Projecting Every NFL Team's Starting Lineup for 2018
We're finally allowed to talk about 2018 NFL starting lineups instead of mock drafts. Everyone pat yourselves on the back for making it through another cycle.
With selections complete just over two weeks ago and post-draft free agency rarely influencing ideal starting lineups, we can begin to project how all 32 teams' rosters should look with four months until Week 1.
The majority of the NFL is spent in 11 personnel offense (one running back and one tight end) and nickel defenses (a 4-2 defense with a fifth defensive back), which is how we defined the lineups here. The idea of a "4-3" or "3-4" defense has been whittled down so much in the league that it can no longer accurately depict what you see on the field.
Taking into account injuries that will last into the season, early-season suspensions and unsettled positional battles, these are our best projections for what we'll see this coming season.
Offense: QB Sam Bradford, RB David Johnson, WR Larry Fitzgerald, WR Christian Kirk, WR Chad Williams, TE Jermaine Gresham, LT D.J. Humphries, LG Mike Iupati, OC Mason Cole, RG Justin Pugh, RT Andre Smith
Defense: DL Corey Peters, DL Pierre Olsen, ED Chandler Jones, ED Markus Golden, LB Deone Bucannon, LB Haason Reddick, CB Patrick Peterson, CB Brandon Williams, S Budda Baker, S Antonie Bethea, DB Bene Benwikere
The quarterback battle between veteran Sam Bradford and first-round pick Josh Rosen is going to make up most of the headlines this offseason, but the Arizona Cardinals will have plenty of position battles in camp. At receiver, Christian Kirk, Chad Williams and Brice Butler will be battling for roles with only Larry Fitzgerald established as a legitimate starting wideout. Also possible: a center battle between A.Q. Shipley and third-round rookie Mason Cole, and a tackle battle between Andre Smith and Will Holden.
Losing Calais Campbell undoubtedly hurt the Cardinals defense last season, but nose tackle Corey Peters emerged as a long-term answer in the interior. The question is if Pierre Olsen, who produced plenty of splash plays in limited reps, is going to receive full-time 3-technique reps moving forward.
Losing defensive backs over the years has also taken a toll on Arizona's secondary (Tramon Williams and Tyrann Mathieu were the notable losses from 2017). Beyond Patrick Peterson, the team's best cornerbacks might be Brandon Williams and Bene Benwikere. At this point in the NFL cycle, we can call that a liability.
Defense: DL Grady Jarrett, DL Terrell McClain, ED Vic Beasley, ED Takkarist McKinley, LB Deion Jones, LB De'Vondre Campbell, CB Desmond Trufant, CB Robert Alford, S Keanu Neal, S Ricardo Allen, DB Isaiah Oliver
The 2018 Atlanta Falcons offense will be made up mostly of the same roster that went to Super Bowl 51. One of the biggest changes is first-round receiver Calvin Ridley, who was added as an immediate replacement to Taylor Gabriel and a long-term replacement for Mohamed Sanu. The Falcons did not have much wiggle room this offseason, but they did figure out how to add guard Brandon Fusco on a three-year, $12.8 million deal, another improvement on offense.
On the defensive line, Vic Beasley is transitioning back to a full-time DE role after playing a hybrid last season, while 2017 first-round pick Takkarist McKinley is likely going to be a 16-game starter for the first time in his NFL career.
The loss of "prove-it deal" nose tackle Dontari Poe leaves a starting role open. The post-draft signing of former Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins defensive tackle Terrell McClain adds competition to Deadrin Senat, a rookie third-round pick.
Offense: QB Joe Flacco, RB Alex Collins, WR Michael Crabtree, WR John Brown, WR Willie Snead, TE Hayden Hurst, LT Ronnie Stanley, LG Orlando Brown, OC Matt Skura, RG Marshal Yanda, RT James Hurst
Defense: DL Brandon Williams, DL Michael Pierce, ED Terrell Suggs, ED Matt Judon, LB C.J. Mosley, LB Patrick Onwuasor, CB Jimmy Smith, CB Brandon Carr, S Eric Weddle, S Tony Jefferson, DB Marlon Humphrey
Will Joe Flacco get a full 16 games in 2018, or will he pass the torch to Lamar Jackson? The question is up for debate, considering the fact that Baltimore didn't even take Jackson with its first Round 1 pick in the draft. Its quarterback controversy will be ongoing this season.
The biggest change from Baltimore's 2017 and 2018 roster is clearly wide receiver. The team not only added Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead in free agency, but they also drafted UCLA's Jordan Lasley and New Mexico State's Jaleel Scott.
On defense, the team returns everyone who played at least 40 percent of snaps last season. The biggest battle outside of quarterback and wide receiver is left guard, where veteran Alex Lewis and third-round pick Orlando Brown are expected to push each other.
Offense: QB Josh Allen, RB LeSean McCoy, WR Kelvin Benjamin, WR Zay Jones, WR Andre Holmes, TE Charles Clay, LT Dion Dawkins, LG John Miller, OC Ryan Groy, RG Vladimir Ducasse, RT Jordan Mills
Defense: DL Star Lotulelei, DL Kyle Williams, ED Jerry Hughes, ED Trent Murphy, LB Tremaine Edmunds, LB Lorenzo Alexander, CB Tre'Davious White, CB Vontae Davis, S Micah Hyde, S Jordan Poyer, DB Phillip Gaines
AJ McCarron is going into his fifth year in the NFL, and if you asked me at any point since he was drafted 164th in 2014, "Do you think McCarron can fend off a first-round pick?" my answer would have been, and still is, "no" every single time. First-round quarterbacks rarely sit in the NFL, especially behind quarterbacks with three career starts and six career touchdown passes. Josh Allen will be a starting quarterback by the end of September.
The biggest concern for the Buffalo Bills is their offensive line situation. It's not often that you lose three start linemen in one offseason. Between Cordy Glenn (trade to Cincinnati), Richie Incognito (retirement) and Eric Wood (retirement) the team lost 347 career starts and five Pro Bowls. When relatively inexperienced players like Ryan Groy (11 starts in four seasons) enter a lineup to replace long-time anchors on the offensive line, you pin down a regression candidate.
