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WCG’s NFC North Consensus Top 50: Nos. 20-11

In our latest NFC North Top 50 article, we reveal who placed 11th through 20th on our consensus staff board.

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few days, we at Windy City Gridiron have been releasing the top 50 players in the NFC North as voted upon by members of our staff.

With over half of the list having been revealed to this point, we now find ourselves at the players ranked 11 through 20 on our list. From up-and-coming talents to proven veterans, from offensive stars to defensive difference-makers, this portion of the list has its fair share of recognizable names. And, spoiler alert: we finally have a quarterback making an appearance!

Here’s a quick refresher of which players have been ranked in case you missed any of the previous articles:

  • 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
  • 29. Taylor Decker
  • 28. Cody Whitehair
  • 27. Michael Pierce
  • 26. Anthony Barr
  • 25. Trey Flowers
  • 24. Eddie Goldman
  • 23. Robert Quinn
  • 22. Preston Smith
  • 21. Jaire Alexander

20. Anthony Harris, S, Vikings

High: 10 (Wiltfong)

Low: N/R

Anthony Harris finally secured a full-time starting position in the Vikings’ secondary in 2019, and he certainly made the most of the opportunity.

An incoming six-year NFL veteran, Harris tied for the league lead in interceptions with six, tying first-team All-Pros Stephon Gilmore and Tre’Davious White, while returning one of his picks back for a touchdown. Harris also finished sixth at the safety position with 11 pass deflections. Keep in mind, these numbers came about despite only being targeted 23 times all year. He also finished with a passer rating allowed of just 45.0, a rating that would have finished eighth in the league had he met the cut-off criterion of being targeted 25 times. While still somewhat under the radar, Harris certainly played at a high level in 2019.

19. Kyle Fuller, CB, Bears

High: 9 (Salo)

Low: 25 (Wiltfong)

He didn’t put up the first-team All-Pro numbers that he had in 2018, but Kyle Fuller was still plenty productive last season and served as a rock-solid No. 1 cornerback for Chicago.

Making it to his second career Pro Bowl, Fuller had three interceptions and 12 pass deflections, both stats that placed him in the top 25 among the league. The 2014 first-round pick now has 18 interceptions in the five seasons he played, including a league-best seven interceptions in 2018, as well as 74 pass deflections in the last three years alone. Yes, he allowed a completion percentage of 70.8 when targeted, but the ball production, aided by his instincts, ball skills and athletic ability, make him a legitimate No. 1 cornerback in a league that prioritizes that role more than most other positions in the league.

18. Harrison Smith, S, Vikings

High: 14 (Householder)

Low: 21 (Zimmerman, Curl)

With five straight Pro Bowls and two All-Pro appearances to his name, Harrison Smith was one of the best safeties in the NFL over the span of the 2010s.

Despite entering his ninth year in the league, Smith played at a very high level in 2019. He finished the year off with three interceptions, a familiar trend in his career: he has had at least three interceptions in five of his eight played seasons. He allowed a passer rating of just 41.7 last season, a rating that placed fourth in the entire league. The accomplished veteran tied for the sixth-most pass deflections in the league for safety with 11, among those he tied with being teammate Anthony Harris. A hard-hitting, intelligent defensive back with a penchant for making plays, Smith doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.

17. Aaron Jones, RB, Packers

High: 11 (Zimmerman, Salo)

Low: 27 (Curl)

While his 2018 production of 728 yards and eight touchdowns on 133 carries was solid, very few expected Aaron Jones to explode the way he did heading into the 2019 season.

Jones tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns with 16, tying Derrick Henry despite having 67 fewer carries than the Titans’ workhorse back. He placed 12th in the league with 1,084 yards, his first season topping the 1,000-yard mark. He also proved a steady hand as a pass-catcher, finishing in the top 15 at the running back position with 49 receptions, adding 474 receiving yards and three touchdowns. A determined runner who brings good agility, soft hands and nice breakaway speed, Jones has the skill set to put together another quality season in 2020.

16. Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings

High: 5 (Zeglinski)

Low: N/R

Kirk Cousins was certainly an interesting case when it came to our staff ballots. Robert Zeglinski and Aaron Leming both placed him inside of their top 10, while Patti Curl and Jack R. Salo both left him out of the top 30 entirely. While his ultimate standing varied by each WCG staffer, the general consensus was that Cousins is a top-20 player within his division.

