Top 50 NFL players: Where Patriots' Stephon GIlmore ranks on Pro Football Focus' list

Top 50 NFL players: Where Patriots' Stephon GIlmore ranks on Pro Football Focus' list

The New England Patriots roster has undergone quite a transition this offseason due to several key players leaving Foxboro, with longtime quarterback Tom Brady being the most notable departure.

There's no question free agency hit the Patriots hard, especially on defense, but there are still plenty of talented players left on the team's roster. The best player might just be cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who won last season's AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.

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Pro Football Focus has been unveiling its top 50 NFL players ranking over the last few days. Spots 50 through 12 have been revealed (as of this writing), and the only Patriots player who's made the cut is Gilmore. PFF ranked him as the 12th-best player in the league, just ahead of Houston Texans defensive end J.J.Watt (No. 13), San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (No. 14) and Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (No. 15).

Gilmore signed a huge free agent contract with the Patriots after the 2016 season and he's lived up to the deal in every way.

He's earned back-to-back first-team All-Pro selections, in addition to being the only cornerback to earn an "elite" grade from Pro Football Focus in 2018. Gilmore played very well in the Patriots' win over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII, including an interception in the fourth quarter that led to the game-clinching field goal. 

The veteran cornerback followed up his 2018 performance with an even better 2019 season. Gilmore led the league with 20 passes defensed and tied for the lead with six interceptions last year. His exceptional play was among the primary reasons why the Patriots pass defense ranked among the league's best in 2019.

The Patriots have brought back most of their secondary entering the 2020 season, and Gilmore is without question the best and most important player in that group.

Patriots' place in new 2020 NFL Power Rankings might surprise you

Patrick Mahomes admits he's eyeing Tom Brady's Patriots Super Bowl record

Patrick Mahomes admits he's eyeing Tom Brady's Patriots Super Bowl record

Not one; not two; not three...

Patrick Mahomes guided the Kansas City Chiefs to a Super Bowl title in just his third NFL season and was rewarded this offseason with the richest contract in North American sports, a 10-year deal worth a total of more than $500 million.

The Chiefs quarterback has lofty goals for those next 10 years -- one of which includes catching the GOAT.

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During an interview with ESPN over the weekend from the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament, Mahomes admitted he has his sights set on matching Tom Brady's six Super Bowl championships with the New England Patriots, the most of any player in NFL history.

“I don’t know if there is a number," Mahomes told ESPN's Nicole Briscoe. "Obviously, you try and chase greatness and Tom has six. I'm going to try and do whatever I can to get to that number."

"I understand how hard that is, how it was a one-of-a-kind thing for Tom to be able to get to nine Super Bowls and win six of them. I'm just going to go about the process every single day of trying to make myself better and do whatever I can to make the Kansas City Chiefs better."

The 24-year-old Mahomes technically is on pace with Brady: The current Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB won his first title with New England at age 24. That said, Brady didn't win his sixth championship until his 19th NFL season at age 41, and that was while playing for the greatest coach in NFL history on arguably the greatest modern dynasty in professional sports.

Mahomes might as well set lofty goals, though: He's already won NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP awards and is the league's best quarterback on a Chiefs team returning much of its Super Bowl roster.

Mahomes has a very long way to go to reach Brady's level of success, but his comments are another reminder that the ex-Patriots QB has set the standard for greatness.

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Jason, Devin McCourty put pressure on NFL over uncertain 2020 season

Jason, Devin McCourty put pressure on NFL over uncertain 2020 season

Like many players, Devin and Jason McCourty have lots of questions. And the NFL hasn't given them sufficient answers.

The twin brothers and New England Patriots defensive backs wrote a guest column for Sports Illustrated's "The MMQB" in which they voiced their concerns about the 2020 NFL season amid the coronavirus pandemic and urged the league to address these concerns before training camps begin later this month.

"So many questions with virtually no answers, all three weeks removed from a potential start to training camp," the McCourtys wrote.

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While other professional sports leagues hashed out detailed return-to-play plans prior to restarting their seasons, the NFL has yet to share details of what the 2020 season may look like, all while keeping the same timeline, save for reportedly eliminating two preseason games.

The start of the regular season still is almost two months away, but with players returning to their cities to prepare for training camp, the McCourtys want answers from the league.

"Will we have an option to opt out of the season? Will we be making our full salary? What if there is a COVID outbreak within the league?" the McCourtys wrote. "It's so hard to make a decision of whether we will play or not without knowing what the exact plan is."

The twin brothers, who both have families with young children, also expressed hesitation about signing on to play a season with so many unknowns.

"Will we be able to have meetings in the building? Or will the meetings still be done virtually? Will testing be a few times a week or will it be every day?" they wrote. "As players, how do we decide what is best for us and our families when we don’t know what we’re walking into?"

The NFL and NFL Players Association has formed a joint committee of doctors and trainers to develop protocols that can help players safely prepare for the season. Based on the McCourtys' column, though, it sounds like the league and that joint committee still have plenty of work to do.

"We face a whole lot of unknowns, a whole lot of question marks, and overall are dealing with unsettling feelings about how to handle the two major topics that have hit our entire country hard this year," the McCourtys wrote, referencing COVID-19 and the racial justice movement reinvigorated by the death of George Floyd. 

"The year is only halfway done, so the verdict is still out on whether we can get some answers moving forward."

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