Ranking Every NFL QB's Supporting Cast for 2017

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJune 14, 2017

Ranking Every NFL QB's Supporting Cast for 2017

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Now that extra-large NFL rosters are basically set, we can begin to size them up and project depth charts in a wide variety of ways.

    That's sort of what June is all about in the NFL world, right?

    And knowing that most promotions and demotions this summer will involve players not currently slated to play major roles, we already have a feel for which quarterbacks will have an overwhelming amount of support, as well as those who won't be as fortunate. 

    Looking at primary skill-position players only, here's how we rank every NFL quarterback's supporting cast ahead of the 2017 season. 

32. Josh McCown, New York Jets

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    Matt Forte might not have much left in the tank.
    Matt Forte might not have much left in the tank.Associated Press

    It's not as though New York Jets quarterbacks had a lot to work with last year, but journeyman stopgap quarterback Josh McCown will be inheriting a mess if he wins the starting job this summer.

    The team's top two receivers, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, have both been released, leaving second-year seventh-rounder Charone Peake and second-year UDFA Robby Anderson as the only "experienced" options behind the emerging Quincy Enunwa at that position. 

    Those guys will likely play major roles as the Jets wait to see what they have in rookie third- and fourth-rounders ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen. 

    Meanwhile, the disappointing Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a default starter at tight end as they wait to see what they have in another rookie, fifth-round pick Jordan Leggett. 

    And rookie sixth-rounder Elijah McGuire could even have a chance to earn reps at running back, because Matt Forte is declining rapidly at the age of 31 and Bilal Powell has never had a 750-yard campaign in six NFL seasons. 

    The Jets skill-position units are made up of a bunch of guys who are only there because they have pulses and several rookies who will likely need time to develop. Clearly, they're rebuilding. 

31. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

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    Robert Woods won't save the Rams.
    Robert Woods won't save the Rams.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Rams are hoping for a breakout year from top 2016 draft pick Jared Goff this season, but they haven't exactly given their supposed franchise quarterback much to work with at the skill positions. 

    The Rams let 1,000-yard receiver Kenny Britt walk in free agency and instead signed the less-accomplished Robert Woods to a deal that was similar to the one Britt received in Cleveland. Four years into his career, Woods has yet to hit the 700-yard mark in a single season. And neither has fellow penciled-in starter Tavon Austin, who has just rushing 12 touchdowns in four NFL seasons since being drafted eighth overall in 2013. 

    Austin had a career-high 58 receptions for 509 yards last year (hooray?), but he averaged just 8.8 yards per catch and he pulled in only 54.7 percent of the passes thrown his way. Among the 48 NFL players who were targeted at least 100 times in 2016, he ranked dead last with a yards-per-target average of 4.8.

    Nobody else had a yards-per-target average lower than 5.8. 

    There's plenty of buzz surrounding rookie third-round pick Cooper Kupp. I'll believe it when I see it.

    And they of course have the talented Todd Gurley at running back, but Gurley had zero 40-yard runs and only two 20-yard gains last season as his yards-per-attempt average plummeted from 4.8 in 2015 to 3.2 in his sophomore year. That tied for second-last among 42 qualified backs, and among 25 backs who carried the ball 160-plus times, he was the only one without a 100-yard performance. 

    Throw in that they don't really have an established tight end after releasing Lance Kendricks and the picture starts looking bleak for Goff. 

30. Cody Kessler, Cleveland Browns

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    David Njoku is one of several young weapons in Cleveland.
    David Njoku is one of several young weapons in Cleveland.Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns will climb out of the bottom tier of these rankings soon. The talent is there for whoever wins the starting quarterback job—Cody Kessler is probably the favorite right now—but they still lack experience and depth at the skill positions. 

    Top receiver Kenny Britt is coming off a 1,000-yard season in a bad Rams offense, and the 28-year-old is in his prime. His presence should be huge for 2016 first-round pick Corey Coleman's development after the 22-year-old struggled with just 33 catches on 73 targets as a rookie. 

    They also have a first-round pick in the athletically marvelous David Njoku at tight end, but there is obviously no evidence yet that Njoku is ready to start at the NFL level right away. And there aren't any established backups behind Britt, Coleman or Njoku. 

    Seriously, name another pass-catcher on the Browns. 

    But those three have high ceilings, as does running back Isaiah Crowell, who averaged 4.8 yards per carry during a breakout third season, in which he racked up 1,271 yards from scrimmage. Crowell put together two 110-plus-yard efforts in the final four weeks of the 2016 season, and one of those—a 113-yard performance in a Week 14 loss to the Bengals—came on just 10 carries. 

    If Crowell can pick up where he left off, Britt can build on a breakout season and Coleman and Njoku can live up to the hype, the Browns will be dangerous on offense thanks to that top-heavy group of skill-position players in 2017. But it's unlikely all of that comes together right away, and they still lack talented alternatives in case it doesn't. 

29. Brian Hoyer, San Francisco 49ers

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    Pierre Garcon becomes Brian Hoyer's top receiver.
    Pierre Garcon becomes Brian Hoyer's top receiver.Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The San Francisco 49ers might have ranked dead last on this last at the end of the 2016 season. And while new quarterback Brian Hoyer still doesn't have much to work with, the 49ers did at least make some moves to improve the skill positions in the offseason. 

    The key was bringing in veteran wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who has never been a superstar and is on the wrong side of 30 but is coming off a 1,000-yard season in Washington.

    But it's slim picking beyond that with Marquise Goodwin (a speedy free-agent pickup who caught just 49 passes in four years with the Bills), Bruce Ellington (a fourth-year, fourth-round pick who caught only 19 passes in his first two seasons and missed the entire 2016 campaign due to a torn hamstring) and Jeremy Kerley (a six-year veteran with a career catch rate of just 57.2 percent). 

    Tight end Vance McDonald is a replacement-level player being overpaid, and Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle noted last month that "it wouldn’t be a surprise" if McDonald didn't not make the final roster. But the 49ers don't really have any accomplished tight ends beyond that.

