#70 – CJ Mosley, Linebacker, Baltimore Ravens
The third year linebacker had, by his previous record, his worst NFL season to date, with just 92 combined tackles, eight passes defended, four interceptions, and one forced fumble – that’s right, by his standards that’s not his best. That alone says a lot about a player yet to hit 25, and who missed two games this season. Watching his highlights, it’s interesting how he appears to carry his weight and power quite low down to barge his way through the O-line, and any players in his way to get to the QB, and yet he’s agile and nimble enough to sit back when he needs to, forcing turnovers and interceptions. A smart impact player from day one, he could have a long and prosperous NFL career ahead of him.
#69 – Dak Prescott, Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
How ‘bout them Cowboys? Prescott blew the players, media, and basically every fans expectations’ away in his rookie season by not only filling, but outgrowing Tony Romo’s shoes. Whilst that may seem a little over the top, the fact is that whilst he is yet to build a legacy of consistently impressive seasons, if his first was anything to go by he is well on his way. Supported by an extremely strong Dallas O-line, and one of the best RB/WR duos currently in the NFL, Prescott threw for over 3,000 yards, making it to the playoffs and finishing the season with an impressive 13-3 record. This duel threat QB has quite the future ahead of him.
#68 – Benardrick McKinney, Linebacker, Houston Texans
The second year linebacker out of Mississippi State enjoyed his first full season as a starter, and what a defense to do it in. As part of the Texan’s monstrous defense McKinney recorded 129 combined tackles and five sacks in what was surely just the beginning of an impressive career. His ability to read offenses and track plays is certainly once of his main strengths, never mind his size and physical ability. Still just 24, expect to see plenty more of him in years to come, especially after the departure of John Simon.
#67 – Brandin Cooks, Wide Receiver, New Orleans Saints
In his last season with the Saints, Cooks showed exactly why the Patriots were chasing him from the word go this offseason. At just 5'10”, the remarkably undersized receiver notched his second consecutive 1,000+ receiving yard season, at the age of just 23. With safe hands, strong pace from the off, and very nimble footwork he was good at finding space where he really shouldn’t have been able to find any. And with him now a part of this insane Patriots offense, he could be one of the top receivers for the next few years.
#66 – Kwon Alexander, Linebacker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This LSU alumni has an impressive year. At just 22, and in only his second NFL season he recorded an astounding 145 combined tackles, three sacks, and even one TD. A formidable presence in the center of the Bucs defense, his size, speed, and strength aid his hard hitting style perfectly. Over the course of his first two NFL seasons he has showed he has the potential to become one of the leagues best linebackers, here's to hoping he continues his development in 2017.
#65 – Cliff Avril, Defensive End, Seattle Seahawks
Still going strong at 31, the nine-year veteran completed 2016 with a career high 11.5 sacks, and five forced fumbles (Joint second high in his career). Cutting a dwarfing figure at 6'3”, the Super Bowl XLVIII winner was this year invited to his very first Pro Bowl – somewhat overdue many would argue nine years into a consistently productive and reliable career with both the Lions and Seahawks. Despite his age, his well known speed and agility seems unaffected as he continues to dominate the Seahawks D-line, here’s to many more dominant seasons.
#64 – Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle, Philadelphia Eagles
Whilst Cox did not have a career high year according to the stats, by his standards even mediocre is still enough to warrant his placement at #64 in the league for 2016. The four-year starter once again dominated the Eagles D-Line, and he knows it. A notably vocal and confident competitor, Cox’s main asset has to be his raw, brute strength and power. He uses this to overpower even the best offensive linemen, with this most noticeable this season in the Eagles 34-3 victory over the Steelers in Week 3, when he recorded two sacks, five combined tackles and a forced fumble which against a team as good as the Steelers (even during their poor stretch) is no mean feat.
#63 – Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End, Houston Texans
Back when Big Vince signed for the Texans, I distinctly remember the slogan ‘Bulls on Parade’ spreading with Watt, Wilfork, and Clowney as the poster boys for this monstrous defense. Okay, so it wasn’t quite to be at the time, and it took a few more years for Clowney’s career to finally take off, but it was worth the wait. As the irreplaceable #99 went down for the season, Clowney’s opportunity to shine finally arose. With Antonio Smith being drafted in as merely a temporary backup, this meant Clowney truly had to step in and step up. He recorded six sacks in 14 appearances, culminating in two playoff games and his first Pro Bowl invite. Coming off the edge he was dominant, with Watt advising him from the sidelines he dominated games, with his playoff performance against the Raiders standing out as his best. At just 24 he still has plenty of time to develop and reach his full potential, but his performances last year are certainly a good place to start, and perhaps this ‘Bulls on Parade’ slogan will finally become applicable to Clowney and co.
#62 – Mike Daniels, Defensive Tackle, Green Bay Packers
This five-year veteran of the Packers had yet another productive season. Whilst not quite at the level of the previous two seasons, there’s no denying his performances still have the ability to affect games. Starting every game for the third straight season, with 33 combined tackles, four sacks, and one pass defended, this giant of a DT is a rock within that Packers D-line. Extremely powerful, strong, and determined to get his man, it takes a lot to stop Daniels in his tracks. He loves to provoke and antagonize his opponents, and it sure works. He knows how to get inside peoples heads, and combining this with his physical capabilities makes him a force to be reckoned with.
#61 – Chandler Jones, Outside Linebacker, Arizona Cardinals
The former Patriot, and Super Bowl XLIX winner, Jones enjoyed a very strong first campaign in Arizona. Starting all 16 games, he notched up 49 combined tackles, 11 sacks, three passes defended, and four forced fumbles. A quick and nimble player, he uses his agility to maneuver his way around the edge O-lines very successfully. And for someone with a long and slight looking frame, his strength is something to be admired. A strong tackler, and pass rusher, he really has become a true top 100 player through and through.
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