Four Packers who could make the NFL Top 100 players rankings in 2021.
The NFL’s annual Top 100 Players list has just been released. It’s mostly just a fun exercise to kill time in the offseason, with the rankings compiled based off of ballots from players.
There are plenty of obvious misses. Still, it can be a somewhat useful way of measuring how players are perceived by their peers.
This year, six Green Bay Packers made the list: Aaron Rodgers (No. 16), Aaron Jones (No. 33), Za’Darius Smith (No. 48), Davante Adams (No. 57), Preston Smith (No. 63), and David Bakhtiari (No. 62).
Who could join them next year?
This is the most blatant omission from the Packers. Kenny Clark should be in the top 50 of the list, let alone the top 100.
Clark is a dominant force on the interior of the line against both the run and the pass. He’s effective on stunts and has the power, technique, and speed to overwhelm blockers when they leave him one-on-one.
Clark has had six sacks in each of the past two years and has helped the Packers’ defensive front grow into one of the league’s best. He has nothing more to prove, but hopefully, another year of similar performance will lead to recognition from his peers.
Jaire Alexander‘s omission is more understandable. He’s played just two years in the league and has just three interceptions to show for it.
But like Clark, Alexander is already one of the top 100 players in the league. He’s the best cover corner the Packers have had since Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, and Sam Shields were roaming the defensive backfield in the early 2010s.
Alexander has exceptional footwork, change-of-direction ability, and ball skills. He’s still liable to getting burned by elite receivers, especially on double moves. But very few corners aren’t. If he hangs on to just a few more interceptions in 2020, he should be recognized as the elite player that he already is.
Elgton Jenkins is well on his way to inclusion on this list. It takes a bit of time for offensive linemen to get recognized, but Jenkins quickly asserted himself last year as one of the NFL’s very best at his position.
Jenkins took the starting job in Week 3 and never looked back. Playing between the stellar David Bakhtiari (already recognized as a top 100 player) and the solid Corey Linsley, Jenkins helped solidify one of the best sides of an offensive line in the league. He gave up zero sacks (according to Pro Football Focus) and paved many open lanes for Aaron Jones. Look for him to debut on this list next year somewhere between 50 and 100, and to potentially even push for a Pro Bowl spot.
Unlike Clark and Alexander, Darnell Savage was justifiably left off this year’s list. But if all goes according to plan, that won’t be the case next year.
Savage was good, but not great, as a rookie. He made a couple of noticeable rookie mistakes in both run support and pass coverage. But he still helped shore up a previously leaky spot, and his potential is off the charts for the future.
Savage has range and overall athleticism that the Packers haven’t seen in a safety since Nick Collins. If he can begin holding onto interceptions at a rate approaching what #36 did at the peak of his powers, he’ll be a household name before long.
Other candidates: Adrian Amos, Corey Linsley, Jace Sternberger
Candidates to fall down (or from) next year’s list
There is no indication that these two will be lesser players next season, and their positions on the list this year were well warranted. But they’ll each face some challenges to maintain or improve upon their position next year due to factors outside their control.
Aaron Jones (No. 33 on this year’s list) has two things working against him. First, he scored 23 total touchdowns last year, an extraordinary feat which he is unlikely to replicate. Second, the Packers just selected AJ Dillon in the second round. Running backs don’t typically take much time to adjust to the pro game, so Dillon is likely to see lots of touches next year (not to mention Jamaal Williams).
Likewise, Preston Smith (No. 63) could see his number of snaps reduced due to a young gun. Rashan Gary is a No. 12 overall pick heading into his second year as a pro. He’s likely to see a significant increase in snaps (he played just 23 percent of snaps last season), which will likely come partly at the expense of Smith.
Hopefully, we’ll see a full 2020-21 season so that players can vote on this meaningless but fun list again next year!