At this point in the NFL offseason, most rosters are essentially set in stone.
Save for a few moves at the bottom of the roster, very few moves will likely be made between now and the start of the preseason. The premier free agents still on the market are sparse, and the draft has long gone.
That said, this time of the offseason is as good of a time as any to start comparing how teams square up against each other.
In an exercise similar to that of the annual NFL Top 100 list, multiple staff members from Windy City Gridiron have come together to vote on a list of the top 50 players in the NFC North. The voting process had similarities to that of the league-official list: each staff member who participated in the exercise was asked to list their top 30 players, and a certain amount of points was assigned to each ranking slot. For example, if a player was ranked first, that player would receive 30 points. The player ranked second would receive 29 points, so on and so forth. A consensus list was then compiled from how each staff member ranked each player.
Before the list begins, let’s see how many players on each team made it onto the list:
The list turned out to be incredibly balanced, especially considering the forum consisted entirely of Bears fans. While the Bears were the only team to not have their quarterback or running back ranked in the top 50 and finished with just three offensive players on the board, they had more defensive players on the board than any team.
Without further ado, let’s kick things off by taking a look at the players ranked 41 through 50 on Windy City Gridiron’s consensus top 50 NFC North players.
Honorable Mentions: Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings; Charles Leno Jr., OT, Bears
High: 30 (Rudolph: Wiltfong, Leno: Curl)
We start off the list with an honorable mention to two former Pro Bowlers who are coming off of down years. Both Kyle Rudolph and Charles Leno Jr. received just one point, placing them just outside of the top 50. Rudolph played in all 16 games in 2019 but finished with the worst production from a receptions and receiving yards standpoint since his rookie year, excluding the 2013 and 2014 seasons where he missed half of the season. Leno, who made a Pro Bowl appearance as an alternate for his 2018 season, finished as the fifth-most penalized offensive lineman in the league, including a total of six holding calls that placed second.
However, both have proven to be quality contributors to their respective teams when they’re at their best. Rudolph has been a reliable end-zone target and a quality secondary receiving option for much of his career, and with Vikings trading Stefon Diggs, there could be a few more touches coming his way. Leno isn’t the flashiest of offensive linemen, but more often than not he has served as a serviceable starter at one of the most important positions in football, and with a return to a more definitively zone-heavy scheme likely on the horizon, some sort of bounce back could be in the cards for Leno as the Bears adjust towards a more straightforward strategy.
50. Jeff Gladney, CB, Vikings
High: 29 (Salo)
The first of only a few rookies to make it into the top 50, first-round pick Jeff Gladney kicks off the official list and should step in right away and make an impact for Minnesota’s depleted group of cornerbacks.
Gladney, who has had 26 pass deflections in the past two seasons, was a four-year starter at TCU. He is a fluid athlete with impressive ball skills, very good route anticipation abilities and a willingness to get physical in man coverage. While currently unproven at the professional level, his collegiate tape indicates he should develop into a solid starter fairly quickly.
49. Marvin Jones Jr., WR, Lions
High: 28 (Leming)
Marvin Jones Jr. has quietly been a consistent target for much of his NFL career. He has topped 700 receiving yards in all of but two of the seven seasons he has played—excluding the 2014 season, in which he missed the whole year—and finished with 1,101 yards in 2017, the last 16-game season he played.
Although the emergence of Kenny Golladay could indicate Jones never reaches that level of production again, he is nonetheless a steady weapon for the Lions who is as rock-solid as it gets for a complementary weapon in the NFL. He’s missed 10 games over the past two seasons, but when healthy he is arguably one of the more underrated wide receivers in the league.
48. Corey Linsley, C, Packers
High: 28 (Zeglinski)
Though not the flashiest interior offensive lineman out there—of which there are admittedly very few—Corey Linsley has been a reliable starter for the Packers in recent years. He played in every single offensive snap for the team in three of his six professional seasons, barely missing out in 2019 after a back injury in the last game of the regular season.
Linsley is an intelligent and steady presence at the center position who brings consistent technique and good athletic ability to Green Bay’s interior offensive line. Since taking on the starting center position in 2017, he has been a reliable player who should see an expensive contract come his way when he hits the open market next offseason.
47. Jaylon Johnson, CB, Bears
High: 27 (Salo)
Though admittedly somewhat surprising Jaylon Johnson finishes above the aforementioned Jeff Gladney despite being selected later in the 2020 draft, the Utah alumnus and projected Bears starter slides into the top 50.
