clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

4 Chargers named among NFL’s top 40 players

The best of the best for the Chargers topped out at No. 21 in the NFL’s annual player-voted rankings.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL’s annual Top 100 rankings are just about to cross the finish line as they’ve recently revealed the players ranked from No. 20 to No. 11. However, it looks like the best of the best for the Chargers hit their ceiling in the 20s with running back Austin Ekeler taking the highest ranking for a Charger at No. 21. Followed behind him making up the team’s highest-ranking four players are safety Derwin James (No. 30), quarterback Justin Herbert (No. 32), and edge rusher Khalil Mack (No. 38).

Here’s what had to say about each Charger:

38.) Khalil Mack

You’d think at some point teams would learn to stop trading Mack. After the Raiders shipped him to the Bears in 2018, he led Chicago in sacks (12.5) and more than tripled the total of Oakland’s leader (four). Fast forward to 2022. The Bears traded him to the Chargers, and Mack proceeded to pace L.A. with eight sacks while doubling Chicago’s sack leader. That’s what NFL All-Decade Team members do.

This was quite the surprise to see Mack end up so high on the NFL Top 100. If you considered how well he played during the first eight games of the season, then yes, I’d say he was a lock to make the list. But when you consider how quiet he was down a pivotal stretch, it starts to get confusing. Overall, I believe Mack is still a phenomenal player and will only be better in year two with Joey Bosa on the other side of the formation.

32.) Justin Herbert

A name always mentioned right behind the other greats of the NFL’s new generation, Herbert has torched defenses as well as any of his more-heralded contemporaries. He now has the most passing yards (14,089) and second-most passing TDs (94) of any QB in his first three seasons. He has the gaudy numbers, incredible toughness, a record-setting contract and a rocket arm. The next step is playoff success.

I don’t know where I thought Herbert would end up on these rankings, but I knew he’d be somewhere near the top. Considering the wealth of elite talent at other positions, I think this placement is right around where he deserves, especially when recency bias could have killed his stock after a down year.

30.) Derwin James

James’ impact is felt in every facet of the Chargers’ defense. And his 2022 stats reflect that do-it-all attitude, as he had 115 tackles (five for loss), four sacks, five QB hits, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. With his ability to wreak havoc on opposing offenses, it’s no wonder the Chargers made him the highest-paid safety in NFL history with a four-year, $76.4 million extension ahead of last season.

There’s not much to say about James that isn’t already said by every other member of the media. He does it all and he’s really good at it. Top 30 in the NFL is a good place for him.

21.) Austin Ekeler

Ekeler continued to prove himself as one of the top do-it-all backs, breaking records along the way. He finished second in rushing TDs with 13, and his 107 receptions were also top-five among all positions, emphasizing his two-way abilities. He became just the fifth player in the Super Bowl era to have at least 800 rushing yards, 10 rushing TDs, 700 receiving yards and five receiving TDs in a single season, according to NFL Research.

After leading the NFL in touchdowns for another season, Ekeler deserved this level of respect from his peers. While some would point to lackluster rushing production, that’s just nitpicking a player that does nothing but score points for his team and constantly puts them in a competitive state. He’s Herbert’s best friend as a young quarterback and that relationship should only flourish more as the offense opens up and Ekeler isn’t pigeonholed into catching 100 checkdowns for another season.

Two other Chargers were able to grace the top 100 in edge rusher Joey Bosa (No. 78) and linebacker Eric Kendricks (No. 93). Bosa missing 12 games during the 2022 season certainly hurt his stock as he fell 40 spots from last year’s rankings, but the respect and admiration he still garners from his peers can’t be understated. With a big year ahead for both him and the Chargers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him shoot back up this time next year.

As for Kendricks, he actually makes his reappearance in the top 100 after falling out completely a season ago. In year eight with the Vikings, he led the team with 137 tackles which was good for the second most ever by him in a single season. He also recorded a fumble recovery taken back for a touchdown, eight tackles for loss, and six pass breakups. He might be on the wrong side of 30, but he showed he could still produce on a defense that was one of the worst in the NFL in 2022.