Listing the top three players on all 32 teams isn’t an all-encompassing measure of where a franchise stands. As we see every season, injuries play a factor and depth matters; however, this exercise does give a snapshot of the players that each roster is building around. And in some cases, it serves as a wake-up call that the team needs to find some pieces to build around.
|QB Kyler Murray||4th season|
|WR DeAndre Hopkins||10th season|
|DI J.J. Watt||12th season|
The Cardinals will be without one of the players on this list (Hopkins) for the first six games of the season due to a performance-enhancing drug (PED) suspension. On top of that, there has been some noise that Murray won’t play without a new contract, and Watt added another injury to his laundry list of injuries — torn labrum, bicep and rotator cuff to go along with a dislocated shoulder — in 2021. That uncertainty around three of their best players doesn’t put them in an ideal spot entering 2022.
One of the bigger hurdles for Murray in his fourth season will be sustaining success late in the year. Murray has earned just a 70.7 PFF grade from Week 11 through the end of the season compared to 84.4 in the first 10 weeks since 2019.
Also considered: S Budda Baker
|CB A.J. Terrell||3rd season|
|TE Kyle Pitts||2nd season|
|DI Grady Jarrett||8th season|
Terrell and Pitts give Atlanta one foundational piece to build around on each side of the ball. Terrell is coming off a 2021 season in which he allowed just under two receptions and 12.5 receiving yards per game, and Pitts showed that he belongs in the rare tier of tight ends that can have success against press coverage when lined up as a receiver.
Jarrett doesn’t quite fit that same timeline as one of the few players on the roster who dates back to Atlanta's Super Bowl team, but he’s still one of its defensive cornerstones. Jarrett earned 80.0-plus PFF grades in every season from 2017 to 2020 before a slight dip last year (67.6).
|TE Mark Andrews||5th season|
|QB Lamar Jackson||5th season|
|CB Marlon Humphrey||6th season|
Injuries decimated Baltimore’s roster in 2021, and they limited Jackson at quarterback for the first time in his career. Jackson’s 70.2 PFF grade last season was his lowest since his rookie season in 2018, but he remains one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league and should bounce back in 2022.
Humphrey also had a down season last year, most notably allowing 227 passing yards into his coverage in a Week 5 matchup against Ja’Marr Chase and the Cincinnati Bengals. However, he still profiles as one of the top cornerbacks in the league who is capable of delivering above-average play in the slot or outside.
Andrews had no such down year, as he dropped just three of 149 targets and was PFF’s highest-graded tight end in 2021.
Also considered: S Marcus Williams
|QB Josh Allen||5th season|
|WR Stefon Diggs||8th season|
|CB Tre’Davious White||6th season|
The only two quarterback-wide receiver duos with more first down conversions than Allen and Diggs over the last two seasons (139) are Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams and Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce. Diggs and Allen are certainly in the conversation for the league’s best duo.
The final spot was more difficult to narrow down to just one of Buffalo’s stars on defense. White got the nod as one of the stingiest CB1s in the league over the past five years, as his 65.5 passer rating allowed since 2017 ranks second among all cornerbacks with at least 100 targets.
|WR D.J. Moore||5th season|
|RT Taylor Moton||6th season|
|RB Christian McCaffrey||6th season|
Moore and McCaffrey — if both are healthy — are a fairly impressive one-two punch at the skill positions for the Panthers offense. Moore has quietly stacked three consecutive 1,100-yard seasons with75.0-plus PFF receiving grades despite having one of the worst quarterback situations in the league. Unfortunately for Moore, that’s not likely to change in 2022.
Right tackle was the lone position that the Panthers didn’t have to address on the offensive line heading into 2022, as Moton has developed into one of the more underrated tackles in the league. He hasn’t played fewer than 1,000 offensive snaps or graded below 75.0 in any of the last four seasons.
Brian Burns just missed the cut after seeing his PFF grade fall from 76.8 in 2020 to 60.8 last season.
Also considered: Edge Brian Burns
|WR Darnell Mooney||3rd season|
|CB Jaylon Johnson||3rd season|
|LB Roquan Smith||5th season|
The Bears were one of the more challenging teams in the NFL to do this exercise for, and it wasn’t because there was an abundance of options to choose from. Chicago will be hoping that the three players above — along with Justin Fields — are at the core of its rebuild.
