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.
Injuries are a reality in the NFL. While the perfect league would have no injuries and no suspensions, that is simply not the case. With that said, some injuries were more catastrophic to players and their ranking.
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Three cohorts of players are ineligible. First, rookies were not considered. Second, players who are suspended to begin the 2022 season are ineligible (such as Calvin Ridley and DeAndre Hopkins). Finally, players that missed 13 or more games in 2021 were not included. This includes Deshaun Watson, Michael Thomas, David Bakhtiari, Ronnie Stanley, Frank Ragnow, Jaire Alexander, and Marcus Peters.
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 offensive position who narrowly missed the list.
Quarterback – Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos
A midseason injury sent Wilson’s season off the rails. Through five games, Wilson had a 125.3 passer rating with a 10-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. After returning from injury, Wilson had an underwhelming 92.9 rating. He had a 58.3 passing grade after Week 10 with just one more big-time throw than turnover-worthy plays. Through Week 5, Wilson had 13 big-time throws to zero turnover-worthy plays, and he was second in the NFL in passing grade.
Moving into 2022, Wilson has traded in his Seattle threads for Broncos’ blue and orange. In theory, Wilson should improve with extra talent around him in the same vein as Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady have in recent seasons. However, quarterback is one of the most competitive positions in the NFL, especially if Deshaun Watson returns to where he left off. Wilson enters the 2022 NFL season as the seventh-ranked quarterback for Top 100 purposes.
Running Back – Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
Mixon set career-highs across the board. He cracked 1,200 rushing yards and scored 13 touchdowns. In the receiving game, he posted 300 yards for the first time in his career. He made his first Pro Bowl, and his 1,500 scrimmage yards and 16 total touchdowns were among the bests in the NFL. 2021 was the first time he finished in the top 10 in the NFL in either stat. He finished third in running back fantasy points, and he earned some All-Pro consideration.
Entering 2022, Mixon is the eighth-ranked running back for the Top 100, narrowly missing out. The top 10 slots will continue to be heavily competitive, but Mixon should continue to be productive. In 2022, he might be more productive because the Bengals made improvements along the offensive line. Last season, Mixon averaged 4.1 yards per carry, but 3.1 of the yards came after contact. Mixon should fly into the 2023 Top 100 if he is as productive as he could be in the Bengals’ offense.
Wide Receiver – Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
Lockett has posted three consecutive seasons with 1,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Only Mike Evans has accomplished the same feat. Lockett has been one of the most reliable top options since ascending to the role, posting some of the best stats in the NFL. Over the last four seasons, only Evans, Tyreek Hill, and Davante Adams have more yards and touchdowns than Lockett. He can run hot-and-cold at times, but Lockett is an elite deep route runner, and he is undervalued as an explosive player.
Lockett’s 2022 production is up in the air. In three games without Wilson in 2021, he had 16 catches for 189 yards, but 142 of those yards came in one game. The skills are still present, but Wilson maximized Lockett’s unique deep skills. Geno Smith and Drew Lock are quite a step down. Moving into 2022, Lockett may not have the same production, but he is sliding into the D.J. Moore and Terry McLaurin types of receivers who have not played with competent quarterback play. Lockett enters 2022 as the 21st-ranked wide receiver.
Tight End – Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
For the most part, Pitts came to the NFL and played at a top-five level among tight ends. He finished third among tight ends in yards despite finishing tied for seventh in catches. Among tight ends with five targets, Pitts led the way with 15.1 yards per receptions, adding unique explosiveness to the position. While Pitts only scored one touchdown, he showed some promise as a contested-catch threat (15 catches).
In all likelihood, this is the “worst” Pitts is as an NFL player. His floor is good enough to be a top-five tight end, so it is scary that he can be significantly better. He will have to deal with some combination of Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder, but Pitts will likely be in play for 1,000 yards again with an increase in the touchdown column. Expect Pitts to stack upon his 2021 Pro Bowl nod and potentially get All-Pro consideration. He enters 2022 as the fifth-ranked tight end in the eyes of the Top 100.
Offensive Tackle – Taylor Decker, Detroit Lions
Decker missed the first half of the season with injury, and he was not quite the same player when he returned. He had made steady growth year over year, but he was tossed into the fire against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 10. Decker committed more penalties in 500 snaps in 2021 than he did across 1,000 snaps in 2021. He was a slightly less efficient pass-blocker, but there was a step back in his run-blocking.
However, he will have a fully healthy offseason in 2022. Instead of having to miss half of the season, he will start at a high level, and he will likely play like a Top-100 player during the season. For those that put stock in PFF grades, Decker could post career-bests across the board. He enters 2022 as the 11th-ranked offensive tackle. The top 10 is within reach.
Interior Offensive Lineman – Joe Thuney, Kansas City Chiefs
Now a Chief, Thuney did not miss a step as a pass protector. He had a pair of seasons with an 87.0 or better pass-blocking grade with the New England Patriots, but he outdid these lofty grades with a stellar 88.8 pass-blocking grade in 2021. Similarly, he posted a career-best 71.3 run-blocking grade when the Chiefs ran the ball. He even slid over to left tackle for one game, performing admirably.
Thuney is the 10th-ranked interior player and the sixth-ranked guard. Perhaps the scariest part is that Thuney and the Chiefs offensive line could be even better in 2022. In 2021, the Chiefs were starting a new player in four of their five offensive spots. Thuney and Orlando Brown were offseason trades. Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith were draft picks. With one extra year together, all four might land in next year’s Top 100.
Follow Ryan Potts on Twitter @MrSplashMan19
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