Tue. Oct 4th, 2022

Training camp is just around the corner in the NFL, and then comes the 2022 season. Plenty of teams have been busy this offseason, spending big to upgrade their lineups. Others have been more focused on rebuilding, tearing things down with the hopes of a brighter future. But which clubs boast the best all-around talent entering the hottest days of summer?

Let’s rank all 32 teams strictly according to their rosters going into camp, with full knowledge that the remainder of the offseason, the preseason and particularly the real games this fall will come to determine the true pecking order:

Arthur Smith is essentially starting from scratch for a second straight season, and this time, he doesn’t have Matt Ryan’s veteran savviness to at least mask the offense’s thin weaponry. Kyle Pitts and Drake London could form a solid big-boy duo at pass catcher, but there’s still a general lack of explosiveness here.

Regardless of whether it’s Marcus Mariota or Desmond Ridder at QB, this is shaping up to be a plodding old-school attack with Cordarrelle Patterson and Damien Williams as the “featured” ball-carriers. Arnold Ebiketie and A.J. Terrell are promising youngsters at premium positions on defense, but that unit as a whole isn’t particularly deep, either. Few teams feel more firmly entrenched in purgatory, until a real post-Ryan gamble occurs under center.

You’d be forgiven if you thought the Texans just carried over their porous roster from a 4-13 finish in 2021. Davis Mills seemingly has NFL-caliber poise to go along with prototypical QB size, but once again he’ll have mostly scraps with which to prove he belongs as a long-term starter. Brandin Cooks is underrated out wide, but Houston’s line is still suspect, and management inexplicably remains committed to the Patriots-style hoarding of interchangeable running backs. Can you imagine, in 2022, being scared to face the Texans’ stable of Marlon Mack, Rex Burkhead, Dameon Pierce and Royce Freeman?

Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre may freshen up the secondary under Lovie Smith, whose own aging track record doesn’t inspire much confidence, but yet again the Texans are banking on free-agent leftovers to steer the ship. It feels like a matter of when, not if, Houston will be resetting operations once more.

David Montgomery
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If team brass is really “all in” on Justin Fields at QB, it’s not acting like it, saddling the former first-rounder with a still-shaky line and thin receiving corps. David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert give them a solid backfield, and Darnell Mooney offers legit speed, but all of those guys are better suited for complementary roles. Under new coach Matt Eberflus, a defensive mind, it’ll be a minor miracle if Fields grows in confidence and decision-making while working around such a mediocre offensive supporting cast.

The “D” is a slightly different story, with Eberflus possessing both proven vets (Roquan Smith, Robert Quinn, Al-Quadin Muhammad) and likable rookies (Kyler Gordon, Jaquan Brisker), perhaps retaining Chicago’s signature stinginess. In today’s NFL, however, a defense that might be good is far from enough to remain competitive, let alone contend for big games.

How much of a boost do all their prospective play-makers get from Brian Daboll’s entrance at head coach? Because for all the upside offered by Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney in recent years, they’ve delivered pretty pitifully. Perhaps Daboll will finally integrate Jones’ mobility into the offense, and capitalize on the big-play size (Golladay) and speed (Toney) of his targets, but until we see that happen, with an O-line still in transition, it’s hard to trust them with the ball.

Kayvon Thibodeaux should certainly enliven their front seven, which already boasts foundational pieces in Azeez Ojulari and Dexter Lawrence, but the back half remains a major question mark, especially with former Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry now out of the picture. New general manager Joe Schoen made clear in his actions this offseason that 2022 was more about deconstructing the lineup than building a new one.

Good for Dan Campbell and Co. adding speed to a surprisingly promising offensive lineup, with Jameson Williams and D.J. Chark now atop a pass-catching corps also featuring T.J. Hockenson and Amon-Ra St. Brown. But even with D’Andre Swift and a solid line, it’s hard to envision Jared Goff returning to his Rams peak at QB. This is an example of the signal-caller really lowering the average. If he proves us wrong, it’ll be because he capitalized on the growing pieces around him.