On defense the team added major competition on every level. Star Lotulelei, formerly of Carolina, is now the team's top defensive tackle, while Trent Murphy, by way of Washington, should compete with former first-round pick Shaq Lawson for a starting defensive end job. After spending their first first-round pick on Allen, the Bills used their second on the athletic off-ball linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. At cornerback, the team hopes to be a rehabilitation location for Vontae Davis, a two-time Pro Bowler coming off one of his worst seasons.
Defense: DL Kawann Short, DL Dontari Poe, ED Mario Addison, ED Julius Peppers, LB Luke Kuechly, LB Shaq Thompson, CB James Bradberry, CB Ross Cockrell, S Mike Adams, S Da'Norris Searcy and DB Donte Jackson
The positional ambiguity of "running back" Christian McCaffrey is going to influence the 2018 Carolina Panthers. There's a scenario where he is the team's top rusher. There's a scenario where he is still split out to receiver often, and the newly signed C.J. Anderson is the team's top rusher.
The pecking order at receiver isn't clear, either. The big-bodied Devin Funchess is going to be the team's top wideout, but the squad also traded for Torrey Smith and drafted D.J. Moore in the first round. That's not including the McCaffrey factor or the fact that 2017 second-round pick Curtis Samuel, a hybrid back-receiver at Ohio State, still hasn't found his role in the NFL.
The Panthers lost Andrew Norwell to Jacksonville after the Jaguars made him the highest-paid guard on the market. Former Vikings guard Jeremiah Sirles signed a one-year deal worth less than $1 million to compete with Amini Silatolu and 2017 second-round pick Taylor Moton for Carolina's left guard slot.
Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei left town to sign a $50 million contract with the Buffalo Bills, but the Panthers responded by paying Dontari Poe, a former Atlanta Falcon, this offseason. A four-game suspension for Thomas Davis should push Shaq Thompson into a nickel defense role early on, which he might not give back. Elsewhere on defense, free-agent signing Ross Cockrell, second-round rookie Donte Jackson and third-round rookie Rashaan Gaulden are fighting over one starting cornerback and one slot role.
Offense: QB Mitch Trubisky, RB Jordan Howard, WR Allen Robinson, WR Taylor Gabriel, WR Anthony Miller, TE Trey Burton, LT Charles Leno, LG James Daniels, OC Cody Whitehair, RG Kyle Long, RT Bobby Massie.
Defense: DL Akiem Hicks, DL Eddie Goldman, ED Leonard Floyd, ED Aaron Lynch, LB Danny Trevathan, LB Roquan Smith, CB Kyle Fuller, CB Prince Amukamara, S Adrian Amos, S Eddie Jackson, DB Bryce Callahan
After they were allergic to throwing the football last season, the Chicago Bears completely revamped their passing game this year. Kendall Wright was the only wide receiver to record 25 or more receptions, so the Bears signed free-agent receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel and drafted second-round pick Anthony Miller out of Memphis.
Trey Burton, a No. 2 tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles last year, will be a full-time starter after signing a $32 million deal. The addition of second-round guard James Daniels will help ease the loss of Josh Sitton, a cap casualty.
The most interesting position opening in Chicago is pass-rusher opposite 2016 first-round pick Leonard Floyd. With Pernell McPhee and Lamarr Houston gone, the race is between Sam Acho—who, prior to 2017, hadn't started more than seven games for four straight years—and Aaron Lynch, a former Notre Dame and South Florida star who hasn't put it all together in his professional career. Lynch's cap hit is $1 million higher than Acho's, also signed in 2018, which gives you the impression that Lynch is the slight clubhouse leader for the starting job.
Defense: DL Geno Atkins, DL Chris Baker, ED Carlos Dunlap, ED Michael Johnson, LB Vontaze Burfict, LB Preston Brown, CB William Jackson, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, S George Iloka, S Shawn Williams and DB Darqueze Dennard
The John Ross' development and the health of tight end Tyler Eifert are the biggest storylines among Cincinnati Bengals skill players. Ross, the ninth overall pick in 2017, recorded one carry for 12 yards last season. Eifert, a 2015 Pro Bowler, has only started 15 games over the last four seasons.
Going into last season, everyone knew the offensive line was going to be an issue for 16 games. At some point, you can only allow so much talent to hit free agency before it catches up to you. This year, the additions of left tackle Cordy Glenn and center Billy Price will help make up lost ground.
The defensive tackle spot next to Geno Atkins has been a question for years. At the moment, the team's best answer is Chris Baker, who had a great 2016 season in Washington before vanishing in Tampa Bay last year. Defensive end is a bit of a head-scratcher, too, with Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson the incumbent veteran starters, but Carl Lawson, who is now being transitioned to a part-time outside linebacker role, showing flashes as a pass-rusher.
Offense: QB Tyrod Taylor, RB Nick Chubb, WR Josh Gordon, WR Jarvis Landry, WR Corey Coleman, TE David Njoku, LT Austin Corbett, LG Joel Bitonio, OC J.C. Tretter, RG Kevin Zeitler, RT Chris Hubbard
Defense: DL Larry Ogunjobi, DL Trevon Coley, ED Myles Garrett, ED Emmanuel Ogbah, LB Jamie Collins, LB Joe Schobert, CB Denzel Ward, CB E.J. Gaines, S Damarious Randall, S Jabrill Peppers DB T.J. Carrie
It takes a lot for a rookie quarterback to be named a Week 1 starter in the NFL. Barring an injury to Tyrod Taylor, the odds favor Baker Mayfield, the first overall pick of April's draft, to begin the season on the bench.
Taylor was brought in by new general manager John Dorsey in a completely revamped offense. The squad also added running back Carlos Hyde (free agency), running back Nick Chubb (draft) and wide receiver Jarvis Landry (trade) this offseason.
In terms of undecided starting roles, the left tackle position, which the now-retired Joe Thomas vacated, is the biggest question for the Browns. Will it be Austin Corbett, the second-round rookie who many projected to guard, Chris Hubbard, a recently signed free agent from Pittsburgh, or Shon Coleman, a third-year third-round pick?
