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.
If you missed the previous entry, you can find it here.
With all of that in mind, let’s continue our countdown to No. 1. Check back Monday for players 75 to 71.
80. Jonathan Allen, DT, Washington Commanders
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $9.50 million
Rushing the passer is one of the most valuable things any defense can do, especially on the interior. That is where Allen makes his living. After a down season in 2020, he bounced back in a big way with nine sacks, earning him his first Pro Bowl nod. It was the third time in four seasons that Allen had posted at least six sacks. His 34 quarterback pressures were tied with Chris Jones for the second most in the league among interior defensive linemen, trailing only Aaron Donald. My biggest knock against Allen is his contract. He counts for a modest $9.5 million against the cap in 2022, but that number is at least $21.5 million for the remainder of his contract. He is well worth the investment, but that’s far from a bargain.
79. Harold Landry, EDGE, Tennessee Titans
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $5.05 million
Landry continues to prove himself at the NFL level. He posted a career-high 12 sacks in addition to ranking tied for seventh in quarterback pressures with 43. That culminated in him being selected to his first Pro Bowl. His one area of weakness is in pass coverage, which does matter even if he is one of the game’s better pass rushers. If he can show signs of improvement there while maintaining this level of pass-rushing success, I think he will likely be in the top 50 this time next year. His contract situation could make that a little trickier, as his five-year, $87.5 million extension really starts to take effect with an $18.8 million cap hit, but he has proven himself to be worth the money so far.
78. Jeffery Simmons, DT, Tennessee Titans
Years remaining on contract: 2
2022 cap hit: $4.03 million
We have a mini run on Titans defenders here. Simmons turned in a stellar 2022 season that resulted in his first Pro Bowl nod and a place on the AP All-Pro second team. It was highlighted by 8.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. What’s more, Simmons has shown a clear improvement in disrupting passing lanes, with 11 deflections over the past two seasons. As if that package of production and athleticism wasn’t enough, Simmons still has two years remaining on his rookie deal, including his fifth-year option, which makes him very affordable. At just 25, he is one of the best young linemen in the league and shows no signs of slowing down.
77. Chris Jones, DT, Kansas City Chiefs
Years remaining on contract: 2
2022 cap hit: $29.4 million
If it wasn’t for Aaron Donald, we would all revere Jones. Since 2017, he has the same number of sacks as Joey Bosa and Yannick Ngakoue, narrowly beating out guys like Khalil Mack and Shaq Barrett. He is truly one of the best interior pass rushers in recent memory and he demonstrated it again in 2022. He posted nine sacks, 34 quarterback pressures and five passes batted down at the line, leading to his third Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections. He is still in his prime at 28 and would likely be higher on my list if it were not for that monstrous cap hit. It’s the sixth largest cap hit in the entire league. 2023 is a little better, but then you are facing a tough decision to pay an interior defensive linemen premium money entering his age 30 season. Jones is the type of guy you want to pay, but it will limit your ability to afford talent elsewhere.
76. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins
Years remaining on contract: 2
2022 cap hit: $8.27
This one probably is going to raise a few eyebrows. Tagovailoa has had a rocky start to his NFL career. He has yet to live up to his fifth overall draft spot back in 2019. Over 23 games, he has 27 touchdowns and 15 interceptions to go with a 66.2 percent completion rate. In reality, those numbers really aren’t that bad. However, consistency and durability have both been difficult to come by for the former Alabama quarterback. There is no use trying to fit a square peg into a round hole though. He is never going to be Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, but he still has the potential to be someone like Drew Brees. In the right offense, I believe Tua can thrive. He is accurate and goes through his progressions well. There are limitations, but I think it is very possible to win with him. On top of that, he is still on his rookie contract, which makes it much easier to build around him from a cap standpoint.
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