    And while running back Carlos Hyde did average a solid 4.6 yards per carry last season, he—like McDonald—might not be a good fit for new head coach Kyle Shanahan's system. To boot, Hyde can't seem to stay healthy, and Draft Analyst's Tony Pauline reported in April that the 49ers are "ready to give up" on the 26-year-old 2014 second-round pick. 

    Garcon gives the skill positions some hope, though, new fullback and potential Swiss Army Knife Kyle Juszczyk is intriguing. But that isn't likely enough to make this offense good. Or even average.

28. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

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    Jeremy Maclin helps, but the Ravens are still short on weapons.
    Jeremy Maclin helps, but the Ravens are still short on weapons.Associated Press

    When they signed Jeremy Maclin earlier this week, the Baltimore Ravens partially redeemed themselves.

    It was rather shocking that they didn't sign or draft a single receiver earlier in the offseason, especially after losing veteran receiver Steve Smith to retirement and pass-catching fullback Kyle Juszczyk in free agency, but Maclin is a reliable two-time 1,000-yard receiver with a Pro Bowl on his resume. And he immediately becomes quarterback Joe Flacco's top target. 

    Still, there are problems surrounding Flacco. 

    Maclin's production dropped off a cliff as he battled a groin injury last season. And while he's still only 29, there's no guarantee he'll stay healthy or productive in his ninth NFL campaign.

    The 30-year-old Mike Wallace is also entering his ninth year. He appeared to have lost a step before suddenly going over 1,000 yards in his first season with the Ravens last year, but that might have been an aberration and he still settled for just four touchdowns.

    And then there's 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman, who missed his rookie season due to injury and then caught just 50 percent of the 66 passes thrown his way in 2016. 

    There's a good chance we've seen both Maclin's and Wallace's best days, and an even better chance Perriman never emerges. 

    That would be easier for Flacco and Co. to handle if the Ravens had a stud running back, but a battle between Terrance West, Kenneth Dixon, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Danny Woodhead and Javorius Allen isn't firing anyone up. 

    Throw in that they were recently forced to release injured tight end Dennis Pitta after an 86-catch, 729-yard season and the Ravens are in rough shape at receiver, running back and tight end. 

    With Smith, Juszczyk and Pitta, this was an offense that ranked 21st in the league in scoring last season. Even with Maclin on board, Flacco will need to play lights-out in order to prevent the Ravens from dropping in that category in 2017. 

27. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills

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    LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins remain the top weapons in Buffalo.
    LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins remain the top weapons in Buffalo.Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    The Buffalo Bills hosted veteran free agent Jeremy Maclin last week, but Maclin signed elsewhere. That's a shame because top Buffalo receiver Sammy Watkins has been inconsistent while lacking durability and is recovering from an ankle injury, but also because it felt like an admission from the Bills that they're short on offensive weapons. 

    The Bills lost receivers Marquise Goodwin, Robert Woods and Justin Hunter in free agency. Zay Jones, whom they selected in the second round of the draft, might have a higher ceiling than all of those guys, but he's only one man he might not be ready to dominate after just one huge year at East Carolina. 

    Tight end Charles Clay is solid and running back LeSean McCoy is the centerpiece of the offense coming off a 1,267-yard season in which he averaged 5.4 yards per carry, but there's other no depth.

    They might grow to miss departed restricted free agent Mike Gillislee, who led all qualified running backs with a 5.7 yards-per-attempt average but is now playing for the division rival Patriots. And if age, wear and tear catch up to the soon-to-be 29-year-old McCoy, quarterback Tyrod Taylor could be begging for help early in 2017. 

26. Mike Glennon, Chicago Bears

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    The Bears don't have a lot of weapons beyond Jordan Howard.
    The Bears don't have a lot of weapons beyond Jordan Howard.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    With No. 1 receiver Alshon Jeffery gone, the rebuilding Chicago Bears are hoping that new quarterback Mike Glennon (and/or Glennon's eventual replacement, first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky) can lean heavily on 2015 undrafted free agent Cameron Meredith, who caught 68 percent of the passes thrown his way for 888 yards despite starting only 10 games last season. 

    Meredith could have a bright future, but he still has just four career touchdown grabs under his belt and we're yet to see how he'll perform without benefiting from the element of surprise. He'll be surrounded by several known commodities in Kevin White, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright, Rueben Randle and Victor Cruz, but the focus will be on Meredith from the get-go in 2017. 

    It does help that the Bears have so many other bodies at receiver, even if none inspire excitement. If just one or two of those guys can step up, they might not miss Jeffery. 

    Still, only four teams scored fewer points than the Bears in 2016, and that was with Jeffery. 

    It was also with running back Jordan Howard, who ranked second in the NFL with 1,313 rushing yards as a rookie. The fifth-round pick will also lose that element of surprise in 2017, but after averaging 5.2 yards per carry last year, he does appear to be the real deal. 

    Meanwhile at tight end, Zach Miller is old (33 this year) and injury prone, and rookie second-rounder Adam Shaheen is a project. 

    So while Glennon—who appears to be the starter for now—will have some talent to throw to and does have a superb young running back, he won't really have any accomplished players in their primes to work with in 2017. 

25. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

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    Golden Tate could use more support in Detroit.
    Golden Tate could use more support in Detroit.Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    It was almost miraculous that the Detroit Lions made the playoffs despite having lost superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson to sudden retirement in 2016. But they still lack talent and depth at all of the skill positions surrounding quarterback Matthew Stafford

    Underrated top receiver Golden Tate has put together two 1,000-yard seasons in a three-year span with the Lions, but fellow starter Marvin Jones caught just 53.4 percent of the passes thrown his way during his maiden season in Detroit. They're also yet to bring back old reliable Anquan Boldin, who had a catch rate of 70.5 as a 36-year-old last season. 

    With Andre Roberts also gone, that leaves the receiving corps thin. And it could lead to the Lions having to rely on mediocre third-year sixth-round pick T.J. Jones and/or rookie third-rounder Kenny Golladay.