The defense is another story. Aidan Hutchinson was a smart addition, deepening the thin pass rush, but there are holes throughout the rest of the unit, particularly on the back end. Jeff Okudah and Mike Hughes, two former first-rounders struggling for steadiness, are the headliners of their still-ailing secondary.

Their placement here, despite owning two straight No. 1 draft picks and spending like crazy in free agency, is an indictment on management. Yes, Trevor Lawrence is better off under center, where he’s now got the tutelage of Doug Pederson and added targets in Christian Kirk and Zay Jones. Yes, the Brandon Scherff addition up front could do wonders for the pocket. But altogether, the supporting cast isn’t high-octane as much as it is … middlingly upgraded? That could change if Travis Etienne breaks out as a hybrid weapon, or James Robinson returns at full speed, but those are gambles.

There are at least a few more young faces in which to buy stock on defense, chiefly pass rushers Josh Allen and Travon Walker, and linebackers Foye Oluokun and Devin Lloyd. But the secondary is littered with overpriced vets. As much as Pederson may do for the Jaguars culture, he’ll need a major step forward from Lawrence to drag the rest of the lineup to extended win streaks.

Welcome to life after Russell Wilson, and a prime example of a QB making all the difference in a lineup. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are an explosive one-two punch out wide, Noah Fant is an emerging player at tight end, and Rashaad Penny might be just fine as Pete Carroll’s next bell-cow ball-carrier, but behind an iffy line, neither Geno Smith nor the more gunslinging Drew Lock warrant much trust as permanent starters. The “D,” meanwhile, has a few new admirable starters in Shelby Harris and Uchenna Nwosu, but remains dangerously mercurial off the edge and on the back end.

25. Commanders

Terry McLaurin
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New QB Carson Wentz might have better all-around weapons in Washington than he did with the Colts, considering Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin can both be game-changers at top speed. Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson emerging out wide would be a bonus. But what is Wentz’s ceiling at this point? Wild-card-caliber stuff? Defensively, Ron Rivera’s front remains loaded, with Chase Young rejoining Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen, but who’s gonna cover people if prominent vets like William Jackson III and Benjamin St-Juste don’t take major steps forward?

Bill Belichick’s oversight may well guarantee this roster always exceeds expectations, and no doubt QB Mac Jones has flashed the accuracy to stay competitive for the long haul. The defense is stingy more often than not, too, and Matt Judon is an underrated force off the edge. But the weapons aren’t necessarily scary, with Jakobi Meyers, DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne all arguably best suited for No. 2/3 roles, and the secondary is increasingly dependent on aging vets. No one would be surprised if Bill gets another playoff bid from this bunch, but no one’s really anticipating a deep run, either.

Carolina is the butt of many jokes because of its string of utter misfires at QB, and Sam Darnold’s continued grip on the top job is a reminder of that. But the general dysfunction there has overshadowed an otherwise solid young core. Christian McCaffrey may or may not be durable anymore, but D.J. Moore is a bona fide No. 1 wideout, the O-line is much improved after investing in Austin Corbett and Bradley Bozeman, and the defense has an array of blue-chip prospects, from edge rusher Brian Burns and interior man Derrick Brown to edgy corner Jaycee Horn and play-making safety Jeremy Chinn.

The Titans technically replaced star WR A.J. Brown by adding Robert Woods and Treylon Burks, but only one of them has proven to be a quality starter in the NFL, and QB Ryan Tannehill is under pressure to perform behind an O-line introducing two new starters. That’s not to say they won’t be physical and competitive again under Mike Vrabel, especially with Derrick Henry healthy and the defense finding an emerging front man in Jeffery Simmons. But if you can’t consistently pass the ball, or defend the pass, in today’s NFL, your roster probably needs some long-term tweaking.

