Los Angeles Rams 2023 NFL Season Preview


The Rams won the Super Bowl in the 2021 season, after finishing the regular season with a 12-5 record and the 5th highest DVOA in the league, but repeating was always going to be difficult for them. Not only are repeat champions rare, with none in the last two decades or so, the Rams went all in for a few years to try to win a Super Bowl, which worked out, but it left them with very little long-term flexibility. During the 2022 off-season, the Rams had no choice but to move on from several key contributors for financial reasons and, not having their own first round pick for the 6th straight year, they didn’t have much draft capital to rebuild their roster either.

All that being said, I don’t think anyone expected what happened to the Rams in 2022. Not only did they miss the key contributors they lost from their 2021 team, but they also had arguably the worst injury luck in the league, which diminished this team significantly and led to them finishing just 5-12, the worst record ever by a defending Super Bowl champion. In terms of adjusted games lost, the Rams had the second most in the NFL and, if you take into account that those injuries disproportionately affected their most important players, the Rams were probably impacted by injuries more than any other team in the league last season.

It’s easy to see how the Rams could be significantly better in 2023 with better health. Not only does adjusted games lost as a stat tend to regress to the mean, but the Rams were actually one of the healthiest teams in the league for years prior to last season, ranking in the top-10 in fewest adjusted games lost to injury in each of the previous six seasons. However, it’s not as easy as saying the Rams will be healthier this year so they’ll be back to being contenders. Not only did the Rams lose key contributors from this Super Bowl team last off-season, they lost even more this off-season and they were once again without their own first round pick, which was 6th overall as a result of the Rams’ struggles last season.

I’ll get into the differences between this team’s roster and their Super Bowl team’s roster later, but the Rams at least still have quarterback Matt Stafford, who completed 67.2% of his passes for an average of 8.13 YPA, 41 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions and earned a 80.7 grade from PFF. That was nothing new for Stafford, who had received a PFF of 77 or higher in each of his five previous seasons prior to 2021 as well, while completing 65.2% of his passes for an average of 7.55 YPA, 119 touchdowns, and 46 interceptions over that stretch.

However, there is reason to be concerned that Stafford might not play at his highest level again in 2023. Not only is he now heading into his age 35 season, but he’s coming off of a very disappointing 2022 campaign in which he received just a 67.0 PFF grade, his worst since 2015, and completed 68.0% of his passes for an average of 6.89 YPA, 10 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions, a 87.4 QB rating that is his worst since 2014. Stafford also was limited to just nine starts by head and neck injuries that at one point left his long-term future somewhat in doubt.

It’s possible Stafford could return to form in 2023 and he’s not totally over the hill yet, but I think it’s more likely that his best days are behind him. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll struggle this year, as even at less than his best he can still be an above average starting quarterback, and he should play more games and be more effective than a year ago, but there’s more reason for concern with Stafford than there was two years ago.

Given Stafford’s age and recent injury history, backup quarterback could end up being an important position for the Rams this season. Last season, they tried three different options, with internal options Bryce Perkins (53.7 QB rating) and John Wolford (64.6 QB rating) both struggling, before veteran Baker Mayfield was claimed on waivers, giving the Rams a more reliable option down the stretch (86.4 QB rating). Mayfield is no longer with the team though and the only veteran option the Rams added this off-season was Brett Rypien, who has a 62.9 QB rating in three career starts in four seasons in the league, making him a very underwhelming option.

The Rams did add Stetson Bennett in the 4th round of the draft and are probably hoping he can beat out Rypien for the #2 quarterback job. Bennett would probably struggle if forced into significant action as a rookie, but he’s more NFL ready than most 4th round quarterbacks, so he might not be a bad option and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if he developed into a capable backup long-term, even if he’s probably not a real candidate to be Stafford’s long-term successor. Either way, this team will obviously be in better shape if Stafford can stay healthy the whole year, even if he doesn’t play quite up to his usual standards.

Grade: B+

Receiving Corps

Not only did the Rams lose Stafford for the year mid-season in 2022, but they also lost his top receiver Cooper Kupp for the year right around the same time, a devastating blow that left this offense completely anemic for the rest of the season. The Rams were 4-4 going into the week 10 game against the Cardinals in which Kupp got hurt and they wound up losing 8 of their final 9 games as a result of the injuries to Kupp and Stafford. Not only is Kupp one of the best wide receivers in the league, receiving PFF grades of 80.8, 92.3, and 86.3 in 2020, 2021, and 2022 respectively, while averaging 2.53 yards per route run, but the Rams didn’t have another reliable pass catching option behind him on the depth chart, with Odell Beckham, the #2 wide receiver on their Super Bowl team not getting retained due to injuries of his own.

The Rams tried to replace Beckham with Allen Robinson, giving him a 3-year, 46.5 million dollar deal in free agency last off-season, even though he struggled mightily in 2021, with a 38/410/1 slash line and 1.13 yards per route run, but that move proved to be a disaster, as Robinson did not return to form in his new home with the Rams, finishing with a 33/339/3 slash line and 0.93 yards per route run. This off-season, the Rams gave up on Robinson, sending him to the Steelers for a swap of late round picks and eating 10.25 million of his 15.25 million dollar guaranteed salary in the process.

Robinson wasn’t replaced though, so the Rams will once again be highly reliant on Cooper Kupp staying healthy, without another good wide receiver on this depth chart. Kupp should still be expected to be one of the best wide receivers in the league in 2023, but he’s heading into his age 30 season and coming off of a major injury, so he might not be quite as good as he has been in recent years and, even if he is, the Rams’ lack of another good wide receiver will hurt this offense. 

Van Jefferson and Bennett Skowronek are probably penciled in as the other starting wide receivers, but Jefferson hasn’t shown much in three seasons since the Rams selected him in the 2nd round in 2020, averaging 1.38 yards per route run, while Skowronek is a 2021 7th round pick who averaged just 0.91 yards per route run in the first extended action of his career in 2022 in Kupp’s absence. The Rams also have 2021 2nd round pick Tutu Atwell and used a 5th round pick in this year’s draft on Puka Nacua, but Atwell has played just 318 snaps on offense in two seasons in the league and might be too small at 5-9 165 to be an every down wide receiver, while Nacua is probably too raw to contribute in a significant way as a rookie.

With Kupp missing about half the season, the Rams were led in targets by tight end Tyler Higbee, but he wasn’t efficient with those targets, turning 108 targets into a 72/620/3 slash line, an average of 5.74 yards per target. Higbee is a solid starting tight end who has received a grade of 60 or higher from PFF in six straight seasons, but he’s also averaged just 1.40 yards per route run for his career and shouldn’t be a huge part of their passing game. Without another good wide receiver behind Kupp on the depth chart, Higbee could end up finishing second on the team with targets, which would not be a good thing for this offense.

The Rams don’t use a lot of two tight end sets, even when Kupp was hurt last season, with #2 tight end Brycen Hopkins playing just 173 snaps. Hopkins has played just 234 snaps total since entering the league as a 4th round pick in 2020, but could remain the #2 tight end in this offense. His biggest competition will come from Hunter Long, a 2021 3rd round pick that the Rams acquired via trade this offense. Long played just 184 snaps in two seasons with the Dolphins and has shown very little, but the Rams seem to still believe in his upside and he could be better in his new home, still only in his third season in the league. Either way, the Rams backup tight end won’t have a big role in this passing game, which once again lacks a reliable #2 option after Cooper Kupp.

Grade: B-

Offensive Line

The Rams’ offensive line was also significantly worse in 2022 than 2021. They were already going to be worse heading into the season, after losing left tackle Andrew Whitworth (86.1 PFF grade in 2021) to retirement and right guard Austin Corbett (68.8 PFF grade in 2021) in free agency, but, making matters worse, they lost replacement left tackle Joe Noteboom, starting center Brian Allen, and left guard David Edwards to injuries that limited them to just 325 snaps, 373 snaps, and 230 snaps respectively in 2022.

Edwards wasn’t retained this off-season, meaning the Rams will be without three of their five starters from their 2021 offensive line even if they can stay healthier this season. The Rams did at least make upgrading their offensive line a priority this off-season, though they did so without much flexibility to improve this roster, using their first draft pick, 36th overall, on TCU’s Steve Avila, who ended up being their only selection in the top-70 picks. 

Even as a rookie, Avila is likely to start, due to the lack of a better option. With David Edwards missing most of last season, the Rams top guards in terms of snaps played were Matt Skura (466 snaps), Alaric Jackson (422 snaps), Oday Aboushi (339 snaps), and Bobby Evans (314 snaps), but Skura, Aboushi, and Evans are no longer on the team and, while Jackson was decent with a 64.1 PFF grade, he’s a converted swing tackle who was only playing guard out of necessity and the Rams seem to prefer the 2021 undrafted free agent at tackle long-term.

It’s possible Jackson could compete for the other starting guard job out of necessity, as could Coleman Shelton, who mostly played center last season in the absence of Brian Allen, but who has the versatility to play any of the interior offensive line spots. However, Shelton earned just a 58.0 PFF grade in the first significant action of the 2018 undrafted free agent’s career last season, so he would be an underwhelming option, and it seems more likely that the Rams will keep Jackson at tackle and start 2022 3rd round pick Logan Bruss at the other guard spot opposite Avila.

Bruss could have been a starter as a rookie and, after Edwards got hurt he almost definitely would have been, but he ended up missing his whole rookie season with injuries of his own. He still has the upside to develop into a solid starter long-term, but he’s completely inexperienced and, even if he does become a long-term starter, that doesn’t mean he won’t have growing pains in his first year in that role. Bruss and Avila have upside at the guard position, which is more than you could say about most of the guards who started for the Rams in 2022, but with neither of them ever having played an NFL snap, there’s downside here as well. 

Noteboom and Allen return to starting roles at left tackle and center respectively after their injury plagued 2022 seasons. Noteboom is still pretty inexperienced, starting his career as a reserve behind Andrew Whitworth and getting hurt in his first full season as the starter in 2022, but he’s made 23 starts over the past four seasons, so he’s not totally inexperienced, and he’s finished with PFF grades higher than 60 in each of the past three seasons, including a 67.0 PFF grade in 2022 before the injury. His return from a torn achilles complicates things for him, especially since he also has had a torn ACL (2019) in his past, and, even if he’s at his best, he’ll still be a big downgrade from what Whitworth was for them before retiring, but Noteboom’s return will still be a welcome one for a team that struggled to find a consistent left tackle in his absence last season.