    Fortunately, they also have one of the better young tight ends in the league in Eric Ebron, who caught 71.8 percent of the passes thrown his way for 711 yards last season. But Ebron has yet to make it through a full season three years into his career, and he scored just twice in 2016.

    Making matters worse, a running game that ranked 30th in football last season still possesses question marks entering 2017. Third-year second-round pick Ameer Abdullah is finally healthy, and if that holds up, he could be in for a breakout season behind Stafford. But that's far from a guarantee considering that Abdullah has started just 11 games in his career. 

    If he can't come through and the Lions have to lean on Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner and/or Dwayne Washington, they could be in trouble. But even if he does step up, Tate, Ebron and Abdullah probably won't give Stafford a particularly strong arsenal. 

24. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

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    DeMarco Murray led the AFC with 1,287 rushing yards last season.
    DeMarco Murray led the AFC with 1,287 rushing yards last season.James Kenney/Associated Press

    Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota's top two receivers, Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe, caught just 56 percent of the passes Mariota and backup Matt Cassel threw them last season. Matthews has had a nice career but probably wasn't cut out to be a No. 1 receiver, and Sharpe defied expectations as a rookie fifth-round pick but probably shouldn't be a starter. 

    Enter rookie No. 5 pick Corey Davis, who had three 1,400-yard seasons at Western Michigan and appears to possess the complete package to become a No. 1 receiver. But Davis is still recovering from ankle surgery, and nothing's guaranteed when we're talking about rookies. 

    Fortunately for Mariota, even if Davis doesn't immediately become a star and Matthews and Sharpe don't improve, he has a good supporting cast at the safety valve positions.

    Running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry rushed for a combined 1,777 yards while averaging 4.4 yards per carry last season, and Henry should only get better entering his second year. Meanwhile, underrated tight end Delanie Walker is coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons.

    Since the start of 2015, only two tight ends (Greg Olsen and Travis Kelce) have more receiving yards than Walker (1,888). 

    Those three at least make up for what the Titans will probably miss at the wide receiver position while waiting for Davis to get acclimated in 2017. 

23. Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings

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    Rookie Dalvin Cook should give the Vikings offense a boost.
    Rookie Dalvin Cook should give the Vikings offense a boost.Associated Press

    The receiving corps isn't stacked, but that wasn't the issue for the Minnesota Vikings last season.

    Receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen and tight end Kyle Rudolph all caught 65-plus passes for 800-plus yards and a combined 15 touchdowns as quarterback Sam Bradford worked the ball around. All of those guys are 27 or younger, so that entire pass-catching corps should get better regardless of what happens with second-year first-round pick Laquon Treadwell. 

    The issue last year was that the Vikes averaged a league-low 75.3 rushing yards per game and 3.2 yards per rushing attempt as backs Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata both struggled immensely in place of the injured Adrian Peterson

    Peterson is in New Orleans now, so he can't save this offense. But what about new arrivals Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook? 

    Murray, who signed a three-year, $15 million contract in March, is a year removed from a 1,000-yard season and is coming off a 12-touchdown campaign with the Raiders. It became apparent in 2016 that the 6'3", 225-pounder might be suited best for a platoon role, and that's likely what he'll have as a complement to Cook, who rushed for 3,456 yards, averaged 6.7 yards per carry and scored 40 touchdowns from scrimmage during his two full seasons as a starter at Florida State. 

    The rookie second-round pick was probably a steal in the No. 41 spot, which could pay off in a major way for a Vikings team in desperate need of balance. 

    Diggs, Thielen, Rudolph, Murray, Cook and Treadwell give the Vikes a lot of talent around Bradford. But nobody on that list has made a Pro Bowl in the last four years. Minnesota is counting on a lot of them to step up in 2017. 

22. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

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    Can Eddie Lacy bring something new to the Seahawks offense?
    Can Eddie Lacy bring something new to the Seahawks offense?Associated Press

    Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is coming off the worst year of his career. Many people blame his horrible offensive line. That's fair, because said line is, indeed, horrible. But don't overlook the role his weapons (or lack thereof) might have played in a tough season for Wilson and that offense.

    Top receiver Doug Baldwin and tight end Jimmy Graham earned Pro Bowl nods with strong campaigns, but Baldwin's starting partner, Jermaine Kearse, caught just 46.1 percent of the passes thrown his way while scoring one touchdown. Plus, their running backs couldn't stay healthy and weren't generally productive when they were on the field.

    Kearse will likely enter camp as a starter again for some reason. No. 3 receiver Tyler Lockett is coming off a broken leg, somewhat promising fourth receiver Paul Richardson hasn't started a game since 2014, and backs C.J. Prosise and Thomas Rawls haven't proved they can be relied on yet.

    What about newbie back Eddie Lacy?

    If Lacy can recapture the magic that helped him win Offensive Rookie of the Year with 1,435 scrimmage yards in 2013, the Seahawks could be in a lot better shape offensively. That would likely give Wilson at least a solid running back, wide receiver and tight end, though he'd need more than that to possess an above-average group of weapons.

    The good news is Lacy averaged 5.5 yards per carry during the first four games of the 2016 season in Green Bay. The bad news is an ankle injury ended his season the next week, and Lacy has been battling his body ever since that 11-touchdown rookie campaign.

    A lot remains up in the air around Wilson.

21. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

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    T.Y. Hilton is the top weapon in Indy.
    T.Y. Hilton is the top weapon in Indy.Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    On paper, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has an enticing batch of weapons around him. That goes beyond top receiver T.Y. Hilton, who has gone over 1,100 yards while making the Pro Bowl in three consecutive seasons.

    Tight end Jack Doyle caught 78.7 percent of the passes thrown his way in 2016, which was the highest rate in the last quarter-century among wide receivers or tight ends that were targeted at least 75 times. Running back Frank Gore might be a Hall of Famer, and supporting wide receivers Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett and Kamar Aiken all have high ceilings.

