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Ranking the 2014 NFL Rosters

I have ranked all 32 NFL rosters with training camps a little more than a month away.

I didn’t use any type of weighted formula, just pure feel. A few players with significant pull — like a quarterback or pass-rusher — can basically carry a team with noticeable flaws. These rankings are solely based on entire team rosters.

(There’s bound to be zero disagreement from any fans here. Nope. No disagreement at all.)

 

THE ELITE

1. Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning. Lost Eric Decker. Added Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer. Julius Thomas is an elite tight end. Ryan Clady returns. Defense added an influx of talent with Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Bradley Roby after Wesley Woodyard, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the elderly Champ Bailey departed. No suspension for Von Miller this year. Super Bowl win or bust for John Elway and John Fox’s squadron.

2. Seattle Seahawks

The Champs are, once again, stacked. Russell Wilson will be handing off to an uber-talented backfield of Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael and Robert Turbin. Paul Richardson adds legitimate speed element to the wide receiver group. Percy Harvin’s healthy. Michael Bowie will be an upgrade over Breno Giacomini 0n the offensive line. Gone are Chris Clemons, Clinton McDonald and Red Bryant, but speedy weakside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis was snagged in the draft, and the Legion of Boom defensive backfield is fully intact. Super Bowl win or bust, right?

3. New England Patriots

Tom_Brady

Tom Brady and Darrelle Revis. Quite the headliners in New England. The linebacker trio — Dont’a Hightower, Jerod Mayo and Jamie Collins — very well could emerge as a top-flight group. Dominique Easley comes with major medical risk, but he’s a nasty, quick-twitch penetrator on the defensive interior. Don’t forget All-Pro Devin McCourty, Brandon Browner and Logan Ryan in the secondary, either. Will Aaron Dobson or Josh Boyce make the jump in Year 2 out wide? Rob Gronkowski must stay healthy.

4. San Francisco 49ers

Who knows what the future holds for the clearly troubled Aldon Smith, but Tank Carradine, Corey Lemonier and Aaron Lynch should be able to fill some of the edge-rushing void in San Francisco? Even if NaVorro Bowman misses a handful of games in the 2014 regular season, Chris Borland and Shayne Skov are on the roster to lurk next to Patrick Willis. Jimmie Ward and Eric Reid could be a lot of fun at safety. On offense, Colin Kaepernick has a nice stable of weapons with a now healthy Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson, Vernon Davis and developmental guys Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington. The offensive line’s still rock solid, and the running back contingent — still the team’s foundation — is diverse and deep.

5. Detroit Lions

Joe Lombardi, the Lions new offensive coordinator, inherited an incredibly talented and established group — Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Brandon Pettigrew, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. Add in Eric Ebron, Joseph Fauria, Ryan Broyles, Kris Durham and Kevin Ogletree along with a sound offensive line, and, yeah, Detroit should score plenty of points…as usual. Expect Lombardi, who worked with the New Orleans Saints offense since 2007, to make efficiency, not volume, the focus. On defense, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ziggy Ansah will not be enjoyable to block, and Kyle Van Noy will mesh very well with Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy in the linebacker corp.

6. New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees is still Drew Brees, and Brandin Cooks is a supercharged Darren Sproles. Jimmy Graham, whether you consider him a wide receiver or tight end, is a monster in the red zone. The defense isn’t loaded with superstars, but Akiem Hicks and Cameron Jordan might be the most underrated defensive end tandem in the NFC. Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro should create plenty of turnovers from their respective safety positions in 2014. Watch out for running back Khiry Robinson. There’s not an amazing amount of depth in New Orleans, but the first-string talent is special.

7. Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers. Healthy. Yes sir. He’s the best quarterback in the game, and the Packers added Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis in the draft. Randall Cobb is healthy. Bryan Bulaga’s back. Julius Peppers has some juice left coming off the edge to help Clay Matthews and the rest of the pass-rushing group, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix adds the springy athleticism needed on the back end of the defense. Could Colt Lyerla replace Jermichael Finley at tight end?

 

THE VERY GOOD

8. Philadelphia Eagles

Chip Kelly

Chip Kelly will have the offense running at its usual rapid and super-efficient pace, and Darren Sproles should help to keep LeSean McCoy fresh. Jordan Matthews may step into the “No. 1″ wide receiver role in his rookie year, and Jeremy Maclin’s back. However, DeSean Jackson’s now in Washington, which will hurt. Zach Ertz should be in for a big year at tight end, and the offensive line is, easily, the best in football. There are some question marks on defense, especially at safety, but the entire unit should be good enough to keep the Eagles in just about every game.