Allen’s return will also be a welcome one, but it’s far from a guarantee that he’ll match his 2021 level of play, when he was PFF’s 5th ranked center with a 80.2 grade, as he has PFF grades of 58.6 and 63.8 in his other two seasons as a starter and he has a pretty extensive injury history, missing 32 games over the past four seasons combined. It won’t be hard for Allen to be an upgrade on Coleman Shelton, but I wouldn’t expect him to play at the same level as he did in 2021.

The only Rams offensive lineman to start most of the season at the same position in 2022 as he did in 2021 is right tackle Rob Havenstein, who was a bright spot on this offensive line with a 73.2 PFF grade in 17 starts. Havenstein remains in that same spot this season and should give the Rams more of the same, having finished with a PFF grade of 70 or higher in six of his eight seasons in the league. His age is a bit of a concern in his age 31 season and he could begin declining this season, but, even if he’s not quite at his best, he should remain a solid starter at the very least. 

Overall, this offensive line should be better than a year ago, but that could be largely by default, after how bad they were upfront a year ago. The Rams’ starting guards are both completely inexperienced, Noteboom and Allen are coming off significant injuries with extensive injury histories, Havenstein is on the wrong side of 30, and their depth is suspect, so there is still plenty of reason for concern with this group, even if they have the upside to be a lot better than last year’s injury riddled group.

Grade: B

Running Backs

One bright spot for this offense in 2022 was the return of running back Cam Akers from a torn Achilles that cost him almost all of the 2021 season. Akers’ 4.18 YPC average on 188 carries doesn’t seem that impressive, but his 54% carry success rate ranked 12th in the NFL, so he did an above average job keeping this offense on schedule, despite all of the problems around him on this unit. Overall, Akers finished the season as PFF’s 16th ranked running back overall. A third round pick in 2020, Akers also rushed for 4.31 YPC with a 48% carry success rate on 145 carries, albeit on a much better offense as a rookie, with a lost season due to injury in between. Still only in his age 24 season, another year removed from the injury, Akers could have another strong season in 2023, this time with likely more room to run than he had a year ago.

Akers isn’t much of a contributor in the passing game, with a 0.89 yards per route run average for his career, leaving Darrell Henderson to be their primary passing down back last season, but he was underwhelming in that role, averaging 0.51 yards per route run, 4.04 yards per carry on 70 carries, and managing just a 57.7 PFF grade, leading to the Rams not retaining him this off-season. With Henderson gone, the passing down and #2 back role will likely fall to 2022 5th round pick Kyren Williams, who played just 142 snaps in an injury plagued rookie season. 

Williams showed promise in limited action (67.2 PFF grade) and has some upside if he can stay healthy, but is mostly their #2 back for lack of a better option. The Rams also added Mississippi’s Zach Evans in the 6th round of this year’s draft, but he had just 30 catches in his collegiate career, so he’s more of a depth option than a realistic candidate to be their passing down back. It’s also possible Akers sees a bigger workload and more passing game work in his second season back from injury, even if he’s not much of an asset in the passing game. Akers is an above average lead back as a runner, but he’s not a true feature back because of his lack of pass catching ability and depth is suspect at this position, which hurts their overall grade.

Grade: B

Edge Defenders

As much as the Rams have lost on offense since their Super Bowl win, they’ve actually lost a lot more on defense. In fact, of the 15 players who played at least 250 snaps on this defense in 2021, amazingly just three remain on the roster as of this writing. At the edge defender position, the Rams first started by losing Von Miller in free agency last off-season, after the mid-season trade acquisition had a 83.6 PFF grade on 434 snaps in 8 regular season games as the Rams’ top edge defender in 2021. The Rams then followed that by cutting their 2nd best edge defender in 2021, Leonard Floyd, this off-season, a move that saved them 15.5 million dollars. 

Floyd wasn’t outstanding in 2022 or anything, with a PFF grade of 65.7, but he played 932 snaps in Miller’s absence and the only reinforcements the Rams added this off-season came from the draft, with Tennessee’s Byron Young added in the 3rd round, Appalachian State’s Nick Hampton added in the 5th round, and Nebraska’s Ochaun Mathis being added in the 6th round. Even as rookies, at least a couple of those three players will likely have to play significant roles in year one, as could 2022 7th round pick Daniel Hardy, who played 41 just underwhelming snaps as a rookie. 

Terrell Lewis (332 snaps) and Justin Hollins (307 snaps) saw somewhat significant action last season, but struggled (PFF grades of 46.1 and 54.4 respectively) and, like Leonard Floyd, they are also not back with the team in 2023, leaving Michael Hoecht as the only even somewhat experienced edge defender on the roster. Hoecht showed potential with a 65.4 PFF grade on 409 snaps in 2022, but he was undrafted in 2020 and had only played 126 career snaps before moving into the starting lineup in week 12 of last season, so it would be asking a lot of him to be their top edge defender in 2023, which it looks like he will be by default. This is arguably the thinnest group of edge defenders in the league, almost entirely relying on very inexperienced young players, none of whom were premium draft picks. 

Grade: C-

Interior Defenders

The Rams didn’t have as many injuries on defense (13th most adjusted games lost) as they had on offense (first in adjusted games lost), but they were without stud interior defender Aaron Donald for the final 6 games of the season. Donald had never missed a game with injury prior to that, despite averaging 897 snaps per season in the previous 7 seasons, and getting a full season from him will be a boost to this defense, but Donald is now heading into his age 32 season and showed some small signs of decline last year even before getting hurt.

Donald still finished with a 90.5 PFF grade, playing the run at a high level and totaling 5 sacks, 7 hits, and a 10.1% pressure rate, but Donald has been so dominant in his career that last season was actually his lowest PFF grade since his rookie season, with seven straight #1 finishes among interior defenders from 2015-2021, while totaling 89 sacks, 124 hits, and a 15.6% pressure rate over that stretch. At this point, Donald’s best days are probably behind him and he could easily decline further in 2023, but, even at less than his best, Donald should still be one of the best players in the league at his position and, even if he declines from last season, the Rams should still benefit from having him on the field for more games this season.

Donald is one of the three key contributors remaining on this defense from their Super Bowl team, but the rest of this position group has completely changed since then. This off-season it was Greg Gaines (731 snaps) and A’Shawn Robinson (360 snaps) who weren’t retained, leaving the Rams to rely more heavily on reserves Marquise Copeland (343 snaps) and Jonah Williams (342 snaps) and third year players Bobby Brown (164 snaps) and Earnest Brown (136 snaps), as well as 3rd round rookie Kobie Turner.

None of the aforementioned options have any real experience. Copeland and Williams are undrafted free agents from the 2019 and 2020 class respectively and had played just 111 career snaps and 97 career snaps respectively before being decent in limited action last season, while Bobby and Earnest Brown have played just 186 and 136 career snaps total, since being selected in the 4th and 5th round respectively in 2021. It’s unclear if any of them can handle a larger workload without being a liability, so this is a very questionable position group outside of Donald, who obviously elevates the group as a whole in a significant way even if he isn’t quite at his best anymore.

Grade: B+


The one big addition the Rams made on defense from 2021 to 2022 was off ball linebacker Bobby Wagner and, between Wagner excelling with a 90.7 PFF grade on 1,079 snaps and one of their few holdovers from their Super Bowl defense Ernest Jones having a solid year with a 63.6 grade on 723 snaps, linebacker was a position of strength for the Rams in 2022. However, Wagner was cut this off-season to save 11.5 million and was not replaced, which will be a massive loss. 

With Wagner gone, Jones will become their top linebacker and will probably play more snaps than he did a year ago, perhaps about as many as Wagner did in 2022. A 3rd round pick in 2021, Jones has developed into a capable starter, having a solid season last year after posting a 59.3 PFF grade on 440 snaps as a rookie, and he has the potential to be more, now going into his third season in the league, but he could be a little overstretched in Bobby Wagner’s old role and the Rams now have minimal depth behind Jones on the depth chart. 

In fact, the Rams second returning linebacker in terms of snaps played last season is Christian Rozeboom, who played just 8 snaps last season, the first defensive action of the 2020 undrafted free agent’s career. Without any additions made to this group this off-season, Rozeboom will compete for a starting role with 2022 undrafted free agent Jake Hummel, who didn’t play a snap as a rookie, and 2023 undrafted free agents DeAndre Square, Ryan Smenda, and Kelechi Anyabelachi, in a very thin position group.

Grade: C


In 2021, the Rams top-4 cornerbacks in terms of snaps played were Jalen Ramsey (1,037 snaps), Darious Williams (924 snaps), David Long (517 snaps), and Donte Deayon (467 snaps), but none are on the roster anymore, with the biggest loss being Ramsey, a bright spot on this defense with a PFF grade of 86.4 in 16 starts in 2022, after a 84.5 grade in 17 starts in 2021, who was traded for a 3rd round pick this off-season to clear 17 million in salary. 

In their place are 2021 4th round pick Robert Rochell, who was 5th on the team with 233 snaps played as a rookie, but who struggled in that limited rookie year action and only played 27 snaps last season, and second year cornerbacks Cobie Durant (4th round) and Derion Kendrick (6th round). Kendrick struggled as a rookie with a PFF grade of 43.7 on 483 snaps, while Durant showed a lot more promise with a 73.3 grade, albeit on only 281 snaps. 

Durant at least has upside but he’s hard to project as a de facto #1 cornerback in his first year as a starter, while Kendrick and Rochell have shown little in the limited action they’ve received thus far in their careers and were not premium draft picks. They’re likely all locked into roles though, with the Rams not having any other cornerbacks on their roster who have ever played a defensive snap in their careers. The Rams used a 6th round pick in this year’s draft on Tre’vius Hodges-Tomlinson, but he would almost definitely struggle in a significant role if forced into one as a rookie, as would undrafted rookies Jordan Jones and Collin Duncan, who could also compete for reserve roles in what is another very thin position group on this defense.

The Rams at least bring back safety Jordan Fuller, who is the other one of the three significant contributors who is still on the roster from their 2021 team. That’s a good thing, considering the 2020 6th round pick had a 74.3 grade on 1,028 snaps during that 2021 season. Fuller missed most of last season with injury, limited to 90 snaps total, so his return is actually a rare positive on this defense going into 2023. He’s a one-year wonder in terms of playing at the level he did in 2021, but he also had a solid 63.6 grade on 708 snaps as a rookie in 2020 and, only in his age 25 season, has a good chance to remain an above average starter long-term.

