Mack ranked among top 10 best players in NFL

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CBS Sports analyst Pete Prisco has ranked four Bears on his list of the NFL’s top 100 players—led by star outside linebacker Khalil Mack at No. 5.

Acquired last Sept. 1 in a blockbuster trade with the Raiders, Mack was voted first-team All-Pro and selected to his fourth straight Pro Bowl in his first season with the Bears. He led the NFC North champions with 12.5 sacks, a career-high six forced fumbles and 18 quarterback hits.

Mack’s 12.5 sacks were the most by a Bears player since Hall of Famer Richard Dent also had 12.5 sacks in 1993. Mack’s 12.5 sacks tied for the third most in franchise history behind Dent’s 17.5 in 1984 and 17.0 in 1985.

Mack was named the NFC defensive player of the month last September after registering five sacks, four forced fumbles and returning an interception 27 yards for a touchdown in the season opener against the Packers.

The only players Prisco ranked ahead of Mack were 1) Rams defensive end Aaron Donald; 2) Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes; 3) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers; and 4) Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller. The Bears, by the way, are scheduled to face all four of those players this season.

Three other Bears made Prisco’s list—defensive tackle Akiem Hicks No. 48, safety Eddie Jackson at No. 67 and cornerback Kyle Fuller at No. 69.

Hicks was named to his first career Pro Bowl after leading the Bears with 12 tackles-for-loss and ranking second with 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and 16 quarterback hits.

Hicks recorded a career-high five tackles-for-loss in a Nov. 18 win over the Vikings that gave the Bears sole possession of first place. He also scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal Dec. 2 against the Giants, becoming the first Bears defensive lineman to rush for a touchdown since William “Refrigerator” Perry in Super Bowl XX.

Hicks has performed exceptionally well since signing with the Bears as a free agent in 2016 after stints with the Saints and Patriots. While he made the Pro Bowl for the first time in seven NFL seasons in 2018, his numbers were even better in 2017 when he registered 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles-for-loss.

“The Bears are his third team, which is hard to believe considering how well he played last season,” Prisco wrote. “He's a mountain of a man.”

Jackson and Fuller were both named to the Pro Bowl and chosen first-team All-Pro. They played an integral role in the Bears leading the NFL with 36 takeaways and 27 interceptions.

Jackson recorded a career-high six interceptions and scored three touchdowns on two interception returns and a fumble return. His five defensive TDs since joining the Bears in 2017 as a fourth-round pick are tied for the most by a player in his first two NFL seasons (with the Jets’ Erik McMillan in 1988-89).

Jackson was named NFC defensive player of the month last November. He helped lead the Bears to a 4-0 record, scoring three touchdowns while recording 15 tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and four pass breakups.

“He's got the range teams need on the back end with the way the game is played now,” Prisco wrote.

Fuller tied for the NFL lead with a career-high seven interceptions, the most by a Bears player since Tim Jennings led the league with nine in 2012. Fuller also topped the NFL with 21 pass breakups and leads the league with 43 the last two seasons.

Fuller registered two interceptions in a Week 6 game in Miami and later picked off passes in three consecutive contests against the Lions, Giants and Rams. His interception in Detroit late in the fourth quarter clinched a 23-16 Thanksgiving win.

In a 41-9 victory over the Bills Nov. 4 in Buffalo, Fuller had an interception and broke up two other passes that resulted in picks by teammates Adrian Amos Jr. and Leonard Floyd, who returned his interception 19 yards for a touchdown.

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