US Sports Veteran
This article lists the best player on every team in the NFL along with an honorable mention for the second most talented player. While the rankings were mostly based on what the player looks like right now, past success was taken into consideration. I will say that quarterbacks were favored in some situations because of how essential they are to their teams. Otherwise, I tried to level the playing field to measure players based on skill and talent, not just their positional value. The teams appear in alphabetical order.
Patrick Peterson CB
Honorable Mention- Chandler Jones DE/OLB
Peterson might be preparing to serve a six-game suspension, but he’s still the best player in Arizona. He’s been a Pro Bowler in each of his eight seasons in the league and will continue to be one of the NFL’s best shutdown corners. Jones is criminally underrated. He’s only been to two Pro Bowls, but he’s posted ten or more sacks in five of his seven seasons. Over the last two seasons, Jones has 30 combined sacks.
Julio Jones WR
Honorable Mention- Matt Ryan QB
While Ryan will be an interesting Hall of Fame case down the line and center Alex Mack is underappreciated, Jones is one of the few defining wide receivers of a generation. Over the last five seasons, Jones has amassed 524 receptions, 7,994 receiving yards, and 31 touchdowns. He’s also been to all five Pro Bowls during that time and has made four All-Pro teams. Three of those years, Jones led the league in receiving yards per game.
Earl Thomas S
Honorable Mention- Marshal Yanda OG
For a team that just made the playoffs, the Ravens don’t have a lot of high-profile names. If it wasn’t for the Thomas signing in free agency, the team’s only Pro Bowlers would be Yanda and nose tackle, Brandon Williams. Thomas, despite his injury last season, should be considered Baltimore’s top dog from the day he steps on the field. Yanda has been in Baltimore forever, but the 34-year-old guard continues to make Pro Bowls.
Tre’Davious White CB
Honorable Mention- Tremaine Edmunds LB
I was looking over the Bills depth chart, wondering how they could possibly be so deprived of talent. The only thing the team really has going for it is young players like Josh Allen, Edmunds, Ed Oliver, and White. I was also tempted to put Frank Gore or LeSean McCoy up as an honorable mention. McCoy had a bad 2018 but that was mostly because of issues between him and the coaching staff. Hopefully, he’s allowed to return to star form this year. Gore is just Gore at this point. He averaged 51.6 rushing yards per game last year at age 35. He’s going to come in and grind from start to finish and set an example for a lot of young players.
Luke Kuechly MLB
Honorable Mention- Cam Newton QB
It’s been easy to plug Kuechly in here the last three seasons. The former Defensive Player of the Year has dealt with injuries in the past, but that hasn’t stopped him from being a First Team All-Pro in five of the last six seasons. Kuechly has an incredibly high football IQ that allows him to diagnose plays before they even happen, which is why he’s always around the ball.
I wasn’t sure about putting Newton as the honorable mention. I considered newcomer Gerald McCoy and rising running back Christian McCaffrey for the spot, but I still think the Panthers rise and fall with Newton. He’s the engine that drives the offense, through the air and on the ground, for now.
Khalil Mack DE/OLB
Honorable Mention- Eddie Jackson S
Mack has been named a First Team All-Pro at multiple positions in the past, that’s how versatile of a pass rusher he is. His move to Chicago came as a surprise last season and for good reason. Mack is one of the only players who can compete with Aaron Donald regularly for the Defensive Player of the Year award, which Mack won himself back in 2016. Over the past four seasons, Mack has 49 sacks and three First Team All-Pro selections.
I took Jackson over All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller. Fuller has always had potential but has had an up and down career. Jackson just finished his second season and already has eight interceptions, three touchdowns, and a First Team All-Pro selection.
Geno Atkins DT
Honorable Mention- A.J. Green WR
It’s still the old guard in Cincinnati, for now. No player has been more consistent for the Bengals over the last decade than Atkins, who made his seventh Pro Bowl this past season. He recorded ten sacks this past season and has 39 total in the last four years.