New head coach Dennis Allen has some big names at his disposal; the questions are mostly regarding their availability. Consider Jameis Winston, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, the big three at QB, RB and WR. Winston is coming off an injury, Kamara is due for a suspension, and Thomas has barely played in two years. Rookies like Chris Olave and Trevor Penning may offset the uncertainties out wide and up front, where Terron Armstead departed, but even then, Winston’s proven to be a rather mercurial arm. The “D,” even with notable losses like that of Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams, still has trusty regulars in Cameron Jordan and Demario Davis, but how much do Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye have left in the tank?

20. Jets

Zach Wilson
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If you want an example of a team doing everything in its power to support a young QB, look no further than the Jets, who addressed basically every top need this offseason. Zach Wilson now has better protection (Laken Tomlinson), more viable targets (Garrett Wilson, C.J. Uzomah) and a much-improved defense, including new starters Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed, Jermaine Johnson and Jordan Whitehead. The pieces have to gel, and Wilson has to make better decisions, but this team will quickly rise up the rankings if the execution is there this fall.

Sometimes we make the mistake of equating big names to elite value, and that might be Arizona’s biggest issue of late. On the surface, James Conner, Zach Ertz and A.J. Green are fine starters for Kliff Kingsbury’s big-play offense. But none of them are especially durable at this point in their career, so new No. 1 target Marquise Brown could have an integral role in Kyler Murray’s next steps at QB, where he’s flashed MVP potential but fizzled out late in the year. The porous defense is more concerning, where it’s up to a few past (J.J. Watt) or present (Budda Baker) stars to run the whole show.

What does Trey Lance have to offer? That’s the big question, assuming Kyle Shanahan actually follows through with plans to turn the QB keys over to his athletic but unpolished investment, and part ways with the serviceable but creaky Jimmy Garoppolo. And what about Deebo Samuel, Shanahan’s top weapon out wide and on the run? If he stays, the offense is still in decent shape, no matter who’s throwing the ball, for the trench warriors (namely star left tackle Trent Williams) and short-area targets (George Kittle) are still elite. The “D” has different pros and cons, with Nick Bosa and Fred Warner dominating in the front seven but the secondary once again looking to outside help (ex-Chiefs corner Charvarius Ward) for consistency.

Mike Tomlin hasn’t necessarily had top-15 QB play for the better part of three years, so the uncertainty of Mitchell Trubisky or Kenny Pickett under center probably won’t break this club’s spirits. Besides, the line is revamped with new guard James Daniels, and the foundation is there for a physical, old-school approach: Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth and the WR trio of Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and George Pickens are a young but feisty bunch. If anything’s gonna keep Pittsburgh in the hunt, though, it’s the “D,” which still has big questions at corner, where fliers like Levi Wallace and Akhello Witherspoon will take over, but boasts some of the game’s top disruptors in T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Matt Ryan brings more stability at QB after the rocky finish to the short-lived Carson Wentz era, but does he have the stuff to elevate an offense whose once-vaunted line now features Matt Pryor at left tackle and added just rookie Alec Pierce to a thin receiving group? Jonathan Taylor’s dominant presence in the backfield sure helps, as does a defense with the firepower to make a deep run (Yannick Ngakoue and Stephon Gilmore are underrated additions to a lineup that already boasted DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard and Kenny Moore II). You just wonder how far a team with limited vertical options can go.

15. Browns

Deshaun Watson
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Cleveland has been hailed as one of the best, deepest rosters in the NFL, and it’s true there’s no shortage of weapons on both sides of the ball: RB Nick Chubb, WR Amari Cooper, DE Myles Garrett, LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, CB Denzel Ward are all proven or rising stars. But the receiving room is thin beyond Cooper, the line lost center J.C. Tretter, the secondary is still banged up, and most of all, the biggest asset of them all, new QB Deshaun Watson, looks like a lock to miss significant time thanks to a suspension for his extensive legal disputes involving 24 different accusations of sexual assault or misconduct. Jacoby Brissett, his likely replacement, might be serviceable, but he’s bounced around as a backup recently for a reason.