Taylor Rapp (76.2 PFF grade on 976 snaps) and Nick Scott (54.2 PFF grade on 984 snaps) were their starters at safety for most of last season with Fuller hurt, but are no longer with the team. Without any good options behind them on the depth chart and with no significant additions at this position this off-season, the other safety spot is yet another position where the Rams are extremely thin. Second year players Russ Yeast and Quentin Lake are the only other safeties on the roster with any NFL playing time, but Yeast and Lake were drafted in only the 7th and 6th round respectively and their NFL experience consists of 113 and 63 nondescript snaps respectively as rookies. Both are likely to struggle if they have to play significant action and one of them will almost definitely have to, with their next best option being 7th round rookie Jason Taylor, who would also likely struggle if forced into significant action. Like much of this defense, this secondary is very thin.

Grade: C+


At first glance, the Rams may look like they have bounce back potential in 2023. They are likely to be significantly healthier than a year ago, they’re just a season removed from winning the Super Bowl, and they still have stars Matt Stafford, Aaron Donald, And Cooper Kupp. However, aside from those three, not much else is the same, with just 9 of the 28 players who played at least 250 snaps on either their offense or defense in 2021 still on the team, including just 3 on their defense. The Rams were one of the league leaders in average annual salary for years (top-10 in four of five seasons from 2018-2022) and that allowed them to eventually win a Super Bowl, but they were only able to do that by repeatedly kicking the can on their cap issues and eventually the bill came due.

In the absence of everyone they’ve lost over the past two off-seasons, the Rams have done very little in the way of adding veteran reinforcements, opting to almost exclusively rely on young players on rookie contracts as replacements, and given that they haven’t had a first round pick in 7 seasons and have had just one picks in the top-50 over the past 6 drafts, that means the Rams are relying on a lot of recent mid-to-late round draft picks, many of whom have shown very little thus far in limited action in their careers. 

The Rams have done an above average job drafting and developing mid-to-late round picks in recent years, allowing them to maintain depth on their roster behind their stars despite trading away most of their early draft picks, so doubling down on their ability to find gems in the draft makes sense as a strategy, rather than continuing to kick the can on their cap issues by adding more expensive veteran reinforcements, but the Rams are counting on unproven players much more than they ever have, missing many of the star players they used to have.

If we look at the Rams cap/salary structure, we see what looks like a very thin roster that is going through a rebuild. About 32.7% of their cap (72.2 million) is dead cap from players who are no longer on the team, with another 33.5% committed to Stafford, Kupp, and Donald, leaving just 33.8% of the rest of their roster. Their active average annual salary is dead last in the NFL at 197.1 million, after years of being among the league leaders in that metric, a metric that correlates pretty heavily with winning percentage. 

Of that active average annual salary, 43.1% is committed to Stafford, Kupp, and Donald alone, all three of whom will be in their age 30 season or later in 2023, meaning the Rams have very little committed to players currently in their primes. Outside of those three aforementioned players, this roster almost resembles a college team, with the amount of unproven players expected to contribute in significant ways. 

The Rams ability to draft and develop makes them better suited to navigate this situation than most teams, but it’s worth questioning if the Rams should have gone through a complete rebuild and moved on from Kupp, Stafford, and/or Donald as well, to accumulate much needed premium draft picks. By the time this team is able to compete again, those three could be well past their primes. I will have a final prediction at the end of the off-season when all previews are completed.

Prediction: XX-XX, XX in NFC West

Detroit Lions 2023 NFL Season Preview


After four straight years of missing the playoffs and with quarterback Matt Stafford demanding a trade, the Lions started what looked like it would be a long rebuild in the 2021 off-season. Even the Lions themselves seemed to be admitting it would be a long rebuild. They turned down a trade that would have given the Lions a relatively high draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, which would have allowed them to select a young quarterback like Mac Jones or Justin Fields, and opted to send Stafford to a Rams for a package that included two first round picks, but in the 2022 and 2023 drafts. 

Normally, teams value future draft picks one round lower for every year they have to wait for them, meaning those 2022 and 2023 first round picks were worth the equivalent of a second and third round pick in 2021, but the Lions were not expecting to compete in the short-term and were willing to be patient and wait for the draft picks. The Lions also took back the most expensive contract in the short-term, with the Rams sending quarterback Jared Goff back to the Lions, giving the Lions a more expensive, inferior quarterback that they wouldn’t be able to move on from without penalty for two years.

The first year of this rebuild went about how you’d expect, with the Lions finishing the 2021 season with a 3-13-1 record, which was made even worse by the Rams winning the Super Bowl and leaving the Lions with just the 32nd pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, but, a year later, things look a lot better. While the Rams bottomed out in 2022, gifting the Lions with the 6th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Lions surprisingly finished the 2022 season at 9-8, barely out of the post-season, despite a 1-6 start. Given how well the Lions closed last season and the overall amount of young talent on this team, many expect the Lions to take another step forward in 2023 and make the post-season, either as a wild card or by winning their division for what would be the first time since the 1993 season, a realistic possibility with both the Packers and Vikings seemingly on the way down and the Bears still rebuilding.

Part of the Lions’ success last season was actually because of the play of the quarterback who most considered a throw-in in the Matt Stafford trade, Jared Goff, who finished the season with a 72.4 PFF rating and completed 65.1% of his passes for an average of 7.56 YPA, 29 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. Goff isn’t as good as Stafford when both are at their best, but he’s younger, only heading into his age 29 season, and he has played well enough to justify his salary (25.975 million in 2023), so the Lions rightfully haven’t been in a hurry to find his replacement, which has allowed them to use all of the assets they’ve accumulated in their rebuild on the rest of this roster.

Goff has never been the kind of quarterback that can elevate a mediocre roster and, as such, he struggled in his first season in Detroit in 2021, completing 67.2% of his passes for an average of 6.57 YPA, 19 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions with an underwhelming team around him, but he’s shown himself capable of taking a strong roster to the post-season and beyond, even leading the Rams to a Super Bowl appearance during the 2018 season. I would expect more of the same from Goff in 2023, in what will be his 8th season in the league.

The Lions did commit a somewhat high pick to the quarterback position in this year’s draft, taking Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker in the third round, but Hooker isn’t necessarily a replacement for Goff. The Lions needed a better backup quarterback and Hooker is unlikely to see action in year one anyway, rehabbing from a torn ACL that he suffered towards the end of the college football season. It’s possible Hooker impresses enough behind the scenes that the Lions want to move on from Goff in a year or two, with Hooker as a cheaper alternative on the roster, but Goff also could just as easily keep the job long-term, with Hooker as his backup.

Unfortunately, with Hooker unlikely to be healthy enough to be the backup in 2023, backup quarterback remains a position of weakness, with Nate Sudfeld (77.3 career QB rating on 37 pass attempts with no starts in 7 seasons in the league) being the only other quarterback on this roster with any experience. He shouldn’t be handed the backup quarterback job and it’s possible the Lions find another backup quarterback option before training camp, which would be advisable, as Sudfeld would likely be in way over his head if forced to start for an extended period of time in the case that Goff suffers an injury. Goff is a solid starter without much of a history of injury (three games missed due to injury in his career), but things would go south for this team in a hurry if he missed significant time.

Grade: B

Offensive Line

The biggest reason for the success of Jared Goff and the rest of this offense in 2022 (5th in offensive DVOA) was the play of their offensive line, which is arguably the best in the league. Their offensive line was also the biggest reason for their big improvement from 2021 (29th in offensive DVOA) to 2022, with arguably their two best offensive linemen, offensive tackle Taylor Decker and center Frank Ragnow, making 17 starts and 16 starts respectively, after injury plagued 2021 seasons in which they started just 9 games and 4 games respectively. 

Ragnow received a grade of 77.9 from PFF in his return from injury, 5th highest among centers, and he’s no one-year wonder either, with grades of 74.9 and 80.3 in 2019 and 2020 respectively and even a 86.7 grade in 2021 before getting hurt. A first round pick in 2018 who is still very much in his prime in his age 27 season, with minimal injury history outside of 2021 (4 games missed total in his other 4 seasons in the league), I would expect Ragnow to remain one of the top centers in the league in 2023.

Decker isn’t quite as good, but still received a 74.4 grade from PFF, 22nd among offensive tackles. That’s nothing new for Decker, who has received a grade of at least 70 from PFF in six of seven seasons in the league, with the one exception being an injury plagued season in 2017, only his second season in the league. Outside of that injury plagued season and 2021, Decker has only ever missed one other start and, not over the hill at age 29 season, I wouldn’t expect any drop off from him this season. Assuming he doesn’t suffer another injury, he should remain at least an above average starter on the left side for the Lions in 2023.

Decker’s return to health allowed Penei Sewell to spend the whole season at right tackle, where the 7th overall pick fared significantly better as a rookie (80.7 PFF grade) while Decker was healthy than he did at left tackle (68.5 PFF grade), where he was forced to play while Decker was out. Sewell continued that strong play on the right side into his second season in the league, proving to be a dominant force with a 80.6 PFF grade, 9th among offensive tackles. He can play left tackle in a pinch if needed, but it’s clear the right side is his better position and, only in his age 23 season, he should remain one of the best right tackles in the league for years to come, even if he doesn’t improve even further, which he could.

The Lions also got good play out of their guards in 2022. Ragnow’s return allowed Evan Brown, who was capable, if unspectacular at center in Ragnow’s absence, to move to right guard, where he continued being a solid starter, posting a 64.8 PFF grade in 12 starts after a 66.8 PFF grade in 12 starts at center in 2021. The 2018 undrafted free agent had never started a game prior to 2021 and he probably doesn’t have much more upside, but he’s developed into at least a solid starter and his versatility is a benefit as well, in case the Lions have to shuffle their offensive line because of injuries.

Jonah Jackson remained as the starter at left guard, where he’s been since being drafted by the Lions in the third round in 2020. He had some growing pains as a rookie, finishing with a 57.0 PFF grade, but that improved to 69.3 in 2021 and 66.1 in 2022 and, in total, he’s started 45 of a possible 50 games since entering the league. Going into his age 26 season, he could still have further untapped upside and, even if he doesn’t, he should remain a solid starter into 2023 and beyond. 

