NFL Free Agent Rankings 2022: PFN’s Top 100 from J.C. Jackson to Allen Lazard

Here are Pro Football Network's Top 100 NFL Free Agent Rankings for 2022. Who are the top players your favorite franchise could sign?

Top 100 2022 NFL Free Agent Rankings | 41-55

Which free agents round out our next batch of the best in the 2022 offseason?

41) G Connor Williams

Update: The Miami Dolphins got great value from the agreement with Williams. His two-year, $14 million deal was a fraction of the market value Spotrac projected.

Most Cowboys fans are probably aghast at the sight of his contract projection. Nobody in the NFL held more than Connor Williams in 2021. In fact, he had double the amount of holdings as the league leaders in 2020. It also doesn’t help that his lowlights stem from a lack of functional strength, which leads to him being walked back into Prescott’s lap.

But the holdings weren’t an issue before this season, and Williams has improved each year. He’s an above-average starting left guard in the NFL, and Cowboys fans are simply spoiled to the core after having endless resources spent on the offensive line over the past 30 years.

Williams will be an improvement at the position for anybody looking to seriously upgrade the spot. It also wouldn’t surprise me if he slid inside to center eventually to try and mitigate those anchor issues. Despite those issues, he allowed just 1 sack in 569 pass-blocking snaps and only 13 total pressures overall this year.

Spotrac Market Value: 4 years, $52.9 million

42) EDGE Melvin Ingram

Melvin Ingram showed us just how versatile he is. At nearly 33, he began the year as a rotational pass rusher in Pittsburgh and ended it by being an incredible run defender in Kansas City. It’s not easy for short-armed pass rushers to be strong against the run, but Ingram figured it out for a while as a Chief.

As with Hughes and Houston, Ingram can still give a competing team some quality snaps, but he won’t be depended upon to start. His production was evident in the uptick in performance from the Chiefs defense after his arrival.

43) WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

JuJu Smith-Schuster began his career producing as a high-end WR2 alongside Antonio Brown. In his second season, he gained over 1,400 yards, leading many to believe he was on the way to stardom. However, things haven’t gone as well in recent years.

Smith-Schuster’s environment hasn’t necessarily been the best recently, either. Ben Roethlisberger has been over the hill for a while now. The offensive line took a huge step back as well. Smith-Schuster is a good intermediate route runner, but he’s not an instant separator.

In the right system, he’ll once again be productive. He’s expressed interest in Kansas City over the past few seasons, and his downfield route-running ability would undoubtedly be welcome.

44) S Marcus Maye

Marcus Maye wasn’t having his best campaign in his first year playing in Robert Saleh’s defensive scheme. Then, he tore his Achilles tendon in November, ending his season. Still, Maye’s set for a massive payday this offseason. As a traditional free safety, few are better.

He’s lower on this list because of the injury. There’s a chance that Maye loses a bit of his explosiveness after the injury. On average, athletes with similar injuries see a dip of a quarter of their value, according to a study by Selene Parekh and Jay Shah. Maye may have to take a “prove it” deal.

Spotrac Market Value: 4 years, $53.2 million

45) CB Steven Nelson

Steven Nelson struggled a bit opposite of Darius Slay in Philadelphia as he played on a one-year deal. His free-agent candidacy reminds me a bit of Chidobe Awuzie as he left Dallas. Nelson signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Eagles, and I wouldn’t expect his price to rise after allowing nearly 70% of his targets completed against him. He had more penalties (5) than PBUs (4) in 2021.

But this is the NFL, where it’s practically impossible to play defense. Nelson’s athleticism and size make him a scheme fit almost anywhere, and he can survive as a complementary piece. His best ability is availability, making him a somewhat replaceable asset as a starter but invaluable to have on the roster if he’s the third outside option.

46) DT B.J. Hill

Update 3/14/2022: The Bengals retained B.J. Hill on a three-year, $30 million deal.

B.J. Hill isn’t a pass-rushing 3-technique, but he’s an active participant. His hands remain feisty throughout reps, and he wins 1-on-1s quickly with a stab-and-club move. Hill’s also proved he can attack a blocker’s shoulder before converting speed to power.

You pay Hill for his ability as a run defender. He’s built well for the position, but he possesses the anchor of a 330-pounder. His hands are heavy, and he owns outstanding agility for his size. Hill also sees run-blocking schemes well and disengages quickly to make plays.

47) CB Donte Jackson

Donte Jackson is a fit for teams looking to run a lot of zone. Despite his ridiculous explosion and long speed, he continues to struggle technically as a cornerback in man. One who has relied on athleticism for so long tends to pick up some bad habits, as Jackson has.

He’s really good when the ball is in front of him, though. So, in Cover 3 and quarters-heavy defenses, Jackson will be a fine second option for a team. With his size, a move to the slot seems viable. Yet, he struggles as a run defender, so keeping him out of those situations is a defensive priority.

Still, Jackson possesses plus ball skills, particularly for an undersized cornerback. But he’s also battled injuries throughout his career. Aside from his rookie year, he’s never played a full season.

