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 Tuesday for players 70 to 66.
75. Danielle Hunter, EDGE, Minnesota Vikings
Years remaining on contract: 2
2022 cap hit: $12.34
It might be easy to forget just how good Hunter has been in his career up to this point. After four straight seasons without missing a game, Hunter missed the entire 2020 due to a neck injury. A torn pec in 2021 limited him to just seven games. It is hard to justify taking a player who only appeared in seven games over the past two seasons, but in those seven games he had six sacks. There is definitely a risk, but grabbing a player at this spot who, when healthy, regularly records double-digit sack seasons is great value. Not to mention he still has two very affordable years left on his contract for a pass rusher as proven as himself.
74. Brian Burns, EDGE, Carolina Panthers
Years remaining on contract: 2
2022 cap hit: $4.31 million
Coming off his first Pro Bowl season, Burns is an up-and-coming pass rusher. He has had at least 7.5 sacks in each of his first three NFL seasons and has an impressive six forced fumbles in that same span. That Pro Bowl selection was well-earned, too, posting nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Now it is time for Burns to take that next step. While he has had at least 7.5 sacks each season, he has yet to top nine quarterback takedowns in a single season. Thankfully, he is still on a very affordable contract for the next two seasons and has yet to miss a game in his career to this point. At just 24, there is a ton of upside and a long career still ahead for Burns.
73. DeForest Buckner, DT, Indianapolis Colts
Years remaining on contract: 3
2022 cap hit: $16 million
Another interior defensive lineman makes the cut. Buckner gets the edge over many of his counterparts thanks to top-tier, consistent pass-rushing production and a fairly team-friendly deal for an elite defensive tackle. Buckner’s 36 sacks since 2018 rank third-most among defensive tackles, trailing only Aaron Donald and Chris Jones. However, his cap hit over the next three seasons is more than ten million less than both of those guys. He is a two-time All-Pro and a two-time Pro Bowler. That type of value is incredible for someone as productive and disruptive as him.
72. A.J. Brown, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $5.63 million
Jalen Hurts’ newest target is the first veteran receiver to show up on this list. He is a big-bodied receiver with a knack for finding the end zone. For as talented as Brown has shown he is so far, he still has yet to really enter elite production numbers. His 24 touchdowns and 2,995 receiving yards over his first three seasons rank tied for 10th and 17th in the league respectively. Almost every single one of the players ahead of him also appears on this list. The league is full of young, talented receivers. Brown is a really good one, but his massive contract commitment down the line paired with good, but not great production, makes it hard for me to justify putting him any higher on this list.
71. Kolton Miller, OT, Las Vegas Raiders
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $13.47 million
He does not get a whole lot of love nationally, but Miller has quietly developed into one of the better tackles in the league. His size makes him a player I would typically covet when scouting college offensive linemen. Miller measures in at 6’8″, 325 pounds with 34-inch arms and massive nearly 11-inch hands. On top of that, he has missed just two games in his first four seasons in the league. PFF gave him a grade of an 84 this year and he ranked sixth in pass-block win-rate among offensive tackles. What’s more, Miller has a relatively affordable deal for a starting left tackle. His highest cap hit over the remainder of his contract is at $17.6 million in 2024. It might not be the sexiest move, but Miller gets the job done at a solid price.
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