25 best B1G players in the NFL
When you turn on the on the television on Sunday afternoons to get your weekly dose of NFL football, you’re going to hear a lot of B1G names during the broadcast. Each year, the conference produces a number of extremely talented players that go on to have outstanding professional careers.
Some stand out more than others, though.
As the NFL kicks off a unique and challenging season in 2020, we’re taking a look at the 25 best players that will be taking the field this fall. It was tough to narrow the list down to just 25, with so many excellent former B1G stars making a strong case to make the cut.
Here’s a look at the 25 best B1G players hitting the NFL turf in 2020:
25. Melvin Gordon, RB, Denver Broncos
College: Wisconsin Years Pro: 6
Gordon has had somewhat of an up-and-down career in the NFL since being selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. Now that he’s moved on from the Los Angeles Chargers organization, there’s some thought that the former Wisconsin running back could be in store for a big season. Gordon has totaled 4,240 yards on the ground and 1,873 receiving yards through five seasons, while accounting for 47 total touchdowns. The two-time Pro Bowl running back will be entering his first year with the Broncos.
24. Taylor Lewan, OT, Tennessee Titans
College: Michigan Years Pro: 7
If you want to know how talented Lewan is, look no further than the contract he received from the Titans in 2018. He signed a 5-year deal worth $80 million, making him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history. Lewan is a three-time Pro Bowl selection and the anchor on an offensive line that blocked for Derrick Henry in 2019, who ended up winning the league’s rushing title with 1,540 yards to close out the season.
23. Brandon Scherff, OG, Washington Football Team
College: Iowa Years Pro: 6
Scherff enters his sixth season in the NFL, spending his entire career in Washington. The former Hawkeye has been a star since making the leap to the professional ranks, named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team in 2015 and earning a Pro Bowl selection three times (2016, 2017 & 2019). Scherff has started all 65 games he’s played in since arriving in Washington in 2015.
22. Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland Browns
College: Ohio State Years Pro: 3
Through his first two years in Cleveland, Ward has made a strong impact on the field. He’s played in 25 games with 24 starts already to his name. He’s totaled 97 tackles with 22 pass break-ups, 5 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries with the Browns. At the end of his rookie season in 2018, Ward was a two-time Defensive Rookie of the Week and earned Pro Bowl honors. Early in his career, Ward is showing why Ohio State makes the claim to “DB U.”
21. Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears
College: Penn State Years Pro: 7
A knee injury in 2017 may have thrown Robinson’s NFL career off the tracks a tad, but the former Penn State star has responded well after two years in Chicago. Last season, Robinson had 98 receptions for 1,147 yards and 7 touchdowns, the second-most productive year of his NFL career. The ex-Nittany Lion was a Pro Bowl selection in 2015 after totaling 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns on 80 catches with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Now that he’s rolling again, Robinson could be one of the top receivers in the NFL in 2020.
20. Devin McCourty, S, New England Patriots
College: Rutgers Years Pro: 11
You have to be pretty skilled to spend your entire 11-year NFL career with a dynasty, and that’s exactly why McCourty finds himself on this list. The first-round selection in 2010 has never left New England and has developed into one of the most talented safeties in the league. In over a decade on the field, McCourty has piled up 772 tackles, broken up 87 passes, intercepted 26 more and forced 11 fumbles. The former Rutgers star is a three-time Super Bowl champion, two-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro second-team selection. Even at 33, McCourty is still a dynamic playmaker.
19. Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings
College: Michigan State Years Pro: 9
Cousins may not have the same flash appeal as other quarterbacks in the NFL, but he’s certainly capable of getting the job done. From 2015 through 2018, Cousins threw for more than 4,000 yards each season, while completing at least 64 percent of his passes and throwing a minimum of 25 touchdown strikes. In 2019, the former Spartan led the Minnesota Vikings to a postseason appearance after throwing for 3,603 yards and 26 touchdowns with just 6 interceptions, earning the second Pro Bowl honor of his career. This season, Cousins will likely the 25,000-yard milestone in career passing yardage.
18. Frank Clark, DE, Kansas City Chiefs
College: Michigan Years Pro: 6
After spending his first four seasons in Seattle, Clark helped Kansas City win a Super Bowl championship last season with one of his more productive seasons in the league. He registered 8 sacks, forced 3 fumbles and intercepted a pass in 14 regular season games with the Chiefs. He was even better in the postseason, collected 5 sacks and 9 total tackles in those three games. In his first five years, Clark has already been credited with 165 tackles, 43 sacks and 11 forced fumbles.
17. Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Minnesota Vikings
College: Maryland Years Pro: 5
Ngakoue will be entering his first season with the Vikings in 2020, spending the first four years of his NFL career with Jacksonville. And during that time, the former Terrapin has been as consistent as they come in the professional ranks. He’s appeared in all but one game of his NFL career, making 62 starts over four years. Ngakoue has totaled at least 8 sacks every season, with a career-high coming in 2017 when he got to the quarterback 12 times. He’s also forced 14 fumbles in the early years of his career. Ngakoue should be a fun defensive end to keep an eye on in Minnesota this year.
16. Ryan Ramczyk, OT, New Orleans Saints
College: Wisconsin Years Pro: 4
A former first-round selection out of Wisconsin, Ramczyk has received some sort of postseason accolade in each of his first three seasons with the Saints. He was a PFWA All-Rookie selection in 2017, was a second-team All-Pro in 2018 and received first-team All-Pro honors in 2019. Ramczyk has continues the tradition of Wisconsin developing strong talent along the offensive line, making 47 starts through his first 48 NFL games with New Orleans. It’s further evidence that the Badgers are still known for producing some of the best there is along the front lines.
15. Cameron Heyward, DE, Pittsburgh Steelers
College: Ohio State Years Pro: 10
This season marks the 10th in the NFL for Heyward, who recently signed a monstrous 4-year extension worth $65.6 million to remain with the Pittsburgh Steelers, making him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history over the age of 30, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. That extension came with good reason, as Heyward has received Pro Bowl honors each of the last three seasons, accounting for 29 sacks, 12 pass break-ups and 4 forced fumbles. The former Buckeye has spent his entire career in Pittsburgh, and there’s a good chance he ends his NFL days with the Steelers, as well.
14. Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills
College: Maryland Years Pro: 6
The best two years of Diggs’ career have come in the last two seasons, totaling over 1,000 receiving yards in back-to-back campaigns. In his five seasons with Minnesota, Diggs accumulated 4,623 yards and 30 touchdowns as a receiver, totaling at least 700 receiving yards in every season he’s been in the NFL. Now, the former Maryland standout hopes that he’ll be able to have similar results in Buffalo, as he starts his first season outside of Minnesota.
13. Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans Saints
College: Ohio State Years Pro: 4
Lattimore has been an instant-impact player in New Orleans since being selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Already, the ex-Ohio State defensive back has been selected to the Pro Bowl twice and has made an appearance in the postseason in all three years in the league. He’s hit a double-digit total in pass break-ups in each of his first three seasons with the Saints, and has compiled 168 tackles and 8 interceptions in regular season contests. In 4 postseason games, Lattimore has been credited with 20 stops, 6 pass break-ups and 4 interceptions. In 2017, Lattimore was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.
12. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
College: Wisconsin Years Pro: 10
Yes, injuries have hindered Watt over the last four seasons, but when he’s healthy the Texans defensive end is still one of the most dominant players in the NFL. The former Badger star had a strong year in 2018 after back-t0-back injury-riddled seasons, collecting 16 sacks, forcing 7 fumbles and breaking up 4 fumbles. Unfortunately, Watt appeared in just 8 games last season because of a torn pectoral muscle, marking the third time in four seasons his year was cut short. Though Watt has had his issues with injuries, he’s still an intimidating defensive end and a game changer when on the field.
11. Joey Bosa, DE, Los Angeles Chargers
College: Ohio State Years Pro: 5
Bosa made a strong impact in his first season in the NFL, totaling 10.5 sacks and 41 tackles on his way to earning the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2016. Over the course of his four seasons, Bosa has hit a double-digit sack total three times, been named to the Pro Bowl twice and received a spot on the PFWA All-Rookie Team. In four seasons with the Charges, the former No. 3 overall selection has racked up more than 200 tackles and 40 sacks. It didn’t take long for Bosa to become one of the best defensive linemen in the AFC.
10. Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
College: Penn State: Years Pro: 4
The 2019 season was the best of Godwin’s young career in the NFL. Last year, the wide receiver posted career highs for receptions (86), receiving yards (1,333) and touchdown catches (9). For his efforts, he was a first-time Pro Bowl selection and was named to the All-Pro second-time, marking the first time he received any accolades in the professional ranks. Now, with Tom Brady under center in Tampa, Godwin may have the opportunity to prove that he can be one of the most consistent receivers in the NFC entering his fourth year in the league.
9. T.J. Watt, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
College: Wisconsin Years Pro: 4
The younger Watt is following in his older brother’s footsteps early in his NFL career. In each of his first three seasons with the Steelers, Watt has earned honors, twice as a Pro Bowl selection (2018-19) and once as a PFWA All-Rookie selection. The 2019 campaign was a big one for Watt, who tallied a career-highs with 14.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, 8 pass break-ups and 2 interceptions. He literally did everything on the defensive end for Pittsburgh. Watt’s numbers have gotten better each year, which means expectations are high in 2020.
8. Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
College: Michigan Years Pro: 21
Putting Brady at the top of the list based purely on career accomplishments would be easy. But, as the six-time Super Bowl winner is on the back end of his career, there’s little doubt that he’s not quite as dominant as he once was. Still, Brady could turn Tampa Bay into a Super Bowl contender pretty quickly. Brady is still capable of making all the throw and leading a prolific NFL offense. Brady will surpass 75,000 career passing yards this season and could compete in his 10th Super Bowl by season’s end. It would be another incredible feat for the three-time league MVP.
7. George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers
College: Iowa Years Pro: 4
Four seasons later, it’s really hard to believe Kittle fell to the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. But that’s paid off quite nicely for San Francisco, which now has one of the game’s premier tight ends on the roster. Kittle has tallied more than 1,000 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns in each of the last two seasons, resulting in a pair of Pro Bowl honors and a lucrative new 5-year, $75 million contract with the 49ers. He’s now the highest-paid tight end in the league. The former Hawkeye was a huge part of the San Francisco offense last season, which resulted in a Super Bowl appearance.
6. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
College: Purdue Years Pro: 20
Brees doesn’t own nearly the hardware that Brady has collected during his two-decade-long career in the NFL, but the former Boilermaker owns just about every major passing record in the league’s history. Because he’s also on the final years of his career, Brees has lost just a little bit of the zip he had, but he’s still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL right now. And with so many offensive weapons in New Orleans, Brees has everything in the arsenal to help the Saints make another push for a Super Bowl title — which would be the second of his career. With another solid season in 2020, Brees may eclipse 80,000 career passing yards.
5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
College: Ohio State Years Pro: 5
A sure 1,000-yard rusher, Elliott has eclipsed that milestone three times in his first four years in the NFL. The only exception came in 2016, when he played in just 10 games but still amassed 983 yards on the ground. Not only that, Elliott has proven to be an exceptional pass-catcher out of the backfield, totaling 1,619 receiving yards over four years. The former Ohio State running back is a three-time Pro Bowl selection, a two-time NFL rushing champion and a two-time All-Pro selection. Over his first four years with the Cowboys, Elliott has totaled 5,405 rushing yards and accounted for 48 total touchdowns.
4. Nick Bosa, DE, San Francisco 49ers
College: Ohio State Years Pro: 2
Not all that often would you find a guy entering his second NFL season inside the Top 5 on a list like this. But the younger Bosa brother is a special player capable of being the best at his position. He earned all kinds of accolades following his first season, being named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year, the PFWA Rookie of the Year and earning Pro Bowl honors. He totaled 47 tackles, 9 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception in his first season with the 49ers. Imagine what he can do with a year of experience under his belt.
3. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
College: Penn State Years Pro: 3
Barkley’s talent and athleticism didn’t stop impressing when he left Penn State. In two short years with the Giants, the former Nittany Lion is becoming one of the game’s most dynamic offensive players. Barkley had a big rookie campaign, hitting the 100-yard mark 12 times on the ground and reaching the end zone 15 total times. He was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year and was earned Pro Bowl honors. Barkley’s production saw a dip in 2019, but still eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on the ground despite missing three games. In two seasons, Barkley has rushed for 2,310 yards, had 1,159 receiving yards and accounted for 23 total touchdowns.
2. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
College: Wisconsin Years Pro: 9
Even nine years into his NFL career, Wilson is still one of the league’s most dynamic players at the quarterback position. He’s a tremendous passer and still possesses the elusiveness and running ability that haunts defensive players. Last year, Wilson eclipsed the 4,000-yard mark through the air for the third time in his career, while also rushing for more than 300 yards and accounting for 34 touchdowns. Wilson has completed over 65 percent of his passes each of his last two seasons and has 66 touchdown passes with just 12 interceptions. Seattle has reached the postseason seven times in Wilson’s eight seasons as quarterback, and he’s a Super Bowl winner and seven-time Pro Bowl selection.
1. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
College: Ohio State Years Pro: 5
Thomas has become the NFL’s premier receiver and one of the top offensive players in the game with ridiculous receiving totals throughout his first four years with the Saints. Thomas has eclipsed 1,000 yards as a receiver every season, culminating in a record-breaking season in 2019, when he caught 149 passes for 1,725 yards and 9 touchdowns. Last season, Thomas was the NFL Offensive Player of the Year and has been the receptions leader in back-to-back seasons. Though his production hasn’t yet resulted in a Super Bowl title for New Orleans, Thomas is the most sure-handed receiver in the NFL and is easily one of the most electrifying players you’ll see on Sunday afternoons.