2022 NFL Franchise 100: No. 100-96

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.

With all of that in mind, let’s kick off our countdown to No. 1. Check back Tuesday for players 95 to 91.

100. Christian Wilkins, DT, Miami Dolphins
Age: 26
Years remaining on contract: 2
2022 cap hit: $4.91 million
There is still value in run stuffers. Christian Wilkins is one of the best in the league when it comes to that department. He posted the second-highest run stuff win rate in the league in 2021. At just 26 years old, he is in his prime and is trending towards being a perennial Pro Bowl player. Additionally, he still has two years of team control left on his current contract. His 2022 cap hit is at just under $5 million. His 2023 cap number, the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, sits at $10.7 million. Coming off a year where he posted a career-high 4.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss, I’m willing to bet on Wilkins continuing to develop into a game-wrecking defensive tackle.

99. Garrett Wilson, WR, New York Jets
Age: 22
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $3.73 million
The value of a talented receiver on a rookie contract seems to be going up. We’ve seen a massive surge in spending at the position this offseason. Instead of having to pay top dollar for a playmaker, finding a receiver in the draft could help save your team a ton of money. Wilson’s deal runs through 2026 with the potential to exercise his fifth-year option for 2027. The value of his contract over the next four years is $20.4 million. There are 10 receivers making money than that on an annual average at this point with plenty more to follow. Obviously, taking a player who has never taken a snap in the NFL is a risk, but Wilson has the potential to be a quality NFL starter for the next decade. It would not be a surprise to see him emerge as the Jets No. 1 option this season. That type of value is great to jump on when trying to put together a roster.

98. Jevon Holland, S, Miami Dolphins
Age: 22
Years remaining on contract: 3
2022 cap hit: $1.98 million
I didn’t count on having two Dolphins in my first five players. That’s just how good Jevon Holland was as a rookie though. He did a little bit of everything in that Miami secondary. He recorded two interceptions, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and 69 total tackles. At 22 years old, Holland is well ahead of schedule in terms of production. Also, as a former second-round pick, his cap hit is ridiculously low, staying below three million dollars for the remainder of his rookie deal. Unfortunately, he will not be eligible for a fifth-year option as a trade off, but the potential of signing him to a second contract at the age of 25 is an appealing one. With most of these players, projection will be required, but after a promising start, I am more than willing to roll the dice on Holland’s long-term upside and versatility.

97. Ryan Ramczyk, OT, New Orleans Saints
Age: 28
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $8.48 million
The NFL has become a league where you need to have two quality tackles to contend. While left tackle is still perceived as the more valuable position in large part due to him protecting the quarterback’s blindside, right tackles are seeing the financial windfall of this shift in the league. Ramczyk signed a five-year, $96 million contract extension last July. His cap hit is going to be heavy going forward, but he has proven to be worth the money so far. He recorded the highest pass-block win-rate of any offensive tackle in the league last year. He is a three-time All-Pro in his career and likely would have been again in 2022 if not for a nagging knee injury that cost him the final seven games of the season. At 28 years old, he is nearing the end of his prime, but we are also seeing more players able to extend their careers well into their 30s. The next two tackles on the pass-block win-rate list were 31-year-old Lane Johnson and 40-year-old Andrew Whitworth.

96. Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Age: 24
Years remaining on contract: 2
2022 cap hit: $1.99 million
His dad was really good. Winfield Jr. might wind up being even better. The soon-to-be 24-year-old earned a Pro Bowl nod in just his second season. It took Antoine Winfield Sr. until his age-31 season to reach his first Pro Bowl, although he also earned All-Pro honors that year. He holds up well enough in pass coverage, but really makes his impact as an open-field tackler and blitzer. He tallied two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and a pair of sacks in 2021. It was a season that built off a solid rookie season. It would be great to see him take the next step in pass coverage, but he has the range and defensive instincts needed to impact the game at a high level for a while to come. Not to mention, he is under contract for the next two seasons with cap hits of $1.9 million and $2.3 million. Hard to beat the kind of value for a Pro-Bowl caliber player.

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NFL Midseason All-Rookie Team: Mac Jones, Creed Humphrey, Micah Parsons and Nate Hobbs lead first-year standouts

So often, we spent an entire year, if not multiple years, scouting players as they prepare to enter the NFL. Then, we seem to lose track of them unless they are quarterbacks or top-tier performers. I know I am very guilty of this.

