Who's the NFL's best quarterback? Wide receiver? Cornerback? What about the second-best defensive tackle -- after Aaron Donald? To preview the 2021 NFL season, we set out to answer those questions and much more.
We surveyed more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to help us stack the top 10 players at 11 different positions, from edge rusher to interior offensive linemen and all the way through tight ends. This is the second edition of these rankings, and there are several players who moved up and dropped from last year's lists.
Here's how our process worked: Voters gave us their best 10 to 15 players at a position, then we compiled the results and ranked candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, and interviews, research and film-study help from ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen. We had several ties, so we broke them by isolating the two-man matchup with additional voting and follow-up calls. Each section is packed with quotes and nuggets from the voters on every guy -- even the honorable mentions.
The objective is to identify the best players right now for 2021. This is not a five-year projection or an achievement award. Who's the best today? Pretty simple.
We'll roll out a position per day over 11 days. Here's the schedule:
The list of traits for today's elite quarterback is long. Cracking the top 10 of the NFL's best requires accuracy, anticipation and timing on throws; the range to play in multiple schemes; explosive-play ability; high-level arm strength; pocket awareness; and the ability to create plays on the move when things break down.
And being 43 years old, because somehow you can still be good at that age if you're Tom Brady.
Or being mad at your team, because two of the top four quarterbacks from this year's crew have gone through it with their respective employers this offseason.
Elite passers come in all styles and personalities, and these 10 players below embody that reality. If you're building a team from scratch, you start here.
Editor's note: The original quarterback ballot sent to voters included Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans, who finished fourth in last year's poll. Watson was removed from the rankings, however, due to his uncertain status for the 2021 season. He faces 22 active lawsuits alleging sexual assault and inappropriate behavior. At least eight of those accusers have spoken to police, according to reports. The NFL is investigating the matter.