NFL Scouts, Coaches and Executives Rank the Top 10 Players in the NFL
Who are the 10 best players in the NFL today?
That's a text we sent to 12 longtime NFL scouts, coaches and general managers as the NFL season nears its midpoint.
That question alone is tough to answer. You almost need context to define what "best" means. Are the best players those with the most talent or the players dominating statistically? To be one of the 10 best players, do you have to have both talent and production?
Ultimately, that was up to the 12 men responding. What does best mean to them and who ranks in the top 10 players right now?
Here are the results.
10. Odell Beckham Jr.
Scout's Take: "OBJ is always in consideration [for top 10]...Eli is killing him."
Giants owner John Mara may want OBJ to do a "little less talking," but those around the league know just how dominant Beckham is—even if he's being held back by Eli Manning, as this scout suggested.
On the season, Beckham has just one touchdown to go with his 45 catches, but the struggles of the New York Giants offense start with the play of Manning. "If you're basing this on talent and production, Odell has to be top 10," said another NFC pro scout. And he is, no matter how many times the Giants offense misfires because of the play at quarterback.
Beckham is also controversial. While five scouts polled said he was a top-10 player, one wouldn't rank him highly based on "drops, his attitude and how soft he is."
9. Antonio Brown
Scout's Take: "He might not lead the league in catches or yards this year, but AB is still the best wide receiver in the game."
Here's an example of a ranking based on talent and production combined.
With six touchdowns to go with his 40 catches this year, Antonio Brown is still statistically one of the most explosive and reliable offensive weapons in the NFL. It almost seems like that was forgotten when the Pittsburgh Steelers got off to a slow start, but Brown had 24 catches in the team's first three games. His dominance hasn't changed.
The 30-year-old is the top-ranked wide receiver on this list, but scouts did note that OBJ and others might be catching him. "AB is still the man, but you have to look at what Mike Thomas [New Orleans Saints] and others are doing. The gap isn't what it used to be," said one rival head coach.
8. Von Miller
Scout's Take: "I don't care about Khalil Mack or Myles Garrett or anybody else, Von is still the best pass-rusher in the league."
With 5.5 sacks on the season, Von Miller is once against proving to be one of the best pass-rushers in football. And with a premium placed on getting to the quarterback, it's easy to see why he claimed a top-10 spot.
Miller helped usher in a new trend in football when the Denver Broncos began rushing him from the left side of the defense to attack slower, less athletic right tackles on the offensive line. That's now commonplace, as defensive coordinators look for any edge to get to the quarterback a step faster.
With speed, instincts and a bevy of pass-rushing moves, Miller still stands out as one of the game's most impactful players.
7. Drew Brees
Scout's Take: "It might be controversial, but I still think you have to put Brees up there."
Controversial? Drew Brees?
Your first reaction is probably like mine; why the heck would Brees in the top 10 be controversial? "Well, statistically, he's not having a top-10 season, and you could make the case that his team isn't playing that well, either," responded the general manager who placed Brees in his top 10.
Ultimately, all 12 respondents agreed and put Brees in the top 10. Is that based on reputation, or is he really still a top-10 player?
"Make a list of players you'd want on your team if you had to win one game. How far down that list is Brees?"
For me, he's top 10.
6. Aaron Donald
Scout's Take: "He started slow, but in the last month no one has been better than Aaron Donald."
Every evaluator we talked to ranked Donald as a top-10 player, and his play in the last three games (four sacks in that time) backs it up—Donald is a top-tier player and arguably the league's best defender.
Rushing from the interior of the Rams defense, Donald has lived up to his paycheck as the league's top-paid defensive tackle. It's no coincidence that Donald's ability has helped lead the Rams to the NFL's only remaining undefeated record.
"What he's doing from the middle is unlike anything I've seen. He might be the most talented player in the game," said a rival coach. Donald's play and ranking seem to agree.
5. Patrick Mahomes
Scout's Take: "Mahomes has to be on your list. He's going to be league MVP."
Only seven starts into his NFL career, Mahomes is on this list as one of the best players in the league. And it's important to remember this isn't about who has had the best career. It's looking at the best players of the present.
Mahomes is one of them.
Through the Chiefs' 5-1 start, Mahomes has thrown for 18 touchdowns and just four interceptions while generating the kind of buzz throughout the league rarely seen after a handful of starts. Mahomes is not only one of the league's most productive players right now, but he's also one of its most marketable. He has the talent and success to quickly become one of the faces of the NFL.
4. Todd Gurley
Scout's Take: "If MVP truly goes to the league's best player, it better go to Todd Gurley."
Todd Gurley is doing amazing things in an explosive, wide-open Rams offense and is in the running for the MVP award. Through six games, Gurley leads the NFL in touchdowns (11) and rushing yards (623) while dominating on a weekly basis.
Gurley is the perfect fit for head coach Sean McVay's fast-paced offense given his versatility and ability to run without a fullback or often even a tight end clearing paths for him. His vision and explosiveness are why the Rams invested a top-10 pick in a running back.
The MVP award has mostly gone to quarterbacks, but Gurley is making a serious case as the league's best player this year.
3. Khalil Mack
Scout's Take: "That ankle injury might be the only thing that could stop Khalil Mack."
An ankle injury suffered against the Miami Dolphins slowed Mack down for the first time all season and might put his chances for postseason awards in doubt, but through the first six weeks of the season no one has been better on defense.
Mack, who was traded to the Chicago Bears and almost immediately suited up to play before getting into football shape, had five sacks in his first five games and was impacting the game with four forced fumbles and an interception. It was a legitimate MVP-type season, and he appeared to be a lock for Defensive Player of the Year.
As long as Mack can get back healthy, he'll stay high on this list.
2. Tom Brady
Scout's Report: "He's obviously the greatest ever, but he's still really good right now too."
Tom Brady is still great, as seen in the New England Patriots' shootout win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football. Statistically, Brady might be having a down year through six games, but his talent and success speak for themselves.
The numbers aren't great so far—Brady isn't top 10 in yards or quarterback rating—but his 13 touchdowns rank in the top 10, and his ability to carve up defenses remains as good as ever. There's also a belief that Brady is only getting started this year.
With Josh Gordon in the fold and Julian Edelman back from suspension, the Patriots offense might be unstoppable for the next 10 games.
1. Aaron Rodgers
Scout's Report: "If you put it all together—stats and talent and impact—Rodgers is still the best."
Khalil Mack, Todd Gurley and Patrick Mahomes each got a vote as the best player in the league, but of the 12 evaluators talked to, an amazing nine voted for Rodgers.
Maybe it's the recency bias of a Monday night comeback over the San Francisco 49ers that had the league buzzing, but this also isn't a new opinion. Rodgers has long been considered the most talented quarterback in the NFL even though he hasn't been surrounded by the Brady-like coaching talent needed to win multiple titles.
Rodgers' ability and impact are unrivaled in the NFL for now, which is why he's still tops on the list.