While Green missed the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career this past season and continues to deal with injuries, he’s a top ten wide receiver when he’s healthy. It’s a shame that the rest of the offense hasn’t been consistently strong around Green during his career. In the near future, running back Joe Mixon and safety Jessie Bates could move into these positions.
Odell Beckham Jr. WR
Honorable Mention- Myles Garrett DE
The Browns are loaded with talent and Pro Bowl caliber players, which made this decision hard. Beckham is obviously the most talented player on the team, but we’ll see if that translates to production for the Browns this year. For me, Garrett is the second most naturally gifted player on the team, and he can only get better. Through two seasons, Garrett has 20.5 sacks even though he missed five games as a rookie.
Left guard, Joel Bitonio was a Second Team All-Pro in 2018. Cornerback, Denzel Ward made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, and Baker Mayfield just missed out on the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Jarvis Landry has averaged over 1,000 yards and just under 100 receptions over the past four seasons. Nick Chubb was awesome as a rookie and 2017 rushing yards leader Kareem Hunt will also see snaps when he returns from a deserved suspension. Do you get what I meant now when I said the Browns were stacked?
Ezekiel Elliott RB
Honorable Mention- Zack Martin OG
The Cowboys are another team that is loaded with talent. While Elliott is clearly the most talented and most important player on the team, Martin is right behind him in terms of skill. Elliott has led the league in rushing yards twice and has been the leader in rushing yards per game in all three of his pro seasons. Martin has made the Pro Bowl in each of his five seasons and has been a First Team All-Pro every other season, including 2018.
Martin is only part of the reason the Cowboys rushing game has been so dominant though. Tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick, who missed the 2018 season, have also played large roles. Dak Prescott’s presence has helped too. Defensively, Dallas has a lot of young talent in the forms of Byron Jones, Demarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch. Jones was a First Team All-Pro in 2018 and Vander Esch was a Second Team All-Pro, despite being a rookie.
Von Miller OLB
Honorable Mention- Chris Harris CB
While Miller has recently turned 30, the future Hall of Famer was a Second Team All-Pro at the linebacker and defensive end positions in 2018. He recorded his second highest sack total in a season in 2018 as well, with 14.5. Alongside the ascending Bradley Chubb, Miller will remain a force in the league for years to come.
I picked Chris Harris over Chubb, undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay, and Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders did average 72.3 receiving yards per game through 12 games last season, but Harris picked off three passes and returned to Pro Bowl form in his also injury shortened 12 game season.
Darius Slay CB
Honorable Mention- Kenny Golladay WR
Slay was the only Lion to make the Pro Bowl in 2018 and rightfully so. While his 2018 season wasn’t on par with his performance in 2017, Slay is still one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks. He has 11 interceptions over the past two seasons and 43 passes defensed.
A year ago, I would’ve plugged Matthew Stafford in as the honorable mention in a heartbeat, but he was downright disappointing in 2018. So, I went with Golladay over free agent signee Trey Flowers for the honorable mention spot. In just his second season, the 2017 third round pick recorded 70 receptions for just over 1,000 receiving yards.
Aaron Rodgers QB
Honorable Mention- David Bakhtiari OT
Rodgers had a deceptively good season in 2018, despite the Packers only going 6-9-1. It amazes me that the two-time league MVP hasn’t had a year with double-digit interceptions since 2010. By the way, he only threw two picks in 2018 despite recording 597 attempts. That gave him a league-best interception percentage of 0.3. For reference, Drew Brees’ interception percentage for 2018 was 1.0.
I initially went right to Davante Adams when considering who to include as an honorable mention, but then I remembered that Bakhtiari was a First Team All-Pro. While Adams has put up solid numbers, it’s hard to argue against selecting the All-Pro left tackle.
J.J. Watt DE
Honorable Mention- DeAndre Hopkins WR
You could swap them and say that Hopkins has now taken over as the team’s best player and I wouldn’t put up much of a fight. This is a close race between Hopkins and Watt, especially considering they’re both reigning First Team All-Pros. I did go with Watt because I tend to have a defensive bias, but Hopkins has really come alive now that he has a Pro Bowl quarterback in Deshaun Watson throwing him the ball. Watt has also benefitted from some of Houston’s younger players, mainly Pro Bowl pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney.
