2022 NFL Rank snubs, surprises, overrated and underrated players, rookies to watch

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With the NFL regular season just around the corner — the first game of Week 1 kicks off Thursday, Sept. 8 — it’s time for our annual NFL Rank, a projection of the top 100 players in the 2022 season.

NFL Rank is a 1-100 ranking compiled by more than 50 ESPN experts, who are asked to rate how the best players will fare during the season. With any ranking, of course, there are going to be thoughts on the players who were left off the list and those who were ranked too low and too high.

We have enlisted a team of ESPN experts — Seth Walder, Matt Bowen, Matt Miller and Jordan Reid — to debate the rankings. They identified eight players who were snubbed, 10 players who were either overrated or underrated, and four rookies who have the potential to make the list in 2023.

Should Justin Tucker and Bobby Wagner have made the top 100? Who could have been left off the list entirely? Are Russell Wilson at No. 13 and Derrick Henry at No. 61 underrated or overrated? Who should have been in the top 10, but wasn’t? Could the first and second picks in the 2022 NFL draft make the list a year from now? We answer all these questions and more below.

Let’s start with Walder, who ranked the biggest snubs:

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Ranking biggest snubs
Who’s overrated? | Rookies to watch

Which players were snubbed from the top 100?

Sports analytics guru Seth Walder ranks the eight players — starting with the biggest snub — he thinks were snubbed from appearing in the top 100. He then names eight players who should have been on the top 100 list instead.

The role of positional value in NFL Rank is not a settled matter. But let me use the ranks themselves to conclude that positional value clearly plays some role because there are 18 wide receivers and four off-ball linebackers in the top 100. However, there are just three quarterbacks in the top 10, which indicates that positional value is not everything.

Thus, while kicker is low on the positional importance scale, if there were one who clearly stood above his peers he ought to crack the top 100. I just described Tucker. Predicting kickers is basically random … unless it’s him. Over the past five seasons, Tucker led the NFL in field goal percentage over expectation at plus-17% (per NFL Next Gen Stats) and was over plus-12% in all five of those seasons.

He has been the No. 1 guard in pass block win rate in each of the past two seasons and was top 20 in run block win rate in each of those years, too. Regardless of position, it’s hard to exclude that level of excellence from the list.

In his two seasons in a mostly pass-rushing role, all Reddick has done is record back-to-back double-digit-sack seasons on two different teams and with a top-10 pass rush win rate at edge in both years. I’m completely sold that he should be on this list. He led all free agents in my sack projections back in March and currently sits seventh in my overall sack projections for 2022.

As for Smith, he ranked second in pass block win rate and third in run block win rate among guards. If those aren’t top-100 numbers, I don’t know what are.

In general I think we’re too slow to anoint young NFL players when they play at an extremely high level and too slow to bump down veterans when decline hits — please forget I said this when reading about the next player — particularly for those who weren’t highly drafted. But all Smith did in his first season in the NFL was play incredibly well.

Yes, Wagner is 32. And yes, his coverage numbers took a hit last season. But, he does have a long history of success in coverage and has maintained his ability in the run game. Wagner ranked sixth in run stop win rate in 2021, beating out then-teammate Jordyn Brooks. I bet we see one more great year out of Wagner.

This is a bit of personal preference here, but I continue to believe that Lockett has never been given credit for quite how exceptional he has been over the past few years. Last season, among wide receivers with at least 300 routes, Lockett ranked seventh in yards per route run — and everyone else in the top 12 made the list.

He’s also second in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016) in catch rate over expectation (plus-9%) among receivers with at least 1,000 routes run in that span, behind only Michael Thomas.

Over the past five seasons, Milano leads all linebackers with at least 500 coverage snaps in targeted EPA allowed at minus-55.5, per NFL Next Gen Stats. He also leads all linebackers in that span with a minus-11% completion percentage over expectation allowed. And he ranks third among linebackers in that span in yards per coverage snap allowed (0.6) and is first among players currently on teams.

I didn’t go into this list thinking Milano would be on it, but those coverage numbers are astonishing.

Williams tied for the league lead among safeties in yards per coverage snap allowed at 0.3 (min. 300 coverage snaps). A single season of nearest defender numbers for a safety might be a little shaky as evidence on its own for me, but the free agent market this offseason yielded him a contract worth $14 million APY — in the same range as players like Kevin Byard and Budda Baker who made the list — which reinforces Williams’ case.

Here’s who Walder would leave off the list:

Laremy Tunsil, OT, Houston Texans; Matt Ryan, QB, Indianapolis Colts; Jessie Bates III, S, Cincinnati Bengals; Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers; Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers; Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings; Jeffery Simmons, DT, Tennessee Titans; DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, Dallas Cowboys

Who is overrated and underrated?

NFL analyst Matt Bowen picks 10 players he thinks are underrated or overrated on this year’s top 100 list. He then picks who he thinks should have been in the top 10, but wasn’t.

Overrated. I get the upside of Wilson playing in the Broncos’ new offensive scheme. There will be motion and misdirection, and it’ll be more pass-heavy. And there is real talent at the receiving spots in Denver. However, ranking Wilson ahead of Tom Brady and Joe Burrow gave me some pause here based on the tape I watched from last season.

