoc. He can run, rush the passer and stop the run. When you have a big guy that can do it all, that helps the defense out a lot and that frees up your linebackers. When you have someone like that up the middle, that just changes the whole defense’s game.” — Justin Houston, Colts defensive end
2020 projection: 62 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
QB | Lions
2019 rank: NR
Stafford was playing at a Pro Bowl level through the first eight games of last season, on pace for a 5,000-yard season after completing 187 of 291 passes for 2,499 yards, 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. A back injury forced him to injured reserve, but he returns in 2020 saying he’s healthy. Darrell Bevell’s offense, which allows Stafford to use his arm strength for downfield throws, and Stafford’s better decision-making, honed from his years with Jim Caldwell, set the veteran QB up perfectly for a big year. — Michael Rothstein
Signature stat: Stafford led all NFL quarterbacks last season with 10.8 air yards per pass attempt, and his 8.6 yards per attempt was second to Ryan Tannehill (9.6).
What they are saying: “We see it all the time. His willingness to stand in the pocket, take the hit and deliver the ball is exceptional. Just talk about his arm strength. We all know how far he can throw the ball, one of the strongest arms in the league, but he also has great touch, great accuracy.” — Duron Harmon, Lions safety
2020 projection: 4,223 passing yards, 27 TDs, 11 INTs
ILB | Colts
2019 rank: 44
Sure, Leonard has been perhaps too consumed with outside opinion, drawing motivation from Madden ratings. But he’s still an up-and-coming superstar. He is only two seasons removed from leading the NFL in tackles as a rookie. — Mike Wells
Signature stat: In 2019, Leonard joined Lavonte David (2013) and Brian Urlacher (2007) as the only players in the past 15 seasons to record 100-plus tackles, 5-plus sacks and 5-plus interceptions in a single season.
What they are saying: “He leads by example with the juice he has. We talk about it all the time. He emanates, it just flows out of him. It’s authentic, it’s genuine, and everybody knows that about Darius. He’s not just talking it and chattering about it. It’s coming out in how fast and how hard he plays. I just continue to be amazed at just watching him, his instinctiveness as a player.” — Frank Reich, Colts coach
2020 projection: 148 tackles, 1 sack, 3 forced fumbles, 2 INTs
CB | Saints
2019 rank: 53
Lattimore is a huge reason the Saints have thrived since 2017, when he won the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He routinely shadows opponents’ top receivers. And elite CB play is essential in the NFC South against the likes of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and DJ Moore. — Mike Triplett
Signature stat: Lattimore has the most pass breakups (27) and second-most disrupted dropbacks (35) and interceptions (8) over the past three seasons on the Saints.
What they are saying: “He just has that dog mentality. You’re not gonna just come in and bully Marshon or go out there and just do what you want to do with him. He’s gonna make sure you earn it. … I feel like the only thing stopping him from getting his respect [as a top corner in the NFL] is just being more consistent, which I’m excited to see this year because I know how much he’s been working.” — Michael Thomas, Saints wide receiver
2020 projection: 70 tackles, 2 INTs
DE | Vikings
2019 rank: 59
At 25, Hunter became the youngest player in NFL history to reach 50 career sacks. He has strung together back-to-back seasons of 14.5 sacks (along with consecutive Pro Bowls) and is barely on the cusp of entering his prime. The elite pass-rusher made his way into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation in 2019, and this year he may finally get that recognition. — Courtney Cronin
Signature stat: Hunter has forced 15 turnovers (interception or forced fumble) on QB pressures since 2016, the most by any player in the NFL.
What they are saying: “We’ve got a superstar in Minneapolis. Everyone talks about their edge rushers. This, that, Watt, Bosa. Yeah, well, we’ve got The Hunter.” — Ifeadi Odenigbo, Vikings defensive end
2020 projection: 70 tackles, 10 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
WR | Cowboys
2019 rank: 54
Cooper’s route running is his best trait because of how he can create separation for Dak Prescott’s throwing lanes. While he did not close last season strong, he was still a valuable third-down option, with 16 of his 17 receptions resulting in a first down. — Todd Archer
Signature stat: Last season, Cooper was among the best outside the numbers, posting 50 receptions (fourth in the NFL), 761 receiving yards (second) and five receiving touchdowns (tied for seventh).
What they are saying: “He’s such a smart route runner and I think he’s got a plan in his head on every single route that he’s running. So he knows how to attack leverage, he knows how to go after these corners and find the zones and different things. I think that’s what makes him special.” — Andy Dalton, Cowboys quarterback
2020 projection: 75 catches, 1,069 yards, 7 TDs
WR | Buccaneers
2019 rank: NR
There were some questions about the pairing of Godwin and Tom Brady because coach Bruce Arians prefers a big slot receiver to line up inside, rather than a quick guy, which is what Brady has had with Julian Edelman and Wes Welker. But Arians has made it clear that Godwin is a huge part of the offense, so it could be another 100-plus target season. Brady will appreciate his consistency, as it’s rare Godwin has a drop. — Jenna Laine
Signature stat: Godwin’s 11.1 yards per target last season was the best among all players with at least 100 targets.
