Justin Tucker Should Have Made NFL Top 100 Players List
With Lamar Jackson taking the No. 1 spot on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2020 and the Ravens tied with a league-high seven players on the list, there's ample reason for Ravens fans to feel good about the rankings.
But part of the fun is picking it apart and finding the snubs, am I right?!
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (No. 74) and cornerback Marlon Humphrey (No. 86) probably should've been higher, and one could argue that outside linebacker Matthew Judon and tight end Mark Andrews belonged on the list.
Perhaps the most egregious error, though, is the exclusion of kicker Justin Tucker.
While Tucker's omission is glaring, it's not surprising. Despite being the most accurate kicker in NFL history, history was not on Tucker's side. Since the inception of the NFL Top 100 Players in 2011, Adam Vinatieri (No. 98 in 2015) is the only kicker to make the list, which is determined by votes from players.
"Who does Justin Tucker have to kick to get a vote around here?" wrote NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman, who identified Tucker not making the list as one of five things voters got wrong. "The greatest kicker of his generation gets no respect from his peers, year in and year out, in this exercise. … Coming off his second straight first-team All-Pro season, and third in four years, Tucker should at least warrant some consideration from the board."
Not only did Tucker not make the list, he wasn't even close to doing so. NFL Network revealed the top 10 players who just missed the cut, and Tucker was not among them. (Judon was No. 107).
Thanks to the Ravens leading the league in touchdowns in 2019, Tucker made the fewest field goals of his eight-year career in 2019, but his 96.6 field-goal percentage (28-for-29) was his second-highest.
"Sure, it wasn't his showiest year, I'll give you that," Bergman wrote. "But it's hard to blame him for making his lone 50-plus-yard attempt when his team is scoring touchdowns all damn day."
Bergman also made the case that the man who delivers the ball to Tucker – Pro Bowl long-snapper Morgan Cox – also should've been considered for the list.
On a side note, right guard Marshal Yanda was slated to be No. 87 had he not retired.
Meanwhile, Touchdown Wire did NFL Network's list one better by ranking the top 101 players in the NFL. Tucker didn't make that list either, as kickers weren't even considered. The seven Ravens who did make it were: Jackson (No. 11), Stanley (No. 13), safety Earl Thomas III (No. 72), cornerback Marcus Peters (No. 80), defensive end Calais Campbell (No. 90), Humphrey (No. 94), and Andrews (No. 95).
There was plenty of debate about Jackson being ranked at No. 1, particularly three spots ahead of Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes. Jackson even said he expected to be in the top five, but not No. 1, specifically mentioning Mahomes and Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey.
Lamar Jackson Had No. 2 MVP Performance of the Decade
As a testament to just how deserving Jackson was of his No. 1 ranking on the NFL Top 100 Players list, his 2019 season was ranked as the second-best MVP performance of the past decade by NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt.
Only running back Adrian Peterson's 2012 MVP season was higher, as Jackson placed ahead of fellow MVP quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers.
"Other mobile quarterbacks have thrived in today's NFL … what Jackson achieved in 2019 was on another level altogether, prompting voters to make him the second unanimous choice for MVP in the history of the award, along with Brady in 2010," Brandt wrote.
While Jackson still has critics who underrate him as a passer, Brandt pointed out that his epic season went beyond setting the single-season rushing record for a quarterback.
"It's not like Jackson's legs are his only claim to fame — he also made dazzling plays with his arm in coordinator Greg Roman's offense," Brandt wrote, "improving his accuracy by nearly eight percentage points (jumping from the 58.2% he posted after replacing Joe Flacco midway through 2018) and pacing the NFL in touchdown throws despite playing for a team that did not have a single wide receiver break the 800-yard threshold. Jackson also took excellent care of the football, logging just six picks on 401 attempts."
Miles Boykin Among Leading Candidates for Breakout Season
Expectations are high for wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown this season, and sure-handed rookie receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche are both compelling prospects. All that said, don't sleep on what second-year receiver Miles Boykin is capable of contributing.
The 2019 third-round pick was ranked No. 6 on Football Outsiders' list of 25 young players who could break out in 2020. To be eligible for the list, players had to be drafted in the third-round or later, or signed as an undrafted free agent, and be 26 or younger.
"Lamar Jackson is a much more accurate quarterback when targeting the middle of the field right now, and Boykin is mostly going to be a perimeter operator in an offense that already has plenty of mouths to feed," Football Outsiders' Rivers McCown wrote for ESPN.com. "That doesn't mean Boykin won't offer a lot of value: He caught 10 of 15 targets from Jackson on the outside last year for 166 yards. But Boykin could be a better overall player than Preston Williams in 2020, just without the same volume."
With Boykin's combination of size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and speed (4.42 40-yard dash time), it's no wonder he placed highly on Football Outsiders' list. Roman also expects big things from Boykin in 2020.
"Miles Boykin, [we're] really going to load his plate a lot more this year and really ask a lot of him this year," Roman said. "We really feel like he's going to take a giant step."
On a side note, second-year offensive lineman Ben Powers received honorable mention.
Ravens Running Backs Ranked Ninth-Best By Pro Football Focus
Despite the Ravens setting a single-season rushing record last year, their running back group was ranked as the ninth-best in the league entering the 2020 season by Pro Football Focus.
While Jackson obviously played a huge role in the Ravens' prolific rushing attack — his 1,206 yards rushing led the team — running backs Mark Ingram II and Gus Edwards also were critical to Baltimore's success on the ground, which makes the No. 9 ranking seem too low.
Both Ingram and Edwards averaged over 5.0 yards per carry, and Ingram ran for 1,018 yards and scored 15 total touchdowns (10 rushing, five receiving).
"Ingram runs downhill with a violent style that fits Baltimore's run-first approach, and his 0.19 missed tackles forced per attempt ranked 14th in the NFL in 2019," PFF's Steve Palazzolo wrote. "He was also the top-graded receiver among Ravens running backs last season, grading at 78.0 to rank 11th among qualifiers. Edwards is once again back in the mix, and he may have found a sweet spot as a complementary piece after tallying 136 carries in 2018 and 145 last season."
The running game figures to be even more potent and versatile this season with the addition of second-round pick J.K. Dobbins.
"Dobbins is a strong all-around prospect who has the vision, cutting ability and pass-game acumen to make an immediate impact," Palazzolo wrote. "Dobbins may be used more in the passing game right away, but was a big-play machine on the ground in college, with his 31 carries of 15-plus yards leading the nation last season."
Rounding out the unit is Justice Hill, who showed flashes as a rookie last year and scored a touchdown in each of the two final two regular-season games.
"[Hill's] sitting on 4.4 speed that is a scary proposition if deployed within this Ravens offense," Palazzolo wrote.
Incidentally, the AFC North rival Cleveland Browns backfield, which features Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, was No. 1 in PFF's rankings.
- The Ravens have the second-best chances of reaching the Super Bowl this season, according to PFF