NFL projection model: Ranking all 32 rosters ahead of the draft

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NFL projection model: Ranking all 32 rosters ahead of the draft

The NFL Draft is just one week away, which means teams are preparing to infuse their rosters with some young, exciting talent.

Some rosters (Washington, Carolina) desperately need such an infusion, while others (Kansas City, San Francisco) are seeking players who can help them return to the Super Bowl. But what about all of the teams in between?



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I’ve used my NFL Projection Model to rank each roster ahead of next week’s draft. The model takes into account an array of metrics and tries to put a “value” on every player. This value is essentially how many points above average a player brings to his team in a typical NFL game. Positional value weighs heavily when calculating that total. So the best running back or linebacker in the league will not be worth as much as the best wide receiver or edge rusher. After summing up all the values, each team was ranked 1-32. Here’s how the rosters stack up entering the draft.

Last year’s Super Bowl runner-up sits atop the list due to having a good quarterback, incredible offensive skill talent — though it remains to be seen what happens with star wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk — and one of the most talented defenses in the NFL. If there is one blemish, it’s the interior on the offensive and defensive lines, but the 49ers are stacked everywhere else to make up for it. They remain the team to beat in the NFC.



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And now last year’s Super Bowl-winning team. The Chiefs have cemented themselves as a dynasty, and that starts with Patrick Mahomes. If you roster the best QB in the NFL, and one who seems to be on his way to becoming an all-time great, your roster will almost always be in good shape. But don’t sleep on this defense. Even after trading cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, my model ranks the Chiefs above average at every position group except for edge and safety.



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Despite their lofty ranking, the Ravens have some holes on their roster, and you could argue they need to improve at three premier positions. The easy answer is receiver, but they’re not too deep at CB, either. A big concern of mine is OT. Ronnie Stanley is good, but he’s missed a lot of time over the last few years and is on the wrong side of 30. The Ravens are set up at just about every other position group, but if they want to take the next step, WR, CB and OT must be addressed.

This one makes me a little uneasy, but like Mahomes and the Chiefs, an elite QB (Josh Allen) erases a lot of roster issues. The Bills have had to part with some quality players this offseason, but there are enough solid pieces still around to not panic. The Bills should be mimicking the Chiefs’ plan of the last few years while building around Mahomes and focusing on drafting the best available player at a premier position in the first round. They also have traded away their top wide receiver (Stefon Diggs), similar to what the Chiefs did a few years ago with Tyreek Hill.

The Eagles lost center Jason Kelce and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox to retirement, but that doesn’t stop my model from rating them as a top-five roster. The Eagles are still stacked. They rank in the top six at QB, WR, TE, OT and interior DL. Oh, and their edges rank 11th. Their back seven is where I’d be looking to upgrade in the draft, but adding Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator should ease the burden a bit.



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The Lions have risen to the top of the NFL by solidifying their offensive and defensive lines. All four groups in the trenches rank seventh or better in the league. They’re thin in the back seven on defense, however, and I expect that to be an area they focus on in the draft. However, the question is whether it will be an early-round focus because as last year showed us, the Lions will draft players in the first round at the top of their board regardless of positional value.

Is there still enough talent around WR CeeDee Lamb and QB Dak Prescott in Dallas for the Cowboys to make a deep playoff run in 2024? (Sam Hodde / Getty Images)

I have a hard time agreeing with this one, but I understand why the model ranks the Cowboys here. They have a good QB in Dak Prescott, an elite WR in CeeDee Lamb, an elite edge rusher in Micah Parsons and quality safety play. The rest of the positions leave a lot to be desired, however. It’s just a bunch of position groups that don’t move the needle much. If I’m the Cowboys, I’m bolstering the offensive line early in the draft.

