This qualifies as a “way-too-early” starting lineup projection with training camp and the preseason still months out. Nonetheless, 2022 rosters are starting to round into shape with the meat of the NFL roster movement period — free agency and the draft — finished.
These starting lineup projections use 11 personnel (three wide receivers, one tight end and one running back) as the base on offense and some variation of 4-2-5 (four interior defensive linemen/edge defenders, two linebackers and five defensive backs) on defense as the base for the 11-man projections since that’s what teams operate out of on the majority of snaps. Adjustments are made on a team-by-team basis. Below are initial projections that will be updated later in the offseason for all 32 teams, along with the most interesting positional battle as training camp nears in July.
QB Kyler Murray DI Rashard Lawrence
RB James Conner DI J.J. Watt
WR DeAndre Hopkins (Susp) Edge Markus Golden
WR Marquise Brown Edge Cameron Thomas
TE Zach Ertz LB Zaven Collins
TE Maxx Williams LB Isaiah Simmons
LT D.J. Humphries CB Byron Murphy
LG Justin Pugh CB Marco Wilson
C Rodney Hudson CB Jeff Gladney
RG Will Hernandez S Budda Baker
RT Kelvin Beachum S Jalen Thompson
The Cardinals have been operating in a spread offense under Kliff Kingsbury, but their investment in the tight end position — re-signing Zach Ertz, Maxx Williams and drafting Trey McBride in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft — points to the idea that they’ll be operating out of a lot more two-plus tight end personnel groupings in 2022. They’ll also ask more of a 34-year-old A.J. Green while DeAndre Hopkins misses the first six weeks of the season on his suspension.
On defense, Zach Allen should have a prominent role despite not showing up in the projected starters above as a base end who will be on the field with J.J. Watt in obvious passing situations on the interior. Not much of the starting lineup is solidified on that side of the ball outside of safety.
Most interesting position battle: Right guard
Will Hernandez got slotted into the starting lineup here, but right guard figures to be an open competition in Arizona between him, Josh Jones, Justin Murray and potentially Day 3 rookies Marquis Hayes and Lecitus Smith.
Hayes and Smith may have been sixth- and seventh-round picks, but they were significantly higher than that on PFF’s big board. Smith was PFF’s eighth-ranked interior offensive lineman, and Hayes came in even higher as the fifth-ranked interior offensive lineman and the 103rd-ranked player overall.
QB Marcus Mariota DI Grady Jarrett
RB Damien Williams DI Anthony Rush
RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson Edge Lorenzo Carter
WR Drake London Edge Arnold Ebiketie
WR Bryan Edwards LB Deion Jones
TE Kyle Pitts LB Rashaan Evans
LT Jake Matthews CB A.J. Terrell
LG Jalen Mayfield CB Casey Hayward Jr.
C Matt Hennessy CB Isaiah Oliver
RG Chris Lindstrom S Richie Grant
RT Kaleb McGary S Jaylinn Hawkins
Picking a starting 11 for this Falcons’ offense isn’t an easy task right now. I landed on two backs in the table above because of how often Atlanta used two backs in 2021, Patterson’s ability to operate as a hybrid halfback/wide receiver and Atlanta’s lack of depth at the wide receiver position. Fullback Keith Smith will certainly be that second back on occasion rather than the Falcons having two running backs on the field.
Defensively, Atlanta will be hoping for contributions from young interior defensive linemen such as Marlon Davidson and Ta’Quon Graham even though they aren’t listed above. Safety will also have some competition with Dean Marlowe and Richie Grant figuring to be in the mix for starting jobs this offseason.
Most interesting position battle: No. 2 and No. 3 wide receivers
The battle for snaps behind the Falcons’ top two receiving targets — Kyle Pitts and Drake London — is interesting in the same sense that a disaster you can’t look away from is interesting. Olamide Zaccheaus is the incumbent after recording a 63.4 PFF grade on over 600 snaps in 2021, but he’ll be fighting for targets with Bryan Edwards in addition to free-agent acquisitions Auden Tate and Damiere Byrd.
Tate has had a penchant for making highlight-reel, acrobatic catches. The catches just haven’t come all that frequently, as Tate has hauled in just over 60 total passes in his four-year career. Byrd, meanwhile, has averaged just 1.1 receiving yards per route run across three different offenses in the past three seasons — third-lowest among 64 wide receivers with at least 1,000 routes run.
Edwards has had a disappointing start to his NFL career (62.9 PFF grade on over 800 snaps in 2021), but he has a strong case as the most talented of the contenders for WR2.
QB Lamar Jackson DI Calais Campbell
RB J.K. Dobbins DI Michael Pierce
FB Patrick Ricard Edge Odafe Oweh
WR Rashod Bateman Edge Tyus Bowser
WR Devin Duvernay LB Patrick Queen
TE Mark Andrews LB Josh Bynes
LT Ronnie Stanley CB Marlon Humphrey
LG Ben Cleveland CB Marcus Peters
C Tyler Linderbaum CB Brandon Stephens
RG Kevin Zeitler S Kyle Hamilton
RT Morgan Moses S Marcus Williams
All signs are pointing toward the Ravens operating out of a lot of heavy personnel groupings with two or fewer wide receivers on the field in 2022. They traded away their No. 1 target at the position over the last several seasons (Marquise Brown) while adding two tight ends in the draft (Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely) and re-signing Nick Boyle and Patrick Ricard.
Justin Madubuike isn’t included above, but he will play a significant role alongside Calais Campbell and Michael Pierce as a base end. Baltimore has some nice depth on the defensive line with Derek Wolfe and Travis Jones as well.
Most interesting position battle: Secondary
The Ravens’ secondary is loaded with high-end talent, which is part of what makes that unit so interesting. They have, at least, three starting-caliber safeties in Marcus Williams, Kyle Hamilton and Chuck Clark. There’s been some talk about the possibility of Clark being traded after Baltimore spent a significant amount of resources on both Williams and Hamilton, but he would give them some versatility alongside those two if he stays.
The additions at safety also freed up 2021 third-round pick Brandon Stephens to play more at cornerback after earning a 53.0 PFF grade in over 700 snaps at safety as a rookie. Jalyn Armour-Davis, a rookie out of Alabama, could also see some action outside with Marlon Humphrey kicking into the slot in three cornerback personnel groupings.
There are several different combinations for Baltimore to work through and decide between entering next season.
QB Josh Allen DI Ed Oliver
RB Devin Singletary DI DaQuan Jones
WR Stefon Diggs Edge Von Miller
WR Gabriel Davis Edge Greg Rousseau
WR Jamison Crowder LB Tremaine Edmunds
TE Dawson Knox LB Matt Milano
LT Dion Dawkins CB Tre’Davious White
LG Rodger Saffold CB Kaiir Elam
C Mitch Morse CB Taron Johnson
RG Ryan Bates S Micah Hyde
RT Spencer Brown S Jordan Poyer
The Bills have one of the more well-rounded rosters in the NFL. Their first-round draft pick (Kaiir Elam) addressed their biggest need for a No. 2 cornerback opposite Tre’Davious White. They have some nice depth along the defensive line after addressing the unit heavily in free agency and the draft the past few offseasons.
The right side of Buffalo’s offensive line is the one area where there is some uncertainty since Ryan Bates and Spencer Brown have combined for just over 1,000 career snaps. The two have a chance to develop into a solid pairing on the right side, but there just isn’t much experience at those two positions entering 2022.
Most interesting position battle: Running back
There was some talk that the Bills could add a running back with their first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, but they instead waited until the back end of the second round to add a different skill set to their running back room. James Cook’s speed and receiving chops should serve as a nice complement to Devin Singletary. Zack Moss and Duke Johnson will likely be competing for the No. 3 role behind those two, leading to a relatively deep competition for snaps and touches next season.
