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WCG’s 2022 NFC North top 50: Nos. 31-40

In the second article of a six-part roundtable series, the staff of Windy City Gridiron come together to rank the top 50 players in the NFC North heading into 2022.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 NFL season is drawing nearer, and it figures to be an even more unpredictable season than the league typically has.

With so many star players changing teams — especially in the AFC — there’s very little clarity as to which teams will make the playoffs, much less the Super Bowl. This time of year provides a fun opportunity to rank and predict to your heart’s content, as each team still has an undefeated record, and none of the players have made any bad regular season plays.

As the NFL Network has done their player consensus Top 100 ranking each year, Windy City Gridiron’s staff has put together a roundtable over the last few seasons of the best players in the NFC North. With plenty of contributions to this year’s ballot and the departures of Davante Adams, Khalil Mack and other notable players within the division, the rankings proved to be more varied than ever before.

Before we get started, let’s set up the ground rules. Each WCG participant was asked to send their top 35 players in the NFC North. A player’s ranking determined how many points they would receive (35 points for first, 34 points for second, etc.), and the total points were added up to create the rankings.

Here’s what the list looks like so far:

41. Vikings OT Christian Darrisaw

42. Vikings CB Patrick Peterson

43. Packers DL Devonte Wyatt

44. Packers LB Quay Walker

45. Packers CB Eric Stokes

46. Packers RB AJ Dillon

47. Vikings S Lewis Cine

48. Bears S Jaquan Brisker

49. Lions S Tracy Walker

50. Bears CB Kyler Gordon

Without further ado, here are the players ranked 31-40 on our list.

40. Bears S Eddie Jackson (23 points)

High: 24 (Schmitz)

Low: N/R

Last year: 14

There’s no denying that Jackson’s level of play hasn’t matched up to the lofty expectations his All-Pro 2018 season created.

His decrease in ball production and tackling struggles have him as a faller down our rankings compared to last year, but he’s still an effective coverage safety who eliminates passing opportunities for opposing teams and makes an impact in ways that go beyond the stat sheet.

39. Lions CB Amani Oruwariye (23 points)

High: 27 (Infante)

Low: N/R

Last year: N/R

Oruwariye broke out with a tremendous season in 2021, intercepting 6 passes with 11 pass deflections and an allowed completion percentage of just 61.0.

Time will tell if he can replicate his ball production going forward, but he stood out as one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the NFL last year. He could prove to be a cornerstone for Detroit’s young defense with another strong year.

38. Vikings RB/KR Kene Nwangwu (24 points)

High: 16 (Sunderbruch)

Low: N/R

Last year: N/R

Nwangwu only had 17 offensive touches in 2021, so the bulk of his value for Minnesota doesn’t come out of the backfield.

That said, he exploded in his rookie year with 2 kick returns for touchdowns while also leading the league with 32.2 yards per return. In an era of football where the kick return has become a lost art, Nwangwu looked like the best in the NFL last season.

37. Packers TE Robert Tonyan (27 points)

High: 21 (Zeglinski)

Low: N/R

Last year: 32

Tonyan suffered a torn ACL midway through the 2021 season, but if he replicate his 2020 performance, he’ll be a much-needed boost for a depleted Packers offense.

Though he had just 204 yards and 2 touchdowns in the 8 games he played, he still had an 11-touchdown explosion back in 2020. He’s an above-average receiving tight end who could find his way back up the rankings with a strong comeback season.

36. Lions OG Jonah Jackson (34 points)

High: 22 (Infante)

Low: N/R

Last year: N/R

On a Lions offensive line that is arguably one of the most talented in the league, Jackson managed to put together a standout season last year.

In addition to being named to his first career Pro Bowl, Jackson also had a solid 69.3 PFF grade and was able to impress in the run game. Just 25 years old, there’s plenty of room for him to continue to grow and solidify himself as one of the best guards in the NFL.

35. Lions RB D’Andre Swift (36 points)

High: 24 (Borkowski, Zimmerman)

Low: N/R

Last year: 44

Swift wasn’t only the Lions’ leading rusher in 2021, but he also proved himself as one of the best receiving backs in the league.

His 62 receptions placed fourth among running backs, and his 7 scrimmage touchdowns led his team. Time will tell if he can separate himself as the bonafide top back in Detroit’s backfield, but he has the talent to thrive if given a bigger role in the run game.

34. Lions WR Jameson Williams (40 points)

High: 16 (Salo)

Low: N/R

Last year: N/R

The Lions made the bold move to trade up for Williams coming off of an injury, but his Alabama tape indicates he could develop into a star in the NFL.

Williams caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns in a breakout year in 2021. He’s a fantastic route runner and a dynamic athlete, and if he recovers fully from his torn ACL, he could become the elite weapon the Lions have been lacking in recent years.

33. Bears QB Justin Fields (43 points)

High: 19 (Duerrwaechter)

Low: N/R

Last year: 30

The Bears’ appointed savior ends up on the list for a second-straight year after an up-and-down rookie campaign.

He had his struggles in 2021, but Fields’ flashes of deep-ball accuracy, athleticism and toughness were incredibly enticing. With a new coaching staff and offensive system in place, he could take a big step and prove that he can be a franchise quarterback in the league.

32. Lions WR DJ Chark (45 points)

High: 23 (Ramachandran)

Low: N/R

Last year: N/R

Chark played in just 4 games for the Jaguars in 2021 due to a fractured ankle, but don’t sleep on his ability to contribute when healthy.

He was a Pro Bowler with over 1,000 yards in 2019, and he’s still a dynamic deep threat who’s just 25. The Lions are betting a lot on players bouncing back from injury at the wide receiver position, but the upside with Chark makes him worth taking the risk on.

31. Packers CB Rasul Douglas (45 points)

High: 27 (Borkowski, Zeglinski, Schmitz)

Low: N/R

Last year: N/R

Douglas has been on 6 teams since being drafted into the NFL in 2017, including four teams in 2021 alone.

It was that same year, though, that he broke out and played like a bonafide stud on tape. He finished the season with 5 interceptions, 8 pass deflections, a 50% completion percentage allowed and a 44.5 passer rating when targeted. With another strong season, Douglas can put any one-year wonder doubts to rest and earn recognition on a larger, national scale.