Underrated. Maybe the 2021 foot injury dropped Henry down the ranks this year. When fully healthy, however, Henry can absolutely dictate the flow of the game. He plays like a freight train coming downhill on the tracks. And he will wear out opposing defenses as a volume runner — with big-play juice.

Overrated. Young has the physical profile and traits of an upper-tier edge player in the league. Based on the tape, however, the Commanders defensive end needs more refinement in his pass-rush technique. And Young is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last season. With more game reps, Young has the skill set to develop into a top-50 player in this league, it just might take more time.

Underrated. Miller is a fourth-quarter closer who played his best football last season in the playoffs and on the Super Bowl stage. I still see Miller as a top-50 player in this league. He displays upper-tier pass-rushing skills with game-changing ability. What more could you ask for?

Overrated. When we project Waddle in Mike McDaniel’s offense — and focus on his electric catch and run traits — I understand why there is preseason hype for the former Alabama receiver. There will be schemed-up throws (to open voids) for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in this system. But I was a little surprised to see Waddle already ranked as a top-100 player — ahead of both Mike Williams and Tee Higgins. It seems premature.

Overrated. I like the system fit in Indianapolis for Ryan. He sees it fast from the pocket and can deliver the ball with location. He is a timing and rhythm thrower. But given his diminishing mobility and arm strength, I would look for a quarterback here with a higher ceiling as we project the back end of the top 100 — maybe San Francisco’s Trey Lance.

Overrated. Quinn’s 2021 numbers jump him to No. 90. He had 18.5 sacks, and we still see his explosive first step, plus the ability to flatten the rush path. But, we are projecting forward to this upcoming season. Quinn has never produced back-to-back seasons with double-digit sacks in his career. I would’ve put Patriots edge rusher Matthew Judon here over Quinn.

Underrated. It is shocking to see Simmons ranked this low given his difference-making traits at the defensive tackle position. He is a disruptive player who can win schemed one-on-ones in the Titans’ multiple fronts, or attack rush lanes off stunts and twists. He displays foot quickness, short-area speed and power. I see Simmons as an impact defender worthy of a higher rating.

Underrated. Bates’ postseason tape alone should have moved him much higher up in the ranks. He is a safety with multidimensional traits who can find the football and play as a tone-setter in the Cincinnati secondary.

Underrated. Based off his 2021 tape and where I project Campbell this season in the Green Bay defense, he should be ranked much higher. Campbell has every-down ability, with the second-level range and instincts to find the football. And I believe he can be one of the top stack linebackers in the league this year.

Who should be in the top 10?

After a breakout rookie season, which highlighted Parsons’ high-end physical tools and unique versatility at the position, I would bump the Cowboys linebacker into the top 10. It’s the open-field ability here and his great edge-rushing traits. He’s a three-down playmaker.

Which rookies could crack the top 100 in 2023?

NFL draft analysts Matt Miller and Jordan Reid give four rookies they think could crack the top 100 next year.

Hutchinson was one of the best defensive end prospects of the past decade when the Lions managed to steal him with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2022 draft. Hutchinson’s physical traits, mental toughness and relentless play style are all perfectly combined to make him a premier NFL pass-rusher.

Rarely do we see college defensive ends beating offensive tackles with speed while also possessing a long arm, exceptional lower-body power and a nonstop motor to clean up with multiple second-effort sacks. But that’s Hutchinson. He’ll be a favorite of the Detroit coaching staff and, in Aaron Glenn’s defense, he’ll be asked to pin his ears back and go get the quarterback.

Evaluating Stingley coming out of LSU took some creativity as he had played just 10 games over his final two seasons with the Tigers. But flashing back to his healthy season of 2019 quickly reminded scouts just how talented he is. Stingley routinely matched up with — and locked down — stars like Justin Jefferson (Minnesota Vikings) and Ja’Marr Chase (Cincinnati Bengals) in practice. If Stingley is healthy, and all signs point to that, he has the tools to easily crack the top 100 following his rookie season. With awesome instincts, physicality and the size-to-speed ratio to cover the best the NFL has to offer, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Stingley excel immediately in the Texans’ defense.

— Matt Miller

The 2022 draft was one of the more unpredictable drafts in recent memory, as Walker didn’t become the consensus No. 1 overall pick until about a week prior. At 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, his natural ability to generate pressure on the quarterback combined with his consistency as a run defender made him very appealing.

While he’ll continue to be labeled raw, he produces the type of flash plays that will make you sit up in your chair. An attention grabber at many times, I expect a lot of those moments throughout his rookie campaign. As he continues to figure out the position and how to fully operate his frame, Walker is going to be an issue for a lot of defensive coordinators. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if he enters the tail end of the top-100 list next season.

After battling throughout training camp, it seems as if Ekwonu has finally taken a firm hold of the top spot on the depth chart. The first offensive player drafted in the 2022 draft, the former NC State star steps into a situation in which he’s forced to play right away, which could lead to him becoming a star very quickly.

At 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, Ekwonu has fast feet, consistent balance and is already naturally gifted as a pass-protector. Those skills combined with his ability as a finisher could allow him to be a stalwart for the franchise moving forward.

— Jordan Reid