*It's that time of year again, when NFL players cast their votes to identify the best in the league heading into the 2019 NFL season. From July 22 through the 31st, NFL Media will reveal a new set of 10 names daily from the "Top 100 Players of 2019." Check in here and on NFL Network each day at 9 p.m. ET to see where your favorite players rank. *
After three years unranked, Weddle just sneaks back in the Top 100. Coincidentally, he was named to the Pro Bowl in each of the last three years with Baltimore. In 2018, Weddle started all 16 games for the Ravens and finished second on the team with 54 tackles. He was a huge part of the Ravens getting back to the postseason for the first time since 2014. The Ravens' defense was first in total defense and allowed the second-fewest points in the league. He'll be missed as he moves west to play for the Rams in 2019.
If you ever watch NFL Network -- which I assume you do if you're reading this -- you know what Henry did this season. In Marshawn-esque fashion, Henry embarrassed the Jaguars' defense en route to an NFL-record 99-yard touchdown run. That was undoubtedly the highlight of Henry's season, but the play actually overshadowed the improvements he made all season. Henry set a career-high in rushing yards (1,059), touchdowns (12) and yards per attempt (4.9). This is his first Top 100 ranking, and it likely won't be his last.
On the surface, Lockett's numbers are solid. He had 57 receptions, 965 yards and 10 touchdowns -- all career highs. There's more to it, though. Lockett had 70 targets in 2018, and on those 70 targets, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson posted a perfect passer rating (158.3), according to the NFL Football Operations Department. Since 2002, the previous target high for receiver whose quarterback had a perfect rating was 15. Lockett's stats combined with the advanced numbers make him one of the more underrated receivers in the NFL.
Make it four for four in terms of new players on the list. Jones, 26, emerged as top corner in 2018 after primarily playing safety in 2016 and 2017. He made his first Pro Bowl appearance and was named second-team All-Pro. Like Lockett, Jones is a guy whose stats aren't going to jump off the page, but his advanced numbers justify the ranking. According to Pro Football Focus, the Cowboys earned the No. 7 team coverage grade in 2018, up from No. 15 in 2017. Individually, Jones earned a 83.1 overall grade for PFF, ranking seventh of 131 qualifying corners. He's a key piece moving forward, and -- like Dak Prescott -- he's set to hit free agency next offseason.
Wentz is the first player to appear in back-to-back Top 100s, but he also fell the most spots (93) of any player. A dip in production was expected, as Wentz was coming off a torn ACL the previous December. He missed the first two games of the season while recovering and then missed the final three regular season games and two playoff games after suffering a back injury. Still, Wentz finished with 21 touchdowns and 3,074 passing yards in 11 games and was rewarded with the most guaranteed money in NFL history. Nick Foles is off to Jacksonville, so questions about Foles vs. Wentz are gone in Philly. Now, the pressure is on Wentz to stay healthy and perform.
The Bears' decision to match the Packers' four-year, $56 million offer to Fuller last spring proved to be crucial to Chicago's breakout season in 2018. Fuller, 27, led the NFL with seven interceptions and 21 passes defended and the Bears had the No. 7 pass defense. Fuller's seven interceptions came against a wide variety of quarterbacks -- from guys like Tom Brady and Jared Goff to Nathan Peterman and Brock Osweiler. He routinely matched up with top receivers ( Odell Beckham Jr., Alshon Jeffery, etc.) and continued to make big plays. Chicago needs a repeat performance from Fuller in 2019 after losing defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to the Broncos.
This ranking is long overdue for Schwartz. A 2012 second-round pick by the Browns, Schwartz has never been a Top 100 pick despite making second-team All-Pro in 2016 and 2017. Schwartz elevated his game a notch in 2018, though. He was named first-team All-Pro and won PFF's Matthews Award for best offensive lineman in the NFL. He was one of just three tackles with a top-10 grade in pass and run blocking. For the high-flying Chiefs offense, offensive line play is critical. Schwartz handled his business in 2018 and remains a vital piece on the right side of the line.
The youngest Watt brother makes his first appearance in the Top 100 after a strong sophomore campaign. Watt ranked third in the league with seven forced fumbles in 2018, one behind his older brother, J.J., and eighth in the league with 13.0 sacks. The second-year pro should be a mainstay in the Top 100 if he keeps on his current trajectory. J.J. similarly missed the cut in his rookie year before jumping to No. 5 in Year 2. T.J. isn't on that level, clearly, but making the list this early in his career bodes well for the future.
Make that four straight Pro Bowls and three straight Top 100 rankings for Casey. The 2011 third-round pick has been a rock for the Titans over the past eight years, playing in 125 of a possible 128 games. In 2018, Casey was PFF's highest-graded interior defensive lineman in the AFC South by a wide margin. Even as he nears his 30th birthday in December, Casey remains one of the most consistent players at his position.
Watching Whitworth, 37, celebrate his first career playoff win on the field with his family was adorable. Perhaps no player was more deserving of that moment, as Whitworth spent 11 years in Cincinnati and one in Los Angeles before winning that first playoff game (he had been 0-7). On the field, Whitworth hardly declined in 2018, still ranking as a high-end offensive tackle. He was PFF's highest-graded tackle in the 2018 postseason before the Super Bowl (87.0), ahead of guys like Trent Brown and the aforementioned Mitchell Schwartz. It's fair to expect Whitworth's production to drop off at some point soon, but he's shown little to suggest it's coming in 2019.