All eyes are on Tua Tagovailoa’s development at QB, but new coach Mike McDaniel has more than enough toys to make a strong debut no matter what happens under center. Setting aside the massive stable of running backs he’s built for his presumably ground-heavy approach (Chase Edmonds, Sony Michel, Raheem Mostert, Myles Gaskin), he’s also got two dynamic wideouts in Tyreek Hill, the game-breaking speedster; and Jaylen Waddle, the shifty target machine. The trenches are also much improved with Terron Armstead taking over at left tackle and Connor Williams entering on the interior.

Miami’s “D,” which stayed feisty under ex-coach Brian Flores, also has playoff-caliber potential. Christian Wilkins and Emmanuel Ogbah make a formidable front, Jaelan Phillips could be a stud off the edge, and they’ve got a familiar but steady trio headlining the secondary in Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and Jevon Holland. The pieces are there for an actual step forward.

He may not have the resume to inspire confidence in a title run, but Kirk Cousins has been an above-average starter for most of his career. As long as he’s paired with Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson, two of the game’s most electrifying players at their respective positions, he’ll have Minnesota in the mix until late in the year. As is often the case here, the line could stand to be more consistent, but throw in secondary pieces like Adam Thielen and Irv Smith Jr., and it’s a really balanced offense.

Mike Zimmer’s departure, meanwhile, might actually be freeing for the defense, which got a veteran facelift thanks to the additions of Za’Darius Smith and Jordan Hicks at linebacker. Smith should help take pressure off Danielle Hunter off the edge, and Hicks should improve the run “D” next to Eric Kendricks.

Derek Carr is a borderline top-10 statistical passer, and now he’s got Davante Adams to target alongside Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller. That’s one of the best pure skill groups in the NFL when you factor in Josh Jacobs’ bruising running. But how long can their iffy line — basically everyone except left tackle Kolton Miller — hold up?

Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones make up an elite pass rush, but the second and third levels of Vegas’ defense are still rife with questions. At corner, for example, the addition of new faces like Anthony Averett and Rock Ya-Sin isn’t guaranteed to mask coverage deficiencies seen in starters like Johnathan Abram.

Everything is solid in Denver; the question is, what’s special? Take Russell Wilson, their prized acquisition, who instantly makes them better at QB but may or may not be past his best days of MVP contention. Can he elevate their good, not necessarily elite, WR trio of Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick? Either way, they should be able to replicate some of the old-school approach that worked for Russ way back in Seattle, with Garett Bolles headlining a sturdy line and the Javonte Williams-Melvin Gordon duo giving new coach Nathaniel Hackett a pair of starting options on the ground.

On the other side of the ball, the Broncos look just as well-rounded, albeit with questions. Adding Randy Gregory opposite Bradley Chubb could give Denver one of the AFC’s most fearsome pass rushing duos, but health is a major factor. Patrick Surtain II and Justin Simmons, meanwhile, are ballers in the secondary, but the other starting spots are much less clear.

10. Ravens

Marcus Peters
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They’ve seemingly doubled down on a run-first approach with Lamar Jackson under center, jettisoning Marquise Brown (and a more proven WR corps) in favor of added responsibility for tight end Mark Andrews and a stable of rehabbing rushers, including J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. But they know how to run it well! And the line, presumably with a healthier Ronnie Stanley back at left tackle, should be improved with a pair of new starters in Tyler Linderbaum and Morgan Moses.

The defense is really where Baltimore could make its money, as lynchpins like Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey return from injury. More impressive is the youth they’ve added at each level: Travis Jones up front, David Ojabo off the edge, and Kyle Hamilton on the back end. Paired with ex-Saints standout Marcus Williams, Hamilton has the versatility to transform the Ravens back to one of the NFL’s feistiest contenders.

