clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

WCG’s 2021 NFC North top 50: Nos. 10-1

In the final article of our roundtable series, the staff of Windy City Gridiron come together to rank the top 50 players in the NFC North heading into 2021, finishing with players ranked 10-1.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NFC Championship - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

We’ve reached the low period in the NFL offseason.

An exciting 2021 NFL Draft for Bears fans has come and gone. Free agency, while technically still ongoing, features very few notable names and players likely to make an impact on the course of a team’s season.

However, with the draft concluded and the free agency market dried up, now is as good of a time as any to compare how teams in certain divisions square up to each other.

In an exercise similar to that of the annual NFL Top 100 list, multiple staff members from Windy City Gridiron have come together to vote on a list of the top 50 players in the NFC North. The voting process had similarities to that of the league-official list: each staff member who participated in the exercise was asked to list their top 35 players, and a certain amount of points was assigned to each ranking slot. For example, if a player was ranked first, that player would receive 35 points. The player ranked second would receive 34 points, so on and so forth. A consensus list was then compiled from how each staff member ranked each player.

Let’s finish off Windy City Gridiron’s second annual consensus top 50 NFC North players by breaking down players ranked Nos. 10 through 1.

10. Danielle Hunter, EDGE, Vikings

High: 3 (Sunderbruch)

Low: 17 (Leming)

Last year: 3

A neck injury saw him miss the entirety of the 2020 season, but Hunter’s stellar resume has him locked into the top 10 for consecutive years.

With 29 sacks from 2018 to 2019 and a combined 54.5 sacks in the five seasons he has played, Hunter is one of the league’s most productive pass-rushers and is a legitimate game-changer off the edge. His presence was sorely missed by a Vikings pass rush that struggled for most of the year. If he’s able to bounce back from his injury, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be even higher on this list come 2022.

9. Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings

High: 7 (Zimmerman, Wiltfong, Salo)

Low: 35 (Sunderbruch)

Last year: 39

Jefferson was named as a second-team All-Pro as a rookie for a reason: his 2020 season was phenomenal.

Many were worried about Minnesota’s passing attack without Stefon Diggs, but Jefferson managed to outdo even Diggs’ best production during his time with the Vikings. The LSU alumnus caught 88 passes for 1,400 yards and 7 touchdowns, his yardage total placing fourth in the NFL. His fluidity, strong hands, size and athletic ability proved him to be a difficult weapon for opposing defenders to cover. If he lives up to expectations in Year 2, Jefferson can solidify himself as one of the league’s elite.

8. Allen Robinson, WR, Bears

High: 3 (Duerrwaechter)

Low: 16 (Sunderbruch)

Last year: 13

Regardless of the quarterback play around him, Robinson is a bonafide playmaker year in and year out.

Robinson put together his second-straight season topping the 1,000-yard mark, building off of his impressive 2019 campaign to catch 102 passes for 1,250 yards and 6 touchdowns. His high football IQ, big build, crisp route running and reliable hands make him a bonafide No. 1 target for the Bears’ offense. With Justin Fields now under center in Chicago, one can only imagine what the potential of improvement at the quarterback position could do for a star playmaker like Robinson.

7. Za’Darius Smith, EDGE, Packers

High: 4 (Sunderbruch, Duerrwaechter)

Low: 16 (Salo)

Last year: 7

Ever since his arrival in Green Bay, Smith has proven to be one of the most dominant edge rushers in the league.

Smith was a reliable rotational pass-rusher with the Ravens, but it hasn’t been until his move to the Packers that he broke out as a force to be reckoned with. With 26 sacks, 29 tackles for a loss and 60 quarterback hits in two seasons, his sheer power, high motor and quickness have seen him quickly rise into the upper echelon of NFL pass-rushers. The two-time Pro Bowler will look to continue his stellar play as he heads into the 2021 season.

6. Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings

High: 5 (Zimmerman, Duerrwaechter, Obringer, Salo, Leming)

Low: 12 (Sunderbruch)

Last year: 10

After an injury-riddled first two seasons in the NFL, Cook is now firmly established among the league’s best running backs.

Despite missing two games, Cook placed second in the league with both 1,557 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. He proved incredibly efficient on a large workload, finishing with 5.0 yards per carry while having the second-most carries in the NFL. He has solidified himself as an explosive, patient, powerful runner with three-down value, making it no surprise that he finds himself one of the highest-paid running backs in the league.

