Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Pre-Draft NFL Lineup Rankings

Tuesday, April 09, 2013


A handful of quality NFL starters remain available in free agency, but for the most part clubs have switched gears toward April's draft. Approaching it as if the season started today, here are the projected Week 1 starting lineups for all 32 teams, ranked in order of quality.

* = Offseason Addition.

1. Seattle Seahawks

QB: Russell Wilson
RB: Marshawn Lynch
WR: Percy Harvin*
WR: Sidney Rice
WR: Golden Tate
TE: Zach Miller
LT: Russell Okung
LG: James Carpenter
C: Max Unger
RG: John Moffitt
RT: Breno Giacomini

Offensive Overview: GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll are keeping the rest of the NFL on its toes. By trading for Harvin and signing Cliff Avril, Seattle arguably added the most explosive players on each side of the ball to change teams since the transactions period began. The Seahawks now boast dynamic playmakers at quarterback, running back, and wideout. Their offensive line is a bit of a rag-tag group aside from Okung and Unger, but position coach Tom Cable has a knack for masking his blockers' weaknesses. This is now a top-five offense.

LE: Red Bryant
RE: Cliff Avril*
DT: Brandon Mebane
DT: Michael Bennett*
MLB: Bobby Wagner
WLB: Malcolm Smith
SLB: K.J. Wright
LCB: Richard Sherman
RCB: Brandon Browner
FS: Earl Thomas
SS: Kam Chancellor

Defensive Overview: The Seahawks fielded a top-four defense in 2012. It's gotten better. All-purpose lineman Bennett will replace Jason Jones as Seattle's inside-outside utility man with superior run-stopping ability. Bryant and Mebane are immovable pluggers inside, and speed rusher Avril will help management forget Chris Clemons (ACL tear). Seattle's secondary remains the most imposing in football. Even after the costly Harvin trade, Schneider is armed with eleven draft picks -- third most in the league. Dripping with talent, the Seahawks have SB48 written all over them.

2. Denver Broncos

QB: Peyton Manning
RB: Willis McGahee
WR: Demaryius Thomas
WR: Eric Decker
WR: Wes Welker*
TE: Joel Dreessen
LT: Ryan Clady
LG: Zane Beadles
C: J.D. Walton
RG: Louis Vasquez*
RT: Orlando Franklin

Offensive Overview: The Broncos’ new three-receiver set combined for 297 receptions, 3,852 yards, and 29 touchdowns last season. Welker's addition will make Jacob Tamme obsolete as Denver expands its use of three-wide packages. Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders both graded the Broncos' offensive line as a top-ten 2012 group. It returns four starters and added pass-protector extraordinaire Vasquez at guard. The Broncos have an elite offense, but are still in the market for upgrades. They have six draft picks and will likely consider Alabama RB Eddie Lacy if he's available at No. 28. I don't think McGahee is long for the roster.

LE: Derek Wolfe
RE: Robert Ayers
DT: Terrance Knighton*
DT: Kevin Vickerson
MLB: Nate Irving
WLB: Wesley Woodyard
SLB: Von Miller
LCB: Champ Bailey
RCB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie*
FS: Rahim Moore
SS: Mike Adams

Defensive Overview: Losing Elvis Dumervil stings, but Denver hasn't stopped pursuing pass rushers and maintains an impressively stout front seven with Miller as the franchise edge presence. The Broncos are deep in the secondary with shutdown slot corner Chris Harris and promising 2012 fourth-rounder Omar Bolden behind Bailey and DRC. Knighton, a 26-year-old run clogger at 6-foot-3, 336, has enormous potential as Denver's new defense-anchoring nose tackle. In spite of the Dumervil gaffe, the Broncos have the makings of another top-five defense.

