Ranking the Worst Position Groups in the NFL
You always hear about the greatest positional groups in the NFL.
The Seattle Seahawks dominate when it comes to cornerbacks. The Cincinnati Bengals have a ferocious defensive line. There's not a depth chart that can compete with the San Francisco 49ers when it comes to linebackers. The New England Patriots used to have a handle on the tight end position.
What about the worst positional groups in the NFL?
Sure, it's not sexy to rank the worst of anything, but in the following slideshow, we'll take you through the worst positional groups in the NFL ranked by a combination of talent and past performance. We'll also throw in some honorable mentions to irritate the fans who thought their favorite team got off easy.
Let's take a look.
Quarterback: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Culprits: Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, Mike Kafka, Matt Scott, Jordan Rodgers
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a mess at the quarterback position. Only the New York Jets and their butt-fumbling ways come close, but at least Geno Smith has an ounce of potential.
You can't say the same for Blaine Gabbert, who has had three years to prove his worth. Instead, he's been ineffective on the field, but effectively replaced by a journeyman quarterback in Chad Henne.
They say there is a quarterback competition in Jacksonville this offseason, and there is—whoever emerges the winner gets to act as a stopgap until the franchise can start over in the 2014 NFL draft.
Honorable Mentions: New York Jets, Oakland Raiders
Running Back: New York Jets
The Culprits: Chris Ivory, Mike Goodson, Joe McKnight, Bilal Powell
On paper, there is certainly potential for the crop of running backs in New York. Chris Ivory is a bruising runner, and both Mike Goodson and Joe McKnight are shifty runners in open space.
The biggest issue is Ivory. The man simply could not stay healthy in New Orleans, despite playing in an often times four-deep rotation at the position. He has never played more than 12 games in a season, and that's actually been his total number of appearances over the last two seasons.
Then you have Goodson, who has only played a full 16-game season once and has had a host of character concerns throughout his career, including an arrest for drug and weapon charges this offseason, according to Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com:
Goodson arrived with character concerns. There was nothing major on his record, but he bounced from the Panthers to the Raiders before becoming a free agent, and it always raises suspicions when a player with raw talent is on the move.
The questions centered on his attitude and personal issues, a league source said. The Jets took a chance, betting on his upside with a three-year, $6.9 million contract.
Now his future with the team is a major question mark after Friday's arrest on drug and weapon charges. An opposing scout, familiar with Goodson's background, said of the Jets: "Do these guys do background checks?"
McKnight and Bilal Powell could break out, but that's a lot to count on next year. The Jets are the worst-off in this area.
Honorable Mentions: Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts
Wide Receiver: New England Patriots
The Culprits: Danny Amendola, Michael Jenkins, Aaron Dobson, Donald Jones, Josh Boyce, Julian Edelman
Before you take to the comments section with pitchforks, take a closer gander at the above list of names the New England Patriots are fielding at wide receiver next season.
The highlight is Danny Amendola, an injury waiting to happen who has played in a 16-game season just once and has never touched the 700-yard mark, despite catching over 80 passes back in 2010. He's also never scored more than three touchdowns in a season.
Sure, that could change with Tom Brady slinging it. Jones is a nice veteran, as is Jenkins. Dobson could be the breakout star here.
The problem also has to do with the tight ends. With Aaron Hernandez out of the picture and Rob Gronkowski dealing with a wealth of issues, this is not exactly a group you want to make up for the slack.
Honorable Mentions: St. Louis Rams
Tight Ends: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Culprits: Luck Stocker, Tom Crabtree, Zach Miller
This one's a tossup. The New York Jets let Dustin Keller walk, Cleveland is hoping for Cameron Jordan to come around and the Raiders don't actually have a tight end, believe it or not. Kidding, there's David Ausberry.
Still, the king of horrible tight ends resides in Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers. Luke Stocker's an unknown with 28 receptions to his name in three years, Tom Crabtree failed to see the field a lot with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, and apparently, there is another Zach Miller. He has only 33 catches in three years.
There's a wealth of inexperience in Tampa Bay, which is bad news for quarterback Josh Freeman in a contract year and Mike Glennon breathing down his neck.
Honorable Mentions: Oakland Raiders, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns
Offensive Line: San Diego Chargers
The Culprits: Max Starks, Chad Rinehart, Nick Hardwick, Jeromey Clary, D.J. Fluker
This was possibly the easiest selection to make. The San Diego Chargers have a horrendous combination of injury risks, backup material and rookies across the starting line. The depth is not much better.