What they are saying: “[He is] a combination of Hines Ward and Larry Fitzgerald, and maybe a better outside receiver than both of them when I had them at the end of their careers. I knew he could do both, and that’s going to equate to a lot of catches and a lot of targets.” — Bruce Arians, Buccaneers coach
2020 projection: 88 catches, 1,190 yards, 8 TDs
OLB | Packers
2019 rank: NR
When was the last time a free-agent signing had this big of an impact on the Packers? Charles Woodson? Reggie White? Smith not only brought an energy and a vibe to the defense in 2019, he also produced in key situations. Perhaps best of all, he rarely left the field, playing nearly 1,000 snaps. — Rob Demovsky
Signature stat: Smith’s 14.8% pressure rate in 2019 was the highest in the NFL (minimum 300 pass rushes, per NFL Next Gen Stats).
What they are saying: “Z is a guy a lot of guys look up to just by the way he works on the field, off the field and prepares for opponents. … When you start making plays and you’re doing the right things, you don’t have a lot of enemies, guys look up to you. At times, he’ll be a talker, but a lot of it he does with his play on the field.” — Mike Smith, Packers outside linebackers coach
2020 projection: 55 tackles, 10 sacks, 1 forced fumble
RB | Browns
2019 rank: NR
Chubb was 47 yards away from winning the rushing title in 2019. Now, under new coach Kevin Stefanski, he’ll be operating out of a multiple-tight-end, power-rushing attack that will revolve around him. Going into his third year, after which he’ll be extension-eligible, Chubb seems primed for a monster season. — Jake Trotter
Signature stat: Chubb led the NFL with 4.9 yards gained after close-in — yards gained by a ball carrier after the first defender gets within 1 yard of him — last season (minimum 100 carries, via NFL Next Gen Stats).
What they are saying: “It’s an argument that I always talk to my guys about and my friends. … I honestly believe Nick Chubb is the best running back in the National Football League. I am going to continue to say that until I play somebody else and they show me otherwise.” — Mack Wilson, Browns linebacker
2020 projection: 1,269 rushing yards, 211 receiving yards, 11 scrimmage TDs
OT | Cowboys
2019 rank: 50
Health is a concern because Smith has missed three games in each of the past four seasons, but he is still one of the best left tackles in the game. He gave up just one sack and two hurries last season. When Smith arrived as a first-round pick in 2011, he said his goal was to make the Hall of Fame. If he can continue to protect Dak Prescott as well as he has, he could very well end up in Canton. One more Pro Bowl appearance would be his eighth, the most in team history. — Todd Archer
Signature stat: Dak Prescott has a 74 QBR when Smith is on the field, versus a 60 QBR when Smith is off the field.
What they are saying: “It doesn’t matter how tired he is or what’s going on or if it’s ups and downs. He’s going to be Tyron, and he’s going to be 100 percent every play.” — DeMarcus Lawrence, Cowboys defensive end
CB | Eagles
2019 rank: 100
Since 2017, 36 defensive backs have seen at least 200 targets as the nearest defender in coverage. Only Marlon Humphrey and Stephon Gilmore (both 49.2%) have allowed a lower completion percentage than Slay (51.8%), per NFL Next Gen Stats. His efficiency dipped a bit last season, but he was often asked to play straight-up man against the opponent’s best receiver. The Eagles’ scheme should be easier on him, and he’ll get a boost from being in a new environment following a rocky relationship with Detroit coach Matt Patricia. — Tim McManus
Signature stat: Slay has put together six straight multi-interception seasons, tied with Janoris Jenkins for the second-longest active streak in the NFL (Stephon Gilmore, 7).
What they are saying: “He is super urging to get knowledge. He doesn’t think that ‘I’m done at becoming the best player I could possible be.’ For a coach, that’s always encouraging.” — Marquand Manuel, Eagles defensive backs coach
2020 projection: 53 tackles, 2 INTs
S | Vikings
2019 rank: 67
Coming off his fifth straight Pro Bowl, Smith remains one of the most complete safeties in the game. He covers, blitzes, calls the defense and is a major part of the Vikings’ success against the run. Since 2017, Smith has allowed a 54.3% completion rate as the nearest defender (fourth in the NFL) and was second in ball-hawk rate (percentage of targets where the nearest defender made a play on the football) at 22.5%. — Courtney Cronin
Signature stat: Smith was credited with 11 disrupted dropbacks last season (sacks plus interceptions plus batted/tipped/defended passes). The only safeties with more were Tyrann Mathieu, Justin Simmons and Jamal Adams.
What they are saying: “We’re always trying to think of more ways of how we can use Harrison because he is such a good playmaker. We probably should’ve used him, quite honestly, a little bit more last year.” — Mike Zimmer, Vikings coach
2020 projection: 94 tackles, 2 INTs
RB | Packers
2019 rank: NR
Who knows what kinds of numbers Jones could have put up three years into his career had the Packers used him more earlier. But the important thing is that coach Matt LaFleur finally did, and Jones became as big of a focal point of the offense as the Aaron Rodgers-Davante Adams combination. It might not be reasonable to expect Jones to repeat his 1,500-yard, 19-touchdown regular season of 2019, but it’s hard to imagine him ever going back to being a part-time player again. — Rob Demovsky
Signature stat: According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Jones reached 15 mph on 53 carries last season. The only running back who got it in gear up to that level more often was Dalvin Cook (73).