Trading nose tackle Danny Shelton leaves Cleveland a bit vulnerable on the interior. Both Larry Ogunjobi and Trevon Coley have to take significant strides in snap counts to make up for Shelton's absence. The team's secondary is going through a sizable transition, too. The Browns made Denzel Ward the highest-drafted cornerback (No. 4) since Charles Woodson in 1998 (also No. 4), they signed E.J. Gaines and T.J. Carrie in free agency and they traded for former Packers first-round cornerback Damarious Randall, who they plan to play at safety.
Offense: QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliott, WR Allen Hurns, WR Terrance Williams, WR Cole Beasley, TE Rico Gathers, LT Tyron Smith, LG Connor Williams, OC Travis Frederick, RG Zack Martin, RT La'el Collins
Defense: DL David Irvin, DL Maliek Collins, ED Demarcus Lawrence, ED Taco Charlton, LB Sean Lee, LB Leighton Vander Esch, CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Jourdan Lewis, S Byron Jones, S Jeff Heath, DB Anthony Brown
Outside of pass-catchers, the 2018 Dallas Cowboys offensive lineup is obvious. No one is coming close to pushing quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott for a starting job. Their offensive line is made up of four top-40 picks and La'el Collins, who has started at both guard and right tackle for the team after he went undrafted.
The questions about the WR unit are legitimate, though. Terrance Williams might have to be the No. 2 wide receiver after posting less than 600 yards in back-to-back seasons, despite commanding a $7.25 million dead cap that locks his spot on Dallas' roster.
Unfortunately for rookie Michael Gallup, only three wide receivers (Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Jamison Crowder) in the last four draft classes eclipsed 600 yards after being selected 81st or later. Between that reality and the fact that Dallas' top three tight ends (Rico Gathers, Geoff Swaim and Dalton Schultz) have only registered a combined nine NFL receptions, you begin to see that Prescott isn't going to have much help on the other end of throws this season.
On defense, the biggest question is which linebacker will be off the field in nickel looks. On plays where they line up in a 4-3 defense, linebackers Sean Lee, Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith should all be on the field. When a linebacker has to drop, though, the question is whether 2018 first-round pick Vander Esch or 2016 second-round pick Smith will be the one tapped out. As a long-term scenario, this will be solved by the 31-year-old Lee aging out of his role, but in the immediate future one of these young top-35 picks is going to be on the bench more often than not.
Offense: QB Case Keenum, RB Royce Freeman, WR Demaryius Thomas, WR Emmanuel Sanders, WR Courtland Sutton, TE Jake Butt, LT Garett Bolles, LG Ronald Leary, OC Matt Paradis, RG Connor McGovern, RT Jared Veldheer
Defense: DL Derek Wolfe, DL Domata Peko, ED Von Miller, ED Bradley Chubb, LB Brandon Marshall, LB Todd Davis, CB Chris Harris, CB Bradley Roby, S Darian Stewart, S Justin Simmons, DB Su'a Cravens
The definition of cautious optimism is the 2018 Denver Broncos offense. Case Keenum, who got hot with the Minnesota Vikings last year, might be their quarterback of the future, but nothing is promised. Rookie RB Royce Freeman could be a bell cow though he's a third-round pick.
Rookie second-rounder Courtland Sutton, rookie fourth-rounder DaeSean Hamilton and second-year third-rounder Carlos Henderson will fight for the third receiver slot, but Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have begun to regress. Each one of their offensive linemen was highly toughted at some point but has had a shortcoming, be it injury or decline in play.
Derek Wolfe, Domata Peko, Shelby Harris, DeMarcus Walker and Adam Gotsis are all capable interior linemen while Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Shaquil Barrett and Shane Ray make up one of the deeper pass-rushing units in the league.
Offense: QB Matthew Stafford, RB Kerryon Johnson, WR Golden Tate, WR Marvin Jones, WR Kenny Golladay, TE Luke Willson, LT Taylor Decker, LG Frank Ragnow, OC Graham Glasgow, RG T.J. Lang, RT Ricky Wagner
Defense: DL A'Shawn Robinson, DL Sylvester Williams, ED Ezekiel Ansah, ED Kerry Hyder, LB Jarrad Davis, LB Devon Kennard, CB Darius Slay, CB Nevin Lawson, S Quin Glover, S Tavon Wilson, DB Teez Tabor
The Detroit Lions' last 100-yard rushing effort came in 2013, but second-rounder Kerryon Johnson, who should be able to wrestle the starting job away from free-agent signing LeGarrette Blount, should help the team on the ground.
The offensive line, which allowed plenty of tackles for a loss last season, also looks to improve with Taylor Decker slated to play 16 games this year and first-round pick Frank Ragnow joining the lineup. Simply not having to start linemen like Greg Robinson and Brian Mihalik should go a long way for Detroit.
In the Lions' front four, it's not guaranteed A'Shawn Robinson and Sylvester Williams are going to be average defensive tackles based on the last two seasons, and the defensive end spot opposite the franchise-tagged Ezekiel Ansah will come down to Anthony Zettel, who had a solid 2017 first half before losing some steam, and Kerry Hyder, who broke out in 2016 season before missing 2017 with an injury.
Green Bay Packers
Offense: QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Jamaal Williams, WR Davante Adams, WR Randall Cobb, WR Geronimo Allison, TE Jimmy Graham, LT David Bakhtiari, LG Lane Taylor, OC Corey Linsley, RG Justin McCray, RT Bryan Bulaga
Defense: DL Mike Daniels, DL Kenny Clark, ED Clay Matthews, ED Nick Perry, LB Blake Martinez, LB Jake Ryan, CB Tramon Wiliams, CB Kevin King, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S Josh Jones, DB Jaire Alexander
There are at least three major questions about the Green Bay Packers starting offense. First, an ongoing competition between Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery for the starting running back job. Last season, Williamscarried the ball in scoring range, so we'll assume that he's the leader at the moment.
