NFL 2012: Which Teams Have the Most Talent at Each Position?
We've taken time to look at the best players at each position as part of the B/R 1,000 series, which ranked the top 1,000 players in the NFL based on the 2011 season, but which teams have the most talent at each position? It's time to find out.
Today we'll look not at who the best quarterback is or who the best running back is, but which team has the most talent at the entire position. That means all three quarterbacks, the entire offensive line and every linebacker—top to bottom.
Who comes out on top when you break down the depth chart?
10. Buffalo Bills
With Ryan Fitzpatrick at starter and Vince Young backing him up, the Bills have a solid one-two punch at the position. If Fitzpatrick can return to the form he showed early in 2011, Young will never have to see the field.
9. New York Giants
The depth isn't great behind Eli Manning, but the Giants have a two-time winning Super Bowl quarterback who hasn't missed a game since his rookie season. Add in David Carr and Ryan Perrilloux as icing on the cake.
8. Green Bay Packers
When you have Aaron Rodgers, you don't need much depth. Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman add good depth and nice developmental prospects, but this ranking is more of a testament to how good Aaron Rodgers truly is.
7. Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford put up a 5,000-yard passing season in 2011, but during his injury in 2010, Shaun Hill filled in and enjoyed a solid season. Stafford is among the best young quarterbacks in the game, and Hill is one of the best backups.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
A cast including Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich, Jerrod Johnson and Troy Smith gives Pittsburgh excellent depth and athleticism. The reality of all five making the opening day roster is slim, but Mike Tomlin has plenty to choose from.
5. Chicago Bears
A healthy Jay Cutler is a Top 10 quarterback in the NFL. In the event that he's not healthy, the Bears have Jason Campbell and Josh McCown ready to back him up. Cutler's arm strength, toughness and overall athleticism definitely help with this ranking.
4. Houston Texans
T.J. Yates proved last year that should Matt Schaub go down, he's capable of stepping in and managing the offense. When Schaub is on and all his targets are healthy, he's as dangerous a quarterback as there is outside of the elite at the position.
3. Tennessee Titans
The battle between Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker is one of the most exciting training camp battles of the season. Both played well in 2011, with Hasselbeck providing the experience to manage the offense, and Locker bringing the spark to fuel a high-octane system.
2. Dallas Cowboys
Tony Romo isn't an elite quarterback, but the Dallas quarterback is very solid. It helps that the Cowboys picked up Kyle Orton as their No. 2 quarterback and kept developmental player Stephen McGee around as the No. 3 passer.
1. New England Patriots
Having Tom Brady leading the way certainly helps, but the Patriots have also assembled great depth with Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett waiting in the wings. Should Brady go down, the Patriots are in a good position to replace the MVP quarterback with solid backups.
10. Tennessee Titans
Chris Johnson may not be his old self, but he doesn't have to be with Javon Ringer more than capable of stealing carries.
9. Buffalo Bills
Fred Jackson is a stud, and C.J. Spiller is a perfect complement as a change-of-pace back and receiver from the backfield. Even Tashard Choice has shown he's capable of taking over games as a featured back when needed.
8. Detroit Lions
There isn't a clear-cut No. 1 back here yet, but the Lions have options with Mikel Leshoure, Kevin Smith and Jahvid Best. Keeping them all healthy is the biggest issue right now.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
LeGarrette Blount has shown he can be a No. 1 back, but he'll be pushed to short-yardage situations with rookie Doug Martin on the team. Add in great depth and awesome potential at fullback with Cody Johnson, and Tampa's backfield is loaded.
6. San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco may not rely on Frank Gore as much this year, but they won't have to with depth like this. Brandon Jacobs, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James could all make the Week 1 roster, giving San Francisco some of the best depth in the NFL at the position.
5. New York Giants
Ahmad Bradhaw was good enough to carry the New York run game to a Super Bowl title. Add in the shaky and super fast rookie David Wilson, and the Giants run offense is poised to take off. All five of the Giants' preseason running backs have shown promise to warrant a high number of carries.