3. San Francisco 49ers

QB: Colin Kaepernick
RB: Frank Gore
FB: Bruce Miller
WR: Michael Crabtree
WR: Anquan Boldin*
TE: Vernon Davis
LT: Joe Staley
LG: Mike Iupati
C: Jonathan Goodwin
RG: Alex Boone
RT: Anthony Davis

Offensive Overview: The Boldin trade was ballyhooed by the media, due largely to recency bias. Boldin deserves a butt-pat for his postseason play, but he's a middling No. 2 possession receiver and has been for the last three years. Boldin is now entering his age-33 season. It was still a positive addition for a receiver-needy San Francisco offense that returns intact aside from the loss of drop-prone second tight end Delanie Walker. This group will continue to lean on its dominant offensive line while mixing in increased intermediate and vertical passing-game strikes in Kaepernick's first full season as a starter. There's an awful lot to be excited about here.

LE: Ray McDonald
RE: Justin Smith
NT: Glenn Dorsey*
ILB: Patrick Willis
ILB: Navorro Bowman
OLB: Aldon Smith
OLB: Ahmad Brooks
LCB: Carlos Rogers
RCB: Tarell Brown
FS: Craig Dahl*
SS: Donte Whitner

Defensive Overview: The 49ers lost FS Dashon Goldson, DL Ricky Jean-Francois, and NT Isaac Sopoaga in free agency's first week. The latter two are replaceable, though papering over Goldson with third safety/special teams-type Dahl may not end well. Look for San Francisco to draft another safety. They could also use an additional edge pass rusher to work opposite Aldon Smith. Although there are some question marks on this unit, it remains capable of shutdown run defense and will generate heat. Free-agent addition Nnamdi Asomugha's one-year 49ers contract contains zero guaranteed money, so his roster spot isn't assured. The Niners still probably wouldn't mind if he put pressure on Rogers' starting job. Keep in mind GM Trent Baalke is sitting on a league-high 13 draft picks. The 49ers are set up to be very good for a very long time.

4. New England Patriots

QB: Tom Brady
RB: Stevan Ridley
WR: Danny Amendola*
WR: Donald Jones*
TE: Rob Gronkowski
TE: Aaron Hernandez
LT: Nate Solder
LG: Logan Mankins
C: Ryan Wendell
RG: Dan Connolly
RT: Sebastian Vollmer

Offensive Overview: The Pats were criticized for "lowballing" Wes Welker, but Amendola is a natural replacement and expands Josh McDaniels' options with superior skills in the intermediate game. He's more of a downfield threat. New England showed zero initial urgency on free agent Vollmer because the coaches are so high on 2011 fifth-round steal Cannon, but still re-signed Vollmer on the cheap after letting the market establish his worth. All five O-Line starters return. Cannon now may push Connolly at right guard. 2013 fantasy football mega-sleeper Shane Vereen will be counted on for a much bigger role after Danny Woodhead bolted for San Diego. The quarterback, line, tight end group, and run game all remain elite. Expect the Patriots to use one or two of their five draft picks on a vertical receiver.

LE: Rob Ninkovich
RE: Chandler Jones
DT: Vince Wilfork
DT: Kyle Love
MLB: Brandon Spikes
WLB: Jerod Mayo
SLB: Dont'a Hightower
LCB: Aqib Talib
RCB: Alfonzo Dennard
FS: Devin McCourty
SS: Adrian Wilson*

Defensive Overview: After several years of shoddy secondary play, the Pats' defensive backfield is finally coming together. Press corner Dennard was absolute robbery in last year's seventh round, and Talib returns for his first full season in Bill Belichick's defense. 2013 will also be McCourty's first year as a full-time safety, and top pass rusher Jones' second NFL season. Though a coverage liability at age 33, Wilson could help New England's run defense reach elite heights as a box safety. The Patriots would still do well to add one more speed rusher in the draft.

