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Three Commanders earn spot on ESPN's top 100 players list

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ESPN has released its annual list of who they believe are the top 100 players in the NFL, and three Washington Commanders players were among those to make the cut. 

Veteran wideout Terry McLaurin is the Commanders' top-rated player, coming in at No. 36, and received the third-highest rank among NFC East receivers (A.J. Brown, 19, and CeeDee Lamb, 33, were ranked higher). He is followed by defensive tackle Jonathan Allen at No. 64 and Daron Payne at No.70, neither of whom were ranked on ESPN's list in 2022. 

McLaurin, on the other hand, improved by 12 spots to be ranked eighth among all wideouts. 

"I love Terry. He's an awesome competitor," said Commanders quarterback Sam Howell. "It's just so much fun to go out there knowing I have a guy, no matter who's covering him, he's going to get open and he's going to make a play. It makes my job so much easier."

McLaurin has been considered one of the most reliable players at his position, but he earned more of the national spotlight in 2022 for putting together his third consecutive 1,000-yard season. His 1,191 yards ranked 10th among receivers, despite ranking 20th in targets and tying for 25th in receptions.

McLaurin delivered some of his strongest moments in the second half of the season, including his catch at the 1-yard over Stephon Gilmore against the Indianapolis Colts and his 128-yard performance in Week 10 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

"Ultimate professional. Does a hell of a job of showing up to work every single day," said offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. "You want everybody to be like Terry. Terry works his tail off. He sets an example by his work ethics and what he does. He's also a man of his word."

Allen gets a place on the list for the first time as the eighth-highest ranked defensive tackle and second in the NFC East behind only Dexter Lawrence at No. 48. His national recognition has only risen since signing a contract extension in 2021, and he earned back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances because of knack for disrupting offenses.

In the past two seasons, Allen recorded 16.5 sacks, 127 tackles and 47 quarterback hits. According to ESPN's John Keim, his 26 tackles for loss since 2021 are tied for first in the league.

"When you have guys like [Allen] who can be disruptive and get into those creases and get vertical quickly, it helps the rest of the pass rush," said Commanders head coach Ron Rivera. "It helps the coverage and forces the quarterback to make some decisions a little bit sooner. It cleans up a lot of things for a lot of people."

Payne showed why he deserved a contract extension from the Commanders by putting together one of the best individual performances for a defensive tackle in franchise history. He racked up 11.5 sacks, which tied a franchise record for a defensive tackle. His 18 tackles for a loss were tied for fourth among all defensive players, and his 20 quarterback hits were a career high.

"I know they're probably going to watch a whole bunch of film on me and try to lock up the things that I like to do well the most," Payne said. "But I got some new stuff that I've been working on and I also will rely on some of the old stuff that I was doing to help me make some plays. As long as I just bring the intensity and keep a high motor, I can still make a lot of plays."

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