Ranking All 32 NFL Rosters (Part Four: 8-1)

Welcome to part four and the final installment of Last Word on Pro Football’s mini-series ranking all 32 NFL rosters. For a further explanation into the thought processes, be sure to check out parts one, two and three.

Let’s finish up.

8. Green Bay Packers

There’s one thing to keep in mind about the Packers: Aaron Rodgers is back. And this time, he’s got, friends.

First-year general manager Brian Gutekunst went out and just added even more weapons to Rodgers’ arsenal. By adding veteran tight-ends Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis, the Packers will be able to control the middle of the field better than they have in any season since their Super Bowl run in 2010. The team also extended wide receiver Davante Adams, despite any health concerns.

This brings me to my two concerns about the offense. The youth at the tight end position is nonexistent. Graham and Lewis are fantastic options for the short term, but there is currently not a future at the position. After Adams, there is not a proven option on the outside. Veteran Randall Cobb will dominate the snaps in the slot, but Geronimo Allison is currently slotted as the starter outside opposite of Adams. Hopefully, one of the three 2018 draft picks can develop quicker than was thought and take a big step forward in 2018.

Green Bay has also heavily invested in their secondary, but yet has much to show for it. There were questions about the defense’s poor performance in 2017. Fans and experts questioned whether or not the poor performances were due to former defensive coordinator Dom Capers or if it was a lack of talent on the roster. I believe it was the former. This defense has been heavily invested in and it should be on full display rather soon.

7. Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings roster is one of the soundest in the NFL. However, there are a couple of things that are legitimately concerning.

Minnesota gave Kirk Cousins the first fully guaranteed contract in NFL history this past off-season. However, if Cousins were to get hurt, the Vikings could be in trouble. Trevor Siemian has been rather poor since being thrust into a starting role for Denver in 2016. The offensive line should be this team’s biggest concern. A piece-wise group that will strive to be above average at best, Cousins could be running for his life in 2018. Thankfully, he will have running backs Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray to each share the load. Wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen could be the best duo in the NFL and will also help to ease any struggles from a lackluster offensive line.

The defense is going to be scary. The defense only improved this off-season and should continue to terrorize opposing offenses. There are stars all over the defense with a lot of quality talent just waiting in the wings. This unit should be very good for years to come.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers

When you start to get to this point in the rankings, the slightest deficiencies can push a team down the list. This is the case with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

On the offensive side of the ball, they have veteran starters and young talent developing behind them at most positions. It doesn’t appear as though the team really has a plan for Le’Veon Bell should he ever walk via free agency. However, James Conner is no joke.

Where Pittsburgh is really lacking, in my opinion, is in the secondary. Artie Burns is the best piece and he joins veteran free-agent addition Morgan Burnett to keep the secondary serviceable. Outside of that, the secondary is rather unimpressive. The inside linebacker position is not in as bad a spot as many experts believe. The defensive front and outside linebackers are young and will be good for a very long time.

This team’s forte, once again, is going to be its offense. And, rightfully so.

5. Los Angeles Chargers

I don’t know if it is too late to consider the Chargers a dark horse for the 2018 campaign, but I would do just that. This team’s weakest position is the kicker and that is really saying something.

Aside from kicker, the Chargers need to find a long-term option at quarterback for when Philip Rivers decides to retire. To be frank, the lack of a quality backup quarterback is the biggest reason that this team has dropped in the rankings.

The epitome of building through the draft, the team is stacked at key positions such as wide receiver, cornerback, and edge defenders. They are two to three deep at each one of these positions. There is absolutely no reason to believe that this team won’t compete for a divisional title at the minimum. However, another note, the Chargers never seem to live up to their incredibly high expectations.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

Any time your team can draft a player in the first round and they come in at third on the depth chart, you have a very, deep roster. First-round pick Taven Bryan is going to be third in the defensive line rotation. That’s how deep this group is going to be.