QB Sam Darnold DI Derrick Brown
RB Christian McCaffrey DI Matt Ioannidis
WR D.J. Moore Edge Brian Burns
WR Robby Anderson Edge Yetur Gross-Matos
WR Terrace Marshall Jr. LB Shaq Thompson
TE Ian Thomas LB Cory Littleton
LT Ikem Ewkonu CB Donte Jackson
LG Brady Christensen CB Jaycee Horn
C Bradley Bozeman CB C.J. Henderson
RG Austin Corbett S Jeremy Chinn
RT Taylor Moton S Xavier Woods
The Panthers did a good job this offseason of solidifying their offensive line through the draft and free agency. Ikem Ekwonu, Bradley Bozeman and Austin Corbett all represent nice upgrades over their 2021 counterparts in Carolina. The unit has a chance to be much improved if those three play up to expectations and Brady Christensen solidifies the left guard spot in his second season out of BYU.
Carolina loses some depth on the edge with Hasson Reddick leaving for Philadelphia, putting more on Yetur Gross-Matos to provide some pass rush opposite Brian Burns. Damien Wilson is the most natural fit at “Mike” linebacker for the Panthers, but he’s facing assault charges and has earned PFF grades below 60.0 in five consecutive seasons.
All three of the Panthers’ top projected cornerbacks — Jaycee Horn, Donte Jackson and C.J. Henderson — profile as outside corners. That leaves some questions as to whether Carolina wants to kick one of them inside, or if they instead turn to a more natural fit such as Myles Hartsfield as the starting nickel.
Most interesting position battle: Quarterback
Even though the Panthers did ultimately draft a quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft, Sam Darnold still comes away as a winner given that the team didn’t select a quarterback at No. 6 overall. That doesn’t mean that Matt Corral won’t have a chance to win the starting job, though. Darnold’s 60.9 overall grade since 2018 ranks dead last among 32 qualifying quarterbacks.
Corral is facing a steep transition from an RPO-heavy offense at Ole Miss that rarely asked him to run dropback passing concepts, but the barrier to a starting job is just about as low as it is anywhere else in the NFL.
QB Justin Fields DI Justin Jones
RB David Montgomery DI Khyiris Tonga
WR Darnell Mooney Edge Robert Quinn
WR Byron Pringle Edge Al-Quadin Muhammad
WR Equanimeous St. Brown LB Roquan Smith
TE Cole Kmet LB Nicholas Morrow
LT Larry Borom CB Jaylon Johnson
LG Cody Whitehair CB Kyler Gordon
C Lucas Patrick CB Tavon Young
RG Sam Mustipher S Eddie Jackson
RT Teven Jenkins S Jaquan Brisker
Justin Fields‘ supporting cast is in the running for the worst in the NFL. The offensive line (examined in more detail below) has question marks at multiple positions, and the receiving corps is relying on secondary and tertiary options to punch above their weight as Fields’ top options in the passing game.
The depth along the defensive line is the biggest concern on the other side of the ball. The Bears are missing a true pass-rushing threat at three-technique — a starting role currently filled by Justin Jones — and replace Khalil Mack with Al-Quadin Muhammad. Draft picks Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker do help solidify the secondary, though.
Most interesting position battle: Offensive line
Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins are both second-year players who missed significant time due to injury as rookies while delivering underwhelming performances when they were on the field. Borom earned a 61.4 PFF grade in 633 offensive snaps, and Jenkins came away with a 47.5 PFF grade in 160 snaps. Maybe both take big leaps in 2022, but relying on that improvement is a risky game to play with Fields entering an important Year 2.
Right guard looks to be the most “open” position entering training camp. Sam Mustipher kicking over from center and Dakota Dozier (PFF’s lowest-graded guard since 2019) are the two veteran frontrunners.
A handful of Day 3 selections, such as Braxton Jones, Zachary Thomas, Doug Kramer and Ja’Tyre Carter, also add some intrigue to the positional battles upfront for the Bears.
QB Joe Burrow DI D.J. Reader
RB Joe Mixon DI B.J. Hill
WR Ja’Marr Chase Edge Trey Hendrickson
WR Tee Higgins Edge Sam Hubbard
WR Tyler Boyd LB Logan Wilson
TE Hayden Hurst LB Germaine Pratt
LT Jonah Williams CB Chidobe Awuzie
LG Jackson Carman CB Cam Taylor-Britt
C Ted Karras CB Mike Hilton
RG Alex Cappa S Jessie Bates III
RT La’el Collins S Vonn Bell
There won’t be much suspense about the Bengals’ starting lineup on offense next season. Free agents Ted Karras, Alex Cappa and La’el Collins step into starting roles on the offensive line, while Hayden Hurst fills in for C.J. Uzomah at tight end. Left guard is really the only position up for grabs with Jackson Carman getting the slight nod over rookie fourth-round pick Cordell Volson and 2021 fourth-round pick D’Ante Smith.
Cincinnati’s front seven is largely unchanged with B.J. Hill returning in, presumably, an increased role now that Larry Ogunjobi is no longer with the team. Joseph Ossai returning from injury should give a boost to the edge rotation. Third-round pick Zachary Carter will provide some more depth on the defensive line, as well.
Most interesting position battle: Cornerback
The secondary is where the Bengals put the majority of their resources in the draft. Daxton Hill can wear multiple hats — whether that be safety, nickel or even potentially outside cornerback. Cam Taylor-Britt will likely enter training camp behind Eli Apple in the No. 2 outside cornerback competition, but he’ll have a chance to win that job. Apple has yet to earn a PFF grade higher than 65.0 in his six-year NFL career.
Those two additions, along with the selection of Toledo safety Tycen Anderson in the fifth round, give defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo some flexibility on the back end.
QB Deshaun Watson/Jacoby Brissett DI Jordan Elliott
RB Nick Chubb DI Perrion Winfrey
WR Amari Cooper Edge Myles Garrett
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones Edge Stephen Weatherly
WR David Bell LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
TE David Njoku LB Anthony Walker
LT Jedrick Wills Jr. CB Denzel Ward
LG Joel Bitonio CB Greg Newsome II
C Nick Harris CB Greedy Williams
RG Wyatt Teller S John Johnson III
RT Jack Conklin S Grant Delpit
There is still a lot that needs to be determined at the quarterback position for Cleveland. How long is Deshaun Watson’s suspension, if and when it comes from the league? And how does the Baker Mayfield situation play out without an obvious trade partner? Wide receiver stands out as the other position that could see some competition after Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashard Higgins‘ departures in the past year. David Bell, a third-round pick out of Purdue, has a realistic path to a starting role in the offense.
The Browns will have an interesting decision when it comes to how they man the slot next season after deciding to trade Troy Hill. Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome are locked in as the team’s top two cornerbacks with Greedy Williams and rookie Martin Emerson likely competing for the No. 3 spot. All four have played primarily on the outside.
Most interesting position battle: Defensive line
Defensive line is the clear weak point on Cleveland’s roster as things stand currently. The Browns could really use Jadeveon Clowney, who remains a free agent, back in the starting lineup. Stephen Weatherly gets the nod here to start over the rookie Alex Wright and Chase Winovich because of his experience, but he provides nowhere close to the same impact against the run or the pass as Clowney. Weatherly is coming off three consecutive seasons with PFF grades below 55.0.
The interior is even thinner without an elite talent such as Myles Garrett to fall back on. The Browns lack a strong interior run presence — which was an issue last season — and are banking on big contributions from young players such as Perrion Winfrey, Jordan Elliott and Tommy Togiai. Free-agent acquisition Taven Bryan also has a good chance to earn one of the starting jobs after two disappointing years in Jacksonville, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for the group.