What they are saying: “The biggest thing that I tried to expose him to is, ‘Hey, here’s some of the things that guys [like Todd Gurley and Devonta Freeman] that have played in this offense, some of the production that they’ve had. You can have the same type of production.'” — Ben Sirmans, Packers running backs coach
2020 projection: 900 rushing yards, 368 receiving yards, 11 scrimmage TDs
OT | Texans
2019 rank: NR
Tunsil made his first Pro Bowl last season after being thrust into a new offense because he was traded nine days prior to the season. Tunsil said it was difficult adjusting to Deshaun Watson’s cadence, but after one season together, he believes they are on the same page and “a lot of great things can happen.” — Sarah Barshop
Signature stat: Tunsil is as trustworthy as they come when taking on a pass-rusher one-on-one. He posted a 91.5% pass block win rate when he was not part of a double-team last season, which was the sixth-highest rate among NFL tackles. The average rate among qualifiers in this category was 83.7%.
What they are saying: “Having a full [offseason] to know the whole package, to know the whole offense and see him work and see him get healthy — it’s been incredible. … I know he’s going to have another, even better season this year.” — Deshaun Watson, Texans quarterback
DE | Cowboys
2019 rank: 30
Pass-rushers are defined by sacks, but even with just five sacks last season, after 24.5 in 2017 and ’18, Lawrence was still a major factor for the Cowboys. He is a complete defensive end, in the words of former line coach Rod Marinelli, because of how he plays the run. With a more diverse scheme this year, Lawrence will operate on both sides and even come out of a two-point stance at times as the Cowboys mix their fronts. — Todd Archer
Signature stat: Despite only five sacks, Lawrence posted a 25.8% pass rush win rate in 2019, good for fourth best in the NFL, per ESPN metrics from NFL Next Gen Stats. Lawrence is one of just three players to rank in the top 15 in pass rush win rate each of the past three seasons (Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn).
What they are saying: “To me, the work ethic and all that kind of stuff is there. … DeMarcus, really, is just jumping in there and just, you know, pushing the envelope a little bit on different techniques, different things and seeing what’s comfortable, what’s not comfortable and things like that.” — Jim Tomsula, Cowboys defensive line coach
2020 projection: 56 tackles, 11 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
OT | Saints
2019 rank: 85
Having one of the NFL’s premier right tackles is more important than ever in this era where elite edge rushers line up on both sides. Ramczyk shut out guys like Khalil Mack, Chandler Jones, J.J. Watt, Demarcus Lawrence and Shaquil Barrett last year, while getting the bump from second-team to first-team All-Pro. — Mike Triplett
Signature stat: Ramczyk had just two pass block sacks attributed to him in 2019, tied for the fewest in the NFL among offensive tackles with at least 200 pass block plays.
What they are saying: “He’s got a demeanor that never allows him to be flustered. He has a phenomenal knack of keeping a level head and being able to regain composure and recover off a move. And that’s something you really don’t see.” — Cameron Jordan, Saints defensive end
CB | 49ers
2019 rank: NR
Another year removed from the torn Achilles he suffered in 2017, Sherman returned closer to his previous All-Pro form in 2019, coming up with three interceptions and allowing a passer rating of 46.8 when targeted, third best in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Now Sherman is back to full strength and playing out the final year of his contract. He has no problem finding slights both real and perceived to keep him motivated and should have no problem doing so again as the Niners look to him to lead the way for their secondary. — Nick Wagoner
Signature stat: Sherman returned to his ball-hawking ways in 2019. He posted a 19% hawk rate, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, fifth highest among players with at least 250 coverage snaps at cornerback. That means he either had a pass defended or interception on 19% of his targets as nearest defender.
What they are saying: “He has really taken that step from just being the wisest guy in the room but helping these guys learn and understand the pro game and how to be a pro and how to practice and approach that. You can’t put a price on what he’s meant to this defense.” — Robert Saleh, 49ers defensive coordinator
2020 projection: 63 tackles, 2 INTs
DE | Vikings
2019 rank: 68
Minnesota’s defense regained its elite status when Ngakoue was traded to the Vikings. Early results from Ngakoue’s first four years foreshadow a surge as he enters the very early part of his prime. Since the start of 2016, Ngakoue is one of just five players with at least 35 sacks and 10 forced fumbles in that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information. — Courtney Cronin
Signature stat: Ngakoue has posted at least eight sacks in each of his first four seasons in the NFL. The only other players to do so since sacks became official in 1982 are Aaron Donald, Dwight Freeney, Terrell Suggs, Derrick Thomas, DeMarcus Ware and Reggie White.
What they are saying: “When you’ve got a first step like he has and a mean cross-chop, he works it. Like Bruce Lee said, ‘I’d rather face a guy who practices 10,000 kicks once than a guy who practices one kick 10,000 times.’ … People know it’s coming and they still can’t stop it.” — Calais Campbell, Ravens defensive end
2020 projection: 41 tackles, 10 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
WR | Chargers
2019 rank: 43
Allen has produced three consecutive seasons with more than 1,000 receiving yards, and he appears as motivated as ever to continue the trend. Over the offseason, Allen voiced his belief that he’s the top receiver in the AFC West. With a new quarterback and newfound motivation to prove any doubters wrong, expect Allen to turn in another big season. — Lindsey Thiry
Signature stat: Allen has caught 303 balls over the past three seasons; only Michael Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins have caught more over that span. But Allen has generated more separation on his targets on average than either Thomas or Hopkins since 2017 (2.7 yards, according to NFL Next Gen Stats).
