Currently bloated NFL rosters will change substantially between now and the start of the 2019 regular season, but most of those changes will be peripheral. With the heart of free agency and the draft in the books, most teams have their cores in place as summer approaches.
As a result, we already have a feel for the level of support each projected starting quarterback will enjoy and/or endure come September.
Dealing with primary skill-position players only—running backs, wide receivers and tight ends—and taking past accomplishments, accolades and, to a lesser degree, upside into account, here's how we rank every NFL quarterback's supporting cast ahead of the 2019 campaign.
32. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins
There's still a chance Josh Rosen will beat out Ryan Fitzpatrick for the Miami Dolphins' starting quarterback gig, but the winner of that competition will likely have his work cut out for him.
- Running back Kenyan Drake's production declined in what was supposed to be a breakout third season, and with Frank Gore gone, there are no other established backs on the roster.
- Top 2018 receiver Danny Amendola is gone, leaving disappointing fifth-year first-round pick DeVante Parker and the good-not-great Kenny Stills in the top two slots at that position. Beyond that, it'll be Brice Butler and Albert Wilson fighting for reps, and both of those players have fairly established ceilings (not particularly high ones).
- There's hope for 2018 second-round pick Mike Gesicki at tight end, but the Penn State product was virtually a non-factor as a rookie. The jury remains out there.
This weapons unit might not be bad if Drake, depth running back Kalen Ballage and/or Gesicki improve significantly in 2019, but the Dolphins don't have a lot of past production to hang their hat on. We know what Stills brings to the table, and it feels as though the ship is failing on Parker. It's not likely a group that will make a quarterback look better than he is, which isn't ideal for Fitzpatrick or Rosen.
31. Sam Darnold, New York Jets
Young New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold might be better supported in 2019 than he was as a rookie, but there's still plenty of reason to be concerned about whom the 22-year-old will be throwing and handing off to in his second year.
- Yes, three-time Pro Bowler Le'Veon Bell joined the fray at running back, but the 27-year-old is a workhorse who received a league-high 321 carries in his last full season before taking a year off in Pittsburgh. Will he be rusty? And how much gas is left in his tank? Running back shelf lives are generally short, and Bell's yards-per-attempt average plummeted from 4.9 in 2016 to 4.0 in 2017.
- Top receivers Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa haven't been consistently reliable, while new slot weapon Jamison Crowder is experienced but coming off a pair of disappointing seasons in Washington.
- Fourth-round pick Chris Herndon had a solid rookie season at tight end in 2018, but the Miami product still requires some development.
If Bell gets back on track, this unit will merit a much higher ranking. But there's a good chance he'll never be the same player he was in his prime in Pittsburgh, where he had more support. There's some room for the pass-catching corps to grow. But Crowder has his limitations, and nobody else has proved anything. And that could be problematic for Darnold.
30. Case Keenum, Washington Redskins
It's possible first-round pick Dwayne Haskins will earn the Week 1 starting job for the Washington Redskins, but he or Case Keenum will likely have to deal with an erratic, inconsistent batch of weapons.
- Adrian Peterson is aiming for 2,000 yards, but that's not realistic for a 34-year-old running back who has averaged just 3.7 yards per carry over the past three seasons. That said, you can never count out AP, and it helps that the Redskins should get promising 2018 second-round pick Derrius Guice back from a knee injury. The backfield isn't in bad shape.
- Crowder's gone, and top receivers Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson are still relatively unproven and totally unaccomplished in starting roles. It would also be presumptuous to count heavily on rookie third-round pick Terry McLaurin at that position.
- Tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis have plenty of talent. But the former has missed 17 games over the last three seasons, and the latter might not have a lot left at age 35.
The Redskins are in a weird spot. They're hoping vets like Peterson, Reed and Davis can hold on while also hoping youngsters like Guice and Doctson can emerge. But that's a lot of hoping. They don't have one solid, reliable offensive skill-position player in his prime. That's no bueno.
29. Nick Foles, Jacksonville Jaguars
Congratulations, Nick Foles. You finally have your own NFL offense to run! Sorry, Nick Foles. That offense is the Jacksonville Jaguars'.
- Running back Leonard Fournette has the ability to become a star, and he should have plenty of opportunities to excel under new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. But the fact is that Fournette ranked 46th among 49 qualified backs with a 3.3 yards-per-attempt average in his sophomore season. He's now officially trying to avoid the bust label.
- Foles will have a lot of potential options at wide receiver but nobody who has consistently stood out in the past. Dede Westbrook has a star-level ceiling, but he averaged just 10.9 yards per catch last season. The jury remains out on Marqise Lee (also returning from torn ACL), DJ Chark Jr. and Keelan Cole, and veterans Terrelle Pryor and Chris Conley aren't likely saviors.