QB Dak Prescott DI Osa Odighizuwa
RB Ezekiel Elliott DI Neville Gallimore
WR CeeDee Lamb Edge DeMarcus Lawrence
WR Michael Gallup (injury) Edge Dorance Armstrong
WR Jalen Tolbert LB Micah Parsons
TE Dalton Schultz LB Leighton Vander Esch
LT Tyron Smith CB Trevon Diggs
LG Tyler Smith CB Anthony Brown
C Tyler Biadasz CB Jourdan Lewis
RG Zack Martin S Jayron Kearse
RT Terence Steele S Malik Hooker
The notable losses on offense this offseason came at wide receiver (Amari Cooper) and offensive line (Connor Williams and La’el Collins). Jalen Tolbert, a rookie out of South Alabama, and free-agent acquisition James Washington will both look to take some of the targets vacated by Cooper. As for the offensive line, early indications point to Dallas slotting Tyler Smith in at the weakest point on their offensive line at left guard while Terence Steele moves from swing tackle to starter on the right side.
The defensive line has a little bit more uncertainty when it comes to the starting lineup. Fifth-round rookie John Ridgeway could earn an early role on the interior while Dorance Armstrong, Sam Williams and Dante Fowler Jr. will compete for snaps opposite Demarcus Lawrence in the spot vacated by Randy Gregory.
Most interesting position battle: WR3
Both Tolbert and Washington should see plenty of action early in the season as Michael Gallup works his way back from his ACL injury, meaning that their offseason competition for snaps and targets in this offense will bleed into the regular season.
Tolbert and Washington both fit the “vertical threat” mold at receiver. The two both rank among the top six FBS wide receivers in receptions on throws 20-plus yards downfield since PFF began collecting college data in 2014.
QB Russell Wilson DI D.J. Jones
RB Javonte Williams DI Dre’Mont Jones
WR Courtland Sutton Edge Bradley Chubb
WR Jerry Jeudy Edge Randy Gregory
WR Tim Patrick LB Josey Jewell
TE Albert Okwuegbunam LB Alex Singleton
LT Garett Bolles CB Patrick Surtain II
LG Dalton Risner CB Ronald Darby
C Graham Glasgow CB K’Waun Williams
RG Quinn Meinerz S Justin Simmons
RT Billy Turner S Kareem Jackson
Russell Wilson‘s arrival is the upgrade at quarterback that allows Denver to be a legitimate competitor in the AFC. Being able to throw out a player as talented as K.J. Hamler as a No. 4 WR highlights the depth that Wilson will have at wide receiver.
Edge defender should have some interesting competition behind the projected starting duo of Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory, as well. Second-round pick Nik Bonitto joins Malik Reed, Jonathan Cooper and Baron Browning (moving to edge from off-ball linebacker) in the competition for snaps. Inside linebacker was surprisingly not addressed in the draft, leaving Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton as the expected starters.
Most interesting position battle: Interior offensive line
It appears as if three players — Graham Glasgow, Quinn Meinerz and Lloyd Cushenberry III — will be in competition for two spots at center and right guard. Cushenberry and Glasgow have started at those two positions in each of the past two years, but it looks as if both Glasgow and Meinerz will get reps at both spots. Meinerz started eight games at right guard for an injured Glasgow at the tail end of last season and played well in that role.
QB Jared Goff DI Michael Brockers
RB D’Andre Swift DI Alim McNeill
WR D.J. Chark Jr. Edge Aidan Hutchinson
WR Jameson Williams (injury) Edge Romeo Okwara
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown LB Alex Anzalone
TE T.J. Hockenson LB Derrick Barnes
LT Taylor Decker CB Amani Oruwariye
LG Jonah Jackson CB Jeff Okudah
C Frank Ragnow CB A.J. Parker
RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai S Tracy Walker
RT Penei Sewell S DeShon Elliott
The Lions have added some much-needed verticality to their offense with the Jameson Williams and D.J. Chark additions. No team threw the ball shorter downfield on average (6.8 yards) than the Lions did in 2021.
They’ll also have some options to turn to on the edge with Aidan Hutchinson, Romeo and Julian Okwara, Charles Harris and Josh Paschal now in the fold. Outside of quarterback, the secondary is the biggest question mark on this team.
Most interesting position battle: Cornerback
Amani Oruwariye is the closest thing that Detroit has to a locked-in starter after he allowed just a 60.2 passer rating on throws into his coverage in 2021, but that number is a little bit deceiving when compared to a 60.3 PFF coverage grade.
Jeffrey Okudah and free-agent acquisition Mike Hughes will compete for the other starting job on the outside. Hughes played well in that role for the Chiefs last season (72.2 PFF coverage grade), but the Lions will be hoping that a healthy Okudah looks more like the prospect they drafted inside the top five of the 2020 NFL Draft. One of them could kick inside to nickel, or Detroit could opt to keep Parker there after he carved out a role as an undrafted free agent last season.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
QB Aaron Rodgers DI Kenny Clark
RB Aaron Jones DI Devonte Wyatt
WR Allen Lazard Edge Rashan Gary
WR Christian Watson Edge Preston Smith
WR Randall Cobb LB De’Vondre Campbell
TE Robert Tonyan LB Quay Walker
LT David Bakhtiari CB Jaire Alexander
LG Jon Runyan Jr. CB Eric Stokes
C Josh Myers CB Rasul Douglas
RG Royce Newman S Adrian Amos
RT Elgton Jenkins (injury) S Darnell Savage Jr.
Despite Aaron Rodgers returning as a back-to-back MVP, it’s easier to feel good about Green Bay’s defense than their offense. The Devonte Wyatt and Quay Walker picks help to solidify the middle of the field, and the Packers return one of the best all-around secondaries in the NFL.
The Packers will likely start the season with someone else at right tackle while Elgton Jenkins works his way back from injury — whether that be Yosh Nijman or a rookie such as Sean Rhyan or Zach Tom. A healthy David Bakhtiari and Josh Myers should help matters upfront, though. At running back, Aaron Jones should see a near 50-50 split with A.J. Dillon even though he’s not listed as a starter above.
Most interesting position battle: Wide receiver
It’s anyone’s guess who emerges as Rodgers’ top target in 2022. The rookie additions — Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs — will both have opportunities to carve out a role, but the returning Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb have the experience advantage with Rodgers. Sammy Watkins is the wild card, as it’s not unrealistic to see him land anywhere from WR1 to off the team completely by the time the regular season rolls around.
Injuries have been the biggest concern for Watkins in recent seasons. He has played over 600 offensive snaps just once in the four seasons since he signed his big contract with the Chiefs.
QB Davis Mills DI Roy Lopez
RB Dameon Pierce DI Maliek Collins
WR Brandin Cooks Edge Jonathan Greenard
WR Nico Collins Edge Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
WR John Metchie III LB Christian Kirksey
TE Brevin Jordan LB Kamu Grugier-Hill
LT Laremy Tunsil CB Derek Stingley Jr.
LG Kenyon Green CB Steven Nelson
C Justin Britt CB Tavierre Thomas
RG A.J. Cann S Jalen Pitre
RT Tytus Howard S M.J. Stewart
This Texans’ roster is far from a finished product, but it’s certainly in better shape than it was a season ago. John Metchie might not be ready to start the year while recovering from a torn ACL, but he adds another crafty route runner and viable receiving threat for David Mills. Kenyon Green and A.J. Cann should help solidify the guard spots while allowing Tytus Howard to kick back outside to tackle, where he’s had some success as a pass protector.
