No. 10: Shaq Thompson - Carolina Panthers LB
One of the only remaining players from the Carolina Panthers Super Bowl run in 2015, Shaq Thompson has been a captain and the leader of the defense since Luke Kuechly's sudden retirement four years ago.
Entering his age-29 season, Thompson has also been one of the most critiqued players on the roster thanks in part to his previous contract situation and if he could ever become the player Kuechly was.
Breaking news at this hour: no one can replace Kuechly. However, Thompson has done as good of a job as you could hope for and has certainly become a true focal point in the middle of the defense.
The former first-round pick from the University of Washington has tallied four straight 100 tackle seasons, including a career-high 135 last time round. If anything, Thompson is aging like fine wine and only getting better.
I know fans would like to see a youth movement takeover at the MIKE spot, but Thompson has done as good of a job as anyone. He's been a consistent tackler with good discipline against the run and his coverage ability has been nothing but steady over the last few years.
If the Panthers become a top-10 unit under Ejiro Evero this season, Thompson will be a crucial part of that. I'm excited to see how he does with his new defensive coordinator.