5. Green Bay Packers

QB: Aaron Rodgers
RB: DuJuan Harris
WR: Randall Cobb
WR: Jordy Nelson
WR: James Jones
TE: Jermichael Finley
LT: Marshall Newhouse
LG: T.J. Lang
C: Evan Dietrich-Smith
RG: Josh Sitton
RT: Bryan Bulaga

Offensive Overview: The Packers made zero free-agent splashes -- as is typical for a Ted Thompson team -- but remain long on firepower. Minnesota-bound Greg Jennings made minimal 2012 regular season impact and is barely a loss as Cobb and Jones have earned larger roles. Nelson is also back healthy, and the Packers believe Finley turned a corner during last year's second half. The biggest camp battles will occur at left tackle and running back. Assuming he's healthy, 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod will be Newhouse's main competitor. Harris figures to end up in a change-of-pace role. This may be the year Thompson uses a high pick at tailback. He has eight selections in April’s draft.

LE: B.J. Raji
RE: C.J. Wilson
NT: Ryan Pickett
ILB: Desmond Bishop
ILB: A.J. Hawk
OLB: Clay Matthews
OLB: Nick Perry
LCB: Tramon Williams
RCB: Casey Hayward
FS: M.D. Jennings
SS: Morgan Burnett

Defensive Overview: The Packers' defense has held the team hostage since its Super Bowl 45 win. Bishop and Perry's returns from injury should increase Green Bay's explosiveness and playmaking ability on defense, but there are still questions to answer. Safety and right end are liabilities, and the two starting corner jobs will be up for grabs, with Sam Shields also competing and inconsistent veteran Williams on the spot. Hawk will face competition from Brad Jones. Green Bay's offense is a top-three group. The defense is middle of the pack.

6. Baltimore Ravens

QB: Joe Flacco
RB: Ray Rice
FB: Vonta Leach
WR: Torrey Smith
WR: Jacoby Jones
TE: Dennis Pitta
LT: Michael Oher
LG: Jah Reid
C: Gino Gradkowski
RG: Marshal Yanda
RT: Kelechi Osemele

Offensive Overview: The Anquan Boldin trade will have less of an impact than popular opinion insists. A mid-range to low-end NFL No. 2 receiver, Boldin has only seven touchdowns over his last 33 regular season games and does not separate from coverage. Playoff stardom understood, Boldin actually had an inhibiting effect on Baltimore's pass game at times over the past three years. The Ravens will lean more on Smith and Pitta, and 2012 sixth-round receiver Tommy Streeter could add a new dimension. Streeter runs 4.34-4.40 at 6-foot-5, 220. Oher is listed at left tackle, but he'll go back to the right when Bryant McKinnie returns on an incentive-laden deal. Osemele looks like a future All-Pro left guard. Ultimately, Baltimore is banking on Flacco, Rice, Bernard Pierce, Smith, Pitta, and Jim Caldwell to carry its offense into the future.

LE: Chris Canty*
RE: Arthur Jones
NT: Haloti Ngata
ILB: Jameel McClain
ILB: Rolando McClain*
OLB: Terrell Suggs
OLB: Elvis Dumervil*
LCB: Lardarius Webb
RCB: Corey Graham
FS: Michael Huff*
SS: James Ihedigbo

Defensive Overview: Talking heads overrate Baltimore's offseason losses because the Super Bowl champs are in the spotlight. But GM Ozzie Newsome is used to replacing from within. Since the compensatory process began in 1994 – Newsome took over in '96 -- no team in football has received more compensatory picks than the Ravens, which is because no team has "lost" more free agents. A healthy Suggs and Webb will go a long way toward solidifying the pass defense, and Ngata will play more nose with Canty, Jones, Marcus Spears, and Pernell McPhee rotating on the ends. Pairing Suggs with free-agent steal Dumervil gives Baltimore the NFL's premier edge-rushing tandem. They'll work in a three-way rotation with 2012 second-rounder Courtney Upshaw, terrifying offenses. Though never an elite tackler, Huff is one of the league's best center-field cover safeties. Talking heads also fail to mention the 2012 Ravens finished a middling 17th in total defense. With Dumervil aboard and 12 draft picks at Newsome’s disposal -- second most in the league -- there's every reason to believe they'll be better.