Running back is one of the most wide-open positions on the roster. Offseason additions Marlon Mack and Dameon Pierce will compete with Rex Burkhead and Royce Freeman for snaps and touches. Pierce’s success as a runner at Florida, albeit in a limited sample, and his standing as one of the best and most willing pass protectors in this draft class could earn him a significant role early on.
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo projects as the best option to replace Jacob Martin at the starting edge spot opposite Jonathan Greenard, but Houston also added Rasheem Green and Mario Addison to compete on the edge. Christian Harris, a third-round rookie linebacker out of Alabama, could also win a starting job as a rookie.
Eric Murray returns as a starter at safety over the last two years for the Texans, but he’s not guaranteed a starting job after earning PFF grades below 55.0 in those two seasons. Jalen Pitre and M.J. Stewart were both added this offseason and will be in the starter mix.
Most interesting position battle: Slot cornerback
Slot cornerback has become one of the deeper position groups on Houston’s roster. Tavierre Thomas gets the nod here after allowing just 0.5 receiving yards into his coverage per coverage snap in 2021 — one of the best marks in the NFL. However, the Texans also have Desmond King (one of the NFL’s best slot defenders early in his career with the Chargers) and Pitre to fill that role. The majority of Pitre’s snaps (602 in 2021) came in the slot on Baylor’s defense.
QB Matt Ryan DI DeForest Buckner
RB Jonathan Taylor DI Grover Stewart
WR Michael Pittman Jr. Edge Yannick Ngakoue
WR Alec Pierce Edge Kwity Paye
WR Parris Campbell LB Darius Leonard
TE Mo Alie-Cox LB Bobby Okereke
LT Matt Pryor CB Stephon Gilmore
LG Quenton Nelson CB Kenny Moore II
C Ryan Kelly CB Isaiah Rodgers
RG Danny Pinter S Julian Blackmon
RT Braden Smith S Khari Willis
Even though the Colts’ offensive line has more question marks heading into 2022 than it has the last several offseasons, it still represents a significant upgrade for Matt Ryan relative to what he’s dealt with the last few years in Atlanta. Indianapolis will be hoping a healthy Parris Campbell and rookie Alec Pierce round out the receiving group for its new 37-year-old quarterback. Recent draft picks at tight end — Kylen Granson and Jelani Woods — should have a role alongside Mo Alie-Cox in the offense, as well.
The only real intrigue surrounding the starters on defense comes in the secondary. Stephon Gilmore and Kenny Moore are locked in place as the team’s top two cornerbacks, but Isaiah Rodgers will have to hold off Brandon Facyson for the other starting job. Rodgers played well when called upon in 2021 (70.7 PFF grade). At safety, Colts’ newcomers Rodney McLeod and Nick Cross could both push for a starting role.
Most interesting position battle: Left tackle
Matt Pryor logged 360 offensive snaps as the Colts’ swing tackle last season — 266 at right tackle and 94 on the left side. He certainly didn’t look out of place as a starter in that limited action with an 80.6 PFF grade across both positions. That’s enough to make him the favorite to start the season at left tackle, but Indianapolis got tremendous value on a challenger for Pryor in the third round.
Bernhard Raimann was the 18th-ranked player overall on PFF’s big board entering the draft after earning a 94.6 PFF grade in just his second season playing tackle with Central Michigan in 2021. He’s a tremendous athlete who is more polished technically than his experience at the position would suggest.
QB Trevor Lawrence DI Folorunso Fatukasi
RB James Robinson DI Roy Roberston-Harris
WR Christian Kirk Edge Josh Allen
WR Marvin Jones Jr. Edge Travon Walker
WR Zay Jones LB Foyesade Oloukun
TE Evan Engram LB Devin Lloyd
LT Cam Robinson CB Shaquill Griffin
LG Ben Bartch CB Darious Williams
C Luke Fortner CB Tyson Campbell
RG Brandon Scherff S Rayshawn Jenkins
RT Jawaan Taylor S Andre Cisco
There will be some jockeying for position at the skill positions in Jacksonville’s offense. Travis Etienne and James Robinson are both returning from significant injuries, but Etienne is further along in his rehab, which could provide an opportunity for him to gain some footing on Robinson if he’s sidelined early on. At wide receiver, Zay Jones and Christian Kirk are safe bets to start given what the Jaguars invested in them this offseason. And the biggest competition on the offensive line should come at center, where Tyler Shatley will have to hold off Luke Fortner.
On defense, Jacksonville invested heavily at linebacker with the Foyesade Oluokun, Devin Lloyd and third-round pick Chad Muma, who isn’t highlighted above. The Jaguars’ selection at No. 1 overall (Travon Walker) slides into the starting edge spot opposite former first-rounder Josh Allen, but Arden Key and Dawuane Smoot will still fill roles as rotational pieces on the edge.
Most interesting position battle: Interior defensive line
There’s some overlap in skill set when it comes to three of the Jaguars’ top options on the interior. Folorunso Fatukasi, Davon Hamilton and Malcom Brown all profile as nose tackles who are primarily tasked with stopping the run. Of those three, Fatukasi is the top option and the one who the Jaguars are most invested in. Roy Robertson-Harris, Adam Gotsis and Jay Tufele all figure to be in competition for snaps around those three.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
QB Patrick Mahomes DI Chris Jones
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire DI Derrick Nnadi
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling Edge Frank Clark
WR Skyy Moore Edge George Karlaftis
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster LB Nick Bolton
TE Travis Kelce LB Willie Gay Jr.
LT Orlando Brown Jr. CB L’Jarius Sneed
LG Joe Thuney CB Rashad Fenton
C Creed Humphrey CB Trent McDuffie
RG Trey Smith S Justin Reid
RT Darian Kinnard S Juan Thornhill
The biggest shift offensively for Kansas City comes at wide receiver. The Chiefs opted to trade one elite option at the position (Tyreek Hill) for cap space and draft capital that helped them bring in three starting options — Marquez Valdes-Scantling, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Skyy Moore. Early reports indicate Moore will start out behind Smith-Schuster in the slot with Mecole Hardman stepping into a starting role, but it’s easy to see a scenario where Moore earns early playing time with his performance this offseason.
Defensively, the Chiefs addressed their two biggest needs in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. George Karlaftis is well-positioned for a productive rookie season opposite Frank Clark, and Trent McDuffie should step into a starting role with L’Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton at cornerback. It will be interesting to see how the Chiefs use Justin Reid. He was used more as a traditional deep safety in Houston compared to how Tyrann Mathieu was used all over the field in Kansas City.
Most interesting position battle: Right tackle
It’s difficult to classify the Chiefs’ large-scale offensive line overhaul last offseason as anything other than a success. The only position that still carries some uncertainty is right tackle. It figures to be a three-man competition between Andrew Wylie, Lucas Niang and Darian Kinnard.
Wylie probably enters training camp as the starter due to Niang working his way back from injury and Kinnard’s standing as a fifth-round rookie, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kinnard have a Trey Smith-esque rise. Kinnard was the 79th-ranked player overall on PFF’s big board and is the kind of physical presence that the Chiefs have prioritized adding to their offensive line the last two offseasons.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
QB Derek Carr DI Bilal Nichols
RB Josh Jacobs DI Johnathan Hankins
WR Davante Adams Edge Maxx Crosby
WR Hunter Renfrow Edge Chandler Jones
WR Demarcus Robinson LB Denzel Perryman
TE Darren Waller LB Jayon Brown
LT Kolton Miller CB Trayvon Mullen
LG Denzelle Good CB Rock Ya-Sin
C Andre James CB Nate Hobbs
RG Alex Leatherwood S Tre’von Moehrig
RT Brandon Parker S Duron Harmon
Las Vegas added one high-profile player on both sides of the ball — Davante Adams on offense and Chandler Jones on defense.