9. Cincinnati Bengals

Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson bolted in free agency, two of the team’s most reliable players on each side of the line of scrimmage.  Rookies Jeremy Hill and Darqueze Dennard figure to play relatively significant roles in the offense and defense this season. Geno Atkins and Leon Hall return—huge. Can Andy Dalton take another step? He absolutely needs to for the Bengals to get over that agonizing playoff hump.

10. Chicago Bears

Brandon Marshall. Alshon Jeffery. Martellus Bennett. Towering targets for Jay Cutler, who was on a career-best pace before getting injured last year. Matt Forte and Ka’Deem Carey should make for an effective running game. The defensive line needed reinforcements after a wretched 2013. Enter Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen, Willie Young, Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton. Chicago needs young linebackers to improve and for the super-talented Kyle Fuller to learn quickly from veterans Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings at corner.

11. Cleveland Browns

If Josh Gordon wasn’t in line to serve a lengthy suspension, the Browns would have a Top 10 roster. Andrew Hawkins is a YAC stud / uncoverable from the slot. Jordan Cameron’s a freaky specimen. The offensive line is sturdy. Same with the defensive line. Karlos Dansby, Donte Whitner, Pierre Desir bring some nastiness and athleticism to an already good defense that’ll be lead by blitzing genius Mike Pettine. Oh, and Johnny Manziel’s (probably)the starting quarterback.

12. Buffalo Bills

Mario Williams. Kyle Williams. Marcell Dareus (who might be suspended a few games to start the year). An impressive defensive line trio. Jerry Hughes was one of the NFL’s most efficient pass-rushers in 2013. Thumper Brandon Spikes joins as an exquisite complement to the rangy Kiko Alonso. Even without Jairus Byrd, the secondary’s loaded. So is the running back group. The offensive line is good, and could be great if Cyrus Kouandjio blossoms early. Speed is the theme in the receiving corps headlined by Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Sammy Watkins. Also, Mike Williams can serve as a possession / red-zone target for EJ Manuel.

13. Baltimore Ravens

Joe_Flacco

As usual, Ozzie Newsome has done a fine job reconstructing the Ravens roster. The defensive line is aging and lost Arthur Jones, but Timmy Jernigan and C.J. Mosley will be taking significant snaps on sooner than later. The acquisition of Steve Smith was a good one, even if he only has one or two years left. Dennis Pitta returns. Gary Kubiak’s calling the shots on offense. Jeremy Zuttah should be an upgrade over Gino Gradkowski at center and Terrance Brooks should be a fine complement to Matt Elam on the back end of the secondary.

14. St. Louis Rams

Holy Defensive Line. Robert Quinn. Michael Brockers. Chris Long. Aaron Donald. William Hayes, Alex Carrington, Kendall Langford as quality depth. The offensive line will be nastier with No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson and getting Jake Long and Rodger Saffold should benefit Zac Stacy and Sam Bradford. How much should we trust Bradford though? Pressure-packed year for him and last year’s first-round pick Tavon Austin, who technically “leads” an average receiving contingent. The secondary is relatively tight.

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No team spent in free agency like the Buccaneers. Michael Johnson. Alterraun Verner. Clinton McDonald. Josh McCown. Oniel Cousins. Their draft was fun too, as they added extreme size on offense with 6’5″ Mike Evans and 6’6″ Austin Seferian-Jenkins to give McCown a Chicago Bears-like pass-catching unit. Darrelle Revis is gone, but Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy, First-Team All-Pros, are the leaders of the defense. Doug Martin, Mike James and newcomer Charles Sims might formulate one of the most versatile and efficient running back groups in the league.

 

SOLID WILD CARDS

16. New York Jets

Regardless of the personnel, the Jets will always be dangerous on defense thanks to head coach Rex Ryan, a legitimate blitz-calling mastermind. Fortunately for Gang Green, they have a few super-talented players, too. Muhammad Wilkerson is the best 3-4 defensive end not named J.J. Watt, and Sheldon Richardson is an absolute menace inside. David Harris isn’t a spry as he once was, but he knows Ryan’s system in and out, and rookie Calvin Pryor should be a wrecking ball at safety. The offense was given a much needed boost of talent out wide with Eric Decker, along with three mid-to-late-round draft picks and size-speed specimen Jace Amaro at tight end. If Geno Smith takes a big step, the Jets will contend for a spot in the postseason.