The Lions also have good depth on the offensive line, after signing veteran Graham Glasgow to be a reserve this off-season. For Glasgow, it’s a return to Detroit, where the 2016 3rd round pick spent his first four seasons in the league. Glasgow developed into an above average starter in Detroit, receiving grades of 70.6, 71.1, and 74.1 from PFF in his final 3 seasons respectively, seeing action at both guard and center, but he was kind of a bust as a free agent signing with the Broncos, who lured him over on a 4-year, 44 million dollar deal, only to see Glasgow post grades of 68.5, 65.1, and 59.3 in an injury plagued tenure in which he missed 13 games in three seasons. Now going into his age 31 season with a significant recent injury history, Glasgow would be an underwhelming week 1 starting option, but he’s great depth to have, especially given his versatility. He should be able to hold down a starting spot for an extended period of time on the interior if needed.

The Lions’ tackle depth is not as good, with Matt Nelson making 12 starts as the swing tackle over the past three seasons, but receiving grades of just 55.8, 50.8, and 46.3 from PFF. He’ll be pushed for the swing tackle role by veteran journeyman Germain Ifedi, who is plenty experienced (83 starts in 7 seasons in the league), but who has mostly struggled in his career, finishing with a PFF grade higher than 60 just twice in seven seasons in the league, with his career high being 65.0 in 2020. Ifedi is probably an upgrade over Nelson, but mostly by default and he would be a big downgrade from Decker or Sewell if either missed significant time with injury. Still, this is a very talented offensive line overall, possibly the best in the league.

Grade: A

Receiving Corps

Another big part of the reason why the Lions were so much better on offense in 2022 than they were in 2021 was the emergence of second year wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown as a legitimate #1 receiver. Only a 5th round pick in 2021, St. Brown surprised a lot of people as a rookie with a 90/912/5 slash line (79.4 PFF grade) and surprised even more when he took another step forward in year two, finishing with a 106/1161/6 slash line and a PFF grade of 90.7 that ranked him second among wide receivers. He’s still a 1-year wonder in terms of being an elite wide receiver, but it was a surprise that he fell to the 5th round in the first place and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him continue proving teams wrong and remaining one of the best wide receivers in the league for years to come, even if he isn’t quite as good as he was in 2022 every season. 

St. Brown was by far the Lions’ best receiver last season, with their second leading receiver on the team Kalif Raymond posting just a 47/616/0 slash line and that will likely remain the case for the Lions in 2023, at least for the first six games of the year. The Lions were hoping that second year wide receiver Jameson Williams, the 12th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, would break out opposite St. Brown in his second season in the league, after what amounted to a rookie redshirt year, with a torn ACL that he sustained in the college football playoffs limiting him to 78 snaps late in the season. 

Williams could still break out, but it’ll have to wait until at least week 7, with Williams serving a gambling suspension for the first six weeks of the season. Williams would have been a top-10 or even top-5 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft had he not gotten hurt and he has the upside to breakout as one of the top wide receivers in the league long-term, but he’s still unproven at this level and, even if he someday becomes one of the better wide receivers in the league, that doesn’t mean he’ll do so right away.

With Williams out for the first six weeks of the season, the Lions will have to depend more on Marvin Jones, a free agent acquisition who will replace free agent departure DJ Chark (69.6 PFF grade across 534 snaps), and Kalif Raymond, a former undrafted career special teamer who surprised with his decent play as the #2 receiver last season (72.1 PFF grade across 555 snaps), after struggling in a similar role with a 60.5 PFF grade across 742 snaps in 2021, the first significant action of his career at wide receiver. Raymond is probably best suited to be a #3 or #4 wide receiver, but he’s not a terrible fill-in option, even if he obviously lacks Williams’ upside.

Marvin Jones is more or less the same, a decent player, but better suited for a reserve and situational role. There was a time he was more than that and, in fact, this is his second stint in Detroit, after averaging a 58/859/7 slash line per season in five seasons with the Lions from 2016-2020, but Jones is heading into his age 33 season now and has seen his yards per route run average drop from 1.59 in his first nine seasons in the league to 1.24 over the past two seasons, so he seems to be getting close to the end. He might have another capable season left in him, but he’s a pretty low upside option. Holdover Josh Reynolds is also in the mix, but the 6-year veteran has just a 1.23 yards per route run average for his career.

The Lions added to this receiving corps by taking Iowa’s Sam LaPorta in the second round of the draft. That’s not a surprising move considering the Lions received a package centered around a second round pick in exchange for tight end TJ Hockenson, who the Lions sent to the Vikings mid-season last year. The Lions didn’t miss Hockenson much, making the tight end position less of a part of their passing game and sending Hockenson’s targets elsewhere, but LaPorta should at least have a rookie year role in this offense, with his top competition being Brock Wright, a blocking specialist who was the nominal starter in Hockenson’s absence last season. 

Wright has averaged a decent 1.30 yards per route run in a limited passing game role in his first two seasons in the league, but the former undrafted free agent is an underwhelming starting option, receiving grades of 53.5 and 54.2 from PFF over the past seasons. The Lions also have 2022 5th round pick James Mitchell, who showed some upside with a 66.9 PFF grade on 183 snaps as a rookie and could take a step forward and play a bigger role in year two. LaPorta should be considered the favorite for the starting job, but tight ends tend to have a steep learning curve entering the NFL and he’s mostly the favorite for the job because his competition is underwhelming. This passing game will still go through St. Brown, but the re-addition of Jameson Williams mid-season after his suspension could have a big impact if he can come close to meeting his potential.

Grade: B+

Running Backs

The Lions also likely have a big passing game role planned for rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who they selected 12th overall after trading down from the Rams pick at 6. Gibbs was a controversial pick, as running backs taken in the first round tend not to be a good investment and running back didn’t even seem to fill a clear need for the Lions, with David Montgomery, a 4-year starter with the Bears, being signed to a 3-year, 18 million dollar deal in free agency and D’Andre Swift as a passing down/change of pace option.

Montgomery’s role is now somewhat up in the air, originally signed to replace Jamaal Williams, who had a 4.07 YPC and 17 touchdowns on 262 carries last season, but now with a highly drafted rookie added as competition. Montgomery’s contract suggests the Lions expect him to have at least somewhat significant of a role, at least on early downs, but the Lions are likely overpaying for how much usage Montgomery figures to get. He’s surpassed 200 carries in each of the past four years with the Bears and, even if that’s not the case again in 2023 if he splits carries with Gibbs, he should see his career 3.94 YPC average increase now with significantly better blocking in Detroit than he had in Chicago. However, the Lions are paying a steep price for him, especially when considering he probably will have the second most touches in this backfield behind Gibbs.

Gibbs gives the Lions upside in the passing game that Montgomery (1.04 yards per route run in his career) doesn’t and, while Swift fared well in that role last season (1.65 yards per route run), in addition to a 5.47 YPC on 99 carries as the change of pace back, the Lions were likely concerned about Swift’s durability, as the 2020 2nd round pick has missed at least three games with injury in every season in the league, and clearly favored Gibbs long-term. With Gibbs being added in the draft, the Lions had no need for Swift, who was in the final year of his rookie deal and returned a 2025 4th round pick in a post-draft trade with the Eagles. The Lions have a lot of resources committed to this backfield, with Montgomery being the 15th highest paid running back in the league in average annual salary and Gibbs being selected 12th overall, and they might not get the kind of play you would expect for the kind of resources they’ve spent, but they are a solid running back tandem at the very least. 

Grade: B+

Edge Defenders

With the Lions having the success on offense they did last season, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that their defense was a big problem, ranking 28th in DVOA, and, if the Lions want to take a step forward as a team in 2023, that’s the side of the ball where they will need to improve. There is good reason to believe the Lions can do that, in part because defensive performance tends to be much less consistent and predictive year-to-year than offensive performance, but also because the Lions committed significant resources to their defense this off-season and have several players they can expect more out of in 2023.

At the edge defender position, the latter is the case, as the Lions didn’t make any big additions to this group, but could still get better play than they did a year ago. Aidan Hutchinson, Josh Paschal, and James Houston are all second year players who could be better than they were as rookies. Hutchinson has by far the most upside of the group and the 2022 2nd overall pick is already off to a great start, finishing his rookie year with a 80.7 PFF grade, including 89.5 from week 11 on. That’s a small sample size, but it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if he continued that into year two.

Paschal was a second round pick and his rookie year impact was probably underwhelming for a relatively high draft pick, spending most of the year as a reserve, playing just 293 snaps and receiving an underwhelming 55.1 PFF grade. However, he has the talent to take a step forward in year two and become a more consistent contributor. James Houston also didn’t play much as a rookie, seeing just 140 snaps total, but he was incredibly efficient in his limited action, managing 8 sacks, 4 hits, and a 18.5% pressure rate on just 92 pass rush snaps. He’s highly unlikely to be anywhere near that efficient again in 2023, just because no one does that for an extended period of time, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t make a bigger impact overall if he gets more playing time.

The Lions also have a pair of veterans coming off injury plagued years who could make more of an impact in 2023, Charles Harris and Romeo Okwara. Harris was the Lions’ best pass rusher in 2021, totaling 7.5 sacks, 8 hits, and a 11.6% pressure rate and received a 68.3 PFF grade, but he was limited to 259 snaps in 6 games in 2022 and did not fare nearly as well when on the field either, finishing the year with a 56.4 PFF grade and a 7.2% pressure rate. 

Harris should be healthier in 2023, though there’s no guarantee he’ll play as well as he did in 2021, which has largely been an outlier season for a player who has mostly been a reserve in his career, with his highest snap count outside of 2021 being just 496 back in his rookie season in 2017. Harris was a first round pick in 2017 and looked like a late bloomer after 2021, but he could just as easily prove to be a one-year wonder who can’t repeat his 2021 form. 

For Okwara, his injury issues date back a couple years, as a torn achilles suffered during the 2021 season limited him to 188 snaps in 4 games that season and 119 snaps in 5 games last season. Okwara also didn’t look himself upon his return last season, struggling with a 56.3 PFF grade in his limited action. Okwara is largely a one-year wonder as well, with 10 sacks, 9 hits, and a 14.4% pressure rate in his last full healthy season in 2020 and just a 8.9% pressure rate in his other 6 seasons in the league combined, but he had a 17.8% pressure rate in 2021 in limited action before getting hurt and, still only in his age 28 season, another year removed from his injury, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he bounced back at least somewhat in 2023.

With Harris and Okwara likely to be healthier and a trio of second year players who could take a step forward, it’s very likely that John Cominsky, who finished second among Lions edge defenders behind Hutchinson with 554 snaps played last season, has a diminished role this season, perhaps significantly, but that’s not necessarily an indictment on his play, as he had 4 sacks, 8 hits, and a 12.4% pressure rate last season and had an admirable 68.2 PFF grade. 