The Dolphins might have the most boom-or-bust roster in the NFL. They rank second at RB and CB, first at WR, and fifth at safety. Their QBs graded out at 13th, so even that’s not too bad. The problem, however, is they fail to rank above average at any other position group outside of edge rusher (10th), and there are significant health concerns there. Offensive line will be an area targeted in the draft, but they could use upgrades and depth just about everywhere.

Admittedly, I had a hard time with the Jets’ projection as LT Tyron Smith will be a huge “if” player for them this year. If you get a healthy Smith, this could be a solid offensive line. If not, things go south quickly, and I’m not sure I like the idea of a porous offensive line with QB Aaron Rodgers coming off an Achilles injury. Betting on a healthy Smith probably allows them to go elsewhere at No. 10 in the draft, which might mean adding tight end Brock Bowers as another weapon for Rodgers.



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This ranking includes Tee Higgins, but I don’t have a crystal ball to know if he’s still with the team in 2024. Regardless of what comes of the Higgins situation, the Bengals have a top-10 QB and an overall solid roster. They don’t rank inside the top 10 at any position group, other than WR, but they manage to rank 18th or better at every other spot, save for RB and TE. QB Joe Burrow can erase many issues when he’s on the field, and the Bengals continue to build a sound roster around him.

QB C.J. Stroud looks like a bona fide star, and the Texans have compiled a bunch of playmakers around him on his rookie contract. They have some issues on defense, as no position other than edge ranks better than 14th, while three of those groups rank 24th or worse. I’d be shocked if they don’t focus on defense early in the draft.

What a difference a QB can make. Signing Kirk Cousins in the offseason has catapulted the Falcons into an NFC playoff contender and depending on how things break with new head coach Raheem Morris and offensive coordinator Zac Robinson, the Falcons could be one of the most fun teams to watch in 2024. They’ll need an edge rusher early in the draft but outside of that, they won’t be tied to any position when selecting four times inside the top 100.

Matthew Stafford is still here, so you’re going to get a boost from top-10 QB play, but the Rams are looking decent at most positions right now. Sure, losing a future hall of famer in Aaron Donald to retirement will sting, but I still have the interior defensive line grading out around average. Defense is the need as no offensive position group outside of TE ranks worse than 11th.



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The Browns would be Super Bowl contenders if they had a reliable quarterback. Honestly, if they had even average QB play, I think they’d have a top-10 roster. Unfortunately, Deshaun Watson has not been good in Cleveland, nor has he been healthy. Outside of that, the Browns could probably use another wide receiver and maybe some offensive line depth, but they’re solid or better across the board. The Browns only have two picks inside the top 150, though.

This seems a bit low at first glance, but after some digging, I think I’m OK with it. Both OT and the interior O-line grade out below average. Everywhere else grades out around average, and I think I’m fine with that with how young this roster is.

QB Justin Herbert is doing A LOT of work here. The Chargers rank bottom-10 in the league at RB, WR, TE, interior DL and CB. That’s a lot of bad position groups. Trading down from No. 5 in the draft almost seems like a necessity for new coach Jim Harbaugh.



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Despite having killer offensive skill position players, the Seahawks rank in the middle of the pack because they’re 21st or lower on the offensive line and at edge rusher. They look great everywhere else (outside of safety), but you can’t be that weak in the trenches and rank in the top half of the league.

I don’t know what to make of this team. I think QB Trevor Lawrence is better than he’s shown, but things just haven’t gone right for him so far. Maybe it’s because the OL is bottom-10 in the league? I’m not sure. Outside of Lawrence’s high ceiling, the rest of the roster needs a lot of work, as they don’t have a single position group that ranks inside the top 10.

WR Davante Adams, OT Kolton Miller, and DE Maxx Crosby are carrying a lot of the load here. They’re some of the top players at their positions, and they’ll raise the potential of any roster. But neither Aidan O’Connell nor Gardner Minshew is the answer at QB, so that’s the first question that needs to be answered (maybe in the draft?). On defense, every position group outside of edge is ranked 22nd or worse.



