Projecting 2021 starting lineups for all 32 NFL teams | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics | PFF

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Projecting 2021 starting lineups for all 32 NFL teams

Training camp and the return of preseason football from its one-year hiatus will answer plenty of questions entering the 2021 season, but other answers have already begun to surface through offseason reports surrounding minicamps and OTAs. The updates to these projections from our initial piece in May reflect some of those reports, with different players gaining or losing ground in various positional battles. 

As in the first attempt, these projections are a combination of information from beat writers covering each team alongside intuition from PFF’s data on who will likely come out on top in various positional battles. Twelve players are covered for each side of the ball, adding room for an extra running back or tight end on offense and covering both base and nickel starters on defense (in most cases).

JUMP TO A TEAM:

ARZ | ATL | BLT | BUF | CAR | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WFT

ARIZONA CARDINALS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Kyler Murray DI J.J. Watt
RB James Conner DI Leki Fotu
RB Chase Edmonds DI Jordan Phillips 
TE Maxx Williams ED Chandler Jones
WR DeAndre Hopkins ED Markus Golden
WR A.J. Green LB Isaiah Simmons
WR Christian Kirk LB Zaven Collins
LT D.J. Humphries CB Malcolm Butler
LG Justin Pugh CB Robert Alford
C Rodney Hudson CB Byron Murphy
RG Justin Murray S Budda Baker
RT Kelvin Beachum S Jalen Thompson 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: WR Rondale Moore

Arizona has thrown a screen on 17.7% of its pass attempts over the past two seasons, nearly three percentage points more than any other NFL offense. Moore’s dynamism is well suited to be on the receiving end of those screen passes in 2021. He broke 37 tackles after the catch in his freshman season alone at Purdue. His ceiling is higher than simply a gadget receiver, though. Moore's route running and ball skills could lead to him becoming a well-rounded threat from the slot, pushing Green and Kirk for playing time alongside Hopkins.    

ATLANTA FALCONS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Matt Ryan DI Grady Jarrett
RB Mike Davis DI Tyeler Davison
TE Kyle Pitts DI Marlon Davidson
TE Hayden Hurst ED Dante Fowler Jr.
WR Calvin Ridley ED Steven Means
WR Russell Gage LB Deion Jones
WR Olamide Zaccheaus LB Foyesade Oluokun
LT Jake Matthews CB A.J. Terrell
LG Josh Andrews CB Fabian Moreau
C Matt Hennessy CB Isaiah Oliver
RG Chris Lindstrom S Erik Harris
RT Kaleb McGary S Duron Harmon 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: S Richie Grant

Grant’s versatility, processing speed and strong play against the run all bode well for his chances to eventually win one of the starting safety jobs from the veterans, Harmon and Harris.

Grant was a three-year starter at UCF, seeing plenty of action deep, in the box and in the slot. He consistently got his hands on passes from those various alignments, recording 10 interceptions and 19 pass breakups over the course of his college career. Atlanta’s secondary would certainly benefit from Grant cracking the rotation early and proving he deserves a starting job.

Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Rashod Bateman #12 of the Baltimore Ravens runs with the ball during rookie Camp. Credit: Mitchell Layton-USA TODAY Sports

BALTIMORE RAVENS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Lamar Jackson  DI Calais Campbell
RB J.K. Dobbins DI Brandon Williams
RB Gus Edwards DI Derek Wolfe
TE Mark Andrews ED Tyus Bowser
TE Nick Boyle ED Justin Houston
WR Marquise Brown LB Patrick Queen
WR Sammy Watkins LB L.J. Fort
LT Ronnie Stanley CB Marlon Humphrey
LG Ben Cleveland CB Marcus Peters
C Bradley Bozeman CB Tavon Young
RG Kevin Zeitler S Chuck Clark
RT Alejandro Villanueva S DeShon Elliott 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: WR Rashod Bateman

Expect plenty of heavy personnel groupings again in Baltimore next season, limiting the playing time for what has suddenly become a crowded receiving corps. Bateman is listed behind both Brown and Watkins here, but he could very well end up as the No. 1 wide receiver on a roster that has no clear incumbent. Bateman showed he could win both in the slot and out wide while at Minnesota, earning 80.0-plus PFF grades in each role over the past two seasons.  

PFF’s fantasy projections currently project Brown for 82 targets, Bateman for 72 targets and Watkins for 72 targets next season.