Second, Randall Cobb is not an outside wide receiver, but he is the team's second-best pass-catcher by a good margin. Will the team's No. 2 outside receiver (after Davante Adams) be veteran Geronimo Allison, 133rd overall pick J'Mon Moore, No. 174 Marquez Valdes-Scantling, No. 207 Equanimeous St. Brown, DeAngelo Yancey or Trevor Davis? Allison has proven the most in the NFL.
Third, the Packers have a hole at right guard with Jahri Evans hitting free agency. They can always re-sign him, but the question now is whether the team should slide right tackle Bryan Bulaga to guard and bring either Jason Spriggs or Kyle Murphy off the bench. If they choose to keep Bulaga at right tackle, former undrafted free agent Justin McCray, rookie fifth-round pick Cole Madison and second-year sixth-round pick Kofi Amichia rise up as starting options.
Defensive back is really the only position with spots up for grabs in Green Bay's defense. After spending top resources on cornerbacks Tramon Williams, Kevin King, Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson over the last two offseasons, one of them is going to be on the bench in nickel looks. The cornerback room is a game of musical chairs with three seats and four players.
Offense: QB Deshaun Watson, RB Lamar Miller, WR DeAndre Hopkins, WR Will Fuller, WR Keke Coutee, TE Jordan Akins, LT Julie'n Davenport, LG Zach Fulton, OC Nick Martin, RG Jeff Allen (currently on PUP), RT Seantrel Henderson
Defense: DL JJ Watt, DL D.J. Reader, ED Jadeveon Clowney, ED Whitney Mercilus, LB Benardrick McKinney, LB Zach Cunningham, CB Aaron Colvin, CB Kareem Jackson, S Tyrann Mathieu, S Andre Hall, DB Johnathan Joseph
The Houston Texans may have the weakest offensive tackle combination in the league this year, and their secondary ranked among the worst in 2017.
They failed to make up for it in 2017 free agency, and this offseason's focus was on rebuilding their secondary. Unless third-round pick Martinas Rankin can crack the starting lineup at tackle, the team will trot out Julie'n Davenport, who started four games last season as a rookie, and Seantrel Henderson, who started 26 games in 2014 and 2015 for the Buffalo Bills but only one game since. Davenport and Henderson mostly came off the bench last season, so for them to be elevated to starters is cause for concern.
The health of JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus, all pass-rushers who have missed significant time with injury in recent seasons, will make or break this team. In the secondary, the team added former Jacksonville slot cornerback Aaron Colvin and former Arizona hybrid defensive back Tyrann Mathieu to a secondary that drastically regressed in 2017.
With names like Kareem Jackson, Johnathan Joseph and Kevin Johnson behind Colvin on the depth chart, a former top contributor is going to lose a substantial role in this defense.
Offense: QB Andrew Luck, RB Marlon Mack, WR T.Y. Hilton, WR Ryan Grant, WR Chester Rogers, TE Jack Doyle, LT Anthony Castonzo, LG Quenton Nelson, OC Ryan Kelly, RG Braden Smith, RT Jack Mewhort
Defense: DL Denico Autry, DL Al Woods, ED Jabaal Sheard, ED Kemoko Turay, LB Antonio Morrison, LB Darius Leonard, CB Quincy Wilson, CB Kenny Moore, S Malik Hooker, S Clayton Geathers, DB Nate Hairston
The return of Andrew Luck will be the biggest factor for improvement on a 4-12 Indianapolis Colts team. Unfortunately, the quarterback's wide receiver room is lacking upside. Aside from T.Y. Hilton, the team's top candidates are Ryan Grant (985 career receiving yards), Chester Rogers (557), Daurice Fountain (a fifth-round rookie who wasn't invited to the combine) and Deon Cain (a sixth-round rookie).
Unless the team goes out and snags a free agent like Dez Bryant, we can assume the 2018 Colts are going to be one of the most two-tight-end-heavy teams in the league, with both Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron on board. After once again spending high draft capital on their offensive line, the unit is finally fortified with the additions of new guards Quenton Nelson (first-round pick) and Braden Smith (second-round pick).
Denico Autry, a hybrid end-tackle from Oakland, signed a $17.8 million contract this offseason to play on Indianapolis' interior. Given the Colts' pass-rushing depth, it's smart to assume he's going to play a 3-technique role for the Colts, despite his size.
Over the last two seasons alone, Indianapolis has added Jabaal Sheard, John Simon and Chris McCain as free-agent pass-rushers while also drafting Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis and Tarell Basham. Any combination of two players from that group of six could be the team's starters in September.
Offense: QB Blake Bortles, RB Leonard Fournette, WR Marqise Lee, WR Donte Moncrief, WR Dede Westbrook, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, LT Cam Robinson, LG Andrew Norwell, OC Brandon Linder, RG A.J. Cann, RT Jeremy Parnell
Defense: DL Malik Jackson, DL Marcell Dareus, ED Calais Campbell, ED Yannick Ngakoue, LB Telvin Smith, LB Myles Jack, CB Jalen Ramsey, CB A.J. Bouye, S Barry Church, S Tashaun Gipson, DB D.J. Hayden
On offense, Jacksonville's pass-catchers have the most turnover this offseason. The Jaguars not only re-signed Marqise Lee, but gave out contracts to both wide receiver Donte Moncrief and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The team's third receiver slot, a competition between Dede Westbrook and 2018 second-round pick D.J. Chark, will be settled this summer.
The other major addition to the offense is the signing of Andrew Norwell, now the most expensive guard in the sport.
The Jacksonville defense has remained relatively similar to 2017. The Texans paid the Jaguars' slot corner Aaron Colvin like a No. 1 CB, which Jacksonville responded to by signing D.J. Hayden for what amounts to a two-year, $13 million deal with a one-year option.
Kansas City Chiefs
Offense: QB Patrick Mahomes, RB Kareem Hunt, WR Tyreek Hill, WR Sammy Watkins, WR Chris Conley, TE Travis Kelce, LT Eric Fisher, LG Parker Ehinger, OC Mitch Morse, RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, RT Mitchell Schwartz
Defense: DL Chris Jones, DL Allen Bailey, ED Justin Houston, ED Dee Ford, LB Anthony Hitchens, LB Reggie Ragland, CB Kendall Fuller, CB David Amerson, S Eric Berry, S Daniel Sorensen, DB Steven Nelson
The growing pains of backyard-style quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be fun to watch in Kansas City. The AFC has needed an influx of non-Brady, -Roethlisberger and -Manning quarterback talent for nearly two decades and may finally be getting it in passers like Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.
