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WCG’s 2023 NFC North player rankings: Nos. 1-15

In the last article of a 4-part roundtable series, the staff of Windy City Gridiron come together to rank the best players in the NFC North heading into 2023.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - New York Giants v Minnesota Vikings Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

As the heat of summer kicks up, the heat of the NFL offseason has died down. That makes it a perfect time to bring back our annual NFC North player rankings!

The Windy City Gridiron staff has come together to rank the top players in the Bears’ division heading into the 2023 NFL season. Like the NFL Top 100 — but better, in our humble opinion — staffers who participated were asked to provide their top 30 players in the division, and their respective rankings of those individual players resulted in a scoring system to put together these finalized rankings. In order to deepen the player pool a bit, Jacob Infante and Bill Zimmerman provided additional honorable mentions.

To close things out, here are the top 15 players in the NFC North.

No. 15: Packers RB Aaron Jones

Best: 14 (Leming)

Last year: 15

The presence of AJ Dillon in the backfield hasn’t resulted in bad production from Jones, who is coming off of the third 1,000-yard rushing season of his career. Though the former steals touchdown opportunities from the latter, Jones is the one who holds the RB1 mantle and has been a quality running back for quite some time.

No. 14: Vikings QB Kirk Cousins

Best: 13 (Wiltfong, Borkowski, Leming, Zimmerman)

Last year: 20

Cousins has made two consecutive Pro Bowls and helped lead the Vikings to a 13-4 record as a starter. It’s hard to imagine him ever playing at an elite level with his skill-set and his turning 35 in August, but he’s a rock-solid starter whom an NFL team can win games with.

No. 13: Packers DL Kenny Clark

Best: 7 (Householder)

Last year: 8

Clark is one of the best pass-rushing nose tackles in the NFL, finishing with 4 sacks while plugging up holes along the interior for the Packers. He’s firmly in the prime of career, and his presence at defensive tackle is one opposing offenses need to plan for.

No. 12: Packers EDGE Rashan Gary

Best: 21 (Infante)

Last year: 30

Though he missed 8 games last year due to injury, Gary still had 6 sacks in 9 games. His combination of size, strength and speed has made him the impactful edge rusher many saw as his ceiling for him coming out as a raw ball of clay at Michigan.

No. 11: Packers OT David Bakhtiari

Best: 10 (Infante)

Last year: 6

Bakhtiari has missed 22 games over the last two years. That said, he’s a three-time Pro Bowler and a five-time All-Pro. Durability will be key for him as he approaches 32 years old, but if he stays healthy and doesn’t let his injuries affect his style of play, he’ll be higher on this list next year.

No. 10: Lions EDGE Aidan Hutchinson

Best: 8 (Zimmerman)

Last year: 27

Hutchinson came onto the scene and had the immediate impact many expected from him in his rookie year. With 9.5 sacks and 3 interceptions, he played a big role on Detroit’s defensive front. He’s a polished and explosive edge rusher who could end up with several Pro Bowl nominations to his name by the time it’s all said and done.

No. 9: Lions C Frank Ragnow

Best: 7 (Borkowski)

Last year: 7

Ragnow allowed just one sack last year and had four penalties over the course of the campaign. He has topped a PFF grade of at least 74 in each of his last four seasons, and the two-time Pro Bowler has been a steady force along the Lions’ interior whenever he’s stepped onto the field.

No. 8: Bears WR DJ Moore

Best: 6 (Leming)

Last year: N/A

The Bears added a much-needed, bonafide WR1 for their offense in the form of Moore, who had consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 2019 to 2021. Though he didn’t reach the mark last year, he has been one of the most productive wide receivers in the league despite facing subpar quarterback play in Carolina.

No. 7: Vikings OT Christian Darrisaw

Best: 3 (Wiltfong)

Last year: 41

Darrisaw graded out with an incredible 90.3 PFF grade in 2022, and he ended up with just two penalties over the course of the year. He more than held his own against some of the top edge rushers in the NFL, and the 2021 first-round pick seems well on his way to become one of the best offensive tackles in the game.

No. 6: Packers OG Elgton Jenkins

Best: 6 (Borkowski, Householder, Zimmerman)

Last year: 11

Jenkins is a two-time Pro Bowler who has thrived all across Green Bay’s offensive line. Regardless of whether they keep him at guard or kick him to center or tackle due to surrounding injuries, he has been a reliable stalwart for the offense since the Packers drafted him in 2019.

No. 5: Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown

Best: 5 (Infante, Wiltfong, Householder)

Last year: 28

After a strong rookie campaign, St. Brown managed to improve in all key receiving stats to earn a Pro Bowl berth in Year 2. He caught 106 passes for 1,161 yards and 6 touchdowns for the Lions, and he’s an established WR1 to this point whose reliability as a possession target makes him a quarterback’s best friend.

No. 4: Lions OT Penei Sewell

Best: 2 (Wiltfong)

Last year: 29

With just two sacks allowed and an 80.6 PFF grade for the 2022 season, Sewell made it to his first career Pro Bowl in just his second season in the NFL. He’s one of the top young offensive linemen in the NFL, and one could argue he could end up in discussion for the best offensive tackle in the league if he continues to develop the way he has.

No. 3: Vikings EDGE Danielle Hunter

Best: 2 (Hunter)

Last year: 9

Rumors have swirled about the Vikings trading Hunter, and if they do choose to do so, they’ll likely receive premier draft capital in such a deal. He has four double-digit sack seasons to his name in his 7 seasons in the NFL, including 10.5 sacks last year.