48)  WR DJ Chark Jr.

Update: Chark agreed to terms with the Detroit Lions on a one-year, $10 million deal that will be fully guaranteed.

DJ Chark Jr. could end up being one of the steals of free agency. If he somehow lands in Kansas City, we should all collectively riot. It shouldn’t be legal for all that speed to be on the field at one time. Durability and his niche skill set make him a better second or even third option, but in the right situation, he could put up impressive numbers.

At 6’4″, Chark’s frame makes him a weapon as a receiver. He’s not a physical route runner, but he’s strong at the catch point and has the length and explosiveness to elevate for passes only he can get to. In a league overflowing with deep crossing patterns, Chark could make a team very happy.

Spotrac Market Value: 4 years, $47.6 million

49) LB Dont’a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower took the 2020 season off and then returned in 2021, looking like he hadn’t hit anybody in a long, long time. If your football team is looking for a run defender who will play on early downs and come off the field or blitz on passing downs, Hightower is still very valuable.

If your favorite team is looking for a three-down linebacker, “this is not the droid you are looking for.” Hightower will be 32 next season, but he still has enough in the tank to give a team 600 snaps at a starting level.

He’s somewhat scheme-versatile, too. Hightower triggers well in two-gap looks and flies to the line when he’s able to account for a single gap.

50) DL Calais Campbell

The fact Calais Campbell is still playing in the league after 14 seasons is remarkable. He’s not the same athlete he was in 2017 when he generated 14.5 sacks, but he can still contribute as a rotational player on the interior should he choose to play a 15th NFL season.

Campbell doesn’t possess much of a first step anymore, and his anchor isn’t as heavy against double teams at this point. But his long levers allow him to control a blocker’s chest in 1-on-1 situations, which enables him to disengage and pursue the run.

A limited role to maximize his production is probably Campbell’s best course of action. Yet, he still played a high snap count in 2021. Would the veteran be open to a smaller role elsewhere?

51) CB Bryce Callahan

Bryce Callahan is a tough evaluation. I thought he was a top-25 cornerback in the NFL for a while under Vic Fangio. But that wasn’t the player we saw in 2021, and injuries keep creeping into the conversation, making him less coveted in free agency.

Callahan is a small cornerback. And although he’s fast enough, he’s not necessarily a burner on the back end. He’s more explosive than fast, and that occasionally shows when he’s forced to carry vertically on the field.

Callahan is a perfect starting slot candidate for the next few seasons. His trigger and explosiveness are his strengths. If he gets to play in a quarters-heavy scheme, he’d once again look like one of the better slots in the NFL.

52) G James Daniels

Update 3/15/2022: The Pittsburgh Steelers secured the 24-year-old interior blocker with position flexibility on a three-year, $26.5 million deal.

James Daniels is an Iowa offensive lineman. We say not to scout the helmet, but when there’s an offensive line prospect from Wisconsin or Iowa, you pretty much know you’re going to get an above-average technician. Daniels was that and a fantastic athlete to boot.

Additionally, he has experience playing all three interior spots at the NFL level, which should only add to his value in free agency. Daniels is also a scheme-versatile player. He’s become a more powerful player since he entered the league, and it shows on downhill rushing concepts.

Spotrac Market Value: Four years, $29.5 million

53) S Jayron Kearse

Jayron Kearse was a Cowboys fan favorite in 2021. The safety was a do-it-all player for Dallas. He’s violent enough to survive in the box as a dime linebacker and athletic enough to hold his own against some of the best tight ends in the NFL. In a heavy Cover 1 scheme, he was truly on an island against the likes of Travis Kelce and George Kittle — and he survived almost entirely unscathed. 

There were communication issues early in the season between Kearse and other DBs, but once those were ironed out, it wasn’t easy to take him off the field. In a league that’s becoming more positionless, Kearse could be one of the poster children.

54) DT Folorunso Fatukasi

Update 3/14/2022: Fatukasi agreed to terms with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Like with Jones and Hill, the defensive tackle agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal. He will have $20 million guaranteed.

Folorunso Fatukasi is one of the more underrated run defenders in the NFL. It feels funny to say a player was “hidden” in New York, but the Jets have been so underwhelming for so long that many of their players become anonymous. The 6-foot-4, 320-pounder shocks blockers with his explosiveness off the snap, and his length is jarring to see on tape.

The only reason he’s so far down on the list is that he brings virtually nothing as a pass rusher. Wherever he ends up, it’ll be as a two-down player. But many teams require his services.

55) RB Leonard Fournette

The first RB coming in at No. 54 has less to do with Leonard Fournette’s talent and more to do with the value of paying a running back in free agency. Expect many more backs throughout the top 100.

Playoff Lenny has carved out a decent career for himself after being grossly over-drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017. It was a tough call between him and Melvin Gordon for the top spot. While Gordon might be a tad more versatile as a runner, Fournette possesses excellent athleticism and contact balance, and his evolution as a receiver has been wonderful to watch.

Spotrac Market Value: Two years, $12.3 million

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