4. Houston Texans
Arian Foster has my vote as the best pure running back in the NFL, which helps the Texans out, but they also have Ben Tate, who proved early last year that he's ready to be a starter in the league right now. Adding Justin Forsett as a change-of-pace back and special teams player was a smart move as well.
3. New Orleans Saints
The Saints go three-deep as well as any team in the league. Darren Sproles is a true weapon and jack-of-all-trades type back who is a threat from all over the field. Pierre Thomas is a workhorse, and if Mark Ingram lives up to his potential, he may be better than both as a 20-carry guy.
2. Chicago Bears
Assuming Matt Forte signs his franchise tender, the Bears will be loaded at running back. Forte is joined by Michael Bush, who was a bulldozer in Oakland and is more than capable as a starting back, and No. 3 back Khalil Bell, who showed promise in the preseason last year. There's also Henry Melton to consider. The defensive tackle played running back at Texas and will take snaps in the backfield this fall.
1. Carolina Panthers
DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart make up the best one-two punch in the NFL coming out of the backfield. Each is capable of being a true No. 1 back, but the Panthers are lucky enough to have them both side-by-side. Fullback Mike Tolbert even took over at halfback for the Chargers last year, showing that Carolina has three players who could carry the rock for big yards.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
10. Seattle Seahawks
Seattle is loaded at receiver, with Mike Williams, Sidney Rice, Ben Obomanu, Doug Baldwin, Deon Butler and Golden Tate all making big contributions to the passing game. Tight ends Zach Miller and Kellen Winslow will have to fight for targets with an offense this loaded.
9. Chicago Bears
Chicago made it a point to add weapons at receiver, and they hit a home run. Brandon Marshall, Eric Weems and rookie Alshon Jeffery will give the corps a new look in 2012. Tight end Kellen Davis should see his opportunities double with Mike Martz gone.
8. New York Giants
Losing Mario Manningham will hurt, but the Giants still have Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. By adding tight end Martellus Bennett, the Giants have a big target for Eli Manning in the red zone and someone to draw coverage off the edges. If rookie Rueben Randle plays up to his potential, the New York passing game has a chance to be Top 5 in 2012.
7. Detroit Lions
Calvin Johnson is most of the reason for Detroit's ranking here, but the rest of the cast is pretty good too. Brandon Pettigrew is an underrated tight end who should put up big numbers this fall. The help at receiver is respectable and loaded with potential if Titus Young and Ryan Broyles play up to their ceilings.
6. Kansas City Chiefs
This may be a surprise pick to some, but Kansas City is loaded. Dwayne Bowe is a true No. 1, and Jonathan Baldwin is a second-year player ready to explode onto the scene. Add in Steve Breaston, Dexter McCluster and Devon Wylie, and the depth chart at receiver looks great. Now mention Tony Moeaki and Kevin Boss at tight end, and the KC passing game looks nasty.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Getting Mike Wallace signed is a major key to this ranking, but even outside of Wallace the roster is stacked. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are solid first and second options, Jerricho Cotchery is an underrated veteran, and the tight ends—starting with Heath Miller—add more options for Ben Roethlisberger to make plays.
4. San Diego Chargers
The Chargers lost Vincent Jackson to free agency, but they responded by reloading at an incredible rate. Philip Rivers can now choose between incumbents Vincent Brown and Malcom Floyd, but also newcomers Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal and Roscoe Parrish. Oh, and they still have future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates at tight end.
3. San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco passing game was hot and cold in 2011, but if that happens in 2012, it won't be because of a lack of talent at receiver or tight end. The 49ers added Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins to complement Michael Crabtree. Toss in stud tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker for good measure, and Alex Smith has no excuses for anything but an amazing year.
2. Green Bay Packers
It probably helps that Aaron Rodgers is throwing to these guys but, holy smokes, the Packers are loaded at receiver. Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones are the best top five at the position in the game. Tight ends Jermichael Finley, Tom Crabtree and Andrew Quarless all bring matchup problems to the table as well, with Finley being a major factor in getting Jennings and Co.
