Splash’s Top 100 (2021): Players 80-71

Splash’s Top 100 (2021): Players 80-71

by September 5, 2021 0 comments

It is time to continuing identifying the 100 best players in football. This is part four of 11, with honorable mentions, Nos. 100-91, and Nos. 90-81 having been released already.

No.80: Stephon Tuitt, Interior Defensive Line, Pittsburgh Steelers

After an injury-shortened 2019 season, Tuitt came back and played at a high level. He set a career-high with 71 pressures, coming second to Aaron Donald. Per usual, he was a good run-defending interior defender, shaping his skillset as one of the most well-rounded at the interior position. Tuitt is often overshadowed by the likes of T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward, but he is a bonafide star who is continuing to develop into a top interior defender. Tuitt should have a few more years at the top of his game, so watch out, AFC North.

No.79: D.K. Metcalf, Wide Receiver, Seattle Seahawks

The production speaks for itself; Metcalf had 1,300 yards in 2020. Metcalf is perhaps the most physically imposing specimen at any position in the NFL, and he uses every ounce in each game. He uses his legit track speed to beat corners, stack corners, and haul in passes over the top. Does he have a refined route tree? No. Does it matter? No. With the notable exception of Jalen Ramsey, Metcalf has had his way with every NFL cornerback he has gone against. He is an unreal deal, and he could be even better in 2021 and beyond.

No.78: Jamal Adams, Safety, Seattle Seahawks

Many fans will scoff at this, and that’s fine. Adams is far from a traditional safety as he often parades as a linebacker or even edge rusher. Using the traditional defensive roles to define Adams does a poor job of capturing his uniqueness. Adams has always been an efficient pass rusher. In 2018 and 2019, he totaled 47 pressures on just 181 pass-rush snaps (26 percent). In 2020, he raised his rate to 32.1 percent. Yes, these are schemed matchups. However, he not only wins the rep at an elite level, but he also secures the pressure, and inevitably, the sack.

No.77: Corey Linsley, Interior Offensive Line, Los Angeles Chargers

Linsley broke out in a big way in 2020. After years of steady play in the interior of the Green Bay offensive line, Linsley blossomed into an All-Pro caliber player. He packed his bags for Los Angeles, and he should be excellent moving forward for the Chargers. He did deteriorate by the end of the season, and his worst game of the season came in the playoffs. Regardless, Linsley has a well-rounded profile. He has excelled in pass protection for his entire career, but he made strides as a run blocker in 2020. Linsley posted his fourth season with a pass-blocking grade of 80.0 and his first with a run-blocking grade of 80.

No.76: Vita Vea, Interior Defensive Line, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vea only played seven games in 2020, including playoffs, but he showed tremendous growth. He had been a solid run defender and capable pass rusher, but he is now borderline elite. He saved his best for last, posting five pressures in Super Bowl LV. Moving into 2021, Vea has the upside to be the single best defensive player in a loaded Tampa Bay defense. He is an integral force in Tampa’s elite run defense, and he contributes more than enough as a pass rusher. He will be back to full health in 2021, and he will compete for an All-Pro spot.

No.75: Lamar Jackson, Quarterback, Baltimore Ravens

As mentioned with previous quarterbacks in the top 100, this is a ranking of best players. In terms of pure value, Jackson is certainly in the top five, and his 2019 MVP was deserved. However, Jackson’s eliteness with respect to position is not quite the same as the next 74 players. With that said, Jackson is a dynamo. He is perhaps the single-most game-altering athlete with the ball in his hands. As a passer, he is generally competent. He deserves more credit for what he does as a passer, but he is breathtaking as a runner.

No.74: Jeffery Simmons, Interior Defensive Line, Tennessee Titans

Simmons has yet to realize the full breadth of his pass-rushing upside, but that makes his future prospects all the more tantalizing. He is already a terrific run defender, and he has plenty of upside as a pass rush. Even if he is not fully fleshed out in his third season, he will be one of the best players in the NFL. He is a candidate to join Donald on the All-Pro team, and he should be a mainstay for much of the decade. Simmons made a sizable jump in 2020, and he will make an even bigger jump in 2021.

No.73: Mike Evans, Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

From a production standpoint, Evans checks every box imaginable. He has an NFL-record seven straight 1,000-yard seasons to begin his career. He has a trio of 12-touchdown seasons. Evans has multiple seasons above 17 yards per catch. Despite this historically relevant production, Evan suffers from being in a loaded position. It is a testament to just how deep the wide receiver position is in 2021 that Evans is not even a lock to be in top-10 consideration. He may not even be the best wide receiver on his team. That honor goes to the next player on the list.

No.72: Chris Godwin, Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Godwin may not have the production chops that his teammates do, but Godwin is the most well-rounded of the group. He has the physicality of Evans (even while being 6-foot-1), the versatility to be used in the slot and on the perimeter, and excellent route running. In 2019, Godwin earned a second-team All-Pro nod and likely would have been a shoo-in first-teamer had he played 16 games. Godwin is as talented as a receiver can be, and his age-25 season should reaffirm him as a top-10 receiver. As mentioned with Evans, being a top-10 receiver is astronomically difficult in the modern NFL, but Godwin has the skillset to do so.

No.71: Grady Jarrett, Interior Defensive Line, Atlanta Falcons

Even while the Falcons have slipped into further ineptitude, Jarrett has continued to be elite. He had a 10 percent pressure rate from the interior in 2020, posting a career-high 57 pressures. He was not quite as productive against the run, but being a top-tier pass rusher and a sturdy run defender is valuable in the NFL. Entering 2021, you can pencil Jarrett in for 50 pressures and 25 defensive stops. While the position is getting deeper with talent with each passing season (Jarrett is the fourth interior defensive linemen in this section alone), Jarrett has the talent and production to maintain his spot in the Top 100.

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I’m Ryan Potts. Some people affectionately call me Splash. I am renowned for being a misplaced Ravens, Cavs, Wings & Braves fan. Twitter: MrSplashMan19

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