Ranking Every NFL QB's Supporting Cast for 2021
Quarterback is the most important position in the NFL—there's little sense in questioning that. However, quarterbacks cannot be successful on their own. There's a reason why some first overall draft picks flame out at quarterback: They generally go to teams lacking elite talent.
Would Tom Brady be a seven-time champion if he had been drafted by the Cleveland Browns at the top of the 2000 draft? Probably not.
We're still months away from teams getting down to 53 players, but we have a good idea of what each lineup should look like. Now is a perfect time to examine each starting (or projected starting) quarterback's supporting cast—and perhaps determine which ones could use some reinforcements in the coming months.
As we've done in years past, we'll focus solely on skill-position players here. Each group of wide receivers, tight ends and running backs will be ranked according to factors like proven production, scheme fit, individual accolades and upside.
32. Tyrod Taylor/Davis Mills, Houston Texans
2020 Ranking (Deshaun Watson): 23
It seems a near-certainty that Deshaun Watson won't be under center for the Houston Texans this season. He is facing multiple allegations of sexual assault and misconduct and has also demanded a trade out of Houston. Watson's civil cases have not affected his stance on a trade, according to NFL Media's Tom Pelissero.
Houston will most likely rely on either journeyman Tyrod Taylor or rookie Davis Mills this season. Whichever quarterback emerges will have to rely on one underwhelming skill-player group.
Brandin Cooks has been a low-end No. 1 receiver in the past, but the depth behind him is questionable at best. Will Fuller V is gone, and Randall Cobb ranked third among Texans receivers last year with just 441 receiving yards. While Andre Roberts was a Pro Bowl returner last season, he had just four catches for the Buffalo Bills. Rookie third-round pick Nico Collins has some upside but is completely unproven.
The Texans should have a solid backfield quartet in David Johnson, Mark Ingram II, Phillip Lindsay and Rex Burkhead, but there isn't a high-level starter in the group. Houston also lacks a top-tier tight end, though Jordan Akins is serviceable and rookie Brevin Jordan has potential as a pass-catcher.
Perhaps new head coach David Culley will be able to work some magic with this group—he made the most of an underwhelming Baltimore Ravens receiving corps last year. He'll have to if Taylor and/or Mills are to have any success. This supporting cast is not good.
31. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
2020 Ranking (Matthew Stafford): 17
If Jared Goff is going to reestablish himself as a Pro Bowl quarterback in 2021, he's going to have to do a lot of the work on his own. The Detroit Lions have a promising young tight end in T.J. Hockenson and a versatile backfield duo in D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. However, there isn't much to get excited about at the wide receiver position.
The Lions lost Kenny Golladay in free agency, and the impact will be significant. Golladay is a No. 1-caliber wideout, and Detroit no longer has a No. 1—or arguably even a No. 2—on its roster.
What the Lions have in Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams, Geronimo Allison and rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown is a collection of complementary receivers that may be solid with a different quarterback—probably not with this one. Goff was more of a game manager with the Los Angeles Chargers than a top-tier passer capable of elevating his surrounding talent.
This, presumably, is why Los Angeles traded for Matthew Stafford in the first place.
For new head coach Dan Campbell to find success with Goff, this offense will likely have to rely heavily on the ground game and mismatches created by Hockenson. If defenses can take those away, Goff is going to struggle. There isn't anything close to a go-to target in the receiving corps.
30. Zach Wilson, New York Jets
2020 Ranking (Sam Darnold): 30
The New York Jets are handing the reigns of their offense to rookie quarterback Zach Wilson this year. The good news is that Wilson's supporting cast should be better than the one New York had in 2020—an offense that ranked dead last in both yards and points.
The Jets signed free-agent receiver Corey Davis and drafted high-upside players in receiver Elijah Moore and running back Michael Carter. Moore could become an early favorite target of Wilson's.
"Moore is a good-route runner on all three levels and gets targets in the natural flow of a progression, and he will be able to contribute on Day 1 working from the slot in high-leverage situations like on third down," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.
The bad news is this was still the league's worst offense a year ago, and it will be banking heavily on rookies in 2021.
There is no proven depth behind Davis and Jamison Crowder at receiver—second-round pick Denzel Mims only contributed 357 receiving yards as a rookie last season—nor is there a veteran workhorse running back on the roster. And the Jets lack a quality receiving tight end; Chris Herndon led the position with 287 yards in 2020.
If Wilson can immediately elevate the talent around him and Moore and Carter shine early, the Jets could have a solid offense. The floor is extremely low, though, and Wilson will have his work cut out for him.
