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Friday, October 19, 2018

20 best playmakers in the NFL

Odell Beckham

How do you define an NFL playmaker? There isn’t a strict definition, but for us, we’re talking about players who can do the remarkable any time they’re on the field. It can be a quarterback who can improvise or uncork a 50-yard touchdown in the blink of an eye. It can be a running back who can use power, speed, or elusiveness to create something out of nothing. It can be a wide receiver who does the seemingly impossible while making a catch. It can even be a defensive player capable of that game-changing strip sack or a defensive back who can end an opposing possession just like that. These are the biggest game-changers, the guys who can make the biggest plays.

Here are the 20 best playmakers in the NFL.

20) Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

The only thing that has held Zeke back has been his suspension. Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards per game for the second consecutive season, though his mark of 98.3 was lower than his stellar 108.7 yards per game as a rookie in 2016. He has 12 career 100-yard rushing games and is very often rushing for at least 80 yards in a game. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry as a rookie and had a big play of 60 yards. Expect him to continue breaking big plays and consistently ranking among the league’s best rushers in 2018.

19) Jalen Ramsey, Jaguars

Ramsey is already quickly becoming one of those defensive backs who opponents avoid. Four interceptions in 16 games is still no joke, and that doesn’t even count his controversial win-sealing pick in the playoffs. Ramsey is an incredible athlete and has quickly become one of the game’s best corners. Any quarterback who throws toward him is taking an enormous risk.

18) Rob Gronkowski, Patriots

When the Patriots need a big play on offense, there’s usually very little doubt about who’s getting the ball: Gronk. He seems to be Tom Brady’s favorite target on third down, in the red zone, or any time Brady feels pressure. It’s easy to see why. Gronk has incredibly reliable hands, can break multiple tackles after a catch, and he’s able to routinely beat double teams. He has a rare combination of size and skill. Few other tight ends in history can match his total of 88 touchdown catches between the regular season and playoffs combined. He even averaged 21.6 yards per catch in 2016. How many other tight ends can do that?

17) Todd Gurley, Rams

All it took was the proper coach in charge of the Rams to maximize Gurley’s talents and show everyone what a playmaker he is. Under new head coach Sean McVay, Gurley exploded last season with 13 rushing touchdowns and 19 total touchdowns, both of which led the league. Not only did he set a career mark with 1,305 rushing yards last year, but he also had 64 catches for 788 yards and six touchdowns — all of which were career-highs. Now officially a dual-threat in the backfield, Gurley will not easily be stopped.

16) Marcus Peters, Rams

Peters was traded by the Chiefs to the Rams over the offseason, but that wasn’t because of a lack of production on the field. Peters has quickly established himself as one of the best playmaking defensive backs in the game. He has 19 career interceptions in just three years, including a league-best eight in 2015. But it’s not just the amount of interceptions he has; he knows what to do with the ball after getting turnovers. He twice has led the NFL in return yards after an interception and now has 480 in his career. Beyond the interceptions, he also has five career forced fumbles and five career fumble recoveries, including one returned for a touchdown last year.

15) Von Miller, Broncos

Like the rest of the Broncos, Miller’s 2017 wasn’t quite up to the usual standards. It says a lot about the bar you’ve set for yourself when ten sacks and two forced fumbles seem underwhelming, but Miller has been so consistently great over the course of his career that it does feel like a letdown. His five sacks during the 2015 postseason should tell you what he’s capable of. Still very much in his prime, a rebound is likely in 2018 as long as he stays healthy. He’s still one of the very best defensive players in football.

14) Drew Brees, Saints

The Saints’ offensive gameplan certainly helps, but no quarterback makes more plays than Brees, who routinely leads the NFL in both completions and passing yardage. The latter didn’t happen in 2017 — it dropped to 4,334 — but he still threw for 23 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Maybe Brees’ best days are behind him. That doesn’t change the fact that he remains one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the game.

13) Joey Bosa, Chargers

It took less than two seasons for Bosa to establish himself as an elite pass-rusher. In those two seasons, he’s collected 23 sacks and forced four fumbles. The scary part is that he’s only going to get better, as he’s only just turning 23. AFC West quarterbacks should be very afraid — it won’t be long before Bosa is pushing for 15 sack seasons, perhaps even more.

12) JJ Watt, Texans

The only reason Watt isn’t higher on this list is the string of injuries that have limited him to just eight games over the past two seasons. That’s a shame, because when healthy, few players are better. Watt has two 20-sack seasons to his name, has been known to knock down a few passes, and has recovered 13 fumbles over his NFL career. If you really need an indication of how talented and versatile Watt is, look at how he’s been utilized on offense.

11) Cam Newton, Panthers

There was a time when Newton was probably the best playmaker in the NFL, but a pair of underwhelming seasons have taken some of the shine off him. All the same, his 2017 season saw him throw for 22 touchdowns, and his 754 rushing yards were actually a career-best. He’s now up to 4,320 rushing yards and 54 rushing touchdowns, on top of what he can do as a passer. Newton can still be prone to mistakes and bad decisions, but there isn’t another NFL quarterback quite like him.

See Nos. 10-1 on Page 2

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