BUFFALO BILLS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Josh Allen DI Ed Oliver
RB Zack Moss DI Star Lotulelei
RB Devin Singletary ED Jerry Hughes
TE Dawson Knox ED Mario Addison
WR Stefon Diggs LB Tremaine Edmunds
WR Cole Beasley LB Matt Milano
WR Emmanuel Sanders LB A.J. Klein
LT Dion Dawkins CB Tre’Davious White
LG Cody Ford CB Levi Wallace
C Mitch Morse CB Taron Johnson
RG Jon Feliciano S Micah Hyde
RT Daryl Williams S Jordan Poyer
Player to watch who isn’t listed: WR Gabriel Davis

John Brown‘s injury last year opened the door for Davis, a fourth-round rookie out of UCF, to contribute. Davis responded with a solid season in which he was the offense’s primary deep threat, averaging over 17 yards per reception and leading the team's wide receivers in receptions (10), receiving yards (338) and receiving touchdowns (five) on passes 20 or more yards downfield.

Even after Brown’s departure, Davis will be competing for snaps in three-receiver sets with the newcomer Sanders, who has ranked in the 70th percentile of qualifying wide receivers in receiving grade over the past two seasons. 

CAROLINA PANTHERS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Sam Darnold DI DaQuan Jones
RB Christian McCaffrey DI Derrick Brown
TE Dan Arnold ED Brian Burns
TE Tommy Tremble ED Yetur Gross-Matos
WR D.J. Moore ED Haason Reddick
WR Robby Anderson LB Shaq Thompson
WR Terrace Marshall Jr. LB Denzel Perryman
LT Cam Erving CB Jaycee Horn
LG Pat Elflein CB Donte Jackson
C Matt Paradis CB A.J. Bouye
RG John Miller S Jeremy Chinn
RT Taylor Moton S Juston Burris 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: OL Brady Christensen

In a July interview with the Charlotte Observer, Christensen said of the positions he’s currently practicing at: “I’ve played mostly on the right side, played a little guard and tackle.”

That’s interesting given that the weakest links on the Panthers’ offensive line currently reside on the left side, where Erving and Elflein project as starters. Christensen had an intriguing profile coming out of BYU, earning a 95.9 PFF grade last season and testing well at his pro day. There’s a good chance he deserves to be starting somewhere as a rookie, but it remains to be seen where that opportunity comes.

CHICAGO BEARS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Andy Dalton DI Akiem Hicks
RB David Montgomery DI Eddie Goldman 
TE Jimmy Graham DI Bilal Nichols
TE Cole Kmet ED Khalil Mack
WR Allen Robinson II ED Robert Quinn
WR Darnell Mooney LB Roquan Smith
WR Damiere Byrd LB Danny Trevathan
LT Teven Jenkins CB Jaylon Johnson
LG Cody Whitehair CB Desmond Trufant
C Sam Mustipher CB Duke Shelley
RG James Daniels S Tashaun Gipson 
RT Germain Ifedi S Eddie Jackson 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: CB Kindle Vildor

“He’s definitely flashing. Every play you get, every rep you get, you get a little bit more experience, a little bit more confidence and you can play faster,” head coach Matt Nagy said of Vildor in June, per Bears team reporter Larry Mayer.

The 2020 fifth-round pick played just over 200 defensive snaps as a rookie last season, earning a 47.1 PFF grade. From an experience standpoint, Trufant should be the favorite to replace Kyle Fuller outside next season, but Vildor has generated plenty of buzz as a candidate to earn the job.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Joe Burrow DI D.J. Reader
RB Joe Mixon DI Larry Ogunjobi
TE C.J. Uzomah ED Trey Hendrickson
TE Drew Sample ED Sam Hubbard
WR Ja'Marr Chase LB Germaine Pratt
WR Tee Higgins LB Logan Wilson 
WR Tyler Boyd LB Akeem Davis-Gaither
LT Jonah Williams CB Trae Waynes
LG Quinton Spain CB Chidobe Awuzie
C Trey Hopkins CB Mike Hilton
RG Jackson Carman S Vonn Bell
RT Riley Reiff S Jessie Bates III 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: EDGE Cameron Sample

The Bengals lost Carl Lawson in free agency, but the additions they made at the edge defender position provide room for growth entering next season. Hendrickson was the big-name acquisition to start opposite Hubbard, with Sample and Joseph Ossai looking to provide a rotational spark as rookies. Sample’s versatility and ability to play with leverage could allow for more potential paths to the field than Ossai early on. He is coming off an impressive 2020 season at Tulane in which he earned an 89.9 PFF grade.

Berea, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (28) catches a pass during rookie minicamp at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility. Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

CLEVELAND BROWNS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Baker Mayfield DI Andrew Billings
RB Nick Chubb DI Malik Jackson
RB Kareem Hunt ED Myles Garrett
TE Austin Hooper  ED Jadeveon Clowney
TE David Njoku LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
WR Odell Beckham Jr. LB Anthony Walker
WR Jarvis Landry CB Denzel Ward
LT Jedrick Wills Jr. CB Greg Newsome II 
LG Joel Bitonio CB Troy Hill
C J.C. Tretter S John Johnson III
RG Wyatt Teller S Ronnie Harrison 
RT Jack Conklin S Grant Delpit 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: DI Jordan Elliott

Defensive tackle stands out as a weak link on what has quickly become one of the league’s strongest rosters. Young players such as Elliott could change that perception, though. Elliott was relatively quiet in his 2020 rookie season (51.3 PFF grade on 350 defensive snaps), but PFF had him higher on the board than where he ended up being drafted — in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Elliott earned overall grades of 86.5 and 92.4 in his final two seasons at Missouri. He could push Jackson for playing time on the interior with a strong training camp.