1. New England Patriots
If it weren't for their two amazing tight ends, New England wouldn't be this high—or even close. But they do have Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez at tight end, and that makes a big difference. Wes Welker continues to defy scouting logic by tearing apart defenses with short catches for big gains. Adding Brandon Lloyd and bringing back Donte Stallworth should open up the outside game, making Tom Brady's passing attack even more impossible to defend.
10. Buffalo Bills
The talent at tackle is a little shaky, but the Buffalo offensive line is so good from left guard to right guard that it makes you forget the tackle play for a bit. If Cordy Glenn plays up to his potential, Buffalo will be moving up the rankings.
9. Philadelphia Eagles
Without Jason Peters, Philadelphia's ranking suffers. Add in Peters and they would contend for the top spot. The guard play is fantastic here, and there is great depth and competition at every spot. The Eagles have built a very solid line that can last the full season.
8. Houston Texans
Losing Eric Winston and Mike Brisiel definitely will hurt no matter who they have to replace them, but Houston still has a top offensive line. Duane Brown is a top left tackle who gave up zero sacks last year. Wade Smith is a dynamic combo blocker, and center Chris Myers just might be the best in the business.
7. San Francisco 49ers
There's just one weakness on this line, and it is at right guard. The left side is loaded with Pro Bowler Joe Staley and soon-to-be Pro Bowler Mike Iupati. Jonathan Goodwin was a smart pickup at center, and right tackle Anthony Davis made huge strides in 2011. The depth is solid enough to hold up, but how well the right guard spot is filled determines if the 49ers will earn this ranking.
6. New Orleans Saints
The Saints' interior offensive line is a coach's dream, but the outside is a little shaky. Jermon Bushrod and Charles Brown do a good job, but neither is great. They are helped greatly by All-Pro play from Jahri Evans and newcomer Ben Grubbs, who replaces Carl Nicks.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs turned a weakness into a strength by signing Eric Winston at right tackle to round out the line. Branden Albert is a great athlete on the left side who is coming into his own. Inside, the Chiefs have a solid trio with Jon Asamoah, Rodney Hudson and Ryan Lilja—all three are above-average starters at this point. There is also great depth thanks to the 2012 draft, as Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson join the group.
4. Tennessee Titans
You would be hard-pressed to find a better tackle duo than the Titans have with David Stewart and Michael Roos. The team also made a smart move by picking up Steve Hutchinson at guard, which will make Eugene Amano's job at center much easier. The Titans have a damn good starting group, but their depth is just average.
3. Green Bay Packers
Even after losing Scott Wells and Chad Clifton, Green Bay is still loaded along the offensive line. Jeff Saturday coming in at center gives a young group some veteran leadership, and on the right side the team has a great duo with Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton. The left side isn't as complete, but T.J. Lang can be very good, and the battle for the tackle spot between Marshall Newhouse and Derek Sherrod will make the entire unit better.
2. Baltimore Ravens
This depends greatly on Bryant McKinnie being in shape this season, but if he's back in his 2011 form, the Ravens have a loaded group up front. Marshall Yanda and Michael Oher form one of the top right sides in the NFL, and Matt Birk at center is still one of the best in the league. The left guard spot has good competition and depth as Jah Reid and Kelechi Osemele fight for the top spot, and Bobbie Williams looks to back them both up as a swing guard.
1. New England Patriots
The Patriots quietly built the ideal NFL offensive line. The starting five are excellent, but there is better depth here than anywhere else in the NFL. Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder are bookend-caliber tackles with huge upside. At guard, there are two Hall of Fame contenders in Logan Mankins and Brian Waters, plus great depth with Robert Gallery and Marcus Cannon. Both of their centers have started in the NFL as well. Just another example of the great roster management in New England.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars
When all four starters are healthy, Jacksonville has one of the game's best lines. Jeremy Mincey, Tyson Alualu, Terrence Knighton and rookie Andre Branch will give the Jaguars a scary pass rush. The depth here is awesome too, thanks to Austen Lane and C.J. Mosley.
9. Houston Texans
There are just three men on the Texans' starting defensive line but, boy, do they pack a punch. J.J. Watt is on the cusp of an All-Pro selection, and opposite him there's a great battle brewing between Antonio Smith and Jared Crick for the starting spot. Shaun Cody is solid in the middle, with good depth coming from Earl Mitchell.