Fields showed enough high-end ability to be excited about his future in Chicago, delivering top-five finishes in big-time throw rate and positively-graded play rate. However, there were too many negatives as a rookie to include him above after just one season. Fields will be tasked with cutting down on the negatives with one of the worst supporting casts in the NFL in 2022.
|QB Joe Burrow||3rd season|
|WR Ja’Marr Chase||2nd season|
|WR Tee Higgins||3rd season|
The three players above are the biggest reason to be excited about Cincinnati’s future as AFC contenders, as Burrow, Chase and Higgins bring a whole lot of passing game talent on rookie contracts.
Chase and Higgins both finished the 2021 season as top-10 wide receivers in PFF grade. It was clear that those two, along with Tyler Boyd, played a big role in Burrow’s second-year jump. Burrow notched a league-high 13 passing touchdowns on throws 20-plus yards downfield in 2021 compared to just one as a rookie.
|EDGE Myles Garrett||6th season|
|RB Nick Chubb||5th season|
|G Joel Bitonio||9th season|
The Browns showed up at 28th in the first edition of the 2022 cap health rankings, but that really just points to the fact that they’re paying a lot of talented players.
Garrett has a case as the NFL’s best edge defender after three straight seasons with a 90-plus PFF pass-rushing grade. Chubb has a case as the NFL’s best running back after being the only player at the position to average 4.0 yards after contact per attempt over the last four seasons. And Bitonio was PFF’s highest-graded guard in 2021. It’s not a roster completely without flaws, but it is one of the most talented rosters in the league.
|G Zack Martin||9th season|
|LB Micah Parsons||2nd season|
|LT Tyron Smith||12th season|
Martin and Smith — two of the best players at their respective positions — are the constants in a re-shuffling Cowboys offensive line. They rank first and fourth respectively in PFF’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric at their position since Martin entered the league in 2014.
Parsons doesn’t have that same extended track record of elite play, but he showed in his rookie season that he’s already one of the most impactful defensive players in the NFL. He was PFF’s highest-graded off-ball linebacker in 2021 while also beating offensive tackles consistently when Dallas asked him to rush off the edge.
|QB Russell Wilson||11th season|
|S Justin Simmons||7th season|
|CB Patrick Surtain II||2nd season|
Wilson is the quarterback that the Broncos have been looking for since Peyton Manning, and they paid a hefty price to bring him in from Seattle. He’s coming off a down year, but a lot of that can be explained away by his midseason injury. Wilson earned a 90.3 PFF grade before going down with an injury in Week 5 (second highest at quarterback) compared to a 61.4 PFF grade (22nd) after returning in Week 10.
Surtain looked more like a veteran than a rookie last season in Denver. He rarely got beat downfield, allowing just one reception into his coverage on 14 targets 20-plus downfield. He and Simmons give Denver a nice duo to build around in the secondary.
|C Frank Ragnow||5th season|
|LT Taylor Decker||7th season|
|RT Penei Sewell||2nd season|
The Lions have made it clear that they want to build this roster through the trenches, so it shouldn't surprise that the offensive line is the strength of this roster.
Decker and Sewell profile as one of the better tackle duos in the NFL after Sewell started to settle into the right tackle spot over the second half of his rookie season. Ragnow, meanwhile, is an elite NFL center. He’s improved his overall PFF grade every season in the NFL and has graded above the 90th percentile as a run blocker in gap and zone schemes at center over the past three seasons.
Also considered: TE T.J. Hockenson
|QB Aaron Rodgers||18th season|
|LT David Bakhtiari||10th season|
|CB Jaire Alexander||5th season|
The Packers lost one of the best players in the NFL (Davante Adams) this offseason and still have a wealth of high-end talent to choose from for this exercise.
Rodgers was an easy choice as the back-to-back MVP who will have more on his shoulders without his No. 1 target in 2022. Bakhtiari and Alexander are returning after missing significant time in 2021 due to injury, but both are top-three players at their position when healthy. That’s a lot of talent to get back for a team that was the No. 1 seed in the NFC last season.
|LT Laremy Tunsil||7th season|
|WR Brandin Cooks||9th season|
|CB Derek Stingley Jr.||1st season|
There was some thought that the Texans could look to move on from both Tunsil and Cooks as they push forward with their rebuild, but they instead restructured Tunsil's contract and gave Cooks a new two-year extension to serve as Davis Mills’ (or whoever else may end up at quarterback in 2023) top wide receiver.