DALLAS COWBOYS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Dak Prescott DI Neville Gallimore
RB Ezekiel Elliott DI Brent Urban
RB Tony Pollard ED Demarcus Lawrence
TE Blake Jarwin ED Randy Gregory
WR Amari Cooper LB Micah Parsons
WR CeeDee Lamb LB Leighton Vander Esch
WR Michael Gallup LB Jaylon Smith
LT Tyron Smith CB Trevon Diggs
LG Connor Williams CB Anthony Brown
C Tyler Biadasz CB Jourdan Lewis
RG Zack Martin S Donovan Wilson
RT La'el Collins S Damontae Kazee 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: LB Keanu Neal

There’s no reason Dallas shouldn’t have one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL given how much the team has invested in the position. Beyond the three projected starters listed above — Parsons (2021 first-round pick), Vander Esch (2018 first-round pick) and Smith (2016 second-round pick) — Neal and rookie Jabril Cox will be competing for snaps. 

Neal has earned a 76.0 PFF grade across three healthy seasons at safety, but reports indicate that the Cowboys plan to use him at linebacker. He could end up seeing plenty of playing time if either Smith or Vander Esch continues to disappoint.

DENVER BRONCOS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Drew Lock DI Shelby Harris 
RB Melvin Gordon III DI Mike Purcell
RB Javonte Williams DI Dre'Mont Jones
TE Noah Fant ED Von Miller
WR Courtland Sutton ED Bradley Chubb
WR Jerry Jeudy LB Alexander Johnson
WR Tim Patrick LB Josey Jewell
LT Garett Bolles CB Kyle Fuller
LG Dalton Risner  CB Ronald Darby
C Lloyd Cushenberry III CB Bryce Callahan
RG Graham Glasgow S Kareem Jackson
RT Bobby Massie S Justin Simmons 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: CB Patrick Surtain II

In one offseason, the Broncos improved their cornerback group from a clear area of need to a unit that will force one of Fuller, Darby or Surtain to start the year on the bench, with Callahan expected to start in the slot. In this projection, Surtain draws the short straw based on experience and Denver's notable investment in Fuller and Darby for 2021.

There’s no reason Surtain couldn’t have success in Vic Fangio’s defense immediately. He was arguably the most consistent cornerback in the 2021 class technically, seeing more coverage snaps than any cornerback in college football over the past three seasons.

DETROIT LIONS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Jared Goff DI Michael Brockers
RB D'Andre Swift DI Alim McNeill
RB Jamaal Williams DI Levi Onwuzurike
TE T.J. Hockenson ED Trey Flowers
WR Tyrell Williams ED Romeo Okwara
WR Breshad Perriman LB Jamie Collins
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown LB Alex Anzalone
LT Taylor Decker CB Jeffrey Okudah
LG Jonah Jackson CB Quinton Dunbar
C Frank Ragnow CB Corn Elder
RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai S Tracy Walker
RT Penei Sewell S Dean Marlowe 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: LB Derrick Barnes

The rookie Barnes is expected to fall behind Collins and Anzalone on the depth chart, but it’s not difficult to see him having a role defensively. It will likely be an early-down role that allows the former edge defender to play close to the line of scrimmage, taking advantage of his power against the run and as a blitz weapon. Barnes is a surehanded tackler — it was one of his biggest strengths coming out of Purdue. He missed just 22 tackles on 245 career attempts at the college level.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Aaron Rodgers DI Dean Lowry
RB Aaron Jones DI Kenny Clark
RB A.J. Dillon DI Kingsley Keke
TE Robert Tonyan ED Za'Darius Smith
WR Davante Adams ED Rashan Gary
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling LB Krys Barnes
WR Allen Lazard LB Kamal Martin
LT David Bakhtiari CB Jaire Alexander
LG Elgton Jenkins CB Kevin King
C Josh Myers CB Chandon Sullivan
RG Lucas Patrick S Darnell Savage
RT Billy Turner S Adrian Amos 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: CB Eric Stokes

King enters the 2021 season as the favorite to maintain his job on the outside alongside Alexander, but the last memory everyone has of him is a poor performance in Green Bay’s NFC Championship game loss to the Buccaneers. Stokes was drafted in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft to eventually replace King outside. It just remains to be seen how long it takes for that transition to begin.