No. 2: Packers CB Jaire Alexander

Best: 2 (Infante, Borkowski, Householder, Zimmerman)

Last year: 4

Alexander earned second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl nominations for his 2022 campaign. He finished the season with a career-high 5 interceptions, as well as 14 pass deflections and a completion percentage of under 60%. He’s firmly amidst the best cornerbacks in the NFL and finishes as the top-ranked Packer on this year’s list.

No. 1: Vikings WR Justin Jefferson

Best: 1 (Everyone)

Last year: 2

With Aaron Rodgers out of the NFC North, Jefferson takes the reins as the consensus top player in the division. He’s 23 years old but already has 324 catches, 4,825 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns at the NFL level. The defending Offensive Player of the Year is arguably the best wide receiver in the league, and the future is nothing but bright for him.

Roundtable Voting

Rank Jacob Infante Lester Wiltfong Peter Borkowski Aaron Leming Sam Householder Bill Zimmerman
Rank Jacob Infante Lester Wiltfong Peter Borkowski Aaron Leming Sam Householder Bill Zimmerman
1 Justin Jefferson Justin Jefferson Justin Jefferson Justin Jefferson Justin Jefferson Justin Jefferson
2 Jaire Alexander Penei Sewell Jaire Alexander Danielle Hunter Jaire Alexander Jaire Alexander
3 Danielle Hunter Christian Darrisaw Danielle Hunter Penei Sewell Penei Sewell Danielle Hunter
4 Christian Darrisaw Jaire Alexander Christian Darrisaw Christian Darrisaw Danielle Hunter Christian Darrisaw
5 Amon-Ra St. Brown Amon-Ra St. Brown Penei Sewell Jaire Alexander Amon-Ra St. Brown Penei Sewell
6 Penei Sewell Danielle Hunter Elgton Jenkins DJ Moore Elgton Jenkins Elgton Jenkins
7 DJ Moore Elgton Jenkins Frank Ragnow Amon-Ra St. Brown Rashan Gary Amon-Ra St Brown
8 Elgton Jenkins Frank Ragnow DJ Moore Rashan Gary DJ Moore Aidan Hutchinson
9 Frank Ragnow Tremaine Edmunds Amon-Ra St. Brown Aidan Hutchinson Aidan Hutchinson Frank Ragnow
10 David Bakhtiari Aidan Hutchinson Aidan Hutchinson Elgton Jenkins Frank Ragnow DJ Moore
11 Aidan Hutchinson D.J. Moore Kenny Clark Frank Ragnow Kenny Clark David Bakhitari
12 Tremaine Edmunds Kenny Clark David Bakhitari David Bahktiari David Bakhitari Kenny Clark
13 Rashan Gary Kirk Cousins Kirk Cousins Kirk Cousins Tremaine Edmunds Kirk Cousins
14 C.J. Gardner-Johnson Rashan Gary Jared Goff Aaron Jones Kirk Cousins Rashan Gary
15 Kirk Cousins Jared Goff Justin Fields Kenny Clark C.J. Gardner-Johnson CJ Gardner Johnson
16 Kenny Clark David Bakhtiari Aaron Jones Eddie Jackson Aaron Jones Justin Fields
17 Eddie Jackson Aaron Jones Rashan Gary Justin Fields Eddie Jackson Tremaine Edmunds
18 Aaron Jones Eddie Jackson T.J. Hockenson Tremaine Edmunds Jared Goff Aaron Jones
19 T.J. Hockenson Dalvin Cook C.J. Gardner-Johnson Dalvin Cook Justin Fields TJ Hockenson
20 Harrison Smith Justin Fields Dalvin Cook Jared Goff Dalvin Cook Eddie Jackson
21 Taylor Decker T.J. Hockenson Darnell Mooney C.J. Gardner-Johnson Harrison Smith De'Vondre Campbell
22 T.J. Edwards C.J. Gardner-Johnson AJ Dillon Brian O'Neil T.J. Hockenson Dalvin Cook
23 Jared Goff De'Vondre Campbell De'Vondre Campbell Taylor Decker De'Vondre Campbell Harrison Smith
24 Justin Fields T.J. Edwards Eddie Jackson Harrison Smith Taylor Decker Taylor Decker
25 Dalvin Cook Taylor Decker Harrison Smith T.J. Hockenson T.J. Edwards Jaylon Johnson
26 De'Vondre Campbell Jonah Jackson Taylor Decker De'Vondre Campbell Marcus Davenport Christian Watson
27 Kerby Joseph Harrison Smith Jonah Jackson Christian Watson Jaylon Johnson TJ Edwards
28 Jonah Jackson Brian O’Neil Teven Jenkins Jonah Jackson Cole Kmet Jared Goff
29 Christian Watson Teven Jenkins Marcus Davenport Kerby Joseph Christian Watson Jonah Jackson
30 Marcus Davenport Jaylon Johnson Cole Kmet Jaylon Johnson Quay Walker Teven Jenkins
31 Teven Jenkins Kerby Joseph
32 Brian O'Neill Darnell Mooney
33 Jaylon Johnson Marcus Davenport
34 Preston Smith Brian O'Neill
35 Darnell Mooney AJ Dillon
36 Rasul Douglas Preston Smith
37 Khalil Herbert Khalil Herbert
38 James Houston Alexander Mattison
39 David Montgomery Rasul Douglas
40 Nate Davis Darnell Wright