Darius Leonard OLB
Honorable Mention- Andrew Luck QB and Quenton Nelson OG
Every now and then I get these ideas for fun articles and I set down to write them, but I run into a situation where I have to make an annoying decision. This is one of those situations. The Colts have talented players like T.Y. Hilton that aren’t even in consideration here. The team has two First Team All-Pros in Leonard and Nelson, but Luck player well and was the Comeback Player of the Year. So, I decided to level Nelson and Luck in the honorable mention spot while putting Leonard as the most talented player. You could easily make an argument the order should be moved around, but I haven’t seen a player like Leonard in a little while. It’s exciting to watch him play, and he has the makings of a great player. I can’t wait to see where his career goes.
Jalen Ramsey CB
Honorable Mention- Calais Campbell DE
Campbell and Ramsey were both First Team All-Pros in 2017. Neither were All-Pros in 2018 though. That doesn’t change the fact that Ramsey is one of the brightest young cornerbacks in football. He isn’t the best, at least not yet, but he has the raw talent to get there one day. As for Campbell, his production has been on another level since he joined the Jaguars. In the last two seasons, the 6-8 defensive end has 25 sacks, 139 combined tackles, and four forced fumbles.
Campbell will be turning 33 this coming season. As he ages young players like Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue will have a chance to surpass him on this list. I would include Telvin Smith in this conversation since he’s one of the most underrated players in the league, but he’s said he won’t play in 2019.
Patrick Mahomes QB
Honorable Mention- Travis Kelce TE
Mahomes is just something else, or at least I hope he is. Watching him play last season was so much fun. I haven’t had the chance to follow a player quite like him from the start of their career to the finish, so I hope Mahomes continues to play at an MVP level. Winning the MVP in your second season while throwing for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns is just crazy.
I went with Kelce over Tyreek Hill for the honorable mention spot because he’s a more talented player and a far better person. Yes, Hill was a First Team All-Pro in 2018, but so was Kelce. I will argue that Kelce is the best tight end in football today, while Hill clearly isn’t the best wide receiver. Sure, it’s a close race between the two great players, but I’ll take Kelce every day.
Philip Rivers QB
Honorable Mention- Joey Bosa DE
The Chargers are up there when it comes to talent. They have a future Hall of Famer in Rivers at quarterback and plenty of other Pro Bowlers. People like to knock Rivers, but he was just in the MVP conversation last season. I understand some people might want to see a younger player in this spot, but you can’t just dismiss an MVP caliber player. So, I’m leaving Rivers as the Chargers best player.
Second place could have gone to Keenan Allen, Bosa, or Derwin James. Bosa missed more than half of last season, but he went for 12.5 sacks and 70 combined tackles in 2017. At the end of the day, I guess I just value the sacks more than what Allen or James put up. It’s worth noting though that James was a First Team All-Pro as a rookie this past season. If Bosa doesn’t stay healthy, James will leapfrog him.
Aaron Donald DT
Honorable Mention- Todd Gurley RB
The Rams have veteran players like Aqib Talib, Eric Weddle, and Andrew Whitworth. That doesn’t change the fact that Donald and Gurley stand head and shoulders above their teammates. Donald has won the Defensive Player of the Year award in back to back seasons. Gurley was the Offensive Player of the Year in 2017 and was a First Team All-Pro for the second time in 2018. While having other Pro Bowl players make the Rams great, these two players are the pillars of the team. That’s why the reports that Gurley has arthritis in his knee are concerning.
Xavien Howard CB
Honorable Mention- Laremy Tunsil OT
I made fun of the Bills earlier for having very few star players on the roster. Well, their division rivals, the Dolphins, are in even worse shape. The team does have one Pro Bowler, Howard, who has come into his own and recorded 11 interceptions in the past two seasons. Besides him, Tunsil has developed as planned into a borderline Pro Bowl left tackle. After those two though you’re left with a bunch of young players who are still developing. I guess the Dolphins are pulling off a model tank job.
