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Ranking All 32 NFL Rosters (Part Three: 16-9)
16. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore is another one of those teams that will only go as far as their quarterback will take them. Quarterback Joe Flacco is still living off of the contract he signed after leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl in 2013. He has been average at best since signing the contract, but Baltimore cannot easily escape from his contract. They are locked in for the next two years, at least, without significant penalties.
The team is already taking steps to move forward without Flacco. After drafting quarterback Lamar Jackson in the first round and bringing in Robert Griffin III to mentor him, it would appear as though Jackson will be the heir apparent in the near future. At the wide receiver position, there is not currently a long-term solution. However, general manager Ozzie Newsome did a good job of patching up the position. He brought in the likes of Michael Crabtree and John Brown to hold the position over in the short term.
The defense is good. It is surprising, I know. A good Baltimore defense. But, this group is young, talented, and has the right mix of veterans and new blood. This unit has the potential to be very good in the coming years. But, for now, this team is only going to go as far as their quarterback will carry them.
Like I have stated in the previous parts of this series, this is not a power ranking. The team’s spot in the ranking encompasses many different concepts. Of those, they are grouped into three major ideas: talent, youth, and depth. Not one position or group of players is weighted any differently (other than special teams, they are much less of the total grade). The biggest thing about the Saints roster that is holding them back from being one of my top rosters is the lack of a future at quarterback. Drew Brees is 39 years old and there is not even an inkling of a future at the position after Brees.
Aside from a future at the quarterback position, this team is pretty weak at both the tight end and linebacker positions. If Alex Anzalone is a starting linebacker, I believe there is room for improvement at the position. However, aside from what was just mentioned, this roster is very, very good. There is a lot of youth and talent at multiple positions.
Another important note is the lack of a first-round draft pick in 2019. The Saints traded that to the Green Bay Packers to move up in the 2018 draft and acquire the freakishly athletic edge defender, Marcus Davenport. This team is priming for a Super Bowl run now, with little regard for their long-term future, and that is perfectly okay.
The Buccaneers are a team that seems to never meet their expectations.
The talent is there. Talent is not the question when it comes to this team. The offense should be sustainable and should put up some points. By no means is it a top offense, but it has the capability to be so.
The defense is a piece-wise conglomerate of talent, youth, and experience. Tampa has a surprisingly deep defensive line rotation and a couple of stars (or budding ones) at the linebacker position.
The secondary is the biggest qualm with this team. They spent two high draft picks on cornerbacks in this year’s draft, but the position is still lacking. I do believe, that ultimately, this is going to be the downfall of this team in 2018.
Acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots is looking better and better every day. This team’s next step has got to be to improve the offensive line. The offensive line is arguably the weakest unit on this team.
Overall, this roster is very solid through and through. There is a tremendous mix of youth and experience at all positions. I would like to see the defensive line get a little deeper, but the team has invested several high draft picks in the group and it shows.
For the first time in a few years, the 49ers should be competitive again. But, as is the case with a few teams, they are just not ready to take that next step. They could be the dark horse team in a relatively weak NFC West. The Rams are the front-runners in the division, but the Cardinals and Seahawks shouldn’t put up too much of a fight this year. Give this team another couple years to develop their young talent and they are going to be very, very good.
This is probably the most surprising landing spot for any team. I was not high on the Cardinals one bit before this exercise. After taking a deep dive into the roster, it becomes more apparent that there is actually a lot of good pieces in place. How general manager Steve Keim took arguably the worst quarterback situation in the NFL and turned into one of the best, I will never know.
Keim also did a good job of addressing a very poor offensive line. The group still needs to get a bit younger and deeper, but the unit is much improved over last years. The defense has been solid for years, but after the departure of Tyrann Mathieu, could use another star player. Somebody is going to have to step up on the other side of Patrick Peterson, but the pass rush should help to mitigate the lack of a second corner. Budda Baker will hope to step into the void left by Mathieu and I believe he will be able to do so.
The Cardinals will still need to address many positions on the roster in the coming years, but for them to get a franchise quarterback this year was a big step for them. This year should be used as a “let’s see what we’ve got” year and Cardinals fans should be pleasantly surprised by the results.
11. Chicago Bears
This Bears offense, for the first time in a long time, is going to be a scary one. If Mitch Trubisky can take a second-year leap, then that will make it even scarier.
Speaking of weapons, this team has got them. Rookie Anthony Miller, veterans Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, Jordan Howard, and Tarik Cohen provide no excuse for the failure of this offense. The offense should be a potent one. The offensive line may be the worst part of this offense but is average to above average.
My questions really lie with the defense. The team locked up cornerback Kyle Fuller this off-season after Green Bay nearly stole him with an offer sheet. Then the team selected the speedy linebacker Roquan Smith in the draft. The team is making strides in improving this unit. Like San Francisco, they are taking all the steps to be very good in the near future. I just don’t think that it is this year. Let the players on this roster develop and then see where you are.
The Chiefs are very solid in a lot of areas with a couple of minor deficiencies and a couple major bright spots.
Kansas City should be set for the foreseeable future with Patrick Mahomes at the helm. It seems as though everything was handled properly with his development and the arrow is pointing towards success in his sophomore season. The offense as a whole is going to be very good. Sammy Watkins, Kareem Hunt, and Tyreek Hill will look to burn defenses with speed. Then 28-year-old tight end Travis Kelce will look to control the middle of the field. These weapons will make this offense very tough to defend. The offensive line, however, leaves more to be desired. When Eric Fisher is the starting right tackle, that’s not good.
The defense is going to lose any games for this team. Eric Berry will be returning from injury (again) and Reggie Ragland, in my humble opinion, is set for a breakout season at linebacker. Like many teams, this team is lacking at the cornerback position. After trading away Marcus Peters, general manager Brett Veach attempted to fill that hole by trading for Kendall Fuller from Washington. While Fuller is a quality corner, I am not confident that he can be the top corner that this team will need him to be.
The Titans are another one of those teams that are trying to keep the momentum going from the 2017 season. After a playoff berth in 2017, the team is looking to capitalize now (while still on Marcus Mariota‘s rookie contract).
They added a flurry of talent via free agency and the draft. Some of which include incoming rookie linebacker Rashaan Evans and former Patriots running back Dion Lewis. Derrick Henry will look to finally capitalize on an opportunity to be the starting running back after Demarco Murray‘s departure. Mariota will need to be better in 2018 to take this team further than they went in 2017 and I believe he will do just that. The offensive line was one of the better ones in the NFL in 2017 and I fully expect their success to carry over to the upcoming season.
The defense is not necessarily set up for a long bout of success but should be for the next couple of seasons. When contracts begin to expire, with the way the roster currently stands, this team could begin to hurt. However, for the 2018 season, this unit should be pretty formidable.
Stay tuned for the culmination of this mini-series with the top eight teams.