    But Doyle isn't a playmaker, and he has to prove he isn't a one-hit wonder considering he was barely a factor in that offense during the first three years of his career. The 34-year-old Gore is the league's oldest running back. He's averaged just 3.8 yards per carry the last two seasons, and there aren't any obvious heirs apparent waiting in the wings there. Moncrief struggled while dealing with a hamstring injury last year, Dorsett wasn't any better in his stead and the 28-year-old Aiken is living off one good season in Baltimore.

    If Doyle can have another strong year and one of those receivers can take some attention away from Hilton, and if Gore can continue to defy Father Time or get some help from a backup like Robert Turbin, Christine Michael or rookie fourth-round pick Marlon Mack, Luck will be in tremendous shape this season.

    But that's a lot of "if."

20. Eli Manning, New York Giants

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    Without Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants offense would be in bad shape.
    Without Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants offense would be in bad shape.Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Rating a supporting cast like the one New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has is tricky. Top receiver Odell Beckham Jr. might be the most dangerous offensive weapon in the NFL, but beyond that there isn't a lot to get excited about.

    Beckham is the only player in NFL history to catch 90-plus passes for 1,300-plus yards and score 10-plus touchdowns in each of his first three seasons in the league, and he's already got three Pro Bowls under his belt at the age of 24.

    Beyond that, though, the Giants have free-agent addition Brandon Marshall (who's had a hell of a career but is coming off an abysmal season with the Jets at the age of 33), second-year slot receiver Sterling Shepard (who was solid as a rookie but might not have the playmaking ability to become anything special), a batch of unreliable (Will Tye) or unproven (first-round pick Evan Engram) tight ends, and another batch of relatively (Paul Perkins) or totally (fourth-round rookie Wayne Gallman) unestablished running backs.

    Marshall could bounce back, Shepard might continue to emerge, Engram could surprise as a rookie, Tye could become something other than a so-so, one-dimensional pass-catcher, and one of those backs—most likely Perkins, who averaged 4.8 yards per carry during the final three weeks of the 2016 regular season—could improve and help a running game that ranked 29th in football last season.

    But unless all of that happens—and the odds aren't good—Manning and the Giants will once again rely too heavily on OBJ in 2017.

19. Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos

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    The Broncos have one of the league's top one-two punches at wide receiver.
    The Broncos have one of the league's top one-two punches at wide receiver.Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Few wide receiver duos in the NFL have been as productive of late as Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders of the Denver Broncos. Those two have each caught 75-plus passes for 1,000-plus yards and five-plus touchdowns in three consecutive seasons, and no other set of teammates has close to as many receptions and yards as they do since Sanders joined the Broncos in 2014.

    That alone gets the Broncos a decent spot on this list, but the next two receivers on the current projected depth chart, Bennie Fowler and Cody Latimer, caught a combined 19 passes last season. Tight end Virgil Green had just 22 receptions. And those three combined for just three touchdowns.

    Paced by C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker, both of whom had rough 2016 campaigns, the Denver running game ranked 27th in terms of yards per game and 29th with a 3.6 yards-per-attempt average. Those two are joined by Jamaal Charles this year, but he's 30, he's carried the ball just 83 times the last two years and he's undergone three knee procedures since 2015.

    I'll curb my enthusiasm.

    Thomas is about to turn 30, and Sanders just did. They're still in their primes, and they should make life easier on quarterback Trevor Siemian (or Paxton Lynch, if he beats out Siemian for the starting job) in 2017. But in order to provide their quarterback with a truly strong supporting cast, the Broncos have to groom or acquire more high-quality backs and pass-catchers.

18. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Alshon Jeffery becomes Philly's top weapon in the passing game.
    Alshon Jeffery becomes Philly's top weapon in the passing game.Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Eagles didn't give rookie quarterback Carson Wentz much support at the skill positions in 2016, but they've made some major changes in order to help out their young franchise signal-caller going forward.

    The Eagles signed two former 1,000-yard receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in March, bolstering an oft-criticized receiving corps. In May they added veteran back LeGarrette Blount, who rushed for 1,161 yards and a league-high 18 touchdowns last season in New England.

    Just like that, the receiving corps went from liability to asset, and the running game became stacked with backs with a wide variety of styles and backgrounds.

    Will Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor benefit from playing under less pressure with Jeffery and Smith on board? How will Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles and rookie fourth-round pick Donnel Pumphrey fit in with Blount? These are all good questions to have to answer, and tight end Zach Ertz is coming off back-to-back 800-yard campaigns to boot.

    There's plenty of room for things to go wrong. After all, Jeffery and Smith haven't put together good seasons since 2014, Matthews and Agholor remain question marks, Blount and Sproles are old, Pumphrey will likely need time and Mathews is near the wrong side of 30.

    That said, things look a heck of a lot better than they did a few months ago.

17. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

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    First-round pick Christian McCaffrey makes the Panthers offense more dangerous.
    First-round pick Christian McCaffrey makes the Panthers offense more dangerous.Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    The jury is arguably still out on the two wide receivers who will likely start for the Carolina Panthers in 2017. Former first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin has scored 16 touchdowns in two NFL seasons, but he's caught just 51.7 percent of the passes thrown his way. Former second-round pick Devin Funchess has a catch rate of just 44.6 percent two years into his career.

    Among 134 NFL players who have been targeted at least 100 times since 2015, that 44.6 mark ranks 133rd.

    But both players have a lot of upside. Benjamin is 26, Funchess just 23. That counts for something, and it helps that Newton has one of the best tight ends in the game (Greg Olsen has gone over 1,000 yards while making the Pro Bowl in three consecutive seasons), an experienced Pro Bowl back in Jonathan Stewart and two shiny new toys from the top of the draft.

    First-round pick Christian McCaffrey and second-rounder Curtis Samuel are both expected to play large roles as runners and receivers after excelling as Swiss army knife backs in college. Both should make Newton's life a heck of a lot easier in 2017.