8. New Orleans Saints
The Saints made one of the best free-agent signings when they added Broderick Bunkley at tackle, lining him up with Cameron Jordan, Sedrick Ellis and Will Smith to give New Orleans one of the better all-around four-man lines in the NFL. They need better depth, but the Saints have a starting corps to rival anyone's.
7. Arizona Cardinals
Underrated and often forgotten, Arizona has a defensive line to be aware of. Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell are two of the best at their position, and the depth is getting better here too, thanks to draft picks like Dan Williams, David Carter and veteran signings of Nick Eason and Vonnie Holliday.
6. Baltimore Ravens
Combining the all-around talent of Haloti Ngata with excellent pass-rushers like Pernell McPhee and Arthur Jones gives Baltimore a front that most offenses are afraid of. Terrence Cody is someone to watch for a breakout year at nose tackle in the Ravens' versatile three- and four-man fronts.
5. Detroit Lions
The Lions have invested heavily in their defensive line and it's paying off. Ndamukong Suh may be slightly overrated, but he's incredibly talented. Nick Fairley has loads of untapped potential and could have a breakout season if he can stay out of trouble. At end, Detroit looks great with Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Willie Young and Lawrence Jackson holding down the fort.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
Having pass-rushers off the edge like Jason Babin and Trent Cole is almost unfair, especially when coupled with Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox and Mike Patterson in the middle of the line. Philly goes deep at tackle, and at defensive end they have Darryl Tapp, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham as their second unit.
3. Buffalo Bills
The signing of Mario Williams kicks Buffalo up the rankings, but so does a healthy return of Kyle Williams next to Marcell Dareus—who excelled in his rookie season. Add in Mark Anderson, Shawn Merriman and Chris Kelsay, and this group looks formidable.
2. New York Giants
The depth and talent at defensive end is otherworldly, but the defensive tackle talent keeps the Giants from our top ranking. There is no arguing that Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora make up the best pass rush in the game from the end position, but until someone emerges in the middle, New York is second best.
1. San Francisco 49ers
This is the way to build a 3-4 defensive line. Justin Smith was an All-Pro at two positions, Ray McDonald might be the most underrated defender in the league and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga is a no-nonsense gap-plugger with the frame to take down the middle of the offense.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars feature a few of my favorite players to watch at the position, with Daryl Smith and Clint Sessions manning the outside while Paul Posluszny locks down the middle. The starting three are can't-miss, but the depth is just average. If a few players emerge on the second unit, the Jaguars linebackers will see a higher ranking.
9. Dallas Cowboys
DeMarcus Ware continues to rack up mind-boggling numbers as a pass-rusher, but Dallas also has a very good one-two punch on the inside with Sean Lee and free-agent signee Dan Connor. Bruce Carter is a name to watch, as Dallas loves his versatility. If Anthony Spencer can produce opposite Ware, the Cowboys' ranking will be moving up.
8. Baltimore Ravens
The loss of Terrell Suggs definitely changes things in Baltimore's hybrid defense, but the depth here is still amazing. Ray Lewis is a name that needs no introduction, and Paul Kruger on the outside played very well in 2011. If the team can get production from rookie Courtney Upshaw, replacing Suggs won't be as impossible as it might sound.
7. Kansas City Chiefs
They didn't get much publicity last year, but the linebackers in Kansas City were excellent. Derrick Johnson had an All-Pro-caliber year in the middle, anchoring a defense that always gets a great pass rush from Tamba Hali. Rookie Justin Houston played very well, and newcomer Brandon Siler will help round out the group as he lines up next to Johnson in the middle.
6. Green Bay Packers
Clay Matthews is a one-man wrecking crew, but the Packers added a friend for him with first-rounder Nick Perry. The duo should be downright terrifying off the edge. The inside isn't as great but very solid, with A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop forming a good duo.
5. San Diego Chargers
San Diego reloaded their linebacker corps when they added Jarret Johnson and Melvin Ingram this offseason, adding them to a unit that already featured studs Donald Butler and Shaun Phillips and veteran Takeo Spikes. The depth is remarkable, with Jonas Mouton, Antwan Barnes and Larry English all being staring-caliber players.