Jalen Hurts is already a relatively high-floor QB because of his running back-like mobility, and now he has a setup befitting legit growth as a passer, with the imposing A.J. Brown joining DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert downfield. Even in the event Hurts doesn’t make big strides throwing the ball, Philly still has an elite line, with Jordan Mailata, Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson still in Pro Bowl form, to power a multifaceted ground game. Miles Sanders just might be underrated as a ball-carrier at this point.

And then there’s the “D,” which got upgrades at every level. The massive Jordan Davis is now on the interior alongside Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave, ex-Panthers star Haason Reddick is now rushing off the edge with Brandon Graham and Josh Sweat, and former Giants Pro Bowler James Bradberry has teamed up with Darius Slay to give the team two quality cover men. If Nick Sirianni can’t at least replicate his debut 9-8 record with this bunch, there will be cause for concern.

The Aaron Rodgers Effect. Green Bay didn’t have a particularly inspiring offseason, failing to add a single impact veteran to an offense that lost perennial Pro Bowler Davante Adams out wide, but the reality, like in Kansas City and Tampa Bay, is that every skill-position starter looks better when a game-changing QB is running the show. If Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb or rookie Christian Watson don’t break out downfield, then Matt LaFleur still has a lightning-and-thunder combo in the backfield, with Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon built to produce in tandem.

The Packers also have more defensive juice than they get credit for. Rashan Gary is poised to emerge as the top edge rusher with Za’Darius Smith gone for good, and both Devonte Wyatt and Quay Walker should have big roles as rookies. Durability remains a question in the secondary, but when healthy and at their peak, Jaire Alexander, Darnell Savage and even Rasul Douglas stay around the ball. Without Rodgers, this might be a wild-card team. With him, it can still be more.

Regardless of whether they ever meet expectations (hint: they often don’t), the Cowboys do not lack premium talent. Longtime left tackle Tyron Smith is an underrated question mark due to his health, and Amari Cooper’s departure out wide puts a bigger burden on Michael Gallup, but there is so much proven chemistry between the stars here: QB Dak Prescott, RB Tony Pollard, WR CeeDee Lamb, TE Dalton Schultz and OG Zack Martin are all among the best or most promising at their positions.

Dallas’ brightest stars might be on defense: Micah Parsons looks like a generational, almost position-less play-maker rushing the QB from the middle of the field, and Trevon Diggs, despite boom-or-bust coverage tactics, is a pick magnet. If only their front four were more well-rounded, they might have a case to approach the top five best rosters across the league.

Patrick Mahomes is doing a lot of the heavy lifting here, perhaps more than ever before. Paired with his gunslinging and Andy Reid’s oversight, there’s little doubt newcomers like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling will put up numbers. But there’s no replacing Tyreek Hill’s pure electricity, so the onus is even more on Mahomes and longtime favorite Travis Kelce to keep the train moving. It helps that Kansas City’s line is still rock solid, with Orlando Brown Jr. back at left tackle.

First-rounders George Karlaftis and Trent McDuffie will be key to the team’s development at pass rusher and cornerback, respectively, mostly because they’re Day One starters by default. It’s certainly possible K.C.’s secondary will take a dip, depending on the health and consistency of safeties Juan Thornhill and Justin Reid, replacing Tyrann Mathieu. But again, as long as No. 15 is under center and Reid is shepherding this roster, how can you write them off?

Joe Mixon
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The hottest underdog story of 2021, they are underdogs no longer, especially because of the MVP-level pairing of Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase. No QB or team enjoys a deeper, more explosive pass-catching group, with both Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd creating space alongside Chase. Throw in Joe Mixon at running back, and a remade O-line now featuring ex-Bucs guard Alex Cappa and ex-Cowboys tackle La’el Collins, and Burrow has all the tools to keep Cincinnati near the front of the pack.