    Olsen is 32 and Stewart might not have much tread left on his tires, which could put a lot of pressure on the unproven Samuel and McCaffrey as well as the somewhat unreliable Benjamin and Funchess. But at least the Panthers have plenty of options.

16. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

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    Mark Ingram is one of many options for Drew Brees in New Orleans.
    Mark Ingram is one of many options for Drew Brees in New Orleans.Butch Dill/Associated Press

    It never looks like New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has elite weapons in the receiving corps or the backfield, and that's because Brees a) spreads the ball around and b) makes decent players into great ones.

    This year, after the Saints jettisoned 23-year-old, two-time 1,100-yard receiver Brandin Cooks to the Patriots in an offseason trade, they again look less than impressive at the non-quarterback skill positions. But the key is that they remain deep, and you know Brees will get the most out of every cog in the machine.

    It certainly feels as though Brees will help turn new No. 1 receiver Michael Thomas into a star in 2017. The 2016 second-round pick caught a ridiculous 76 percent of the passes thrown his way for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie, and even without Cooks he's well supported by new arrival Ted Ginn (a deep threat coming off back-to-back 700-yard seasons in which he scored a combined 14 touchdowns in Carolina) and slot specialist Willie Snead (coming off back-to-back 800-yard seasons to start his career). Tight end Coby Fleener and projected No. 4 receiver Brandon Coleman are also solid.

    The Saints have multiple options in the backfield after signing Adrian Peterson and drafting elusive Tennessee product Alvin Kamara to complement Mark Ingram, who is coming off the best season of his career (he had 1,362 yards from scrimmage while ranking tied for fifth in the NFL with a 5.1 yards-per-carry average).

    Nobody just mentioned made the Pro Bowl last season, but even without Cooks, the Saints' skill-position units are greater than the sum of their parts.

15. Tom Savage, Houston Texans

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    The Texans are in good shape with DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller.
    The Texans are in good shape with DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller.Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Tom Savage might not cling to the Houston Texans' starting quarterback job for long, but if he loses said job, he won't be able to blame his backs and receivers.

    Led by DeAndre Hopkins, the Texans have one of the best wide receiver quartets in football.

    Four years into his career, the 25-year-old Hopkins has yet to miss a start, compiling 4,487 receiving yards in the process. That's the seventh-highest total in NFL history at the four-year mark of a career. He's joined by second-year first-round pick Will Fuller (635 yards in 14 games as a 22-year-old rookie last season), second-year third-round pick Braxton Miller (age 24) and third-year third-round pick Jaelen Strong (23).

    The Texans aren't ranked higher here because Fuller and Miller are so green and because none of the receivers mentioned except Hopkins have stood out yet.

    That should change soon, especially if the Texans can get better quarterback play while continuing to reap results from a running game that ranked eighth in the league thanks to strong performances from 1,000-yard rusher Lamar Miller and his sidekick, Alfred Blue.

    On top of all that, Houston has two sneaky-good tight ends in C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin, who combined for 104 catches and 1,001 yards in 2016.

    Nobody mentioned above is older than 27.

    If they can get anything out of rookie third-rounder D'Onta Foreman, who is coming off a massive season at Texas, it'll be icing on the cake.

    The Texans might have only one star on offense, but they're deep and young with a lot of upside. That's great news for Savage and/or rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson.

14. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

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    A.J. Green is surrounded by several speedy weapons in Cincinnati.
    A.J. Green is surrounded by several speedy weapons in Cincinnati.Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green nearly put up 1,000 yards despite missing six gamed due to injury last season. He's one of the league's truly special players, and he was already well supported by Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd (combined 116 catches for 1,465 yards in 2016) before the Bengals used a top-10 pick on highly-touted speed demon John Ross. 

    The problem is Ross still isn't healthy as he recovers from shoulder surgery, tight end Tyler Eifert—who has missed 26 games due to injury since 2014—is still recovering from back surgery and running back Giovani Bernard is—you guessed it!—still recovering from knee surgery. 

    If the soon-to-be 29-year-old Green is starting to break down physically even a little bit, and if Ross is a project and Eifert and Bernard aren't healthy, the Bengals could be in for another tough season. But they do have a lot of talented players around quarterback Andy Dalton, including once-promising back Jeremy Hill (who rushed for over 1,100 yards as a rookie in 2014 but has averaged just 3.7 yards per carry since) and rookie second-round pick/walking red flag Joe Mixon. 

    With so many talented players at the skill positions, the Bengals will be in good shape on offense, even if less than half of the players mentioned above put together strong 2017 seasons. There's a major boom-or-bust dynamic at play here. 

13. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins

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    Jordan Reed is back, but DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are gone from Washington.
    Jordan Reed is back, but DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are gone from Washington.Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Starting receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon caught 135 passes for 2,046 yards last season in Washington, with both hitting the 1,000-yard mark. And now both are gone, but the team still has a strong group of weapons surrounding quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

    That's because Washington has Jamison Crowder, who caught 67 passes and led the team with seven touchdowns as a sophomore in 2016. It also has Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Reed, who caught 66 passes for 686 yards despite playing in just 12 games. And 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson, who didn't factor in as a rookie but is a year removed from a 1,326-yard, 14-touchdown senior season at TCU. And new arrival Terrelle Pryor, who in his first full season after converting from quarterback had 77 catches and over 1,000 yards on a bad Browns team in 2016. 

    The 6'6", 240-pound Pryor has a chance to become a true No. 1 receiver at the age of 28 this season, especially with quarterback Kirk Cousins throwing to him. If Crowder maintains his trajectory, Doctson takes off and Reed simply stays healthy, that passing game might actually be better than it was with Jackson and Garcon last season. 

    At the very least, it won't likely miss a beat. 

    Throw in backs Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson—who combined for 1,060 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry last season—and rookie rusher Samaje Perine—who just might earn the starting job after impressing early in organized team activities—and it's hard not to get excited about this promising young offensive core. 