Cousins is coming off of a nice 2019 campaign, in which he finished with 3,603 yards, 26 touchdowns and six interceptions in 15 games. The interception total marks the lowest total he has had since becoming a full-time starter in the league, and his 69.1 completion percentage placed fifth in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks. He led the Vikings to a playoff appearance, and he was named to the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career. Though not necessarily the flashiest quarterback in the league, Cousins has firmly established himself as a franchise player who is capable of leading a winning team.

15. Kenny Clark, DL, Packers

High: 5 (Curl)

Low: 29 (Zeglinski)

A first-time Pro Bowler in 2019, Kenny Clark finally gained national recognition after quietly being one of the best nose tackles in the league since he entered a full-time starting role in 2017.

Clark is arguably the best pass-rushing nose tackle in the NFL today, as he had six sacks in 2019 and has totaled 16.5 sacks over the past three years. For someone whose job is to essentially eat up space and free up one-on-one blocking opportunities for more effective pass-rushers, it’s certainly impressive to see him putting up those types of numbers from such a position. He’s no slouch against the run either, as his explosive first step and powerful anchor make him a pain to shut down along the interior. His fifth-year option having been picked up from the 2016 draft, Clark is surely due for a massive contract extension when the time comes.

14. Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions

High: 10 (Leming, Zeglinski)

Low: 23 (Curl)

After making the Pro Bowl in 2019 and finishing with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons over the past two years, there’s no denying that Kenny Golladay is a star in the making.

The incoming fourth-year wide receiver led the NFL with 11 receiving touchdowns last season, also tallying 65 catches and 1,190 yards. The year prior, Golladay broke out onto the scene with 70 catches for 1,063 yards and five touchdowns in his sophomore campaign. The Northern Illinois alumnus has used his tremendous 6-foot-4, 214-pound frame, his admirable abilities at the catch point and sneaky athleticism to quickly develop into the top wide out on the Lions’ roster. He’s been very good over the past two seasons, but with another 1,000-yard year, Golladay can solidify himself among his position’s elite.

13. Allen Robinson, WR, Bears

High: 11 (Infante)

Low: 21 (Salo)

Allen Robinson entered the 2019 season with a full offseason to prepare for the year at full strength, as he was still recovering from his torn ACL when he signed with the Bears in the spring of 2018. This past year, he was that legitimate No. 1 receiver they wanted him to be.

Robinson finished with a career-high 98 catches, a total that placed seventh in the league, while adding 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns. The first Bears receiver to reach 1,000 yards since Alshon Jeffery in 2014, Robinson’s blend of size, speed, physicality, ball skills and route-running intelligence made him a reliable target for a Chicago offense that otherwise had next to no spark throughout the entirety of the year. If he proves willing to sign a contract extension with them before he hits free agency in 2021—and he has indicated that he would—then it would be a no-brainer to keep him locked up for the long haul.

12. Eric Kendricks, LB, Vikings

High: 5 (Salo)

Low: 25 (Leming)

Eric Kendricks had the best year of his career in 2019, solidifying himself as one of the best off-ball linebackers in the league.

Kendricks finished the year with 110 tackles, 30 run stops—a total that ranked sixth among linebackers—and a positional-best 12 pass deflections. He was equally impactful as both a run defender and as a linebacker dropping back in coverage. An athletic player for the linebacker position, he is able to keep up with several players from a pure speed standpoint and has the intelligence to jump a route and make a play on the ball. He was named a Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro member in 2019—both first-time achievements for him—and he will look to build off of his career year and continue to make an impact for Minnesota’s defense.

11. Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings

High: 6 (Leming, Salo)

Low: 17 (Wiltfong, Householder, Zimmerman)

Though coming off of a down year in which he played just 10 games and a 41.8 yards per game that stands as his worst average since becoming a starter in 2016, Adam Thielen’s track record is one of the more impressive in the league.

Thielen was coming off of back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons heading into 2019, having totaled 2,649 yards and 13 touchdowns on 204 receptions from the span of 2017 to 2018. Before that, he broke out onto the scene with 69 catches and 967 yards in 2016, despite not starting in six games that year. He is a reliable target who wins with incredible route-running expertise, acute footwork and an attention to detail that allows him to create separation in a variety of ways. Time will tell if his performance last year was indicative of regression, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Thielen went back to his dominant ways in 2020.