Adams gives Derek Carr back his No. 1 target from his Fresno State days while also making Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller even more dangerous as secondary targets. Free-agent signing Demarcus Robinson should be the WR3.
On defense, there should be some competition for the “Will” linebacker spot next to Denzel Perryman at middle linebacker. Brown will have to beat out second-year linebacker Divine Deablo and free-agent addition Micah Kiser for the role.
The other big competition should come at strong safety, where former first-round pick Johnathan Abram isn’t guaranteed another starting role. Abram earned a career-best 56.9 PFF grade in 2021, but that’s still an underwhelming performance in a Gus Bradley defense that allowed him to line up almost exclusively in the box. The veteran Duron Harmon might make more sense next to Trevon Moehrig in Patrick Graham’s defense.
Most interesting position battle: Right side of offensive line
The right guard and right tackle positions in Las Vegas combined to allow 124 pressures over the course of the 2021 regular season — 16 more than any other right side in the league. The projected starting lineup of Alex Leatherwood at right guard and Brandon Parker at right tackle is the same duo that the Raiders finished the season with. Even if Leatherwood takes an expected step forward in his second season out of Alabama, that should be a concern.
Leatherwood should have an opportunity to compete for the starting right tackle job, as well. He earned a 30.7 PFF grade while starting the first four games at right tackle in 2021. Jermaine Eluemunor, John Simpson and Dylan Parham will also be in the mix for starting jobs.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
QB Justin Herbert DI Sebastian Joseph-Day
RB Austin Ekeler DI Austin Johnson
WR Keenan Allen Edge Joey Bosa
WR Mike Williams Edge Khalil Mack
WR Jalen Guyton LB Drue Tranquill
TE Gerald Everett LB Kenneth Murray Jr.
LT Rashawn Slater CB J.C. Jackson
LG Matt Feiler CB Asante Samuel Jr.
C Corey Linsley CB Bryce Callahan
RG Zion Johnson S Derwin James
RT Trey Pipkins S Nasir Adderley
The biggest storyline around Los Angeles’ roster this offseason has been the emphasis placed on improving the defensive talent heading into Brandon Staley’s second year as head coach. They’ve added high-end talent (J.C. Jackson and Khalil Mack), key role players (Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson and Bryce Callahan) and versatile depth not shown above in the form of Kyle Van Noy.
Jerry Tillery should still have a role on passing downs as a penetrating three-technique defensive tackle given that isn’t the specialty of the Chargers’ free agent additions on the interior, but the clock is ticking on him living up to his draft stock and becoming an impact player. The biggest competition for snaps will likely come at cornerback following the Jackson and Callahan additions. Either Asante Samuel Jr. or Michael Davis will end up as the odd man out in the starting lineup, assuming Callahan (and Derwin James in certain scenarios) fills the starting nickel role.
The offensive changes consist of Gerald Everett stepping in for Jared Cook at tight end and first-round guard Zion Johnson filling the void at right guard. Jalen Guyton and Josh Palmer should both see time at wide receiver depending on what the Chargers are looking for. Guyton got the nod above as the receiver with elite speed, something that the Chargers were reportedly looking for more of this offseason.
Most interesting position battle: Right tackle
There was some discussion around the idea of Johnson stepping in as the left guard while Matt Feiler kicks back out to right tackle — a position he performed well at in Pittsburgh in 2018 and 2019. However, early reports indicate the Chargers don’t want to mess with a good thing after Feiler’s impressive showing at left guard in 2021 (74.0 PFF grade) and will instead let Trey Pipkins and Storm Norton battle it out at right tackle.
Norton filled that role for the majority of last season, and he was the clear weak point upfront for the Chargers. He was one of three offensive linemen in the NFL who allowed 60 quarterback pressures. Pipkins received two starts late in the year — Week 15 at left tackle and Week 17 at right tackle — and earned PFF grades above 70.0 in both. Pipkins has a good chance to beat out Norton this offseason, even if he doesn’t enter training camp as the starter.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
QB Matthew Stafford DI Aaron Donald
RB Cam Akers DI Greg Gaines
WR Cooper Kupp Edge Leonard Floyd
WR Allen Robinson II Edge Justin Hollins
WR Van Jefferson LB Bobby Wagner
TE Tyler Higbee LB Ernest Jones
LT Joseph Noteboom CB Jalen Ramsey
LG David Edwards CB Troy Hill
C Brian Allen CB Robert Rochell
RG Logan Bruss S Jordan Fuller
RT Rob Havenstein S Nick Scott
It’s hard to argue the Rams’ roster got better this offseason, but that’s often the reality for the reigning Super Bowl champs. It’s hard to run things back. Von Miller, Darious Williams, Austin Corbett, Andrew Whitworth and Odell Beckham Jr. (for now) represent the 2022 starters who are no longer on the team. Those vacancies are filled by Justin Hollins, Robert Rochell, Logan Bruss, Joseph Noteboom and Allen Robinson respectively in the table above.
Most of the interest when it comes to training camp battles will come on the defensive side of the ball. Hollins, Chris Garrett and Terrell Lewis are a far cry from Miller, but the Rams will hope that together they can replace some of his production. Nick Scott has likely earned a bigger role at safety after some impressive performances down the stretch last season. He and Taylor Rapp should both have roles alongside Jordan Fuller.
Most interesting position battle: Cornerback
Williams’ departure and Troy Hill’s insertion after a one-year hiatus back into this group creates some interesting decisions for Raheem Morris. Does Hill remain in the slot as the “star” where he had success in 2020, kicking Jalen Ramsey back outside more again? What does that mean for David Long Jr., who ended the 2021 season in the slot after starting the season outside? Hill, Long and Rochell will all be jockeying for position behind Ramsey at cornerback heading into next year.
QB Tua Tagovailoa DI Christian Wilkins
RB Chase Edmonds DI Raekwon Davis
WR Tyreek Hill Edge Emmanuel Ogbah
WR Jaylen Waddle Edge Jaelan Phillips
TE Mike Gesicki LB Elandon Roberts
TE Durham Smythe LB Jerome Baker
LT Terron Armstead CB Xavien Howard
LG Connor Williams CB Byron Jones
C Michael Deiter CB Nik Needham
RG Robert Hunt S Jevon Holland
RT Liam Eichenberg S Brandon Jones
The Dolphins have taken away all the excuses for Tua Tagovailoa in a make-or-break year for the third-year quarterback. Adding Tyreek Hill to pair with Jaylen Waddle gives Miami the fastest one-two punch at wide receiver in the league, and the offensive line was bolstered with the additions of Terron Armstead and Connor Williams on the left side. They’ll let their recent draft investments battle it out on the right side between Robert Hunt, Liam Eichenberg, Austin Jackson and Solomon Kindley.
Miami has the ability to be a pretty diverse offense in terms of the personnel groupings it can throw out under Mike McDaniel. The Alec Ingold addition at fullback gives them the ability to operate out of 21 and 22 personnel — just as San Francisco did with Kyle Juszczyk. They also added some depth at wide receiver with the additions of Cedrick Wilson in free agency and Erik Ezukanma in the draft.
Defensively, the Miami defense doesn’t look all that different from how it looked in 2021. The Dolphins brought back Emmanuel Ogbah on a new deal with Jaelan Phillips and Andrew Van Ginkel joining him on the edge. Zach Sieler will have a role alongside Christian Wilkins and Raekwon Davis on the defensive line, as well. Next year is a big season for former first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene to take a step in the right direction at cornerback, but he’s buried behind Byron Jones, Xavien Howard and Nik Needham on the depth chart heading into the 2022 season.