29. Mac Jones/Cam Newton, New England Patriots
2020 Ranking (Jarrett Stidham/Brian Hoyer): 29
The New England Patriots had one of the league's worst skill-position groups in 2020, and despite a massive free-agent spending spree, it isn't dramatically better this year.
Yes, new players like Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor will bolster the receiving corps. However, there still isn't a legitimate No. 1 target on the roster for Cam Newton and/or rookie Mac Jones to utilize.
While the Patriots have a versatile backfield—headlined by Sony Michel, James White and Damien Harris—there isn't a truly elite ball-carrier in the group. Harris led the committee with 691 rushing yards last season, while Newton was second on the team with 592.
It's important to remember that while New England did rank fourth in rushing yards last year, Newton accounted for 25 percent of them.
This should again be a run-oriented offense, and tight ends Smith and Henry are expected to be heavily involved in the passing game. However, the Patriots still lack playmakers and will likely struggle to support their quarterbacks in 2021.
28. Andy Dalton/Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
2020 Ranking (Mitchell Trubisky): 22
For a team with a premier receiver in Allen Robinson II, one would think the Chicago Bears' overall supporting cast would be much stronger. The problem is there is almost no proven depth after Robinson at the receiver position, which may hamper Andy Dalton and/or rookie Justin Fields—whoever emerges as the starting quarterback.
Darnell Mooney (631 receiving yards, four touchdowns) flashed some promise as a rookie in 2020, but no other pass-catcher on the roster reached the 500-yard receiving mark. Anthony Miller may be on his way out of Chicago—he was the subject of trade talks this offseason—and the Bears did little to improve the receiving group. Damiere Byrd may replace Miller in the lineup, but he isn't likely to dramatically improve the group as a whole.
Tight end Jimmy Graham isn't the playmaker he once was, and while Cole Kmet looks like he could develop into a starter, he's still very much unproven. Kmet caught 28 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns in 2020.
The backfield also has question marks. David Montgomery was a solid starter last year—he had 1,508 scrimmage yards—but Tarik Cohen is returning from a torn ACL. Free-agent addition Damien Williams opted out of the 2020 season. As a team, the Bears ranked just 25th in rushing and 21st in yards per carry last season.
27. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
2020 Ranking (Ryan Fitzpatrick): 28
With Ryan Fitzpatrick gone, second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa should take over the offense on a full-time basis. The Miami Dolphins took steps this offseason to upgrade the supporting cast around him.
The additions of Will Fuller V and rookie Jaylen Waddle have the potential to give Miami one of the more explosive receiving corps in the NFL. Fuller is a proven NFL deep threat, while Waddle averaged an impressive 21.1 yards per reception at Alabama last season.
With DeVante Parker and Preston Williams also on the roster—along with quality receiving tight end Mike Gesicki—Tagovailoa should have a good-to-great receiving corps at his disposal. The problem is he'll be supported by a rushing attack that appears serviceable at best.
Miami brought in Malcolm Brown in free agency, and the longtime Los Angeles Rams backup will be an asset. However, the backfield as a whole—including Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed and rookie Gerrid Doaks—is underwhelming. As a team, the Dolphins ranked 29th in yards per carry last season, and they don't figure to be much better in 2021.
And if Tagovailoa cannot do a better job of pushing the ball down the field—he averaged just 6.3 yards per attempt last season—the explosive element of this offense could largely be wasted.
26. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
2020 Ranking (Carson Wentz): 15
Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles were ranked highly because running back Miles Sanders looked like a budding star and the tight end tandem of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert appeared to be elite. However, Ertz (335 receiving yards) fell out of the game plan while battling injury, and Sanders did not take the second step toward stardom.
The biggest issue, however, was that Philadelphia's receiving corps was awful. First-round pick Jalen Reagor was a massive disappointment, and there wasn't a go-to receiver to be found. Carson Wentz had a career-worst campaign and was ultimately replaced by Jalen Hurts.
The addition of rookie DeVonta Smith has the potential to significantly upgrade the receiving corps, but it is still one of the worst units in the league based on its floor. It was recently ranked No. 30 by Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo.
"While Eagles pass-catchers are coming off a couple of rough seasons, Smith provides hope and there are pieces in place to turn things around," Palazzolo wrote.
The running back tandem of Sanders and Boston Scott is solid—Philadelphia also added Kerryon Johnson in the offseason—and the Eagles do have a high-end tight end in Goedert. Ertz is a three-time Pro Bowler and could be a big contributor as well if he returns to form and isn't traded—NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported in March that Ertz was eager for a fresh start.
Any success the wide receivers might experience is so heavily dependent on potential, however, that it's difficult to view this as a good overall cast.
25. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
2020 Ranking (Gardner Minshew II): 31
Oftentimes, when a quarterback is picked No. 1 overall, he lands with a team completely devoid of talent. As was the case with Joe Burrow last year, however, this isn't the case for new Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Now, the Jaguars offense certainly isn't loaded—they went 1-15 in 2020 for a reason—but there are some nice pieces in place. DJ Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. are both budding young receivers, and the Jags added veterans Phillip Dorsett and Marvin Jones Jr. in the offseason.
Jacksonville also has a 1,000-yard rusher in 2020 undrafted rookie James Robinson. The Illinois State product scored 10 touchdowns last season while averaging just over 100 scrimmage yards per game.
Pairing Robinson with first-round draft pick Travis Etienne should give Lawrence a great backfield on which to lean as a rookie.
The one big weakness here is at tight end, where the Jaguars have nothing close to a proven playmaker. This is why Jacksonville is trying out former quarterback Tim Tebow at the position—a move that probably isn't going to produce a Pro Bowl pass-catcher.
24. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington Football Team
2020 Ranking (Dwayne Haskins): 32
The Washington Football Team is betting heavily on journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick this season. Washington won the NFC East a year ago and should have its sights set on the postseason again. Fitzpatrick is not a long-term answer, but he could be good enough to win in 2021 with this supporting cast.
This was not a particularly efficient group last year, as the Football Team ranked 30th in yards and 25th in points scored. However, it played off of Washington's second-ranked defense and should be much better this season.
Washington has a true No. 1 receiver in Terry McLaurin. While the team lacked receiver depth before—Cam Sims was second among Washington receivers with 477 yards last year—it shouldn't now. The Football Team added budding slot specialist Curtis Samuel and drafted speedster Dyami Brown. Wideout Kelvin Harmon will also be back after tearing his ACL last summer.
The Football Team has a good, if not great, tight end in Logan Thomas and a versatile backfield headlined by Antonio Gibson. Gibson emerged as the workhorse runner in 2020, while J.D. McKissic remains one of the more underrated receiving backs (80 receptions last season) in football.
Washington's new-look offense will have to prove itself to rise up the rankings, but on paper, this is a vastly improved group.
23, Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
2020 Ranking: 18
2021 could represent the last ride for Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Fortunately, he'll have a promising, if not elite, supporting cast.
The Steelers receiving corps is quite good. While there may not be a true No. 1 target on the roster, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington and second-year wideout Chase Claypool form a fine group that can attack all areas of the field. Smith-Schuster, Claypool and Johnson each topped 800 receiving yards in 2020.
The Steelers should also have a solid duo of tight ends in Eric Ebron and rookie Pat Freiermuth. Ebron was credited with seven drops last season but also had 558 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Freiermuth had 310 yards and a touchdown in four games for Penn State in 2020 after a sophomore season that produced 43 catches for 507 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games the year before.
This cast has the potential to make a significant jump if first-round rookie running back Najee Harris meets expectations. A dangerous dual threat at Alabama, Harris should significantly improve a rushing attack that ranked dead last in both yards and yards per attempt last season.
A lot is going to hinge on Harris' success, though. Pittsburgh simply couldn't rely on the run in 2020 and, despite having a strong receiver group, finished 24th in total offense as a result.
22. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
2020 Ranking: 19
Second-year quarterback Joe Burrow could conceivably have one of the league's top receiver groups in 2021—especially if rookie wideout Ja'Marr Chase is as good as advertised.
"Chase projects to be a Day 1 contributor for any offense with the upside of being a bona fide top-tier X-WR who is a touchdown machine once the offense gets inside the 20-yard line," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.
Tee Higgins had a strong rookie campaign last year, finishing with 908 yards and six touchdowns, while Tyler Boyd is a quality No. 2 option.
The issue is that the receiver group is the only high-end portion of the Cincinnati Bengals supporting cast. Joe Mixon can be a workhorse back when healthy, but he missed 10 games and averaged just 3.6 yards per carry last season. Longtime backup Giovani Bernard departed this offseason.
Cincinnati also lacks a premier pass-catching tight end. 2019 second-round pick Drew Sample showed some promise last year but still only finished with 349 receiving yards. C.J. Uzomah was the starter in both 2018 and 2019 but is coming off a torn Achilles and has never produced more than 439 yards in a season.
If Burrow is back to 100 percent following last year's ACL tear, this can be an explosive offense, but it will largely hinge on Chase's emergence and Burrow's health.
21. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
2020 Ranking: 14
Last season, the Las Vegas Raiders had a top-10 offense in both yards and points scored. However, as an overall supporting cast, this is not one of the top units in the NFL.
To be fair, the Raiders should have one of the better backfields in the NFL this season, with Pro Bowler Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake and Jalen Richard joining forces. Quarterback Derek Carr also has an elite tight end in Darren Waller as his No. 1 target.
