Since the NFL has been flooded with young talent over the last several drafts and many longtime superstars have retirement speeches on the horizon, now is the time for fans to get acquainted with the next generation of NFL superstars. While the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award is earned by the best player that season, the guy who is so valuable that he wouldn’t be traded for anybody is the real MVP. These are the players that front offices would want to add to their team, no matter what assets it ends up costing them.
Using PSO’s MVP Ranking grades that accounts for 2018 production, POSitional value, AGE, contract YEARS & $$$ remaining, RISK, and FUTURE potential, the 10 players listed below are foundational pieces for their respective franchises that NFL executives would never be willing to give up unless they received a player higher on the list.
In his first year as a starter, Mahomes became just the second player in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns and was named league MVP at just 23 years old, the youngest recipient since Dan Marino in 1983. No matter how you frame it, Mahomes’ 2018 season will forever be remembered as one of the all-time greatest quarterback performances in NFL history.
The Chiefs were just one offside penalty away from representing the AFC in the Super Bowl during his first year as a starter, and with another year running Andy Reid’s system and the addition of even more weapons (Mecole Hardman), the sky is the limit for Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense.
With the first overall pick of the 2018 draft, the Browns surprised many by selecting a 6’1 quarterback with questionable intangibles. Although it took three weeks to finally see the field, once Baker took the reigns from Tyrod Taylor, he, nor the Browns ever looked back.
Leading Cleveland on 4 game-winning drives (T-4th), Mayfield is more than capable of rallying his teammates together and executing under pressure. Along with his pure talent and athleticism, Baker plays with a burning passion and overwhelming enthusiasm, something that has Cleveland fans the most excited in half a century.
Despite absorbing a league-high 62 sacks last season, Watson led the Texans to an 11-5 record and the AFC South Division title after recovering from an ACL tear in November 2017. Of those 11 wins, nearly half of them (5) were courtesy of a fourth-quarter, game-winning drive led by Watson. The leadership and winning attitude that he showcased so often while leading Clemson to a national title transitioned seamlessly to the NFL, as he propelled Houston towards 9 consecutive wins after stumbling to an 0-3 start.
In just a season and a half, Watson has not only cemented himself as one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the NFL, but he has helped DeAndre Hopkins reach the ceiling of the best WR in the NFL. Pairing up with arguably the league’s best receiver, Deshaun Watson should continue making strides for years to come, assuming Houston eventually shores up their porous offensive line.
In his second season, Russell Wilson led the Seattle Seahawks to their very first Super Bowl victory and is the only QB in NFL history with a winning record in each of his 1st seven seasons, and Wilson hasn’t missed a single game during his NFL career.
Russell Wilson is a consistent winner who has set the standard for this next generation of quarterbacks. Although he recently became the highest-paid player in league history, Wilson’s stabilizing presence should continue carrying the Seahawks to the playoffs for the foreseeable future.
The term “freak of nature” is overused quite often when discussing players with top-of-the-line athleticism, but it is one that accurately describes Myles Garrett. He destroyed the NFL combine in 2017 and was considered a no-brainer selection for the top overall pick, regardless of the gaping hole Cleveland had at quarterback (before drafting Mayfield a year later).
Although he missed 5 games as a rookie, with 20.5 sacks through his first two seasons, he has already placed himself squarely in the discussion among the top pass rushers in the NFL. Not only does his sack total rank in the top-20 of all-time through a player’s first two seasons, but he also ranks 5th in quarterback hits (47) as well (since 2006).
In Garrett, the Browns have a defensive cornerstone who can not only play multiple positions but has the talent to win multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards when it’s all said and done. If all 32 teams in the NFL did a re-draft today, Garrett wouldn’t be the best player on the board (yet). But whatever team was the first to choose a defensive player to build around, they would pick him first thanks to his rare combination of youth, proven resume, and sky-high potential.
With two Defensive Player of the Year awards to his name already, Aaron Donald has effectively revolutionized the way in which interior defensive linemen are viewed. Primarily thought of as space-eaters who take up multiple blockers for playmakers on the EDGE or second level to make tackles, Donald has changed the game with his ability to penetrate the middle of Offensive Lines and constantly disrupt backfields himself.