This year, I wanted to take a little extra time to appreciate the rookies who have performed well out of the gate. I know we are a bit past the midseason point, but there is still a lot of football left to be played, so this team is bound to look very different by the time we reach early January.

Here is my all-rookie team through 10 weeks of NFL action.

QB – Mac Jones, Patriots
This is a no-brainer. Jones has unquestionably been the best rookie quarterback of the bunch so far. Through 10 games, he has over 2,300 yards and 13 touchdowns. Trevor Lawrence has the second-most touchdown passes with eight. Jones’ completion percentage is significantly higher than all other rookie passers as well. He is in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

RB – Elijah Mitchell, 49ers
While Najee Harris has the gaudy usage numbers, Elijah Mitchell has been much more efficient this year. Perhaps that is because he has a much better line, but Mitchell has been one of the fun surprises from this draft class. He is averaging 90 yards from scrimmage per game on a healthy 4.7 yards per carry. Mitchell is in line for a solid second half.

RB – Najee Harris, Steelers
While Harris has had some ugly games this year, evidenced by his 3.7 yards per carry on the season, he is a workhorse for the Steelers. He leads all rookies in rushing yards and actually ranks second in receptions, trailing only Jaylen Waddle. It would be nice to see him be a bit more efficient as a runner, but much of that comes to running behind a poor offensive line.

WR – Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals
Chase has lit up the NFL so far. He ranks fourth in receiving yards per game and tied fifth for touchdown receptions this season among all receivers. He also has 229 more yards than the next rookie in this class. His big-play ability is unrivaled so far and he has to be the front runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

WR – Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins
While he has not been the deep threat that Chase has proven to be so far, Waddle is the main fixture in Miami’s offense. He has 60 receptions this season, by far the most of any rookie and sixth-most for any player in the league this year. If the Dolphins have some more consistent quarterback play in the second half, Waddle should see some of those yardage totals increase.

TE – Kyle Pitts, Falcons
While the scoring plays have not been there, Pitts is still making a large impact. He trails only Ja’Marr Chase for the most receiving yards among rookies. He has unquestionably benefited from increased volume with Calvin Ridley out for the Falcons. It is only a matter of time before Pitts starts to figure things out in the red zone and adds to his one touchdown on the season.

OT – Rashawn Slater, Chargers
Physically dominant barely begins to describe Slater this season. He is the third-highest rated rookie by PFF, posting a dominant 82.2 grade. He has only allowed two sacks this season and continues to shine as a run blocker. He honestly deserves some rookie of the year consideration.

G – Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jets
In the midst of a rough season for the Jets, Vera-Tucker has been a bright light. He has only allowed one sack in 617 snaps this season. He is a bit uneven as a run blocker, but has shown flashes of truly dominant play. The upside he has displayed with his movement skills and instincts is impressive.

C – Creed Humphrey, Chiefs
One of my favorite offensive linemen in this past draft, Humphrey has slotted in nicely as a Day 1 starter for the Chiefs. He honestly deserves some consideration for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He is PFF’s top-ranked center through 10 weeks of play. That’s every center in the NFL, not just rookies. Bradley Bozeman is the only center in the league with a higher pass-block win rate at this point. It is obviously early, but it looks like Kansas City landed a steal. 

G – Trey Smith, Chiefs
If Creed Humphrey was a home run, I don’t even know what that makes Smith. A fifth-round pick out of Tennessee, he has taken the league by storm. Ranking sixth in both pass-block and run-block win rate, Smith is proving that he has what it takes to compete in the NFL at a high level. PFF credits him with four sacks allowed, so there is clearly still room for improvement, but he is off to a hot start.

OT – Penei Sewell, Lions
Finding another tackle across from Slater proved to actually be difficult. Had Samuel Cosmi stayed healthy, this likely would have been his spot. Instead, I will go with Sewell. He has been fine so far, definitely a bit uneven in his play, but that should be expected from one of the youngest prospects in the draft. He has now started on both sides of the line with Taylor Decker returning to action, dominating in his first start at right tackle. Sewell is showing the versatility needed to thrive in the NFL.