Cominsky was a career backup prior to last season, with 512 total snaps played in his first three seasons in the league with the Falcons prior to being claimed off the waivers by the Lions in 2022, but the 2019 4th round pick always flashed in limited action and should fare well in what will likely be a more limited rotational role for him in 2023, in a position group that should be much deeper than a year ago, despite not having any significant off-season additions. 

Grade: B+

Interior Defenders

The Lions didn’t make any notable additions on the interior of their defensive line either this off-season, but they do get 2021 2nd round pick Levi Onwuzurike back after he missed all of 2022 with injury. Onwuzurike didn’t show much in limited action (396 snaps) as a rookie, but he came into the league with a lot of potential and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he developed into at least a solid contributor in his third season in the league in 2023. The Lions being deeper at the edge defender spot also means they can line up an edge defender on the inside in obvious passing situations more often than they did last season, which will offset their lack of depth on the interior somewhat.

Even with Onwuzurike returning and more depth on the edge, the Lions will once again be counting on big roles from Alim McNeill (779 snaps) and Isaiah Buggs (752 snaps). McNeill was also in the 2021 draft class with Onwuzurike and, despite going a round later in the third round, his career has gotten off to a much better start than Onwuzurike’s, as he had a decent 60.1 PFF grade on 422 snaps as a rookie before posting a 69.8 grade in a much larger starting role in 2022. Now going into his third season in the league, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he took another step forward and, even if he doesn’t, he should remain at least a solid contributor.

Buggs is a much shakier option. He finished last season with a 53.9 PFF grade and only played as much as he did out of necessity with Onwuzurike out, after playing just 433 snaps total in his first three seasons in the league prior to last season, finishing with grades of lower than 60 on PFF in each of those three seasons as well. He’ll almost definitely play fewer snaps this season, but he’ll probably still struggle even in a smaller role and the Lions aren’t deep enough to avoid having to at least play him in a rotational role.

The Lions also signed veteran journeyman Christian Covington in free agency to give them additional depth. Covington was a good rotational player earlier in his career, but he’s finished below average on PFF in every season in his career in which he’s played more than 500 snaps and now he’s heading into his age 30 season coming off of an injury plagued season with the Chargers in which he struggled mightily when on the field and played just 123 snaps total. He’ll compete for a deep rotational role with their top returning reserve interior defender Benito Jones, a 2020 undrafted free agent who struggled on 309 snaps in the first significant action of his career. The return of Onwuzurike will probably help this group, but they’re still underwhelming overall.

Grade: C+


The Lions had two first round picks this year because of the Matt Stafford trade and they used the second of those two picks, their own, 18th overall, on Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell. Like the selection of Jahmyr Gibbs with their first round, Campbell’s selection was also controversial, as he was considered a day 2 prospect and didn’t seem to fill an obvious need either. The Lions re-signed veteran Alex Anzalone to a 3-year, 18.3 million dollar deal this off-season and have a pair of recent draft picks who had decent seasons last year, 2021 4th round pick Derrick Barnes and 2022 6th round pick Malcolm Rodriguez, who had PFF grades of 62.3 and 62.8 respectively on 346 snaps and 611 snaps respectively.

Barnes struggled mightily as a rookie on 448 snaps, but could easily continue being a good situational linebacker long-term, while Rodriguez looked like a long-term starter. Anzalone might actually be the worst of the bunch, starting 51 of 69 games played in six seasons in the league, but only once receiving a grade from PFF higher than 62 (59.2 last season). However, his contract basically guarantees him a role, so Campbell’s addition will mostly take snaps away from their other young linebackers. This isn’t a bad linebacking corps and there will be a lot of competition for roles in training camp, even if the addition of a linebacker in the first round probably wasn’t necessary. 

Grade: B


The Lions committed the most resources to this secondary of any position group this off-season, a smart decision as that was their biggest weakness last season. Jeffrey Okudah (59.4 PFF grade on 789 snaps), Will Harris (63.7 on 659 snaps), Mike Hughes (59.9 on 561 snaps), Jerry Jacobs (55.8 on 542 snaps), and Amani Oruwairye (30.0 on 474 snaps) were their top cornerbacks in terms of snaps played last season. This off-season, they added Emmanuel Moseley and Cameron Sutton to be starters on contracts of 1 years, 6 million and 3 years, 33 million respectively and they added hybrid safety/slot cornerbacks CJ Gardner-Johnson and Brian Branch as well, with Gardner-Johnson added in free agency on a 1-year, 6.5 million dollar contract and Branch being a second round draft pick. Okudah was traded, Hughes and Oruwairye weren’t retained in free agency, and Harris and Jacobs are likely to be reserves in 2023.

Sutton will be the de facto #1 cornerback, by virtue of his bigger salary. The 2017 3rd round pick was a bit of a late bloomer, but he’s made 37 starts over the past 3 seasons with PFF grades of 68.6, 61.9, and 71.6 respectively so he should continue being at least a solid starting option for the Lions, something they didn’t really have last season. Moseley should be as well, as he’s finished with a PFF grade higher than 68 of three of the past four seasons, including a career best 70.9 in 2022. His biggest problem has been durability, missing 22 games over those 4 seasons. He should remain a solid starter, but he’ll probably miss more time at some point, having never played more than 602 snaps in a season in his career.

How the Lions use Gardner-Johnson and Branch will be interesting to see, as both can play on the slot and at safety and the Lions have playing time available in both spots. Gardner-Johnson got attention for his 6 interceptions last season with the Eagles, tied for the league lead, but it’s not a surprise he had to settle for a one-year deal in free agency, as he only had a 63.9 PFF grade last season despite the high interception total and he’s finished with a PFF grade below 65 in three of four seasons in the league. He’s also never finished below 60, so he has a low floor and he’s a versatile option who is a good value for the Lions on the contract they signed him to, but he’s not as good as his interception total last season suggests.

The Lions will also be getting safety Tracy Walker back from injury, after his 2022 season was ended by a week 3 achilles tear. He might not be quite the same in his first season back from injury, but the 2018 3rd round pick has finished average or better on PFF in 4 of 5 seasons in the league, with three seasons above 70, including a 74.3 grade before injury in 2022. Still only in his age 28 season, he should make something close to a full recovery in his first season back and should be an asset for this defense upon his return.

In Tracy Walker’s absence, DeShon Elliott (859 snaps) and Kerby Joseph (875 snaps) led Lions safeties in snaps played. Elliott is no longer with the team, but Joseph was a 3rd round pick in 2022 and should maintain a role in this secondary, even with Walker returning, after earning a promising 64.0 grade from PFF as a rookie. He probably won’t see the same snap count this year, but should still be a useful player for them in sub packages and obvious passing situations, when Gardner-Johnson and/or Branch could move to the slot.

Will Harris also remains as a versatile reserve who can play safety and cornerback. Primarily playing cornerback last year, he was the Lions’ only cornerback to receive even an average grade from PFF and, while the 2019 3rd round pick has been more inconsistent than that in the past, he’s still not a bad reserve option, especially when you consider his versatility. This isn’t a great secondary, but isn’t much deeper and more talented than last year’s unit, which was one of the worst in the league. If the Lions are significantly improved on defense this season, it will be primarily because of the improvement in this unit.

Grade: B


The Lions were one of the best offensive teams in the league last season and have a good chance to repeat their strong performance again in 2023, with all of their top-10 in terms of snaps played on offense returning from a year ago. On defense, the Lions should be much improved, thanks to the improvement of their young defensive line and the off-season additions they made in the secondary. They won’t be great defensively, but they won’t need to be to make the post-season if their offense can continue playing around the level they played at last season. In a weak NFC North, the Lions look like the early favorites. I will have a final prediction at the end of the off-season when all previews are completed.

Prediction: XX-XX, XX in NFC North

Minnesota Vikings 2023 NFL Season Preview


The Vikings finished last season 13-4, but needed to go 11-0 in one score games to do so and finished with a -3 point differential, the first time in NFL history that a team with as high of a winning percentage as the Vikings had a negative point differential on the season, with their 13 wins coming by a combined 86 points (6.62 points per game) and their 4 losses coming by a combined 89 points (22.25 points per game). The Vikings were even worse in terms of DVOA, which ranked them 27th at -13.8%, giving them the lowest DVOA of all time for a team with at least 12 wins. 

Point differential and DVOA tend to be significantly more predictive than winning percentage and, unsurprisingly, the Vikings were one and done in the post-season, losing their first round game at home to a Giants team that was only 21st in DVOA in their own right and that was blown out the following week in Philadelphia. Making matters worse for the Vikings, they had among the least financial flexibility of any team in the league this off-season and, as a result, had to let several key contributors walk without really replacing them.

Even if the Vikings brought back the same team as last year, it’s highly unlikely they would continue winning close games at the same rate as a year ago and, as a result, they would have won significantly fewer games, but the Vikings are unlikely to be even as good as they were a year ago, so their drop off in win total will likely be even higher than if they kept their team the same. Given that, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see the Vikings drop out of the post-season entirely in 2023.

One thing the Vikings did this off-season to free up cap space was restructuring Kirk Cousins contract and it’s interesting the Vikings chose to do that instead of extending Cousins, which probably would have lowered his cap hit even more. However, extending him would almost definitely mean guaranteeing him a significant salary for 2024 and, with Cousins going into his age 35 season in 2023, the Vikings don’t seem to want to commit that kind of guaranteed money to him beyond this season. Cousins not being extended suggests the Vikings are at least thinking about moving forward with a younger quarterback in 2024 and beyond.

Cousins wasn’t really the problem for the Vikings in 2022, but he had his lowest completion percentage (65.9%) since 2017, his lowest YPA (7.07) since 2013, and his lowest PFF rating (77.4) since 2017 and quarterbacks tend to lose it pretty quickly in their mid-to-late 30s. Cousins isn’t totally over the hill yet and could have another solid season for the Vikings in 2023, but his best days are almost definitely behind him and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he continued declining. With Cousins not locked up long-term, many expected the Vikings to look for a quarterback of the future in the draft, but they didn’t address the position until the 5th round when they took BYU’s Jaren Hall who, based on the track record of 5th round quarterbacks historically, is highly unlikely to be their long-term quarterback of the future. 