17. Indianapolis Colts

Andrew_Luck_Preseason_Rams

If the Colts simply realize and embrace the fact they’re a pass-first team, they’ll be fine. Andrew Luck should make another positive step like he did as a sophomore in 2013 — the addition of Hakeem Nicks and the return of Dwayne Allen should help his cause. The offensive line isn’t special, but with Luck’s pocket-movement skills, the blocking shouldn’t be a major issue. On defense, well, there may be some growing pains, especially with Robert Mathis suspended to start the year, although Zach Kerr’s a perfect nose tackle to spell Josh Chapman. D’Qwell Jackson’s a solid yet unspectacular middle linebacker. Trent Richardson’s last chance to remove the bust label?

18. Arizona Cardinals

Losing Daryl Washington to a season-long suspension really hurts, especially after Karlos Dansby wasn’t re-signed this offseason. The defensive front is strong but somewhat old with Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett anchoring. With Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and first-round pick Deone Bucannon, the secondary has elite potential. Andre Ellington is an perfect “new age” running back, and getting 2013 first-round selection Jonathan Cooper onto the field will be a welcomed talent injection to a sometimes very shaky offensive line. If it can protect Carson Palmer, he’ll have a nice group off pass-catchers out wide and in the slot.

19. Pittsburgh Steelers

Consecutive 8-8 years isn’t acceptable in Pittsburgh. Round 1 pick Ryan Shazier is a physical freak who should star from Week 1 in Dick Lebeau’s defense. Mike Tomlin’s club needs 2013 draft picks Shamarko Thomas and Markus Wheaton to become prominent players on each side of the ball this year. Stephon Tuitt and Josh Mauro should contribute to the Steelers 3-4 front as rookies. The secondary, with a lot of age and inexperienced players as depth, is pretty concerning. The offensive line isn’t tremendous, but with David DeCastro the leading the way, it should be good enough.

20. Miami Dolphins

Signing Branden Albert and drafting Ju’Wuan James should help to alleviate most of the Dolphins offensive line woes that have hindered Ryan Tannehill’s development through two seasons. The defensive line has some unheralded pieces, most namely Olivier Vernon, Randy Starks at Jared Odrick. Behind them, the linebackers are OK, and it’ll be interesting to see how Koa Misi transitions to inside linebacker in 2014. The receivers aren’t special, but Mike Wallace flashes big-play ability, and Jarvis Landry should be a stud in the slot. Cortland Finnegan doesn’t add much to the secondary, but Brent Grimes is a pesky corner, and Reshad Jones has shown glimpses of All-Pro potential at safety. Could this be Lamar Miller’s breakout campaign? He’s only 23.

 

MUST OVERACHIEVE TO CONTEND

21. New York Giants

Victor_Cruz_Truck

The second-best roster in the NFC East belongs to the Giants. Hakeem Nicks is gone, but Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz should be a blast at receiver for Eli Manning. The offensive line has slowly but surely been built over the past two years, and rookie Andre Williams has a feature-back skill set. New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo should create a more efficient attack for the G-Men. The once famous defensive line has lost some key members from the past, but youngsters Jonathan Hankins, Damontre Moore and Jay Bromley are promising. If Jason Pierre-Paul returns to form, New York could be a playoff sleeper.

22. Washington Redskins

Robert Griffin III should be fully healthy. Which is, quite clearly, huge. DeSean Jackson will be a much-needed downfield threat to complement Pierre Garcon and tight end Jordan Reed. The defense is still a work in progress, but snatching Jason Hatcher from the rival Cowboys was smart. Rookie Trent Murphy is a versatile outside linebacker who’ll be mentored by Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. Akeem Jordan was an underrated, cost-effective free-agent pickup. The relatively old secondary will struggle.

23. Dallas Cowboys

No DeMarcus Ware. No Sean Lee. No Jason Hatcher. The defense is primed for another disappointing season. Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, DeMarco Murray and Terrance Williams should flourish on offense, as usual. The two units are polar opposites in terms of talent and depth.

24. Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan. Roddy White. Harry Douglas. Julio Jones is back. Jake Matthews will be a welcomed addition to an offensive line that was too permeable in 2013. The loss of Sean Weatherspoon is devastating to a lackluster defensive unit (outside of Desmond Trufant) that’ll add more 3-4 elements to its base nickel alignment this year. Like the Cowboys, offense must carry the Falcons. Big time.

25. Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton may be running for his life often in 2014 after Jordan Gross’ retirement. To some, Kelvin Benjamin has somewhat high “bust potential,” but if used as red-zone specialist, he could thrive. Essentially, the secondary is in shambles, and there’s no Steve Smith. However, the defensive front seven can make a strong argument as the best in football.

26. Minnesota Vikings

Teddy Bridgewater

Greg Jennings. Year 2 of Cordarrelle Patterson. Adrian Peterson. The Vikings might have best left tackle / center / right tackle trio in the NFL of Matt Kalil, John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt. How good will Teddy Bridgewater be? The defensive line just might take a page from the Seahawks — the entire unit can be effective even if there’s no legitimate star. The secondary is a little concerning, but Xavier Rhodes has lockdown skills. The linebackers need help, yet Anthony Barr is a project that could yield DeMarcus Ware-type results.

27. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs stunned everyone by starting 9-0 in 2014 and finishing 11-5 en route to a playoff berth. But their true colors showed down the stretch, and they blew a huge lead in a wild-card loss to Andrew Luck and the Colts. Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles and Justin Houston are elite players at their respective positions. Tamba Hali and rookie Dee Ford will lead the impressive pass-rushing unit. Elsewhere though, the roster is blah. The receiving corps isn’t very threatening—neither is Alex Smith. The offensive line lost Branden Albert and Jon Asamoah, and the safety spot opposite Berry is totally up for grabs. Can Kansas City recreate turnover ratio of +18 again? Probably not.

28.  San Diego Chargers

The Chargers overachieved in 2013, and much of their success was due to the high-efficiency offensive head coach Mike McCoy installed for quarterback Philip Rivers. On paper, the roster doesn’t have many flashy pieces, but the Rivers / Keenan Allen connection should only get better. Beyond the secondary, the defense is worrisome. The offensive line isn’t special, but with plenty of quick passing, it doesn’t have to be.

 

CELLAR DWELLER POTENTIAL

29. Houston Texans

The Texans have a major quarterback issue. Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Tom Savage vs. Case Keenum is, frankly, a dreadful signal-caller competition. J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney will keep Houston in games, but beyond them, there isn’t much top-end talent or depth on the defense. Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins will be nice, reliable targets for whoever is throwing them the football. How much does Arian Foster have left?

30. Oakland Raiders

Jokes about the Raiders this offseason have centered around the fact that they brought in good players past their primes. But with Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Khalil Mack, Antonio Smith, Justin Ellis and sophomore Sio Moore at linebacker, the defensive front seven is greatly improved. Gabe Jackson could star at guard as a rookie, and James Jones might be a decent red-zone target for either Matt Schaub or Derek Carr. Can’t forget Maurice Jones-Drew, either.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts

Gus Bradley and David Caldwell are rebuilding the right way, but Chad Henne and a green Blake Bortles don’t create much reason for excitement under center. The Jaguars offensive line isn’t very intimidating, and on defense, they’ll rely on former Seahawks Red Bryant, Chris Clemons and Walter Thurmond. The linebacker trio is average at best. The wideouts have potential, but are very young.

32. Tennessee Titans

The quarterback position is worrisome with Jake Locker. The transition to Ray Horton’s 3-4 doesn’t exactly fit the strength’s of the defensive personnel. Alterraun Verner’s in Tampa Bay. Kendall Wright’s a stud, but who else is there as a threat out wide? Will Justin Hunter be more consistent in Year 2? Tennessee’s heavily invested in the offensive line over the past two years. Draft Bishop Sankey on your fantasy team. He’ll see an abundance of touches.

 

Chris Trapasso

About Chris Trapasso

Chris Trapasso has been publishing his NFL-related opinions, rants, theories, philosophies and commentary since 2008 when he joined Bleacher Report during the site's infancy. He was the first Buffalo Bills Featured Columnist for B/R when the FC program began in 2009. Chris had a variety of jobs until he was added to the full-time NFL beat writing team at the beginning of the 2011 season. Brad Gagnon brought him onto This Given Sunday's staff in October of 2013. He was credentialed for and attended the 2014 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Chris is based in Western New York and currently a free-agent writer. (HIRE HIM, he's scrappy.) Beyond B/R and TGS, he's written for Yahoo Sports, rotoViz, BuffaLowDown, BuffaloSportsDaily and is featured on sports radio shows and podcasts in the Buffalo area.

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