r/NFL Top 100 Players of the 2021 Season – #10-6

r/NFL Top 100 Players of the 2021 Season – #10-6

Welcome to the reveal for players ranked 10-6 for the r/NFL Top 100 Players of the 2021 Season!

Players whose average rank landed them in places 10-6 are on this portion of the list revealed today. Players are associated with the team they finished playing for in 2021

Below you will see some write-ups from the rankers summarizing the players’ 2021 season and why they were among the best in 2021. Stats for each player are included below. Additionally, their ranks from previous years are available for y’all to see

METHODOLOGY

Link to more detailed writeup on our methodology

  • Step 1: A Call to Rankers right after the Super Bowl

  • Step 2: Rankers from each team nominated players to rank, with a 10 game minimum threshold. Players are associated with the team they played for in 2021

  • Step 3: The Grind. We instructed users to tier positions groups into T25, T50, etc based on 2021 regular season play only. This took several weeks as the rankers tiered each position group and discussed them. There were no individual player threads and no arbitrary position caps. Just questions and rankings.

  • Step 4: Users submitted their own personal Top 125 lists.

  • Step 5: User lists were reviewed by myself, u/mattkud , and u/MikeTysonChicken . The rankers were expected to answer questions about their lists. They were allowed to make any changes to their list, and were not forced to make any changes

  • Step 6: The Reveal… where we are now!

And without further ado, here are the players ranked 10-6 in the r/nfl Top 100 Players of the 2021 Season!


#10 – Deebo Samuel – San Francisco 49ers – Wide Receiver

Previous Ranks

2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A​

Key Stat

1405 receiving yards is the most ever by a player with 50+ rushes in NFL history, 286 ahead of 2nd (1966 Charley Taylor)


Written by: u/scmsf49

Deebo Samuel finished the 2021 season with the 3rd most yards from scrimmage in the NFL behind only Cooper Kupp and Jonathan Taylor. He led all qualified players in yards per catch and obliterated the rest of the league in yards after the catch – more on that later. He was a first team all-pro, albeit by a far slimmer margin than appropriate, likely for the same reasons some are unsure where exactly he belongs on this list. It’s difficult to evaluate this season from an objective standpoint because we’ve never seen anything quite like it. Percy Harvin had a season where he ran the ball 50 times pretty effectively, but he didn’t break 1000 receiving yards – Deebo broke 1400. Harvin also did not have more than 5 carries in a game that season. Deebo had no fewer than 5 carries in a game once he became a runner. The guy averaged 113.1 yards per game through the first 8 games playing wide receiver, then averaged 108.3 over the last 8 games playing wideback. He maintained his production while turning 40% of his total yards into rushing. There’s nobody else who could come close to doing that.

It’s time to talk about Deebo Samuel, the wide receiver. The rushing prowess displayed this season distracted from the fact that he’s one of the best legitimate wideouts in the league. He just also happens to moonlight as the most efficient running back in the league. He led all wide receivers in yards per route run when lined up out-wide this season. He led the league in receiving yards through 7 games, pushing Kupp before the evolution. His 4 150+ yard receiving games led the league this season, and 3 of those came in those first 8 games when he was a full time receiver. Even if he truly does decide against continuing to play “wideback”, he’s still the most dangerous big play receiver in the league and an undeniably elite weapon. Deebo is the type of player who gives you 83 yards on a 3rd and 20 screen and makes you feel dumb for not expecting it. Deebo made it very clear that he is capable of doing what other top receivers do. No one else is capable of doing what Deebo did.