What they are saying: “He’s a big receiver. He’s not overly fast, but you can play him multiple positions. He’s extremely intelligent, and you don’t see too many guys that big that can go inside and get open the way Keenan can.” — Anthony Lynn, Chargers coach
2020 projection: 83 catches, 980 yards, 5 TDs
CB | Cardinals
2019 rank: 77
Peterson didn’t make the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career last season only because he was ineligible. He missed the first six games due to a suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. But Peterson is still an elite corner and one of the best lockdown corners in the league because of his ability to play press-man coverage on an island. He intimidates quarterbacks from throwing in his direction and can take away half the field. — Josh Weinfuss
Signature stat: Peterson didn’t play in 16 games for the first time in his career in 2019, but when he’s on the field, it’s clear he still strikes fear in his opponents. Over the past three seasons, 73 players have played at least 500 coverage snaps at outside cornerback, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. None of them has been targeted as infrequently as Peterson (12.4% of his snaps).
What they are saying: “I like where Pat’s at. I like the focus. I like the drive. I like the look in his eye right now. He is so focused. He wants to be who we know he can be, and he wants the respect back, and I think he’s on his way to earning that back.” — Vance Joseph, Cardinals defensive coordinator
2020 projection: 66 tackles, 2 INTs
OT | Eagles
2019 rank: 95
Johnson has battled through some injuries in recent seasons but remains arguably the best right tackle in the game. Since 2016, when Doug Pederson became head coach, the Eagles are 36-17 with Johnson and 6-11 without him in the starting lineup. — Tim McManus
Signature stat: In 2019, Johnson’s 90.2% pass block win rate was sixth best among right tackles with at least 200 pass block plays, per ESPN tracking from NFL Next Gen Stats.
What they are saying: “There just aren’t any better than Lane. He works hard at being the best in the business. He takes pride in his profession. It means something to him.” — Jeff Stoutland, Eagles offensive line coach
OT | Chiefs
2019 rank: 92
Schwartz is not only an effective right tackle, but the Chiefs can count on him being in the lineup on every down. He had a streak of 7,894 straight plays snapped last season because of a knee injury. But he missed just four snaps and was back at his spot. — Adam Teicher
Signature stat: Since Schwartz debuted in 2012, the only player who has played more regular-season offensive snaps than his 8,060 is Tom Brady (8,297).
What they are saying: “I think he probably could play anywhere along the line. He’s highly intelligent, not only in the books but also football-wise.” — Andy Reid, Chiefs coach
DT | Steelers
2019 rank: NR
A 2019 Pro Bowler, Heyward racked up nine sacks and a forced fumble. He’s a wrecking ball on the defensive line, and with Stephon Tuitt back this season, Heyward will only get better. His intangibles as a leader on and off the field make him one of the Steelers’ most valuable players, something the team should keep in mind with Heyward’s contract coming up after the season. — Brooke Pryor
Signature stat: Heyward has 54.0 career sacks, sixth most in franchise history and 6.5 away from passing Joey Porter, Keith Willis and LaMarr Woodley for third on the team’s all-time list.
What they are saying: “I think that’s the intangibles you get when a guy’s a good player and he’s been in the league a while. He understands how to be a pro, how not to worry about his job and how to help younger guys get better to help the team.” — Karl Dunbar, Steelers defensive line coach
2020 projection: 71 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble
CB | Ravens
2019 rank: NR
Humphrey quietly was the best player on the Ravens’ defense in each of the past two seasons. He plays the cornerback position with a linebacker mentality, bringing a physical playmaking ability. He was one of three NFL players who recorded at least three interceptions and multiple forced fumbles and fumble recoveries last season. — Jamison Hensley
Signature stat: Humphrey’s 24 pass breakups since 2018 is tied with Jaire Alexander for second most in the NFL in that span (Stephon Gilmore, 28).
What they are saying: “He’s a young guy who came off a season where he began to get the accolades. I would say he’s raised it up one more notch from an attention-to-detail and intensity perspective, which is really impressive because some guys aren’t mature enough to handle the attention. I don’t think for one second anything will change because that’s the type of person he is.” — John Harbaugh, Ravens coach
2020 projection: 68 tackles, 2 INTs
S | Bears
2019 rank: 63
Jackson earned his second straight trip to the Pro Bowl last year. The 26-year-old safety was named an All-Pro in 2018 when he intercepted six passes and scored three defensive touchdowns. Chicago rewarded Jackson with a lucrative extension in the offseason that contained $33 million in guaranteed money. — Jeff Dickerson
Signature stat: Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Jackson has a minus-20.9% catch rate allowed as nearest defender relative to expectation since 2018, the best among all defensive backs in that span (minimum 30 targets faced).
What they are saying: “I think he’s ready to take another step from a leadership standpoint. Back there, he runs the show, and he’s a really, really bright guy, and he’s a smart guy and he studies the game.” — Chuck Pagano, Bears defensive coordinator
2020 projection: 61 tackles, 1 INT
WR | Lions
2019 rank: NR
Golladay made his first Pro Bowl last season and led the NFL in touchdown catches (1,190 yards, 11 touchdowns) — and that was with David Blough and Jeff Driskel throwing to him for half the season. His ability to make contested catches is among the best in the NFL, as his skill at high-pointing catches makes it easier for Stafford or whoever is throwing him the ball. — Michael Rothstein
Signature stat: Thirty-four percent of Golladay’s receptions gained 20-plus yards in 2019, the best rate among 71 players who recorded 50-plus catches.
