59. Saquon Barkley, running back, New York Giants
Historical. Electric. That’s what we saw from Barkley as he ended up winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2018. That season saw the Penn State product gain a league-high 2,028 total yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging nearly six yards per touch. Injuries hampered Barkley to an extent as a sophomore, but he was still able to go for 1,441 yards in 13 games. Sadly, the injury bug bit again in 2020. The hope is Barkley can return to an improved Giants team in 2021 at full strength.
58. Dak Prescott, quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
Something tells us Jerry Jones and the Cowboys will regret not signing Prescott to a long-term extension sooner. After losing Prescott to that gruesome, season-ending injury, the Cowboys wound up falling short of the playoffs despite the NFC East being won by Washington with a losing 7-9 record. With each passing loss, Prescott’s asking price went up, and Dallas needs to secure his services for the long haul to ensure its ongoing relevancy. Or, the Cowboys could go a totally different direction at the most important position, which wouldn’t exactly be the most logical route.
57. Nick Chubb, running back, Cleveland Browns
Chubb is one of the most difficult players to tackle in the NFL. He rushed for nearly 1,500 yards behind a bad offensive line in 2019, which the Browns addressed in a big way by bringing aboard Jack Conklin, drafting Jedrick Wills and getting incredible play from Wyatt Teller at guard. Injuries didn’t stop Chubb from piling up 1,067 yards rushing (5.6 yards per carry) and 12 scores in just 12 games last season. Don’t be shocked if Chubb helps Baker Mayfield carry Cleveland deep into the playoffs this next year.
56. Za’Darius Smith, outside linebacker, Green Bay Packers
The Packers heard plenty of skepticism when they signed Smith to a $66 million contract a couple offseasons ago.Two years later, the deal looks like a bargain after Smith recorded 60 quarterback hits and 26 sacks while helping Green Bay get to within one win of a Super Bowl berth in consecutive seasons.
55. Jack Conklin, offensive tackle, Cleveland Browns
Conklin turned out to be a home-run free agency signing by new Cleveland GM Andrew Berry, who was the youngest in his post in NFL history but retooled the Browns roster amid yet another regime change within the organization and helped them finally return to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Not bad for a first season’s work as the top executive. However, Conklin had to go out and play right tackle at an elite level to justify his acquisition, which is precisely what he did throughout Cleveland’s surprisingly successful 2020 season.
54. D.K. Metcalf, wide receiver, Seattle Seahawks
Metcalf proved to be more than just a workout warrior in his rookie season. He posted some gaudy stats (900 receiving yards, seven touchdowns) for a rookie and it turned out we were just seeing glimpses of his potential. The rising star has proven to be a fantasy football monster after an 83-catch, 1,303-yard, 10-touchdown stat line from 2020. Now that the Seahawks are breaking in a new offensive coordinator, Metcalf could wind up ascending even higher.
53. Calvin Ridley, wide receiver, Atlanta Falcons
For all the deserved love Julio Jones gets in Atlanta, Ridley has proven more adept at getting it done on the most important downs in the scoring zone. In only three seasons as a pro, Ridley’s 26 receiving touchdowns are almost half of Jones’ career total of 60. Whether that’s thanks in part to the attention Jones attracts in the red zone is unclear, but Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan sure likes to look Ridley’s way when he needs a score. It’ll be interesting to see how Ridley is utilized in new head coach Arthur Smith’s scheme.
52. Danielle Hunter, defensive end, Minnesota Vikings
When the Vikings invested a third-round pick in Hunter, they hoped he could develop into a productive pass rusher. He blossomed into an unstoppable force off the edge. Just look at Danielle Hunter’s career stats (54.5 sacks in 78 games) and appreciate it, because his future is uncertain after neck surgery cost him the 2020 season.
51. Budda Baker, safety, Arizona Cardinals
Thanks to his ability to blur the line between linebacker and safety with his unique physicality and skill set, Baker earns a spot pretty high up on this list. Although he’s predominantly a defensive back, there’s no question the Cardinals can get as creative as they are on defense thanks to Baker’s versatility and a knack for playing in coverage and getting physical versus the run.
50. Stephon Gilmore, cornerback, New England Patriots
One of the very few big-time free-agent successes around the NFL in recent years, Gilmore earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors for the Patriots two seasons ago. It’s a campaign that saw him record league highs in passes defended (20) and interceptions (six). Gilmore also yielded a sub-50 passer rating when targeted, but with so many Pats opting out of the 2020 season, the New England secondary suffered, and Gilmore regressed. Nevertheless, he’s still among the 50 best players in the game.