Just as we did the year before that and the year before that and the year before that and the year before that, the crew here at CBSSports.com recently set out to rank each NFL team's "triplets." Why not, right? It's the middle of the offseason, and it's an offseason tradition around these parts.and and
So in the space below, we're once again counting down the NFL's best QB-RB-WR/TE trios, grading the expected starters at quarterback and running back and their presumed top pass-catcher for the 2023 NFL season. For some teams, it was obvious who would fill each role. For others, less so. Where we had to make judgment calls on which player would start at quarterback or who would be the top target, we did.
In the space below, you'll see our rankings of these triplets. The first number in parentheses is the team's average ranking based on the votes of several of our staff writers and editors at CBSSports.com, while the second number reflects the high and low end of where our staffers ranked that individual team.
For example, our No. 6 team -- the Dallas Cowboys -- had an average ranking of 6.8, with a high ranking of 5 and a low of 13. We have denoted tier breaks in any place where the difference between the average ranking of one team and another exceeded 2.0. For example, the aforementioned Cowboys had an average ranking of 6.8 and the Chargers had an average of 4.4, so the Chargers begin a new tier.
The panel included myself, John Breech, Jeff Kerr, Tyler Sullivan, Jordan Dajani, Cody Benjamin, Shanna McCarriston, Chris Trapasso, Kevin Steimle, Brett Anderson, Garrett Podell, Joel Magaraci, Kyle Stackpole, R.J. White, Eric Kernish and Eric Kay. The rankings reflect the collective wisdom of this crowd, while the corresponding analysis is mine.
We. We continued Wednesday , and conclude today with the very top tiers. Without further ado ...
Tier 3: The Cowboys
6. Dallas Cowboys (Avg: 6.8, High: 5, Low: 13)
Last year: 7th
Pollard is at long last the lead back in Dallas, and it looks like his recovery from a fractured ankle has gone well enough that he's been a full participant in the offseason program. If he weren't getting overshadowed by draft-class-mate Justin Jefferson, there would be a whole lot of talk about Lamb getting off to one of the best three-year starts in league history. The only players to match or exceed Lamb's first-three-year totals in receptions (260), receiving yards (3,396) and receiving touchdowns (20) are Jefferson, Odell Beckham Jr., A.J. Green and Michael Thomas. Meanwhile, the people hung up on Prescott's interception total from last season are willfully subjecting themselves to recency bias. Even after last year's disaster, Prescott has the fifth-lowest interception rate among 165 players with 2,000 or more pass attempts in their career. The dude is really good, full stop.
Tier 2: Great, but just short of the best
5. Los Angeles Chargers (Avg: 4.4, High: 3, Low: 7)
Last year: 1st
A change in offensive coordinator from Joe Lombardi to former Cowboys coordinator Kellen Moore should finally get Herbert throwing the ball down the field more often. A player with his skill set ranking 31st out of 35 qualifying quarterbacks in air yards per attempt over the past two seasons is inexcusable. Prescott ranked a much more respectable 11th among the same group of players, and if Moore can nudge Herbert in that direction, L.A. will be better for it. Still, his top two targets are likely to remain Ekeler and Allen, who excel at finding the soft spots underneath and remain absolute target monsters who produce at a high level whenever they're healthy.
4. Buffalo Bills (Avg: 4.2, High: 3, Low: 6)
Last year: 3rd
Allen has a ceiling as a quarterback that is matched or exceeded by only one player, given his unique physical gifts. Prior to his elbow injury last season, he was hitting that ceiling pretty much weekly. Buffalo's short-and-quick passing game pretty much disappeared after the injury, though, as Allen's underneath accuracy became much more scattershot. That affected Diggs' role in the offense, and he appeared none too happy about it. And yet, this remains one of the best QB-WR connections in the entire league, able to threaten defenses to every level of the field and connect at a high rate. Cook will likely split backfield duties with Damien Harris, but his versatility and facility as a pass-catcher gets him the nod here.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (Avg: 4.1, High: 2, Low: 6)
Last year: 16th
Hurts took a significant step forward last season after the Eagles added Brown, who proved the perfect complement to DeVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert. They were particularly effective on RPO slants and pure deep balls, each of which allow Brown to use his physicality to win at the catch point and his athleticism to turn plays into even bigger gains. Hurts' ability to morph from a dropback passer into a rushing threat is elite, and the only area where he relatively struggled last season was against the blitz. It remans to be seen how this all looks without former offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, and we have absolutely no idea who among Rashaad Penny, D'Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell, and Boston Scott will eventually emerge in the backfield, but there's a lot to like here no matter what.
Tier 1: A league of their own
2. Kansas City Chiefs (Avg: 1.6, High: 1, Low: 3)
Last year: 4th
1. Cincinnati Bengals (Avg: 1.5, High: 1, Low: 2)
Last year: 2nd
Kansas City received one stray third-place vote, and that ultimately proved the difference between first and second in this exercise. Patrick Mahomes is the best player on the planet, able to reach heights no other quarterback can achieve due to his unique combination of accuracy, timing, out-of-structure playmaking and arm strength. He and Kelce are the most unstoppable duo in the league, and it almost doesn't matter what running back you slot alongside them.
That said, I have a feeling the perceived difference between Mixon and Pacheco is what ultimately landed the Bengals in first -- even if Mixon was seemingly on the verge of being cut for a portion of this offseason. Burrow and Chase are basically a big play waiting to happen, and the work the entire offense did last year to counteract top-down defenses taking away the deep ball will help them deep into the future.