    Of course, the sample size is small for Crowder, Pryor, Kelley and Thompson, we're yet to see anything from Doctson and Perine and Reed has developed a reputation for being injury prone, so there's a lot up in the air in D.C. But the talent is there, and the ceiling is stupid-high. 

12. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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    Aaron Rodgers has several established receivers to throw to.
    Aaron Rodgers has several established receivers to throw to.Jeffery Phelps/Associated Press

    When you're looking at an offense with a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, it's sometimes tough to tell if the dude under center is making his receivers look better than they actually are. But you can't argue with results, and the fact is Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams have been incredibly productive receivers for the Green Bay Packers. 

    Nelson is coming off the fourth 1,200-yard season of his career, Cobb is a couple years removed from a Pro Bowl campaign in which he scored 12 touchdowns and Adams is fresh off a breakout season in which he fell three yards short of 1,000 while scoring a dozen times. 

    Adams and Cobb have had their struggles at times, and all three have encountered injury problems. But you still won't find many stronger trios. 

    Now take that and add tight end Martellus Bennett, who signed in Green Bay as a free agent after hitting the 700-yard mark and scoring seven touchdowns despite spending nearly half of the 2016 season as Rob Gronkowski's backup in New England. 

    Bennett, like Nelson and Cobb, has a Pro Bowl on his resume. 

    If only the Packers were a little more secure at running back, they'd be higher on this list. But projected starter Ty Montgomery is the only back on the roster with NFL experience. It's him and six rookies. And just a year ago, even he wasn't a running back. The converted receiver carried the ball more than 11 times just once all season, but now he's being asked to play a starring role from the get-go. 

    That could backfire, and if none of those rookies are ready to step up, the one-dimensional Packers could stumble despite the fact they have one of the most accomplishes receiving corps in the NFL. 

11. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Leonard Fournette moves the Jaguars into the top 12, believe it or not.
    Leonard Fournette moves the Jaguars into the top 12, believe it or not.John Raoux/Associated Press

    The Jacksonville Jaguars already had one of the NFL's best offensive trios in Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee, who combined for 2,211 yards and 12 touchdowns last season despite the fact Hurns missed five games.

    But this year, you can take that trio and add Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite Leonard Fournette, who is built to dominate at the pro level and comes from a program that should have him ready to do so immediately in Jacksonville. 

    All four of those guys are 25 or younger, and they should only get better as they age—especially if the Jags can get more out of the quarterback position. 

    Looking at it another way, Blake Bortles might be one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL, but the quartet of Robinson, Hurns, Lee and Fournette possesses so much talent that it could actually make Bortles look half-decent in 2017.

10. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals

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    Could this be the last year Carson Palmer has Larry Fitzgerald?
    Could this be the last year Carson Palmer has Larry Fitzgerald?Harry How/Getty Images

    Future Hall of Fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has lost a step, but that's OK because he no longer needs to be the centerpiece of the Arizona Cardinals offense. 

    Instead, that job belongs to running back David Johnson, who led the league with 2,118 yards from scrimmage during a sophomore campaign in which he also scored 20 touchdowns and was a first-team All-Pro. 

    Not bad for a 25-year-old third-round pick out of Northern Iowa. 

    Of course, Fitzgerald still plays a large role for quarterback Carson Palmer. In fact, the 33-year-old, who has remade himself as one of the league's top slot receivers, led the NFL with 107 catches while going over 1,000 yards in yet another Pro Bowl campaign in 2016. 

    He and Johnson alone give the Cardinals a heck of a one-two punch in support of Palmer, but don't overlook complementary receivers JJ Nelson (568 yards and six touchdowns last season) and (John Brown 517 and two). 

    Remember, the Cardinals abruptly released former Fitzgerald sidekick Michael Floyd following a DUI in December. The very next week, the 27-year-old Brown caught five passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. And one week after that, the 25-year-old Nelson had 132 yards on just three receptions (one of which was an 80-yard score). 

    With those four studs teaming up with tight end Jermaine Gresham—a Pro Bowler in Cincinnati who has become a steady contributor in Arizona—the Cards rather quietly have one of the strongest offensive supporting casts in the NFL.

9. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders

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    Amari Cooper has been to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two NFL seasons.
    Amari Cooper has been to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two NFL seasons.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Even before adding tight end Jared Cook, running back Marshawn Lynch and speedy weapon Cordarrelle Patterson this offseason, the Oakland Raiders had one of the league's most dangerous offenses. 

    A lot of that had to do with the fact quarterback Derek Carr was an MVP candidate last season, but they also had a heck of a wide receiver duo in 2015 No. 4 overall pick Amari Cooper (who has two Pro Bowl nods under his belt at the age of 22) and experienced former Top 10 pick Michael Crabtree (who is coming off back-to-back 900-plus-yard seasons and has scored 17 touchdowns in two years with the Raiders). 

    Cooper and Crabtree will still likely work as Carr's go-to targets, but look for the Raiders to use Cook and Patterson quite a bit. The former broke out with the Packers late last season, catching 18 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns in Green Bay's three playoff games. The latter is a playmaker and a killer return specialist who could see time as both a receiver and rusher in 2017. 

    And then there's Lynch, who immediately becomes the No. 1 option in the backfield. You might want to temper expectations considering the recently retired 31-year-old hasn't been a major factor in an NFL offense since 2014, but you can't count Beast Mode out. He could at least have a chance to pack more of a consistent punch than the departed Latavius Murray, and he's well supported by complementary backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, who combined for 958 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry in 2016. 

    If all of those guys can keep it together, an offense that had the seventh-highest point total in football last season could leap much closer to the top of those rankings in 2017. And it won't just be thanks to Carr.

8. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Travis Kelce is one of the top tight ends in the league.
    Travis Kelce is one of the top tight ends in the league.Associated Press

    The Kansas City Chiefs obviously had more to offer on offense with the departed Jeremy Maclin than they do without him, but releasing Maclin doesn't mean quarterback Alex Smith suddenly has a subpar supporting cast. 

