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:
31. Packers CB Rasul Douglas
32. Lions WR DJ Chark
33. Bears QB Justin Fields
34. Lions WR Jameson Williams
35. Lions RB D’Andre Swift
36. Lions OG Jonah Jackson
37. Packers TE Robert Tonyan
38. Vikings RB/KR Kene Nwangwu
39. Lions CB Amani Oruwariye
40. Bears S Eddie Jackson
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 21-30 on our list.
30. Lions OT Taylor Decker (66 points)
High: 24 (Leming, Ramachandran)
Low: N/R (Salo, Borkowski)
Last year: 29
Decker has been the definition of reliable for the Lions’ offensive line over the last few years.
Coming off of a season with a 75.5 PFF grade with just 2 sacks allowed, there haven’t been any signs of slowing down for Decker, though he did struggle with injuries last year. If he bounces back healthy, he could be continue to be a fixture on this list for years to come.
29. Lions OT Penei Sewell (69 points)
High: 22 (Salo)
Last year: 31
Sewell stepped into Detroit’s starting lineup and looked like the dominant, pro-ready offensive tackle he looked like at Oregon.
He had some struggles at left tackle when filling in for Decker at left tackle, but once he moved back to right tackle, he dominated to the tune of a top-5 right tackle grade from PFF. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he takes that next step and appears in the Pro Bowl next year.
28. Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (75 points)
High: 22 (Sunderbruch)
Low: N/R (Schmitz)
Last year: N/R
Many were surprised that Amon-Ra St. Brown fell to Round 4, but the Lions are thanking their lucky stars he did.
St. Brown was one of the top offensive rookies in the 2021 season, catching 90 passes for 912 yards and 5 touchdowns. Though he’ll face stiffer competition for touches in 2022, he’s a well-rounded weapon with good hands and body control who could be a fixture for the Lions’ passing attack in the long run.
27. Lions EDGE Aidan Hutchinson (95 points)
High: 8 (Salo)
Low: 35 (Borkowski)
Last year: N/R
Even if Hutchinson hadn’t been ranked in the top 10 by Jack Salo, the differential between Nos. 27 and 28 mean the Michigan alumnus probably would’ve ended up here, anyway.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 draft, Hutchinson dominated college football to the tune of 14 sacks and 16.5 tackles for a loss last year. His power, high motor, athleticism and arsenal as a pass-rusher give him the potential to contribute at a high level from Day 1.
26. Bears RB David Montgomery (95 points)
High: 14 (Ramachandran)
Low: N/R (Sunderbruch, Schmitz)
Last year: 25
As he heads into a contract year, Montgomery will likely continue to prove that he is a talented running back capable of cracking the 1,000-yard mark on a yearly basis if healthy.
His efficiency in terms of yards per carry fell off a bit in 2021, but he still finished with 849 yards and 7 touchdowns in 13 games. He is what he is at this point — not a home-run hitter with elite speed, but an intelligent back with a high motor, quick feet in a vacuum and great contact balance.
25. Vikings OT Brian O’Neill (107 points)
High: 15 (Sunderbruch)
Last year: 38
O’Neill makes a jump on this list after being named to his first Pro Bowl last year.
He dominated in pass protection for the Vikings last year, allowing a sack just once in the full 17 games he played. Minnesota signed O’Neill to a big-money extension before the start of the year, and he more than lived up to the price they’re paying him going forward.
24. Bears WR Darnell Mooney (110 points)
High: 19 (Ramachandran)
Low: N/R (Sunderbruch)
Last year: 49
On a Bears offense that struggled to do much of note, Darnell Mooney was a rare bright spot in 2021.
The former fifth-round pick broke out with 81 receptions, 1,055 yards and 4 touchdowns in just his second season in the league. He’s a smart route runner with an electric skill set that could be further maximized in what will likely be a more vertical Chicago passing attack this coming season.
23. Bears CB Jaylon Johnson (127 points)
High: 13 (Zeglinski)
Low: N/R (Sunderbruch)
Last year: 33
Johnson took on the role as the Bears’ bonafide CB1 in 2021, and he stepped into the role quite comfortably.
He had an interception and 9 pass deflections in 15 games, along with an impressive 59.7 allowed completion percentage. He’s an effective coverage defender who plays a sneaky big role for the Bears and could be thrust into national spotlight with some more big plays on the ball.
22. Vikings WR Adam Thielen (127 points)
High: 18 (Salo, Zimmerman, Duerrwaechter)
Low: 32 (Zeglinski)
Last year: 16
Thielen has been slipping a little bit down our board over the years, but he’s still a very good weapon for Minnesota’s offense.
The two-time Pro Bowler played in 13 games last year, catching 67 passes for 726 passes and 10 touchdowns. His scoring ability is the best it’s been in his career, and though he isn’t the WR1 anymore, he has grown into a reliable complementary option upon turning 30.
21. Packers EDGE Rashan Gary (138 points)
High: 9 (Leming)
Last year: 45
Perhaps no player had as much varying opinions from the WCG staff as Gary, who made 4 top-15 appearances but failed to appear in 3 different top-35 lists.
Regardless, Gary’s production took a big step in 2021, tallying 9.5 sacks, 28 quarterback hits and 2 forced fumbles. His massive potential is just beginning to be fully unlocked, and if he continues to build upon last year, it could be bad news for NFC North offensive linemen.