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The eleven deepest rosters in the NFL

Touchdown Wire logo Touchdown Wire 6/19/2020 Mark Schofield
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War metaphors when discussing the game of football leave many uneasy. But if there is a phrase that is suitable to what a team undergoes during an NFL calendar year, it is this one: The season is a war of attrition. Players suffer injuries on a weekly basis, and that will test the roster construction of even the best franchises.

What teams are best built to weather such storms? Here are the 11 deepest rosters in the league, along with a few teams that just missed the cut.

1. Baltimore Ravens

a crowd of people watching a baseball game: BALTLAMAR  The NFL's 2019 MVP has erased a ton of doubt across the league, both on the ground and through the air. Lamar Jackson is the Baltimore Ravens. And Baltimore Ravens are Lamar.  And now, they are one: BaltLamar! (AP Photo/Frank Victores) © File photo BALTLAMAR The NFL's 2019 MVP has erased a ton of doubt across the league, both on the ground and through the air. Lamar Jackson is the Baltimore Ravens. And Baltimore Ravens are Lamar. And now, they are one: BaltLamar! (AP Photo/Frank Victores)

(AP Photo/Frank Victores)

Sure, the 2019 season did not end the way the Baltimore Ravens wanted it to. After winning the AFC North, securing the first overall seed in the conference and a first-round bye, the Ravens fell at home to the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round. Despite a 14-2 record and the presence of NFL MVP Lamar Jackson on the roster, they were relegated to watching the Super Bowl from their couches, like so many of us.

However, they remain an extremely deep roster and the moves the organization made this offseason only added to their depth. They addressed needs on both sides of the football, adding to the wide receiver room with Devin Duvernay and James Proche, giving them two solid slot options. They added to the front seven, drafting a pair of linebackers in Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison, and they also added up front, bringing in Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe in free agency and then Justin Madubuike in the draft. This is an extremely solid, and deep, roster as the Ravens look to avenge their 2019 finish.

2. Kansas City Chiefs

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(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

It might seem surprising to see the defending Super Bowl Champions in the number two spot on a list like this, but as we will see, there are some questions about the Chiefs as we look ahead to the 2020 campaign.

First the good news. They have Patrick Mahomes. Sure, this is a list of depth charts, but that is a very good starting place. They also have weapons all over their offense, and when you look at players such as Mecole Hardman and Sammy Watkins as your third and fourth receivers, that shows the depth you have at that position. They even can trot out Anthony Sherman, one of the game’s best fullbacks, when they want to use a 21 or even a 20 personnel package. Oh, and they drafted Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who is a perfect fit in their offense and gives them great weapons at the running back spot along with Damien Williams and Darwin Thompson.

They also have depth up front on defense, with players like Mike Pennell, Tanoh Kpassagnon and Khalen Saunders forming a formidable second unit on the defensive line. Depth at linebacker was a question but the addition of Willie Gay Jr., who lit up the Combine with his performance, is a certain boost.

Their questions come in the secondary. It was assumed that the Chiefs would address cornerback early, but they waited until Day Three, adding L’Jarius Sneed in the fourth round and Thakarius Keys in the seventh. This group and its depth might be a weak link on an otherwise solid roster.

And when you have #15, odds are you’ll be playing with some favorable game scripts…

3. San Francisco 49ers

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(Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports)

You can tell a lot about a team and its depth looking at their needs before the draft. For the defending NFC Champions, there were not a ton of needs to address. The San Francisco 49ers created one when they  traded DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round selection, but they addressed that need immediately, adding Javon Kinlaw with that pick. Wide receiver was not a glaring need, but they traded up in the first round to select Brandon Aiyuk from Arizona State. With the recent injuries to Deebo Samuel and Richie James Jr., they are probably glad they did.

This team also added one of the game’s premier left tackles in Trent Williams, acquiring him in a trade with Washington. Also, we have not addressed backup quarterbacks yet, but Nick Mullens might be one of the more intriguing, under-the-radar backups in the league. He was an Exclusive Rights Free Agent this past offseason and might finally get the chance to test the open market this coming offseason as a Restricted Free Agent. He might have his fair share of suitors.

On the defensive side of the football, the second unit might not have the overall depth as some of the other teams on this list, but there are some solid players, such as D.J. Jones and Kentavius Street up front, and Jason Verrett in the secondary.