The Vikings have a decent backup in Nick Mullens (88.0 QB rating in 17 starts in six seasons in the league) and he figures to keep the #2 job for at least another year ahead of the raw rookie Hall, but Mullen is not someone you’d be comfortable starting for an extended period of time. Cousins is as durable as they come, not missing a game due to injury in 8 years in the league, so the backup quarterback position isn’t that important for this team, but it’s concerning that the Vikings don’t have another good option in case Cousins declines significantly, which is a possibility given his age. Cousins could have another above average season, but this is a quarterback room with legitimate concerns.

Grade: B

Receiving Corps

One expensive veteran the Vikings moved on from this off-season is wide receiver Adam Thielen, who was released ahead of a 13.5 million dollar non-guaranteed salary for his age 33 season in 2023. Thielen is on the decline and won’t be missed that much, after posting just a 65.0 PFF grade across 1,042 snaps last season, and, unlike some of their other off-season losses, the Vikings found a replacement for Thielen, taking Jordan Addison 23rd overall, but taking him cost them their first round pick, which could have been used on other needs, and, while Addison obviously has a much higher upside than Thielen going forward, he’s no guarantee to be an upgrade on Thielen in year one.

Fortunately, the Vikings still have #1 wide receiver Jordan Jefferson, who is arguably the best wide receiver in the entire league. Jefferson burst onto the scene with a ridiculous 88/1400/7 slash line as a rookie in 2020 and, as good as that year was, he’s only gotten better since then, finishing with a 108/1616/10 slash line in 2021 and a 128/1809/8 slash line in 2022, while averaging 2.62 yards per route run for his career. He’s earned a PFF grade of at least 90 in all three seasons in the league, one of two wide receivers in the league along with Davante Adams to finish with a grade higher than 90 in each of the past three seasons. Despite all his accomplishments, Jefferson is still only going into his age 24 season, so he should continue his dominant play for at least several more seasons, barring a catastrophic injury.

KJ Osborn also returns as the #3 receiver, a role he’s filled in each of the past two seasons. Osborn has been a middling receiver, with PFF grades of 64.9 and 65.1 and a yards per route run average of just 1.19, but he’s not a bad #3 receiver either (slash lines of 50/655/7 and 60/650/5 over the past two seasons) and, going into his age 26 season, it’s possible the 2020 5th round pick has further untapped upside. Even if he doesn’t improve any further, he should remain a reliable, if unspectacular third receiver.

Depth is a concern at wide receiver behind their top-3. That was the case last season as well, but Jefferson, Thielen, and Osborn all played all 17 games last season, so their lack of depth wasn’t exposed. That’s highly unlikely to be the case again in 2023 though, meaning top reserves Jalen Nailor and/or Jalen Reagor will have to see more action in 2023 than they did in 2022, when they played 59 snaps and 82 snaps respectively. Nailor was a 6th round pick in 2022 and didn’t show much in limited rookie year action, while Reagor is a bust of a former first round pick, taken 21st overall in 2020 by the Eagles, who moved on from him after just two years. It’s possible Reagor could still have untapped potential, but he’s averaged just 0.99 yards per route run in his career, so, even if he takes a step forward in 2023, he still has a long way to go to be a reliable receiver.

The Vikings also have tight end TJ Hockenson, who was added in a mid-season trade with the Lions last season for a package centered around a 2023 2nd round pick. Hockenson became a big part of this offense immediately, but he wasn’t that efficient, posting a 60/519/3 slash line in 10 games, which seems impressive, until you consider that he received 86 targets in those 10 games and averaged just 6.03 yards per target. Hockenson also saw his yards per route run average drop to 1.43 with the Vikings, after averaging 1.87 yards per route run with the Lions earlier in the season.

Hockenson was the 8th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Lions and he has been a solid tight end throughout his career, averaging 1.55 yards per route run over the past three seasons combined, but he has yet to show himself to be an elite tight end worthy of being a top-10 pick and, now going into his age 26 season, it’s possible he is who he is as a player at this point, above average, but unspectacular. I would expect more of the same from him in 2023. Hockenson will be backed up by free agent acquisition Josh Oliver, who will primarily be used as a blocker. 

Oliver somewhat shockingly got a 3-year, 21 million dollar deal this off-season, a big investment for a Vikings team with cap problems and other positions of need. He’s averaged just 0.70 yards per route run for his career and has just 26 career catches in 4 seasons in the league, but the Vikings clearly value his blocking and also probably think he has untapped upside as a receiver. That might not prove to be the case, but he should at least be a solid blocking tight end for them, albeit at a price well beyond what blocking tight ends normally cost. This is an above average receiving corps overall, led by arguably the top wide receiver in the league in Justin Jefferson, but the Vikings don’t have a proven #2 pass catcher and their lack of depth beyond their starters is concerning.

Grade: A-

Running Backs

Another highly paid player the Vikings are expected to move on from this off-season is running back Dalvin Cook. Cook remains on the roster as of this writing, but reports suggest it’s unlikely that Cook stays on the team at his current non-guaranteed salary of 11 million and, if the Vikings can’t find a trade partner for Cook, they will almost definitely end up releasing him to save some money. Committing that kind of money to the running back position is typically not a good idea, especially one with Cook’s injury history (25 games missed in 6 seasons in the league), but Cook has been one of the best running backs in the league over the past few years, rushing for 5,024 yards and 43 touchdowns on 1,075 carries (4.67 YPC) across the past four seasons combined, so, even if it makes sense for the cap strapped Vikings to move on from him, his absence will still be felt.

If Cook ends up not being on the Vikings in 2023, the lead back job will almost definitely fall to Alexander Mattison, who has shown potential as Cook’s backup over the past four seasons, rushing for 1,670 yards and 11 touchdowns on 404 carries (4.13 YPC). If Cook was going to be kept on the roster this season, the Vikings likely would have let Mattison walk, but instead they kept him on a 2-year, 7 million dollar deal, suggesting they view him as a much cheaper alternative to Cook. Mattison isn’t as explosive as Cook and doesn’t offer the same abilities as a receiver (1.01 yards per route run for Mattison in his career, as opposed to 1.20 for Cook), but he’s not a bad alternative if the Vikings don’t want to commit significant resources to the running back position.

Depth behind Mattison is a problem though. The Vikings used a 7th round pick on UAB’s DeWayne McBride in this year’s draft, but he’s not a guarantee to even make the final roster. Ty Chandler was a 5th round pick last year, but remains a complete mystery, after playing just 13 snaps as a rookie. Kene Nwangwu was a 4th round pick in 2021, but has mostly been a return man and special teamer in his career, seeing just 28 touches on offense in two seasons in the league. Once the Vikings move on from Cook, they may opt to bring in a veteran backup, with all of their other backup options being highly unproven. Any veteran they bring in at this point is unlikely to have a huge impact though, so the Vikings will need a big year from Mattison if Cook is let go. Mattison should be a solid starter, but lacks Cook’s upside.

Grade: B- (assumes Cook is not on the final roster)

Offensive Line

Not much has changed for the Vikings on the offensive line this off-season, as they retain all five starters from a year ago. The biggest concern is right tackle Brian O’Neill, who was PFF’s 8th ranked offensive tackle with a 82.7 grade in 16 starts last season, but who tore his achilles late in the year and could miss time and/or be less effective in 2023 as a result, which would hurt this offensive line significantly, given how well O’Neill played a year ago. 

O’Neill isn’t a one-year wonder either, earning grades of 70.7, 78.0, and 73.4 in 2019, 2020, and 2021 as well and, still in his prime in his age 28 season, we would be able to expect more of the same from him in 2023 if it wasn’t for the injury, but his health issues complicate his projection and could prove to be a big problem for a Vikings team that lacks a proven backup at the tackle position. Oli Udoh is expected to be the swing tackle, but the 2019 6th round pick struggled mightily in the only extended action of his career in 2021 (54.4 PFF grade) and has made just one start outside of that season.

Right guard is also a position of concern, as incumbent starter Ed Ingram struggled with a 57.1 PFF grade in 17 starts last season, but the 2022 2nd round pick was only a rookie and has the upside to take a step forward in his second season in the league. He’ll likely be backed up by Chris Reed, a journeyman who has made 30 starts in 8 seasons in the league. Reed hasn’t been a bad fill-in when called upon, but there’s a reason he’s mostly been a backup and he now heads into his age 31 season, so he could struggle if forced into significant action.

The rest of this offensive line is in good shape, led by their best offensive lineman, left tackle Christian Darrisaw, who finished the 2022 season as PFF’s 2nd ranked offensive tackle with a 90.3 PFF grade. Darrisaw is a one-year wonder in terms of playing at that level and might not be as good again in 2023, but the 2021 first round pick came into the league with a lot of upside, he’s only going into his age 24 season, and he also had a 71.7 PFF grade as a rookie, so it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if he continued being one of the better left tackles in the league for years to come, even if he’s not quite as good in 2023 as he was a year ago.

Center Garrett Bradbury is also a former first round pick, although he hasn’t had nearly the success that Darrisaw has had. Selected 18th overall in 2019, Bradbury was middling at best early in his career, with PFF grades of 58.1, 61.4, and 60.2 across his first three seasons in the league (45 starts), before taking a step forward in 2022 and finishing with a 70.2 PFF grade, albeit in only 12 starts, with five games missed due to injury. Bradbury is already in his age 28 season, so he probably doesn’t have any further untapped upside and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he regressed a little bit to his pre-2022 form this season, but he has a good chance to remain at least a solid starter.

Left guard Ezra Cleveland, meanwhile, was a 2nd round pick in 2020 and has gotten better in every season in the league, with PFF grades of 66.2, 68.6, and 73.5, while making 43 total starts, including all 34 over the past two seasons. Last season, his PFF grade was good for 10th best among eligible guards. Still only going into his age 25 season, he could easily keep getting better and, even if he doesn’t, he should remain at least an above average starter in 2023 and beyond. Overall, this offensive line has a lot of talent, despite concerns at right guard, where Ed Ingram struggled in 2022, and right tackle, where talented starter Brian O’Neill is coming off of a major injury and might not be as good as his usual self.

Grade: A-

Edge Defenders

Another highly paid veteran that the Vikings moved on from this off-season was edge defender Za’Darius Smith, a big loss, considering Smith finished last season as PFF’s 18th ranked edge defender with a 82.2 PFF grade across 770 snaps. The Vikings replaced him by signing Marcus Davenport in free agency and he has the upside to be a comparable replacement, but he comes with a lot of downside as well. A first round pick in 2018, Davenport has an impressive 13.6% pressure rate over the past four seasons, while also playing the run well and earning overall grades from PFF of 84.1, 73.3, 88.8, and 76.8 respectively.

