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Terry McLaurin, Daron Payne rank among ESPN's top 100 most valuable players


Two of the Washington Commanders' players have been recognized as some of the most valuable in the NFL. 

In a recent list of the top 100 most valuable players of the 2022 season from ESPN’s Seth Walders, the analytics expert put wide receiver Terry McLaurin and defensive tackle Daron Payne on the list.  

McLaurin, who posted a career-high 1,191 yards on 77 receptions, is ranked No. 37 among all positions and eighth among receivers. Payne was ranked No. 75 and sixth among defensive tackles after racking up 11.5 sacks, which is more than the fifth-year pro had in his previous three seasons combined. 

McLaurin has been an efficient receiver since the Commanders drafted him in 2019, but he boosted that part of his game after signing a multiyear extension with the team this offseason. Despite getting 10 fewer targets than he did in 2021, he had just as many catches and got 138 more yards and had the second-best yards per game average (70.1) of his career. 

"McLaurin has always been a strong contested-catch receiver, but his 77 Catch Score this year was narrowly a career-best," Walders wrote.

In terms of DVOA, a metric Football Outsiders uses to measure efficiency based on a league-wide average, there is a short list of players who are better than McLaurin. He ranks fifth in the category behind only Jaylen Waddle, Tyler Boyd, Stefon Diggs and Justin Jefferson.

McLaurin said before the season began that he wanted to improve his yards after the catch, and the veteran achieved that goal as well. His 394 yards in 2022 were an improvement from the 317 he had in 2021, and they were the second-best of his four-year career.

"I look forward to getting my body back stronger again after a long season and improving on my skill set as well," McLaurin said during the Commanders' locker room clean out. "The chase is the exciting part for me. The ability to come back in and work on things and get better is something that excites me every year."

In terms of making a jump this offseason, Payne is perhaps the best example on the Commanders' roster. The sacks, which tied the most for a single season by a defensive tackle in franchise history, get the most attention, but Payne also posted a career-high in tackles (64), tackles for loss (18) and quarterback hits (20).

What's more, Payne got 25 pressures in 2022, marking the second consecutive year that the former first-round pick had at least 20, and had the second lowest missed tackle rate (7.2%) of his career.

Payne was also voted to the Pro Football Writers of America's All-NFC team along with Dexter Lawrence and Javon Hargrave.

"He fits the formula of what we wanna do and how we wanna play, and he's got the skillset that you would like to have," Ron Rivera said. "We think his presence on the football field was outstanding this season, and he did a lot of good things for us."

Payne also stood out among his fellow defensive tackles around the league, which helped him earn the first Pro Bowl selection of his career. His 11.5 sacks were third among defensive tackles, behind only Chris Jones and Quinnen Williams. His five pass breakups, also a career-high, were tied for seventh among defensive tackles.

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