The interesting decision came at the No. 3 spot. Houston has undoubtedly improved the roster over the last year, but it is still lacking proven, elite talent to build around. Stingley — the No. 2 overall player on PFF’s Big Board — got the nod despite not playing an NFL snap because of just how talented he is. While his play was inconsistent the last two seasons at LSU, he was the top cornerback in college football as a true freshman in 2019 (91.7 PFF grade). That talent didn’t just disappear.
|LG Quenton Nelson||5th season|
|RB Jonathan Taylor||3rd season|
|LB Darius Leonard||5th season|
Landing two players such as Nelson and Leonard in one draft doesn’t happen often, as both are among the NFL’s best players at their respective positions. Nelson ranks second among all guards in PFF’s WAR metric since 2018, and Leonard ranks fifth at the linebacker position.
Those two are joined above by Taylor, who was the league’s top running back last season. His combination of size, speed and vision led to an 87.0 PFF grade in 2021 — the best at the running back position.
|QB Trevor Lawrence||2nd season|
|RG Brandon Scherff||8th season|
|Edge Josh Allen||4th season|
The Jaguars have spent aggressively in free agency the last two offseasons, but they haven’t really added any elite talent in the midst of all that spending. Scherff is the closest they got to that caliber of player — a “very good” guard who has had his troubles staying on the field over the course of his career. Still, his addition should help the offensive line in 2022.
The hope is that No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker proves to be a snub on this list, but as of now, Allen still projects as the top edge rusher on this team next season. His 78.6 PFF grade in 2021 was a career-high.
Lawrence’s inclusion is based largely on who he was as a prospect coming out of Clemson and the glimpses shown as a rookie. The disastrous environment he was thrown into last season takes much of the blame for his 59.6 PFF grade as a rookie.
|QB Patrick Mahomes||6th season|
|TE Travis Kelce||10th season|
|DI Chris Jones||7th season|
No player has converted more first downs or touchdowns as a receiver than Kelce since 2018 (274), and 263 of those have come from Mahomes. One would imagine that Mahomes would lean even heavier on Kelce in 2022 with Hill’s departure.
On defense, Jones is the player Kansas City needs to wreck offensive gameplans week in and week out. Frank Clark hasn’t lived up to expectations coming over from Seattle, leaving the Chiefs thin on impact pass-rushers beyond Jones. His 257 pressures over the last four years rank second among all interior defensive linemen.
|QB Derek Carr||9th season|
|WR Davante Adams||9th season|
|Edge Maxx Crosby||4th season|
Adams will once again be catching passes from Carr, who will attempt to recreate the same magic that Aaron Rodgers and Adams had over the last few seasons. This offense desperately needed a player who could win consistently on the outside. Carr ranked first in PFF passing grade on throws between the numbers in 2021 compared to 22nd on throws outside the numbers.
Crosby had his full-fledged breakout in 2021. Following two consecutive seasons with sub-70.0 PFF pass-rushing to begin his career, Crosby earned a 91.9 pass-rushing grade in 2021 to go along with a league-high 101 pressures.
|QB Justin Herbert||3rd season|
|Edge Joey Bosa||7th season|
|Edge Khalil Mack||9th season|
The Chargers are one of the most difficult teams in the NFL to do this exercise for because they’ve amassed a lot of star power over the last few years. Leaving off Derwin James, Rashawn Slater, Corey Linsley, J.C. Jackson and Keenan Allen feels wrong.
However, Herbert was PFF’s fourth-highest graded quarterback in just his second season, navigating the tricky balance of avoiding negatives while also having the ability to make plays that most other quarterbacks in the league can’t. In addition, Bosa and Mack form the league’s top edge duo. Both were top-five players at the position entering 2022 in PFF’s latest edge defender rankings.
|DI Aaron Donald||9th season|
|CB Jalen Ramsey||7th season|
|WR Cooper Kupp||6th season|
The three players above were the three best players at their respective positions over the course of last season, and that’s a big reason why the Rams were hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year. No player graded higher than Donald on the interior defensive line; no player graded out higher than Ramsey at cornerback; and no wide receiver earned a higher overall grade than Kupp. Not much more needs to justify their places on this list than that.
Also considered: QB Matthew Stafford
|WR Tyreek Hill||7th season|
|LT Terron Armstead||10th season|
|CB Xavien Howard||7th season|
The Dolphins have been one of the more aggressive teams in the NFL this offseason in adding talent for their young quarterback who is looking to prove himself.