However, Davenport has never come close to playing as many snaps as Smith did last season, averaging 450 snaps per season in his career and maxing out at 533 snaps in 2019. That’s partially due to Davenport rotating frequently with other edge defenders, but it’s also due to him missing at least two games with injury in every season in the league, with 19 games missed total in 5 seasons in the league. Davenport could give them a similar level of play as Smith when he’s on the field, but he might not be as effective if he plays the same amount of snaps as Smith did and he will probably miss at least some time with injuries at some point.

The Vikings do bring back Danielle Hunter, who was actually even better than Smith last season, finishing 9th among edge defenders with a 86.3 PFF grade across 905 snaps, playing the run at a high level, while totaling 10.5 sacks, 12 hits, and a 12.3% pressure rate as a pass rusher. Hunter had most of his 2020 and 2021 season wiped out by injuries, but he still played at a high level when healthy and he has finished with a PFF grade of 74 or higher in every season in the league except his rookie season in 2016. Still relatively in his prime in his age 29 season, I wouldn’t expect Hunter to drop off significantly this year, assuming he can avoid further injuries.

With Davenport unlikely to play as many snaps as Smith did a year ago, the Vikings will likely need more out of reserves DJ Wonnum and Patrick Jones. Wonnum and Jones played 562 snaps and 308 snaps respectively last season, but were underwhelming at best, with PFF grades of 58.0 and 62.5 respectively and a combined pressure rate of just 9.2%. Both are relatively young, so they could be better in 2023, but that’s far from a guarantee. Wonnum, a 4th round pick in 2020, has never received even a grade of 60 from PFF for a season, while Jones, a 3rd round pick in 2021, only played in 99 underwhelming rookie year snaps before last year’s middling season as a reserve. Both are likely to remain middling at best, especially if they have to play a larger role. This group has a lot of upside led by Hunter and Davenport, but also downside given Davenport’s durability issues and their underwhelming depth.

Grade: B+

Interior Defenders

Interior defender Dalvin Tomlinson was also not retained this off-season, another big loss, as Tomlinson was PFF’s 16th ranked interior defender with a 77.1 grade across 550 snaps last season. The closest thing the Vikings did to replacing Tomlinson was signing ex-Packer Dean Lowry to a 2-year, 8.5 million dollar deal, but he figures to be a significant downgrade. Lowry has played 618 snaps per season over the past five seasons, but has been middling at best in those seasons, including a 59.3 PFF grade across 482 snaps in 2022. I would expect more of the same from him in 2023.

Harrison Phillips was the other starter inside next to Tomlinson last season and he still remains on the team, which is a good thing, as Phillips received a 72.1 grade from PFF last season across 693 snaps. Durability is a question mark for Phillips, as he missed 20 games and never played more than 473 snaps in a season in four seasons in the league prior to last season, but he’s always shown a lot of promise when on the field, including a 77.4 grade in 2021. The Vikings might not be able to count on Phillips playing all 17 games again in 2023 like he did in 2022, but he should remain an above average starting option when on the field. 

Reserves Jonathan Bullard (318 snaps), Khyiris Tonga (276 snaps), and James Lynch (276 snaps) all return for 2023 and should play similar roles. Tonga probably has the most upside of the group, posting a 77.9 PFF grade last season in his limited action, but the 2021 7th round pick also had just a 52.1 grade on 217 snaps as a rookie with the Bears and did not make the Bears final roster last off-season, landing on the Falcons’ practice squad before the Vikings added him to the active roster. It’s possible he’s turned a corner and that we should ignore his rookie year struggles, but he’s also seen such little action overall that it’s hard to project him to a larger role if he was ever forced into one by injuries ahead of him on the depth chart.

Bullard and Lynch, meanwhile, are likely to remain underwhelming options, even as reserves. Bullard was a 3rd round pick back in 2016 and has been in the league for 7 seasons, but he’s never played more than 437 snaps in a season in his career and he’s finished with PFF grades below 60 in each of the past four seasons, on an average of just 242 snaps per season. Now going into his age 30 season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bullard decline even further and, even if he doesn’t, he figures to be a mediocre option even in limited action. Lynch, meanwhile, was a 4th round pick in 2020 and has developed into a decent run stopper, but he offers nothing as a pass rusher (2.9% pressure rate for his career) and isn’t good enough against the run to make up for it. This isn’t a bad position group, but losing Tomlinson and replacing him with the inferior Dean Lowry will definitely hurt them.

Grade: B-


The Vikings also parted ways with every down linebacker Eric Kendricks this off-season. By doing so, they save 9.5 million ahead of what would have been his age 31 season, but Kendricks has been a reliable every down linebacker for this team for years and they’ll be replacing him with 2022 3rd round pick Brian Asamoah. He flashed a lot of potential on 121 rookie year snaps, but is overall unproven and could easily prove to be a downgrade. 

Asamoah isn’t a bad replacement, but the Vikings probably got worse in the linebacking corps by releasing Kendricks. At the very least, moving Asamoah into the starting lineup depletes their depth, leaving them with 2020 4th round pick Troy Dye (42 career snaps) and free agent acquisition Troy Reeder, a career special teamer who played just 62 defensive snaps in 2022, as their top reserve options. The Vikings at least do bring back their other every down linebacker Jordan Hicks, who actually finished with a slightly higher PFF grade (65.4 vs. 61.1) than Kendricks last season. 

Hicks has had an interesting career, being selected by the Eagles in the third round in 2015 and earning grades of 80.9, 88.4, and 75.1 from PFF in 2015, 2016, and 2018 respectively, but also missing 21 games due to injury over his first four seasons. He then went to Arizona for three seasons before joining the Vikings in 2022 and, while he hasn’t reached the level he played at for stretches with the Eagles, with his highest PFF grade over the past four seasons being 65.4, he’s also been a reliable, steady every down linebacker and he has managed to shake the injury bug, not missing a single game in four years, despite playing an average of 62.8 snaps per game. 

Now in his age 31 season, Hicks could start to decline in 2023 and his best days are almost definitely behind him at this point, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if he remained a reliable every down linebacker. With Kendricks gone, Hicks aging, and a lack of depth, the Vikings probably will be worse in the linebacking corps than they were a year ago, but Asamoah has potential and Hicks could hold up for another year.

Grade: B-


The Vikings also lost top cornerback Patrick Peterson in free agency this off-season, which is a big loss, considering he made all 17 starts last season and finished with a 80.7 PFF grade. Unlike many of their off-season moves, not retaining Peterson wasn’t a cost saving measure, as Peterson’s replacement Byron Murphy was signed by the Vikings to a 2-year, 17.5 million dollar deal, while Peterson signed with the Steelers for just 14 million over two years. Murphy is much younger than Peterson, going into his age 25 season, while Peterson goes into his age 33 season, but the Vikings will almost definitely be worse in the short-term from adding Murphy over Peterson.

Murphy was a 2nd round pick in 2019 and may still have further untapped upside given his relative youth, but he’s has never had a PFF grade higher than 66.7 in his career. Chandon Sullivan (944 snaps) and Cameron Dantzler (505 snaps), their #2 and #3 cornerbacks last season in terms of snaps played, are also no longer with the team and, while they are much more middling players who won’t be missed as much as Peterson (PFF grades of 55.8 and 63.1 respectively in 2022), the Vikings didn’t really replace them and will instead be counting on young, inexperienced cornerbacks stepping up in their place. 

Andrew Booth probably has the most upside of the Vikings’ young cornerbacks, as he went in the 2nd round in 2022 and likely would have been a first round pick if not for injury concerns, but he struggled across just 105 rookie year snaps in an injury plagued season and, while he has the upside to develop into an above average starter if he can stay healthy, he could easily suffer more injuries and, even if he doesn’t, he might not break out as an above average starter until later in his career.

Akalyeb Evans also struggled in limited rookie year action (162 snaps), but the 2022 4th round pick seems to have the inside track at the #3 cornerback job due to the Vikings’ lack of a better option. USC’s Mekhi Blackmon and LSU’s Jay Ward were added in the third and fourth round respectively of this year’s draft, but would likely struggle if forced into significant rookie year action. With no proven options behind underwhelming de facto #1 cornerback Byron Murphy, this cornerback group has a lot of concerns.

Things are better at the safety position, but there is still reason for concern. Harrison Smith is still their best safety and has been one of the best safeties in the league for most of his impressive 11-year career to date, but he’s now heading into his age 34 season and showed significant decline last season, with his 69.1 PFF grade being his worst since his second season in the league back in 2013. He was still a slightly above average starter last season and played 912 snaps as an every down safety, so if he doesn’t decline further, he should remain a useful player for this defense, but further decline is possible and, at this point, I wouldn’t expect him to bounce back to even his 2020 (74.3) or 2021 (77.9) form, given his age.

Camryn Bynum struggled as the other starting safety last season, having a PFF grade of 58.2, but the 2021 4th round pick could be better in his third season in the league in 2023 and, even if he isn’t, the Vikings have a couple promising options who could beat him out for the starting job and who could easily prove to be upgrades. Lewis Cine is a 2022 1st round pick who might be the favorite for the job based purely on where he was drafted, even though he played just two rookie year snaps in a season that started with him failing to win a starting job on defense and ended in week 4 with an injury suffered on special teams. He’s a relative unknown, but he has the upside to develop into at least a solid starter long-term and it wouldn’t surprise me if he did that in 2023. 

Josh Mettulus, meanwhile, is a 2020 6th round pick who flashed in limited action as a reserve last season (259 snaps). He’ll probably remain a reserve in 2023, especially with Cine returning, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up in the starting lineup at some point due to injury and fared well as an injury replacement. With much more depth at safety than cornerback, expect the Vikings to use 3 safeties somewhat frequently in sub packages to offset their lack of cornerback depth, a strategy aided by converted collegiate cornerback Camryn Bynum’s history on the slot. This is an underwhelming secondary overall though, with top cornerback Patrick Peterson gone and top safety Harrison Smith getting up there in age.

Grade: C+


The Vikings were unlikely to match last year’s 13-4 record even if they brought back the same team, as their point differential and DVOA, which are much more predictive than win/loss records year-to-year, suggested they were actually a below average team last season. Making matters worse, this is almost definitely a worse roster than a year ago, in large part because they lost numerous key veterans this off-season and, for the most part, they did not adequately replace them.

