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WCG’s 2022 NFC North top 50: Nos. 11-20

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

NFL: Pro Bowl-NFC at AFC Kirby Lee-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:

21. Packers EDGE Rashan Gary

22. Vikings WR Adam Thielen

23. Bears CB Jaylon Johnson

24. Bears WR Darnell Mooney

25. Vikings OT Brian O’Neill

26. Bears RB David Montgomery

27. Lions EDGE Aidan Hutchinson

28. Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown

29. Lions OT Penei Sewell

30. Lions OT Taylor Decker

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 11-20 on our list.

20. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins (148 points)

High: 11 (Schmitz)

Low: N/R (Zeglinski)

Last year: 21

Cousins is what he is, and he has kept that level of transparency for years now.

He’s not an elite quarterback, but he’s certainly not a bad one and is arguably in the top half in the NFL at the game’s most important position. Coming off of his third career Pro Bowl appearance, Cousins finished last year with 4,221 yards, 33 touchdowns, 7 interceptions and a 66.3 completion percentage.

19. Packers S Adrian Amos (154 points)

High: 11 (Zeglinski)

Low: N/R (Salo)

Last year: 22

In his three seasons with the Packers, Amos has been the definition of consistency.

He finished the 2021 season with 2 interceptions, 8 pass deflections, 93 tackles and a completion percentage allowed of just 61.9. Amos is a do-it-all safety who has quietly been one of the better safeties in the league for some time.

18. Packers S Darnell Savage (166 points)

High: 12 (Zimmerman)

Low: N/R (Ramachandran)

Last year: 35

Though Amos is a bit more consistent than Savage, the latter has the splash plays that propel him barely above his running mate on the back end.

Savage had 2 interceptions and 9 pass deflections in 2021 with an allowed completion percentage of 64.9. With 8 interceptions and 26 pass breakups in his three seasons in Green Bay, he has proven to be a true playmaker in the secondary,

17. Vikings LB Eric Kendricks (184 points)

High: 7 (Borkowski)

Low: N/R (Leming, Sunderbruch)

Last year: 17

Kendricks stays put in the exact same spot he occupied last year after yet another quality campaign.

He finished 9th in the league with 143 tackles, and his 5 sacks placed second among full-time off-ball linebackers. Arguably under-appreciated with just one Pro Bowl nod to his name, Kendricks has been among the game’s best linebackers for quite some time.

16. Lions TE T.J. Hockenson (193 points)

High: 7 (Duerrwaechter)

Low: 33 (Salo)

Last year: 18

Injury prevented Hockenson from putting up enough numbers to make a Pro Bowl appearance last year, but he further solidified his status as one of the NFL’s most complete tight ends.

A dynamic pass-catcher as well as a good blocker, Hockenson came away from 2021 with 61 catches, 583 yards and 4 touchdowns. It remains to be seen if his role will be affected a great amount with the new weapons the Lions brought in, but he is good enough that he should put up impressive numbers either way.

15. Packers RB Aaron Jones (198 points)

High: 5 (Salo)

Low: 26 (Zeglinski)

Last year: 13

After two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Jones fell into more of a committee back role with the increased usage of AJ Dillon in the Packers’ offense.

Jones averaged 4.7 yards per carry with 799 yards and 4 touchdowns in the 15 games he played. He was also very productive and efficient as a pass-catcher, placing 2nd among all running backs with 6 receiving touchdowns.

14. Vikings EDGE Za’Darius Smith (206 points)

High: 6 (Duerrwaechter)

Low: 28 (Zeglinski)

Last year: 7

Smith makes the divisional jump from the Packers to the Vikings after playing in just one regular season last year due to back problems.

He had back-to-back seasons with a combined 26 sacks in his two years prior to getting hurt, and he showed in Green Bay that he can be a game-wrecker off the edge. If he rebounds well from his injury, the Vikings could have one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL.

13. Bears EDGE Robert Quinn (208 points)

High: 7 (Ramachandran)

Low: 27 (Zimmerman)

Last year: 48

Few players in the NFL had a big of a bounce-back season as Quinn did in 2021.

Plagued with the injury bug in a disappointing 2020 season, Quinn exploded with a single-season franchise record 18.5 sacks and made his third career Pro Bowl appearance. Whether the Bears choose to trade him to acquire draft capital remains to be seen, but wherever he plays, he should be a force to be reckoned with yet again.

12. Vikings S Harrison Smith (210 points)

High: 5 (Duerrwaechter)

Low: 22 (Zimmerman, Ramachandran)

Last year: 20

Even entering his 11th season in the NFL, Smith has been playing at a high level for much of his time with the Vikings.

Smith was named to his 6th Pro Bowl after notching an interception, 7 pass deflections, 3 sacks and a career-high 114 tackles in 15 games. He’s showing few signs of slowing down, which is good news for Minnesota.

11. Packers OG Elgton Jenkins (213 points)

High: 6 (Leming)

Low: 35 (Duerrwaechter)

Last year: 28

No matter where the Packers have lined him up, Jenkins has played very good football.

Having started at four of the five positions along the offensive line, Jenkins has been ascending over the years and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2020. He suffered a torn ACL in the middle of the 2021 season but had an 82.1 PFF grade playing out of position at left tackle before his injury.