Stokes earned PFF grades of at least 70.0 on 400 or more defensive snaps in each of the past three seasons at Georgia, but his reliance on contact could stand as a barrier to thrive in the NFL, much as it was for former Georgia cornerback DeAndre Baker as a rookie. 

HOUSTON TEXANS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Tyrod Taylor DI Charles Omenihu
RB David Johnson DI Ross Blacklock
RB Phillip Lindsay ED Shaq Lawson
TE Jordan Akins ED Whitney Mercilus
WR Brandin Cooks LB Zach Cunningham
WR Randall Cobb LB Christian Kirksey
WR Nico Collins LB Kevin Pierre-Louis
LT Laremy Tunsil CB Bradley Roby
LG Max Scharping CB Terrance Mitchell
C Justin Britt CB Desmond King II
RG Justin McCray S Justin Reid
RT Tytus Howard S Lonnie Johnson Jr. 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: T Marcus Cannon

Texans offensive line coach James Campen recently said that Cannon won’t move inside to guard, per The Athletic’s Aaron Reiss. Cannon was once considered a candidate to start at right guard, but he now figures to be in competition with only Howard at right tackle. The 33-year-old earned PFF grades of at least 70.0 in each of his last four seasons with Patriots and carries a nearly $7 million cap hit in 2021, making him a somewhat overqualified swing tackle if that’s the role he ends up in for Houston. 

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Jacob Eason DI DeForest Buckner
RB Jonathan Taylor DI Grover Stewart
RB Nyheim Hines ED Kwity Paye
TE Mo Alie-Cox ED Tyquan Lewis
WR T.Y. Hilton LB Darius Leonard
WR Michael Pittman Jr. LB Bobby Okereke 
WR Parris Campbell LB Zaire Franklin
LT Eric Fisher CB Xavier Rhodes
LG Chris Reed CB Rock Ya-Sin
C Ryan Kelly CB Kenny Moore II
RG Mark Glowinski S Khari Willis 
RT Braden Smith S Julian Blackmon 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: LT Sam Tevi

Tevi and Julie’n Davenport don’t pose much of a challenge to a healthy Fisher for the starting left tackle job. But there’s no certainty that Fisher will be fully healthy after suffering an Achilles injury at the end of the 2020 season, nor that he’ll be 100% when he does come back. That makes Tevi, the likely No. 2 option at left tackle behind Fisher, one of the more important players on the Colts next season. Tevi has earned PFF grades below 60.0 in each of the past three seasons in Los Angeles.

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (10) celebrates his touchdown in the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Trevor Lawrence DI Roy Robertson-Harris
RB James Robinson DI Malcom Brown
RB Travis Etienne DI Jay Tufele
TE James O'Shaughnessy ED Josh Allen
WR D.J. Chark Jr. ED K'Lavon Chaisson
WR Marvin Jones Jr.  LB Joe Schobert
WR Laviska Shenault Jr. LB Myles Jack
LT Cam Robinson  CB Shaquill Griffin
LG Andrew Norwell CB C.J. Henderson
C Brandon Linder CB Tyson Campbell
RG A.J. Cann S Rayshawn Jenkins 
RT Jawaan Taylor S Andre Cisco 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: DI Taven Bryan

Offseason acquisitions Robertson-Harris and Brown should have two of the three starting defensive line positions secured in Jacksonville’s 3-4 base defense. The other spot should be more of an open competition, one that the rookie Tufele has a legitimate chance to win.

The 2021 season is a last chance of sorts for Bryan — a first-round pick by the Jaguars back in 2018. He appeared to be trending up following a 75.5 overall grade in 2019 before taking a clear step back last season (59.0 PFF grade). The opportunity is there for Bryan to bounce back if he can earn a role early in the season.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Patrick Mahomes DI Chris Jones
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire DI Jarran Reed
RB Darrel Williams ED Frank Clark
TE Travis Kelce ED Taco Charlton
WR Tyreek Hill LB Anthony Hitchens
WR Mecole Hardman LB Willie Gay Jr.
WR Demarcus Robinson LB Nick Bolton
LT Orlando Brown Jr. CB Charvarius Ward
LG Joe Thuney CB L'Jarius Sneed
C Creed Humphrey CB Rashad Fenton 
RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif S Tyrann Mathieu
RT Mike Remmers S Juan Thornhill 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: OG Trey Smith

The sixth-round rookie out of Tennessee started training camp drawing first-team reps at right guard, per ESPN’s Adam Teicher. Medical red flags centered on a history of blood clots and inconsistency during his collegiate career led to his slide down draft boards, but there's plenty of talent there for Kansas City to work with. Smith, earned PFF grades of 78.6 and 73.4 in his final two seasons with the Volunteers, flashing on tape with a number of impressive blocks. If early training camp reports are any indication, the former five-star recruit is a legitimate challenger to Duvernay-Tardiff at right guard.