- Third-round pick Josh Oliver will likely need time, as most rookie tight ends do. That puts a lot on projected No. 1 tight end Geoff Swaim, who scored just one touchdown in four seasons with the Cowboys and averaged just 9.3 yards per catch in 2018.
If Fournette and Westbrook shine, there's hope for the Jaguars on offense. But it's hard to trust Fournette at this point, and the Jags also lack an accomplished weapon in his prime. That'll make it tough on Foles.
28. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson needs help if he's going to improve as a passer in his second season, but the Baltimore Ravens quarterback lost his most accomplished receiver (Michael Crabtree) and his top deep threat (John Brown) in the offseason. That doesn't leave the cupboard bare, but Jackson lacks established weapons in a major way.
- The Ravens did at least bring in veteran Mark Ingram II to work with Gus Edwards at running back. But Ingram's numbers dropped off in 2018, and he might be low on fuel as he approaches 30. Plus, Edwards will have to prove his 5.2 yards-per-attempt average wasn't a flash in the pan as an undrafted rookie last season.
- Veteran receiver Willie Snead IV is reliable but far from fantastic, and while there's hope for young wideouts Marquise Brown, Jordan Lasley, Miles Boykin and Chris Moore, those dudes have a combined four career NFL touchdowns.
- Nick Boyle isn't a special tight end, but there's a lot to like about premium 2018 draft picks Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews at that position.
Andrews is coming off an impressive rookie season in which he accumulated 552 receiving yards despite starting just three games, while Hurst is a phenomenal athlete with Pro Bowl potential. Those two can save Jackson, but it's too early to tell if that'll happen. And the backfield and receiving corps leave a lot to be desired.
27. Joe Flacco, Denver Broncos
Joe Flacco has jumped from the Ravens to the Denver Broncos, where he might have a chance to revive his career in a new environment. Problem is, his weapons arsenal won't be significantly stronger than it was in Baltimore.
- Running back Phillip Lindsay is coming off a Pro Bowl rookie season, but the undrafted Colorado product will have to prove that wasn't a fluke. Fellow rookie back Royce Freeman generally struggled in 2018.
- Top receiver Emmanuel Sanders is beyond his prime at age 32 and is battling back from a torn Achilles, while the jury remains out on 2018 draft picks Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton at what has become a dangerously shallow wide receiver position.
- The shiniest new weapon in Denver is rookie tight end Noah Fant, who has a wildly high ceiling but will likely need time after catching just 69 passes the last two seasons at Iowa. With Jake Butt facing major injury questions (ACL), the only other notable option is uninspiring veteran Jeff Heuerman.
The Broncos are praying that Lindsay truly is a diamond in the rough or that Freeman can take off. They're hoping that Sanders can bounce back or that Sutton or Hamilton can take a leap forward. And they're praying that Fant can make a significant impact early at a tough position for a rookie. There just aren't enough certainties for Flacco.
26. Eli Manning, New York Giants
Eventually, longtime New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning will hand the baton to rookie first-round pick Daniel Jones. But it's possible that won't happen this year, which might not be bad for Jones considering the lack of depth and talent plaguing the Giants at the pass-catching positions.
- At least they've got running back Saquon Barkley, who earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in a Pro Bowl debut season. There's no concern about the backfield in New York.
- But the same can't be said of a receiving corps that lost Odell Beckham Jr. in the offseason. Free-agent addition Golden Tate is an established starter but not a star, and ditto for Sterling Shepard. Both are largely slot receivers, leaving Big Blue with some real sad options beyond that (Corey Coleman, Bennie Fowler, Cody Latimer).
- Tight end Evan Engram does have the ability to become special. But he hasn't been consistent the last two years, and he'll have to prove he can stay healthy.
Barkley is a stud, and there's hope for Engram. With those two, Tate and Shepard, Manning will have safety valves in the passing game. But there isn't a player who can pose a consistent deep threat out wide.
25. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Because new Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury has no NFL background, nobody knows what No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray is walking into. And while the Cardinals have two well-established veterans in their offensive arsenal, Murray's supporting cast faces a lot of questions.
- Running back David Johnson may have been an All-Pro in 2016. But a wrist injury cost him virtually all of 2017, and he wasn't himself last year. Johnson averaged just 3.6 yards per carry in 2018, but that was in a terrible offense. It's possible the 27-year-old will bounce back under Kingsbury.
- Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald isn't the player he used to be, but the 35-year-old still recorded over 700 yards and caught six touchdowns in a bad offense last season. He's not an ideal No. 1, though, and youngsters Christian Kirk (age 22), Andy Isabella (22), Hakeem Butler (23), KeeSean Johnson (22) and Chad Williams (24) are either generally or completely unproven.
- Ricky Seals-Jones did not look like a starting-caliber tight end last season, while oft-injured newcomer Charles Clay put up abysmal numbers with the Buffalo Bills. That said, Kingsbury's Air Raid offense doesn't tend to feature tight ends.