To put Deebo’s season into context using a direct comparison, Deebo’s receiving stats are nearly identical to Ja’Marr Chase for the year, with both guys a mile ahead of the other WR1s when it comes to yards per reception, though Deebo leads Chase by a full 2 yards after the catch per reception. For receivers with over 1000 yards, the top 3 in YAC/reception were Deebo at 10.0, Chase at 8.0, and Kelce at 6.1. Deebo’s YAC/R over expectation was 5.2, in case you read those numbers and thought that was simply schematic. All the major receivers in Shanahan’s offense (Deebo, Kittle, Aiyuk) are in the top 10 for this not because Shanahan makes the plays for them, but because the ability to make plays as an individual after the catch is paramount in this offense. It’s the main thing Shanahan looks for when drafting receivers. Deebo’s unparalleled ability to make plays after he gets the ball are what enables this offense, not the other way around. He’s so insanely good at this that the team started handing him the ball in the backfield halfway through the season.

After his role shift, Deebo ran the ball 53 times for 343 yards – 6.5 yards per rush, though his season total was 6.2 because of some early season sweeps. By EPA, he’s the best rusher in the league by a mile. Deebo’s 0.39 here is almost double that of second place Lamar. He scored on the ground 8 times in 59 rushes (13.5% of carries). He set the single season record for rushing touchdowns by a receiver while only running the ball for half the season. The 49ers ran the ball 64 times in Deebo’s 78 snaps in the backfield, roughly 50 of those going to him. Teams knew what was about to happen when he went back there and there was nothing they could do about it. Perhaps the best example of this came in the playoffs against the Cowboys. The second he got the ball everyone on the field focused on him and he scored anyway, despite having only a 0.7% chance to do so per Next Gen Stats.

The 49ers were 7-1 in the regular season when Deebo ran the ball 5 or more times. In the sole loss against Tennessee, he had 159 receiving yards (109 of which came after the catch in a game where he got virtually no help from his quarterback). The Niners averaged 149 rushing yards per game during this stretch compared to 108 per game for the rest of the season. Deebo’s involvement in the run game was crucial for this team turning the season around. Kyle Shanahan found a way to get the ball into the hands of the most dangerous player in the league and it nearly got his team back to the Super Bowl in a year where the team started off 2-4 and lost to Colt McCoy.

Deebo’s big play ability as both a rusher and a receiver was instrumental in saving the 49ers’ season, and he even threw a touchdown pass in a week 18 must-win game against the eventual Super Bowl champions. Whenever the team needed a big play, Deebo delivered. Whether that be a 40 yard touchdown on 4th and 5, or a crucial touchdown on 3rd down, down 14 in a week 18 comeback with the playoffs on the line, the man always delivered.

It’s impossible to mention Deebo Samuel without addressing his tumultuous offseason. It’s still not totally clear whether this was purely about money or if Deebo genuinely does not want to continue running the ball, but 49ers fans (and fans of exciting football) have to hope that this is not the last we’ve seen of the wideback era, especially with the possibility of read options now on the table with his new quarterback. If Deebo truly is only a wide receiver moving forward, we can’t really complain too much. The guy was on track for 2000 receiving yards through 7 games. He’s the most lethal offensive weapon in the sport. Pay the man.


#9 – Jonathan Taylor – Indianapolis Colts – Running Back

Previous Ranks

2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A​

Key Stat

Peaked over 22 MPH three times in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016), most by any player


Written by: u/ghettogoatsauce

Running backs hailing from the University of Wisconsin since the turn of the century have had a rough go of it in terms of public perception. Ever since the Heisman winner Ron Dayne only had a mediocre career in the NFL, we’ve heard the same question time and time again. How much of John Clay/Montee Ball/James White’s success in college was due to their own talent? How much of it was because Wisconsin’s offensive line had the equivalent of five 3-ton diesels starting every game? Today, my friends, we get to leave that behind (bonus points to Melvin Gordon for shaking the narrative). I doubt the narrative will go away for future Wisconsin RB prospects, but the Colts 1st-team All Pro and 2nd year RB Jonathan Taylor will never have to hear such slander again after a campaign that has firmly entrenched him as a Top 2 (my top 1, I know, biased!) RB in the NFL.

