Our ranking of the top 10 current NFL players from Cal considers the player’s entire career but puts more emphasis on recent performance.
--- 1. Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers
--- 2. Alex Mack, Center, Atlanta Falcons
--- 3. Marshawn Lynch, Running Back, Oakland Raiders
--- 4. Cameron Jordan, Defensive End, New Orleans Saints.
--- 5. DeSean Jackson, Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
--- 6. Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, Los Angeles Chargers
--- 7. Mitchell Schwartz, Offensive Tackle, Kansas City Chiefs
--- 8. Jared Goff, Quarterback, Los Angeles Rams
--- 9. Lorenzo Alexander, Linebacker, Buffalo Bills
---10. Marvin Jones Jr., Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions
Honorable mention (in alphabetical order): Steelers defensive end Tyson Alualu, Panthers running back C.J. Anderson, Jaguars punter Bryan Anger, Buccaneers safety Chris Conte, Chargers defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, Saints running back Shane Vereen.
Breakdown of the rankings:
1. Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers
Years at Cal: 2003-2004
NFL Draft: First round (22nd overall) in 2005, by Packers
NFL seasons: 13
NFL Achievements: 2-time MVP, 2-time All-Pro, 6-time Pro Bowl selection.
Comments: Winning two NFL MVP awards, in 2011 and 2014, puts Rodgers squarely on top. He was also the Super Bowl MVP in 2010, and led the league in touchdown passes in 2016 with 40. His career passer rating of 103.8 heading into the 2018 season is the best of any quarterback in history, considerably ahead of Russell Wilson, who is second at 98.8. And he has a strong arm, as seen in the viedo above, when he completes a Hail Mary pass to another Cal alumnus, Richard Rodgers, whose father was an integral part of The Play, the five-later kickoff return that beat Stanford in 1982.
2. Alex Mack, Center, Atlanta Falcons
Years at Cal: 2004-2008
NFL Draft: First round (21st overall) in 2009, by Browns
NFL Seasons: 9
NFL achievements: 5-time Pro Bowl selection, including each of the past three seasons.
Comments: Mack is generally regarded as one of the best two or three centers in the NFL right now. He was twice named Sporting News All-Pro (2013, 2017) and was an Associated Press second-team All-Pro selection in 2017. Those recent honors plus being named to the Pro Bowl each of the past three seasons means he is playing at an elite level currently. He started all 133 NFL games in which he has played.
3. Marshawn Lynch, running back, Oakland Raiders
Years at Cal: 2004-2006
NFL Draft: First round (12th overall) in 2007, by Bills
NFL Seasons: 11
NFL achievements: All-Pro in 2012, 5-time Pro Bowl selection.
Comments: Lynch probably would have been No. 2 on this list three years ago, but he is on the downside of his career and his numbers slipped last season. Nonetheless, his numbers are impressive. Six times he topped 1,000 yards rushing in a season, with a high of 1,590 in 20backs12. He led the NFL in touchdown runs twice (2013, 2014). His 10,003 career rushing yards are fourth among active running backs and he also has 272 career receptions. Lynch had just 891 yards rushing in 2017, and it’s a good bet his numbers will go down in 2018. We had to show the video of Lynch driving the cart around Memorial Stadium after the big win over Washington (below).
4. Cameron Jordan, Defensive End, New Orleans Saints
Years at Cal: 2007-2010
NFL Draft: First round (24th overall) in 2011, by Saints
NFL Seasons: 7
NFL Achievements: All-Pro in 2017, 3-time Pro Bowl selection.
Comments: Jordan’s career is peaking right now, and he is among the top defensive ends in pro football. He had 13.0 sacks in 2017, when he was named All-Pro for the first time. He has 59.5 career sacks, including 12.5 in 2013 and 10.0 in 2015, the two other times he was named to the Pro Bowl. He has started all 16 regular-season games each of the past six seasons as well as two playoff games in 2013 and two playoff games in 2017. He had 3.5 sacks in those four postseason games.
