Free Agents 81-100
81. S Malik Hooker
A former first-round pick, Malik Hooker has proven to be a fantastic deep single-high safety in his career when he’s healthy. Unfortunately, Hooker has had a few injuries, including an Achilles in 2020.
Teams will love his coverage ability, but he’ll likely need to take a cheap prove-it deal this offseason. Injuries, just like many others on this list, are why he’s ranked so low on this list of the top NFL free agents in 2021.
82. S Keanu Neal
Keanu Neal was viewed as a “box” safety who does his best work as a hook defender closer to the line of scrimmage. When he was on the field, he was highly effective in this role in Atlanta with Dan Quinn.
He’s not great in deep coverage and shouldn’t be viewed as a single-high by any metric. Yet, he is an effective enforcer flying up from the secondary. However, the injuries drive his value down some, and why he ranks so low on this list of the top NFL free agents in 2021.
83. C Alex Mack
Mack has had age catch up to him somewhat. Still, he’s an effective center for a team running zone-heavy concepts.
He’ll be 36 next year and missed the last two games last season with a concussion, however, which likely drops his value among teams. Still, a team searching for an option at center this year might be interested in a one-year deal for the vet.
84. RB Chris Carson
Chris Carson’s running style endears him to so many fans and analysts. He runs hard and physically; he is such an old-school throwback runner, it’s hard not to like him.
Unfortunately, that does tend to bite him, as he has yet to play a full season in the NFL. Running backs going on to their second contracts with numerous injuries just aren’t super valuable to teams these days. However, on a team like Atlanta or Buffalo, who is searching for that physical runner, Carson could be worth a good deal.
85. EDGE Markus Golden
Markus Golden has proven to be an effective pass rusher in his career. He’s produced 74 pressures the last two seasons with the Giants and Cardinals to go along with 14.5 sacks.
Golden will be 30 years old next season and has dealt with some injuries. However, he’s proven to be effective when on the field. Overall, he could be a bargain in free agency.
86. FB Kyle Juszczyk
I’m putting a fullback on this list of the top NFL free agents in 2021, and I’m not regretting it in the slightest, especially when it’s the best fullback in the game.
Juszczyk’s value to the 49ers cannot be overstated as both a blocker and a unique weapon in the passing game. Juszczyk has posted double-digit yards per reception for the last three seasons, displaying great athleticism for his position. Kyle Shanahan has done a fantastic job moving him around and fully utilizing him.
87. S Jaquiski Tartt
Tartt’s name often gets lost in the shuffle of safeties in the NFL, but he’s an effective cover safety when he’s on the field. He plays comfortably in every safety role for the 49ers’ defense. He’s an overall great athlete.
Tartt has only given up a 58.3% completion rate the last three seasons and has allowed just 4 touchdowns and 347 yards. The problem? He’s only played in 30 games over those three seasons, including seven in 2020. Health is a concern, but the play is not.
88. EDGE Aldon Smith
Somewhat of a surprising campaign, Aldon Smith returned to the league with the Cowboys and proved to be an effective pass rusher. While he was on a rotation, Smith still nabbed 5 sacks and 20 pressures this season.
Coming off of a suspension and an up-and-down season, Smith’s value is still a projection on this list of the top NFL free agents in 2021. If he can return to form, he’ll be a bargain for his next team.
89. WR Sammy Watkins
Watkins isn’t the receiver he once was, but he’s still an effective WR2 in the league. Watkins averaged 11.4 yards per reception in 2020. He also averaged 3.6 yards of separation last year, good for fifth in the league among all WRs.
The injury bug has still stuck with him, but Watkins can be a great target for his next quarterback if he doesn’t re-sign in Kansas City.
90. DL Ndamukong Suh
It’s clear that Ndamukong Suh isn’t quite who he used to be, but he still puts together some dominant reps on the field. While playing a career-low in snaps, Suh logged 6 sacks and 29 pressures last year for the Bucs and was instrumental in their Super Bowl run.
Suh isn’t the wrecking ball he once was, but his power is still just as strong on those bull rushes — just ask Mike Remmers.
91. CB Cam Sutton
Allowing a QBR of 79.8 when targeted, Sutton was deployed as both a slot and outside corner this season for Pittsburgh. He’s never been a full-time starter for the organization. However, his usage increased dramatically in 2020, and his play proved why.