Harrison Smith S
Honorable Mention- Danielle Hunter DE
The Vikings have three players that I considered and the man who ended up being left out was Adam Thielen. Thielen is coming off of two solid seasons, but I couldn’t see a reason to put him above Hunter or Smith. Smith was a Second Team All-Pro in 2018 when he recorded three interceptions, three sacks, and 84 combined tackles. It wasn’t his best season, but Smith still proved he’s one of the best safeties in the league.
Hunter had a career year in 2018. He sets personal bests with 72 combines tackles and 14.5 sacks. His performances were enough to make the Second All-Pro Team. Hunter has had some up and down seasons so far. 2019 will be a big indicator as to where his career will trend from here.
Tom Brady QB
Honorable Mention- Stephon Gilmore CB
I don’t care that he’s 41, Brady is still better than any young player on the Patriots. Heck, he’s better than most young quarterbacks in the league. Brady is the GOAT, and there’s nothing more to say.
While I like where Sony Michel is heading, it’s impossible to overlook Gilmore’s 2018 campaign. The former Bills cornerback finally had his breakout season, making the Pro Bowl and being named a First Team All-Pro. He recorded two interceptions, 20 passes defensed, and two forced fumbles on his way to his best season yet.
Drew Brees QB
Honorable Mention- Michael Thomas WR
While the Saints have a plethora of talented players like Cameron Jordan, Alvin Kamara, and Marshon Lattimore, two players stand clearly at the top. Brees, just like Brady, is unquestionably the center of his team. I mean, this guy almost won the MVP at age 39 last season. He’s an all-time great and that’s unquestionable.
Thomas has already risen to the rank of one of the league’s best wide receivers. He’s crossed the 1,000-yard mark in all three of his pro seasons and was named a First Team All-Pro in 2018 when he led the league in receptions. If players like Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown aren’t careful, Thomas will surpass them.
Saquon Barkley RB
Honorable Mention- Evan Engram TE
The Giants have said goodbye to a lot of their Pro Bowl caliber players over the last year. That makes Barkley easily the best player on the team. Finding an honorable mention was tricky though. I settled with Engram because I think he’ll bounce back from a sophomore slump in 2019. I also considered veteran players like Janoris Jenkins and Golden Tate for this spot.
Le’Veon Bell RB
Honorable Mention- Jamal Adams S
The Jets are another one of the three-man-race teams. If Bell is even a shadow of himself when the season starts, he’ll win that race. It’s hard to say much about Bell considering he sat out all last season because of a contract dispute. I guess it’s worth reminding people he was a slam dunk top three running back in the league two years ago. With the Steelers, if he was healthy, Bell was guaranteed to produce 1,800 yards from scrimmage.
The honorable mention spot was a tossup between Adams and newly signed linebacker C.J. Mosely. Both players were Second Team All-Pros in 2018. I went with Adams because his ceiling isn’t established yet while Mosely is more of a known and capped factor.
Antonio Brown WR
Honorable Mention- Derek Carr QB
The Raiders have a lot of young players, which makes Brown the team’s only superstar. I don’t expect Brown to post the same numbers he did with Ben Roethlisberger. Still, it’s hard to see him going for anything less than 100 receptions, 1,200 receiving yards, and ten touchdowns.
People like to hate on Carr, but he did go to three straight Pro Bowls from 2015-2017. He has a lot of promise, but he needs to show that he can take the next step, especially now that he has a premier receiving threat like Brown. If Carr can’t up his game, he’ll forever be relegated to being viewed as just an average quarterback.
Jason Kelce C
Honorable Mention- Zach Ertz TE
After 2017, I would have easily given this to Carson Wentz, but Wentz’s production dropped last season even if his completion percentage rose. First Team All-Pro center, Jason Kelce was more important to the Eagles last season and he performed better. Hence why he was picked as the best center in the league.