5. Jaire Alexander, CB, Packers

High: 4 (Zeglinski, Robinson)

Low: 14 (Salo)

Last year: 18

He had a very good start to his career, but it was in 2020 that Alexander broke out as one of the league’s top cornerbacks.

The soon-to-be fourth-year defensive back deflected 13 passes, giving him a total of 41 deflections so far in his NFL career. He took an incredible step up in coverage, having allowed a career-best 51.3 completion percentage and just a 67.4 passer rating on 80 targets. Among the 41 defenders targeted 80 or more times in 2021, Alexander allowed the lowest completion percentage rate. A first-time Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro who just turned 24, it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see him continue this high level of play for many years.

4. David Bakhtiari, OT, Packers

High: 2 (Infante, Zeglinski, Wiltfong, Schmitz)

Low: 21 (Duerrwaechter)

Last year: 4

Bakhtiari has proven himself to be an elite offensive tackle, and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight to his dominance.

Allowing just three sacks over the last two seasons, Bakhtiari was rated as the best pass protector and the second-best overall offensive tackle in the league by PFF. Though known primarily around the league as a top-tier pass protector, he was also able to take significant stride as a run blocker. He did tear his ACL near the end of the 2020 season, but if he’s able to make a full recovery, there’s no reason to think he won’t compete for the moniker of the league’s best tackle.

3. Davante Adams, WR, Packers

High: 2 (Obringer, Salo, Leming)

Low: 15 (Sunderbruch)

Last year: 6

Leading the NFL in receiving touchdowns and yards per game, Adams is a wide receiver who seemingly dominates his competition week in and week out.

Even with missing two games due to injury, Adams still managed to place second in the league with 115 receptions and fifth with 1,374 yards. He was simply unguardable in 2021, dominating at the catch point and using his pristine route-running IQ and technique to consistently get open. Adams had solidified himself as one of the best wide receivers in the league long before 2020, but heading into this season, one can make the strong argument that he is the best receiver in the NFL.

2. Khalil Mack, EDGE, Bears

High: 1 (Duerrwaechter)

Low: 4 (Salo, Leming)

Last year: 2

Though not having the production of a pass-rusher like Smith in the last two years, Mack’s impact on the game is palpable.

PFF recently named Mack as having the highest WAR among edge rushers in the NFL, indicating his wins above replacement total is higher than those of every other edge defender. His 30 sacks in three seasons with the Bears are perhaps even more impressive when considering how often he faces chip blocks or double-teams. Mack’s power, technique and high motor make him nearly impossible to block one-on-one, and if his teammates can pick up the pressure around him, expect him to reach double-digit sacks once again in 2021.

1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers

High: 1 (Infante, Sunderbruch, Zeglinski, Zimmerman, Wiltfong, Obringer, Salo, Leming, Robinson, Schmitz)

Low: 2 (Duerrwaechter)

Last year: 1

It’s no surprise that the reigning MVP would take hold of the top spot.

Rodgers led the NFL with 48 passing touchdowns, and his completion percentage of 70.7 also led the league. Leading the Packers to a 13-3 record, his arm talent, accuracy, ability to read the field and off-platform ball placement hasn’t slowed down a tad, even at 37 years old. For as long as he continues to play at a high level at the most important position in football, don’t bet on Rodgers losing his spot as the best player in the NFC North.

Here is the finished top 50:

  1. Aaron Rodgers
  2. Khalil Mack
  3. Davante Adams
  4. David Bakhtiari
  5. Jaire Alexander
  6. Dalvin Cook
  7. Za’Darius Smith
  8. Allen Robinson
  9. Justin Jefferson
  10. Danielle Hunter
  11. Frank Ragnow
  12. Roquan Smith
  13. Aaron Jones
  14. Eddie Jackson
  15. Kenny Clark
  16. Adam Thielen
  17. Eric Kendricks
  18. T.J. Hockenson
  19. Akiem Hicks
  20. Harrison Smith
  21. Kirk Cousins
  22. Adrian Amos
  23. Patrick Peterson
  24. Eddie Goldman
  25. David Montgomery
  26. Anthony Barr
  27. Michael Pierce
  28. Elgton Jenkins
  29. Taylor Decker
  30. Justin Fields
  31. Penei Sewell
  32. Robert Tonyan
  33. Jaylon Johnson
  34. Cody Whitehair
  35. Darnell Savage
  36. Tarik Cohen
  37. Jared Goff
  38. Brian O’Neill
  39. Bilal Nichols
  40. Jamie Collins
  41. Jeff Okudah
  42. Teven Jenkins
  43. Christian Darrisaw
  44. D’Andre Swift
  45. Rashan Gary
  46. Billy Turner
  47. James Daniels
  48. Robert Quinn
  49. Darnell Mooney
  50. Jimmy Graham/Preston Smith