4. New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees that is standing in the grass: Now that Drew Brees has acknowledged his return to the Saints in 2020, it would behoove New Orleans' front office to reinforce the receiver position for their top guy, especially if they would like to present him with a second Super Bowl ring on his way out the door. Last season, Brees completed 74.3% of his passes for 2,979 yards, 27 touchdowns, and four interceptions in 11 games. Teddy Bridgewater was nearly as effective in five games as Brees' backup when Brees was recovering from a thumb injury. That both quarterbacks were this good with one star and a bunch of question marks at the receiver position should have Sean Payton thinking what's possible with more. (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports) © File photo Now that Drew Brees has acknowledged his return to the Saints in 2020, it would behoove New Orleans' front office to reinforce the receiver position for their top guy, especially if they would like to present him with a second Super Bowl ring on his way out the door. Last season, Brees completed 74.3% of his passes for 2,979 yards, 27 touchdowns, and four interceptions in 11 games. Teddy Bridgewater was nearly as effective in five games as Brees' backup when Brees was recovering from a thumb injury. That both quarterbacks were this good with one star and a bunch of question marks at the receiver position should have Sean Payton thinking what's possible with more. (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

The New Orleans Saints are another organization that entered the draft with minimal needs to address, and their scant amount of activity reflects that fact. They used only four picks, drafting Michigan offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz in the first round, Dayton tight end Adam Trautman and Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun in the third, and potential Taysom Hill 2.0 Tommy Stevens in the seventh.

Their biggest need entering the offseason was finding a running mate for Michael Thomas and they did just that, signing free agent Emmanuel Sanders.

Up front, Ruiz slides into the right guard spot, giving the Saints a solid group of starters. Players such as James Hurst, Nick Easton and Will Clapp provide solid depth behind the first unit. Tight end, with the addition of Trautman, is another deep position as he joins Jared Cook and Josh Hill, among others. Even the quarterback room is extremely deep, with Drew Brees, Hill, Jameis Winston and the previously-mentioned Stevens.

Defensively, the addition of Malcolm Jenkins gives the secondary a boost, and he joins what was already a solid group from top to bottom. Baun, considered a first round pick prior to the draft, gives the second level some depth and you can picture him being used as a rotational pass rusher early in his career.

5. Dallas Cowboys

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(Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

The offense gets the bulk of the attention, so let’s start on the defensive side of the football. This is one of the deeper front seven units in the league. To a defensive front that included Demarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford the Cowboys added two stout veterans in Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe. Dallas added to this group, drafting both Neville Gallimore and Bradlee Anae.

Their linebacker trio of Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee is athletic and experienced, and they made some wise additions to the secondary in the wake of losing Byron Jones, adding Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and drafting Trevon Diggs in the second round.

Offensively, you know the big names. Dallas returns Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott and of course quarterback Dak Prescott. But they also saw CeeDee Lamb fall to them in the first round, and between Cooper, Lamb and the very talented Michael Gallup, they have some great receiving options. The sudden retirement of Travis Frederick, a year after returning from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, is a huge loss, but Dallas has veteran  Joe Looney as well as rookie Tyler Biadasz as potential replacements for him.

In all, a very deep and solid roster.

6. Tennessee Titans

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(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

The Tennessee Titans enjoyed last season’s run to the AFC Championship game so much, they decided to run it back. They signed quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a long-term extension, and used the franchise tag on running back Derrick Henry. While they lost right tackle Jack Conklin to the Cleveland Browns in free agency, they have Dennis Kelly as a veteran option and then added right tackle Isaiah Wilson in the first round, a player who generated serious buzz the closer we got to the draft. At the skill positions, A.J. Brown was a revelation last season as a rookie, as the wide receiver caught 52 passes for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns. He, along with Adam Humphries in the slot and Corey Davis also on the outside, give the Titans a great three-WR package.

Defensively, pass rush was a concern heading into the draft, but having Jeffery Simmons completely healthy for the 2020 season, coming off a knee injury he suffered prior to the 2019 draft, will be a big boost. They also added Vic Beasley in free agency. Their secondary got a few new faces added to the mix, including Johnathan Joseph in free agency and Kristian Fulton via the draft. Stop me if you heard this before, but Fulton was viewed as a first-rounder prior to his slide into the second.

If there is a depth question, it is at the quarterback position. Tannehill was given the keys to the offense after his great run last season, allowing Marcus Mariota to depart via free agency. Behind him? Logan Woodside, formerly of the AAF, and Cole McDonald, the human roller coaster of a quarterback. McDonald is a ton of fun to watch, and might have a shot to win the backup job, but this is a question mark for Tennessee.

