Every summer, NFL Media releases a list of the top 100 NFL players as voted on by the players, supposedly. And every summer, the results kick up their fair amount of controversy.
This year, we decided to throw our hat in the ring with the first NFLTR Top 100 Players list to see if we could do better. We didn’t poll any players but we did use a rigorous process that factored in basic and advanced stats, awards, career trajectory, injuries and of course the highly scientific gut check.
We’ll be rolling these out over the rest of the summer to pass time until training camp, so be sure to keep an eye out for the rest of our NFLTR Top 100 Players list!
- NFLTR Top 100 Players: 100-91
- NFLTR Top 100 Players: 90-81
- NFLTR Top 100 Players: 80-71
- NFLTR Top 100 Players: 70-61
- NFLTR Top 100 Players: 60-51
- NFLTR Top 100 Players: 50-41
- NFLTR Top 100 Players: 40-31
- NFLTR Top 100 Players: 30-21
20: Vikings WR Justin Jefferson
No player in NFL history has more receiving yards through their first two seasons than Jefferson. With 3,016 yards, he’s nearly 300 yards ahead of the previous record-holder, Odell Beckham Jr., and well within striking distance of Randy Moss‘ record through three seasons of 4,163. Jefferson is a special route runner with his long, leggy frame, and he should make a run at the title of best receiver in football in the coming seasons.
19: Cowboys QB Dak Prescott
Prescott has been one of the most prolific passers in the NFL for the past few seasons now. He threw for nearly 5,000 yards in 2019, then was averaging 371 yards a game through five games in 2020 before a broken ankle ended his season. He was back in 2021 and the total numbers are impressive once again. He directed the NFL’s No. 1 offense and completed 68.8 percent of his 596 passing attempts for 4,448 yards, 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Hard to find much fault with that, right? But being the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys always comes with extra scrutiny. His rushing totals were down dramatically, perhaps due to health. Obviously the ankle injury from 2020 was significant, and while Prescott only missed one game in the middle of the season due to a calf injury, it appeared to linger. He and the team hit a bit of a lull after the injury. From Weeks 9-14, Prescott threw six of his 10 interceptions with just eight touchdown passes and Dallas was 3-3. He rebounded with 12 touchdown passes in the final three weeks of the season, but then there was the embarrassing playoff loss to the 49ers which everyone on the team had a hand in.
Still, there’s no questioning Prescott’s resume at this point as one of the league’s top quarterbacks and someone who ought to keep Dallas relevant for a long time.
18: Cowboys LB Micah Parsons
Parsons was far and away the best rookie defender in the NFL last season. But he was so good that he instantly inserted himself into the conversation around the league’s best players, period. Parsons finished his debut season with 84 total tackles, 20 of them for a loss, three pass deflections, three forced fumbles and 13 sacks. He was a menace all over Dallas’ defense, which took advantage of his unique skill set to play him at both off-ball linebacker and as an edge defender — where he might have been most valuable.
The advanced metrics back up Parson’s gaudy sack total. Parsons’ pass-rush win rate at edge rusher would have been first in the entire league. PFF credited him with 67 total pressures, including hurries, hits and sacks, which ranked ninth in the league. However, Parsons achieved that in only 307 pass-rushing opportunities. Everyone else in PFF’s top 25 for pressures had well over 100 more opportunities to get to the quarterback than Parsons.
Micah Parsons sets his rush up with a stutter to off-balance the blocker. @MicahhParsons11 then dips, rips & leans towards the QB & is rewarded with a strip-sack! #passrush #cowboys pic.twitter.com/htnw3zBAm9
— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) December 13, 2021
17: 49ers DE Nick Bosa
In his first year back after a torn ACL, Bosa didn’t miss a beat. He led the NFL with 21 tackles for loss and was fourth in sacks with 15.5 and third in QB hits with 32. His advanced numbers were just as impressive, as he finished sixth in ESPN’s pass rush win rate and eighth in PFF’s pass-rush productivity, which weighs hurries, hits and sacks against total rushes. He’s eligible for a new deal for the first time this offseason and he has a legitimate chance at topping $30 million a year on his next deal.
16: Chargers DE Joey Bosa
The older Bosa brother, Joey hasn’t quite had a peak season like Nick just turned in this past season. But he’s finished with double-digit sacks in four of his six seasons and missed time due to injury in the two seasons he didn’t hit that mark. He made his fourth career Pro Bowl in 2021 after recording 10.5 sacks, 20 QB hits, five tackles for loss and an excellent seven forced fumbles. PFF ranked him seventh among all edge rushers with 68 total pressures and 11th in pass-rush productivity. With Khalil Mack now in Los Angeles drawing attention on the other side, it’s possible Bosa’s numbers could rise.