The Cardinals will need another age-defying season from Fitz, and they'll need Johnson to rediscover that 2016 magic. Otherwise, Murray will be relying on far too many unproven skill-position players.
24. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills revamped their offense around quarterback Josh Allen this offseason, and as a result, a supporting cast that ranked 31st in this exercise last year has at least moved out of the bottom five.
- They at least have plenty of options at running back. LeSean McCoy is declining, and newcomer Frank Gore, 36, doesn't have a lot left. But they also added fifth-year veteran T.J. Yeldon and used a third-round pick on the intriguing Devin Singletary. Odds are good one of those guys emerges, but there's an element of uncertainty there.
- The same applies to the receiving corps, which added reliable safety valve Cole Beasley and deep threat John Brown to team up with disappointing 2017 second-round pick Zay Jones and late-2018 breakout player Robert Foster. That could be a solid quartet for Allen, but there's no clear-cut No. 1 guy.
- And ditto for a tight end group that replaced Charles Clay with free-agent addition Tyler Kroft, who is a boom-or-bust player. Kroft scored seven touchdowns in Cincinnati in 2017, but injuries have been a major problem. And he is now dealing with a broken foot. Buffalo might have to rely heavily on rookie third-round pick Dawson Knox, which is far from ideal.
This could become a top-10 supporting cast, especially if Singletary becomes another Day 2 running back sensation and Allen can gain early chemistry with playmakers Brown and Kroft. But the Bills still lack a star in his prime, and there's a lot up in the air with big adjustments looming.
23. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Rob Gronkowski might have declined late in his career, but New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will still dearly miss his freshly retired tight end. Gronk came up big in the playoffs and was a constant matchup and game-planning nightmare for opposing defenses, and Brady's supporting cast was already a little thin before he stepped away.
- They're good at running back, where first-round pick Sony Michel averaged 4.5 yards per carry as a rookie in 2018. James White, Rex Burkhead and rookie third-round pick Damien Harris provide depth and versatility.
- But while they wait on rookie first-rounder N'Keal Harry, there isn't a lot there beyond Julian Edelman in the pass-catching corps. Edelman is the reigning Super Bowl MVP, but he's 33 and generally in the slot. Josh Gordon is indefinitely suspended. Chris Hogan is gone. And Phillip Dorsett, Dontrelle Inman and Demaryius Thomas are essentially spare parts.
- It's ugly at tight end sans Gronk. Austin Seferian-Jenkins was a half-decent replacement candidate before his abrupt release, and the 38-year-old Ben Watson will be serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's banned substance policy.
The Patriots always find a way to get the most out of players who didn't cut it elsewhere, and it'll probably be no different this year. But that doesn't change the fact that Brady's supporting cast appears to be subpar.
22. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
For years, the key to Andy Dalton's supporting cast with the Cincinnati Bengals has been star receiver A.J. Green. And while a pair of other intriguing weapons emerged for Dalton in 2018, the Bengals' arsenal remains top-heavy.
- Running back Joe Mixon looks to be on the right track following a breakout sophomore season in which he averaged 4.9 yards per carry and compiled 1,464 scrimmage yards.
- In support of Green, 2016 second-round wide receiver Tyler Boyd broke out with 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018. And there's still some hope for 2017 first-rounder John Ross, though the speedster caught a horrendous 36.2 percent of the passes thrown his way in his second NFL campaign.
- If the Bengals were satisfied with tight ends C.J. Uzomah (five touchdowns in four seasons) and Tyler Eifert (constantly injured), they wouldn't have used a second-round pick on Drew Sample in April. But rookie tight ends often need time, so there'll be uncertainty at that position entering training camp.
Maybe Boyd is becoming a star, and maybe Ross can still come through. Maybe Mixon is the real deal. But even still, Green is on the wrong side of 30 and coming off toe surgery. He might never be the same. The Bengals are relying on too many "ifs" around Dalton, though there's still enough talent to keep them out of the bottom 10.
21. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown might have formed the leading offensive triumvirate in the NFL this century, but that era is essentially over now that Bell is a Jet and Brown is an Oakland Raider. Suddenly, Big Ben's supporting cast is below the NFL median.
- Bell's replacement, James Conner, was a Pro Bowler last season. But he averaged fewer than 4.0 yards per attempt in his last four games. His third season could make or break him, but at least the Steelers have another solid option in Jaylen Samuels.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster looks as though he's becoming a superstar after he put up 1,426 yards as a sophomore. But can the 22-year-old sustain that without Brown attracting defensive attention? Pittsburgh lacks receiver depth with James Washington, Donte Moncrief and Eli Rogers lined up behind JuJu.
- Tight end Jesse James is gone, leaving Vance McDonald as the only noteworthy option at that position. McDonald is coming off a career year but has never been a big-time playmaker.