DL – Osa Odighizuwa, Cowboys
While Micah Parsons has, deservedly, gotten most of the press clippings this year, Odigizuwa has had a solid start to his NFL career. He is providing some interior pass rushing for the Cowboys on a defense that desperately lacked it. With nine QB hits and a pair of sacks so far this season, he is making his presence known. However, he definitely still has room for improvement as a tackler.

DL – Christian Barmore, Patriots
While it is clear Barmore is still finding his footing, there is no question he has been one of the most impactful interior rookie linemen so far this year. He is tough to move and shows the occasional flash of pass rushing prowess. Putting it all together on a more consistent basis is key, but Barmore seems to be getting better as the year rolls on.

DL – Kwity Paye, Colts
If you haven’t watched Paye play much this year and just look at the one sack he has recorded, you might question his inclusion. But if you have watched his explosive play off the edge, particularly in recent weeks, it is clear to see he is going to be a problem in the league. He is clearly still trying to figure out how to excel as a pass rusher at this level, but his physical tools have been on full display and he should continue to be disruptive.

LB – Azeez Ojulari, Giants
In what proved to be a very weak class for edge rushers, it is hard to find too many players that have stood out. While it has been a little bit of feast or famine for Ojulari, he is second in the draft class with 5.5 sacks so far this season. What’s more is he is getting on the field, a lot. He has played at least 50 percent of New York’s defensive snaps in every game this season.

LB – Micah Parsons, Cowboys
The top dog in the race to win Defensive Rookie of the Year, Parsons has done a little bit of everything this year. He has earned the most plaudits for his scary ability as a pass rusher. He leads all rookies with six sacks on the season. What makes Parsons a lock for this list though is his versatility. He can play on the edge with his hand in the dirt, or he can drop back and play as an off-ball linebacker. That makes it really difficult to account for his whereabouts on a play-to-play basis.

LB – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Browns
A surprising slide on draft day saw Owusu-Koramoah slip into the second round. The Browns have greatly benefited from his fall. JOK was ramping up into a large role within Cleveland’s defense before missing a pair of games. Now, it seems the coaching staff wants to work him back in slowly, make no mistake though, when he is on the field, he is a difference maker. 

LB – Odafe Oweh, Ravens
You knew this was going to happen. The supremely athletic edge rusher that everyone knocked for his lack of college production has flourished with the Ravens. He has four sacks already in his rookie season, trailing only Parsons and Ojulari among first-year players. Add in 11 quarterback hits and a steady presence on the field, and you have one of the top rookies in the league.

CB – Nate Hobbs, Raiders
Most of the players on this list are first- or second-round picks that I was very familiar with by draft day. Even Trey Smith and Elijah Mitchell were more widely known because of their participation in the Senior Bowl. Hobbs was notably left off the Senior Bowl roster, and yet has been one of the top cover corners in the league this season. He came back down to Earth a bit when Patrick Mahomes picked on him in Week 10, but has been one of the league’s stingiest corners on a yards allowed per completion basis.

S – Jevon Holland, Dolphins
I remember a time where Jevon Holland was regarded as a lock to be a first-round pick. It is looking more and more like that should have been the case. I know, I know, it is way too early to make those conclusions, but Holland has been one of the most dynamic rookies on the defensive side of the ball this year. He is excellent as a pass rusher and has no problem laying the wood. There is unquestionably room for improvement in coverage, but he is best used down in the box, wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. 

S – Trevon Moehrig, Raiders
Man, the Raiders really hit it out of the park with defensive backs in 2021. Early returns from Moehrig might not be quite on the same level as Hobbs, but he has been a valuable member of Las Vegas’ defensive backfield. He is the opposite of Holland, excelling in coverage, especially as a deep centerfielder. He has only missed a few snaps this whole season and even has an interception to his name.

CB – Patrick Surtain II, Broncos
While he hasn’t quite reached lockdown corner status yet, Surtain is off to a strong start to his career. Opposing teams have gone after him a few times, but Surtain has largely held his own. The three touchdowns given up aren’t great, but he is one of just seven starting corners to allow fewer than 50 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed. What’s more is he has seen the eighth-most targets of any defensive player this year. He is under fire a lot, but he has won more than he has lost this season.