However, Las Vegas' collection of wide receivers leaves a lot to be desired.
There is nothing resembling a No. 1 wideout on the roster, and 2020 top option Nelson Agholor left for New England in free agency. Hunter Renfrow is a terrific slot receiver, and Henry Ruggs III is a blazing fast but inconsistent deep threat. The Raiders also added John Brown and Willie Snead IV this offseason. Still, this is a collection of complementary pass-catchers with Renfrow the only wideout to top 500 yards last season.
This can be a very good offense, but Carr will be limited in what he can do as a passer. Until Ruggs becomes a more consistent perimeter threat, Carr may too often be left looking for Waller or checking down to Renfrow and the running backs underneath.
20. Daniel Jones, New York Giants
2020 Ranking: 12
Daniel Jones fell flat in his second season as the New York Giants starting quarterback. After throwing 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions as a rookie, he threw just 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season with a disappointing passer rating of 80.4.
Losing star running back Saquon Barkley for the season certainly didn't help matters, and the Giants ended up finishing 31st in both offensive yardage and points scored.
Jones will have a better supporting group in 2021. While there's no telling how Barkley's surgically repaired knee will respond, he'll at least be back on the field. New York finally got Jones a No. 1-caliber receiver in Kenny Golladay, too, while adding additional pass-catchers in John Ross, Kyle Rudolph and rookie Kadarius Toney. Rudolph should pair with Pro Bowler Evan Engram to give Jones a reliable and versatile tight end tandem.
At running back, the Giants brought in Devontae Booker as an insurance policy.
Wide receivers Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard are back for another go, and if Jones struggles again, he'll have zero viable excuses. It will be completely up to Jones to take advantage of the pieces around him.
This is a solid skill-position group and one that would rank in the top half if there were any guarantee Barkley would be in pre-injury form.
19. Teddy Bridgewater/Drew Lock, Denver Broncos
2020 Ranking: 10
The Denver Broncos are set to stage a quarterback competition between Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock in training camp. There's little reason for the winner of the position battle not to find success with this supporting cast—though to be fair, there weren't many reasons last year, and Denver still struggled.
Assuming Courtland Sutton is healthy after last year's torn ACL, Denver should have one of the better wide receiver rooms in the NFL. Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler are both young, high-upside pass-catchers, and Tim Patrick emerged as a quality deep threat in 2020.
Denver also has a rising star in tight end Noah Fant. While he isn't yet a consistent game-changer—he had five games with fewer than 40 receiving yards last season—he possesses a ton of big-play potential. Fant finished his second season with 62 catches, 673 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Additionally, the Broncos should have one dangerous backfield. Melvin Gordon III is a versatile starting-caliber back, and Denver added Mike Boone and rookie Javonte Williams this offseason while also parting with Phillip Lindsay.
Still, there's no denying this was a group that underachieved last season. Denver ranked just 23rd in yardage and 28th in points scored.
18. Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers
2020 Ranking (Teddy Bridgewater): 13
Quarterback Sam Darnold should have a much easier time with the Carolina Panthers than he had with the Jets. His supporting cast is far and away better than anything he had in New York. It will be quite potent if star running back Christian McCaffrey gets back to 100 percent following last year's injury-plagued campaign.
McCaffrey topped 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving two years ago, and he's happy to be back on the practice field.
"Just putting the helmet on again and being with my teammates, doing what I love to do, it's something I'll never take for granted again," McCaffrey said, per Darin Gantt of the team's official website. "I'm super happy to be back."
Carolina has a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in DJ Moore and Robby Anderson. It also added Terrace Marshall Jr. in the second round of the draft.
The only real questions regarding this cast involve running back depth and tight end. Last year's leading rusher, Mike Davis, is gone. Rodney Smith was third among running backs with just 156 rushing yards. Ian Thomas led Panthers tight ends with a mere 145 receiving yards.
17. Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts
2020 Ranking (Philip Rivers): 27
The Indianapolis Colts are looking to rehabilitate Carson Wentz as a starting NFL quarterback this season. Wentz's job in 2021 will largely be to manage the game.
The Colts utilize a run-based offense, and they have arguably the best backfield in the NFL with which to execute it. Jonathan Taylor was superb as a rookie, racking up 1,169 rushing yards, 299 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in 15 games. Nyheim Hines (63 receptions last season) is an incredible receiving back, and Marlon Mack is back after missing most of 2020 with a torn Achilles.
In 2019, Mack was a 1,000-yard rusher. Jordan Wilkins, who chipped in with 308 rushing yards last season, will be back as well.
