It's not all about the quarterback, you know.
Maybe it sort of is, but football is still played 11-on-11, and a quarterback's supporting cast means a lot.
The offensive line aside, there are quite a few very exciting supporting casts heading into 2020. When looking at wide receivers, running backs and tight ends, these are the top five skill-position units throughout the NFL.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
The Super Bowl champions at No. 1, who would've thought?
Even outside of having the best quarterback in the game, the Chiefs' offense is stacked, and pairing Patrick Mahomes with this kind of line up seems unfair for the rest of the league. Not only does Mahomes have one of the strongest arms to stretch the field, but he also has two of the NFL’s fastest players in Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman. They have proven to be big-time mismatches for many secondaries.
Tight end Travis Kelce and what we expect to see from rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire should put defenses in a bind in most weeks. It's hard to find one linebacker or safety who can cover Kelce. If an opponent uses its best player to cover Kelce, Edwards-Helaire could have his way with whoever is left. All of that without even mentioning receivers Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson. This team has an embarrassment of options.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
On paper, there are not many teams who have the kind of ceiling the Buccaneers do heading into the season.
Let's take Tom Brady out of the equation since we're just talking about supporting cast here. At wide receiver, Tampa Bay has Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, who were both in the top three at their position last season before they suffered injuries. Add the talented rookie Tyler Johnson to a depth chart that includes a shifty Scottie Miller and there are four formidable options at receiver alone.
The Buccaneers’ tight end group also boasts a number of threats; things are starting to get silly in terms of options. At the top is Rob Gronkowski, coming out of early retirement to re-unite with Brady as one of the best tight ends to ever play the game. There’s also former first-round pick O.J. Howard and the aways reliable Cameron Brate.
The running back room has Ronald Jones, a player with plenty of upside, and this cast more than makes up for being ranked this high.
3. Cleveland Browns
Another offseason where Cleveland is touted as one of the most talented teams, and where has that gotten the Browns at kickoff?
So far, not far.
However, to think the Browns don't have talent would be shortsighted.
At wide receiver, they have Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, two players who are capable of being a top receiving duo in the league. In the backfield, Nick Chubb, by himself, would make for a strong running game. Behind him is Kareem Hunt to make one of the best running back rooms in the league. That's all without getting to a tight end depth chart that features Austin Hooper, David Njoku and the newly drafted Harrison Bryant.
With an improved offensive line, a new head coach and one of the NFL’s best supporting casts, it's time for quarterback Baker Mayfield to take the next step.
4. New Orleans Saints
When you speak of the Saints supporting cast, the conversation starts with wide receiver Michael Thomas. Since coming into the league in 2016, Thomas has never seen less than 121 targets in a season, and that's because the more he’s feed, the more he seems to deliver. He saw a career-high in targets (185) in 2019 and turned that into career-highs in receptions (149) and yards (1,725).
But this year it shouldn't just be him. The addition of receivers Emmanuel Sanders, as well as the emergence of tight end Jared Cook, should make for a good variety of options for quarterback Drew Brees to throw to. Combine that with running back Alvin Kamara and offensive weapon Taysom Hill, and the Saints present mismatch potential on a high percentage of their offensive sets. Kamara continues to be one of the most dependable backs in the league, whether getting hands offs in the backfield or catching passes beyond the line of scrimmage.
5. San Francisco 49ers
If you showed me a picture of San Francisco's projected 2020 depth chart a few years ago, outside of George Kittle, I would've thought this was one of the worse casts in the league. I probably actually would've said, "Who?"
But here we are now knowing how well this group can work together. Kittle is obviously the most important piece. He's become such a mismatch for most defense, as is evident by his back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. At receiver, Deebo Samuel has already emerged as a very reliable and productive option. Behind him, there are a handful of young players who still have high potential such including Jalen Hurd, Dante Pettis and rookie Brandon Aiyuk. Running back is where things start to really get fun. Over the course of 2019, Raheem Mostert became one of the most explosive running backs, and full back Kyle Juszczyk must be accounted for as well.
Losing Sanders will hurt, but this cast is deep in a variety of areas.
Honorable mention: Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals
The next two teams in line for this list, if you ask me, would be Dallas and Arizona. The Cowboys added wide receiver CeeDee Lamb to a group that already had Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. They don't have much when it comes to tight end options, but Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in the backfield make for quite the talented room.
Arizona's wide receivers room is insane. DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, KeeSean Johnson, Andy Isabella and perhaps still some hope in Hakeem Butler makes for one of the most talented and deepest groups in the league. Kenyan Drake gets a shot to be the RB1 in Arizona this year, which could be exciting. However, the depth at running back and tight end are what keeps the Cardinals as a top-10 unit instead of a top-five one with that receiver room.
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