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 Friday for players 55 to 51.
60. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Years remaining on contract: 3
2022 cap hit: $3.82 million
There is a very good chance that Lamb finds himself much higher on this next year. Up to this point, he has benefitted from playing across from Amari Cooper. Now, he will get a chance to prove himself as the bonafide No. 1 option. There is no doubt he has been impressive in his short NFL career so far. 153 catches, 2037 yards and 11 touchdowns across two seasons is nothing to sneeze at. Keep in mind that he didn’t have Dak Prescott for much of his rookie year. His production has been solid, but it doesn’t really compare to his peers. There are 15 different receivers with more yards over the past two seasons. Still, I believe Lamb can be a true top target in an offense. Plus, I love getting a receiver on a rookie contract these days, especially when you see how much the top receivers are netting on the open market.
59. Devin White, LB, Buccaneers
Years remaining on contract: 2
2022 cap hit: $9.53 million
How in the world is White still only 24 years old? He has three really impressive seasons under his belt already, including a Pro Bowl selection and an All-Pro nod. 15 sacks for an off-ball linebacker over three seasons is fairly uncommon. White is a downhill playmaker who struggles in coverage. He really has not developed that area of his game much either since entering the league. White won’t be a fit in every defense, but Tampa Bay has done a good job of maximizing his value. On top of that, still being on his rookie contract makes him much more affordable. He will inevitably land a big pay day when his rookie deal is up, but until then I will take the value that comes with having a star defender on a controlled deal.
58. Trey Hendrickson, EDGE, Cincinnati Bengals
Years remaining on contract: 3
2022 cap hit: $14.49 million
Two years ago, most NFL fans had never heard of Hendrickson. Now, he is on his way to becoming a household name. He showed out in his final season with the Saints, earning a big contract with the Bengals in the offseason. One season in, it looks like a great investment by Cincinnati. Hendrickson has 27.5 sacks over the past two seasons. The only players with more in that span are T.J. Watt and Myles Garrett. If he keeps up this level of production, he will be one of the best value contracts in the NFL. His cap hit maxes out at $17.5 million over the final three years of his deal. That number ranks 18th among edge rushers in 2024. It’s a big if, but if Hendrickson keeps producing at this level, I can safely say there will not be 17 edge rushers better than him.
57. Jaire Alexander, CB, Green Bay Packers
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $7.08 million
I was a bit skeptical of Alexander when he was coming out of Louisville back in 2018. I thought he was a bit undersized and lacked the measurables to be a true shutdown corner. He got better through each of his first three seasons, culminating in an All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection in 2020. Injuries limited him to just five games, including the postseason, but even in limited game action, Alexander reminded everyone just how impactful he can be for a defense. Look for him to be back at full strength and back to locking up opponent’s top receivers in 2022. His cap hit for this season is very affordable, but Alexander’s extension goes into effect in 2023. He carries a cap hit of at least $20 million for the remainder of his deal. Not ideal, but the guaranteed money makes it much easier to swallow. I expect he will be worth the money, too.
56. Travon Walker, EDGE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $6.80 million
This might feel a bit low for the No. 1 overall pick in the most recent draft, at least relative to some of the other rookies that have yet to appear on this list. However, that is largely because I believe the Jaguars grabbed the wrong guy. I’m not writing off Walker yet. Far from it. I think he could wind up being a Pro Bowl caliber player. I just think there were better options on the board. Walker was incredibly versatile at Georgia, lining up anywhere from defensive tackle to off-ball linebacker. His production is solid, if unspectacular, but his upside is what Jacksonville will be banking on. If he hits, five years of a potentially elite pass rusher on a rookie deal is invaluable.
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