7. Chicago Bears

QB: Jay Cutler
RB: Matt Forte
WR: Brandon Marshall
WR: Alshon Jeffery
WR: Earl Bennett
TE: Martellus Bennett*
LT: Jermon Bushrod*
LG: Matt Slauson*
C: Roberto Garza
RG: Gabe Carimi
RT: J'Marcus Webb

Offensive Overview: Question marks remain on Chicago's offensive line, but I really like the way this offense is shaping up. Bennett may prove the best signing of the free-agency period. Not only can he stretch the seam and be a red-zone difference maker, Bennett's top-notch blocking will make Cutler and Forte's jobs easier. Bushrod is not an elite blindside tackle, but brings sorely needed stability to the front five, and Webb should be better off on the right. Best in a phone booth, Carimi played well in four 2012 appearances at guard. Slauson is a smooth pass protector on the left side. Cutler, Marshall, Jeffery, and Forte form a very talented skill-position nucleus. This offense could take off in Marc Trestman's first year.

LE: Corey Wootton
RE: Julius Peppers
DT: Henry Melton
DT: Stephen Paea
MLB: D.J. Williams*
WLB: Lance Briggs
SLB: James Anderson*
RCB: Charles Tillman
LCB: Tim Jennings
FS: Chris Conte
SS: Major Wright

Defensive Overview: GM Phil Emery smartly kept continuity atop his top-five defense, hiring Cover-2 adherent Mel Tucker as overseer. The front and back fours are the nuts and bolts of Tucker's scheme, and they return intact. The Bears are plugging holes at two linebacker spots with experienced vets Williams and Anderson. Having turned the page on washed-up Brian Urlacher, Emery also figures to draft at least one linebacker, though he’s working with only five picks. Nevertheless, this defense will keep forcing turnovers and generating sacks because it covers well and rushes quarterbacks.

8. Atlanta Falcons

QB: Matt Ryan
RB: Steven Jackson*
FB: Bradie Ewing
WR: Julio Jones
WR: Roddy White
TE: Tony Gonzalez
LT: Sam Baker
LG: Justin Blalock
C: Peter Konz
RG: Garrett Reynolds
RT: Lamar Holmes

Offensive Overview: Dirk Koetter helped turn Atlanta's offense into a juggernaut in 2012, and there's reason to believe it can keep getting better. Still running with great power and short-area burst, Jackson gives the Falcons a running back capable of both ripping off big runs and putting opponents away in fourth quarters. Outgoing Michael Turner, unsurprisingly, has generated zero free-agent interest. 2012 second-rounder Konz is a readymade heir apparent for Todd McClure at center. Jones just turned 24. The rest of the NFC South is pissed that Gonzalez came back. O-Line turnover is a potential concern. The Falcons cut RT Tyson Clabo in a surprising cap maneuver and will turn to raw 2012 third-rounder Holmes at right tackle. Only 3-of-5 starters return on the offensive line, but Atlanta has gotten measurably younger up front.

RE: Osi Umenyiora*
LE: Kroy Biermann
DT: Jonathan Babineaux
DT: Corey Peters
MLB: Akeem Dent
WLB: Sean Weatherspoon
SLB: Stephen Nicholas
LCB: Asante Samuel
RCB: Robert McClain
FS: Thomas DeCoud
SS: William Moore

Defensive Overview: The Falcons' defense remains a work in progress. Biermann offers tremendous versatility and the Babineaux-Peters duo can push the interior pocket, but Atlanta has no franchise pass rusher. The Umenyiora signing papers over the hole for now, but at age 31 he's a major liability versus the run and ultimately would be best served in a situational role, playing 45-55 percent of the snaps. While Samuel remains a solid cover man and ball hawk at age 32, GM Thomas Dimitroff must upgrade on smallish nickel back McClain. The Falcons will have to attack these glaring needs via the draft. Dimitroff has 11 picks this year.


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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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