Most interesting position battle: Running back
Miami has four running backs on the roster who could realistically emerge as the lead back between Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, Myles Gaskin and Sony Michel.
The money points to Edmonds as starting the year atop the depth chart after the Dolphins signed him to a two-year, $12.1 million deal this offseason. Mostert has the advantage of familiarity with new head coach Mike McDaniel and his offense, but he’s 30 years old and has struggled to stay healthy. Gaskin (in Miami) and Michel (in Los Angeles) both operated as lead backs for at least stretches of the 2021 season, as well.
QB Kirk Cousins DI Dalvin Tomlinson
RB Dalvin Cook DI Harrison Phillips
WR Justin Jefferson Edge Danielle Hunter
WR Adam Thielen Edge Za’Darius Smith
WR K.J. Osborn LB Eric Kendricks
TE Irv Smith Jr. LB Jordan Hicks
LT Christian Darrisaw CB Patrick Peterson
LG Ezra Cleveland CB Andrew Booth Jr.
C Garrett Bradbury CB Chandon Sullivan
RG Ed Ingram S Harrison Smith
RT Brian O’Neill S Lewis Cine
Defense was the primary focus of Minnesota’s offseason, adding likely starters in Harrison Phillips, Za’Darius Smith and Jordan Hicks in free agency while spending their first two draft picks on Andrew Booth Jr. and Lewis Cine. Injury concerns caused Booth to slide out of the first round, but the Vikings will hope they don’t create any setbacks heading into next season.
Right guard is the biggest question mark upfront for the Vikings. Ed Ingram, a second-round pick out of LSU, is penciled into that position for now, but he’ll have to win it over Jesse Davis, Chris Reed and Wyatt Davis in the coming months. The lack of a big addition at wide receiver speaks to the confidence that the Vikings have in younger players such as K.J. Osborn and Ihmir Smith-Marsette to step up and produce in complementary roles.
Most interesting position battle: Cornerback
Patrick Peterson is no longer the shutdown cornerback he was for much of his career with the Cardinals, but he also wasn’t a liability last season in Minnesota. He allowed just 37 completions into his coverage with a 61.0 PFF coverage grade. He returns as the No. 1 option. Booth and Cameron Dantzler will be competing for the starting job opposite him.
Chandon Sullivan is coming off a career-low 55.0 PFF grade last season with the Packers, but he doesn’t have much competition for the starting nickel job.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
QB Mac Jones DI Christian Barmore
RB Damien Harris DI Davon Godchaux
WR Jakobi Meyers Edge Deatrich Wise Jr.
WR DeVante Parker Edge Matthew Judon
WR Kendrick Bourne LB Ja’Whaun Bentley
TE Hunter Henry CB Jalen Mills
LT Isaiah Wynn CB Malcolm Butler
LG Cole Strange CB Jonathan Jones
C David Andrews S Kyle Dugger
RG Michael Onwenu S Adrian Phillips
RT Trent Brown S Devin McCourty
One would think that the Patriots’ offense would have featured plenty of two-tight end personnel groupings in 2021 after spending significant money on both Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith last offseason, but that wasn’t the case. New England’s 14% of offensive snaps in 12 personnel ranked just 27th out of 32 offenses, and Smith’s first season with the team was a disappointment.
Cole Strange figures to step in for Ted Karras at left guard while Michael Onwenu slides into his natural right guard position that was vacated following the Shaq Mason trade.
It’s reasonable to expect a lot of dime personnel defensively for the Patriots given their lack of movement this offseason and their depth at safety. Lawrence Guy isn’t listed above, but he should, once again, play a significant role on the Patriots’ defensive line. And there will be some competition at cornerback between Terrance Mitchell, Marcus Jones and Jack Jones.
Most interesting position battle: Safety
Even if the Patriots do utilize three safeties at the highest rate in the NFL, there are still only so many snaps to go around. Kyle Dugger took a clear step forward in his second season out of Lenoir-Rhyne, improving his PFF coverage grade from 55.4 as a rookie to 73.7 last year. Devin McCourty is a defensive leader and has been one of the best free safeties in the league over the course of the past decade. Adrian Phillips has certainly done nothing to cede snaps coming off an 80.0 PFF grade in 2021. Throw Jabrill Peppers into that mix, and New England boasts arguably the deepest safety group in the NFL.
That’s not a bad problem to have, but it does create some interesting competition heading into next season.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
QB Jameis Winston DI David Onyemata
RB Alvin Kamara DI Shy Tuttle
WR Michael Thomas Edge Cameron Jordan
WR Chris Olave Edge Marcus Davenport
WR Jarvis Landry LB Demario Davis
TE Adam Trautman LB Pete Werner
LT Trevor Penning CB Marshon Lattimore
LG Andrus Peat CB Paulson Adebo
C Erik McCoy DB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
RG Cesar Ruiz S Marcus Maye
RT Ryan Ramczyk S Tyrann Mathieu
The Saints used the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft to fill their two glaring holes on offense at wide receiver and left tackle. The Jarvis Landry addition further solidified the group with Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris competing for snaps behind that group of three atop the depth chart. Nick Vannett should start the year as the Saints’ TE2 behind Adam Trautman.
The starting lineup on defense shouldn’t have many surprises. Shy Tuttle could be pushed for his starting spot, but he’s been a reliable contributor with PFF grades above 70.0 in each of the past three years for the Saints. Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu replace Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins at safety, keeping P.J. Williams as a third safety and slot option.
Most interesting position battle: Left tackle
The Saints were consistently tied to Trevor Penning leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft, and they came away from the first round with their presumed successor to Terron Armstead at left tackle. Penning was a dominant run blocker at Northern Iowa, as evidenced by his 99.9 PFF run-blocking grade in 2021, but the NFL represents a significant step up in competition. Penning also has to clean up the penalties after being hit with 16 last season.
One would think the Saints will give Penning every opportunity to win the job, but James Hurst is a competent backup plan if Penning doesn’t look like a Week 1 starter throughout training camp and the preseason. Hurst played over 900 offensive snaps last year for the Saints across time at left tackle, left guard and right tackle and earned a PFF pass-blocking grade of 76.9 in that action.
NEW YORK GIANTS
QB Daniel Jones DI Leonard Williams
RB Saquon Barkley DI Dexter Lawrence
WR Kenny Golladay Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux
WR Sterling Shepard Edge Azeez Ojulari
WR Kadarius Toney LB Blake Martinez
TE Ricky Seals-Jones LB Tae Crowder
LT Andrew Thomas CB Adoree’ Jackson
LG Joshua Ezeudu CB Aaron Robinson
C Jon Feliciano CB Darnay Holmes
RG Mark Glowinski S Xavier McKinney
RT Evan Neal S Jordan Love
By declining Daniel Jones’ fifth-year option, the new coaching staff and front office made this a make-or-break year for the fourth-year quarterback out of Duke. He should have the best offensive line of his career in front of him with the additions of Evan Neal, Mark Glowinski, Jon Feliciano and Joshua Ezeudu. The only spot up front that looks to be up for grabs is left guard, where the rookie Neal will be competing with Shane Lemieux, Jamil Douglas and Max Garcia.
James Bradberry’s departure leaves New York’s secondary even thinner than it was previously. Aaron Robinson stands out as the most likely starter opposite Adoree’ Jackson after playing sparingly in the slot (92 snaps) and out wide (149 snaps) as a rookie. That leaves Darnay Holmes to compete with rookie Cor’Dale Flott (104th on PFF’s big board) in the slot.
Most interesting position battle: Tight end
The Giants have one of the weaker tight end groups in the NFL on paper, which creates a real opportunity for fourth-round rookie Daniel Bellinger to carve out a role early in his career. He’ll be fighting for snaps with Ricky Seals-Jones (62.3 PFF grade on 507 snaps last season in Washington) and Jordan Akins (52.5 PFF grade on 327 snaps last season in Houston).