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Derek Carr DI Johnathan Hankins
RB Josh Jacobs DI Quinton Jefferson
RB Kenyan Drake ED Clelin Ferrell
TE Darren Waller ED Yannick Ngakoue
WR Henry Ruggs III LB Nick Kwiatkoski
WR Bryan Edwards LB Cory Littleton
WR Hunter Renfrow LB Nicholas Morrow
LT Kolton Miller CB Trayvon Mullen
LG Richie Incognito CB Casey Hayward Jr.
C Andre James CB Nevin Lawson
RG Denzelle Good S Johnathan Abram
RT Alex Leatherwood S Trevon Moehrig 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: CB Damon Arnette

Things are not trending in the right direction for Las Vegas’ 2020 first-round selection. The Athletic’s Vic Tafur discussed Arnette’s situation in June: 

“Well, after watching minicamp practices Tuesday and Wednesday and talking to people in the building, Arnette has become almost an after-thought. The Raiders signed veteran Casey Hayward in May and all but handed him Arnette’s starting job opposite Trayvon Mullen. There was some speculation that one might move to slot corner but neither has practiced there yet.”

Despite his first-round pedigree, Arnette (41.7 PFF grade as a rookie last season) may already be on the hot seat in Gus Bradley’s defense, with Hayward and Mullen expected to get the first chance at starting roles outside.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Justin Herbert DI Jerry Tillery
RB Austin Ekeler DI Linval Joseph
RB Justin Jackson DI Justin Jones
TE Jared Cook ED Joey Bosa
WR Keenan Allen ED Uchenna Nwosu
WR Mike Williams LB Kenneth Murray
WR Josh Palmer LB Drue Tranquill
LT Rashawn Slater CB Michael Davis
LG Matt Feiler CB Chris Harris Jr.
C Corey Linsley CB Asante Samuel Jr.
RG Oday Aboushi S Derwin James
RT Bryan Bulaga S Nasir Adderley 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: WR Tyron Johnson

There is no clear answer to the battle for the No. 3 wide receiver spot behind Allen and Williams. It could be the rookie Palmer, or it could be Jalen Guyton or Johnson if the Chargers are more interested in speed.

At first glance, Johnson’s 20 receptions during the 2020 regular season aren’t overly impressive. However, those catches came on just 163 routes run and led to nearly 400 receiving yards. Johnson was remarkably efficient on his opportunities and could break out as a deep threat for Herbert if he manages to earn more playing time this offseason. 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Matthew Stafford DI Aaron Donald
RB Darrell Henderson DI Sebastian Joseph-Day
RB Raymond Calais DI A'Shawn Robinson
TE Tyler Higbee ED Leonard Floyd
WR Robert Woods ED Justin Hollins
WR Cooper Kupp LB Micah Kiser
WR Desean Jackson LB Ernest Jones
LT Andrew Whitworth CB Jalen Ramsey
LG David Edwards CB Darious Williams
C Austin Corbett CB David Long Jr.
RG Bobby Evans S Jordan Fuller
RT Rob Havenstein S Terrell Burgess 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: EDGE Terrell Lewis

The Rams are viewed as a defensive juggernaut entering the 2021 season because that’s exactly what they were with Brandon Staley at the helm in 2020. But a look at their defensive depth chart quickly gives way to questions, one of which is the starting edge spot opposite Floyd.

Lewis, a 2020 third-round pick, is likely the most talented candidate for that role, but health has not become any less of a concern for the Alabama product in the NFL. Lewis managed just 132 defensive snaps as a rookie, earning a 71.4 PFF grade on those snaps while battling various and lingering knee issues.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Tua Tagovailoa DI Christian Wilkins
RB Myles Gaskin DI Raekwon Davis
RB Malcolm Brown ED Emmanuel Ogbah
TE Mike Gesicki  ED Jaelan Phillips
WR DeVante Parker ED Andrew Van Ginkel
WR Will Fuller V LB Jerome Baker
WR Jaylen Waddle LB Benardrick McKinney
LT Austin Jackson CB Xavien Howard
LG Solomon Kindley CB Byron Jones
C Matt Skura CB Justin Coleman
RG Robert Hunt  S Eric Rowe
RT Liam Eichenberg S Jevon Holland 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: S Brandon Jones