7. Philadelphia Eagles

Real simple for the Birds: Can Carson Wentz stay healthy enough to be the quarterback over the long haul? He started 16 games in 2019 and went 9-7. The Eagles are banking on the former No. 2 overall pick, who was 11-2 in 2017 before being injured. Otherwise, he is 21-22 as a starter. It won't take long for the boobirds to surface in Philly. Nate Sudfeld and Kyle Lauletta currently are the backups. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports) © File photo Real simple for the Birds: Can Carson Wentz stay healthy enough to be the quarterback over the long haul? He started 16 games in 2019 and went 9-7. The Eagles are banking on the former No. 2 overall pick, who was 11-2 in 2017 before being injured. Otherwise, he is 21-22 as a starter. It won't take long for the boobirds to surface in Philly. Nate Sudfeld and Kyle Lauletta currently are the backups. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Two huge questions dominated the Philadelphia air waves leading into the draft. First, can Carson Wentz stay healthy? Second, can they fix the wide receiver position.

On the second question, they sure tried. Of course the Eagles have Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson coming back from injuries, but with those two players on the shelf Wentz’s primary target during last year’s stretch drive was Greg Ward Jr., a converted quarterback playing WR. But via the draft and a trade, the Eagles added Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, Quez Watkins and Marquise Goodwin. They should be able to piece together some wide receiver options for Wentz from that group, especially when you consider that in 2019 they were a predominantly 12 personnel team. Now some of that might have to do with their lack of WR options, but they also have two great options at tight end, between Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert.

Their offensive line remains one of the best in the game, but they did lose Brandon Brooks for the season with a foot injury suffered while training. Jack Driscoll, who they drafted in the fourth round out of Auburn, as well as Matt Pryor, are options to step into that spot. Prince Tega Wanogho, a sixth-round pick out of Auburn, is raw but impressive.

On the defensive side of the football, adding Javon Hargrave to their interior defensive line was a huge move. With Hargrave and Fletcher cox in the interior, have fun running against this group. They needed help at cornerback, but they added Darius Slay from Detroit via trade, and his is a perfect schematic fit for Jim Schwartz’s style of play. They did lose Malcolm Jenkins to New Orleans, but the addition of Slay allows the team to slide Jalen Mills to safety, where he seems better suited.

Then, as to the first big question, they drafted Jalen Hurts to add to their quarterback room. Which, in the days since that move, has now dominated the Philadelphia air waves…

8. Buffalo Bills

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(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

You can almost feel the excitement coming from upstate New York as the 2020 NFL season looms.

Tom Brady is gone from the AFC East. The Miami Dolphins look to be a season or two away from contending, despite an impressive offseason. The New York Jets might be on the verge of trading away their best defensive player. The path seems to be clearing for the Bills.

There is good reason for the optimism. Coming off a playoff berth in 2019, the Bills have improved on paper in the past few months. They needed another deep threat for quarterback Josh Allen, and they added Stefon Diggs, one of the game’s best deep threats and a supremely talented route runner. They had a need at running back, and they added Zack Moss in the third round, a player reminiscent of Roger Craig. They bolstered their defensive front in free agency, signing Mario Addison and Vernon Butler, and drafting A.J. Epenesa. Perhaps more importantly, they kept safeties Micha Hyde and Jordan Poyer together, and if you want to know how critical they are, just ask Brady himself.

This is a deep roster from top to bottom.

The biggest question facing this team right now, is Allen himself. If the quarterback takes a step forward as a passer, the Bills might end up where their dedicated fans hope they will be: Atop the division.

9. Green Bay Packers

a man wearing a helmet: Taken 24th overall by Green Bay out of Cal, Aaron Rodgers sat as a rookie and in his second and third seasons behind Brett Favre. He completed 9-of-16 passes in 2005 with one interception. (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports) © File photo Taken 24th overall by Green Bay out of Cal, Aaron Rodgers sat as a rookie and in his second and third seasons behind Brett Favre. He completed 9-of-16 passes in 2005 with one interception. (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)

(Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)

The selection of Jordan Love in the first round gathered the bulk of the headlines, but beyond the fact it gives Green Bay a solid backup quarterback it also gives them their potential QB of the future. To be sure, many – myself included – assumed that the Packers would be adding a wide receiver. But the organization seems to be moving in a different direction, constructing an offense that will mirror what Kyle Shanahan has built in San Francisco. A heavy 21 personnel team that will rely on both the tight end and the fullback/H-Back positions, looking to throw against base personnel packages.

Matt LaFleur perhaps added his own version of Kyle Juszczyk in the draft, when the Packers selected Josh Deguara out of Cincinnati. A player that we here at Touchdown Wire compared to the 49ers fullback prior to the draft.

Now, wide receiver does remain a question mark after Davante Adams. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard and Equanimeous St. Brown have shown flashes, and the team added Devin Funchess in free agency, but if Green Bay is going to be more of a 21 personnel team, they’ll really just need one from that group to step up.

Running back is also a position of depth, as the Packers sport three solid options there. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams are the two veterans, but the team added A.J. Dillon in the second round. With Williams and Jones entering contract years, this could be Dillon’s job in the years to come.

