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 35 to 30.
40. Trevon Diggs, CB, Dallas Cowboys
Years remaining on contract: 2
2022 cap hit: $1.72 million
The NFL’s leader in interceptions for 2021 checks in at No. 40. That might seem a little low for a 23-year-old corner who just earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl status. Perhaps it is. Despite his 11 interceptions, he got picked on a lot. That’s because he is a bit inconsistent in coverage. Nobody allowed more yards in coverage than Diggs last season and the 10th most yards per completion. His passer rating allowed was still one of the best in the league because of the number of interceptions and pass break ups he had. In short, Diggs is high risk, high reward in coverage. His contract is also a bargain. I’m willing to bet on him still improving a bit in coverage at such a young age. I’m also not moving him higher because I know that him replicating 11 interceptions in a season is very unlikely.
39. Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $6.88 million
I don’t know if there was a better offensive weapon in football than Samuel. He had 1,770 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns, including 365 yards on the ground. San Francisco lined him up all over the formation and he excelled in every spot. It was a coming out party for Samuel, who flashed his upside as a freshman, but only played in seven games in 2020. He got a big pay day this offseason, but the first two years of his contract are actually very affordable. He carries a $6.88 million cap hit in 2022 and an $8.68 million in 2023. It jumps to about $28.5 million in 2024, which is less than ideal, but the bill always comes due at some point. If Samuel can show he can consistently produce at this All-Pro level, he will certainly be higher next year.
38. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $8.84 million
This was a tough call between Samuel and Metcalf. I ended up giving Metcalf the slight edge for a few reasons. For one, he has been more durable so far, never missing a game in his first three seasons. He also has fantastic production, with over 3,200 yards and 29 touchdowns. What’s more, Metcalf is only 24 years old. He is a physically dominant force that I believe could slot into basically any offense. Like Samuel, he signed a big extension this offseason. Again, the first two seasons are incredibly affordable for a player of his caliber before the cap hits jump up near $25 million. I have no doubt that his production will drop off this season with one of the worst quarterback situations in recent memory, but that does not mean he will be any less talented.
37. Jordan Mailata, OT, Philadelphia Eagles
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $4.37 million
This one might come as a bit of a surprise, but Mailata is one of the best young left tackles in the game. At just 25 years old, he is still just scratching the surface of his potential. He finished fourth in run-block win-rate. He was also PFF’s third-highest rated tackle, trailing only Trent Williams and Tyron Smith. At 6’8″, 365 pounds, he is a mountain of a man who moves incredibly well. His contract is very team-friendly as well. His cap hit over the next two years is under $8 million. Given what we’ve already seen from Mailata coupled with his upside, I think this is a great spot for him.
36. Davante Adams, WR, Las Vegas Raiders
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $8.17 million
One of the most prolific receivers over the past few seasons. Since he entered the league in 2014, only Mike Evans has more receiving touchdowns. He has benefited from playing with Aaron Rodgers, but there is no denying Adams’ talent. He is a five-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro. While he is certainly nearing the end of his prime, I still believe Adams has a few years left of elite production. His contract situation may look a little daunting on the surface with looming cap hits of over $40 million in the final two years of his deal when he will be 33 and 34-year-old respectively. However, the Raiders would be able to move on from Adams after the 2024 season with limited dead cap hit.
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