Mahomes, who was elevated to the team's starter after Alex Smith was shipped to Washington for Kendall Fuller, will be able to throw to Tyreek Hill, a recent breakout speedster, and Sammy Watkins, a recently signed former top-five pick.
The biggest questions on the offensive side of the ball are the team's No. 3 receiver role, headlined by Chris Conley, and left guard, headlined by Parker Ehinger. Conley had 11 receptions last season and Ehinger started just one game.
The additions of Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland in the past calendar year have rejuvenated the linebacker unit. The team also spent their two highest draft picks on hybrid end-linebacker Breeland Speaks and defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi, who at this point are more situational or role players on the line of scrimmage than three-down starters.
The Fuller trade—after Marcus Peters trade—and the David Amerson signing are the biggest facelifts the team has seen on the defensive side. Amerson has had an up-and-down career since his days at North Carolina State and Fuller's transition from slotback to full-time cornerback may worry some, but there's definite upside in this duo.
Los Angeles Chargers
Offense: QB Philip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon, WR Keenan Alen, WR Tyrell Williams, WR Mike Williams, TE Hunter Henry, LT Russell Okung, LG Dan Feeney, OC Mike Pouncey, RG Forrest Lamp, RT Joe Barksdale
Defense: DL Corey Liuget, DL Brandon Mebane, ED Joey Bosa, ED Melvin Ingram, LB Denzel Perryman, LB Uchenna Nwosu, CB Casey Hayward, CB Jason Verrett, S Derwin James, S Jahleel Addae, DB Trevor Williams
Four of the Los Angeles Chargers' starting offensive linemen have been added in the last two offseasons. Only Joe Barksdale, the player with the least job security, has been on the team since before 2017, which causes most of the team's offensive uncertainty.
The only other major question is which receiver will be bumped down to the fourth slot on the depth chart. Keenan Allen is clearly the team's top wideout, but Tyrell Williams, 2017 first-rounder Mike Williams and Travis Benjamin could finish second through fourth in any order and no one would bat an eye.
The drafting of Uchenna Nwosu, a 3-4 outside linebacker in college, will help both the pass-rushing and linebacker unit. Under defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who previously was the Seattle Seahawks DC, Nwosu will be playing the hybrid role of Bruce Irvin early in his career.
Los Angeles Rams
Offense: QB Jared Goff, RB Todd Gurley, WR Brandin Cooks, WR Robert Woods, WR Cooper Kupp, TE Gerald Everett, LT Andrew Whitworth, LG Rodger Saffold, OC John Sullivan, RG Jamon Brown, RT Rob Havenstein
Defense: DL Aaron Donald, DL Ndamukong Suh, ED Matt Longacre, ED Samson Ebukam, LB Mark Barron, LB Ramik Wilson, CB Aqib Talib, CB Marcus Peters, S Lamarcus Joyner, S John Johnson and DB Nickell Robey-Coleman
The Los Angeles Rams offense looks the same on paper in 2018. After losing Sammy Watkins, who was in charge of running off coverage for Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Todd Gurley, the team went out and traded for former New Orleans Saint and New England Patriot Brandin Cooks. Cooks should fill the same role testing coverage shells as Watkins played last season.
The Rams defense has drastically changed. They added All-Pro 3-technique Ndamukong Suh to go along with All-Pro 3-technique Aaron Donald. These are the same Dolphins who traded for pass-rusher Robert Quinn, opening up a competition on the edges between Matt Longacre, Samson Ebukam and Ejuan Price (if you don't know those names, don't feel bad; they've combined for 7.5 carer sacks), as well as rookies Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Trevon Young.
Offense: QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Kenyan Drake, WR DeVante Parker, WR Kenny Stills, WR Albert Wilson, TE Mike Gesicki, LT Laremy Tunsil, LG Josh Sitton, OC Daniel Kilgore, RG Ted Larsen, RT Ja'Wuan James
Defense: DL Jordan Phillips, DL Davon Godchaux, ED Cameron Wake, ED Robert Quinn, LB Kiko Alonso, LB Raekwon McMillan, CB Xavien Howard, CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, S Reshad Jones, S T.J. McDonald, DB Cordrea Tankersley
For the most part, the Miami Dolphins' skill players are an easy projection. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Kenyan Drake are unchallenged. Receiver DeVante Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki were high draft picks, and Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson command high salaries at wideout.
The offensive line is clouded in uncertainty. Josh Sitton—whom the Chicago Bears turned down their option on—is the team's most proven O-lineman, and it's hard to claim that anyone else on that line was above-average in 2017. Development will make or break this unit.
Jordan Phillips and Davon Godchaux likely won't make up for Ndamukong Suh's release on the defensive interior, but a healthy Raekwon McMillan and a newly drafted Minkah Fitzpatrick may end up being two of the team's top-five defenders. If this is another off year for Robert Quinn and Kiko Alonso, there is defensive volatility.
Offense: QB Kirk Cousins, RB Dalvin Cook, WR Stefon Diggs, WR Adam Thielen, WR Laquon Treadwell, TE Kyle Rudolph, LT Riley Reiff, LG Nick Easton, OC Pat Elflein, RG Tom Compton, RT Mike Remmers
Defense: DL Linval Joseph, DL Sheldon Richardson, ED Everson Griffen, ED Danielle Hunter, LB Anthony Barr, LB Eric Kendricks, CB Xavier Rhodes, CB Trae Waynes, S Harrison Smith, S Andrew Sendejo, DB Mike Hughes
For months, many wondered which of the three former starting Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks would be re-signed. In the end, Sam Bradford, Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater all left town after the team signed former Washington Redskins passer Kirk Cousins to a fully guaranteed three-year contract.