It was hard to leave Wentz off of the list entirely and I struggled to pass over Fletcher Cox as well. Cox was a First Team All-Pro in 2018 and set a personal best with 10.5 sacks. However, Ertz set an NFL record with 116 receptions, the most ever by a tight end in a single season. Ertz also added 1,163 yards and eight touchdowns.
Ben Roethlisberger QB
Honorable Mention- JuJu Smith-Schuster WR
Along with the Browns, Chargers, and Cowboys, the Steelers boast one of the most talented rosters in the league. It all starts with Roethlisberger, the team’s future Hall of Fame quarterback. Roethlisberger led the league in passing yards last season with 5,129. He is one of seven quarterbacks to ever throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season.
I gave the honorable mention to Smith-Schuster over more veteran players because his production was special last season. He came up with 111 receptions, 1,426 yards, and seven touchdowns. Entering his third year, hopes are high for Smith-Schuster. The Steelers also have an All-Pro center, Maurkice Pouncey, who was close to making this list. James Conner, David DeCastro, Cameron Heyward, and, Alejandro Villanueva were also considered.
George Kittle TE
Honorable Mention- DeForest Buckner DT
The 49ers added Pro Bowl caliber talent this summer in the forms of Kwon Alexander and Dee Ford, but neither of those players is the best on the team. In 2018, Kittle set the record for the most receiving yards by a tight end in a single season with 1,377. He was dominant, if not unstoppable at times. With Rob Gronkowski retiring, Kittle will certainly be one of the players competing to fill his spot as the league’s best tight end. Buckner posted 12 sacks and 67 combined tackles last season. He’s a rising star at a crowded defensive tackle position.
At this point, it’s hard to tell how impactful Richard Sherman is. He had an underrated season in 2018, but was he as good as Buckner and Kittle? I think that’s something we’ll have to watch in 2019.
Russell Wilson QB
Honorable Mention- Bobby Wagner MLB
This is pretty cut and dry. The only other player on the Seahawks who even comes close to Wagner and Wilson is left tackle Duane Brown. Wilson hovers on the perimeter of MVP conversations every now and then but, he has never been one of front runners to win and probably never will be. Wagner has also danced around the Defensive Player of the Year award several times, but he has never taken it home at the end of the season. It’s hard to see anyone taking the award from players like Donald, Mack, and Watt, but Wagner is still one of the game’s most impactful and efficient defenders. There’s a reason he’s made three straight First All-Pro Teams.
Mike Evans WR
Honorable Mention- Lavonte David OLB
No player at any position on the Buccaneers has outproduced Evans over the past several seasons. He had his best season yet in 2018, recording 86 receptions, 1,524 yards, and eight touchdowns.
While picking Evans was clear, the honorable mention spot was harder. I went with David, who is criminally underrated. He’s averaged 126 combined tackles per season since entering the league and he reached 120 in 2018 despite missing two games. The Bucs recently signed Ndamukong Suh, but he hasn’t been the force he early in his career these past two seasons.
Jurrell Casey DT
Honorable Mention- Kevin Byard S
There are only three players who can even be considered for these spots. I put Casey as the Titans best player because he has been the heart of that defense for years and has had two of his three 60-tackle seasons in the past two years. He also has 13 sacks and three forced fumbles during that time. Byard was a close second behind Casey. While Byard missed the Pro Bowl in 2018, he recorded four interceptions, 90 combined tackles, and two sacks. Byard was a First Team All-Pro in 2017. Left tackle Taylor Lewan just missed the cut.
Trent Williams OT
Honorable Mention- Ryan Kerrigan OLB
No one has been more dependable for the Redskins than Williams who has been to seven straight Pro Bowls. The fierce left tackle is never afraid to get physical or vocal with opponents during games. The honorable mention slot was a close race between Landon Collins and Kerrigan. While Collins was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate back in 2016, he hasn’t shown that level of play since then. Kerrigan, on the other hand, just put together the best three-year stretch of his career. He has 37 sacks and three Pro Bowl appearances in the last three years.
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