4. Washington Redskins
Just having Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan would be enough, but the Redskins also have one of the game's smartest players in London Fletcher. Rounding out the starting four is Perry Riley—a player folks in Washington know, but the rest of the league will be hearing a lot about this year.
3. Houston Texans
The depth chart reads like a Pro Bowl ballot. Brian Cushing, Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed all made huge plays for the Texans during their 2011 turnaround season. Adding first-rounder Whitney Mercilus and signing Bradie James to compete with Darryl Sharpton gives Houston great depth behind their front-line stars.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
It seems like the Steelers have always had great linebackers. Losing James Farrior won't slow down the Pittsburgh linebacking corps. Lawrence Timmons will rebound after a step back in 2011, and Lamarr Woodley and James Harrison must be feared on the edge. Keep an eye on rookie Sean Spence, as he's a sledgehammer when the ball is run in his direction.
1. San Francisco 49ers
Coaches and scouts across the league want a linebacking corps like this one. The 49ers have arguably the two best inside linebackers in football with Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. The rich get richer with second-year stud Aldon Smith as one pass-rusher, and the underrated Ahmad Brooks crashing the other side. What's scary is their second team 'backers would start for some teams.
10. Buffalo Bills
The Bills secondary is on lockdown with two very good safeties in Jairus Byrd and George Wilson. Add in solid cornerbacks Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin, Aaron Williams and rookie Stephon Gilmore, and Buffalo has a secondary that can compete with any.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars
One of the more underrated secondaries in the NFL, the Jaguars have a group that can dominate if healthy. Rashean Mathis, Aaron Ross, Derek Cox and Dawan Landry are all big-play guys who will make a big impact. If Dwight Lowery can up his play a bit, Jacksonville will have one of the best groups in the game.
8. San Diego Chargers
Eric Weddle's presence aids the Chargers' ranking quite a bit, but their cornerbacks are solid too. Quentin Jammer is a smart veteran, Antoine Cason has a physical style of play that works well and newcomer Atari Bigby should provide a presence next to Weddle at strong safety.
7. Philadelphia Eagles
The cornerback play of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be even better in their second year together, and I'm expecting big things from safeties Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman. Slot cornerback Joselio Hanson is among the best inside covermen around.
6. San Francisco 49ers
Carlos Rogers and Dashon Goldson had huge seasons in 2011, putting themselves on the map and upping the ante for the 49ers secondary. Donte Whitner didn't have a big year for interceptions, but his play at strong safety was lights-out. Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver add great depth as second and third corners.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
Adding Stanford Routt is an upgrade over departed Brandon Carr, and there is no replacement for a healthy Eric Berry. Brandon Flowers remains a stud No. 1 cornerback, and even Kendrick Lewis plays at a solid level. Adding in Javier Arenas and Dequan Menzie give the Chiefs a loaded backfield on defense.
4. Seattle Seahawks
The most underrated secondary in the game, Seattle has big-play cornerbacks and safeties who will flat out hit. Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner and Marcus Trufant can cover the best receivers in the league, with Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas busting up plays from safety. Seattle's defense is for real.
3. Green Bay Packers
The Packers may have lost Nick Collins, but this is a strong group. Led by Charles Woodson, the Packers have talent at every position. Traman Williams and Sam Shields are excellent in space. Jarrett Bush, Casey Hayward and Davon House provide the best cornerback depth in the game. Charlie Peprah and Morgan Burnett are seriously underrated at safety.
2. Atlanta Falcons
Adding Asante Samuel boosted Atlanta's ranking, but it helps that Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes were already an incredible one-two punch. Safeties William Moore and Thomas DeCoud can provide big plays, but the depth of this group is outstanding from top to bottom.
1. Baltimore Ravens
Contingent upon Ed Reed being on the team, the Ravens have the NFL's best secondary. Lardarius Webb is the best cornerback no one is talking about. Jimmy Smith is well on his way to being a legit cornerback who can take on bigger receivers. Bernard Pollard is among the hardest hitting safeties in the game, and the depth at every position is loaded up three deep.