Over the past few days, we at Windy City Gridiron have been sharing our staff’s consensus top 50 players in the NFC North heading into the 2020 season.
With the first two articles now out of the way and 20 players on the list having been ranked, we now shift our attention to the players who were ranked between the spots 30 and 21.
- Honorable mentions: Kyle Rudolph, Charles Leno Jr.
- 50. Jeff Gladney
- 49. Marvin Jones Jr.
- 48. Corey Linsley
- 47. Jaylon Johnson
- 46. Tashaun Gipson
- 45. Brian O’Neill
- 44. Elgton Jenkins
- 43. Kerryon Johnson
- 42. Frank Ragnow
- 41. D’Andre Swift
- 40. Kevin King
- 39. Justin Jefferson
- 38. T.J. Hockenson
- 37. Riley Reiff
- 36. Darnell Savage
- 35. Adrian Amos
- 34. Jeff Okudah
- 33. Cordarrelle Patterson
- 32. Danny Trevathan
- 31. Roquan Smith
30. Jamie Collins, LB, Lions
High: 19 (Zimmerman)
The newest addition to a Lions defense that is being shaped in Matt Patricia’s image, Jamie Collins will look to provide some help at the linebacker position for a team that hasn’t necessarily seen stellar play there in recent years.
Collins is a versatile defensive weapon who can rush the passer, drop back into coverage and help out as an off-ball linebacker in run support. He’s coming off of a season in which he had 81 tackles, seven sacks and three interceptions for the Patriots, and with his signing a three-year, $30 million deal with Detroit this offseason, he should be in the Lions’ long-term plans as they look for a resurgence in the coming years.
29. Taylor Decker, OT, Lions
High: 22 (Zeglinski)
A staple in Detroit’s offensive line over the past four years, Taylor Decker made appearances on five of the eight staff ballots, and his general voting consistency places him in the top 30.
PFF gave Decker an encouraging 75.5 grade for the 2019 season, and he finished the year with a top-10 grade among offensive tackles in the last 10 weeks of the season. While not typically considered to be among the elite at left tackle, he has been a reliable linchpin at an important position for the Lions, and his level of play should see him rewarded with a sizable contract extension before he hits the open market in 2021.
28. Cody Whitehair, C, Bears
High: 22 (Curl)
Though the Bears’ offensive line didn’t have a very good year in 2019, their best player was Pro Bowl center Cody Whitehair, who made it onto all but two of our ballots: Jacob Infante’s and Jack R. Salo’s.
Whitehair played at left guard for a time last year, but his best play came after the Bears moved him back to center and placed James Daniels back at guard. The 2016 second-round pick hasn’t missed a single game in his professional career, and PFF, who rated him as the team’s most underrated player, has given him a career grade of 79.8 at the center position, placing him eighth in the league in that timeframe. A reliable run blocker who has arguably the team’s lone bright spot up front last year, he could be in for another great season if Chicago keeps him at center for the whole year.
27. Michael Pierce, DL, Vikings
High: 17 (Curl)
While only ranked on three staff ballots, Michael Pierce placed in at least the top 25 on each of the lists that ranked him: Patti Curl, Sam Householder and Aaron Leming.
Pierce is far from the flashiest defensive tackle in the league, as he has had just 3.5 sacks in his four seasons in the NFL. However, he had been a stellar run defender during his tenure with the Ravens, notching 151 tackles before signing a three-year, $27 million deal with the Vikings this offseason. He plays with incredible power in both his hands and his lower body, and the 6-foot, 345-pound mammoth of a man could be an extremely underrated contributor for Minnesota going forward.
26. Anthony Barr, LB, Vikings
High: 16 (Salo)
A four-time Pro Bowler who has been a consistent contributor for the Vikings’ defense over the years, Anthony Barr made appearances on four of our staff’s eight top-30 lists.
Barr is a versatile defender who can help contribute in the run game—he’s had 417 tackles in the past six seasons—drop back in coverage and occasionally rush the passer. He’s essentially the ultimate chess piece; a do-it-all impact player who has also served as a key figure in Minnesota’s locker room. The 6-foot-5, 255-pounder brings an enticing blend of size, speed and strength that makes him a tough linebacker for opposing teams to plan for each Sunday.
25. Trey Flowers, EDGE, Lions
High: 19 (Leming)
Listed on all but two ballots—Patti Curl’s and Robert Zeglinski’s—Trey Flowers was a much-needed addition to a Lions defense that didn’t necessarily have the strongest pass-rushing unit in the league.
Flowers finished with seven sacks in 2019 and has consistently been putting up totals around that range, as he has had no lower than 6.5 sacks and no higher than 7.5 sacks over the past four years. He finished eighth in the league with quarterback knockdowns, and he also finished in the top 20 in quarterback hurries. While not the flashiest edge rusher in the league, Flowers makes his presence felt every year, making him a worthy member of the top 25.
24. Eddie Goldman, DL, Bears
High: 12 (Householder)
Widely considered as one of the most underrated players in the NFC North, Eddie Goldman certainly got plenty of praise in our rankings. Sam Householder ranking him 12th overall catapulted him up the board, but three other staff members placed Goldman in their top 30, as well.
Goldman has served as a reliable, run-stuffing nose tackle for the Bears’ base 3-4 defense. Missing just two games over the past three season, he has been durable and consistent in eating up gaps, working through blocks and creating opportunities for his teammates. While his production doesn’t pop off the screen, he quietly serves as one of the cornerstones of Chicago’s defense.
23. Robert Quinn, EDGE, Bears
High: 19 (Zeglinski)
Low: 28 (Curl)
The first player to have been listed on every staff member’s ballot, Robert Quinn is expected to bring even more tenacity to a Bears front-seven that is already among the best in the league.
In 2019—his lone season with the Cowboys—Quinn tallied 11.5 sacks, 13 tackles for a loss and 22 quarterback hits, all of which being the highest tallies of his career since his first-team All-Pro appearance in 2013 with the Rams. The 30-year-old pass rusher is still as explosive, athletic and difficult to block as he was years ago, and with the two-time Pro Bowler showing little to no signs of regression, he and Khalil Mack should prove to be a formidable duo off the edge in Chicago.
22. Preston Smith, EDGE, Packers
High: 15 (Leming and Zimmerman)
Though his teammate Za’Darius Smith saw most of the headlines go his way, Preston Smith also had an impressive season off the edge for the Packers in 2019.
He put together a career year after signing a four-year, $52 million deal last offseason, tallying a personal-best 12 sacks that finished eighth in the league. He also finished in the top 20 in quarterback hits and overall quarterback pressures. Smith flourished with a new change of scenery after leaving the Redskins, and the incoming six-year veteran should prove to be a reliable force for Green Bay going forward. Though three staff members didn’t include him on their ballots, the ones who did all placed him in their top 20.
21. Jaire Alexander, CB, Packers
High: 11 (Zeglinski)
Jaire Alexander was ranked in all but one of the staff member ballots, with Jack R. Salo being the lone voter to leave him off. Two high rankings, particularly Robert Zeglinski’s ranking him 11th and Jacob Infante’s ranking him 13th, propel the incoming third-year cornerback this high, though.
Alexander took a big step in his sophomore campaign after what was an already solid rookie season. He intercepted two passes and finished with 17 pass deflections, placing him fourth in the league. He was heavily targeted all year, as his 110 times targeted was the third-highest total, but he still finished with the fourth-lowest completion percentage allowed among cornerbacks who were targeted at least 90 times all year. The Louisville alumnus has quickly developed into a shutdown cornerback who could soon take his rightful place among his position’s elite.