    Smith still has tight end Travis Kelce, who led all NFL tight ends with 1,125 yards on 85 catches while earning a second consecutive Pro Bowl nod in 2016. He still has speedster Tyreek Hill, who scored 12 touchdowns as a rusher, receiver and return man as a rookie last season. And he still has running back Spencer Ware, who amassed 1,368 yards from scrimmage in just 14 games as Kansas City won the AFC West with a 12-4 record. 

    While battling injuries last season, Maclin was hardly a factor. In fact, 2015 third-round pick Chris Conley—who for all intents and purposes will be replacing Maclin—had the same number of catches (44) and just six fewer yards (530 to 536) despite being targeted seven fewer times.

    He and Hill should have no trouble taking the reins in support of Kelce, especially with a running back trio of Ware, the versatile Charcandrick West and extremely promising rookie third-round pick Kareem Hunt. 

    Believe it or not, the Chiefs just cut a former Pro Bowler and yet Smith still has an above-average group of offensive weapons to work with. 

    Now we'll see if that helps him hold on to his starting job for the entire season.

7. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

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    Jarvis Landry and Jay Ajayi are studs in Miami.
    Jarvis Landry and Jay Ajayi are studs in Miami.Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

    You might not think of the Miami Dolphins as an offensive juggernaut with a wide array of weapons, but if that's the case you might not be looking closely enough. 

    It starts with wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who is coming off back-to-back 1,100-yard Pro Bowl campaigns. Or maybe it starts with running back Jay Ajayi, who also made the Pro Bowl last season while becoming just the fourth player in NFL history to rush for 200-plus yards more than twice in a single season (the other three: Earl Campbell, O.J. Simpson and Tiki Barber).

    Either way, you're looking at a young star. Neither Landry nor Ajayi has turned 25. 

    Same with 2015 first-round pick DeVante Parker, who took a big step forward with 744 yards and a catch rate of 64.4 percent in his sophomore season at the age of 23. And then there's the old man of the group, Kenny Stills, who also topped the 700-yard mark while leading the team with nine touchdowns in 2016.

    Stills, by the way, turned 25 in April. 

    Concerned that Landry, Ajayi, Parker and Stills don't bring enough experience to the table? The Dolphins added some of that to the skill positions this offseason by trading for soon-to-be 29-year-old tight end Julius Thomas, who made the Pro Bowl with the Broncos in 2013 and 2014 and has scored 33 touchdowns since becoming a regular NFL starter four years ago. 

    Thomas wasn't as productive in Jacksonville as he was in Denver, but that might have had to do with the fact he was playing for Jacksonville, not Denver. 

    Anyway, the Dolphins are now loaded with talented 20-somethings who have already accomplished quite a bit at the NFL level. 

    Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is a lucky dude.

6. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers

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    Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates aren't the only high-profile weapons for the Chargers.
    Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates aren't the only high-profile weapons for the Chargers.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Chargers might not win a lot of games while stuck in the league's toughest division, but quarterback Philip Rivers is surrounded by so many offensive weapons that the Bolts are sure to entertain their new fanbase in 2017. 

    Everybody is already familiar with tight end Antonio Gates, wide receiver Keenan Allen and running back Melvin Gordon. And we know there's a downside with all of them. Gates might be headed to the Hall of Fame but is 36 and has seen his reception and yardage totals drop in each of the last three years, and Allen and Gordon often tear it up when healthy but have had trouble staying on the field. 

    Gates is still around, though, and Allen and Gordon appear as though they'll enter camp healthy. But the really good news is that the Chargers no longer have to totally rely on those three anyway. 

    That's because second-year UDFA Tyrell Williams came out of nowhere to put up 1,000 yards in 2016, and because Dontrelle Inman (28) and Travis Benjamin (27) each broke out with 650-plus yards and four touchdowns while helping to fill in for the injured Allen. It's because 22-year-old rookie tight end Hunter Henry led the team with eight receiving touchdowns, catching 67.9 percent of the passes Rivers threw his way. 

    And it's because they used their first-round pick on Clemson product Mike Williams, who caught 98 passes and scored 11 touchdowns in 2016 and has the ideal combination of size (6'4", 218 lbs), speed (he ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at Clemson's pro day, according to NFL.com's Gil Brandt) and experience to contribute as an impact player from the get-go.

    Allen, Williams, Williams, Inman, Benjamin, Gates, Henry and Gordon. Not many teams have eight offensive weapons with that much talent. In fact, it's possible that none do.

5. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Mike Evans has company, and that's good news for Jameis Winston.
    Mike Evans has company, and that's good news for Jameis Winston.Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Even with high-profile free-agent DeSean Jackson joining the fray, no offensive supporting cast is flying as far under the radar as the one Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston will work with in 2017. 

    Winston already had one of the best young receivers in the game in Mike Evans, who was again dominant in traffic while earning a Pro Bowl nod with a 96-catch, 1,321-yard, 12-touchdown showing in 2016. The 2014 No. 7 overall pick is only 23, but he's already got three 1,000-yard campaigns under his belt. 

    But now Evans is joined by Jackson, a world-famous home-run threat who led all qualified NFL receivers with a 17.9 yards-per-catch average in 2016. Jackson's been around a while, but that experience should boost a young offense. And he's still only 30, so he should complement Evans perfectly for years to come.

    And it didn't stop there, because the Bucs also added unbelievably athletic tight end O.J. Howard in the first round of the draft. The jury's still out on Howard, especially as a rookie at that position, but it's easy to imagine him becoming a heck of a No. 3 option down the stretch in 2017. 

    The Bucs already had running back Doug Martin (and they will again when he returns from a PED suspension in Week 5). Martin was a mess thanks to injuries and that late-season suspension in 2016, making it easy to forget that he's just a year removed from a 1,402-yard season in which he was a first-team All-Pro. 

