Splash’s NFL Top 100 (2022): Defensive Honorable Mentions


It is July, and the NFL season is just weeks away. This means it is time for the yearly task of ranking the top 100 players. For this list, more than 200 were considered. The preliminary list was organized by position and then placed into the Top 100.

The list is by no means perfect, but care was made to include the 100 players that deserve to be on it. The following set of honorable mentions had some consideration, but they missed the ranking at the end of the day. Many of the players are young and will feature in the 2023 pre-season installment of the Splash Top 100, but as of July 2022, they do not belong in the Top 100. Below is one player at each defensive position who narrowly missed the list.

Previous Installments: Offensive Honorable Mentions

Interior Defensive Lineman – Grady Jarrett, Atlanta Falcons

Jarrett was not quite on the level he had been in years past, but the Falcons lacked any front seven talent, so perhaps he has a legitimate excuse. Jarrett recorded 36 pressures, 33 defensive stops, and a 67.6 overall PFF grade. While he was less effective as a pass rusher, he did have his second-best season from a stops perspective, finishing behind 2019.

The Falcons have added some talent to their front seven this offseason, namely Arnold Ebiketie. Adding extra pieces should help Jarrett get back to Pro Bowl form. He should also convert sacks at a higher percentage than he did in 2021, so his stat sheet will look better. All told, Jarrett is still one of the best players in the NFL, but he is coming off something of a down season. He enters 2022 as the 10th-ranked interior defender in the Top 100.

Edge Defender – Khalil Mack, Los Angeles Chargers

Mack missed 10 games, the most he had ever missed in a season. However, he was not at the same pace he had been in his first seven NFL seasons. He was the classic example of a pressure machine from 2014-2020, but he only generated 22 pressures in 2021. Unlike years past, he had a ridiculous conversion rate, posting 6.0 sacks. In his first seven seasons, Mack turned 14.6% of his pressures into sacks. In 2021, he turned 27.3% of his pressures into sacks.

For years, Mack was underrated because his sack numbers were not as gaudy as one would imagine. Now, it seems that age is beginning to catch up to the former Defensive Player of the Year. He had the lowest overall run-defense grades of his career, and his pass-rush grade was the second-lowest. His grades weren’t bad, but he had been more likely than not to have a 90.0 overall grade. In 2021, Mack only had a 73.0 grade. Like Chandler Jones in Las Vegas, Mack might be better suited to be the secondary pass rusher to a superstar of today. Mack is the 12th-ranked edge defender entering 2022.

Linebacker – Logan Wilson, Cincinnati Bengals

Wilson was one of several Bengals who ascended to a new level in their playoff run. He notched a 90.0 PFF grade and an interception in the Bengals’ Divisional Round matchup. Wilson played more than twice the snaps he did in 2020 and showed strides in both run defense and coverage. However, Wilson’s value came in his ability to make plays. He intercepted four passes and forced a fumble.

Year 3 could be a massive breakout for the former Wyoming star. Wilson is already the 10th-best linebacker in the Top 100, but he could make his Pro Bowl or All-Pro debut this season. He will be integral to the Bengals repeating their 2021 success and returning to the Super Bowl. If he makes a jump as a run defender or coverage player, he will be in top-five conversations soon.

Cornerback – Casey Hayward, Atlanta Falcons

Hayward may be on his third team in three seasons, but he continued to be one of the best under-the-radar cornerbacks in the league. He allowed the lowest passer rating he had since 2017. Despite being on the wrong side of 30, Hayward posted a 76.0 overall grade with a 75.0 coverage grade. He recorded six pass breakups, and he had an interception to help the Las Vegas Raiders beat the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 18. In the playoffs, he did not allow a catch on four targets.

Hayward will be 33 when the season begins, but he is back playing in his home state, and he slots in behind one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in AJ Terrell. He will be a great veteran presence in a young secondary. Hayward enters 2022 as the 13th-ranked cornerback, the highest No. 2 corner in the league. He is a player who likely could continue to be the top corner, but he will not have to be the star when paired with Terrell.

Slot Cornerback – Taron Johnson, Buffalo Bills

Johnson has logged more than 2,400 slot snaps since the Bills drafted him in 2018. He was at his best in 2021, posting a career-high 70.3 overall grade including the playoffs. Johnson surrendered a 79.5 passer rating when in coverage despite only intercepting one pass. He was a generally reliable tackler when asked, but Johnson excelled in coverage. Despite playing the second-most coverage snaps out of the slot, Johnson ranked in the top 10 in passer rating allowed (with a minimum of 125 slot coverage snaps).

Johnson allowed a measly 0.95 yards per snap when in the slot. He was top 10 in snaps per target and snaps per reception, so Johnson was rarely getting beat early in routes. Johnson is an exemplary slot corner, and he should continue to be a weapon in the Bills’ loaded secondary. Johnson enters 2022 as the 19th-ranked cornerback, second-ranked slot-only corner, and fourth-ranked primary slot in the eyes of the Top 100.

Safety – Adrian Amos, Green Bay Packers

Amos had yet another strong season for the Packers. He set his career high for tackles and solo tackles, and he had multiple interceptions for the fourth year in a row. Amos is one of nine players with at least eight passes defended in the last four seasons. Overall, he earned a 74.3 overall grade with a 73.6 coverage grade. However, he had the best run-defense grade of his Packers career (77.2) and the best tackling grade of his career (87.7).

Amos enters 2022 as the 11th-ranked safety in the Top 100. In a volatile position, Amos is perhaps the safest bet to be a competent option. He has never graded worse than 69.6 over a full season, and he has six consecutive seasons with a 70.0 or better coverage grade. He has allowed a seasonal passer rating between 79.0 and 86.1 in each of the last five seasons. Amos might not have a Pro Bowl or All-Pro nod to his name, but 2022 could be the year.

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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images

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