WCG 2021 NFC North Top 50 Voting Results

Player Jacob Infante Josh Sunderbruch Robert Zeglinski Bill Zimmerman ECD Lester Alex Obringer Jack R Salo Aaron Leming Will Robinson II Robert Schmitz TOTAL
Player Jacob Infante Josh Sunderbruch Robert Zeglinski Bill Zimmerman ECD Lester Alex Obringer Jack R Salo Aaron Leming Will Robinson II Robert Schmitz TOTAL
Aaron Rodgers 35 35 35 35 34 35 35 35 35 35 35 349
Khalil Mack 33 34 33 34 35 33 33 32 32 34 33 333
Davante Adams 32 21 30 33 29 32 34 34 34 33 32 312
David Bakhtiari 34 29 34 32 15 34 32 33 33 31 34 307
Jaire Alexander 31 31 32 30 26 31 30 22 29 32 31 294
Dalvin Cook 30 24 28 31 31 28 31 31 31 30 26 291
Za’Darius Smith 28 32 31 27 32 30 27 20 27 28 29 283
Allen Robinson 29 20 27 26 33 27 24 27 30 25 30 269
Justin Jefferson 24 1 25 29 28 29 28 29 28 26 20 243
Danielle Hunter 26 33 29 28 0 25 25 28 19 29 25 241
Frank Ragnow 25 28 12 24 30 26 19 26 26 18 28 237
Roquan Smith 27 22 26 22 22 24 26 23 25 27 19 236
Aaron Jones 14 23 10 25 24 22 18 30 23 23 15 213
Eddie Jackson 16 16 20 21 25 20 17 24 15 22 22 202
Kenny Clark 23 15 23 23 17 23 21 14 22 16 27 201
Adam Thielen 12 19 16 18 21 14 20 25 21 17 21 192
Eric Kendricks 20 17 24 20 0 19 29 7 24 24 24 188
T.J. Hockenson 21 27 22 16 16 10 16 19 12 14 23 175
Akiem Hicks 18 30 21 17 27 16 0 16 16 19 8 170
Harrison Smith 17 18 4 8 14 17 23 9 17 23 17 150
Kirk Cousins 19 12 0 19 18 21 13 5 18 0 18 124
Adrian Amos 11 25 15 2 11 18 15 0 14 12 11 123
Patrick Peterson 9 11 19 10 6 8 0 21 2 15 13 105
Eddie Goldman 1 26 0 3 20 2 14 6 10 13 6 100
David Montgomery 8 14 5 0 23 12 9 0 7 11 10 91
Anthony Barr 6 13 6 5 13 9 7 17 0 10 11 91
Michael Pierce 10 0 8 15 0 11 22 0 6 8 9 79
Elgton Jenkins 22 0.5 2 12 0 15 12 8 20 9 0 78.5
Taylor Decker 15 0 17 11 0 13 0 0 11 7 16 75
Justin Fields 2 9 7 6 19 0 0 18 1 0 7 67
Penei Sewell 3 8 14 13 9 0 0 15 0 0 5 64
Robert Tonyan 7 4 13 9 7 6 0 4 9 6 3 61
Jaylon Johnson 5 0 0 14 8 0 6 3 0 20 0 51
Cody Whitehair 4 2 1 0 0 5 3 13 8 4 14 50
Darnell Savage 0 5 9 4 10 3 10 0 3 0 1 45
Tarik Cohen 0 10 0 0 12 1 1 11 0 5 4 44
Jared Goff 0 0 0 7 0 7 8 10 5 0 0 37
Brian O’Neill 13 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 13 3 12 28
Bilal Nichols 0 0 11 0 0 0 5 0 0 0 0 16
Jamie Collins 0 0 0 0 0 4 11 0 0 1 0 16
Jeff Okudah 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 12 0 0 0 12
Teven Jenkins 0 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 9
Christian Darrisaw 0 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6
D'Andre Swift 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 4 0 0 6
Rashan Gary 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 0 4
Billy Turner 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
James Daniels 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 2
Robert Quinn 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1
Darnell Mooney 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Jimmy Graham 0 0.5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.5
Preston Smith 0.5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.5