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WCG’s 2023 NFC North player rankings: Nos. 16-25

In the third 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.

Chicago Bears Offseason Workout Photo by Michael Reaves/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.

Let’s look at the players ranked 16 through 25.

No. 25: Lions OT Taylor Decker

Best: 21 (Infante)

Last year: 30

Decker has been the definition of consistency for the Lions’ offensive line since he joined the team in 2016. Though he hasn’t been rewarded with a Pro Bowl just yet, he hasn’t finished a season with a PFF grade below 70.0 since 2017. You know what you’re getting out of him each year.

No. 24: Packers LB De’Vondre Campbell

Best: 21 (Zimmerman)

Last year: 10

Missing four games in 2022 saw Campbell’s production fall off a little bit, but he was still a reliable run defender who produced well at the second level of Green Bay’s defense. As he enters the second year of his 5-year deal, he figures to be one of the top performers for the Packers in a transitional season.

No. 23: Vikings S Harrison Smith

Best: 20 (Infante)

Last year: 12

Smith has been a stalwart for the Vikings’ defense since 2012, and though he’s now 34 years old, he hasn’t shown too many signs of slowing down. He had 5 interceptions and 10 pass deflections last year, placing him among the top producers at the safety position.

No. 22: Vikings RB Dalvin Cook

Best: 19 (Wiltfong)

Last year: 3

This voting took place before the Vikings released Cook, and while his efficiency dropped off quite a bit in 2022, he still tallied his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season rushing. He’s a four-time Pro Bowl running back whose next landing spot will be incredibly interesting to watch.

No. 21: Vikings TE T.J. Hockenson

Best: 18 (Borkowski)

Last year: 16

Hockenson has solidified himself as one of the best tight ends in the NFL, and his 2022 campaign split between the Lions and Vikings was statistically his best season yet. He had 86 catches for 914 yards and 6 touchdowns, and with a full year in Minnesota’s offensive system, there’s no telling what kind of production he could put up.

No. 20: Lions QB Jared Goff

Best: 14 (Borkowski)

Last year: N/A

Four of the six voters had Goff rated above Justin Fields (who appears later), but Bill having Goff 12 spots below sees the Lions’ quarterback fall just behind. Regardless, he’s turned his career around as the signal-caller for an upward trending Detroit squad with tremendous offensive production.

No. 19: Bears S Eddie Jackson

Best: 16 (Leming)

Last year: 40

Prior to an injury which saw him miss 5 games, Jackson looked to be back to his old self, playing at a Pro Bowl level. He led all NFC free safeties in voting pre-injury for a reason: he had 4 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and an allowed passer rating of just 66.4. With the upgrades the Bears have made to their secondary over the last two offseasons, EJax should be able to focus on what he does best.

No. 18: Bears QB Justin Fields

Best: 15 (Borkowski)

Last year: 33

Fields is coming off an explosive 2022 which saw him tally the second-most single-season rushing yards for a quarterback in NFL history at 1,143. His ability to make plays with his feet already places him in elite dual-threat territory, but the traditional passing production has lacked a bit. Fortunately, with much-needed additions having been made to the Bears’ offensive line and weapons group, a Year 3 breakthrough seems like a legitimate possibility for him.

No. 17: Lions S C.J. Gardner-Johnson

Best: 14 (Infante)

Last year: N/A

Though Gardner-Johnson had three strong seasons with the Saints to kick off his NFL career, it was Year 4 which saw him dominate after being traded to the Eagles. Now on his third team in three seasons, he’s a versatile defensive back with safety-cornerback flexibility who just had 6 interceptions and 8 pass deflections last year.

No. 16: Bears LB Tremaine Edmunds

Best: 9 (Wiltfong)

Last year: N/A

Edmunds enters the 2023 season as the Bears’ big-ticket defensive addition over the offseason. Though he didn’t add a third Pro Bowl to his name last year, he had arguably his best season from a film perspective for the Bills. He grades as the top off-ball linebacker in the NFC North and offers Pro Bowl potential for Chicago this year.