2022 NFL Franchise 100: No. 50-46

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 Wednesday for players 45 to 41.

50. Tre’Davious White, CB, Buffalo Bills
Age: 27
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $16.4 million
I will admit, I am probably a bit too high on White, who is coming off a torn ACL. That being said, I really love his game. He has been an impact player since he came into the league, finishing as runner up for Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017. He was an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in 2019 and 2020. I expect he likely would have been in 2021 as well if not for the knee injury. His advanced metrics in coverage are great every year. What sells me even more on White is his contract situation. His cap hit hovers right around $16 million for the next four seasons, which is very affordable for an elite cover corner. It ranks third for the position in 2022, but drops to 14th in 2023 and even lower beyond that.

49. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
Age: 23
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $6.16 million
Given what receivers are being paid in the NFL these days, getting Waddle at just north of $6 million is a bargain. Waddle became just the second rookie receiver in NFL history to haul in 100 catches, surpassing Anquan Bolden’s record of 101 set in 2003. He is a huge threat in space and excels at generating separation in small spaces. His acceleration is incredible. It is only one year of production, but in an offense that was far from prolific passing the football, Miami ranked 17th in yards per game last season, I think this was about as strong of a start as you could have hoped for.

48. Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Detroit Lions
Age: 22
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $6.49 million
Hutchinson has come a long way from the foot injury that cost him the remainder of the 2020 college season. He became the first defensive player to finish as the runner up for the Heisman since Manti Te’o in 2012. That was thanks in large part to a monster senior season featuring 14 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. I love his motor and his polish as a pass rusher off the edge. I think he is going to be a star in this league for a long time to come. I am willing to invest in that upside.

47. Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins
Age: 28
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $6.49 million
Catch him if you can. Hill will get the chance to remind everyone that he was a great receiver before Patrick Mahomes came along now that he is with the Dolphins. He has been a Pro Bowler every season of his career and a three-time All-Pro. He has led the league in yards from scrimmage per touch in two different seasons so far as well. You might be wondering why he isn’t higher, given all of the accolades. He is clearly in the prime of his career, but I worry a little bit about his longevity as a player whose game is so heavily predicated on speed and his contract situation. Hill’s cap hit for 2022 is very easy to swallow, but balloons to over $31 million in 2023. Still, he is a game-changer with the ability to take the top off a defense at any moment. That is worth investing in.

46. Ahmad Gardner, CB, New York Jets
Age: 22
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $6.08 million
First and foremost, happy 22nd birthday to Sauce! The Jets top pick has looked the part so far in the preseason. After not allowing a touchdown during his collegiate career, he was not even targeted during his first preseason. I am not sure how important that stat really is, but Gardner brings length, talent and swagger to a position that demands all of them to be considered elite. Gardner was my No. 2 player in this past draft class and I think he is going to be one of the best corners in the league very quickly. His rookie deal will keep him at an affordable cap hit for the foreseeable future as well.

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