Joey Bosa: 1
Alex Leatherwood: 0
— PFF (@PFF) October 5, 2021
15: Rams CB Jalen Ramsey
The Rams asked more of Ramsey in 2021 in their “Star” defender role, moving him all around the formation. He basically doubled his career-highs in snaps played in the slot, in the box and even on the line of scrimmage. Los Angeles tried to make it as hard as possible for offense to avoid Ramsey, and they largely succeeded. Ramsey set a career-high in tackles and tackles for loss (9) while finishing seventh among corners in stops, per PFF, and No. 4 in run-defense grade.
But it’s Ramsey’s ability in coverage that prompted the Rams to make him the NFL’s first $20 million a year corner and Ramsey was great in that area as well. He tallied four interceptions and 16 pass deflections. Opponents targeted him 93 times in coverage and he allowed 59 receptions for 595 yards and an opposing passer rating of 74.4. None of those lead the NFL, but they’re all very good, and it’s Ramsey’s ability to consistently play at a high level while being asked to do more than just about every other defensive back in the league that makes him so special.
14: Ravens QB Lamar Jackson
For whatever reason, Jackson tends to be a lightning rod for discussion in the sports media realm. And it’s not just catching strays from the talking heads. The latest flashpoint was Jackson’s omission from a top 10 quarterback list compiled by ESPN from interviews and polls with NFL coaches and front office personnel. Just like last summer when the NFL had supposedly “figured out Lamar Jackson,” the former MVP still has a more difficult time earning respect from the league.
I have Jackson as my No. 6 overall quarterback and No. 14 overall player. While his final numbers aren’t impressive, Jackson was a legitimate MVP candidate at midseason. The injury-riddled Ravens were near the top of the AFC with a 6-2 record, powered by Jackson with 13 passing touchdowns to seven interceptions, 2,209 yards passing, 600 yards rushing and two additional scores. Ultimately, injuries to Jackson and his supporting cast became too much to overcome and Baltimore sputtered to an 8-9 record.
Obviously Jackson is a brilliant runner, with two thousand-yard seasons under his belt already and the NFL single-season rushing record for quarterbacks. However, the criticisms of his game since college have been around his passing ability and the majority of them have been lazy, starting with the idea that he was a gimmick player who should change positions (Jackson’s offense at Louisville under Bobby Petrino was about as pro-style a system as you’ll see these days in college and Jackson’s pocket passing was always massively underrated).
In the NFL, Jackson has continued to not get the credit he deserves for throwing from the pocket. He moves well in tight spaces, looks to deliver the ball before tucking and running, and has strong accuracy throwing over the middle. Throwing outside the numbers had been a weakness, but he was one of the best in the NFL at it last season. And while a common criticism is that Jackson can’t thrive when defenses know he has to pass, that’s also been debunked. There are plenty of other good arguments in defense of Jackson, but the bottom line for me is this. He should be an unquestioned top-10 quarterback, with a strong case for the top five.
13: Chiefs TE Travis Kelce
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better value on a non-rookie contract than the Chiefs’ current deal for Kelce. He’s making $14 million a year which would be second among tight ends and 25th among receivers. Yet over the past four years, he has more receiving yards than anyone not named Davante Adams, and those two are the only ones above 5,000. Kelce is a rare receiving talent at tight end, with a combination of size, speed, agility and soft hands that make him a nightmare matchup for any defender. Even without the next guy on this list, Kelce still provides an elite weapon for the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes.
— NFL (@NFL) December 17, 2021
12: Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill
Think back to that instant classic of a game between the Bills and Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs, and how the two teams traded blows in the final two minutes before Kansas City tied the game despite getting the ball back with only 13 seconds in regulation. That win doesn’t happen without Hill and his incendiary speed, first to pull away from the entire Buffalo defense to score, then to create space to get into field goal range on the final possession with the threat of that speed fresh in their mind. There are plenty of NFL players who have been fast, but Hill has developed into a legitimate receiving weapon and has put that speed to devastating effect. He’s fourth in the entire NFL in receiving yards since 2018. Miami’s offensive ecosystem might not be as good as Kansas City’s but Hill should be a big boost nonetheless.
11: Chargers QB Justin Herbert
The start to Herbert’s career has been absolutely scintillating, as he followed up one of the best rookie seasons ever from a statistical standpoint with a 5,000-yard season in Year 2. He upped his total touchdowns from 36 to 41 (38 passing) and led five fourth-quarter comebacks. He finished third in the NFL in ESPN’s total QBR, ninth in EPA+CPOE composite, and 10th in adjusted net yards per attempt.
If there’s any knock on Herbert to this point, it’s the career 15-17 record and the lack of playoff appearances. He’s done just about everything humanly possible to will the Chargers to wins, though, and I would expect those two nits to go away after this season.
Justin Herbert's First 2 Seasons:
Pass yards: 9,350 (most ever)
Pass TDs: 69 (most ever)
300+ yard games: 17 (most ever)
— NFL (@NFL) July 10, 2022