Hello, gentle reader, and welcome to the second installment of a four-part series. The ultimate goal is to count down from #32 to #1 by ranking the rosters across the NFL.
This isn’t necessarily a team power ranking, as coaching staffs and schedules can dictate win-loss records. This will just be one person’s opinion on the quality of roster built by each front office for the 2019 NFL season. If you missed teams #32 - #25, you can take a look at that here.
For a more brief synopsis, here is how the bottom 1/4 of the league shook out:
32. Arizona Cardinals
31. New York Giants
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
29. Miami Dolphins
28. Cincinnati Bengals
27. Denver Broncos
26. Detroit Lions
25. New York Jets
Now for teams #24 through #17:
24. Washington Redskins
I loved what the Redskins did with their draft class, but it likely won’t be enough to make up for some weakness in primary areas in their first year. If Case Keenum is the starting quarterback, it will cause physical illness to others, if Dwayne Haskins is behind center, there will likely be growing pains. While I’m excited to see Derrius Guice and hopeful that Jordan Reed can stay healthy (this is finally the year!), their wide receivers are either abundantly average or rookies, which doesn’t move the needle for me in 2019. Up front, Trent Williams is still kicking and Brandon Scherff has proven himself to be above average, but the projected starting left guard and center tandem of Ereck Flowers and Chase Roullier would keep me up at night if I were a Redskins quarterback.
Washington’s defensive line and EDGE group could be dominant, and that’s the obvious strength of the team. However, their linebacker core could quietly be one of the worst in the NFL if they don’t see serious development from Shaun Dion Hamilton. Their backend worries me just as much, as reliance on Josh Norman, Fabian Moreau and a banged up Quinton Dunbar will ultimately spell trouble.
23. Oakland Raiders
Oakland did an excellent job of plugging holes in their roster this offseason, adding a mix of proven veterans with talented draft picks. They’ve suddenly surrounded quarterback Derek Carr with an exciting group of players, including future hall of famer Antonio Brown, solid WR2 Tyrell Williams, national championship game hero receiver Hunter Renfrow and first-round rookie running back Josh Jacobs. Their offensive line will be… interesting to say the least. Second-year left tackle Kolton Miller needs to make serious strides, but the presence of Super Bowl champion Trent Brown will help matters. Adding Richie Incognito to the interior is either a disaster waiting to happen or the missing link that will vault the Raiders back to elite interior offensive line play.
Oakland has drafted a young nucleus of defensive players, including Maurice Hurst, Clelin Ferrell and Jonathan Abram. They’re hopeful that Arden Key and P.J. Hall make strides alongside of them. They’re safety play improved as the season went on last year, and cornerback Gareon Conley has pro bowl potential. However the Raiders got so desperate for improved linebacker play that they’ve brought in Vontaze Burfict. If that’s not a cry for help, I don’t know what is.
22. Carolina Panthers
Carolina has a unique build to their roster, but lack in too many key areas to be higher on this list. Cam Newton will likely never return to the form we saw from him in 2015, and the wide receiver core past D.J. Moore won’t do him any favors. While they’ve gotten good play from their offensive line, and that’s allowed them to properly showcase the elite talent of Christian McCaffrey, there are concerns there as well. Starting rookie left tackle Greg Little with his mechanical flaws could lead to just as much pressure on Newton as ever, and right guard Trai Turner regressed hard last season. They’re set at the other three spots with Daryl Williams, Matt Paradis and Taylor Moton, but we’ll see how well they mesh together without mainstay center Ryan Kalil.
Carolina is strong up the middle of their defense with the addition of Gerald McCoy to the interior defensive line. Kawaan Short is as good as ever, but they’ll be looking to rookie Brian Burns to replace some pass rushing production left by Julius Peppers’ retirement. That’s a lot riding on the shoulders of a rookie, especially with mediocre linebackers outside of Luke Kuechly.
In the secondary, I’m confused as to what the Panthers plan was. Donte Jackson flashed as a rookie, but he needs to be much more consistent. Cornerbacks James Bradberry and Ross Cockrell fail to move the needle, and their safeties have issues with coverage. They’re running the risk of being exposed in the pass game often this season
21. Buffalo Bills
Buffalo has the potential to return to the playoffs this season, but that run will have to get started on the defensive side. This unit has the potential to be one of the best in the league... Seriously. Adding Ed Oliver to a defensive line that already includes Jerry Hughes is going to cause mayhem for opposing offensive lines. To make matters worse, Lorenzo Alexander is somehow playing the best football of his career in Buffalo, and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds’ ceiling remains way up in the clouds. Add in ascending third-year outside linebacker Matt Milano, and there are few front 7’s with their potential. The backend of the defense isn’t too far off, especially if third-year cornerback Tre’Davious White bounces back. Their safeties fit well next to each other, as Micah Hyde is quietly one of the best strong safeties in the game.
Offensively, there will need to be progression from second-year quarterback Josh Allen if the unit is going to excel. With mostly average pieces up front (though second-round pick right tackle Cody Ford should help), Allen needs to be more composed in the pocket. LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore will likely somehow find a way to fend off father time this season, and their wide receiver core improved through free agency. However, this team will only go as far as Allen takes them, and that worries me.