What they are saying: “You really want him to be thought of in those upper-echelon guys with the [DeAndre] Hopkinses and [Michael] Thomases and those types of players where he really is dictating to the defense how they have to cover. … When you’re in that go-to opportunity, and that’s the guy, everybody knows Kenny Golladay is getting the ball and everybody knows he’s still going to make the play. That’s where we’re trying to get him to, to be that dominant-level player.” — Darrell Bevell, Lions offensive coordinator
2020 projection: 66 catches, 1,113 yards, 8 TDs
S | Titans
2019 rank: NR
The Titans’ deep run into the playoffs helped put more attention on Byard. Byard’s interception in the AFC divisional playoff game against the Ravens further showcased his most valuable asset: his ball skills. Few safeties are able to track down the football better than Byard. Byard is also well equipped to play in the box and is a solid tackler against the run game. — Turron Davenport
Signature stat: Byard’s 17 interceptions since 2017 are the most in the NFL over that span — and four more than any other player.
What they are saying: “I think he is one of the more talented safeties in the league right now. What separates him is his ball skills, and his range goes from sideline to sideline, and he makes plays on the ball at the same time.” — Tyrann Mathieu, Chiefs safety
2020 projection: 76 tackles, 2 INTs
QB | Steelers
2019 rank: 38
Roethlisberger has done just about everything in his 17-year NFL career. But he has never before had to come back from a season-ending surgery. He’ll have the opportunity to do that this season after rehabbing three torn flexor tendons in his elbow. Roethlisberger is fully healthy, and beyond that, he’s more driven than ever to thrive in the final years of his career. If he stays healthy, he’s primed for a resurgence that puts the Steelers firmly in the conversation for another AFC North title — and more. — Brooke Pryor
Signature stat: Roethlisberger threw for NFL-high 5,129 passing yards in 2018, making him one of three QBs to top 5,000 in a single season at age 36 or older (Peyton Manning in 2013, Drew Brees in 2016).
What they are saying: “Being able to go through a very heavy surgery for a quarterback thrower such as him and be where he is right now, it’s made him so hungry. The way he attacks the day is just different than I’ve seen him since I get here in 2017.” — Vance McDonald, Steelers tight end
2020 projection: 3,872 passing yards, 25 TDs, 12 INTs
WR | Bills
2019 rank: 64
Diggs joins a Buffalo offense in desperate need of playmakers. One of the crispiest route runners in the league, he immediately slides in as the team’s No. 1 receiver. Never a Pro Bowler or All-Pro in his five NFL seasons, Diggs can lock himself in as a top-10 receiver in the league if he can produce in one of its worst passing offenses over the past two seasons. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Signature stat: Diggs’ plus-10.7% catch percentage above expectation in 2019 was third best in the NFL, per NFL Next Gen Stats (minimum 50 targets).
What they are saying: “He’s a Grade-A talent within himself. … He’s a guy who you can plug and play, and no matter what, he’s going to make the team better.” — Tre’Davious White, Bills cornerback
2020 projection: 63 catches, 942 yards, 5 TDs
WR | Vikings
2019 rank: 28
Thielen has never had to bounce back from an injury-riddled season before, a source of motivation in 2020. He’s now the clear-cut No. 1 receiver in an offense that relies heavily on 2-WR sets. A healthy year means his targets will spike and should put him in line for his third 1,200-yard season. — Courtney Cronin
Signature stat: His 4,034 receiving yards since 2016 are nearly 1,000 more than the next-closest undrafted player in that span (Tyrell Williams, 3,091).
What they are saying: “Adam, his role won’t change much at all [with Stefon Diggs’ departure]. We’ll continue to use him in the ways that he’s effective. He’s a very crafty route runner, catches the ball well, very competitive, and I think it’s important that we try to spread the ball around.” — Mike Zimmer, Vikings coach
2020 projection: 78 catches, 1,110 yards, 6 TDs
S | Patriots
2019 rank: NR
One of just seven players in NFL history to start in at least five Super Bowls, McCourty’s steadiness is reflected in the fact that he has started every game he’s played in his career (155 regular season, 23 playoffs). He might have just turned 33, but he still runs well and often wins with his anticipation and football sense. — Mike Reiss
Signature stat: Since entering the NFL in 2010, McCourty has produced 50 tackles, 5 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles in a season three different times. No other active NFL player has multiple such seasons in that span.
What they are saying: “Dev is a guy that never shuts up. He’s always talking, and I think that’s part of what makes him such a good safety and such a good leader. … From a skill set standpoint, he’s a cornerback who transitioned to safety. So he understands so much of the pass game and so much of the challenges we face when offenses are trying to attack us.” — Jason McCourty, Patriots cornerback
2020 projection: 67 tackles, 2 INTs
QB | Vikings
2019 rank: NR
Cousins hopes to be the biggest benefactor of Minnesota’s offensive continuity. For the first time since becoming a starter six years ago, Cousins will execute the same system he did the year before. One season after finishing top-five in completion percentage (69.1%) and passer rating (107.4), the Vikings QB aims to take his team back to the playoffs with a host of dynamic weapons at his disposal. — Courtney Cronin
Signature stat: According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Cousins has completed 42% of his tight-window throws of 15-plus air yards since 2018, the best rate in the NFL over that span.