Indianapolis may not have a major league baseball team (sorry AAA Indians), but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a top-tier home run hitter. You will not find a current RB more explosive than Jonathan Taylor was last year. Here’s a fun chart from after Week 15 that I personally like. In addition to charts saying he’s explosive, there’s a literal measurement of his speed to look at, too. He had the 1st, 4th, and 5th fastest ball carrier speeds from the past year. No one else appears more than once in the top 20. Not Tyreek Hill, not Ja’Marr Chase, not any other jet-fuel-speed burners. Nope, it’s the guy who’s 5’10” 226 lbs. (Sidebar: I did see Derrick Henry was number 6. Jesus, that guy’s scary). Of course, speed isn’t everything. If you have the tunnel vision of a Trent Richardson, you’ll never get to top speed. Thankfully, this is not the case for Taylor. Take this play against the Dolphins out of shotgun. A sweep to the left side, and would you look at that, he identifies the gap and is gone. He’s also a YAC(ontact) monster. In our next case, it’s some simple shiftiness to beat a stacked box against Buffalo. Two jump cuts puts Levi Wallace on the ground and it’s an easy stiff arm for Taylor in this short run to the endzone. Here’s another double cut combo that, this time, has fellow Top100 acolyte Casey Hayward reaching for air. You’ll of course find that the majority of his YAC comes on missed arm tackles where Taylor is simply undeterred. No being knocked off-balance. No slowing down. Just throwing out the arm to deflect and moving on as if nothing happened. In this play against the 49ers, he bounces off (or they bounce off him) of 3 separate defenders and damn near accelerates fast enough to score. He’s not an incredibly violent runner, but he fights for extra yards with the best of them. While fighting for those yards, he’s managed to only fumble 1 time in 372 total touches. Hard to imagine that at one point people were worried about his “fumbling problem” Of course, in the modern NFL, there’s one last thing you need to be a truly complete RB. Pass catching. He’s pretty good at that too! If only SOMEONE threw a damn checkdown more often. Please credit the NFL YouTube channel for the clips I was able to use above.

Believe it or not, Taylor is, as of today, only 23 years old, wrecking the NFL in this fashion. He has a long way to go to reach anywhere near the all time greats, but he’s definitely got the potential. I mean, his age 22 season, he led the NFL in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. No one has led the league in rushing yards that young since Edgerrin James in 1999 AND 2000. All while no one else was within 500 yards of him. That hasn’t happened since CJ2K in 2009. Taylor was in his own stratosphere last year! If he can keep up his insofar great durability, he’s got a chance to be in Canton (I know, I know not there yet). We only hope him and Derrick Henry can be healthy next year so we can settle that Top 2 RB debate.


#8 – Davante Adams – Green Bay Packers – Wide Receiver

Previous Ranks

2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
5 70 33 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A​

Key Stat

Rodgers and Adams are the 5th QB-WR duo in NFL history to both make the AP All-Pro 1st team in consecutive seasons


Written by: u/IMissHarambe878

Davante Adams had himself another outstanding season in 2021, proving himself to still be a top wide receiver in the league. In 16 games, he found himself ranked with the following stats:

2nd in receptions (123)

3rd in receiving yards (1553)

5th in receiving TDs (11)

• Adams found himself averaging 12.6 yards per reception, while averaging 97.1 yards a game. Not to mention he also had a 72.8% catch rate

Keep in mind he played one game less than Kupp, Jefferson, Chase, Hill and Diggs. But what actually makes Davante so good at what he does? Adams is one of, if not the best, route runner in the league. His ability to create separation from opposing CBs is elite (sometimes multiple defenders), using his speed as well as quick, flowing movements to break away and run his crisp routes seamlessly. Below are a few examples of why Adams is so good at what he does:

Davante tearing apart the Bengals defense

And again for good measure

Adams breaking a Vikings DBs ankles

A beautiful fake bubble screen slant against the SB Champs

Adams’ fellow WRs at Green Bay aren’t the greatest (despite MVS and Lazard both being decent in their own regard), and that helped the opposition apply pressure on Adams. He has the talent and skill to thrive as a WR1 and has shown for many years why he is deserving of the $140 million/5 years contract that the Raiders signed him for. Adams is a huge loss for Green Bay, and it will be interesting to see how the Packers attempt to replicate his success over the past seasons. I fully expect Adams to still be top 20 in this list next year and I expect him to provide an immediate impact out in the West. Las Vegas, please take good care of him.


