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Top 100 Players of 2021, Nos. 60-51: Justin Herbert, Justin Jefferson make debuts

It's that time of year again, when NFL players cast their votes to identify the best in the league heading into the 2021 NFL season. Check out the results of this year's voting to see where your favorite players rank.

Corey Linsley
Los Angeles Chargers · C

A first-time All-Pro selection in 2020, Linsley elevated his level of play in his last season with Green Bay. The oft-underrated center allowed one sack and was penalized zero times in 734 snaps over 13 starts, per Pro Football Focus. Now an anchor on the Chargers’ O-line, Linsley has exceeded expectations since entering the NFL as a fifth-round pick in 2014. His breakout campaign certainly warranted the mega deal he received from L.A., as well as this debut spot on the Top 100.

Jason Pierre-Paul
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · DE

"Two-time Super Bowl champion" and "three-time Pro Bowler" aren’t the only new additions to Pierre-Paul’s resume. After being snubbed last year, the ferocious edge rusher now boasts four Top 100 selections. A passionate and powerful voice on the Buccaneers’ defense, JPP logged a career-high two interceptions and four forced fumbles to go with a team-best 9.5 sacks in 2020. He would carry that momentum into the postseason -- his first since 2016 -- and record two sacks to help Tampa win the NFC Championship Game. From there, the rest is history, just like JPP’s appearance on this list.

Tyrann Mathieu
Kansas City Chiefs · FS

Pop quiz: Which 2020 All-Pro safety is the only player to record at least 100 tackles and 10 picks since 2019? Yup, that’s right: none other than Mathieu himself, who tallied 62 tackles and a career-best six picks in 2020. This stat not only encapsulates the Honey Badger’s vaunted versatility, but it also showcases the two-time Pro Bowler’s incredible value to the Chiefs. Don’t let a 19-spot slide distract from the fact that Mathieu brought the heat every week, whether it was lining up as a slot corner, in the box or at free safety.

Cameron Heyward
Pittsburgh Steelers · DT

Climbing 27 spots from his 2019 ranking to nab his fifth Top 100 nod in six years, Heyward was again a force to be reckoned with. According to Next Gen Stats, the 32-year-old logged 37 stops, 46 QB pressures, 10 run stuffs and 30 hurries en route to a second-team All-Pro selection and fourth consecutive Pro Bowl nod. Heyward also hauled in a deflected ball for his first career INT during a Week 1 win against the Giants. Pittsburgh’s third-ranked defense wouldn’t have been the same without Heyward helping to man the interior.

Justin Herbert
Los Angeles Chargers · QB

From the moment Herbert -- the No. 6 overall pick in last year’s draft -- debuted in Week 2, it was clear he had a chance to be the man. That became common knowledge by the end of a historic, AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year-winning campaign. Those six months the Chargers had to endure without a clear franchise QB must’ve been so excruciating. They would likely do it over 100 times out of 100, though, if it meant landing the exciting gunslinger.

Keenan Allen
Los Angeles Chargers · WR

Up next is the perennially underrated Allen, who turned in another Pro Bowl-caliber year while helping to make Herbert’s Year 1 a smooth one. Although he fell eight yards shy of a fourth-straight 1,000-yard season, Allen was one of six wideouts to haul in at least 100 receptions. He also scored eight TDs -- the most he’s had since his rookie season -- and made a little history in Week 14 when he set the record for the most receptions by a player (623) in his first 100 games. It’s worth noting that his season totals, as well as the 22-spot leap he took from last year, could’ve potentially been higher had the veteran not missed two games.

Grady Jarrett
Atlanta Falcons · DT

His numbers may have taken a slight dip, but Jarrett’s impact and value cannot be understated. The back-to-back Pro Bowler has been one of the few bright spots for Atlanta’s struggling defense the past few seasons. In 2020, Jarrett led the team in QB pressures (34) and pass rush snaps (500) while ranking second in run stops (36), per NGS. His rise from No. 91 to No. 54 demonstrates those in the league are paying close attention to the former fifth-rounder’s evolution.  

Justin Jefferson
Minnesota Vikings · WR

The highest-ranked rookie on this year’s list, Jefferson gave Vikings fans (and the NFL community) an introduction that won’t soon be forgotten. The explosive playmaker finished the season tied for the league-lead in 20-plus-yard receiving plays (23), which helped the wideout “Griddy” his way past some big names in the history books and record a legendary 1,400 yards. Heading into the offseason with a Top 100 selection, a Pro Bowl nod and second-team All-Pro honors (along with a signature dance) is about as good a way for a debut campaign to end for any player.

Minkah Fitzpatrick
Pittsburgh Steelers · FS

If you’re looking for an example of a perfect marriage, Fitzpatrick and the Steelers fits the bill. In his first full season in Pittsburgh, the rangy free safety registered his second-straight first-team All-Pro, Pro Bowl and Top 100 selections, further cementing his name among the game’s brightest young stars. Fitzpatrick stuffed the stat sheet (79 tackles, 11 PDs, 4 INT) and allowed the lowest completion percentage (45.5%, per NGS) among all DBs.

Za'Darius Smith
Green Bay Packers · OLB

Similar to the man ranked before him, Smith’s play over the past two seasons has left his former franchise and its fans with questions about what could’ve been. The Packers linebacker doubled up on Pro Bowl selections while adding his first All-Pro honor (second team) following a solid 2020 season. According to NGS, Smith finished tied third in pressures (50) and fourth in hurries (30) among LBs. He also led GB with 12.5 sacks, 23 QB hits and 12 tackles for a loss.

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