He’s a high-upside option on this list of the top NFL free agents in 2021, as he’ll be 26 by the start of next season. Sutton could pay off big for his next team.
92. TE Jared Cook
Jared Cook has always been a valuable and reliable target wherever he lands. He’ll be 34 soon and had his production decline in 2020 (likely more due to the QB situation in New Orleans). Cook is still effective in getting open over the middle of the field and producing big chunks.
In 2019, Cook led all tight ends in Average Targeted Air Yards and was second in 2020 (but first among all TEs with over 50 targets). While he may not be a game-changing signing among all the NFL free agents in 2021, Cook will be a valuable target for his next quarterback.
93. DT Tyson Alualu
Alualu isn’t a name that gets mentions. However, he was incredibly effective and important to the Steelers last season. He isn’t a high-impact pass rusher, but he’s a dominant run defender up the middle.
His absence after midseason was felt by the Steelers’ defense, as their numbers against the run fell dramatically. Alualu will be turning 34 years old, and his lack of pass rush will limit his value, but he fits right in at 1-tech for every team.
94. EDGE Ryan Kerrigan
Ryan Kerrigan is still just as effective as ever, despite the predictable decline in snaps (hello Chase Young). Kerrigan dropped below 50% of snaps this season but still posted 5.5 sacks and 13 pressures.
Kerrigan is still only 32 years old and could be a quality veteran addition to a contending team’s pass rush.
95. CB Nickell Robey-Coleman
Nickell Robey-Coleman is coming off of a disappointing season in 2020 with the Philadelphia Eagles. Prior to that, Robey-Coleman was one of the best nickel corners with the Los Angeles Rams.
How much of Robey-Coleman’s struggles were due to now-fired DC Jim Schwartz’s scheme versus a decline in his play? I’m willing to bank on the player he was in Los Angeles, which is why he’s included on this list of the top NFL free agents in 2021.
96. WR A.J. Green
Green’s ranking on this list of the top NFL free agents in 2021 is more of a courtesy to what A.J. Green has been in his career versus what he was in 2020. In 2020, he was less than stellar on the football field.
It was abundantly clear he wanted to move on from Cincinnati. He was dead last in separation at 1.7 yards and dead last in catch percentage at just 45.19%. Green also gained about 2.1 YAC per reception in 2020. Was this frustration from Green or a sign of his decline after injury?
97. RB James Conner
Conner is more than just a feel-good story. While his production declined in 2020 behind a struggling Steelers’ offense, Conner improved his broken tackles number.
In 2020, 24.8% of his rushes went for first downs. He was 12th in rushing efficiency as well. Conner can be a solid and valuable runner behind a good offensive line.
98. DT Sheldon Rankins
A former first-round pick in 2016, Rankins has dealt with some nagging injuries the last two seasons. His 2018 play proved he could be a disruptive interior pass rusher with 8 sacks and 25 pressures, however.
Rankins will be just 27 years old by the start of next season. He could be a valuable rebound candidate elsewhere if he can prove to stay healthy.
99. QB Jameis Winston
Winston sat on the bench in New Orleans all season, even when Drew Brees went down. Whether Sean Payton rolled Taysom Hill out of hubris or because of Winston’s play in practice, we’ll never know.
What we do know is that during Winston’s last season as a starter, he was a good starter. Winston ranked 14th in EPA/play, 12th in success rate, and 17th in CPOE. Winston hasn’t lived up to being the No. 1 pick in 2015, but perhaps his time under Sean Payton has helped him develop? It’ll be interesting to see who rolls the dice on him in free agency.
100. EDGE Dennis Gardeck
For the last pick on this list, Gardeck deserves, at the very least, an honorable mention among any free agents. An undrafted free agent, Gardeck has played ILB and EDGE in Arizona. It’s clear he’s at his best rushing the passer, however.
Despite playing just 94 snaps in 2020, he posted 7 sacks and 12 pressures. Per Brandon Thorn’s True Sack Rate, 6 of Gardeck’s 7 sacks were high-quality, producing one high-quality sack per 15.5 snaps.
He did get hurt at the end of the season, but he was incredibly productive when he played. Foolish and premature to put him on this list of the top NFL free agents in 2021?
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