Outside that major shake-up, though, the team didn't change much offensively. Second-year running back Dalvin Cook should be back from a torn ACL. 2016 first-round receiver Laquon Treadwell still has plenty of distance to make up behind Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. The Vikings' guard situation, with Nick Easton and Tom Compton projected as starters, is still their biggest hole. It's possible second-round pick Brian O'Neill kicks Mike Remmers inside to guard.
On defense, the additions of free-agent 3-technique defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and first-round cornerback Mike Hughes enhance Minnesota's depth. There is no defensive hole, and it'll field at minimum a top-five unit.
New England Patriots
Offense: QB Tom Brady, RB Sony Michel, WR Julian Edelman, WR Chris Hogan, WR Jordan Matthews, TE Rob Gronkowski, LT Isaiah Wynn, LG Joe Thuney, OC David Andrews, RG Shaquille Mason, RT Trent Brown
Defense: DL Malcom Brown, DL Danny Shelton, ED Adrian Clayborn, ED Trey Flowers, LB Dont'a Hightower, LB Kyle Van Noy, CB Stephon Gilmore, CB Jason McCourty, S Devin McCourty, S Patrick Chung, DB Duron Harmon
Bill Belichick's New England Patriots are already churning their roster. After losing running back Dion Lewis to Tennessee, they drafted Georgia back Sony Michel in the first round, presumably to be their top rusher. They traded wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams but brought back Julian Edelman (torn ACL) and added Jordan Matthews.
Michel's college teammate Isaiah Wynn played left tackle for the Bulldogs, but at 6'3", he's short for an NFL bookend. Still, New England's interior offensive line (Joe Thuney, David Andrews and Shaquille Mason) is much sturdier. It's possible Wynn starts at left tackle while the 6'8" Trent Brown, acquired via a trade during the draft, starts on the right side.
The team's biggest defensive additions came on the line. Nose tackle Danny Shelton, on an expiring deal, moved to New England from Cleveland. On paper, Adrian Clayborn is the top pass-rusher after he signed following stints with Tampa Bay and Atlanta. Still, keep an eye on Derek Rivers, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. The second-year man could sneak into the lineup, possibly spelling Clayborn or Trey Flowers in pass-rushing situations.
New Orleans Saints
Offense: QB Drew Brees, RB Alvin Kamara, WR Michael Thomas, WR Ted Ginn, WR Cameron Meredith, TE Benjamin Watson, LT Terron Armstead, LG Andrus Peat, C Max Unger, RG Larry Warford, RT Ryan Ramczyk
Defense: DL Sheldon Rankins, DL David Onyemata, ED Cameron Jordan, ED Marcus Davenport, LB Demario Davis, LB A.J. Klein, CB Marshon Lattimore, CB Patrick Robinson, S Marcus Williams, S Kurt Coleman, DB Ken Crawley
With running Mark Ingram suspended for the first four games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy, Alvin Kamara will play into whatever definition of "starter" there is for the New Orleans Saints. The other skill positions are bigger question marks. Michael Thomas is a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver, and Ted Ginn is a talented enough speedster to check coverage shells.
That said, will Cameron Meredith, who signed a two-year deal this offseason, or third-round pick Tre'Quan Smith be the team's third wideout by Week 17? Benjamin Watson, who has recorded just 522 yards in the two years since he left New Orleans, returns in what looks to be a starting role.
After re-signing Alex Okafor, a pass-rusher who broke out last year before a torn Achilles ended his season in November, the Saints packaged two first-round picks and a fifth-rounder to move up and draft Marcus Davenport. It's safe to say Davenport will start. With any luck, David Onyemata, another defensive lineman who broke out in 2017, will get starting reps at nose tackle next to Sheldon Rankins.
New York Giants
Offense: QB Eli Manning, RB Saquon Barkley, WR Odell Beckham Jr., WR Sterling Shepard, WR Cody Latimer, TE Evan Engram, LT Nate Solder, LG Will Hernandez, OC Brett Jones, RG Patrick Omameh, RT Ereck Flowers
Defense: DL Damon Harrison, DL Dalvin Tomlinson, ED Olivier Vernon, ED Kareem Martin, LB Alec Ogletree, LB B.J. Goodson, CB, Janoris Jenkins, CB Eli Apple, S Landon Collins, S Darian Thompson, DB William Gay
The New York Giants offensive line needs work. While the team made a splash signing with left tackle Nate Solder and used a second-round pick on guard Will Hernandez, that doesn't make up for the fact that the team lost north of $90 million in interior linemen in Weston Richburg (to San Francisco) and Justin Pugh (to Arizona) this offseason. Solder and Hernandez should lock down the line's left side, but Brett Jones, Patrick Omameh and Ereck Flowers, with alternatives John Jerry and Chad Wheeler, leave marked men on the right side.
The biggest defensive key will be where third-round pick Lorenzo Carter plays. A 3-4 outside linebacker at Georgia, Carter could cut into Kareem Martin's playing time on the edge or B.J. Goodson's time as an off-ball linebacker. Some may question front-seven defenders Martin and Goodson's talent, and Carter can push them for a starting role. The "tweener" edge-defender will be a name to monitor.
New York Jets
Offense: QB Josh McCown, RB, Isaiah Crowell, WR Robby Anderson, WR Quincy Enunwa, WR Jermaine Kearse, TE Clive Walford, LT Kelvin Beachum, LG James Carpenter, OC Spencer Long, RG Brian Winters, RT Brandon Shell
Defense: DL Leonard Williams, DL Steve McLendon, ED Jordan Jenkins, ED Josh Martin, LB Darron Lee, LB Avery Williamson, CB Trumaine Johnson, CB Morris Claiborne, S Jamal Adams, S Marcus Maye, DB Buster Skrine
At some point over the next year, Sam Darnold, the New York Jets' No. 3 overall pick, will replace Josh McCown at quarterback, depending on how well the veteran plays.
Elsewhere on the offense, Isaiah Crowell signed to be the team's top running back. Quincy Enunwa, who missed last season with a neck injury, will battle for playing time with Jermaine Kearse and free-agent signing Terrelle Pryor, who will be the team's No. 2, 3 and 4 wideouts behind Robby Anderson. Tight end, which amounts to Clive Walford and rookie Christopher Herndon (coming off a knee injury), is not nearly as deep.