#7 – Myles Garrett – Cleveland Browns – EDGE Rusher (EDGE)

Previous Ranks

2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
9 N/A 54 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A​

Key Stat

PFF pass rushing grade of 90+ in each of the last three seasons


Written by: u/KingDing-a-Ling13

Introduction

Cleveland Browns 1st round draft picks preceding Myles Garrett: Corey Coleman, Danny Shelton, Cameron Erving, Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel, Barkevious Mingo, Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Phil Taylor, and finally ending the misery, Joe Haden. That’s nine straight 1st round picks that completely busted. Coming out of Texas A&M with 31 career sacks in three seasons, a 9.99 Relative Athletic Score, and looking like a slam dunk first overall pick, Myles Garrett still had to overcome the ghosts of the busts before him. Three Pro Bowls, two All-Pros, and 58.5 sacks later, and it’s pretty safe to say Garrett is not a bust. Following his 2020 season which was thrown off course by a clash with COVID, and a 2019 season which was cut short by a clash of heads and helmets, 2021 was poised to be a statement year for Myles. He delivered, proving once again to be possibly the best pass rusher in the league.

2021

Myles Garrett has, in my opinion, the scariest pass rush move in the NFL: his pure speed rush. There isn’t anything super technical that makes this move so scary. It is pure athleticism from Garrett with a ridiculous amount of bend for a person his size. He got on the sack board with this move in Week 1. Garrett bursts past Orlando Brown and completely changes his direction with a couple foot plants into the ground. Any other EDGE rusher moving as fast as Myles does is going to end up 10 yards behind the quarterback, but the strength of his bend makes the impossible possible. He does almost the exact same move against the Steelers on this play. Here’s the same move again against the Ravens that resulted in a strip sack scoop-and-score for Myles. Underrated left tackle Jonah Williams tried to kill this move, but he failed, and Burrow was stricken down to the ground. That speed rush is absolutely terrifying for left tackles to handle, and it’s not the only time Garrett demonstrates his speed. Watch him get after Justin Fields on a broken-down play. Garrett lines up on the inside and beats his initial blocker, but the pocket completely collapses and there’s too much traffic to reach Fields. When Fields begins to roll out, Garrett is at a standstill. Garrett has such great acceleration though that he manages to just barely get to Fields, who ran a 4.45 40 yard dash. He would finish the game with 4.5 sacks, one of the most dominant and destructive single-game performances of 2021. Garrett isn’t just about speed, either. He absolutely demolishes the left tackle, throwing an incredibly large human like a ragdoll. Even when getting chipped and doubled, Garrett is still a major threat. Going against rookie sensation LT Rashawn Slater, Garrett gets chipped by the RB and simply channels the momentum shift into a spin move around Slater. Put one, two, or even three guys on Garrett and he still might get the sack. Garrett finished the 2021 season with a career-best 16 sacks and had the 3rd-most pressures in the league per PFF, earning his second consecutive 1st Team All-Pro selection. This man is a special, special talent that will terrorize opposing quarterbacks for years to come.

Legacy

Recently becoming only the second most controversial player on the Cleveland Browns, it seems like the only person that can stop Myles Garrett is himself. 2021 was only Garrett’s second full season, for both reasons out of his control and himself being out of control. If he can avoid trouble with the league and injuries, Garrett is a perennial threat for the sack title and Defensive Player of the Year. While it’s too early to say for sure, he is on an early career trajectory towards enshrinement in Canton.