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see new head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka turn to more three- and four-wide receiver personnel groupings with second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinson and Darius Slayton adding on to the wide receivers listed above.
NEW YORK JETS
QB Zach Wilson DI Quinnen Williams
RB Breece Hall DI Sheldon Rankins
WR Corey Davis Edge Carl Lawson
WR Garrett Wilson Edge John Franklin-Myers
WR Elijah Moore LB C.J. Mosley
TE C.J. Uzomah LB Quincy Williams
LT George Fant CB D.J. Reed
LG Laken Tomlinson CB Sauce Gardner
C Connor McGovern CB Michael Carter II
RG Alijah Vera-Tucker S Jordan Whitehead
RT Mekhi Becton S Lamarcus Joyner
It remains to be seen who plays on which side, but it looks like the Jets are sticking with George Fant and Mekhi Becton at tackle without an early addition at the position in the 2022 NFL Draft. New York has done a good job of surrounding Zach Wilson with talent on offense entering his second season out of BYU. Tyler Conklin and Jeremy Ruckert provide some nice depth at tight end and allow the Jets to operate out of heavier personnel groupings.
First-round pick Jermaine Johnson should see plenty of snaps along the defensive line, even if he starts out behind John Franklin-Myers. The Jets are also high on Quincy Williams at linebacker next to C.J. Mosley despite Williams not impressing from a PFF grade standpoint (44.2 overall) in his first year with the team.
Most interesting position battle: Free safety
The biggest true competition for a starting role on defense looks like it’s going to come at the safety spot next to Jordan Whitehead. Lamarcus Joyner was brought back to play free safety after a stint in the slot last offseason, but a torn triceps ended his season after just nine snaps. Joyner will be competing with Ashtyn Davis and Jason Pinnock for the starting role but should have the inside track to the job.
Joyner earned PFF grades of 90.9 and 73.1 in his last two seasons as a starting free safety, though those came all the way back in 2017 and 2018 with the Rams.
QB Jalen Hurts DI Fletcher Cox
RB Miles Sanders DI Javon Hargrave
WR A.J. Brown Edge Brandon Graham
WR DeVonta Smith Edge Haason Reddick
WR Quez Watkins LB Kyzir White
TE Dallas Goedert LB T.J. Edwards
LT Jordan Mailata CB Darius Slay
LG Landon Dickerson CB Avonte Maddox
C Jason Kelce CB Zech McPhearson
RG Isaac Seumalo S Anthony Harris
RT Lane Johnson S Marcus Epps
The A.J. Brown acquisition should make Eagles fans feel a whole lot more confident in their receiving corps, allowing guys such as Quez Watkins, Zach Pascal and Jalen Reagor to compete for the No. 3 role. Nate Herbig and rookie Cam Jurgens, could be in the conversation at right guard, but the five listed above are the heavy favorites to start the season.
The depth Philadelphia has along the defensive line isn’t matched in the secondary. Marcus Epps will compete with former Clemson Tiger K’Von Wallace for the safety job opposite Anthony Harris. Epps played well in a part-time role in 2021 (74.6 PFF grade). The lack of an addition at cornerback leaves Zech McPhearson and Avonte Maddox as the top two options alongside Darius Slay.
Nakobe Dean could challenge for a starting role if his health checks out, but both T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White were top-20 graded linebackers last season. They will likely start the offseason on top of the depth chart.
Most interesting position battle: Defensive line
The Eagles prioritized adding depth up front this offseason with two of their biggest moves of the offseason coming along the defensive line — drafting Jordan Davis in the first round and signing Haason Reddick to a contract worth $15 million per year in free agency.
The pre-draft concerns surrounding Davis’ snap count at Georgia should be assuaged by this landing spot, where he can work his way into a larger role behind two entrenched starters in Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. Meanwhile, Reddick will be competing with Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett for snaps on the edge. Expect plenty of rotation along the defensive line to keep everyone fresh, as that’s the luxury that kind of depth affords the team.
QB Kenny Pickett DI Cam Heyward
RB Najee Harris DI Tyson Alualu
WR Diontae Johnson Edge T.J. Watt
WR Chase Claypool Edge Alex Highsmith
WR George Pickens LB Devin Bush
TE Pat Freiermuth LB Myles Jack
LT Dan Moore Jr. CB Cameron Sutton
LG Kevin Dotson CB Levi Wallace
C Mason Cole CB Ahkello Witherspoon
RG James Daniels S Minkah Fitzpatrick
RT Chukwuma Okorafor S Terrell Edmunds
If Pittsburgh’s young offensive line is able to take a step forward in 2022, there is some intriguing talent on this offense at the skill positions. The Steelers made up for the loss of JuJu Smith-Schuster by drafting George Pickens and Calvin Austin III and taking a few dart throws in free agency (Miles Boykin and Gunner Olszewski).
The tackle position is shaky at best, but there isn’t any real danger of Dan Moore or Chukwuma Okorafor losing their starting spots given the competition currently on the roster. The interior offensive line is more interesting, with both Kendrick Green and J.C. Hassenauer competing for spots despite not being listed above.
Stephon Tuitt’s potential return is the biggest remaining question on defense in the buildup to next season. He was one of the most disruptive interior defensive linemen in the NFL prior to 2020, but he missed all of last year with injury after tragically losing his brother in a hit-and-run prior to training camp. It remains unclear whether he’ll be back in 2022.
Most interesting position battle: Quarterback
Whenever there is any question as to who the starting quarterback will be entering a season, it’s hard to go anywhere else for the most interesting training camp battle. Pittsburgh brought in Mitchell Trubisky on a two-year, $14.3 million deal that didn’t scream “locked-in starter” at the time and certainly doesn’t now after the Steelers spent their first-round pick on Kenny Pickett.
The only quarterback who earned a lower PFF grade than Trubisky from 2017 to 2020 was Sam Darnold. Pickett isn’t without his concerns as a prospect, but he has a better chance of providing a real upgrade at quarterback for the Steelers than Trubisky does.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
QB Trey Lance DI Javon Kinlaw
RB Elijah Mitchell DL Arik Armstead
FB Kyle Juszczyk Edge Nick Bosa
WR Deebo Samuel Edge Drake Jackson
WR Brandon Aiyuk LB Fred Warner
TE George Kittle LB Dre Greenlaw
LT Trent Williams CB Charvarius Ward
LG Aaron Banks CB Emmanuel Moseley
C Alex Mack CB Jason Verrett
RG Daniel Brunskill S Jimmie Ward
RT Mike McGlinchey S George Odum
The 49ers would like to trade Jimmy Garoppolo to fully clear the path for Trey Lance to take over at quarterback, but the quarterback market has dried up in the last month. It would still be a surprise if anyone other than Lance started Week 1 at the position.
The interior offensive line isn’t set in stone with some worry that Alex Mack might retire and rookie Spencer Burford could start at guard.
For all of San Francisco’s depth along the defensive line, it didn’t really replace D.J. Jones at nose tackle. Hassan Ridgeway, Maurice Hurst and Kevin Givens are among the team’s top interior options behind Javon Kinlaw. Arik Armstead could also play more on the interior given how deep San Francisco is on the edge.
George Odum replaces Jaquiski Tartt (barring a late return) at safety, while Jimmie Ward bolsters a cornerback unit that recently brought back Jason Verrett. The biggest question remaining at cornerback is how San Francisco chooses to replace K’Waun Williams in the slot.