Indianapolis also has a solid receiving trio in Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal and T.Y. Hilton. Hilton isn't the same explosive receiver he was early in his career, and Pittman is still an ascending talent, but the group is serviceable and better than what Wentz had in Philadelphia last season.
What the Colts don't have is a reliable pass-catching tight end, as Mo Alie-Cox led the position group with just 394 receiving yards in 2020. That's perhaps the only noteworthy concern heading into camp. While very running-back-centric, this is a great overall group for what the Colts are looking to do offensively and it ranked 10th in total yardage a year ago.
16. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
2020 Ranking: 9
The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to trade star wideout Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport. With the future Hall of Famer off the roster, Matt Ryan's supporting cast takes a significant hit.
Had Jones stayed, Atlanta might have had the most dangerous receiving corps in the NFL next season. Jones missed seven games last year and still had 771 receiving yards. Even without Jones, though, Atlanta's receiving corps should be very strong.
Fellow wideout Calvin Ridley broke out with 1,374 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Russell Gage (786 yards, four scores) will slide in as the new No. 2 receiver. The Falcons also have a fine receiving tight end in Hayden Hurst and added a premier receiving weapon in Kyle Pitts with the fourth overall pick in the draft.
"He has the incredible combination of elite athleticism, size, skills and work ethic that will allow him to be one of the best TEs and receiving threats in the NFL for years to come," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote of Pitts.
The problem is that without Jones, the Falcons passing attack may be great but not unstoppable. That's an issue because of the lackluster ground game. Atlanta ranked 31st in yards per carry last season, and former Panthers backup Mike Davis is the closest thing to a proven starter on the roster.
15. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
2020 Ranking: 7
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray should have one of the league's better receiving corps at his disposal in 2021—especially if Larry Fitzgerald decides to return for an 18th NFL season.
DeAndre Hopkins remains one of the league's best deep threats on account of his sure hands and jump-ball ability. Christian Kirk had 621 receiving yards in 2020, and Andy Isabella remains a dangerous, if inconsistent, deep threat. Arizona also added seven-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green this offseason—though he is coming off a disappointing 523-yard season.
On a negative note, the Cardinals don't boast a quality receiving tight end. Dan Arnold left in free agency after catching 45 passes for 438 yards and four scores, which leaves Maxx Williams to lead the position group after totaling just 102 receiving yards in 2020. Arizona also has some questions at running back with James Conner coming in to replace Kenyan Drake.
Chase Edmonds, who had 850 scrimmage yards and five touchdowns last season, is a terrific back but not a proven starter. Conner had one Pro Bowl season for the Steelers but has failed to reach 1,000 scrimmage yards in each of the past two.
Murray, who had 819 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns last season, will help supplement the backfield. However, it wouldn't be fair to count Murray as part of his own supporting cast.
14. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
2020 Ranking: 25
It might feel like Russell Wilson's supporting cast should be ranked higher than this, but that's largely because the future Hall of Famer makes the most of the talent around him. Even with Wilson playing at a high level in 2020, Seattle ranked just 17th in total offense.
The Seahawks have two tremendous receivers in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. However, their receiver group is a top-heavy one that lacks proven depth. The addition of rookie home-run-hitter D'Wayne Eskridge may change that, but the Western Michigan product is completely unproven.
While running back Chris Carson is a fine starter when healthy, he missed four games last season and has little behind him. 2018 first-round pick Rashaad Penny (981 career scrimmage yards) is shaping up to be a bust, and DeeJay Dallas is the only back other than Carson on the roster to have more than 100 rushing yards last season.
Seattle ranked 12th in rushing yards, but Wilson provided 513 yards himself.
The Seahawks also lack a high-level tight end, as Will Dissly led the position group with just 251 receiving yards in 2020. Gerald Everett came over from the rival Rams but has never had more than 417 yards in a season.
Wilson is likely to make this a dangerous offense once again in 2021, but let's be honest. This would be an average-at-best offense with a lesser quarterback at the helm.
13. Jimmy Garoppolo/Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
2020 Ranking: 11
Like a lot of teams, the San Francisco 49ers are likely to have a bit of a quarterback competition this offseason. While Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to retain the starting job for another year, third overall pick Trey Lance should be given every opportunity to challenge him.
And with Garoppolo's injury history a factor—he missed 23 games over the last three seasons—we may see both on the field in 2021.
Fortunately, San Francisco has the skill-position pieces in place to have a top-10 offense around its quarterback. The 49ers have an elite tight end in George Kittle, promising young receivers in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and a committee backfield led by the always-dangerous Raheem Mostert.
A few factors keep San Francisco from cracking the top 10, though. Health will be key, as both Samuel and Kittle missed time due to injuries last season. Receiver depth is also a question mark, as Aiyuk is the only returning receiver who had at least 500 receiving yards last season.