The defensive line is not the only talented part of the roster. The Jaguars are teeming with talent all over. If they don’t have a star at a position, they have above average, quality NFL starters in their place. There will competition for backup roles all over the roster and that can only lead to promising results.

A good roster got even better over the off-season. The team’s biggest loss was wide receiver Allen Robinson, who didn’t even play in 2017 due to a knee injury. Wide receiver could be this team’s biggest question mark. Marqise Lee, free-agent addition Donte Moncrief, and Keelan Cole will be the team’s starting trio of receivers with Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark will look to provide quality snaps to Jacksonville’s receiving corps.

3. Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are the perfect example of players acquired to fit the scheme the team is using.

The only aspect of the Falcons offense worth questioning is the tight end position. I am not as big a believer in Austin Hooper as most seem to be. He’s going to have a bigger role in 2018 and it remains to be seen if he can capitalize on that opportunity. Thankfully, this team has the weapons at other position groups to compensate for the lack of a high-quality tight end. Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, and rookie Calvin Ridley is quite the arsenal for Matt Ryan. The offensive line is improved from last year’s group with the addition of Brandon Fusco from San Francisco.

Starting defensive end Brooks Reed could lose snaps to budding star, Takkarist McKinley. Other than McKinley, the defensive line group is not too deep on the second line. The starting unit is a scary one, led by¬†Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett. This defense is built for speed and that is evident at all levels. It’s hard to find a player better fit for their scheme in the NFL than linebacker Deion Jones is for the Falcons 4-3 scheme. Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant are both above average cornerbacks who also thrive in the scheme.

2. Los Angeles Rams

The Rams could very well be ahead of the Eagles here. The separating factor came down to one position: backup quarterback. To some, this might be a tragic conclusion. However, these last two rosters are so similar in so many ways.

This offense is absolutely terrifying. The offensive line is built to smash through defensive fronts. Todd Gurley is coming off his best season as a professional running back. Quarterback Jared Goff took a huge step forward in his sophomore season. The wide receiver group is the most diverse and talented one in the NFL. Only the tight end position, comprised of Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett, could be considered “weak”, but even that duo has exceptional potential.

It’s hard to have any idea as to how opposing offensive lines are going to block the dynamic duo of Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald. They are going to wreak havoc on the NFL. The fact that this team could improve at the linebacker position is overshadowed by the incredible quality of defensive tackles that this team will boast in 2018. But, combine the talent in the secondary with the talent on the front-end and this defense is going to be very, very difficult to move the ball against. The only knock against all of the talent of this team is that a majority of the players are not locked up for the long-term. However, this team is definitely primed for a deep playoff run in 2018. And if they can figure out the contract situations, will be set-up for many, many more.

1. Philadelphia Eagles

As mentioned above, the Rams and the Eagles are alike in many ways. The Rams edge Philly at some positions and vice versa. The only real difference for me between the two franchises was the backup quarterback. The Rams have Sean Mannion and the Eagles have Super Bowl MVP and fan favorite, Nick Foles.

Like many of these top teams, the Eagles only got better in the off-season. They let tight-end Trey Burton walk in free agency, but drafted the talented Dallas Goedert. The weakest positions on the offense are going to be the second, outside receiver and the running back position. I would not even consider the running backs to be a weak group. Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement should prove to be a very serviceable duo. Mike Wallace, who has struggled in recent seasons, is currently in line to be the team’s number two receiver on the outside. He could play a role similar to that of Torrey Smith in last year’s offense which was to keep the defense honest and stretch the field.

This roster was already good last year before the 2017 NFL Draft. The defense was so deep in the secondary that they could afford to draft a very talented cornerback, Sidney Jones, and allow him to recover for an entire season from a torn ACL suffered during pre-draft workouts. The team’s weakest spot on the defense is going to be at safety in Rodney McLeod. However, due to the depth of this defensive unit otherwise, I fully expect this unit to be just as fierce as 2017, if not more.

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