What they are saying: “Kirk is such a unique guy, I’d say, for sure when it comes to him knowing his guys and the spots they’re going to be lined up in, the routes they’re going to be running. He does an amazing job of delivering the ball. He always has.” — Irv Smith Jr., Vikings tight end
2020 projection: 3,758 passing yards, 21 TDs, 9 INTs
WR | Seahawks
2019 rank: 93
Lockett’s 72.4% career catch rate ranks fourth among wide receivers since his 2015 rookie season. And of the top 20 on that list, Lockett’s 13.9 yards per catch is second best. Lockett is still only 27, he still has Russell Wilson at quarterback, and he has an emerging star across from him in DK Metcalf for opposing defenses to focus on. — Brady Henderson
Signature stat: Last season, Lockett’s plus-12.7% catch percentage above expectation tied with Michael Thomas for the best rate in the NFL (minimum 50 targets, via NFL Next Gen Stats).
What they are saying: “He can do so many things so well. He sees the game instinctively so well that he’s a hard matchup.” — Brian Schottenheimer, Seahawks offensive coordinator
2020 projection: 72 catches, 981 yards, 7 TDs
OLB | Buccaneers
2019 rank: NR
In 2019, Barrett went from signing a one-year prove-it deal and fighting for a job in the fourth preseason game to finishing the season with an NFL-leading 19.5 sacks. Barrett is a dynamic rusher with more than one pass-rusher move and countermove, so he isn’t finished if he doesn’t win initially. Having Jason Pierre-Paul on the other side for a full season should help him quite a bit too. — Jenna Laine
Signature stat: Barrett’s 58 pressures last season ranked third in the NFL behind Za’Darius Smith (63) and Nick Bosa (60). He had 39 pressures in the previous two seasons combined. And according to NFL Next Gen Stats, his disruption rate of 19.0% on third down ranked third out of 54 qualified pass-rushers (Nick Bosa at 21.3%, Justin Houston at 19.3%).
What they are saying: “I think he’s a hungry young fella that even after he gets paid, it’s going to continue. He has just continued to work on his craft, getting slipperier and slipperier.” — Bruce Arians, Buccaneers coach
2020 projection: 57 tackles, 10 sacks, 5 forced fumbles
DE | Chiefs
2019 rank: 58
Clark started his first season with the Chiefs slowly but finished with 12 sacks in the final 11 games, including the playoffs. He was the eighth NFL player to have at least five sacks in the postseason. His three sacks in the divisional round win over the Texans were particularly big, as the Chiefs played without their other top rusher, Chris Jones. — Adam Teicher
What they are saying: “He can win with speed, he can win with power, he can win inside as a rusher, he can win outside as a rusher. He’s dominant against the run. He has almost no weaknesses to his game.” — Brett Veach, Chiefs GM
2020 projection: 43 tackles, 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
DT | Falcons
2019 rank: 88
Although he’s on this list, Jarrett still doesn’t get the respect he deserves as a dominant, disruptive interior force. He continues to play with a chip on his shoulder as a former fifth-round draft pick out of Clemson in 2015. Jarrett spent this offseason trying to elevate his game to yet another level, and 2020 promises big things. — Vaughn McClure
Signature stat: Since taking over as a full-time starter in 2016, his 189 tackles on rush plays trail only Damon Harrison Sr. (266), Linval Joseph (214) and DeForest Buckner (200) among defensive linemen.
What they are saying: “He’s a beast, man. He’s a leader. He’s a voice on the defense. It’s always great to have him here. He’s big-time.” — Keanu Neal, Falcons safety
2020 projection: 67 tackles, 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
ILB | Saints
2019 rank: NR
Davis, 31, admits he’s getting better with age. But the first-time All-Pro is also getting overdue respect for how well-rounded he is. Davis has at least 110 tackles, four sacks and nine QB hits in each of the past three seasons. Only one other player has reached those totals even once in that span (Wesley Woodyard in 2017). — Mike Triplett
Signature stat: Since joining the Saints in 2018, Davis has registered 221 tackles and 25.0 disrupted dropbacks (sacks, interceptions, tipped/batted passes and passes defensed). Only two other linebackers have at least 200 tackles and 25.0 disrupted dropbacks in that span (Darius Leonard, Cory Littleton).
What they are saying: “First of all, Demario is one of the smarter players I’ve played against and with. Sometimes in practice, he can tell what I’m running from just the smallest little split that I take. And he’s athletic. Shoot, he runs better than some of the guys on offense, honestly.” — Alvin Kamara, Saints running back
2020 projection: 113 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 INTs
RB | Raiders
2019 rank: NR
In rushing for a franchise rookie record of 1,150 yards, Jacobs set a high bar for himself. Then he went even higher, saying he wants to catch 60 passes in 2020. That’s unlikely, though Las Vegas is betting on his continued ascent as a premier feature back. His preternatural field vision and deceptive power make it a winning wager. — Paul Gutierrez
What they are saying: “He has got to stay wire-to-wire healthy, and we’ve got to get more out of him in the passing game, get him more on the field on third down. He had a great year last year, and we expect more from him this year.” — Jon Gruden, Raiders coach
2020 projection: 1,148 rushing yards, 280 receiving yards, 10 scrimmage TDs
CB | Browns
2019 rank: 89
Ward was up and down in 2019 but was also battling a hamstring injury. A Pro Bowler as a rookie the year before, Ward still has the tools to be a lockdown corner. But after sitting out seven games through his first two seasons, he needs to show more durability as well. — Jake Trotter
Signature stat: According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Stephon Gilmore (minus-11.8%) and D.J. Hayden (minus-11.0%) led the NFL in catch rate allowed above expectation (minimum 300 coverage snaps). But just behind them sat Denzel Ward (minus-8.9%), who was actually targeted at the third-highest rate among those 70 cornerbacks (22.4% of coverage snaps).