Smith-Schuster and Conner don't make this a good weapons arsenal, but nobody else jumps out at you. Even those two face questions entering important third seasons. Roethlisberger might have to do more heavy lifting than he's used to in 2019.
20. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
TGFCM. That's "thank goodness for Christian McCaffrey," who was the Carolina Panthers' top rusher and receiver in a breakout sophomore season at running back. The 23-year-old has already become a star, but questions surround the remainder of quarterback Cam Newton's supporting cast.
- Only Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott compiled more yards from scrimmage last season than McCaffrey, so they've got that going for them.
- At receiver, 2018 first-round pick D.J. Moore got off to a strong start by catching 67.1 percent of the passes thrown his way in a 788-yard rookie campaign. But with Devin Funchess gone, it's hard to get excited about peripheral receivers Jarius Wright, Curtis Samuel, Torrey Smith and Chris Hogan. That said, the unit at least has plenty of experience in support of Moore.
- Can 34-year-old tight end Greg Olsen stay healthy? The three-time Pro Bowler has missed 16 games the last two seasons, and 2018 fourth-round pick Ian Thomas didn't really stand out in Olsen's stead during his first campaign.
McCaffrey, Moore and Olsen could form one hell of a trio, but that would require Moore to avoid a sophomore slump, and there's plenty of reason to wonder if Olsen is toast. The rest of Carolina's offensive skill-position core is pretty "meh."
19. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
It might be a make-or-break contract year for Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, who has several intriguing offensive weapons but a supporting cast that could be really good or really bad in 2019.
- Bruising running back Derrick Henry is coming off a breakout third season in which he scored 12 touchdowns and averaged 4.9 yards per carry, and he's got a quality complementary back in Dion Lewis.
- At wide receiver, 2017 No. 5 overall pick Corey Davis has All-Pro ability and is coming off a promising sophomore season in which he fell just short of 900 yards. But he's yet to truly emerge. Newcomers A.J. Brown (a rookie second-rounder) and Adam Humphries (a rising veteran slot presence) should help, but they also seem like similar fits. Moreover, they have Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor, who aren't bad for depth but shouldn't be starting.
- They have two strong tight ends in Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith, but both are still fighting to get back from injuries that ended their 2018 campaigns prematurely.
Those tight end injuries are a concern, but the talent there is satisfactory. And Henry is at least an asset. With solid receiver depth, Davis' 2019 performance will likely determine if the Titans have an above- or below-average arsenal of offensive skill-position players this year.
18. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is a football magician, which is why his team is likely to contend again in 2019 even though the receiving corps took a big hit when veteran starter Doug Baldwin retired as a result of injuries. Wilson quite simply doesn't have an abundance of weapons.
- The running game, however, is in its best shape since Marshawn Lynch's prime. Chris Carson went over 1,100 yards while scoring nine touchdowns as a sophomore last year, and 2018 first-round pick Rashaad Penny averaged 6.4 yards per carry in his final six regular-season games.
- Per Pro Football Focus, Wilson had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 when throwing to starting receiver Tyler Lockett. But questions await behind him. Rookie DK Metcalf could need some time to develop, and veterans Jaron Brown and David Moore don't look or feel like regular starters.
- Making matters worse in the pass-catching realm, tight end Nick Vannett isn't much of a playmaker, and they probably don't want to rely on depth options Will Dissly or Ed Dickson at that position.
Carson, Penny and Lockett are superb players, and there's hope for Metcalf in 2019. But those backs don't have large samples, Lockett could regress and Metcalf might also struggle to transition quickly. This unit has a high ceiling but a low floor.
17. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Like Mariota, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is probably facing a make-or-break option year as 2020 free agency looms. The good news is he should continue to benefit from one of the best pass-catching groups in the league.
- Winston could, however, use more help from a running game that ranked in the bottom five in terms of yards per game and yards per rush last season. Second-round pick Ronald Jones was a complete disappointment as a rookie, and top dog Peyton Barber wasn't much better with a 3.7 yards-per-attempt average. The Bucs didn't make any major changes at that position this offseason.
- Meanwhile, the receiving corps is strong but somewhat top-heavy following the departures of DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries. No. 1 guy Mike Evans is a superstar, and 2017 third-round pick Chris Godwin looks ready to explode after a seven-touchdown sophomore campaign. But it's pretty barren behind those two. Ravens bust Breshad Perriman just might walk into the No. 3 job.
- Winston should really benefit from the tight end position, at which 2017 first-round pick O.J. Howard should be on the verge of a big third season alongside touchdown-savvy veteran Cameron Brate. That could be one hell of a duo under new head coach Bruce Arians.
They should have done more to address the running game, and they'll miss Humphries as a potential security blanket. Still, Evans is a dominant force, and those tight ends will make Winston's life a lot easier. Altogether, this unit belongs in the middle of the pack.
16. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders take a lot of heat, but quarterback Derek Carr's transformed supporting cast is undeniably at least a middle-of-the-pack unit heading into 2019.