That backfield committee is also largely unproven under coach Kyle Shanahan. Jeff Wilson Jr. is expected to miss significant time after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Wayne Gallman II, Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell are all new additions to the group.
This is a high-upside cast, though, and one that should yield success if it can remain healthy.
12. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
2020 Ranking: 24
The Tennessee Titans get a boost in their ranking because of the addition of Julio Jones. They have a Pro Bowl No. 2 receiver to pair with Jones in A.J. Brown and a solid receiving tight end in Anthony Firkser (387 receiving yards last season). They also added receiver Josh Reynolds in free agency after he produced 618 yards and two scores for the Rams in 2020.
The Tennessee offense is all about running back Derrick Henry, however. The two-time rushing champion was virtually unstoppable in 2020, finishing with 2,027 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. He is the centerpiece of this group, even with Jones on the roster.
With Jones in the fold, though, Ryan Tannehill will have two tremendous vertical threats with which to reign terror down the field. Opposing defenses will be forced to choose between loading the box and keeping Tennessee's top two wideouts in front of them.
The only real concern here is the depth behind Henry. Jeremy McNichols was second among Titans running backs with just 204 rushing yards and a touchdown last season.
The good news is that Henry has proved to be extremely durable. He has only failed to appear in two regular-season games during his five-year pro career. Still, when a player leads the league in carries in back-to-back seasons, longevity concerns are warranted.
11. Jameis Winston/Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints
2020 Ranking (Drew Brees): 3
Drew Brees rode off into the sunset this offseason, which leaves the New Orleans Saints looking at some combination of Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston at quarterback. Fortunately, the new quarterback duo will have a couple of elite weapons at its disposal.
Though he was hampered by injury in 2020, Michael Thomas remains one of the best receivers in the game. He led the league in receiving two years ago and has 5,950 receiving yards in five pro seasons—despite missing nine games with a lingering ankle injury last year.
Thomas will have to prove he's back to form, of course, but he should be a fantastic top option for whichever quarterback wins the camp competition.
Meanwhile, Alvin Kamara is arguably the best running back in football—not as a pure runner but as a versatile all-around weapon. Kamara has yet to miss the Pro Bowl and finished 2020 with 932 rushing yards, 756 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns. New Orleans also has a hard-running backup in Latavius Murray, who finished with 656 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns last season.
The problem with this cast is it lacks receiver depth—Tre'Quan Smith is the projected No. 2 and had just 448 receiving yards last season—and a proven pass-catching tight end. Adam Trautman is the top returning tight end, and he had just 171 receiving yards last season.
10. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
2020 Ranking (Tyrod Taylor): 6
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert was spectacular as a rookie in 2020, setting a new rookie record with 31 touchdown passes and winning Offensive Rookie of the Year along the way. Of course, while Herbert was great, he didn't do it alone.
Los Angeles has a deep and talented receiving corps headlined by Pro Bowler Keenan Allen, Mike Williams Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson. L.A. added Josh Palmer to the group in the draft, along with tight end Tre' McKitty. Tight end Jared Cook was signed to replace Hunter Henry, who left for the Patriots.
Even with Henry's departure, Herbert should have an above-average receiving corps at worst.
If running back Austin Ekeler can stay healthy—he missed six games last season—this should be one of the better offenses in the NFL. Two years ago, Ekeler produced more than 1,500 scrimmage yards and scored 11 touchdowns. The Chargers do have depth behind Ekeler, as Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley combined for 624 rushing yards a year ago.
Ekeler's durability and Henry's departure are the only real questions for an offense that ranked ninth in yardage last season.
9. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
2020 Ranking: 20
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson already has one regular-season MVP on his resume. What he hasn't had as an NFL quarterback is a legitimate No. 1 receiver. This has previously held Baltimore down in the supporting-cast rankings, even though the Ravens have had the pieces to execute their run-oriented offense.
Mark Ingram II departed in free agency, but Baltimore still has a terrific running back tandem in J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. The Ravens also have a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end in Mark Andrews, who amassed 701 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season.
The Ravens have some fine complementary receivers, too. Marquise Brown isn't a consistent perimeter target, but he possesses game-breaking speed and led the team with 769 receiving yards last season. Miles Boykin showed flashes last year, ranking fourth on the team with 266 receiving yards and four scores.
Baltimore added Sammy Watkins this offseason, and the 2014 first-round pick should make an immediate impact as one of Jackson's perimeter options. However, the big move of the offseason was the first-round selection of Rashod Bateman. The Minnesota product has the potential to be the No. 1 target that Jackson has lacked. If that happens, this supporting cast will be better than just a top-10 unit—it will be elite.
8. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
2020 Ranking (Jared Goff): 21
Though no one from the Rams came out and said it, it seems that the team moved on from Jared Goff because he wasn't getting the most out of the talent around him. Now, Matthew Stafford will get a chance to do what Goff could not, and there's a lot of talent to utilize here.
The backfield duo of Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson proved to be more than capable of replacing Todd Gurley, which was one of the biggest concerns last offseason. The Rams ranked 10th in rushing yards, and while backup Malcolm Brown is gone, the rushing attack should be just as effective in 2021.
The Rams also have a solid receiving tight end in Tyler Higbee, who had 521 receiving yards while splitting time with the now-departed Gerald Everett at the position.
Los Angeles' receiving corps, headlined by Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, is fantastic. The additions of the speedy DeSean Jackson and rookie Tutu Atwell can't be discounted, either.
"The Rams have one of the deepest receiving units in the league, and they have even more big-play ability with the additions of Jackson and Atwell," Palazzolo wrote.
PFF ranked the Rams receiving corps eighth in the NFL for the coming season.
This is a wonderful skill-position group that not only survived the loss of Gurley in 2020 but thrived. With Stafford under center and the league's top-ranked defense on the other side, L.A. should be a Super Bowl contender this season.
7. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
2020 Ranking: 16
The Minnesota Vikings used a third-round pick in this year's draft on Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond. This is still Kirk Cousins' team for the time being, but Cousins may have to deliver more than just above-average statistics to remain the starter for the long term.
Cousins will have no excuses for not being great in 2021. While Minnesota lacks a high-end third receiver, it relies heavily on tight ends as the third receiving target. Irv Smith Jr., Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Conklin each played at least 41 percent of the offensive snaps last season. While Rudolph departed in free agency, Smith and Conklin remain.
The Vikings' top two receivers are both Pro Bowl-caliber. Justin Jefferson racked up an astounding 1,400 receiving yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie in 2020, while Adam Thielen had 925 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.
Then, there's running back Davin Cook, who has proved to be one of the game's best when healthy. He does carry some injury concerns, but he still produced more than 1,900 scrimmage yards with 17 touchdowns in 14 games last season.
Alexander Mattison, who averaged 4.5 yards per carry last season, is a more-than-serviceable insurance policy at running back.
6. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
2020 Ranking: 8
The Buffalo Bills made it to last year's AFC title game thanks in no small part to a breakout year from quarterback Josh Allen. The Wyoming product had a career year, passing for 4,544 yards with 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 421 yards and eight scores.
With a strong supporting cast, Allen could be even better this season.
Buffalo's receiving corps was already fantastic before adding Emmanuel Sanders in free agency. Stefon Diggs led the NFL in both receiving yards (1,535) and receptions (127) last season. Cole Beasley had 967 receiving yards, while then-rookie Gabriel Davis contributed 599 receiving yards. Sanders replaces John Brown, who was fourth on the team with 458 receiving yards.
The only two real knocks against Allen's supporting cast are that Dawson Knox is a good, not great, receiving tight end, and the backfield has been inconsistent. Knox had just 288 receiving yards in 2020, while Zack Moss and Devin Singletary combined for just 1,168 rushing yards. Buffalo ranked 20th in rushing with 24 percent of its yards coming from Allen.
The Bills did add Matt Breida in the offseason, and he should help the offense be more balanced this season. Either way, this is a top-10 supporting cast, and the Bills should easily have a top-10 offense after ranking second in both points and yards last year.
5. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
2020 Ranking: 2
Last year, the Cleveland Browns only finished 16th in offensive yards and 14th in scoring. However, this was partially due to a slow start after installing Kevin Stefanski's offense and in part by design. With a run-oriented attack—which ranked third in yards and fifth in yards per carry—Cleveland took a grinding approach to offense.
From a personnel standpoint, there really aren't any weaknesses in Baker Mayfield's supporting cast. Odell Beckham Jr. hasn't been the dynamic No. 1 receiver he was with the Giants—and he's coming off a torn ACL—but Mayfield has a reliable top option in Jarvis Landry and some fine complementary pieces in Donovan Peoples-Jones, Rashard Higgins and rookie third-round pick Anthony Schwartz.
"Now that he is drafted, Schwartz is already one of the fastest players in the NFL," The Athletic's Dane Brugler wrote.
Cleveland has a strong tight end trio in Austin Hooper, Harrison Bryant and David Njoku. It also has arguably the league's best backfield duo in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Each back topped 1,100 scrimmage yards in 2020, even with Chubb missing four games.