Unless Zac Taylor’s play-calling regresses, the bigger questions lie on defense: can the underrated unit survive top passing teams with Eli Apple and Chidobe Awuzie on the outside? And how will rangy safety Jessie Bates III fit in as he endures contract issues, even if his hurdles are just mental? Rookie defensive back Dax Hill could play an integral role at both spots.

This starts and ends with Tom Brady, whose arm has seemingly gotten stronger in his 40s but is most influential for his unmatched prep, poise and vision. Part of the reason TB12 can’t be ruled out in his quest for an eighth (!) ring, however, is the title-winning offense he runs. Even with Chris Godwin coming off injury and Rob Gronkowski retiring, the trio of Mike Evans, Leonard Fournette and newcomer Russell Gage make for a Grade-A group when working alongside the game’s best QB and one of the NFL’s best blocking units, headlined by Ryan Jensen and Tristan Wirfs.

The pressure will be on Todd Bowles to run the show with Bruce Arians stepping back from the sidelines, but at least Bowles’ defense is also well-stocked by itself. Akiem Hicks brings added beef to the front, the linebacker crew remains lethal, and Antoine Winfield Jr. holds down the back end. There’s also the fact this roster has been there, done that.

The reigning Super Bowl champions have reason to believe they can remain the class of the NFC, and it starts with the pieces around Matthew Stafford, who so enjoyed Sean McVay’s setup he nearly landed an MVP award to go with a Lombardi. With or without Odell Beckham Jr., the receiving corps is one of the NFL’s best thanks to Cooper Kupp’s reliability and, now, Allen Robinson’s size. Their title-winning line remains mostly intact, too, and a healthier Cam Akers gives them a high-upside RB1.

There are minimal questions on “D,” where depth could be tested behind No. 1 cover man Jalen Ramsey, but veteran Troy Hill is back after a one-year hiatus in Cleveland. As long as Aaron Donald is on the field, opponents will have to scheme around his disruptions. And longtime Seahawks standout Bobby Wagner should only make the heart of the unit smarter. As long as the biggest names execute when it matters, L.A. cannot be counted out of any game for at least another season.

Fresh off an offseason spending spree, they’re one of the most well-rounded teams in the NFL, on paper. Justin Herbert was already a top-10 QB, but with Mike Williams back out wide opposite Keenan Allen, and Gerald Everett plugged in as a safety valve at tight end, and Zion Johnson joining an O-line already outfitted with studs like Rashawn Slater and Corey Linsley, there’s no reason they shouldn’t have a top-five offensive attack. That’s not even accounting for Austin Ekeler as a Swiss Army Knife.

And then there’s Brandon Staley’s defense, which improved at literally every level. You’ve got bulk up front with Austin Johnson and Sebastian Joseph-Day, relentlessness off the edge with Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, and ball-hawking at corner with J.C. Jackson and Asante Samuel Jr. Throw in Derwin James at safety, if he stays healthy, and it’s an all-star unit from front to back. Staley’s growth as a coach may steer the ship to its ultimate destination, but talent-wise, you can’t ask for much more here.

Stefon Diggs
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It’s no wonder Josh Allen’s getting lots of MVP buzz entering year five. Not only is the QB a star in his own right, but he’s got an enviable supporting cast, starting with a one-two-three punch of Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis and Jamison Crowder out wide. That group alone can put on a clinic with route-running (Diggs), deep speed (Davis) and slot work (Crowder), and James Cook’s addition to the backfield should give Allen another outlet. The line isn’t perfect, but Allen’s natural athleticism doesn’t require it.

Sean McDermott’s defense, meanwhile, is probably even more improved coming off three straight playoff runs. Who will dare play their front four (Von Miller, Ed Oliver, DaQuan Jones, Greg Rousseau) with confidence? Behind them, it’s one play-maker after another, with Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds manning the middle, Kaiir Elam joining Tre’Davious White in coverage and the aging but savvy safety duo of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer rounding out the secondary. If this team doesn’t at least advance to the AFC Championship, fans across New York will be sorely disappointed, and rightfully so.





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