Hill changes how defenses have to prepare for this Miami offense, and he’s capable of turning the mundane into the extraordinary on any given snap with his speed and twitchiness in the open field. Alongside Hill’s addition, Armstead should provide some much-needed stability in pass protection for Tua Tagovailoa. Armstead’s 3.8% pressure rate allowed over the last five years ranks second among qualifying left tackles, behind only David Bakhtiari. Both should provide significant boosts offensively for the Dolphins in 2022, just as Howard does on the other side of the ball.
|WR Justin Jefferson||3rd season|
|Edge Danielle Hunter||8th season|
|RB Dalvin Cook||6th season|
By nearly any metric you want to look at, Jefferson has already established himself as one of the NFL’s elite wide receivers in his first two seasons out of LSU. Most notably, he leads all wide receivers in PFF receiving grade against press coverage since 2020 — something he didn’t see much of in the slot at LSU. He’s joined by Cook on offense, who saw his PFF grade slide from a career-high 89.0 in 2020 to a career-low 65.8 last season in an injury-marred campaign.
Hunter will also be looking to bounce back from injury at his edge defender spot. He tallied 88 quarterback pressures in a career year in 2019 but has played just 384 defensive snaps while recording 31 pressures in the two years since.
|Edge Matthew Judon||7th season|
|C David Andrews||8th season|
|QB Mac Jones||2nd season|
The Patriots have built much of their roster with quality players, but there isn’t much high-end star power to fall back on. Jones had, by far, the most promising rookie campaign of any of the first-year quarterbacks in 2021, but that wasn’t a very high bar to clear. His uncatchable pass rate was a top-five mark among all quarterbacks last year, and that ball placement will continue to be what he hangs his hat on.
Judon produced as a pass-rusher in his first season in New England with 61 quarterback pressures (12th among edge rushers), and Shaq Mason’s departure via trade leaves Andrews as the team’s longest-tenured and most reliable offensive lineman. Andrews’ 79.6 PFF grade in 2021 ranked fifth among qualifying centers.
|CB Marshon Lattimore||6th season|
|RT Ryan Ramczyk||6th season|
|Edge Cameron Jordan||12th season|
The Saints are in an odd spot as a franchise. They’re entering the second season of the post-Drew Brees era, yet they have refrained from hitting the rebuild button. Instead, they continue to push their chips further and further into the pot. And it’s not difficult to see why when you do an exercise like this, as there is still a lot of talent on this roster.
Lattimore, Ramczyk and Jordan are some of the best players in the league at their respective positions, and the same could be said for Michael Thomas, Demario Davis, Alvin Kamara and Tyrann Mathieu when those players are at 100% and fully healthy.
|DI Leonard Williams||8th season|
|LT Andrew Thomas||3rd season|
|CB Adoree’ Jackson||6th season|
Given the Giants’ cap situation this offseason, there should be more high-end talent on this roster.
Thomas took a notable step forward in his second season out of Georgia last year, improving his PFF pass-blocking grade from 54.7 in 2020 to 82.1 last season. Williams isn’t enough of a pass-rush threat to warrant his status as the second-highest-paid interior defensive lineman in the NFL, but he can be counted on to play a high number of snaps with above-average play against both the run and pass. Jackson stands out as one of the more underrated cornerbacks in the league after earning 80.0-plus PFF coverage grades in each of his last two full seasons in 2019 and 2021.
New York’s two top-10 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft could quickly factor into this conversation, as well.
|G Laken Tomlinson||8th season|
|Edge Carl Lawson||6th season|
|DI Quinnen Williams||4th season|
The Jets’ roster is in a much better place than it was two offseasons ago, but much of that has been New York acquiring quality starters rather than spending up for elite talent. Their two biggest free-agent acquisitions of the last two offseasons — Tomlinson and Lawson — both end up on the list.
The Jets’ defensive line could use a big bounceback season from Lawson after he missed the 2021 season with a torn Achilles. From 2017 to 2018, Lawson ranked in the 93rd percentile in PFF pass-rushing grade among qualifying edge rushers.
There’s a good chance that some of the Jets’ younger, talented players, such as Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Garrett Wilson, Elijah Moore or Ahmad Gardner, warrant a spot above with their play in 2022, as well.
|T Lane Johnson||10th season|
|WR A.J. Brown||4th season|
|T Jordan Mailata||5th season|
The Johnson-Mailata tandem at tackle is one of the NFL’s best and speaks to the strength of the Eagles roster in the trenches. Johnson and Mailata were both top-10 tackles last season in PFF grade, and they’re two of the better athletes in the league at the position.