One has to imagine the Dolphins want Jones and Holland to be the team’s future starting safety tandem when looking at the draft resources invested across the past two NFL drafts. Jones would likely represent a downgrade in coverage over the returning starter at strong safety (Rowe) in 2021, but his size, athleticism and physicality closer to the line of scrimmage are intriguing. Jones’ player comparison in the 2020 PFF Draft Guide was former Patriots safety Patrick Chung. Head coach Brian Flores would certainly like to see Jones develop into that kind of player.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Kirk Cousins DI Dalvin Tomlinson
RB Dalvin Cook DI Michael Pierce
FB C.J. Ham ED Danielle Hunter
TE Irv Smith Jr. ED Stephen Weatherly
TE Tyler Conklin LB Eric Kendricks
WR Justin Jefferson LB Anthony Barr
WR Adam Thielen LB Nick Vigil
LT Christian Darrisaw CB Cameron Dantzler
LG Ezra Cleveland CB Patrick Peterson
C Garrett Bradbury CB Mackensie Alexander
RG Wyatt Davis S Harrison Smith
RT Brian O'Neill S Xavier Woods 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: DI Sheldon Richardson

Richardson may not be listed as a starter here, but he still fills an area of need for Minnesota’s defensive line after notching at least 600 defensive snaps in each of his first eight NFL seasons.

“It's really early right now to talk too much about roles. We anticipate that he's going to be the pass-rushing guy in there,” head coach Mike Zimmer said of Richardson, via Vikings’ team reporter Eric Smith. “Not that Dalvin [Tomlinson] and Michael [Pierce] can't do that, but that's kind of where we see him being worked in.”

Neither Pierce nor Tomlinson profile as a disruptive pass-rushing three technique — a role the team will look for Richardson to fill. His 127 pressures since his first stint with Minnesota in 2018 rank 11th among interior defensive linemen.

Inglewood, California, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) celebrates after diving over Los Angeles Chargers for a touchdown during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Cam Newton DI Lawrence Guy
RB Damien Harris DI Davon Godchaux
RB James White DI Christian Barmore
TE Hunter Henry ED Matthew Judon
TE Jonnu Smith ED Kyle Van Noy
WR Nelson Agholor LB Dont'a Hightower
WR Jakobi Meyers LB Ja'Whuan Bentley
LT Isaiah Wynn CB Stephon Gilmore
LG Michael Onwenu CB J.C. Jackson
C David Andrews CB Jonathan Jones
RG Shaq Mason S Kyle Dugger
RT Trent Brown S Devin McCourty 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: WR Kendrick Bourne

The Patriots didn’t pay Henry and Smith over $55 million in guaranteed money this offseason for either to warm the bench. That means New England should have one of the highest rates of plays with two or fewer wide receivers on the field of any team in the NFL.

Agholor and Meyers received the starting designations in this case, but Bourne will have an opportunity to carve out a larger role than he ever saw in San Francisco, with no true No. 1 wide receiver on the depth chart. Bourne’s PFF grade has improved every season of his career, headlined by a 72.0 in 2020.   

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Jameis Winston DI David Onyemata
RB Alvin Kamara DI Shy Tuttle
RB Latavius Murray ED Cameron Jordan
TE Adam Trautman ED Marcus Davenport
WR Micheal Thomas LB Demario Davis
WR Tre'Quan Smith LB Pete Werner
WR Marquez Callaway LB Zack Baun
LT Terron Armstead CB Marshon Lattimore
LG Andrus Peat CB Paulson Adebo
C Erik McCoy CB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
RG Cesar Ruiz S Malcolm Jenkins
RT Ryan Ramczyk S Marcus Williams 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: ED Payton Turner

New Orleans’ defensive line depth took a hit this offseason due to both Trey Hendrickson and Sheldon Rankins departing in free agency. Davenport, the expected starter opposite Jordan, has consistently battled injuries throughout his NFL career, as well. And Onyemata is facing a potential suspension. That opens the door for Turner to see more playing time than he may have otherwise.

Turner possesses the size and athleticism to contribute both inside and outside. He came away from his four starts last season at Houston with a career-best 90.0 pass-rushing grade to complement solid play against the run throughout his college career.

NEW YORK GIANTS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Daniel Jones DI Leonard Williams
RB Saquon Barkley DI Danny Shelton
TE Evan Engram DI Dexter Lawrence
TE Kyle Rudolph ED Azeez Ojulari
WR Kenny Golladay ED Lorenzo Carter
WR Sterling Shepard LB Blake Martinez
WR Darius Slayton LB Tae Crowder
LT Andrew Thomas CB James Bradberry
LG Shane Lemieux CB Adoree' Jackson
C Nick Gates S Logan Ryan
RG Will Hernandez S Jabrill Peppers
RT Matt Peart S Xavier McKinney 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: WR Kadarius Toney

Toney’s skill set fills a need for the Giants’ offense. New York’s wide receiver group ranked dead last in yards after the catch per reception during the 2020 season (3.0 yards). That becomes even more of an issue because of how Jones has shied away from downfield passes early in his NFL career.

Enter, Toney. As the PFF Draft Guide put it, you can’t teach what Toney can do with the ball in his hands. It’s been a slow start to the offseason due to minor injuries and three weeks of missed voluntary workouts, but it’s hard to imagine the Giants won’t have a package in place for him offensively.     

