Ranking top-10 NFL players heading into 2019 season

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It is never too early to start chatting about the 2019 NFL season. This takes every player back to Square 1 to start racking up their stat lines.

With some players naturally in better positions than others to succeed, we have ranked the following 10 NFL players — from No. 10 to No. 1 — for 2019.

P.S. A couple of stars from last year did not make our cut.

10. Antonio Brown wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers

Despite Brown’s drama with the Steelers, he is still one of the NFL’s most talented players. The All-Pro wideout recorded a league-high 15 touchdowns last season and has averaged a stellar 100 receiving yards per game over his last five campaigns. It is no wonder that the Steelers are already fielding trade offers for Brown as we speak. While this is brewing, Brown continues to work out like a warrior to be in top physical shape and offer his best to a new club for 2019.

9. Fletcher Cox, defensive tackle, Philadelphia Eagles

As a staple on the Eagles defense, Cox finished his last season with a career-best 10.5 sacks and a menacing total of 24 quarterback hits. This came along with 46 combined tackles and a fumble recovery. His dominance on the field should continue as he is primed to play several franchises in 2019 with sketchy and/or young quarterbacks. This would include the likes of the Bills, Jets, Bears, Giants, Redskins and the Dolphins. Talk about some savory offensive pairings for Cox to sample.

8. Drew Brees, quarterback, New Orleans Saints

It takes a lot to make a top 10 list out of hundreds of viable NFL players. But, there is nothing to indicate Brees chokes in 2019. He finished last season with a 115.7 quarterback rating and having completed 74.4 percent of his passes — both of which were tops in the league. All the while he threw for 32 touchdowns versus only five interceptions. The future Hall of Fame quarterback will be surrounded with most of the same talent on offense as he was last season, which primes him for amazing success in 2019.

7. Bobby Wagner, linebacker, Seattle Seahawks

Wagner was graded the highest at his position last season according to Pro Football Focus. This is after he tallied 138 combined tackles in addition to an interception returned for a 98-yard touchdown, two forced fumbles and one sack. He is thriving and should be slated for another magnificent season. This is especially true because the four-time All-Pro will be pitted against some vulnerable offenses in 2019. Those would include Wagner facing the Cardinals twice in addition to playing the Browns, Bengals, Ravens and the Buccaneers. Fun stuff.

6. Saquon Barkley, running back, New York Giants

Barkley lived up to every expectation and beyond as a rookie. He was a gem to own in fantasy football in his first season after he recorded a ridiculous 2,028 scrimmage yards and 15 touchdowns. For this, the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year should keep delivering the goods in 2019. With quarterback Eli Manning continuing to struggle, and no signs of a change of command at that position as of yet, Barkley should remain his quarterback’s favored dump-off candidate once again this fall.

5. Michael Thomas, wide receiver, New Orleans Saints

Thomas is developing into one of the NFL’s premier receivers. He recorded a league-high 125 receptions while doing so at a magnificent 85 percent catch rate last season. Why for any reason, would this stop in 2019? Thomas and the aforementioned Brees have amazing chemistry, and the 25-year-old receiver should continue to give fits to opposing defenders for the foreseeable future.

4. Khalil Mack, linebacker, Chicago Bears

When the Oakland Raiders were not willing to make a deal to keep Mack around, they shipped him off to the Bears. With a fresh change of scenery and perhaps a chip on his shoulder, Mack crushed it in Chicago. He managed 12.5 sacks in 14 games, along with 47 combined tackles, six forced fumbles and glorious pick-six to kick off the season with his new team. As long as he stays healthy, Mack should continue being opposing quarterbacks’ worst nightmare come September.

3. Ezekiel Elliott, running back, Dallas Cowboys

Elliott is our top choice at running back on this list. He has been simply amazing thus far in his NFL career. With the exception of his suspension-shortened season, Elliott led the league in both 2016 and 2018 for rushes and rushing yards. And, in all three of his seasons, he led the NFL in rushing yards averaged per game. His career average is a stunning 101.2 per contest. Whether it’s leaping over defenders or ripping off some huge runs, Elliott remains on tap for another smashing year.

2. Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs

We did not forget about the NFL’s MVP for 2018. Mahomes put up stellar first season as a starter. Not many quarterbacks exceed 5,000 passing yards and score 50 passing touchdowns in one season. Mahomes achieved multiple records and there is no way he takes a cliff dive in 2019. His chemistry will only get better with his ultra-talented offensive teammates on an offense that averaged a league-high 35.3 points per game last season. Magical to watch, Mahomes suiting back up and hitting the field cannot happen fast enough.

1. Aaron Donald, defensive tackle, Los Angeles Rams 

Donald is a guy who opposing quarterbacks should be downright scared to face in 2019. The 27-year-old pass rusher will return after recording league and career-highs of 20.5 sacks and 25 tackles for losses of yards. This was accomplished en route to earning AP Defensive Player of the Year honors. He should continue being a force to contend against with no end in sight as to how many punishing hits and tackles he has up his sleeve this fall.