NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2023: Austin Ekeler, Sauce Gardner Among Nos. 30-21


Erin WalshAugust 2, 2023

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - JANUARY 14: Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers warms up prior to a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at TIAA Bank Field on January 14, 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images)

Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

The 2023 NFL season is inching closer, and with that comes the release of NFL Network’s list of the top 100 players in the league.

NFL Network released Nos. 21-30 on Wednesday, and the list is highlighted by Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown:

  • No. 21: Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
  • No. 22: A.J. Brown, WR, Philadelphia Eagles 
  • No. 23: Sauce Gardner, CB, New York Jets
  • No. 24: Roquan Smith, LB, Baltimore Ravens
  • No. 25: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
  • No. 26: Jaire Alexander, CB, Green Bay Packers
  • No. 27: T.J. Watt, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • No. 28: Dexter Lawrence, DL, New York Giants
  • No. 29: Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
  • No. 30: Derwin James, S, Los Angeles Chargers

Here’s a deeper dive into some highlights from the list.


Austin Ekeler

Ekeler, one of the most versatile running backs in the game, is coming off the best season of his career.

The 28-year-old rushed for 915 yards and 13 touchdowns in 17 games, in addition to catching 107 passes for 722 yards and five scores.

But while the veteran has played an integral role in the Los Angeles offense since breaking onto the scene as a rookie in 2017, Ekeler enters the 2023 campaign on a mission to prove his worth after offseason contract-extension negotiations led to his requesting a trade.

Ekeler eventually rescinded his trade request after his contract for 2023 was reworked to include a reported $2 million in incentives, but he’s still likely going to be seeking a significant raise from the $9.1 million he’s earning this year once he becomes a free agent next offseason.

The running back market is one of the most difficult in the NFL, but given Ekeler’s pass-catching ability, he should be one of the hottest names in 2024 free agency, especially if he puts together a strong 2023 campaign.


Sauce Gardner

Gardner, the 2022 No. 4 overall pick, is entering just his second season with the Jets and he’s already cracked the top 30 on the NFL top 100 list.

The 22-year-old put together a highly impressive rookie season, posting two interceptions, 20 pass breakups, 75 tackles, three tackles for loss and one quarterback hit in 17 games. He went on to be named the Defensive Rookie of the Year and finished eighth in Defensive Player of the Year voting.

Additionally, Gardner earned a Pro Bowl selection and was named a First Team All-Pro.

The Cincinnati product enters 2023 with high expectations as the Jets aim to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season, but the sky is the limit for Gardner.


A.J. Brown

Brown has long been considered one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, but his first season with the Eagles in 2022 alongside star quarterback Jalen Hurts resulted in a career year.

The 26-year-old caught 88 passes for 1,496 yards and 11 touchdowns in 17 games before helping the Eagles reach the Super Bowl with a postseason performance that saw him catch 13 passes for 146 yards and one score in three games.

Brown went on to finish ninth in MVP voting and 11th in Offensive Player of the Year voting. He also was named to the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career and was a Second Team All-Pro.

The Mississippi product enters 2023 as Philadelphia’s top receiver alongside DeVonta Smith, and he’ll be expected to put together a similarly spectacular performance as the Eagles look to get back to the Super Bowl.

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