What they are saying: “I think Denzel has a chance to be a really, really good player. I like a lot of things about him physically, I like the person that he is, and [he] has great ball skills. We are excited about Denzel, and he realizes that there is work to be done.” — Kevin Stefanski, Browns coach
2020 projection: 61 tackles, 2 INTs
QB | Titans
2019 rank: NR
After missing a total of 24 games from 2016 to 2018, Tannehill took full advantage when given the opportunity to lead the Titans. He joined Joe Montana (1989) and Sammy Baugh (1945) as the only three players to finish with at least a 70% completion rate (70.3%) and an average of 9 or more yards per completion (9.6). It’s unlikely that he’ll post those numbers again, but Tannehill is in a great position to show that last season wasn’t an accident. His synergy with offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is peaking after being back together with the same weapons for another season. — Turron Davenport
Signature stat: Tannehill became just the third quarterback since 1991 (when red zone data first became available) to finish the regular season with an overall and red zone completion percentage of over 70% (Steve Young in 1994, Drew Brees in 2018).
What they are saying: “It goes back to familiarity because everything was new to him last year. He’s certainly further ahead. He was playing catch-up when he got here. I mean, he got hurt in the spring. He wasn’t getting as many reps as the backup. So, not to speak for him, but just from what I’ve seen, there’s certainly way more familiarity, and he’s more ingrained into what we’re doing.” — Arthur Smith, Titans offensive coordinator
2020 projection: 3,486 passing yards, 23 TDs, 11 INTs (205 rushing yards)
OLB | Jaguars
2019 rank: NR
Allen set the Jaguars’ rookie sack record (10.5) while only playing 60% of the defensive snaps. He’ll be a full-time player this season, and in preparation for that, he showed up to camp noticeably leaner and said he spent the entire offseason working on his body and studying film. — Mike DiRocco
What they are saying: “You can tell physically that he put in the work in the offseason, which is a credit to him. And once we’ve been in the room, he has just a million questions. At times you’re like, ‘Hey, hold on, let somebody else ask a damn question.’ But you know he’s trying to take that next step, and that’s the type of person he is, which is awesome for us as a coaching staff and as an organization.” — Todd Wash, Jaguars defensive coordinator
2020 projection: 47 tackles, 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
S | Broncos
2019 rank: NR
Simmons was a second-team All-Pro selection last season, and he’s made it clear he wants even more moving forward. He can play down at the line of scrimmage in the run game if Vic Fangio needs him to, and he has the speed to play deep as well. Simmons has even been used at cornerback for a smattering of snaps in his time with the Broncos when the team has had injuries in the secondary. He’s in a contract year, and if he plays like he did last season — or better — Simmons’ price is only going up. — Jeff Legwold
Signature stat: According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Simmons had the second-lowest NFL passer rating allowed (34.7) when targeted as the nearest defender in coverage last season among those with at least 40 targets (J.C. Jackson, 21.8).
What they are saying: “I have total confidence in Justin and him being able to go out and perform just as good or better than he performed last year. He’s that type of player mentally and physically. [I’m] looking for him to do some great things this year.” — Kareem Jackson, Broncos safety
2020 projection: 89 tackles, 3 INTs
DE | 49ers
2019 rank: NR
In 2019, it was Armstead — not Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner or Dee Ford — who led the 49ers in sacks (10.0), as he was finally able to stay healthy and put it all together. He was rewarded with a big contract extension in the offseason, and the Niners drafted Javon Kinlaw to replace Buckner in hopes the line will continue its dominance. But the biggest reason for optimism that Armstead should expand on his breakthrough season is Ford’s return to health, which will allow Armstead to continue moving inside, where he’s at his best as a pass-rusher on obvious throwing downs. — Nick Wagoner
What they are saying: “He’s a big problem, literally. He can rush inside, he can rush outside. He can play the run inside, he can play the run outside. He’s just dangerous. He’s great with his hands. He’s powerful. He’s fast. It’s a joy to play with him.” — Dee Ford, 49ers defensive end
2020 projection: 55 tackles, 9 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
CB | Packers
2019 rank: NR
Don’t think Alexander is one of the elite corners? Consider that since he came into the NFL, only Stephon Gilmore (28) has more pass breakups than Alexander (24). And last year, he allowed the seventh-lowest completion percentage among defenders targeted at least 75 times, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. All but one player higher than him has made a Pro Bowl. — Rob Demovsky
Signature stat: According to NFL Next Gen Stats, among defensive backs with at least 800 coverage snaps over the past two seasons, only Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie force tight-window throws on targets more than Alexander (33.2% of targets).
