Splash’s Top 100 (2022): Players 80-71

NFL Top 100

It’s time to identify the top 100 players in the NFL, this time Nos. 80 through 71. Be sure to check out the offensive honorable mentions and the defensive honorable mentions.

Previous Installments: 100-91, 90-81

No. 80: D.K. Metcalf, Wide Receiver, Seattle Seahawks

The newly-paid Metcalf has rattled off three straight seasons with 900 yards and at least seven touchdowns. Ironically, Metcalf was more productive with Geno Smith rather than Russell Wilson in 2021, so perhaps his stats will jump back to 2020 levels next season. The 2020 Pro Bowler is a physical freak who can score a touchdown on any play. 2022 might be another disappointing season for the Seahawks, but Metcalf is a shining star.

No. 79: Bobby Wagner, Linebacker, Los Angeles Rams

Speaking of the Seahawks, Wagner left after 10 seasons with the franchise. He is not quite at his peak as he heads into his Rams’ tenure, but he still made the Pro Bowl and second All-Pro team in 2021. The future Hall of Famer is an eight-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro. Wagner will transform the Rams’ linebackers from a middling unit into one of the best in the group with his leadership, tackling acumen, and attention to detail.

No. 78: Joe Burrow, Quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals

Burrow had an eye-popping second year in the NFL. He led the Bengals to their first division title since 2015, winning 10 regular-season games when preseason predictions often had the Bengals with six wins. Burrow and the Bengals tacked on three playoff victories, coming excruciatingly close to a Super Bowl title. Burrow had a dominant statistical season. He led the NFL in completion percentage and yards per attempt, two stats that are often mutually exclusive. With a better offensive line, Burrow will certainly be much higher in the Top 100 in 2023.

No. 77: Austin Ekeler, Running Back, Los Angeles Chargers

Ekeler recorded an absurd 20 touchdowns in 2021, as many as he had had in the last three seasons combined. He continued to be effective as a runner, averaging 4.4 yards per carry en route to 911 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. Heading into 2021, Ekeler had just nine career rushing touchdowns. He also added incredible value as a receiving threat, posting 647 yards and eight touchdowns. Inexplicably, Ekeler received no formal recognition for his excellent season.

No. 76: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Safety, Pittsburgh Steelers

Fitzpatrick is the most applicable reflection of the safety position’s volatility. After consecutive All-Pro nods, Fitzpatrick was far from his apex in 2021. He was likely a bit better than his 57.2 PFF grade, but the turnovers and big plays did not come in clumps as they did in 2019 and 2020. Fitzpatrick allowed more yards and catches than he had in 2019 and 2020 combined, and he just slipped from his throne. He is still a Top 100 player, but he needs a bounce-back campaign.

No. 75: Jevon Holland, Safety, Miami Dolphins

Holland’s welcome to the NFL was spectacular in every facet. Primarily a free safety, Holland flashed his versatility with nearly 200 snaps close to the line of scrimmage. He was an effective tackler (only an 8.3 percent missed tackle rate), and he had 16 pressures on 65 pass-rush snaps. However, he was nothing short of a superstar when moving backward. Holland had an 87.7 PFF coverage grade, and his range immediately became some of the best in the NFL.

No. 74: Justin Simmons, Safety, Denver Broncos

In terms of 2021-only performance, Simmons lands between Fitzpatrick and Holland. However, Fitzpatrick has a strong track record of success. In each of the last three seasons, he has either made the Pro Bowl or Second All-Pro Team. Simmons excels in coverage; he allowed a 59.4 rating in 2021. He is a steady tackler when asked to play around the line of scrimmage, and he has even played 100 slot snaps in five straight seasons.

No. 73: Kenny Moore, Slot Cornerback, Indianapolis Colts

As a primary slot corner, no one in the NFL is better. Other players might travel to the slot, but Moore sticks in the slot (over 700 snaps in 2021) and makes plays. Moore recorded a career-high 102 tackles in 2021 en route to his first Pro Bowl. He had four interceptions, a forced fumble, a sack, and six tackles for loss. Moore checks off any box a slot corner might need to with an emphatic mark.

No. 72: Marlon Humphrey, Cornerback, Baltimore Ravens

Speaking of slots, Humphrey played more on the outside than in the slot for the first time since 2018. In the two seasons he flip-flopped between boundary and the slot, he made two Pro Bowls and an All-Pro team. In 2021, Humphrey was often put in compromising situations based on the lack of talent around him, and he eventually suffered a season-ending injury. With Marcus Peters and Kyle Fuller in the 2022 fold, Humphrey should be able to get back to his 2020 levels of influencing the game.

No. 71: Shaquil Barrett, EDGE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Barrett has three consecutive seasons with 75 pressures. He posted 10.0 sacks in 2021, making his second Pro Bowl. Barrett continues to be a technician on the edge, consistently winning reps and maintaining a high pressure rate. He improved as a run defender when asked to do so, but Barrett’s bread-and-butter is winning snaps on the edge. He might have a bigger role in 2022, but he should take it in stride.

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