49. Michael Thomas, wide receiver, New Orleans Saints
More history in the NFC South. Throughout the start of his young career, Thomas recorded 470 receptions for 5,512 yards and 32 touchdowns in four seasons. He broke the single-season mark for receiving yards last season with 1,725. Thomas is also catching a ridiculous 77.6% of the passes thrown in his direction thus far. However, the Saints are in a bad salary cap situation for the foreseeable future, and the quarterback situation is uncertain. Oh, and Thomas appeared in only seven games in 2020 and made waves within the organization. All of these elements are suddenly leaving Thomas’ future in New Orleans up in the air.
48. Chandler Jones, outside linebacker, Arizona Cardinals
Looking back to ahead of the 2016 season, it seemed to be a fantasy to believe Jones would turn into one of this generation’s top-100 players. He had performed well with New England in 2015, recording 12.5 sacks. Since then, the former first-round pick has been on an upward trajectory. This includes Jones tallying 98 quarterback hits and 60 sacks in four prior seasons with the Cardinals. Unfortunately, his 2020 campaign got cut short to a right biceps injury, and he might not be in Arizona much longer.
47. Christian McCaffrey, running back, Carolina Panthers – Best running back
Historic. Any attempt to explain what McCaffrey did in his first three seasons would fall short. In 2019 alone, McCaffrey led the NFL in touches (403), total yards (2,392) and total touchdowns (19). He also averaged north of 100 receptions per season leading into 2020. Then, he dealt with injuries and appeared in just three games. With a hopefully improved quarterback situation next season and superior health, perhaps McCaffrey will get back to the phenomenal form that once had him much higher in the NFL Top 100.
46. Garett Bolles, offensive tackle, Denver Broncos
This past November, Bolles agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $68 million, proving he’s worth every penny in 2020 with an elite year at the left tackle spot. That deal made him the fourth highest-paid player at his position in the league. No matter who the quarterback is in Denver going forward, the Broncos have found a key piece in the trenches in Bolles, a 2017 first-round pick who’s living up to his potential.
45. Jessie Bates III, safety, Cincinnati Bengals
Guess who was PFF’s highest-graded safety last season? Not many would have Bates at the top of the list. Alas, there he was, playing incredible ball for a lost Bengals team whose roster was much worse than previously feared. Just about every area of the team has room to improve in Cincinnati, but the safety position is one exception. That’s largely thanks to Bates, who will soon be up for a massive contract when he hits free agency in 2022 unless the Bengals step in and ink him to a lucrative extension first.
44. Mike Evans, wide receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Only two players in NFL history recorded 1,000 receiving yards in each of their first six seasons: Hall of Famer Randy Moss and wide receiver Mike Evans, who developed excellent chemistry with TB12 as a member of the Super Bowl champion Bucs. Evans did Moss one better by eclipsing 1,000 yards once again in 2020, and hauled in a personal-best 13 touchdowns.
43. Lamar Jackson quarterback, Baltimore Ravens
It’s been a disappointing 2020 season for Jackson to follow his MVP award-winning effort as a second-year stud, but a lot of this falls on the Ravens. The offensive line took a massive step back, no receivers can get open and Greg Roman’s offense is being called out by defensive players. Eventually things will get turned around, but the good news is, in the midst of all that, Jackson managed to earn his first playoff win, which is a huge confidence boost going forward for one of the game’s most incredible talents.
42. Cameron Heyward, defensive tackle, Pittsburgh Steelers
One of the unsung heroes of Pittsburgh’s sensational defense, other studs at flashier positions such as T.J. Watt or Minkah Fitzpatrick get more exposure than Heyward. Meanwhile, the 10th-year pro continues to go about his business and trucks along as one of the most consistent players in the entire league. Heyward was a first-team All-Pro in 2017 and 2019. Even at this relatively later phase of his career, the 31-year-old is a critical building block for the Steelers’ D.
41. Corey Linsley, center, Los Angeles Chargers
PFF ranked Linsley as 2020’s top-graded center, as he snapped the ball to MVP winner Aaron Rodgers and made sure the superstar signal-caller was checked into all the right protections and blocking schemes upfront. On the first day of NFL free agency for the 2021 season, the Los Angeles Chargers rewarded Linsley with a huge contract.
40. George Kittle, tight end, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco made him the highest-paid tight end in NFL history for a reason. George Kittle’s stats are certainly gaudy with 2,430 yards over the prior two seasons and 634 yards receiving in only eight 2020 games, but ruthless pancake blocks like this make him the best overall tight end in football other than Travis Kelce.