Outside linebacker is a liability, continuing a decadelong trend. Jordan Jenkins and Josh Martin are slated to be the team's top "pass-rushers," despite a lack of talent. This is disappointing, considering New York made moves for a major free agent (cornerback Trumaine Johnson) and invested draft capital (defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd) at other defensive positions. One day, it'll have to value the position.
Defense: DL Mario Edwards, DL Justin Ellis, ED Khalil Mack, ED Bruce Irvin, LB Tahir Whitehead, LB Derrick Johnson, CB Gareon Conley, CB Rashaan Melvin, S Karl Joseph, S Reggie Nelson, DB Shareece Wright
Offensively, the emphasis on line play has not decreased for the Oakland Raiders. The team's four veteran linemen are each commanding a cap hit of at least $8.4 million this year, a number only Derek Carr and Khalil Mack surpass on the team. On top of that, the Raiders drafted Kolton Miller 15th to be the future at left tackle.
New faces at receiver are a big change. The signing of Jordy Nelson and the trades for Martavis Bryant and Ryan Switzer set the table for the Jon Gruden-era pass-catchers. Nelson and Switzer will likely compete for reps in the slot.
A new linebacker unit, consisting of former Lion Tahir Whitehead and former Chief Derrick Johnson, should help a team that has been struggling at the position for most of Reggie McKenzie's run as general manager (since 2012). Cornerback additions Rashaan Melvin and Shareece Wright could help a secondary that ranked 26th in 2017.
Offense: QB Carson Wentz, RB Jay Ajayi, WR Alshon Jeffery, WR Nelson Agholor, WR Mike Wallace, TE Zach Ertz, LT Jason Peters, LG Stefen Wisniewski, C Jason Kelce, RG Brandon Brooks, RT Lane Johnson
Defense: DL Fletcher Cox, DL Timmy Jernigan, ED Brandon Graham, ED Michael Bennett, LB Nigel Bradham, LB Mychal Kendricks, CB Jalen Mills, CB Ronald Darby, S Malcolm Jenkins, S Rodney McLeod, DB Sidney Jones
Other than health, not much will change offensively between the Philadelphia Eagles squad that won the Super Bowl in February and the one that kicks off the season in September. Outside losing No. 2 tight end Trey Burton to the Chicago Bears, the Eagles' biggest difference will be receiver Mike Wallace will take on some of the reps Torrey Smith vacated. Philly traded him to the Carolina Panthers after he posted 430 yards and two touchdowns last year. It is worth noting the Eagles play a lot of two-tight end looks, and second-round pick Dallas Goedert should get in the mix in those formations.
Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan could be out until November after back surgery, but he should be a starter when fully healthy. Defensive end Michael Bennett will replace cap-casualty Vinny Curry. There's a chance Derek Barnett or Chris Long could start at defensive end, kicking Bennett inside, but starting Haloti Ngata at nose tackle in Jernigan's replacement seems like the most likely scenario.
Offense: QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le'Veon Bell, WR Antonio Brown, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR James Washington, TE Jesse James, LT Alejandro Villanueva, LG Ramon Foster, OC Maurkice Pouncey, RG David DeCastro, RT Marcus Gilbert
Defense: DL Cameron Heyward, DL Stephon Tuitt, ED T.J. Watt, ED Bud Dupree, LB Vince Williams, LB Jon Bostic, CB Joe Haden, CB Artie Burns, S Morgan Burnett, S Terrell Edmunds, DB Mike Hilton
Outside the loss of Chris Hubbard (to Cleveland), who filled in for Marcus Gilbert during injury and suspension, and third wide receiver Martavis Bryant, whom they traded to Oakland draft week, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense is the same. James Washington, a rookie second-round pick, Darrius Heyward-Bey, a speedster, and Justin Hunter, a former second-round pick who hasn't found his footing, will compete for the third receiver role behind Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier won't play this season after his spinal injury, which led Pittsburgh to sign Jon Bostic. He should be the only new starter in the box. After Sean Davis was a marked man last season in one-on-one matchups, though, the team did put an emphasis on improving its safety situation. Not only did it sign veteran Morgan Burnett, but it also drafted Terrell Edmunds in the first round. The writing is on the wall: Davis' days are numbered.
San Francisco 49ers
Offense: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, RB Jerick McKinnon, WR Pierre Garcon, WR Marquise Goodwin, WR Dante Pettis, TE George Kittle, LT Joe Staley, LG Laken Tomlinson, OC Weston Richburg, RG Josh Garnett, RT Mike McGlinchey
Defense: DL DeForest Buckner, DL Arik Armstead, ED Solomon Thomas, ED Cassius Marsh, LB Reuben Foster, LB Fred Warner, CB Richard Sherman, CB Ahkello Witherspoon, S Jaquiski Tartt, S Jimmie Ward, DB K'Waun Williams
The San Francisco 49ers look drastically different than they did midseason last year. The additions of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, running back Jerick McKinnon, rookie receiver Dante Pettis, center Weston Richburg and rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey signify big improvements for a team that started clicking at the end of 2017.
Pierre Garcon is a veteran possession receiver, and Marquise Goodwin started to come into his own as a speed threat in 2017. Will Trent Taylor, a second-year Day 3 selection, or Pettis be the third wide receiver for head coach Kyle Shanahan?
San Francisco's defensive line is mostly the same, with three first-round picks and the newly signed Cassius Marsh slated to start. It's linebacker unit is volatile, though. The team's top linebacker, Reuben Foster, has a preliminary hearing this month regarding an offseason domestic violence allegation. The team's second-most talented linebacker may be rookie third-round pick Fred Warner. Between possible suspensions and inexperience, it's hard to promise who will be on the field in Week 1.
Cornerback Richard Sherman, whom the Seattle Seahawks released after he missed time with an Achilles injury, was the biggest defensive addition. Sherman's contract functions like a one-year, $8.2 million deal with two team options, so San Francisco is willing to let him prove it by starting, but it isn't committing to him.