With 7 interceptions and 21 pass deflections in his three collegiate seasons, Johnson was a productive disruptor in coverage against Pac-12 offenses. A lengthy, physical and intelligent cornerback who projects perfectly as the press-man defender the Bears needed to replace the departed Prince Amukamara, Johnson should be able to earn plenty of reps in the starting lineup in his rookie year.
46. Tashaun Gipson, S, Bears
High: 27 (Householder)
Being a cap casualty who signed to an inexpensive contract in free agency after the draft, many outside of the Bears community have either underrated Tashaun Gipson or forgotten about him completely, but he has quietly been a impactful force at the safety position for quite some time.
Gipson is one of two safeties to have allowed a completion percentage of 55 percent or lower in each of the past two years when targeted, and he has tallied 23 interceptions in his eight seasons in the NFL to this point. A versatile defender who has proven that he can cover in the box, in single-high or in two-high shells, the veteran could be a sneaky good addition to Chicago’s secondary for the 2020 season.
45. Brian O’Neill, OT, Vikings
High: 27 (Zimmerman)
One of the most underrated offensive linemen in the division, Brian O’Neill put together a solid campaign in 2019, allowing just one sack as Minnesota’s starting right tackle. A second-round pick in 2018, the Pittsburgh alumnus has been able to add some strength to his frame—a weakness of his coming out of college—all while keeping his top-notch athletic ability.
The Vikings have selected an offensive lineman in the first two rounds over the past three drafts, and O’Neill is a key piece in their mission to rebuild what has been a glaring weakness on their roster in recent years. With another solid season under his belt, he could end up much higher on this list come next year.
44. Elgton Jenkins, G, Packers
High: 27 (Infante)
Though he hasn’t gotten significant love outside of Wisconsin yet, Elgton Jenkins quietly put together a very impressive rookie season for the Packers in 2019.
Taking over as a starter at left guard after sitting the first two games of the year on the bench, Jenkins didn’t allow a single sack in 964 offensive snaps last season. He is a well-rounded blocker along the interior whose power, intelligence and technique translated well to the NFL level. If he can build off of his promising rookie year and cut down on penalties—he had eight in 2019—then he could be a Pro Bowl-caliber guard for Green Bay for years to come.
43. Kerryon Johnson, RB, Lions
High: 26 (Curl)
He has shown some promise since being selected as a second-round pick in 2018, but Kerryon Johnson’s tenure with the Lions has been plagued with injuries. Having missed 14 games over the past two seasons, it has been tough for the running back to make a sizable impact in Detroit’s starting lineup yet.
While the addition of rookie D’Andre Swift could prevent him from ever being a true bell-cow back for the Lions, Johnson has shown some promise when he’s been on the field. Through 18 career games, he has rushed for 1,044 yards and 6 touchdowns on 231 carries and has also proven to be a capable receiver out of the backfield if called upon in that role. If he stays healthy in 2020, he and Swift could form a dynamic tandem on the ground for Detroit.
42. Frank Ragnow, C, Lions
High: 27 (Wiltfong)
Frank Ragnow serves as the first player to make it onto two staff members’ lists, as he placed 27th on Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.’s list and 30th on Jacob Infante’s list. The 2018 first-round pick has quickly become a standout for the Lions’ offense, paving the way in the ground game and serving as a steady hand in pass protection, as well.
Ragnow started off his professional career as a guard, but moved to his natural position of center before the 2019 season, and the results paid off significantly. The sixth-best center in the league on PFF’s scale and the second-best run blocker at the position, the Arkansas alumnus stepped up in his sophomore campaign. He is an intelligent and hard-nosed blocker who appears to be a player the Lions can build around as they continue to shape their roster in Matt Patricia’s image.
41. D’Andre Swift, RB, Lions
High: 25 (Salo)
D’Andre Swift was seen by most draft analysts as the top running back prospect in the 2020 draft, and while he was just the second back to come off the board, he should be able to make an impact right away for the Lions.
A productive runner at the collegiate level, Swift had 2,885 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns with a 6.6 yards-per-carry average in his three seasons at Georgia. He is a well-rounded back who runs with determination and force, has the lateral quickness to evade defenders and offers soft hands as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. While unknown how big of a workload he’ll see right out of the gate, Swift should help make Detroit’s ground attack improve in 2020.