No. 50: DeForest Buckner, Interior Defensive Lineman, Indianapolis Colts
2021 was Buckner’s sixth season in a row with at least 48 pressures. In his second season with the Colts, Buckner made his second Pro Bowl. He also recorded seven sacks, marking his fourth straight season with at least seven. Buckner has been an iron man of sorts, playing in 95 of 97 games for the San Francisco 49ers and Colts. He is a competent run defender, but he is one of the best interior pass rushers in the game.
No. 49: Kenny Clark, Interior Defensive Lineman, Green Bay Packers
Clark posted the second 60-pressure season of his career in 2021. While he slumped to his lowest-ever run-defense grade, he rebounded as a pass rusher, more than doubling his 2020 pressure total. Clark made his second Pro Bowl in 2021. While he has never been a sack artist, Clark is a consistent presence in the backfield. He had eight games in 2021 with at least five pressures, including a peak of eight in Week 10.
No. 48: Tristan Wirfs, Offensive Tackle, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After being a top-tier right tackle in his rookie season, Wirfs continued to elevate his game in 2021. He earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first of many times in his career. Wirfs allowed just two sacks and two hits across nearly 800 pass-blocking reps. He earned a 64.7 or better pass-blocking grade in all 17 games he played. Wirfs had some inconsistencies as a run blocker, but his overall performance is on the rise.
No. 47: Ryan Ramczyk, Offensive Tackle, New Orleans Saints
Even in just 10 games, Ramczyk continued to be one of the league’s best right tackles. The 2019 All-Pro has yet to make a Pro Bowl, but he has tacked on a pair of second-team All-Pros. Ramczyk is a better run blocker than pass blocker, but he is reliable in both facets. Through five seasons, Ramczyk has earned no worse than an overall PFF grade of 80.5.
No. 46: Alvin Kamara, Running Back, New Orleans Saints
Kamara has rattled off five consecutive Pro Bowls to open his career. In 2021, he posted 1,337 total yards and nine touchdowns. Across 287 touches, Kamara did not fumble. He ran for a career-best 69 yards per game. Through five seasons, Kamara averages 987 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, 87 catches, 760 receiving yards, and five receiving touchdowns per 17-game period. Kamara has made a pair of second-team All-Pros, and he will look to break through the first-team barrier in 2022.
No. 45: Eric Kendricks, Linebacker, Minnesota Vikings
Kendricks was not quite as good as he was in 2019 and 2020, but he remains among the best of the best. He is now on the wrong side of 30, but Kendricks’ instincts both against the run and the pass should help him age gracefully. Kendricks set his career bests in sacks, tackles, and solo tackles last year. The 2019 All-Pro notched two interceptions, one short of his career high set in 2020.
No. 44: Deebo Samuel, Wide Receiver, San Francisco 49ers
Samuel had one of the most spectacular seasons in recent memory as a do-it-all stud for the 49ers. The first-time All-Pro posted 1,405 receiving yards on 77 catches, good for a league-best 18.2 yards per reception. He tacked on six receiving touchdowns. However, the special part of Samuel’s game was his production as a runner. He averaged 6.2 yards per rush, scoring eight touchdowns. All told, Samuel posted 1,770 yards and 14 total touchdowns.
No. 43: Tyron Smith, Offensive Tackle, Dallas Cowboys
Smith had a vintage season in 2021. He made his eighth Pro Bowl and posted his highest PFF grade in a season since 2015. While Smith will turn 32 during the upcoming season, he should be trusted to put together another strong season. He has earned a 76.0 or better pass-blocking grade in nine straight seasons and a 74.8 or better run-blocking grade in eight of 11 seasons.
No. 42: Stefon Diggs, Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills
Diggs has four straight 1,000-yard seasons, and he has established himself as one of the best receivers in the NFL. Diggs has made back-to-back Pro Bowls and, since joining the Bills, racked up 230 catches for 2,760 yards and 18 touchdowns. He is one of the best route runners in the NFL, but he matches that savviness with excellent ball skills and a knack for making defenders miss. In 2021, Diggs had 15 contested catches and he forced 16 missed tackles.
No. 41: Antoine Winfield Jr., Safety, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After a solid rookie season, Winfield elevated his play to be one of the best defensive backs in the NFL. He made his first Pro Bowl, forcing four turnovers on the back end of the Buccaneers’ defense. In 2021, Winfield allowed a 63.9 passer rating. He posted an 87.2 coverage grade and 78.1 run-defense grade, one of the best combinations in the game. All told, Winfield earned an 86.1 grade, a 19-point improvement on his 2020 mark.
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