Offense: QB Russell Wilson, RB Rashaad Penny, WR Doug Baldwin, WR Tyler Lockett, WR Jaron Brown, TE Nick Vannett, LT Duane Brown, LG Ethan Pocic, OC Justin Britt, RG D.J. Fluker, RT Germain Ifedi
Defense: DL Jarran Reed, DL Tom Johnson, ED Frank Clark, ED Dion Jordan, LB Bobby Wagner, LB K.J. Wright, CB Shaquill Griffin, CB Justin Coleman, S Earl Thomas, S Kam Chancellor, DB Byron Maxwell
Do the Seattle Seahawks like quarterback Russell Wilson (43 sacks in 2017)? D.J. Fluker, who should play right guard but wouldn't start for most teams, was their most significant O-line addition. They drafted Rashaad Penny in the first round to be the lead back, but the identities of the team's third receiver (Jaron Brown vs. Amara Darboh) and starting tight end (Nick Vannett vs. Ed Dickson) are still unsolved.
Going into last year, the D-line starters were Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Jarran Reed and Sheldon Richardson. This year, only Reed, a nose tackle, returns. Frank Clark, who has seen the field plenty as a third defensive end, will secure a full-time role, while Dion Jordan and Barkevious Mingo will fight for playing time opposite him. The newly signed Tom Johnson will likely start at defensive tackle next to Reed.
The linebacker and safety situations are as sturdy as ever (assuming Chancellor returns healthy), but the Seahawks' cornerback depth chart is suspect, with Shaquill Griffin, Justin Coleman and a 30-year-old Byron Maxwell starting. Griffin is an athletic top-100 pick with potential, but the rest of Seattle's cornerbacks look like special teamers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Offense: QB Jameis Winston, RB Ronald Jones, WR Mike Evans, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Chris Godwin, TE Cameron Brate, LT Donovan Smith, LG Ali Marpet, OC Ryan Jensen, RG J.R. Sweezy, RT Demar Dotson
Defense: DL Gerald McCoy, DL Vita Vea, ED Jason Pierre-Paul, ED Vinny Curry, LB Lavonte David, LB Kwon Alexander, CB Brent Grimes, CB Vernon Hargreaves, S Justin Evans, S Chris Conte, CB M.J. Stewart
Since general manager Jason Licht took over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014, he's spent a high amount of draft capital on offense. This year, he selected running back Ronald Jones to go with first-rounders Jameis Winston (2015) and Mike Evans (2014). The hope is Jones is a 200-plus-carry back as a rookie.
Tampa paid Cameron Brate like a No. 1 tight end (six years, $40.8 million), which will make 2017 first-round pick O.J. Howard's usage something to monitor. There will be a competition between Adam Humphries, the team's established third receiver, and Chris Godwin, a 2017 third-round pick.
Where Alex Cappa, a third-round tackle from Division II's Humboldt State, will play is a question mark, as he could compete for time at tackle or guard.
The team revamped is defensive line. It drafted nose tackle Vita Vea in the first round, traded for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and signed defensive end and Eagles cap casualty Vinny Curry.
The cornerback room is packed, too. Brent Grimes, an established veteran, Vernon Hargreaves, a 2016 first-round pick, M.J. Stewart, a 2018 second-round pick, and Carlton Davis, another 2018 second-round pick, are fighting for three roles in the secondary.
Offense: QB Marcus Mariota, RB Dion Lewis, WR Corey Davis, WR Rishard Matthews, WR Taywan Taylor, TE Delanie Walker, LT Taylor Lewan, LG Quinton Spain, OC Ben Jones, RG Josh Kline, RT Jack Conklin
Defense: DL Jurrell Casey, DL Bennie Logan, ED Brian Orakpo, ED Derrick Morgan, LB Wesley Woodyard, LB Rashaan Evans, CB Adoree' Jackson, CB Malcolm Butler, S Kevin Byard, S Johnathan Cyprien, DB Logan Ryan
The Tennessee Titans' biggest training camp battle is at running back. Dion Lewis, who led the NFL in second-half rushing yards, signed a $19.8 million contract this offseason. He and Derrick Henry, a 2016 second-round pick, make up the league's most interesting backfield situation.
Tennessee only had two top-150 draft picks this year and used both on defense. It moved up in the first round to select Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans, who should start as a rookie. In the second round, the Titans again moved up, this time for Boston College pass-rusher Harold Landry. An ankle injury limited him as a senior, but he could push Derrick Morgan for a starting job and will be a welcome addition, as a lack of pass-rushing depth has limited the team in recent years.
Offense: QB Alex Smith, RB Derrius Guice, WR Josh Doctson, WR Paul Richardson, WR Jamison Crowder, TE Jordan Reed, LT Trent Williams, LG Arie Kouandjio, OC Chase Roullier, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses
Defense: DL Jonathan Allen, DL Da'Ron Payne, ED Ryan Kerrigan, ED Preston Smith, LB Zach Brown, LB Mason Foster, CB Josh Norman, CB Orlando Scandrick, S D.J. Swearinger, S Montae Nicholson, DB Quinton Dunbar
Head coach Jay Gruden has seen significant offensive turnover in recent years. Only four players who saw at least 60 percent of the offensive snaps for the 2016 Washington Redskins are still around. The season might open with quarterback Alex Smith handing off to running back Derrius Guice on their first snaps with the team. Smith, Guice, receiver Paul Richardson, guard Arie Kouandjio and center Chase Roullier have defined roles despite the fact that none have played more than eight games in a season for Washington, so they may take time to jell. Josh Doctson's consistency and tight end Jordan Reed's health present even more questions.
In recent years, Washington has spent high draft picks on its front seven. It features five homegrown defensive linemen and outside linebackers it drafted in the top 50. That's after Trent Murphy, a 2014 second-round pick, signed a three-year, $22.5 million deal with the Buffalo Bills this offseason.
On the flip side, Washington's defensive backfield became a bit more unstable after it traded slotback Kendall Fuller to Kansas City for Smith. Only cornerback Josh Norman has made a name for himself. It's possible stellar athlete and fourth-round pick Troy Apke will earn playing time, but history says to temper expectations on Day 3 selections.