The NFL season is right around the corner and while all 32 franchises are trying to make their final roster decisions, I wanted to take a different approach to roster building. Inspired in part by the annual NFL Top 100 players list, voted on by the players in the league, I wanted to know who the top 100 players would be to start a team with in 2022.
There are a variety of factors that went into creating this list. Let me lay out the criteria.
First, age played a major role in determining which players made this list. Only six players over the age of 30 made the list. Positional value was the other big driving force behind these rankings. There is no doubt that Jonathan Taylor is one of the best young players in the game right now, but you wouldn’t pick him first overall to start an NFL franchise from scratch. The positional value of running backs is simply not high enough to warrant that. Neither is the longevity of the position on average. You most likely want to find a player who is going to last a long time to build your franchise around. There are a few notable exceptions to that rule. With that in mind, I prioritized quarterbacks, offensive tackles, cornerbacks, edge rushers and wide receivers. There are plenty of instances where a more talented player slid down the board a little further simply because they played a less valuable position.
There were a few other factors I considered, including years remaining on contract, contract structure and salary commitments. There is a reason why rookie contracts are so valuable, especially when you hit on a star. That player is now on a team friendly deal with several years of team control built in.
With all of that in mind, let’s kick off our countdown to No. 1. Check back Tuesday for players 95 to 91.
100. Jevon Holland, S, Miami Dolphins
Years remaining on contract: 3
2022 cap hit: $1.98 million
I didn’t count on having two Dolphins in my first five players. That’s just how good Jevon Holland was as a rookie though. He did a little bit of everything in that Miami secondary. He recorded two interceptions, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and 69 total tackles. At 22 years old, Holland is well ahead of schedule in terms of production. Also, as a former second-round pick, his cap hit is ridiculously low, staying below three million dollars for the remainder of his rookie deal. Unfortunately, he will not be eligible for a fifth-year option as a trade off, but the potential of signing him to a second contract at the age of 25 is an appealing one. With most of these players, projection will be required, but after a promising start, I am more than willing to roll the dice on Holland’s long-term upside and versatility.
99. Ryan Ramczyk, OT, New Orleans Saints
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $8.48 million
The NFL has become a league where you need to have two quality tackles to contend. While left tackle is still perceived as the more valuable position in large part due to him protecting the quarterback’s blindside, right tackles are seeing the financial windfall of this shift in the league. Ramczyk signed a five-year, $96 million contract extension last July. His cap hit is going to be heavy going forward, but he has proven to be worth the money so far. He recorded the highest pass-block win-rate of any offensive tackle in the league last year. He is a three-time All-Pro in his career and likely would have been again in 2022 if not for a nagging knee injury that cost him the final seven games of the season. At 28 years old, he is nearing the end of his prime, but we are also seeing more players able to extend their careers well into their 30s. The next two tackles on the pass-block win-rate list were 31-year-old Lane Johnson and 40-year-old Andrew Whitworth.
98. Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Years remaining on contract: 2
2022 cap hit: $1.99 million
His dad was really good. Winfield Jr. might wind up being even better. The soon-to-be 24-year-old earned a Pro Bowl nod in just his second season. It took Antoine Winfield Sr. until his age-31 season to reach his first Pro Bowl, although he also earned All-Pro honors that year. He holds up well enough in pass coverage, but really makes his impact as an open-field tackler and blitzer. He tallied two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and a pair of sacks in 2021. It was a season that built off a solid rookie season. It would be great to see him take the next step in pass coverage, but he has the range and defensive instincts needed to impact the game at a high level for a while to come. Not to mention, he is under contract for the next two seasons with cap hits of $1.9 million and $2.3 million. Hard to beat the kind of value for a Pro-Bowl caliber player.
97. Josh Sweat, EDGE, Philadelphia Eagles
Years remaining on contract: 3
2022 cap hit: $3.63 million
Sweat is coming into his own, now entering his fifth season in the NFL. He has racked up 13.5 sacks over the past two seasons and finally broke through to being a starter in 2021. It earned him his first Pro Bowl nod and a sizable payday. Philadelphia brought him back on a three-year, $40 million deal, but only $27 million of it is guaranteed. Paying $9 million per year for a player who would operate somewhere in the 6-to-10 sack range feels like pretty good value. There is unquestionably some projection involved here. It is always a risk to bet on a player who just got paid. However, Sweat has youth and now two seasons of solid production on his side. He won’t be T.J. Watt, but finding quality pass rushers with upside is always a smart decision.
96. Drake London, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $3.92
Clocking in at No. 94 we have the top receiver taken in the 2022 NFL draft. London was a phenom at USC. He recorded 88 catches and eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in just eight games during his final season with the Trojans. He missed the remainder of the year with a broken ankle. London has a huge frame and plus athleticism that should allow him to be a safety blanket for his quarterback in the NFL. Unfortunately, he is already dealing with a knee injury this preseason, so durability could be a problem. That certainly knocked him down a few spots for me, especially coming off the broken ankle. He was my favorite receiver in the 2022 class and I think he has a long, productive career ahead of him. Building around a talented, young target could pay dividends long term. Plus, his contract situation is fantastic compared to what receivers are getting on the open market these days.
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