20. Tennessee Titans
Lump me in with the group that believes quarterback Marcus Mariota is holding the Tennessee Titans back from a real ascension in the AFC. He’s failed to move the needle over the past couple seasons, limiting the window of a roster that really ain’t half bad. Their wide receiver depth chart is deep and talented, and a healthy Denalie Walker could help matters. Up front, Jack Conklin regressed last season and rookie Nate Davis could be starting at right guard. Center Ben Jones has been uninspiring and free agent left guard Rodger Saffold was decent in a stacked offense in Los Angeles. That much potential mediocrity around Taylor Lewan is cause for concern, and might decrease the effectiveness of an otherwise talented group of pass catchers and running backs.
Tennessee might have some holes to plug up front on defense, but veteran Jurrell Casey is as stout as ever. Adding Cameron Wake to the EDGE group that already has talented second-year player Harold Landry could make the pass rush really pop. There is equal cause for optimism in the middle with Jayon Brown playing next to potential breakout candidate Rashaan Evans. With Kevin Byard as one of the best safeties in the league, there is hope that Malcolm Butler, Adoree Jackson and Logan Ryan are more consistent next season. Each have had stretches of quality pay in Tennessee, especially Ryan, but need to put everything together simultaneously for the secondary to really flourish.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville made a healthy commitment to veteran quarterback Nick Foles this offseason, and he’ll look to start all 16 games for the first time in what will be his eighth year in the NFL. Unfortunately for Foles, the Jaguars haven’t done much in the form of surrounding weapons. Leonard Fournette is fine, but won’t ever live up to his sophomore year of college hype or NFL Draft slot. At wide receiver and tight end, Jacksonville is mediocre across the board (the truth can hurt sometimes). Outside of Brandon Linder, none of the returning offensive lineman showed much last season, but rookie offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor should help improve the right side of the line.
This team will rely on their defense, but it’s hard to see them improving on what they’ve already built. They traded Dante Fowler Jr. at the trade deadline last season, and replaced him with top 10 pick Josh Allen. That’s a win for Jacksonville, but Telvin Smith taking the year away from football is a tough blow to the middle of the defense. Calais Campbell has been a different kind of monster, but he’ll be 33 this season and it’s fair to wonder how much longer he will play at that level. The Jaguars are bringing back most of their other core defenders, including Marcell Dareus, Yannick Ngakoue, Myles Jack, Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, but it was proven last year that the defense can’t be the entire team. This roster needs more juice offensively, and it’s difficult to project much improvement there.
18. Chicago Bears
Could it be? The 12-4 Bears outside of the top-half of rosters in the NFL? Look, on a talent-basis, I think this team overachieved last season (please don’t yell at me, Paige). They have an all-world front 7, probably the best in football, and one of the best safeties in the game. I’m not sold on the HaHa Clinton-Dix replacement of Adrian Amos at the other safety spot, or that playing Buster Skrine at the difficult nickel position is a good idea. Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara are plus starters at corner, but that doesn’t mean that their secondary won’t be exposed here or there.
We know that the Bears defense is strong, that much is obvious. However, my real issue with their current roster is at quarterback and offensive line. Mr. Biscuit needs to take major strides next season, especially with his downfield passing and in-pocket footwork. With how hot their defense was, Trubisky should have been able to get Chicago to a Super Bowl last season.
Up front, second-year interior offensive lineman James Daniels needs to see improvement, and Kyle Long wasn’t his old self when he played last year. While left tackle Charles Leno Jr. had the best season of his career last year, I think center Cody Whitehair and right tackle Bobby Massie are just a shade above average. There is some versatility in their backfield and a ton of depth at wide receiver, but those units can’t really thrive without better play from Trubisky and the offensive line. Head coach Matt Nagy will mask some of these issues if they continue to arise, but I just need to see more from Mitch. This team will ultimately regress from their successful 2018 campaign.
17. San Francisco 49ers
I love the construction of the San Francisco 49ers roster, and they might be one year away from ascending into the top 10 (or even top 5) on this list. Let’s start with the unit that has the most turnover this season - the defense. Quick question: If Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander, Jason Verrett and Nick Bosa each made the pro bowl next season, would anybody bat an eye? No, right? How many units across the league can realistically say that they added four potential pro bowlers in one offseason. For that to happen, Verrett needs to remain healthy and Bosa needs to translate right away, but the paths for either of those to is very realistic.
Let us not forget about stalwart defensive lineman Deforest Buckner, and other quality options Arik Armstead and potentially Soloman Thomas. Second-year linebacker Fred Warner was overshadowed by guys like Darius Leonard and Leighton Vander Esch, but was quietly one of the best rookie linebackers in the league last year. Richard Sherman did his best to come back from a previous injury, and performed admirably. San Francisco needs better play from their safeties, but that would be the only “hole” I see on this defense.
Offensively, we don’t know what we’re going to get from Jimmy G. Assuming he’s able to stay healthy (obviously, a big “if”), this offense could explode considering their weapons. The running back room is deep with Tevin Coleman, Matt Breda and Jerick McKinnon. The wide receivers are even deeper with Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin, Deebo Samuel, Jalen Hurd, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne and Jordan Matthews. George Kittle might be the best tight end in football.
Up front, their led by offensive tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, but the interior can be erratic. Still, though, the 49ers could be a healthy James Richard Garoppolo season away from becoming a playoff team.