#6 – Tom Brady – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Quarterback

Previous Ranks

2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
31 N/A [data expunged] 2 6 12 7 19 6​

Key Stat

Older than 63 current members of Congress, and played against 2 of them


Written by: u/mtzehvor

What more can I say about Tom Brady that hasn’t already been said – even just the stuff mentioned on offseason posts alone on this subreddit could probably fill a couple of these writeups. Unless you’re a Pats or a Bucs fan, you’re probably sick to death of hearing about him, and probably rightfully so; turns out there’s only so much you can say about one person before you start repeating yourself.

But it’s also really, really hard to not talk about Tom Brady, because he’s been so good for a really, really long time. Tom Brady has broken virtually every metric that we assess quarterbacks by. Since Brady came into the league, a team that “only” won one or two Super Bowls with a star quarterback has gone from a solid run to a disappointment who wasted their career. A quarterback in their mid-late 30s has gone from being viewed as on their last legs to still being a viable candidate for a team to build around and chase a Super Bowl for five or so years. Brady has been around in the league for so long that you have to adjust his stats for the era when comparing him to himself.

And yet, it’s tougher than it seems to pinpoint why Brady has been so successful for so long. He isn’t the most athletic, and he doesn’t have the strongest or maybe even most precise arm. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still been able to launch it over the years, thread the needle, and even juke the league’s best linebacker out of his shoes when he needs to. But he likely won’t wow you with pure physical prowess as consistently as some of the most athletic QBs in the league will.

But what Tom will do, and what I’d argue he has consistently done better than anyone in league history, is outwit you. If I had to pick a word to define Brady’s career in a nutshell, it would be adaptability. When you go up against Tom Brady, you better either have a team designed specifically to beat him or have a defense that is exceptionally deep top to bottom; because if you don’t, Brady will wind your weakness and exploit it, again, and again, and again, and he does it better than anyone else I’ve seen. You like zone defense? Yeah, Brady’s seen every zone you can possibly drawn up and will carve it like Thanksgiving turkey. You wanna play man? Unless you’ve got a secondary filled with All Pros, you better be ready for him to just run rub and option routes and beat you with underneath throws to the likes of Troy Brown and Danny Amendola. You wanna bring pressure? Good luck disguising it against Brady, who will pick it up and get it out so fast that even Joey Bosa will ask him to hold onto the ball for longer.

A lot has changed since Tom Brady joined the league. The NFL has gone from a game where a decent fullback was an important part of an offense to the position seemingly barely existing. Passing stats have exploded, rules have changed, and the talk of the NFL has quickly shifted to “is your QB athletic enough to win games single-handedly?” In that light, it’s perhaps fitting that it’s the wily old vet who is still winning Super Bowls and posting All Pro caliber seasons; just like he did all those years ago. Because Tom Brady adapts. Doesn’t matter what the landscape of the NFL is like, or seemingly how old he gets. He’ll still put up big numbers, he’ll still win games, and he’ll still be in the running for the Super Bowl at the end of the year. And 2021 was no different. A year after claiming his seventh Super Bowl at 43 years old, Brady played like he was two decades younger. A league leading 5316 yards, 43 TDs, 67.5% completion percentage, 7.41 ANY/A, and 102.1 rating. There’s a realistic argument to be made that if a few balls hadn’t bounced off his receivers hands, he might have wound up with MVP. I know we’ve all gotten used to the idea of Brady being good, but it is just difficult to repeat how utterly insane someone playing this well at 44 is.

Accuracy? Don’t worry, Brady’s can still drop it in with the best of them. Arm strength? Still got it. His legs, which have never been his strength, can still get him out of a jam. He’s even capable of a circus play or two. But, in my mind at least, Tom’s defining moment from the last season didn’t come in a win. It was leading his team back from a 27-3 deficit, with a plethora of injuries and Rams defenders in his face all day long. If you were watching that game, you probably felt that even when the Bucs went down by 24 points, it wasn’t over. And when Tom led them back to a tie, it was almost expected. That, right there, is the Tom Brady effect. No other quarterback does that.

And that’s why he’s the GOAT.


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