Splash’s Top 100 (2021): Players 70-61

Splash’s Top 100 (2021): Players 70-61

by September 7, 2021 1 comment

It is time to continue identifying the 100 best players in football. This is part five of 11, with honorable mentions, Nos. 100-91, and Nos. 90-81, and Nos. 80-71 having been released already.

No.70: Dak Prescott, Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys

For as much unwarranted hate that Prescott gets as the starting quarterback for the Cowboys, there are valid shortcomings. It is (clearly) his fault that Dallas allowed a total of 126 points in his last three full starts. He (clearly) needs to magically be able to play defense and stop other teams. Trolling critics aside, Dak has one of the higher floors among the top-10 quarterbacks. He rarely posts poor performances. Previous entries (namely Tom Brady and Lamar Jackson) have ceilings of being top-five quarterbacks in a given week, but they do not have the floor of Prescott.

No.69: Budda Baker, Safety, Arizona Cardinals

Baker has one of the most versatile skill sets in the NFL. He is now a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro. While his 2017 All-Pro as a special teamer is not equivalent to his 2020 All-Pro as a safety, it is quite an accomplishment. Baker performs all duties of a safety admirably. When Arizona asks him to rush the passer as a box safety, he excels. Baker can spotlight in the slot when necessary as well. He even had a handful of snaps as a boundary corner in 2020. He is even excellent in the traditional Earl Thomas role as a free safety. No matter how Arizona deploys Baker, he is one of the best players in the NFL.

No.68: Danielle Hunter, EDGE, Minnesota Vikings

While Hunter did not play in 2020, he should return to his usual elite play in 2021. Hunter has back-to-back 14.5-sack seasons, but his 2019 was quite special. He had multiple pressures in every game he played multiple snaps. He tallied 10 pressures in a game three times, and he had a 16.7 percent pressure rate in the playoffs. All told, Hunter made the jump from good pass rusher to elite in 2019. His 97 pressures ranked third in the NFL, and his 18 percent win rate on 616 available snaps is an unmatched blend of efficiency and volume.

No.67: Tristan Wirfs, Offensive Tackle, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In a loaded offensive tackle class, Wirfs was a step above in 2020. He was a Pro Bowl snub, but PFF gave him his credit with a second-team All-Pro nod. Despite being a rookie and playing 20 games for the eventual Super Bowl champions, Wirfs did not have a bad week. He saved his best for when it mattered, earning a 91.7 PFF grade in the Super Bowl. Consistency is a tremendous skill to have, but Wirfs cemented himself as a superstar by being the highest-graded player in the biggest game of his life.

No.66: Cameron Jordan, EDGE, New Orleans Saints

Jordan has been one of the most well-rounded defensive players for the better part of a decade. He has also never missed a game. Jordan may not be the elite pass rusher he was a few seasons ago, but he is still a No.1-caliber edge. To compensate, Jordan has become an even better run defender. He has always been a great run defender, but he trimmed the gap with the likes of Khalil Mack and T.J. Watt. Even as he enters his age-32 season, Jordan is essentially a lock for 50 pressures and a run defense grade in the mid-80.0s.

No.65: Justin Jefferson, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings

Jefferson had a rookie season for the ages. Without the NFL’s intrinsic quarterback bias, he would have been a runaway Offensive Rookie of the Year winner. Jefferson stacked up 88 catches, 1,400 yards, and seven touchdowns. His 90.5 receiving grade ranked second among receivers to Davante Adams. On film, Jefferson’s release package pops, and few receivers move as fluidly as Jefferson does in and out of his breaks. He is already one of the best route runners in the NFL and heading into year two, Jefferson is looking for his second elite season.

No.64: Chandler Jones, EDGE, Arizona Cardinals

Jones missed much of 2020 with injury, and his snaps were not as productive as they were in 2019. Regardless, Jones still projects as one of the NFL’s premier pass rushers in 2021. He’s never been a terrific run defender, but he is solid enough. Jones has cracked 75 pressures twice, earning All-Pro nods both seasons. Age could catch up to Jones, but he should be playing more of a pass-rush role than a three-down role he had earlier in his career. Nonetheless, Jones should get his seventh season with at least 10 sacks. If Jones continues his current trend, he will be an All-Pro and record 21 sacks in 2021. That’s a tall order, but he did have 19 in 2019.

No.63: A.J. Brown, Wide Receiver, Tennessee Titans

Since Tennessee drafted Brown, he has been one of the most productive players in the NFL. He has a pair of 1,000-yard seasons, and he has 21 total touchdowns. He added a 22nd touchdown in the playoffs. However, the tape tells the full story. Brown is a physical menace who transitions from electric route runner to powerful YAC threat. Brown hauled in 19 of 31 contested catch opportunities, immediately beginning to break tackles. He had 18 missed tackles forced in 2020, including seven in one game against Baltimore. Julio Jones is a double-edged sword for Brown’s production but expect Brown to continue to be a tape superstar.

No.62: Terry McLaurin, Wide Receiver, Washington Football Team

Coming in just ahead of his draftmate, McLaurin lives up to the “Scary Terry” moniker. Despite catching passes from a who’s who of awful quarterbacks, McLaurin has rattled off seasons with 919 and 1,118 yards. As a rookie, McLaurin tacked on seven touchdowns. He has reliable hands, only dropping three of 135 targets. McLaurin is a stellar route runner, but if he does not separate, he has secured 54.2 percent of contested catches. He is shifty with the ball in his hands, forcing 14 missed tackles in 2020. If McLaurin had consistent quarterback play, he would be in All-Pro consideration.

No.61: Roquan Smith, Linebacker, Chicago Bears

Smith had an up-and-down season in 2020, but the flashes were otherworldly. Smith is a freak of an athlete, helping him to be a productive blitzer and be perhaps the third-best coverage linebacker behind Eric Kendricks and Fred Warner. He has had to be a stellar run defender, but he is a good enough tackler, so it tends not to be an issue. Smith could be in play for an All-Pro nod in 2021, and the sky’s the limit for him. He should be a mainstay in future installments of 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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