- First-round rookie running back Josh Jacobs is a prime Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate after tearing it up late in his career at Alabama.
- Big-ticket offseason acquisition Antonio Brown is by far the most accomplished wide receiver in the NFL this decade. Dude is coming off six consecutive 100-catch, 1,200-yard, eight-touchdown seasons. And he's joined by deep threat Tyrell Williams, who had a 1,000-yard campaign a couple of years ago with the Los Angeles Chargers.
- They're rolling the dice at the tight end position after losing veteran Jared Cook in free agency. There isn't a lot of established talent there, but they do seem to be high on big man Darren Waller.
The Raiders lose some points because they oddly let Cook go, Jacobs is still a wild card with a small college sample and Brown's prime might be behind him. They might also wish they were deeper at receiver. Still, few teams have a trio with the potential and accolades of Jacobs, Brown and Williams.
15. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is incredibly lucky to count DeAndre Hopkins as a teammate. But Watson would probably be in big trouble without Hopkins. That's problematic when teams are able to limit his production, as the Indianapolis Colts did in last year's playoffs; Hopkins was held to 37 yards, and the Texans scored just seven points.
- Running back Lamar Miller is undoubtedly the second-most-popular member of Watson's supporting cast, and he's quietly coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he averaged 4.6 yards per rush. Still, he's now 28, and he's got a lot of work under his belt. The Texans could finally use a boost from 2017 third-round pick D'Onta Foreman in the backfield.
- Did we mention that Hopkins is good? He's been the most productive receiver in the NFL the last two seasons, but injury-prone 2016 first-round pick Will Fuller V has disappointed. Beyond that, they're gambling on unproven youngsters such as Keke Coutee, DeAndre Carter and Vyncint Smith.
- It'd be easier to lack depth at receiver if they had surer things at tight end, but we're looking at a battle between unaccomplished second-year players Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas at that position.
Ultimately the Texans might be too reliant on Watson and his sole top-notch pass-catcher, Hopkins. They score some points for upside at wideout (Fuller and Coutee have high ceilings) and for Miller's experience, but this is an average unit altogether.
14. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Much has been made of the lack of support for Aaron Rodgers in the Green Bay Packers' offense during recent years, but it's not as though he's got a bare cupboard.
- Running back Aaron Jones was under-utilized for much of his first two seasons under departed head coach Mike McCarthy, but the 2017 fifth-round pick leads all qualified players by a large margin with a 5.5 yards-per-attempt average over that two-season stretch. He could be primed to explode in a new offense.
- Top receiver Davante Adams is coming off a Pro Bowl campaign in which he was the only player in the NFL to catch at least 13 touchdown passes and compile more than 1,300 receiving yards. But secondary receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown and Geronimo Allison are not accomplished at the NFL level, which is why the Packers are rolling the dice a tad at that position.
- Veteran tight end Jimmy Graham struggled in his first season with the Packers, but he's still only a year removed from a double-digit-touchdown campaign in Seattle. And they've at least added decent alternatives in Marcedes Lewis and rookie third-round pick Jace Sternberger.
If something happens to Adams—or, to a lesser extent, Jones—the Packers offense could be in big trouble. But a good combination of established talent and upside surrounds Rodgers. If that core stays healthy, the quarterback and his supporting cast won't likely be an issue.
13. Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky lacks an elite pass-catcher, but catch-happy running back Tarik Cohen was one of four Bears weapons to gain 500-plus receiving yards in 2018. Matt Nagy's offensive unit is one of the deepest in the NFL.
- Cohen really has become the focal point, especially now that Jordan Howard has been shipped to the Philadelphia Eagles. But he'll be well-supported by free-agent acquisition Mike Davis and third-round pick David Montgomery, who might be primed for a massive rookie campaign.
- Top receivers Allen Robinson II and Taylor Gabriel aren't stars. But Robinson is accomplished and coming off an impressive bounce-back season following injury, and Gabriel broke out with a catch rate of 72 percent in his maiden season with the Bears. Second-round pick Anthony Miller also scored seven touchdowns as a rookie in 2018, and they've added Swiss Army knife Cordarrelle Patterson to the fray, as well.
- Tight end Trey Burton added six touchdowns and caught over 70 percent of the passes thrown his way in an impressive debut season in Chicago.
While the group surrounding Trubisky might not contain a superstar, it's deep and loaded with proven talent and upside.
12. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Just a year ago, yours truly ranked Patrick Mahomes' supporting cast as the best in the NFL. And while Mahomes is coming off an MVP sophomore season, a lot has since changed with that Kansas City Chiefs offense.
- At running back, Mahomes lost 2017 rushing champion Kareem Hunt, who was released soon after video surfaced showing him pushing and kicking a woman at a Cleveland hotel in February 2018. Replacement Damien Williams played well last season, but he struggled for much of his four years in Miami. And newcomer Carlos Hyde hasn't been effective since he was in San Francisco for the 2016 season.