What they are saying: “Certainly, Jaire has established himself as one of the better corners in the National Football League, and he’s just getting started in his career. He has so much in front of him.” — Brian Gutekunst, Packers GM
2020 projection: 64 tackles, 2 INTs
WR | Rams
2019 rank: NR
Kupp established himself as quarterback Jared Goff’s go-to target during the first half of 2019, peaking with a seven-catch, 220-receiving-yard performance in Week 8. Expect the sure-handed Kupp to continue to expand his role and production this season as the offense adjusts to playing without running back Todd Gurley II and receiver Brandin Cooks. — Lindsey Thiry
Signature stat: Kupp played only 48% of his snaps in the slot last season, which was 37th among wide receivers (minimum 100 snaps). Yet his 783 receiving yards in the slot were the most by any receiver last season.
What they are saying: “Cooper is continuing to accelerate his level of play. … He’s been a really good asset for us, obviously, and I’m excited about his level this year as well.” — Jared Goff, Rams quarterback
2020 projection: 80 catches, 997 yards, 6 TDs
ILB | Vikings
2019 rank: NR
Kendricks cemented himself as one of the league’s top linebackers in a season where he had a career-high in run stops (35), pass deflections (12) and forced fumbles (2). He led the team in tackles for a fifth straight year and is a critical piece for the Vikings in maintaining a top-five run defense. — Courtney Cronin
Signature stat: Since 2016, Kendricks has recorded the sixth-most tackles in the league. And according to NFL Next Gen Stats, he has the second-lowest completion percentage as the nearest defender among all linebackers (minimum 150 targets).
What they are saying: “That’s a kid whose motor never stops. I think it doesn’t stop at home. It doesn’t stop on the field, in the meetings. It doesn’t stop anywhere. That’s how he makes all of his plays, because he doesn’t stop.” — Xavier Rhodes, Colts cornerback
2020 projection: 116 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 INTs
WR | Titans
2019 rank: NR
Few players maximized every opportunity to touch the ball like Brown did last season. Brown’s 22.3 yards per catch were the second most, and he averaged a league-leading 8.9 yards after the catch. Tannehill quickly identified Brown as his favorite target, leading to Brown becoming the first Titans rookie receiver to post a 1,000-yard receiving season since Ernest Givens did so in 1986. Brown worked during the offseason with Tannehill, which should lead to more targets in 2020. — Turron Davenport
Signature stat: Brown had five games with more than 100 receiving yards last season, which is the second most by a rookie in the Super Bowl era.
What they are saying: “He’s a guy who is extremely talented. We saw that last year. Coming into Year 2, he’s hungry, he’s excited about the opportunity we have. … He’s running really well right now and I’m excited to see what he does this year.” — Ryan Tannehill, Titans quarterback
2020 projection: 67 catches, 1,044 yards, 7 TDs
K | Ravens
2019 rank: NR
With unprecedented accuracy and leg strength, Tucker is on the path to becoming the best kicker in NFL history. Over the past four seasons, he has missed only five field goal attempts when you exclude blocked kicks — and only one (43 yards) has come from inside 50 yards. He has also recorded an NFL-record seven career games with multiple field goals over 50 yards. — Jamison Hensley
Signature stat: Tucker is the most accurate kicker in NFL history, with a field goal percentage of 90.8%. He is the only player to score at least 140 points in each of the past four seasons.
What they are saying: “He’s the GOAT. He has got that golden leg. I’ve got all the faith in him. I’m on the sideline praying. At the same time, I’m like, ‘I know Tuck can do it.'” — Lamar Jackson, Ravens quarterback
2020 projection: 27 of 30 field goals, 43 of 44 extra points
TE | Buccaneers
2019 rank: NR
Gronkowski might have sat out last year, but he looks light on his feet so far in training camp, and his connection with Tom Brady hasn’t missed a beat. Whether it’s a quick strike in the back of the end zone during a red zone period or Brady airing out a deep ball, the duo have hooked up for big gains a lot already in camp. The key will be keeping him healthy. — Jenna Laine
Signature stat: Brady and Gronkowski have connected for 78 touchdowns, the fifth most by any quarterback-receiver combo in NFL history.
What they are saying: “He’s huge. People were talking about how he has gotten smaller in the offseason. Then I met him, and he’s so much bigger than I am. He’s just a massive dude.” — Cameron Brate, Buccaneers tight end
2020 projection: 47 catches, 640 yards, 4 TDs
WR | Steelers
2019 rank: 35
Smith-Schuster’s first season as the Steelers’ No. 1 receiver was a disappointment in just about every way possible. He missed four games with injury, and without Ben Roethlisberger, he didn’t come close to replicating the numbers he put up during his first two seasons in the league. He spent the offseason studying the offense and refining his body, and he comes into the 2020 season with all the motivation in the world: It’s a contract season, and Roethlisberger is back. Smith-Schuster was a game-changing wide receiver as Antonio Brown’s No. 2. This season, he has a stronger supporting cast around him that should make life a little easier as the top target. — Brooke Pryor
Signature stat: Since 2017 according to NFL Next Gen Stats, Smith-Schuster has shined in tight windows (less than 1 yard of separation), as his 20.3 yards per reception in that area is fourth among wide receivers with 50-plus targets.
What they are saying: “We all know JuJu is a playmaker. We all know that he is going to be a guy we get the ball to jumpstart our offense in a big way.” — Ike Hilliard, Steelers wide receivers coach
2020 projection: 81 catches, 1,035 yards, 7 TD
Who was snubbed? See who our experts think were left off the list.