The Brown addition gives the Eagles the big-bodied, elite receiving option who can work over the middle of the field that their offense was missing. His 2.61 receiving yards per route run since 2019 rank fifth among all players with at least 500 routes run over that stretch.
|Edge T.J. Watt||6th season|
|DI Cameron Heyward||12th season|
|S Minkah Fitzpatrick||5th season|
Most of the Steelers’ elite talent resides on their defense, namely Watt, Heyward and Fitzpatrick. Watt and Heyward both rank among the top-three players at their respective position in quarterback pressures over the last three seasons while also playing the run at a high level. Add in Fitzpatrick's 11 interceptions and 17 forced incompletions over the last three seasons, and Pittsburgh has one of the best defensive cores in the league entering the 2022 season.
|T Trent Williams||13th season|
|Edge Nick Bosa||4th season|
|TE George Kittle||6th season|
Williams has been nearly as dominant on the offensive line in his two seasons with the 49ers as Donald has been on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Williams’ 96.8 PFF grade since 2020 is over six points higher than any other tackle in the league with at least 1,000 snaps played.
Bosa and Kittle, when healthy, are also both among the best in the league at their respective positions. That was true for Bosa even as a rookie in 2019, when he recorded 80 quarterback pressures (sixth among all edge rushers).
The fact that Warner or Samuel don’t crack the list speaks to the quality of talent on San Francisco’s roster.
|WR D.K. Metcalf||4th season|
|WR Tyler Lockett||8th season|
|S Quandre Diggs||8th season|
Life isn’t going to be as good for Metcalf and Lockett in 2022 without Russell Wilson. No quarterback has graded higher on throws 20-plus yards downfield than Wilson over the last five seasons, which has played to Metcalf and Lockett's strengths. However, that wide receiver duo still looks to be the strongest point on Seattle’s roster entering next season.
The Seahawks' safety duo isn’t far behind, though. Jamal Adams would have been a clear choice two offseasons ago following his trade to Seattle. He was coming off two consecutive seasons with PFF grades above 87.0 with the Jets, but he has followed that up with two grades below 63.0 in the last two injury-marred seasons with the Seahawks. Diggs, meanwhile, has been one of the 15 most valuable safeties in the league since 2020, per PFF WAR.
|QB Tom Brady||23rd season|
|RT Tristan Wirfs||3rd season|
|WR Mike Evans||9th season|
The Buccaneers went from a pretty good roster with a big question mark at quarterback to a Super Bowl favorite with the un-retirement and return of Brady. His 93.3 PFF passing grade in his age-43 and age-44 seasons over the last two years ranks behind only the back-to-back MVP Aaron Rodgers.
Wirfs followed the Quenton Nelson path of entering the league and immediately establishing himself as one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL. Wirfs is one of just two right tackles who allowed a pressure rate below three percent over the last two seasons, alongside Lane Johnson. The Bucs lost Alex Cappa at the right guard spot next to him in free agency but managed to secure an upgrade in Shaq Mason.
With both Evans and Chris Godwin returning at wide receiver, Brady is still in a very good situation as he looks to close out his career with another Super Bowl.
|RB Derrick Henry||7th season|
|S Kevin Byard||7th season|
|DI Jeffery Simmons||4th season|
Henry was off to yet another prolific rushing stat line in 2021 before he was sidelined by a foot injury. There is some reason for concern about the workload he’s carried in recent seasons and the track record of short-shelf lives at the running back position, but he still enters 2022 as one of the best in the NFL.
Tennessee’s defense is headed by Simmons upfront and Byard on the back end. There are moments — like his nine-pressure performance against the Rams last season — where Simmons is unblockable, as his 62 quarterback pressures during the regular season last year ranked fifth among all interior defensive linemen. Byard is one of the more reliable and well-rounded safeties in the NFL. He has earned 80.0-plus PFF grades as a run defender and coverage defender in three of the last five seasons while playing over 1,000 defensive snaps every year.
Also considered: QB Ryan Tannehill
|WR Terry McLaurin||4th season|
|DI Jonathan Allen||6th season|
|Edge Chase Young||3rd season|
The strength of Washington’s roster, as has been the case for the last several years, is along the defensive line. That unit was hamstrung by injuries to Young and Montez Sweat last season, but the hope is that we’ll see the unit at full strength in 2022 as the Commanders’ two starting edge rushers take another step forward towards elite. Allen is the underrated star of the unit. The only interior defensive linemen with a higher PFF pass-rushing grade than Allen over the last two seasons are Aaron Donald, Chris Jones and Javon Hargrave.
On offense, McLaurin has overcome one of the worst quarterback situations in the league over the last three seasons to put up over 3,000 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s shown some of the best hands in the league since 2020, dropping just five of 254 targets.