(Check out our selection of Jason Kidd's best 12 games when he was at Cal)
5. DeSean Jackson, Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Years at Cal: 2005-2007
NFL Draft: Second round in 2008, by Eagles
NFL Seasons: 10
NFL Achievements: 3-time Pro Bowl selection
Comments: The epitome of a deep threat, Jackson led the NFL in yards per reception three times (2010, 2014, 2016) and has racked up 49 career receiving touchdowns. Jackson has had more than 1,000 receiving yards in a season five times, and his best season was 2013, when he had 82 catches for 1,332 yards and 9 touchdowns. His 2017 numbers were less impressive: 50 catches for 668 yards and 3 scores. Jackson did have some Oops! moments, though (see video below).
6. Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, Los Angeles Chargers
Years at Cal: 2010-2012
NFL Draft: Third round in 2013, by Chargers
NFL Seasons: 5
NFL Achievements: Pro Bowl selection in 2017.
Comments: Allen had a monster season in in 2017, recording 102 receptions (fourth in the NFL) for 1,393 yards (third in the league). He was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year after missing all but one game of the 2016 season because of a torn anterior-cruciate ligament. He also had over 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie in 2013, when he had 71 catches and 1,046 receiving yards. He played in two playoff games in 2013 and had 8 catches for 163 yards and 2 touchdowns.
7. Mitchell Schwartz, Offensive Tackle, Kansas City Chiefs
Years at Cal: 2007-2011
NFL Seasons: 6
NFL Draft: Second round in 2012, by Browns
NFL Achievements: 2-time second-team All-Pro selection by Associated Press, in 2016 and 2017.
Comments: Schwartz’s durability is important. He has started all 96 games his team has played since he came into the league, and he has not missed a single snap. Unofficially, Schwartz has played 6,341 consecutive snaps, the longest active streak in the league. His second-team All-Pro selections the past two seasons indicate he is playing his best football right now. There is a reason the Chiefs signed him to a five-year, $33 million contract in March 2016.
8. Jared Goff, Quarterback, Los Angeles Rams
Years at Cal: 2013-2015
NFL Draft: First round (1st overall) in 2016, by Rams
NFL Seasons: 2
NFL Achievements: Pro Bowl selection in 2017
Comments: The fact that Goff barely made it into our top 10 says a lot about the quality of Cal alumni in the NFL. After a mediocre rookie season, when the Rams went 0-7 in his seven starts, Goff was outstanding in 2017, completing 62.1 percent of his passes with 28 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. More importantly, the Rams went 11-4 in his regular-season starts before losing in the playoffs. Last season, Goff ranked fifth in the NFL in passer rating and first in yards per completion. He and the Rams could be even better in 2018.
9. Lorenzo Alexander, Linebacker, Buffalo Bills
Years at Cal: 2001-2004
NFL Draft: Undrafted, signed by Redskins
NFL Seasons: 11
NFL Achievements: 2-time Pro Bowl selection
Comments: Alexander’s career falls into the inspirational category. Despite going undrafted, the Oakland native has carved out an impressive 11-year NFL career and seems to be getting better with age. His first Pro Bowl selection in 2012 was as a special-teams performer, but in 2016, at the age of 33, he had a breakout season for the Bills. He recorded 12.5 sacks that season, which ranked third in the NFL, and was chosen for the Pro Bowl. His numbers dwindled last season, but he still had 3.0 sacks and 65 total tackles.
10. Marvin Jones Jr., Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions
Years at Cal: 2008-2011
NFL Draft: Fifth round in 2012, by Bengals
NFL Seasons: 6
NFL Achievements: None
Comments: It is rather amazing that the two wideouts from Cal’s 2009 and 2010 teams (Jones and Allen) are both on this list. Jones was not named to the Pro Bowl in 2017, but he could have been, after leading the league in yards per reception (18.0) and placing fourth in receiving touchdowns (9). He finished the season with 61 receptions and 1,101 yards and his numbers have been progressively improving nearly every year.