On the defensive side of the ball, both Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith return, two of the NFL’s sack leaders in the 2019 season. Kenny Clark is one of the game’s most talented interior defensive linemen, and the secondary is filled with talent, including last year’s first round pick in safety Darnell Savage Jr., who played a more in the box role at Maryland but showed more versatility to his game as a rookie.

10. Seattle Seahawks

a baseball player holding a bat on a field: Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports © File photo Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)

This selection might stir some emotions.

The Seattle Seahawks seem to have reached with their first two picks in the draft. They still have questions about the offensive line. Are they going to bring Jadeveon Clowney back or not? What about their secondary?

But despite those questions, this is still a talented and deep roster on paper. Defensively, if Clowney does not return they added Bruce Irvin via free agency, and Darrell Taylor, one of their two “reaches” in the draft, shows promise as an EDGE rusher.

At the linebacker spot, the Seahawks still have Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. No team relied on three linebackers more than Seattle in 2019, meaning that that third player is going to likely play a critical role. Returning players such as Shaquem Griffin, Cody Barton and BenBurr-Kirven are options, but Jordyn Brooks, the player Seattle drafted in the first round, might have the inside track. This is a position of strength for the Seahawks.

In the secondary, Seattle traded for cornerback Quinton Dunbar, who faces four counts of armed robbery stemming from an incident this offseason.

On the offensive side of the football, D.K. Metcalf was one of the steals of the 2019 draft, and he and Tyler Lockett give Russell Wilson some enticing options in the passing game. Tight end is another deep position group, as the team added veteran Greg Olsen to a group that includes Will Dissly, Luke Willson and Jacob Hollister. For good measure, the team added Colby Parkinson and the intriguing Stephen Sullivan in the draft. Seattle has multiple options at running back as well, between Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde, Rashaad Penny and fourth-round pick DeeJay Dallas.

The most intriguing position battle to watch for this writer? The backup spot behind Wilson. Geno Smith and Anthony Gordon are set to fight for that spot, and of course there is a big name free agent lurking, in Colin Kaepernick. Head coach Pete Carroll has said the team is happy with their current options, but Kaepernick would be a fit in Seattle’s offense.

11. Minnesota Vikings

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(Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

One of the NFL teams that seemed to come out of the offseason as winners is the Minnesota Vikings.

Yes, they lost some names during this period, such as Stefon Diggs in the trade to the Buffalo Bills, but look at how they worked their draft board. Minnesota added Justin Jefferson from LSU to replace Diggs, and he is a perfect fit for their offense. With needs in the secondary the Vikings added Jeff  Gladney in the first round, Cameron Dantzler in the third, and late round options at the safety spots in Brian Cole II and Josh Metellus. They also kept safety Anthony Harris in the fold, leaving Minnesota with one of the game’s top safety duos in Harris and Harrison Smith. Their defensive front is solid as well. The linebacker group is strong (keep an eye on rookie Troy Dye) and up front Danielle Hunter returns, and they added Michael Pierce on the inside to replace the loss of Linval Joseph.

Dalvin Cook’s holdout is going to get some attention, but Alexander Mattison is a very solid running back behind him. Tight end is another strength, between Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. Minnesota added some offensive line depth as well, drafting Ezra Cleveland in the second round.

Others Receiving Votes

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Maybe it is the fact that during COVID-19 quarantine time I’ve been playing come NCAA Football 13 on my old PlayStation 3, but I felt compelled to include some “Others Receiving Votes.” Some teams that seemed on the cusp of a list like this but for one reason or another were left off.

The first such team is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Obviously with the additions of Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and then in the draft players like Tristian Wirfs and Antonie Winfield Jr. this is a talented roster at the top. But the issue is depth. While the other teams listed have solid options behind the starters, the Buccaneers are a bit thinner behind the first unit at a variety of positions, from the offensive line to the secondary to the front seven on defense.

The Arizona Cardinals are close as well. They solid starters on both side of the football, particularly on offense with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins, but you could see how things could go south on them with the loss of a few key players. The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a similar vein. They were in playoff contention last year without Ben Roethlisberger, which speaks to their depth and talent as a team, but should he go down there are big questions about Devlin Hodges and Mason Rudolph. If Big Ben does suffer another injury, expect Mike Tomlin’s first phone call to be to Cam Newton.

Finally, the Indianapolis Colts. In the wake of Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement the team faltered, but adding Philip Rivers will help shore up their offense, as will rookie Michael Pittman Jr., which will allow Parris Campbell to slide inside to the slot, a role that fits him well. The Colts added two new names in the secondary in Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie, giving them depth in that area as well.

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