Mayfield helped deliver the Browns' first playoff victory as an expansion franchise last year. With this supporting cast, he may take them even further in 2021.
4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
2020 Ranking: 26
Ideally, Aaron Rodgers will decide to return to Green Bay and play for the Packers this season. If not, the Packers will be looking at either Blake Bortles or Jordan Love under center in 2021. Regardless of who the quarterback is, however, he will have one of the best overall skill-position groups in the NFL.
While Green Bay doesn't have a clear-cut No. 2 receiver, it has arguably the best receiver in football as a No. 1.
"Davante Adams has been one of the league's best for a while, but last year he posted the top receiving grade at 92.2 and was unrecoverable all over the field," Palazzolo wrote.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard each topped 450 receiving yards last season, and the Packers added potential slot standout Amari Rodgers in the third round of this year's draft. Green Bay also has a budding star at tight end in Robert Tonyan, who had 586 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
Aaron Jones, who had 1,459 scrimmage yards and 11 touchdowns last year, might be the most underrated starting back in football. While key backup Jamaal Williams departed in the offseason, 2020 second-round pick AJ Dillon should slot in nicely as his replacement.
The Packers offense ranked fifth in yards and first in points last season. While Rodgers obviously was a major reason for its success, this supporting cast deserves a ton of credit, too.
3. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
2020 Ranking: 5
There's a reason why Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was leading the league in passing (1,856 yards) when he was injured five games into the 2020 season. His supporting cast is simply superb and should be just as potent in 2021.
Even with Prescott sidelined for most of the season—and with three different players starting in his place—Dallas still ranked 14th in yards and 17th in points.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott isn't the same dominant rusher that he was early in his career, but he topped 1,300 scrimmage yards in 2020. He and Tony Pollard are one of the league's better running back tandems and led an attack that ranked 17th in rushing yards last season.
The wide receiver corps is phenomenal, with Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michal Gallup all having 1,000-yard potential with Prescott under center. Gallup was the least productive of the trio last year and still had 843 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Dalton Schultz, meanwhile, has emerged as one of the league's most underrated tight ends. He had 615 receiving yards and four scores last year.
There isn't a weakness in this supporting cast, and an argument could be made that Dallas belongs with the next two teams on this list in a 1A-1B-1C scenario.
2. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
2020 Ranking: 1
The Kansas City Chiefs didn't lose the Super Bowl because of their skill players. They also didn't lose much this offseason, with Sammy Watkins the only notable departure from last year's team. Damien Williams, who shined in Super Bowl LIV, is also gone after opting out of last season.
No team produced more offensive yardage in 2020 than Kansas City, and it wasn't all because of Patrick Mahomes.
Kansas City still has arguably the league's best deep threat in Tyreek Hill and its most dangerous tight end in Travis Kelce. Mecole Hardman has emerged as a viable weapon, while Demarcus Robinson remains one of the more underrated role players in football.
The only real question here is in the backfield. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was relatively average as a runner last season—he totaled just 803 rushing yards—and the depth duo of Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams isn't particularly impressive. As a team, Kansas City ranked 12th in yards per carry.
Mahomes will again have one of the best offensive position groups at his disposal in 2021. The Chiefs used a fifth-round pick on Cornell Powell to help reload the receiving corps following Watkins' departure, and the trio of Hill, Kelce and Hardman is virtually uncoverable when Mahomes has time in the pocket.
Would a little more consistency on the ground help Kansas City? Sure, but barring injury, there's no reason to think the Chiefs won't have one of the top two or three offenses in the NFL this season.
1. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2020 Ranking: 4
We may have underestimated just how well the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense would come together in 2020. Key players like Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Leonard Fournette were new additions, while both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin were coming off seasons hampered by late injuries.
Naturally, Tampa went on to boast the league's third-ranked scoring offense and win the Super Bowl. What's scary is that all 11 offensive starters are returning.
This means that Brady will have Gronkowski, Fournette, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in his starting lineup. Key contributors like Scotty Miller, Cameron Brate, Antonio Brown and Ronald Jones II will be back as well. Additionally, the Buccaneers signed running back Giovani Bernard and added wideout Jaelon Darden in the fourth round of the draft.
Brady will have the top-ranked receiving corps in the NFL, according to Palazzolo, as well as a versatile backfield.
"The Bucs showed the value of offensive-weapon depth and how putting multiple effective playmakers on the field puts defenses in a bind," Palazzolo wrote.
Tampa only ranked 25th in yards per carry last season, but once Fournette hit his stride in the postseason, the Buccaneers were balanced and dangerous. He racked up 300 rushing yards, 148 receiving yards and four touchdowns in four playoff games.
There is no weakness on this offense, and it should be even more dangerous than it was a year ago.