PFW Super 50: NFL's elite, regardless of position, 10-1

Tom Brady-Aaron Rodgers debate for top-spot honors rages on with our list, too

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Every offseason, aided by the input of evaluators and coaches, as well as the feedback of his staff, Pro Football Weekly general manager Hub Arkush compiles the Super 50, a ranking of the NFL's top 50 players regardless of position. Players are ranked based on their performances to date at positions they've played and are not projected at new positions to which they might move. Rookies are not included in the rankings. NFL personnel participated on the condition of anonymity.

Today, we count down players ranked 10 through one. To get the full list, as well as 32 team scouting reports, features, fantasy football rankings and more, pick up your copy of the 2018 Pro Football Weekly Preview Magazine on newsstands now or order online.

10. LB Von Miller, Broncos

Prior to last season, many folks felt that Miller was the best defender in the game — even above J.J. Watt. That’s high praise indeed, and though both land in our top 10, the debate has changed a bit. Clearly hampered by the loss of coordinator Wade Phillips and a few bodies up front, lacking that great pass-rush bookend, Miller was not quite as dominant last season as we’ve come to know him. Especially down the stretch — Miller started out hot but had only three sacks the final 10 games in 2017. Adding Bradley Chubb should help the 29-year-old Miller rediscover his dominance and back up this ranking readily in 2018.

9. RB Todd Gurley, Rams

What a resurgence for a back some had written off following a terribly ineffective season in 2016 in the final days of Jeff Fisher’s run. After logging a mere two runs longer than 18 yards in 2016, that total was up to eight last season. Gurley might not be a consistent home-run threat, but he hit far more singles and doubles in the new Rams’ offense. But more than anything, it was his usage and effectiveness as a receiver that was stunning. Gurley caught as many passes (64) last season as he had in his first two years combined — and for six more TDs and 273 more yards. Sean McVay tapped into Gurley in a way Fisher and his staff never figured out how to do.

8. CB Marcus Peters, Rams

Gurley’s new teammate is the best ballhawk in the game. Since entering the league in 2015, Peters has 19 interceptions — five more than his nearest competitor. In fact, if you also include the 2013 and 2014 seasons (when Peters was still in college), only three men have more picks since then. But there’s also a lack of accountability and reliability in Peters that compelled the Chiefs to deal him away. His end-game blowup in the road loss to the Jets was pretty unsightly. He isn’t known as the game’s greatest tackler, either. But what Peters does is take away half the field, and he lives for matchups against the best receivers. Phillips has himself an exceptional cornerback on the Rams’ defense as long as Peters is focused and committed. With a payday upcoming, we assume he will be on his best behavior in 2018.

7. LB-DE Chandler Jones, Cardinals

This placement might surprise some people, but the long, sinewy Jones leads the NFL in total sacks over the past three seasons — 40.5, which is four more than Khalil Mack at No. 2. Additionally, Jones trails only Bruce Irvin and Lavonte David for forced fumbles over that time, with 10. The Patriots traded Jones following the 2015 season, figuring they’d be unable to pay him, but he’s been one of the few players Bill Belichick has expunged who has gone on to bigger and better things elsewhere. Former coordinator James Bettcher really unlocked Jones’ immense potential as a stand-up linebacker, but he might return to more of a down-rushing role in the new system coordinated by Al Holcomb and head coach Steve Wilks.

6. WR Julio Jones, Falcons

Jones might be pleased to see himself landing this high, as he’s currently butting heads with Falcons management over his value to the team. And though Jones never has been a big touchdown producer, it’s hard to argue that he isn’t one of the more frightening covers in the game. Jones only has dipped below 14 yards a catch once in his career, and that was in his hallmark season of 2016 when he led the NFL in catches, receiving yards and yards from scrimmage. He doesn’t turn 30 years old until Super Bowl Sunday, and Jones has become more reliable in a few ways. Jones has cut down on his fumbles and drops and only has missed three games over the past four seasons after being labeled an injury-prone player earlier in his career. We expect a return to elite level this season, whether his contract is redone or not.

5. DL Aaron Donald, Rams

Speaking of contracts … It’s hard to know whether Donald will be signed up long term and happy after his financial annoyance has stretched into Year 2. But if the Rams can coax him into reporting, Donald should be in line for another incredible season — and he’s coming off winning 2017 Defensive Player of the Year award despite playing in 14 games and reporting to the team mere days before the start of last season. He’s the best interior rusher in the game, and really in many years. Donald’s burst off the snap and low center of gravity make him a handful for even the best interior blockers, and the Rams’ addition of Ndamukong Suh give them one of the best 1-2 DL punches we’ve seen in a long time.

4. DE J.J. Watt, Texans

You’re skeptical. We get it. And perhaps for good reason, too, given that Watt now has missed all but eight games over the past two seasons because of major injuries. Let’s put it out there: He might never be the same Watt we saw from 2012 to 2015, when the 295-pound power rusher averaged more than a sack per game. He simply was unlike any defender in the NFL then and unlike anything we’ve seen in that body frame for many years. Can Watt ever return to that peak? Clearly, his rare work ethic should allow him to come back close to full stretch and give it another crack as he approaches his 30th birthday next spring. The Texans also have an improved, healthier unit heading into 2018, along with the return of Romeo Crennel to coordinator. Until we see differently, Watt gets the benefit of the doubt here.

3. WR Antonio Brown, Steelers

No other receiver was as valuable to his team last season, and despite his limitations — size and a lack of blistering speed — Brown remains the best in the game. His effort and preparation are legendary. His competitiveness is off the charts. His killer instinct on the field is undeniable. His streak of 100 catches, 1,200 yards and eight TDs has now reached five straight seasons. Brown also can change a game with an occasional punt return and has been a monster in the playoffs (41-677-4 in his past six postseason games). Did you watch him roast the Jaguars in January? You can’t do it much better than his two TD catches against CB A.J. Bouye, one of the best in the biz.

2. QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers

Yep, here it is: The argument of the summer. Rodgers or Tom Brady? Well, it’s clear that Rodgers’ collarbone injury — along with Brady’s MVP season and 505-yard Super Bowl — has a lot to do with this order. If healthy, Rodgers is the best quarterback in the game right now. That’s our take, and we’re sticking with it. We’re not talking career achievements or playoff résumés here. Just pure ability, Rodgers is tops. No one combines his athleticism, improvisation, toughness, arm talent and confidence all in one the way he does. And yet the last time we saw him last season, Rodgers did not perform quite as well as Brady did on a snap-to-snap basis. Could that change this season? Absolutely. Everything sets up for him to be a monster once again, with a lower INT ratio and a higher yards per attempt than what he produced in less than a half a season in 2017.

1. QB Tom Brady, Patriots

His on-field record, especially last season as a 40-year-old, is just something to marvel at. Winning MVP and consistently dicing up the Eagles in the Super Bowl, especially in a brilliant second half, should go down as one of the great quarterbacking seasons ever. Can he do it again this season? It would be borderline foolish to doubt Brady, even at his age and with tensions simmering in New England. Part of Brady’s greatness always has been his ability to compartmentalize and adjust to whatever his surroundings are. In theory, his pass catchers and blockers should be in better shape, not to mention the Patriots’ defense. If he and his team stay relatively healthy in 2018, why can’t Brady go on to make more history?

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