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!
70: Eagles CB Darius Slay
A rocky first season in Philadelphia led to some questions about whether the cliff was coming for Slay, as age isn’t kind to defensive backs. He rebounded with the type of season we’re more used to seeing from him in 2021, however. Slay finished the season with three interceptions, nine pass deflections and three defensive touchdowns. He was PFF’s No. 3 cornerback in coverage grade.
69: Buccaneers WR Mike Evans
Evans has been a pillar of consistency since entering the league in the loaded 2014 wide receiver class. He’s topped 1,000 yards receiving every single season of his eight-year career, and since Tom Brady‘s arrival he’s been unstoppable in the red zone with his massive 6-5 frame. Evans has 27 touchdowns in the past two seasons — more than a third of his career total. He should add another dozen or so to that total this season and crack the 10,000 yards career receiving mark.
WHAT A THROW. WHAT A CATCH
Tom Brady 🎯 Mike Evans 🤯
— PFF (@PFF) December 12, 2021
68: Cowboys LT Tyron Smith
The last time Smith played a full season was in 2015, but injuries have become even more of a problem for Dallas’ longtime blindside protector in the past two seasons. He’s started just 13 of 33 possible games. However, when he’s been on the field, he’s been his same, dominant self. He finished No. 7 in ESPN’s run block win rate in 2021, and PFF gave him a pass block efficiency rating of 98.4 percent on his 416 pass-blocking snaps.
67: Browns G Joel Bitonio
The elder statesman on an elite Browns offensive line, Bitonio has started every game for five straight seasons for Cleveland at left guard. Cleveland made him the NFL’s highest-paid guard (at the time) in November as he was in the midst of a career year. He finished as PFF’s No. 1 overall guard and was No. 3 among all guards in pass block win rate as tracked by ESPN.
66: Browns G Wyatt Teller
The other half of Cleveland’s dynamic interior line duo, Teller was a huge find for the Browns in a preseason trade with the Bills back in 2019. He was rewarded with a major contract this past season and it’s easy to see why. Highlight tapes aren’t common for offensive linemen, but a quick Twitter video search shows just clip after clip of Teller tossing other grown men around the field. It’s not all flash either, he finished No. 7 in the league in ESPN’s pass block win rate and was PFF’s No. 4 overall run blocker at guard.
This might be the most abusive, dominant single-game guard tape I've ever seen in the NFL — no surprise Wyatt Teller got PAID. pic.twitter.com/5uLpCeUkWq
— Austin Gayle (@austingayle_) November 9, 2021
65: Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey
Humphrey would probably acknowledge 2021 wasn’t his best season. He finished the year on IR with a torn pec and before that he was under a lot of pressure given the injuries in the Ravens’ secondary and the high amount of man coverage they play. He still had double-digit pass deflections, though, and held up well all things considered, allowing a completion on just 54.7 percent of his targets which was 15th in the NFL, per PFF. The Ravens ask more of him than some other top corners with how they move him into the slot, and his physicality is well-suited to the role.
64: Broncos S Justin Simmons
Former Broncos HC Vic Fangio‘s defense asks a lot from its safeties, and Simmons has delivered in a resounding fashion the past few seasons. His ball production has been strong, with 10 interceptions the past two seasons and 36 pass deflections over the past three. Pro Football Focus graded him as their top safety over the past two seasons, and for good reason. He’s got terrific instincts and can play both deep in space and up around the line of scrimmage.
Watched some Justin Simmons today, and yeah … this is the best safety in the NFL today. Crazy amount of talent. pic.twitter.com/8mPfzDVwe7
— John Shipley (@_John_Shipley) February 22, 2021
63: Buccaneers DT Vita Vea
Vea’s impact goes beyond his stats, although the four sacks he recorded in 2021 is a respectable number for a nose tackle. In fact, it’s what happens when Vea is off the field that illustrates how important of a player he is. In 2020, Tampa Bay’s defense slipped considerably without Vea. His return in the playoffs helped key the Bucs’ Super Bowl win, and he followed it up with an outstanding 2021 season.
.@Buccaneers @VitaVea played 54 impactful snaps; although don’t read the stat page for how well he played and how he impacted the game. Straight Polynesian Power. No one man can stop his force. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/k09tQXFcZU
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 10, 2021
62: Saints CB Marshon Lattimore
A criticism of Lattimore in the past has been that while he can get amped up for the big matchups, like against Evans twice a year, he can lose his focus for stretches and give up plays. Well for pretty much all of 2021, Lattimore was locked in. Teams threw at him 94 times and Lattimore knocked the ball away on 19 of those, with three interceptions as well, for a forced incompletion rate of 20 percent — No. 2 in the league and tied with AJ Terrell.
61: Commanders DT Jonathan Allen
2021 was a career year for Allen, as he was back in the double digits for TFLs and had a career-high nine sacks. ESPN had him No. 8 among all defensive tackles in pass rush win rate and PFF graded him as their third-best interior defender. Opinions vary on where Allen slots as a run defender but it’s indisputable he’s one of the league’s best at his position.