- At wide receiver, Mahomes might also lose All-Pro speedster Tyreek Hill, who has been banned from all team activities after audio was released in which his fiancee, Crystal Espinal, is heard asking Hill why their three-year-old son said Hill broke his arm. Hill is also heard telling Espinal that she needs to be afraid of him. Kansas City also has veteran Sammy Watkins, Hill clone Mecole Hardman and 2016 fourth-rounder Demarcus Robinson. But Watkins is injury prone, Hardman needs to develop as a rookie who caught just 60 passes at Georgia and Robinson has just 43 catches in three NFL seasons.
- At least they have one of the best tight ends in the league, and All-Pro Travis Kelce is coming off his best season yet.
It looks as though Hill might return, with NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reporting recently that, "barring further developments," he should be back for training camp. If he and Kelce are active, this is automatically a top-10 supporting cast from a talent standpoint. But there's not a lot else to get excited about, and it's hard to trust Hill right now.
11. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
For basically the first time in the Matthew Stafford era, the Detroit Lions look as though they have a strong running game. That, along with a wild degree of potential at wide receiver and tight end, gives Stafford's supporting cast a favorable ranking.
- It actually starts with running back Kerryon Johnson, who was one of just three qualified backs to average 5.4-plus yards per carry during a rookie season that would have been massive if not for the season-ending knee injury he suffered in November. But he's healthy now and ready to be a centerpiece in Detroit.
- The receiving corps isn't deep, but Kenny Golladay has Pro Bowl talent and is coming off a breakout season in which he went over 1,000 yards. Marvin Jones Jr. is a high-quality No. 2 who has been extremely productive in three years in Detroit, and newcomer Danny Amendola brings experience and a steady presence to the slot.
- The Lions probably erred in giving up on tight end Eric Ebron last offseason, but veteran Jesse James is a nice addition, and rookie top-10 pick T.J. Hockenson has remarkably high potential. Those two should form a strong duo right off the bat.
Imagine if Johnson, Golladay and Hockenson pan out without much more of a delay. It'd be surprising at this point if the first two players don't make Pro Bowl runs in 2019, and those rising stars are supported by Jones, Amendola and James, as well as backs Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner and C.J. Anderson. This offense might be a ton of fun this season.
10. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is lucky enough to have one of the best one-two receiver punches in the league at his disposal, and the Vikings front office has also given him some quality weapons at running back and tight end.
- Injuries continued to interfere with running back Dalvin Cook's progress, but the flashy 2017 second-round pick came on strong with a 5.7 yards-per-attempt average in December of last season. They also used a third-rounder on Alexander Mattison, who tore it up last year at Boise State.
- At receiver, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs make up one of the best duos in the NFL. Both went over 1,000 yards and scored exactly nine touchdowns last season, and they should be entering their respective primes together.
- It looks like solid veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph will be sticking around, even after the team used a second-round pick on versatile, pro-ready Alabama product Irv Smith Jr.
The lack of depth at receiver and lingering questions about Cook's durability are what keep the Vikes at the bottom of the top 10 despite the Thielen-Diggs dynamic.
9. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is looking to make it through a full season for the first time since he was a rookie in 2016. If that happens, an upgraded supporting cast could give him a chance to rejoin MVP conversations in 2019.
- The key for the Eagles? They became proactive about a running back position that grew problematic in 2018 by adding the established Jordan Howard via trade and the enticing Miles Sanders in the second round of the draft. With those two, Corey Clement, Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood all in camp, someone is bound to emerge.
- Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor already formed a decent one-two punch at wide receiver before they re-added veteran deep threat DeSean Jackson and used another second-round selection on polished Stanford product JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who could make an immediate impact.
- Of course, the most important member of the pass-catching corps is Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz, who set a record at the position with 116 receptions in 2018. Ertz is in his prime at age 28, and he's backed up by talented 2018 second-rounder Dallas Goedert.
The running game and the receiving corps are both good, not great, with plenty of promise at both positions. But few teams are as strong at tight end. That's enough for the Eagles to sneak into the top 10 here.
8. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
There were indications last season that the Dallas Cowboys might have a new set of triplets, as quarterback Dak Prescott experienced an uptick in production as a result of lights-out play from top weapons Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper.
- At running back, Elliott was one of just two NFL players to go over 2,000 yards from scrimmage in another Pro Bowl campaign. The Cowboys would be in trouble sans Elliott, but he's one of the top offensive players in the game.
- Cooper's career was revived after he was traded to the Cowboys midway through the 2018 campaign. The 2015 No. 4 overall pick caught nearly 70 percent of the passes thrown his way for 725 yards and six touchdowns in a nine-game span. They aren't super deep beyond that, but there's hope for 2018 third-round pick Michael Gallup, and incoming slot receiver Randall Cobb brings experience and a resume that includes a Pro Bowl season.
