Football is the ultimate team sport, but it takes some very talented players to get in position to win a championship. Super Bowl LIII will have multiple future Hall of Famers and All-Pros on both sides, so let’s dive into which team has more elite talent by ranking the top ten players in the game. Keep in mind, special team players are not included (otherwise Stephen Gostkowski and Greg Zuerlein would both have strong arguments, as would extraordinary returner Cordarrelle Patterson).
The cutoff is ten players because as tough as it is to narrow it down to ten, it gets even more difficult trying to narrow it down to 20 or 25 guys. Every player in the Super Bowl has keyed their teams getting to this point, though, and many of them could easily be listed here.
10. Brandin Cooks (Rams)
Robert Woods just narrowly missed out on the No. 10 spot, and it certainly could’ve been him over teammate Brandin Cooks. It’s interesting that Cooks faces his former team after playing for New England, and leaving the game early with a concussion, in last year’s Super Bowl. Cooks is more explosive and a better downfield threat than Woods, yet he still has similar toughness and willingness to make contested catches in traffic.
9. James White (Patriots)
Throughout his career, James White has been an extremely reliable underneath target for Tom Brady, and that trust only heightens in the postseason. While White’s heroics in the Patriots’ amazing Super Bowl LI comeback are well-documented, he’s been just as good this postseason—in the Divisional Round this year, White tied the record for most receptions in a playoff game. Both as a runner and a receiver, White just always seems to pick up a key under-the-radar first down (or several), and he’s better than the box score indicates.
8. Shaq Mason (Patriots)
Arguably an All-Pro snub this season, Shaq Mason is one of the best guards in football both in pass protection and as a run blocker. Mason is stout inside to keep interior rushers from pressuring Tom Brady right up the middle, and he’s helped open huge holes for Sony Michel and the other New England running backs all season. The Pats locked Mason up to a big long-term deal back in August, and he’s been worth every penny.
7. Stephon Gilmore (Patriots)
Stephon Gilmore was fortunately recognized as an All-Pro in 2018, as he should’ve been. The former Bills corner was clearly more comfortable in his second season with the Patriots, becoming a shutdown corner that can shadow and erase opposing No. 1 receivers every week. Not that Gilmore wasn’t very good last season, but he’s really stepped up as an elite player for New England after a year in the system.
6. Jared Goff (Rams)
There’s no question Jared Goff is one of the best players in Super Bowl LI, which is a long way from being misclassified as a bust after seven starts during his rookie season—and being called overrated during a late-season lull in 2018. Some like to identify Goff as someone that’s just a product of Sean McVay’s offense, but that simply isn’t true. As usual, the former No. 1 pick will make big-time throws on Sunday.
5. Rob Gronkowski (Patriots)
In past years, Rob Gronkowski might’ve been a lock for a top-two player in the Super Bowl, but the All-Pro tight end hasn’t been the same as a receiver this campaign. However, Gronk made big plays as a pass-catcher in the AFC title game, and he’s remained a top-rate blocker at tight end all season. Gronkowski should not be doubted heading into Sunday.
4. Julian Edelman (Patriots)
If the Patriots are playing in January or February and the game is close, you can bet Julian Edelman is going to make plays for his team. The 32-year-old is fearless going over the middle, bringing in high-difficultly catches, often while getting drilled by defenders. Edelman might drop some passes in other points in the game, but there aren’t many players better in crunch time than him.
3. Todd Gurley (Rams)
Todd Gurley had one of the worst games of his career in the NFC Championship Game, but no one in their right mind would dare question his ability. The 2017 Offensive Player of the Year is arguably the best running back in football, with an all-around skill set that includes extraordinary ability as an inside runner, and outside runner, and a receiver. Gurley is a big-play maven that can break games open, but he might be the focus of Bill Belichick, who can take players out of the game better than any coach, for the Super Bowl.
2. Aaron Donald (Rams)
Set to be named the Defensive Player of the Year (for the second straight season) the night before the Super Bowl, Aaron Donald is probably the big key for LA’s defense somehow limiting Tom Brady. Donald was pretty quiet for much of the NFC title game, and he’s sure to again see double teams this weekend—look for him to be determined to make a big impact after recording just four tackles and no sacks the first two playoff games.
1. Tom Brady (Patriots)
There are a bunch of great players set to hit the stage for Super Bowl LIII, but Tom Brady is undoubtedly the best of the best. The G.O.A.T. gets better with age if anything. He’s seen every defense teams can throw at him, and he almost always makes the right decision with pinpoint accurate throws. If the game is on the line and he receives good protection, Brady is a near lock to lead his team to victory.