Quarterback Philip Rivers is on a decline and the above names certainly are not helping him out. He's also probably not thrilled that his best offensive lineman in Louis Vasquez, who Pro Football Focus ranked (subscription required) as the No. 13 overall guard in the NFL last year, hopped across the AFC West and joined the Denver Broncos.
Nick Hardwick is a nice player if healthy. D.J. Fluker has all the potential in the world, but could struggle early in pass protection considering he did at times in college.
All in all, San Diego is the worst.
Honorable Mentions: Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals
Defensive Line (3-4): Philadelphia Eagles
The Culprits: Cedric Thorton, Isaac Sopoaga, Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry
We felt it wise to split up defensive line into two categories because the two dominant alignments are so different schematically in their responsibilities.
When it comes to a 3-4 front, it doesn't get much worse than the unit the Philadelphia Eagles are going to roll out next season.
Sopoaga was phased out of the San Francisco 49ers' defense for a reason last season and is now being asked to anchor the new-look 3-4 with the Eagles. It's a tossup whether it will pan out.
Thorton seems to have an inside edge at one of the end spots in his third year in the league after going undrafted. He appeared in 16 games last season, but recorded just 27 tackles.
To give credit to Philadelphia, Cox is a stud. He was ranked by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) as the No. 18 overall defensive tackle in 2012. Problem is, he's now learning a different position in a new scheme.
Honorable Mentions: Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins
Defensive Line (4-3): Oakland Raiders
The Culprits: Lamarr Houston, Pat Sims, Vance Walker, Jason Hunter
When it comes to the 4-3 scheme, it does not get much worse than the rebuilding Oakland Raiders. The unit was fortified this offseason with the acquisition of Pat Sims, a sneakily good contributor against the run.
Lamarr Houston is the bright spot here, but he's never recorded more than five sacks in a season and could be undergoing a position change of sorts to 3-tech defensive tackle, according to Matt Maiocco of Comcast Sportsnet.
Vance Walker was also quietly stout with the Atlanta Falcons last year, but both he and Sims have not shown an ability to be starters. The depth leaves something to be desired as well.
Oakland has no equal when it comes to bad 4-3 fronts.
Honorable Mentions: Jacksonville Jaguars
Linebackers: Oakland Raiders
The Culprits: Kevin Burnett, Kaluka Maiava, Nick Roach
It's never a good idea to land back-to-back positions on "worst-of" rankings, but that's exactly what the Oakland Raiders have done here, thanks to their iffy linebacker position sitting behind the mediocre line.
To be blunt, the Raiders do not have a linebacker on the roster worthy of a starting role.
Let's run down the list.
Kevin Burnett has the best case, but was ousted from Miami. At this point in his career, it's debateable whether or not he should start. Nick Roach was average in Chicago while being overshadowed by the likes of Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. Kaluka Maiava played well in Cleveland last year, but only tallied 53 tackles.
All in all, it's a rag-tag group of players who may or may not have starting jobs on other rosters at this point. They're high-quality backups, but Oakland is forced to start them, thanks to a handicapped financial situation.
Honorable Mentions: Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions
Cornerbacks: Detroit Lions
The Culprits: Chris Houston, Darius Slay, Jonte Green, Bill Bentley, Ronald Bartell, Chris Greenwood, DeQuan Menzie
The name of the game for the Detroit Lions at cornerback is inexperience. Houston has started a variety of games during his career and quietly put together a quality season in 2012, ranking No. 23 overall, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Outside of Houston, Bentley has played little, Bartell has never been effective and the coaching staff is expecting a rookie in Slay to step up big time next season.
Trying to pin down the best and worst cornerback groups before a season starts is an exercise in futility, but right now, it appears Detroit is a good name to throw out there in the negative category.
Honorable Mentions: Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers.
Safeties: Carolina Panthers
The Culprits: Charles Godfrey, Haruki Nakamura, Mike Mitchell
There is no worse starting duo in the NFL at safety than Charles Godfrey and Haruki Nakamura in Carolina. The Panthers were well-documented as a team needing an upgrade at both spots entering the 2013 NFL draft.
That simply didn't happen, similar to the way quarterback Cam Newton continues to get no help despite the need being so obvious.
Nakamura was the No. 48 safety in football last year with weaknesses in all areas, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Godfrey almost didn't make the list at No. 82.
This was an easy one, and it's hard to imagine how anyone could argue. It's going to be another head-smacking year for Carolina fans with these two on the field.
Honorable Mentions: Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins.
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