He is a bit undersized compared to the traditional defensive tackle (6’1, 280 pounds), but his rare blend of elite speed, strength, and agility are unmatched by any DL that has come before him. Not many interior OL in the NFL can keep him in front of them, and the few that have a slight chance are instantly overpowered. If it wasn’t for his then-record-breaking contract extension, that forces a team like LA to have fewer resources for constructing the rest of the roster, Donald would be the top-ranked defensive player on this list.
Although Aaron Rodgers is far and away the oldest player on this list (35), there’s no denying that almost every single team in the NFL would gladly swap their signal-caller for his services, even if it’s just for half a decade. The Packers have fielded an insanely average roster over the last several years, but somehow, the 2x MVP always manages to keep them in the thick of the playoff hunt.
Rodgers simply does things other players aren’t capable of doing. His ability to consistently make accurate throws for big plays, get extra yards with his legs, and avoid turnovers at the same time is unmatched. Along with 338 career touchdowns compared to just 80 interceptions (including the lowest career INT rate 1.46% in NFL history), he sports the highest career passer rating (103.1) of any multi-year starter in the history of the game.
There’s no argument that Tom Brady is the most decorated and accomplished NFL player ever. However, Rodgers is widely considered the overall best quarterback in the league, maybe ever. Who knows what he could have accomplished if given a Belichick-esque head coach and system like New England.
If it wasn’t for a devastating ACL injury near the end of the 2017 season, Carson Wentz would have almost certainly won the league MVP award in his second year, and would likely be one of the frontrunners for these rankings. At just 26 years old, Wentz has proven that he possesses all of the tools to produce like an All-Pro quarterback, he just needs to stay on the field.
Over the last two seasons, he has missed 8 regular-season games and all 5 of the Eagles’ postseason games. If it wasn’t for the magic of Saint Nick Foles, the Eagles’ miraculous Super Bowl run would have likely ended more similarly to the 2016 Raiders when Derek Carr broke his leg in week 16.
With Foles off to Jacksonville and Wentz’ massive extension in place, there’s no longer a nagging, unspoken quarterback controversy. Wentz is the unquestioned face of the franchise and the Eagles will continue to build around him for the foreseeable future, and if he’s capable of staying healthy, another Lombardi Trophy may be headed to Philadelphia sooner rather than later.
In 2015, Khalil Mack became the first player in NFL history to be named an All-Pro at two positions: OLB and DE. Not only is he an elite talent as a pass rusher, but he instantly proved himself as one of the NFL’s premier edge-setters. No matter where he lines up on the field, be it DE, OLB, or even DT in a 4-3 scheme, he will wreak havoc on opposing offenses. Along with his 53 career sacks, Mack has proven to be a turnover machine with his two pick-6’s and 15 FF’s.
The trade package that Oakland received in exchange for Mack rivals some of the most impressive hauls in history and the Bears immediately one-upped Aaron Donald’s extension. Even without a full offseason or training camp, his presence alone transcended the entire Bears defense. They finished with far-and-away the league’s best defensive unit in 2018 (1st in points allowed, turnovers forced, and yards allowed per play) after hovering around the top-ten in 2017. That’s the kind of impact Mack has on the game, as one of the most valuable defenders in the NFL.
At just 22 years old, Saquon Barkley is the youngest player in the top-10, but he may be the most naturally-gifted, pure football player of the group. Ever since his days at Penn State, scouts and coaches alike have salivated his other-worldly talent and potential. All throughout the draft process, he was routinely compared to greats like Barry Sanders, Adrian Peterson, Todd Gurley, and so on.
As the highest-drafted running back since 2006 (Reggie Bush), Barkley immediately established himself as the gold standard for this new generation of running backs. Not only did he become just the 3rd rookie in NFL history to surpass 2,000 scrimmage yards, but he broke the rookie running back record for receptions with 91 (3rd all-time among all positions). He is the epitome of a dual-threat back that can fit in any type of offensive system and be a game-changer on any given play.