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I should preface this by saying I’m a Jacoby Brissett stan and so is my model. He’s not going to win you a Super Bowl, but he’s a better QB than what a lot of teams were trotting out last season (hello, Jets). The offense needs a huge injection of talent, but the defense is in decent shape. I would target the defensive line at some point, but the back seven should be good this season.

The Bucs are in a weird spot. Baker Mayfield was solid last year, but is he really the answer at QB? He doesn’t grade particularly well, per my model, so maybe they should be a little higher. Still, they’re going to be weak in the trenches. The interior OL isn’t great, and I’m not excited about much on the DL, either. The secondary should be awesome, though.

Offense, offense, offense. The Steelers currently rank 31st and 32nd at offensive tackle and wide receiver, respectively, per my model. You won’t score many points in the NFL with that level of production at those spots. Neither QB (Russell Wilson or Justin Fields) will succeed with the current talent around them. Even prime Ben Roethlisberger would struggle with this group.

We all know the Vikings are looking to upgrade at QB after losing Cousins to Atlanta, but the rest of the offense is in great shape. The defense needs some work, especially on the interior DL and CB. DC Brian Flores is a great defensive-mind but the Vikings can make his job easier by acquiring more talent on defense.

The Saints need a lot of help. They find themselves with good LB and safety groups, but outside of that, things are bleak. Every other position group ranks outside the top third in the NFL. The main focus should be obtaining draft capital, drafting talented players and getting out of cap hell because this roster isn’t winning anything.

I think this is a tad low and the future looks bright in Chicago. The offensive skill positions are good, and the offensive line has potential despite not ranking too high in my model. The defense turned things around in the second half of last year, and if they can upgrade the edge rushers and interior DL, their linebackers and safeties are strong enough to make this a very good defense.

QB Anthony Richardson showed promise, but the sample was too small for me to lean one way or the other at this point. The rest of the roster is split: The trenches are great on both sides of the ball, but the skill positions and back seven on defense are not.

We are firmly into the teams that just need to draft good football players. The Titans will have a good CB group after acquiring Chidobe Awuzie and Sneed this offseason. Outside of that, most of the premier positions are not talented. OT seems like the no-brainer choice in the first round but adding quality players on the defensive line also is a must.

The OL and CB groups should be average or slightly above, but everything else is in rough shape. They’re similar to the Titans, but there is one difference: The Titans already have a young, highly drafted QB, and the Broncos, at No. 12, would need to mortgage their future to get one of the top QB prospects.

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The Cardinals need a ton of defensive talent. I’m not sure what they’ll do at No. 4, but it seems like their second first-rounder (No. 27) should be spent on defense. The Cardinals were a frisky team last year under first-year head coach Jonathan Gannon, and with seven picks in the first 104, the Cardinals will have a chance to upgrade their roster quickly.

Two teams rank worse for 2024, but I think the Giants might be in the worst shape for the future. The Giants have paid a QB, who isn’t the answer, a ton of money, and they don’t have a pick to draft one of the top prospects in this year’s draft. They could move up to get one, but if they don’t, I suppose wide receiver makes the most sense.

Bryce Young had a poor rookie season, but neither the roster nor the coaching staff provided much help. The Panthers beefed up their offensive line this offseason and while they still need skill position players, Young should have a much easier time this year. They’re without a first-round pick this season after moving up to draft Young last year, but they should continue to try and build around him with the picks they do have.

There isn’t much to say about the worst roster in the NFL. The Commanders will very likely be drafting their QB of the future, and with the rest of their picks, they’ll simply be looking to acquire talent. A couple of bright spots: My model is a big Frankie Luvu fan, so I think the linebackers should be solid and so, too, should the interior OL.

(Photo illustration: Sean Reilly / The Athletic;
top photos of C.J. Stroud, Kirk Cousins and Kyle Shanahan: Stephen Maturen, Carmen Mandato and Ian Maule / Getty Images