Now that rosters around the NFL are largely set, it’s time to predict who might be the best. After an unprecedented year in 2020 in which mini camps were cancelled and meetings were largely confined to zoom, this next season has the potential to look somewhat normal.
Given the more routine circumstances, who can we expect to be among the league’s best in 2021? CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco recently released his list for the 2021 NFL Top 100 list for next season. Two players on the New York Giants made the list and two other players “just missed.”
Defensive end Leonard Williams was named No. 43 overall and running back Saquon Barkley was named No. 87. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay and cornerback James Bradberry just missed the Top 100 list.
Here is what Prisco had to say about Williams and Barkley:
No. 43: DE Leonard Williams
He was a force last season for the Giants defense, finally achieving the level of play expected of him when he came into the league with the Jets. Williams earned a new contract because of his impressive play.
No. 87: RB Saquon Barkley
He is coming off a torn ACL suffered in Week 2 last season, which limited him to 34 yards rushing for the year. He did have two impressive seasons to open his career, but can he get back to that same level he flashed as a rookie in 2018?
Williams and Barkley are at very different points in their careers but both are positioned to have strong seasons next year.
Williams signed a three-year contract this offseason.
Last season was the best of Williams’ six-year career as he led the team and was seventh in the NFL with 11.5 sacks, the highest total by a Giants player since Jason Pierre-Paul’s 14.5 in 2014. No other Giants defender had more than 4.0 sacks. Williams’ previous high total was 7.0 sacks in 2016. He had just one half-sack in 2019.
Williams was also third in the NFL with 30 quarterback hits and tied for sixth with 14 tackles for loss. He was fifth on the Giants with 57 tackles (29 solo). In the final five weeks of last season, Williams was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week twice.
The Giants are hoping that Williams can match last season’s performance or exceed it in the year ahead.
Then there is Barkley who will be making his long-awaited return from injury. Barkley suffered a torn right ACL in the Giants’ Week 2 loss to the Chicago Bears and missed the remainder of the 2020 campaign.
In his rookie season, Barkley recorded 261 rushing attempts for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also racked up 791 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns for a total of 2028 yards from scrimmage to earn 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year Honors.
Barkley missed three games in the 2019 season due to injury, but still managed to surpass the 1000-yard rushing mark and record six touchdowns. In his two games last season though, Barkley averaged just 1.8 yards per carry. Two games is not a large enough sample size to draw a conclusion, but the Giants certainly hope that Prisco is right and their star running back makes a strong return in 2021.