Top 100 Players of 2022, Nos. 50-41: Austin Ekeler, Jordan Poyer make debuts on list

It’s that time of year again, when NFL players cast their votes to identify the best in the league heading into the 2022 NFL season. Check out the results of this year’s voting to see where your favorite players rank.

Micah Hyde

Hyde signed a two-year extension ahead of the 2021 season, and went on to prove why the Bills were interested in keeping him around for a few more years. Hyde tied a career-high in interceptions (5) and fumble recoveries (2), and collected more tackles (74) than he had had since his first year in Buffalo in 2017. He even tacked on his first touchdown after picking off Patrick Mahomes in Week 5. Hyde played a pivotal role in Buffalo’s No. 1 ranked defense in 2021 and returns to the Top 100 for the first time since 2018.

De'Vondre Campbell

In his first year with the Packers, Campbell proved to be a disruptive force, collecting 102 solo tackles (third in the NFL), six quarterback hits, and a couple of interceptions, fumbles, and sacks. Pro Football Focus named Campbell the second highest-graded LB in the league (only after the 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year, Micah Parsons) and for his efforts he was named first-team All-Pro for the first time in his career. Campbell was rewarded for his breakout season with a new five-year, $50 million deal from the Packers this offseason.

Robert Quinn

Quinn had a resurgent year in 2021, breaking the Bears’ single-season sack record with a total of 18.5 and falling a half-sack short of his career high in 2013. He was ranked 12th among all defenders in quarterback pressures (57) and had the second-highest sack percentage in the league, trailing only T.J. Watt. This all earned him his third Pro Bowl selection and first since 2014. Even as a seasoned veteran, Quinn proved he’s still a valuable defensive presence who can get after quarterbacks consistently. The veteran returns to the Top 100 for the first time since 2015.

Fred Warner

San Francisco 49ers · MLB

Warner’s 26-spot drop from last year’s Top 100 list doesn’t necessarily indicate it was a down year for the 49ers LB in 2021. Warner signed a record-breaking five-year, $95 million extension with the 49ers ahead of the season, and proved he’s worth the money with 137 total tackles and seven tackles for loss, which is more than he collected in 2020 in both categories. While he may not have gotten the accolades of the previous year, Warner proved he can keep up the production from that season, and with that monster extension he will have the chance to continue as a star on the 49ers defense for the foreseeable future.

Austin Ekeler

Los Angeles Chargers · RB

Ekeler was an integral part of the Chargers’ offense in 2021, taking on a consistent starting role for the first time in his career and contributing as both a rusher and pass catcher. He set career-highs in rushing yards (911), all-purpose yards (1,558), rushing touchdowns (12) and tied a career-high in receiving touchdowns (eight). Most impressively, Ekeler tied Jonathan Taylor for the most TDs scored (20) overall last season. Only four players in the last five seasons have had at least 20 TDs, and Ekeler’s 2021 breakout performance ends with his debut on the Top 100.

Jordan Poyer

Poyer found his stride in Buffalo, becoming an everyday starter since his arrival in 2017. But the 2021 season proved to be his best as the nine-year veteran makes his debut on the Top 100 following his first All-Pro campaign. Poyer collected 93 tackles and eight tackles for loss in 2021, and was the only player in the league to have at least five interceptions and three sacks (both career-highs for him), Poyer proved he’s an all-around defender capable of either pressuring the quarterback or providing good coverage on the back end.

Dak Prescott

Coming off major ankle surgery, Prescott was plagued with more nagging injuries during the 2021 season which kept him from performing at the top of his game. And yet, the Cowboys quarterback still had an outstanding season, leading Dallas to an NFC East title. Prescott also recorded career-highs in completions (410), completion percentage (68.8), and touchdown passes (37), the last of which set the single-season franchise record. He even finished seventh in the league in passing with 4,449 yards. For someone who was fighting off multiple injuries throughout the entire season, those numbers are not only incredible but worthy of a top-50 ranking. Prescott’s comeback season ends what was a four-season absence on the Top 100.

Derwin James

Los Angeles Chargers · FS

James went through an injury-riddled first three seasons, playing in only five games in 2019 and missing all of 2020 due to various injuries. But following his first season since his rookie year during which he didn’t land on injured reserve, James proved how good he can be when healthy. The Chargers safety collected 118 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles, finishing third in voting for the AP Comeback Player of the Year award, earning his second Pro Bowl and signing a four-year, $76.5 million extension earlier this month. With this success, James returns to the Top 100 for the first time since his rookie campaign, and has shown how high his ceiling can get with more experience and a clean bill of health.

Cameron Heyward

A veteran leader for the Steelers’ defense, Heyward has consistently put up quality numbers year after year, and his 11th season was no different. Heyward collected a career-high 83 tackles, 10 sacks, 15 tackles for loss and 17 QB hits. He even tacked on an interception for good measure. All this earned Heyward his third first-team All-Pro selection, his fifth Pro Bowl nod and his highest-ever ranking in the Top 100. For a team that has defined consistency in not recording a losing record the past two decades, Heyward is a player who represents these ideals well, as you can count on him to be a solid presence on the defensive line year in and year out.

Tristan Wirfs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers · OT

For any player in the NFL, consistency is one of the most important aspects of success. Wirfs is the epitome of the word. Still just 23 years old, Wirfs has established himself on the Buccaneers’ offensive line as someone who can be called on for every snap and still play at his best. In fact, he’s yet to miss a play. Tampa Bay has played 2,256 snaps on offense in the last two seasons, and Wirfs has been lined up for every single one of them, giving up only three sacks so far in his young career. What more can you ask for? Wirfs earned his first first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections in 2021 and, if he can keep up his consistency, he’ll be a presence on the Bucs’ line for years to come.

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