It took a while for many pundits to buy into Lamar Jackson, and some still aren't totally sold. In the eyes of NFL players, however, Jackson is the best in the league.
Jackson is ranked No. 1 in the NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2020," which is voted on exclusively by players. At 23 years old, he is the youngest player to ever come it at No. 1 and first to make his debut in the top spot.
"I used to always watch the Top 100s on YouTube and NFL Network and stuff like that, not thinking I'd actually be the No. 1 player. It's crazy," Jackson said when he received the trophy telling him the news. "I'm really speechless right now."
The reigning MVP beat out Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (No. 2) and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes (No. 4). Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was No. 3 and New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas rounded out the top five.
"Christian McCaffrey, he was going crazy. Pat just won a Super Bowl, he was going crazy," Jackson said. "I really didn't know. I wasn't thinking I would be No. 1. Probably top five, but not No. 1."
It speaks to how much NFL players respect what Jackson was able to do last year and envision for him moving forward. It also shows Jackson's meteoric ascension, as he was not anywhere in last year's Top 100 following his rookie season.
Jackson led the Ravens to an NFL-best 14-2 record. He broke Michael Vick's all-time record for most rushing yards (1,206) by a quarterback in NFL history. Jackson tossed a league-high 36 touchdown passes.
Everybody around the league was watching his weekly highlight reel, as Jackson had a season unlike any ever seen before.
Still, many of the offseason rankings – and "Madden" ratings – have given the edge to other signal-callers. Jackson is on the "Madden" cover and still rated as the game's third-best quarterback. The Athletic recently published their quarterback rankings and had Jackson in Tier 2 behind Mahomes, Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Deshaun Watson, respectively.
Asked in an appearance on "The Lounge" podcast Wednesday whether he has a desire to prove that he is the best quarterback in the league, Jackson said he didn't really pay it much attention.
"I've just got to keep working for myself," he said. "I can't really worry about how people feel or who they see as the best. I've still got a lot to prove. Those guys have Super Bowls – I don't. So I've just got to get there. If we win a Super Bowl, then we can debate."
In the eyes of NFL players, the debate is settled for now with Jackson as the leader.