NEW YORK JETS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Zach Wilson DI Quinnen Williams
RB Tevin Coleman DI Sheldon Rankins
RB Michael Carter ED Carl Lawson
TE Chris Herndon ED John Franklin-Myers
WR Corey Davis LB C.J. Mosley
WR Keelan Cole LB Blake Cashman
WR Elijah Moore LB Jarrad Davis
LT Mekhi Becton CB Bryce Hall 
LG Alijah Vera-Tucker CB Bless Austin
C Connor McGovern CB Michael Carter II
RG Greg Van Roten S Marcus Maye
RT Morgan Moses S Lamarcus Joyner
Player to watch who isn’t listed: DI Folorunso Fatukasi

The Jets' defensive line is likely the strength of the roster entering the 2021 season. Fatukasi is listed behind both Williams and the free agent acquisition Rankins above, but he’ll have a clear role as an early-down run stuffer in the middle of New York’s defensive line. Fatukasi has quietly been one of the league’s best in that role over the past two seasons. The only interior defenders to earn a higher run-defense grade than Fatukasi since 2019 (90.4) are Aaron Donald (91.3) and Cameron Heyward (90.6).

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Jalen Hurts DI Fletcher Cox
RB Miles Sanders DI Javon Hargrave
RB Boston Scott  ED Brandon Graham
TE Dallas Goedert ED Derek Barnett
WR DeVonta Smith ED/LB Genard Avery
WR Jalen Reagor LB Eric Wilson
WR Travis Fulgham LB Alex Singleton
LT Jordan Mailata CB Darius Slay
LG Isaac Seumalo CB Avonte Maddox
C Jason Kelce CB Steven Nelson
RG Brandon Brooks S Anthony Harris
RT Lane Johnson S Rodney McLeod
Player to watch who isn’t listed: iOL Landon Dickerson

The Eagles’ offensive line is a strength, but the roster as a whole is heading in the wrong direction. And the offensive line is also one of the older position groups on Philadelphia’s roster. Kelce will turn 34 years old this season, and Brooks will turn 32 in August as he works his way back from an Achilles injury that held him out of the 2020 season.

Dickerson is a clear succession plan on the interior, and he also provides insurance should injuries hit again. There’s a chance he could compete with Seumalo at left guard, as well. Dickerson earned a 91.3 grade as Alabama’s starting center last season.  

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Ben Roethlisberger DI Cameron Heyward
RB Najee Harris DI Tyson Alualu
TE Eric Ebron DI Stephon Tuitt
TE Pat Freiermuth ED T.J. Watt
WR Chase Claypool ED Alex Highsmith 
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster LB Devin Bush
WR Diontae Johnson LB Robert Spillane
LT Chukwuma Okorafor CB Joe Haden
LG Kevin Dotson CB Cameron Sutton
C Kendrick Green CB Antoine Brooks Jr.
RG Trai Turner S Terrell Edmunds
RT Zach Banner S Minkah Fitzpatrick 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: CB James Pierre

The Steelers re-signed Sutton this offseason over Mike Hilton because Sutton has the versatility to potentially move outside, where he has started several games over the course of his NFL career. Ideally, that’s where he will start in 2021, with Brooks reportedly standing out as the current favorite to be the starting nickel, per The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly.

However, Pittsburgh could always move Sutton back inside, where he ranks in the 97th percentile of qualifying cornerbacks in slot coverage grade since 2019, if the team isn't happy with the other slot options. That would open the door for Pierre (38 defensive snaps as an undrafted rookie in 2020) to start opposite Haden.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Jimmy Garoppolo DI Javon Kinlaw
RB Raheem Mostert DI D.J. Jones
FB Kyle Juszczyk ED Nick Bosa
TE George Kittle ED Arik Armstead
WR Brandon Aiyuk LB Fred Warner
WR Deebo Samuel LB Dre Greenlaw
WR Mohamed Sanu LB Azeez Al-Shaair
LT Trent Williams CB Jason Verrett
LG Laken Tomlinson CB Emmanuel Moseley
C Alex Mack CB K'Waun Williams
RG Aaron Banks S Jimmie Ward 
RT Mike McGlinchey S Jaquiski Tartt 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: EDGE Dee Ford

Two offseasons ago, San Francisco traded a second-round pick for Ford, who then signed a five-year, $87.5 million contract following a career year in Kansas City. Ford has played a total of 368 defensive snaps since that trade, missing much of the past two seasons with injury.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan said the following of Ford in a June press conference: “But he made a lot of progress in the months that he was rehabbing here. We knew we weren’t going to put him through OTAs because we don’t want his back to act up. So I’m just keeping my fingers crossed and I’m hoping he can come ready to go in training camp and hopefully he can help us out this year.”