    It does appear as though Martin will still enter Bucs camp as the team's starting running back, and he's even been praised by Winston, as well as general manager Jason Licht. But even if he doesn't pan out, Jacquizz Rodgers averaged a solid 4.3 yards per carry last season, while Charles Sims and Peyton Barber also had their moments. They're all back, and they're joined by rookie fifth-round pick Jeremy McNichols, who accumulated nearly 2,200 yards from scrimmage last year at Boise State. 

    With Jackson, Evans, Howard, Brate, Martin and several strong alternatives if the latter two don't excel, the Bucs will be dangerous in 2017.

4. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The Killer B's make up arguably the best quarterback-running back-wide receiver trio in the NFL.
    The Killer B's make up arguably the best quarterback-running back-wide receiver trio in the NFL.Associated Press

    There might not be a team in football with a better receiver-running back punch than the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have three-time first-team All-Pro Antonio Brown teaming up with one of the best backs in the game in Le'Veon Bell. 

    The Steelers don't have a lot else going on beyond Brown and Bell, but that hardly matters when you've got two guys as productive as them. 

    Bell was the team's second-leading receiver last year, despite the fact he missed a quarter of the season and, you know, isn't a receiver. Prorate his stats for a 16-game season and he'd have set a new NFL record with 2,512 yards from scrimmage. And since 2013, Brown has a league-high 481 receptions (no other receiver has 400), a league-high 6,315 yards (no other receiver has 5,500) and 43 touchdowns (no other receiver has more than 40). 

    Those two are practically unstoppable when they're on the field together, especially when the other "B", quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is out there with them. 

    Unfortunately, Bell has missed 14 games in the last two years due to injury/suspension, and he's currently recovering from offseason groin surgery. And as mentioned, they don't really have a backup plan in case he or Brown is sidelined. 

    That's where the Steelers lose a few points. They're top-heavy, and they lack depth at the skill positions. If they're forced to rely on Darrius Heyward-Bey, Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates, James Conner, Knile Davis, Fitzgerald Toussaint or even tight ends Jesse James or David Johnson, they're probably in trouble.

3. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

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    Dak, Dez and Zeke are also a heck of a trio in Dallas.
    Dak, Dez and Zeke are also a heck of a trio in Dallas.Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Dak, Dez, Zeke, even Cole. A series of onomatopoeia-like, one-syllable words describe the key cogs in the Dallas Cowboys offense. And as Madonna and Cher prove, you've made it when you can be identified only by your first name. 

    I'm referring, of course, to quarterback Dak Prescott and his top weapons, No. 1 receiver Dez Bryant, All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott and superb slot receiver Cole Beasley. Also worth noting despite their absence from the one-syllable club are veteran tight end Jason Witten and the other starting receiver, Terrance Williams. 

    That might be the best offensive sextet in football. 

    Bryant, who was been to three Pro Bowls in the last four years, was the most highly touted offensive weapon in Dallas before Elliott came in as a rookie and led the NFL in rushing while scoring 16 touchdowns. Meanwhile, the scary-reliable Beasley ranked second among qualified receivers with a reception rate of 76.5 percent. 

    Witten is Witten. Hasn't missed a game in 13 years and has put up at least 600 receiving yards in each of them. The 35-year-old is no longer the player he once was, but he still catches basically everything. Not a bad fourth or fifth option, which can also be said about Williams. He caught 72.1 percent of the passes thrown his way for 594 yards in a quietly strong 2016 campaign. 

    Prescott posted the highest single-season rookie passer rating in NFL history last season. No way that happens if not for that supporting cast.

2. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

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    There are a lot of weapons in Atlanta, but Julio Jones is the main attraction.
    There are a lot of weapons in Atlanta, but Julio Jones is the main attraction.Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

    Just as Dak Prescott probably wouldn't have been Offensive Rookie of the Year if not for that magnificent supporting cast, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan probably wouldn't have been MVP if not for receivers Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel and running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. 

    With 1,409 yards in just 14 games (and another 334 yards and three touchdowns in three playoff games), Jones was a Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro. But that's nothing new. Meanwhile, Sanu came over from Cincinnati as a free agent and caught a career-high 59 passes while posting a ridiculous 72.8 catch rate. And Gabriel got better as his third pro season progressed, catching 67.5 percent of the passes thrown his way for 472 yards in his final eight regular-season games. 

    Along with free-agent addition Andre Roberts, those three are back for what should be an explosive 2017 season. As are Freeman and Coleman, who not only combined for 1,599 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground but also helped Ryan more directly with a combined 85 catches for 883 more yards through the air. 

    Only nine backs in football had 400-plus receiving yards. Freeman and Coleman both made the list, and they added to that legacy by catching 17 of the 20 passes thrown their way in the playoffs for 231 yards and three touchdowns. 

    Freeman is 25, Coleman 24. They should only get better. Same goes for 22-year-old tight end Austin Hooper, who according to Ryan himself—per the team's Kelsey Conway—has improved "exponentially" this offseason.

    It's a good time to be Matt Ryan.

1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

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    Tom Brady is getting Rob Gronkowski back, but it doesn't stop there.
    Tom Brady is getting Rob Gronkowski back, but it doesn't stop there.Elsa/Getty Images

    No surprises at the top. Even though quarterback Tom Brady missed a quarter of the season and all-galaxy tight end Rob Gronkowski missed half of it, the New England Patriots had the highest-scoring offense in the AFC last year. 

    Now, Gronkowski is back and healthy. And a Patriots team that already had a 1,000-yard receiver in Julian Edelman and one of the league's best deep threats in Chris Hogan traded with the Saints for another 1,000-yard receiver in Brandin Cooks, who caught 162 passes for 2,311 yards and 17 touchdowns the last two years in New Orleans. 

    Cooks, who is only 23, could do Randy Moss-level things in New England. He and a healthy Gronk can take that offense to a whole 'nother level, and it'd help if promising free-agent pickups Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead can shine alongside James White and Dion Lewis in order to help the Pats forget about departed 2016 touchdown leader LeGarrette Blount. 

    Brady might be the best of all time, but there's little doubt that he'll also benefit greatly from having the top supporting cast in the NFL in 2017.


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