Most interesting position battle: Edge defender
Drake Jackson is given the nod above as a player who figures to be a pass-rush specialist opposite Nick Bosa, but there will be heavy competition for snaps in that No. 2 edge role. Armstead will get snaps outside on early downs, and the 49ers also have Samson Ebukam, Kemoko Turay, Kerry Hyder Jr. and Charles Omenihu on the edge. It’s a deep rotation, which reduces the pressure on Jackson to step in immediately as an every-down player.
QB Geno Smith DI Poona Ford
RB Rashaad Penny DI Shelby Harris
WR Tyler Lockett Edge Uchenna Nwosu
WR DK Metcalf Edge Darrell Taylor
TE Noah Fant LB Jordyn Brooks
TE Will Dissly LB Cody Barton
LT Charles Cross CB Tre Brown
LG Damien Lewis CB Sidney Jones
C Austin Blythe CB Justin Coleman
RG Gabe Jackson S Jamal Adams
RT Abraham Lucas S Quandre Diggs
There are more starting positions up for grabs in Seattle than there are on most other teams entering 2022, including the game’s most important position at quarterback. The Seahawks ran 12 personnel at the third-highest rate of any offense in 2021, and that should repeat in 2022 with Noah Fant joining Will Dissly at tight end and a lack of a proven No. 3 option at wide receiver.
Rashaad Penny, Chris Carson and second-round pick Kenneth Walker will all be in the mix for snaps at running back, with Penny perhaps having the early edge considering the injury that Carson is returning from.
Charles Cross, a top-10 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, is the favorite to step in as the team’s starting left tackle despite Stone Forsythe’s additional year of experience. That leaves Abraham Lucas to compete with Jake Curhan (37.2 PFF pass-blocking grade in 2021) at right tackle.
Al Woods isn’t listed above, but he returns as the team’s starting nose tackle. The Seahawks have options on the edge who will push Darrell Taylor and Uchenna Nwosu for starting jobs in Boye Mafe and Alton Robinson. Cornerback will also have competition with Ugo Amadi battling Justin Coleman in the slot and Artie Burns competing for snaps outside with rookies Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen.
Most interesting position battle: Quarterback
Geno Smith didn’t look completely out of place when he had to fill in for Russell Wilson last season. Smith was PFF’s 12th-highest-graded quarterback from Weeks 6-8 and averaged 7.3 yards per attempt across those three weeks (12th out of 32 qualifiers). His familiarity with the offense could give him a leg up on Drew Lock, even though it seems as if Lock wasn’t merely a throw-in in the Wilson trade.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
QB Tom Brady DI Vita Vea
RB Leonard Fournette DI William Gholston
WR Mike Evans Edge Shaq Barrett
WR Chris Godwin Edge Joe Tryon-Shoyinka
WR Russell Gage LB Lavonte David
TE Cameron Brate LB Devin White
LT Donovan Smith CB Carlton Davis
LG Luke Goedeke CB Jamel Dean
C Ryan Jensen CB Sean Murphy-Bunting
RG Shaq Mason S Antoine Winfield Jr.
RT Tristan Wirfs S Logan Ryan
Tampa Bay lost several starters on offense, but it did a good job of quickly filling those potential holes at guard and wide receiver with Shaq Mason, Luke Goedeke and Russell Gage. The Buccaneers also added some insurance at tight end in the draft with Washington’s Cade Otton in case Rob Gronkowski doesn’t return for another season.
Second-round pick Logan Hall out of Houston projects as the starting defensive end opposite William Gholston in Tampa Bay’s base defense while Joe Tryon-Shoyinka steps into a full-time starting role in his second season for Jason Pierre-Paul.
Most interesting position battle: Safety
Jordan Whitehead‘s departure at strong safety left a hole that three players — Logan Ryan, Mike Edwards and Keanu Neal — will look to fill this offseason. Edwards has been with Tampa Bay for three seasons, logging just over 1,500 defensive snaps across those years as primarily the team’s No. 3 safety. Ryan and Neal were both brought in as veterans with experience across a handful of different positions — safety and linebacker for Neal and safety and cornerback for Ryan. It will be a competition to watch on first-year head coach Todd Bowles’ defense this offseason.
QB Ryan Tannehill DI Jeffery Simmons
RB Derrick Henry DI Denico Autry
WR Treylon Burks Edge Harold Landry III
WR Robert Woods Edge Bud Dupree
WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine LB Zach Cunningham
TE Austin Hooper LB David Long
LT Taylor Lewan CB Kristian Fulton
LG Aaron Brewer CB Caleb Farley
C Ben Jones CB Elijah Molden
RG Nate Davis S Kevin Byard
RT Dillon Radunz S Amani Hooker
The glaring omission in the starting lineup above is A.J. Brown after he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2022 NFL Draft. That trade netted Tennessee a first-round pick that was spent on Treylon Burks. He’ll be asked to carry a heavy load on offense early in his career, particularly if Robert Woods isn’t ready to start the season as he works his way back from injury.
Nose tackle Teair Tart joins Jeffery Simmons and Denico Autry as the starting defensive linemen in Tennessee’s base defense. Cornerback stands out as the potential weak point on defense for the Titans. A lot is riding on last year’s first-round pick Caleb Farley remaining healthy on the outside, which has been far from guaranteed throughout his career. However, the Titans did add some insurance with Auburn’s Roger McCreary at the top of the second round.
Most interesting position battle: Left guard and right tackle
These two positions are getting grouped together because Dillon Radunz, a second-year offensive lineman out of North Dakota State, can be penciled into one of them — but which one? Radunz saw 124 offensive snaps as a rookie split across both guard and tackle. The Titans signed Jamarco Jones in free agency, who also has experience at both guard and tackle across three seasons with the Seahawks.
If Radunz ends up at right tackle, then Jones or Aaron Brewer make the most sense at left guard. Brewer earned a 56.2 PFF grade in 461 snaps at guard with the Titans in 2021. Rookie tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere could also push for the starting right tackle job with a strong offseason.
QB Carson Wentz DI Jonathan Allen
RB Antonio Gibson DI Daron Payne
WR Terry McLaurin Edge Montez Sweat
WR Jahan Dotson Edge Chase Young
WR Curtis Samuel LB Cole Holcomb
TE Logan Thomas LB Jamin Davis
LT Charles Leno Jr. CB Kendall Fuller
LG Andrew Norwell CB William Jackson III
C Chase Roullier CB Benjamin St-Juste
RG Trai Turner S Kamren Curl
RT Sam Cosmi S Bobby McCain
The concerns about how much Washington paid to bring in Carson Wentz are valid, but it’s difficult to argue he won’t be an upgrade over what they’ve had at the quarterback position over the last few seasons. The Commanders recently signed Trai Turner, who has a good chance to earn the starting job at right guard over Wes Schweitzer. It won’t simply be handed to him after Schweitzer earned a 78.7 PFF grade in limited action last season, though.
It was a little surprising Washington didn’t make any starting-caliber additions at linebacker this offseason, showing confidence in Jamin Davis’s ability to take a step forward after a disappointing rookie season in 2021. Kendall Fuller, William Jackson and Benjamin St-Juste return as the team’s top-three cornerbacks, but the Commanders need better play out of the latter two in 2022. Don’t be surprised if fourth-round pick Percy Butler quickly earns a role in the secondary.
Most interesting position battle: No. 2 and No. 3 receivers
A healthy Curtis Samuel and the addition of Jahan Dotson — Washington’s first-round pick out of Penn State — should bolster a receiving corps that has been Terry McLaurin and little else since he was drafted in 2019. Those two should be the favorites to start alongside McLaurin in three-receiver personnel groupings, but Dyami Brown (speed) and Cam Sims (size) also both return and add different skill sets to round out the group. It has a chance to be a much-improved unit for Wentz in 2022.