Ford was effective when on the field in 2019, ending the regular season with a 15.3% pressure rate (second on team) on 163 pass-rushing snaps.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Russell Wilson DI Poona Ford
RB Chris Carson DI Bryan Mone
TE Will Dissly ED Kerry Hyder
TE Gerald Everett ED Carlos Dunlap
WR D.K. Metcalf LB Bobby Wagner
WR Tyler Lockett LB Jordyn Brooks
WR D'Wayne Eskridge LB Darrell Taylor
LT Duane Brown CB D.J. Reed Jr.
LG Damien Lewis CB Ahkello Witherspoon
C Ethan Pocic DB Marquise Blair
RG Gabe Jackson S Jamal Adams
RT Brandon Shell S Quandre Diggs 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: EDGE Alton Robinson

It gets lost a little bit in the bigger picture of Seattle’s pass-rushing woes last season, but Robinson was just about as impressive in his rookie year as anyone could have expected from a fifth-round edge defender.

He finished the year with grades of at least 65.0 both as a run defender and a pass rusher on 344 defensive snaps. Dunlap, Benson Mayowa and Aldon Smith (potentially) all stand in the way of Robinson earning a starting job, but look for the second-year man to challenge that group, all of whom will be 30 years old by the start of the season.

Tampa Bay, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Giovani Bernard (25) participates in organized team activities at AdventHealth Training Center. Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Tom Brady DI Ndamukong Suh
RB Leonard Fournette DI Vita Vea
TE Rob Gronkowski DI William Gholston
TE O.J. Howard ED Shaquil Barrett
WR Mike Evans ED Jason Pierre-Paul
WR Chris Godwin LB Lavonte David
WR Antonio Brown LB Devin White
LT Donovan Smith CB Carlton Davis
LG Ali Marpet CB Jamel Dean
C Ryan Jensen CB Sean Murphy-Bunting
RG Alex Cappa S Antoine Winfield Jr.
RT Tristan Wirfs S Jordan Whitehead 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: RB Giovani Bernard

The 2020 Buccaneers offense had nothing close to James White as a receiving outlet for Brady out of the backfield. Tampa Bay running backs combined to drop 15 passes, three more than any other running back unit during the regular season.

That receiving back role is one Bernard filled throughout his eight-year career in Cincinnati, and he should quickly become the team’s best option on passing downs. White and Le’Veon Bell are the only two running backs with more receptions than Bernard since 2013.

TENNESSEE TITANS

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Ryan Tannehill DI Denico Autry
RB Derrick Henry DI Teair Tart
TE Anthony Firkser DI Jeffery Simmons
TE Geoff Swaim ED Bud Dupree
WR A.J. Brown ED Harold Landry III
WR Julio Jones LB Jayon Brown
WR Josh Reynolds LB Rashaan Evans
LT Taylor Lewan CB Janoris Jenkins
LG Rodger Saffold CB Caleb Farley
C Ben Jones CB Kristian Fulton
RG Nate Davis S Kevin Byard
RT Dillon Radunz S Amani Hooker 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: DB Elijah Molden

Tennessee has overhauled its cornerback room this offseason. Malcolm Butler and Adoree’ Jackson are out, while Jenkins, Farley and Molden are in. Jenkins seems to be a lock at one of the outside spots, with Farley the presumptive second starter if healthy. Titans’ team reporter Jim Wyatt recently reported that he doesn’t expect Farley to be available on Day 1 of training camp, though he does expect him to appear at some point. Farley not making the necessary strides to start the season could open the door for Fulton to move outside and Molden to challenge for the starting slot job.

Molden earned a 90.8 PFF grade in that role for Washington back in 2019 — his last full season of action. He’s a relatively safe bet to translate well into that spot in the NFL.

WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick DI Jonathan Allen
RB Antonio Gibson DI Daron Payne
RB J.D. McKissic ED Chase Young
TE Logan Thomas ED Montez Sweat
WR Terry McLaurin LB Jon Bostic
WR Curtis Samuel LB Cole Holcomb
WR Adam Humphries LB Jamin Davis
LT Charles Leno Jr. CB William Jackson III
LG Wes Schweitzer CB Kendall Fuller
C Chase Roullier CB Jimmy Moreland
RG Brandon Scherff S Landon Collins
RT Cornelius Lucas S Jeremy Reaves 
Player to watch who isn’t listed: DI Matt Ioannidis

It’s easy for a player like Ioannidis to get lost in the shuffle on a defensive line as talented as Washington’s. That doesn’t mean we should lose sight of what he can do when healthy, though. He returns from injury in 2021, becoming yet another player who opposing offensive lines must worry about on passing downs. Ioannidis ranks in the 89th percentile of all qualifying interior defenders in pass-rushing grade since 2017.


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