- The tight end position isn't a strength. But at least 11-time Pro Bowler Jason Witten is back, and Blake Jarwin was impressive late last season.
The Cowboys would benefit from a little more depth and could use an upgrade at tight end, but Cooper and Elliott alone make this a top-12 supporting cast. Neither has turned 25, and both should be in for monster seasons in 2019.
7. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
They're still trying to sort out who'll lead the way at wide receiver and running back, but there might not be a deeper skill-position group in the NFL than the one that belongs to the Jimmy Garoppolo-quarterbacked San Francisco 49ers.
- No other team boasts a running back trio like Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida. It's unclear who will emerge there, but it's extremely unlikely all three fail. The accomplished Coleman averaged 4.8 yards per rush last year in Atlanta, McKinnon was one of the league's best pass-catching backs in Minnesota and Breida's 2018 yards-per-attempt average of 5.3 ranked fourth among qualified backs.
- No established elite receiver resides on the roster, but 2018 second-round pick Dante Pettis came on strong late in his rookie season, Kendrick Bourne flashed as a sophomore and speedster Marquise Goodwin was a deep threat when healthy. They also now have enticing Day 2 rookies Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd, as well as veteran Jordan Matthews.
- But the real focus is at tight end. George Kittle emerged in his sophomore season as one of the game's top offensive weapons. His 1,377 receiving yards were the most by a tight end in NFL history, and he should only get better with Garoppolo back from a knee injury in 2019.
A lot still has to happen in San Francisco, which is why it's not as easy to see this supporting cast as complete, or even particularly strong. But the odds are in the 49ers' favor simply because the team has so many talented weapons surrounding Garoppolo at all three offensive skill positions. It's easy to see Coleman, Pettis and Kittle becoming a three-headed monster, but dozens of plausible alternatives also exist.
6. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
While they might not be as deep at the offensive skill positions as the San Francisco 49ers, a running back-wide receiver-tight end trio of Marlon Mack, T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron gives the Indianapolis Colts an edge.
- Mack was the only player in the AFC to rush for 115 yards five times (including the playoffs), and three of those performances came in the final five games of a breakout sophomore campaign for the 2017 fourth-round pick. But he's also supported well by middle-round 2018 draft picks Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins.
- Hilton is coming off his fifth 1,000-yard season in a six-year span, and the four-time Pro Bowler is in his prime at age 29. They've had some depth issues at receiver in recent seasons, but newcomer Devin Funchess has a high ceiling as a No. 2 option, and rookie Parris Campbell should make an immediate impact in the slot.
- Ebron led all NFL tight ends with 13 touchdowns in a breakout debut season with the Colts, and they should also be comforted by the presence of 2017 Pro Bowler Jack Doyle at that position.
Mack and Ebron will have to prove they can sustain their production, but Indianapolis does have insurance if either fails to do so. They're looking better than they have in years at wide receiver after getting Hilton more support.
5. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons might have the best wide receiver trio in the NFL, but questions at running back prevent them from jumping into the top tier of these rankings.
- Top back Devonta Freeman is a two-time Pro Bowler, but he struggled a tad in 2017 and lost virtually all of his 2018 campaign as a result of knee, foot and groin injuries. Did he peak early in his career? That's a concern, especially with Tevin Coleman gone. New backup Ito Smith has potential, but he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry as a rookie last year.
- Julio Jones is one of the best wide receivers in the league, Mohamed Sanu is one of the top No. 2 options in football and Calvin Ridley has to be considered one of the premier No. 3 wideouts after an 821-yard, 10-touchdown rookie season. Jones is a six-time Pro Bowler in his prime, Sanu is remarkably steady and still on the right side of 30 and the sky is the limit for Ridley. Quarterback Matt Ryan is a very lucky man.
- And it's easy to forget Atlanta also has a Pro Bowl tight end in Austin Hooper, who broke out with a catch rate of 80.7 percent in a 660-yard third season. The 24-year-old isn't a superstar, but he's got room to reach that level.
If those four pass-catchers keep rolling and Freeman is able to bounce back in his age-27 season, Ryan could actually have the best supporting cast in the league. But there's a lack of depth beyond those five players, and it's fair to be concerned about the lead carrier in the backfield.
4. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
The key is obviously to have elite top-end talent but also be deep, and that's something these top four supporting casts have in common, starting with a Los Angeles Chargers squad that has plenty of options for quarterback Philip Rivers.
- At running back, Melvin Gordon III once again made the Pro Bowl with double-digit touchdowns during a 2018 campaign in which he averaged a stellar 5.1 yards per carry. But Gordon is also complemented by Austin Ekeler, who made a run at 1,000 scrimmage yards and averaged 5.2 yards per attempt as a sophomore last year.
- Top receiver Keenan Allen is one of the best in the league and is coming off a second consecutive 1,100-yard, six-touchdown season. While they lost key secondary receiver Tyrell Williams, 2017 No. 7 overall pick Mike Williams scored 10 touchdowns as a sophomore and should be on the verge of an explosion. Veteran Travis Benjamin is also a strong No. 3 wideout.
- Tight end Hunter Henry looked set to have a huge 2018 season before a torn ACL crushed those hopes. But the 2016 second-round pick is healthy now and should be a tremendous asset in his age-25 campaign. And he's at least backed up by steady veteran Virgil Green.
Gordon and Ekeler are particularly supportive of Rivers because they're major pass-catchers who combined for 894 receiving yards and seven touchdown receptions in 2018. Meanwhile, it wouldn't be surprising at all if Allen and Williams became one of the top receiver duos in the league. Throw in Henry's return, and there's a lot to love about this supporting cast.
3. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
Now we reach a point at which little separates these supporting casts. These top three teams are completely stacked and talented at all three offensive skill positions surrounding the quarterback, and they could be ranked in any order. The Los Angeles Rams only fall into the third spot because there are some injury concerns surrounding their best offensive player.
- That player is of course running back Todd Gurley, who had 1,831 scrimmage yards and 21 touchdowns in 2018. But a balky knee limited Gurley down the stretch, and it's fair to wonder how that'll impact him going forward. Fortunately for the Rams, backup Malcolm Brown also averaged 4.9 yards per rush last year, and they added the explosive Darrell Henderson on Day 2 of the draft.
- Starting receivers Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods both went over 1,200 yards last season, and there's no reason to expect either young star to slow down. But they also have the steady Cooper Kupp (who is working to get back from a torn ACL) and a solid alternative No. 3 in Josh Reynolds.
- There's no star at tight end, but Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee come together to form a reliable young duo with plenty of upside.
We got evidence late last year that the Rams running game can still be effective without riding Gurley to a point of exhaustion, and it's possible he'll still flourish in a less intense role. If that happens, Kupp returns and either tight end can rise up, this might be the best supporting cast in the NFL. But it's unlikely all of that happens, so for now they're the second runner-up.
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
A 39-year-old Drew Brees was the league's highest-rated passer in 2018, thanks at least in part to one of the NFL's best supporting casts. Wildly, that cast might be even better in 2019.
- It starts with running back Alvin Kamara, who has scored 31 touchdowns and accumulated 3,146 scrimmage yards in his first two seasons as a game-changing weapon out of the backfield. The Saints did lose veteran Mark Ingram II at that position, but replacement Latavius Murray isn't a significantly inferior player and probably has more tread on his tires.
- Meanwhile, top receiver Michael Thomas earned All-Pro honors in 2018 with a league-high 125 receptions for 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns. He's only 26 and should get better, as should 2018 third-round pick Tre'Quan Smith. Beyond those two, it's a numbers game. Austin Carr, Ted Ginn, Keith Kirkwood and Cameron Meredith are all solid options for Brees as late reads.
- But we're really excited about this year's upgrade at tight end, where the Saints went from a bland platoon of Ben Watson and Josh Hill to free-agent addition Jared Cook. Cook was a Pro Bowler with 896 yards and six touchdowns last year in Oakland, and he has the ability to make a lot more plays than the dudes he's replacing.
There isn't a duo in this league quite like Kamara and Thomas, but the Saints are also pretty deep and should benefit from Cook's arrival. That's enough to be viewed as the best offense in the NFC.
1. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
When yours truly first made this list two years ago, the Cleveland Browns ranked 30th. Last year, they shot up to 14th. And now, as a testament to their much-hyped rebuild, they've moved all the way up to the top spot. Nobody knows if the Browns can live up to what's on paper in 2019, but the reality is that paper indicates quarterback Baker Mayfield has the most support in the league. How is this possible?
- Running back Nick Chubb put together three 100-plus-yard performances in the final seven games of a promising rookie season, and his 5.2 yards-per-attempt average was the seventh-highest qualified mark in the NFL. He should explode as a sophomore, but Cleveland also has 2017 rushing champion Kareem Hunt (who will be available after serving an eight-game suspension) and pass-catching specialist Duke Johnson in the offensive backfield.
- There's no wide receiver duo in football quite like slot superstar Jarvis Landry and all-around megastar Odell Beckham Jr., who came over in a trade from the Giants to team up with his longtime pal. Landry has caught more passes in his first five seasons than anyone else in NFL history, while Beckham already has three 1,300-yard seasons under his belt. Oh, and depth receivers Rashard Higgins and Antonio Callaway both went over 500 yards last season.
- They aren't quite as established at tight end, but the physically marvelous David Njoku made progress in his second season and should have an opportunity to take off in his third year.
They're still counting on Njoku and Chubb, but both ceilings are high there, and the receiving corps is almost guaranteed to dominate. There isn't another supporting cast in the NFL with so much potential combined with so many accomplishments.