The Vikings might have on upgraded aging wide receiver Adam Thielen with promising rookie Jordan Addison, but their defense lost edge defender Za’Darius Smith, interior defender Dalvin Tomlinson, cornerback Patrick Peterson, and middle linebacker Eric Kendricks and will replace them on the roster with Marcus Davenport, Dean Lowry, Byron Murphy, and Troy Reeder, who are almost definitely downgrades, in some cases significantly so. The Vikings are also expected to part ways with feature back Dalvin Cook and whoever they sign to replace him will almost definitely be a significant downgrade as well. On top of that, several other key players on this roster, quarterback Kirk Cousins, safety Harrison Smith, and linebacker Jordan Hicks are on the wrong side of 30 and could drop off significantly. 

The Vikings also can’t count on having as good of health as they had last season, when they had the 5th fewest adjusted games lost in the league. Injury problems are already a concern for the Vikings heading into the 2023 season, with talented right tackle Brian O’Neill rehabbing from a late season torn Achilles that has him questionable for the start of the year and that could keep him from playing at his highest level for most of the season. All in all, this looks likely to be a below .500 team in 2023, though the NFC in general and particularly the NFC North are weak enough that they could still compete for a post-season spot. I will have a final prediction at the end of the off-season when all previews are completed.

Prediction: XX-XX, XX in NFC North

Green Bay Packers 2023 NFL Season Preview


For decades, no one has had more continuity at the quarterback position than the Packers who, outside of a few spot starts by quarterbacks filling in for an absent starter, have had just two quarterbacks since Brett Favre’s first season with the team in 1992. Favre went on to make every start for the Packers over the next 16 seasons until 2007 and, while he didn’t have the same durability as Favre, Aaron Rodgers took over in 2008 and was the Packers’ primary starter all the way through 2022, while missing just 19 starts over that 15-year stretch. That will change this season though, as the Packers have turned the page at the quarterback position and will start Jordan Love, who will become just the third different week one starter the Packers have had since Favre arrived back in 1992.

It’s a move that has been three years in the making, dating back to the selection of Love with the 26th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. It was a surprising move at the time because quarterback didn’t seem like a pressing need for a team that had just made the NFC Championship game the year before, especially not a need that the Packers would have to trade up a few spots from 30th to address. The selection looked even less necessary a year later, with Rodgers, who previously had shown some signs of decline in his mid-30s, turning back the clock to win the 2020 MVP, while the raw prospect Love struggled behind the scenes. Complicating matters for the Packers, Rodgers, unhappy with his successor being selected, threatened to retire the following his 2020 MVP season if he wasn’t traded. 

The Packers’ original plan after drafting Love was likely to trade Rodgers following the 2020 season and start the youngster Love in 2021 and beyond, but with Rodgers coming off of an MVP year and Love struggling behind the scenes, the Packers’ plans changed and they spent most of the off-season convincing Rodgers to stay, agreeing to give him a pay raise on his current contract the following off-season if he returned to the team. Rodgers returned and followed his 2020 MVP season up with another MVP season in 2021, which left Love’s long-term status in limbo, especially with Rodgers receiving a new contract with hefty guarantees.

However, Rodgers was not the same in 2022, finishing with a 77.5 PFF rating that was the second lowest of his 15-year tenure as starter and posting a 91.1 QB rating, his lowest single-season mark as a starter, leading to the Packers missing the playoffs at 8-9, after three straight seasons for 13 wins. In total, Rodgers completed just 64.6% of his passes for an average of 6.82 YPA, 26 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions last season.

A thumb injury was part of the problem, but Rodgers’ age was also a concern, with 2022 being his age 39 season and, with Love making progress behind the scenes and Rodgers salary set to increase significantly in 2023, the Packers finally made the decision to move on from Rodgers in favor of Love this off-season, sending Rodgers to the Jets for a second round pick in this year’s draft and a conditional second round pick next year that can become a first round pick if Rodgers meets some achievable benchmarks. 

Rodgers being gone opens up the job for Love, but what kind of play we can expect from him in 2023 is something of a mystery. Love struggled mightily in his only career start, completing 19 of 34 for 190 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, but that was back in 2021 and by all accounts Love has improved behind the scenes since then. Love showed that improvement in very limited action on the field in 2022, completing 14 of 21 for 195 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions, but it’s hard to extrapolate anything from a very limited amount of what was mostly meaningless action, playing primarily in garbage time of games that were already decided.

The Packers know Love’s development better than anyone and it’s telling that they are comfortable making this kind of move and giving Love the keys to the car, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Love will be an upgrade even on the diminished version of Rodgers that we saw in 2022. Rodgers being traded likely had more to do with his age, salary, and the kind of return the Packers got for him than it has to do with the Packers viewing Love as a legitimate upgrade in the short-term. Love’s contract status also made it almost necessary for the Packers to get a look at him in 2023, the last cost-controlled year of his rookie contract.

Even with Rodgers gone, the Packers were faced with a tough decision this off-season on Love’s 5th year option for 2024. If the Packers picked it up, they would be guaranteeing about 20.272 million in 2024 to a player who has barely played for them yet, but if they declined it Love would be set to be a free agent next off-season and if he was even a middling starter in 2023, it would likely cost the Packers significantly more than the 5th year option to keep him long-term. The Packers did a good job finding a happy medium with Love, declining the option, but also signing him to a one-year extension for 2024 that guarantees him less than the 5th year option would have (13.5 million), but that also could pay Love more (up to 22.5 million) if he meets certain incentives. 

With that extension, the Packers are tied to Love as their starter for at least the next two seasons and will need him to play at a relatively high level, without another option on the roster. In fact, the Packers have arguably the worst backup quarterback situation in the league, with their only backup options currently being Danny Etling, a 2018 7th round pick with zero career attempts who briefly converted to receiver, and 5th round rookie Sean Clifford, both of whom would almost definitely struggle mightily if Love missed time with injury. The Packers should find a better backup option before training camp, especially with such an unproven starter. Love has upside, but might not be an upgrade even over the diminished performance they got from Aaron Rodgers last season and he could easily be a downgrade from Rodgers if his improvement behind the scenes doesn’t translate to live games.

Grade: C+

Receiving Corps

Along with his age and his injured thumb, a big part of the reason why Rodgers didn’t play up to his normal standards in 2022 was that he was throwing to a receiving corps that wasn’t up to its normal standards, with one of the least experienced receiving corps in the league. Things won’t be much better for Jordan Love in 2023 and, in fact, this group will be even less experienced this year, losing veteran receiver Allen Lazard in free agency, leaving them without their leading receiver from a year ago (60/788/6), and also losing by far their most experienced wide receiver Randall Cobb (34/417/1 in 2022).

Even without Lazard and Cobb though, there are reasons to expect this receiving corps to be better than a year ago, as the Packers have several talented young receivers with upside. The most promising of those receivers is probably Christian Watson, a 2nd round pick in 2022. Watson struggled to even get on the field early in the year, but became a regular starter by mid-season and caught 31 passes for 523 yards and 7 touchdowns in his final 8 games, while averaging 2.26 yards per route run (11th in the NFL among wide receivers) on the season. Watson was considered very raw entering the league, but things seemed to click for him in the second half of last season and, while he could be hurt by Rodgers’ absence, he still has a good chance to continue playing at a high level into 2023 and beyond. 

Romeo Doubs was the other rookie wide receiver who played a significant role for this team in 2022, seeing 529 snaps in 13 games, actually even more than Watson, who only played 507 snaps on the season as a result of his early season struggles. Doubs wasn’t as effective as Watson though, totaling a decent 42/425/3 slash line, but averaging just 1.36 yards per route run and earning just a 62.6 PFF rating, as opposed to 77.1 for Watson. Doubs was only a 4th round pick and doesn’t nearly have Watson’s upside, but he could take a step forward in year two as well, even if he ends up being an underwhelming #2 receiver.

The Packers also used another high pick on a wide receiver this year, taking Michigan State’s Jayden Reed in the second round and, while he’ll likely have some growing pains as a rookie, he also comes with a lot of upside and shouldn’t have much trouble winning the #3 receiver job in this offense, at the very least. His primary competition will be 2022 7th round pick Samori Toure, who played just 112 offensive snaps and caught just five passes as a rookie, as well as 5th and 7th round rookies Dontayvion Wicks and Grant DuBose, who are unlikely to have a significant impact in year one. With a complete lack of proven wide receivers, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if the Packers top-5 or top-6 wide receivers this year were all in their first and second years in the league. It’s a group that comes with a lot of downside, especially with an inexperienced signal caller throwing them the ball, but they also have obvious upside as well.

The Packers also are young at the tight end position this season, after letting middling veteran starter Robert Tonyan and talented veteran run blocker Marcedes Lewis leave in free agency. In their absence, the Packers will have 2020 3rd round pick Josiah Deguara, who has played just 657 career snaps and has averaged just 1.11 yards per route run in three seasons in the league, competing with rookies Luke Musgrave and and Tucker Kraft, who were selected in the second and third rounds in this year’s draft. Musgrave and Kraft have upside, but will almost definitely go through growing pains in year one, while Deguara has yet to show himself to be a capable starting caliber tight end. Like at wide receiver, this is a very young group with upside, but significant downside as well. 

Grade: C+

Running Backs

With an inexperienced receiving corps, the Packers put an emphasis on using their running backs in the passing game last season, with lead back Aaron Jones finishing second on the team behind Allen Lazard with 72 targets and backup AJ Dillon getting another 43 targets as well. Neither were efficient targets, totaling slash lines of 59/395/5 and 28/206/0 respectively, an average of 5.49 yards per target and 4.79 yards per target respectively, but with the Packers’ receiving corps remaining a question mark, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see both backs have similar passing game usage in 2023.

Jones was much more efficient as a runner than he was in the passing game, averaging 5.26 YPC on 213 carries, ranking 6th with a 56% carry success rate, and finishing as PFF’s 7th ranked running back overall, while earning PFF’s 2nd highest grade among running backs as a runner (90.7). That’s nothing new for Jones, who has averaged 5.11 YPC on 1,035 carries in six seasons in the league, while never receiving a run grade from PFF lower than 79.3 and finishing above 83 in four of six seasons. Going into his age 29 season, he’s getting up there in age for a running back, but he’s stayed relatively fresh splitting carries for most of his career (12 carries per game in 86 career games) and he hasn’t shown any signs of decline yet, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him continue playing well into 2023.

AJ Dillon wasn’t nearly as productive as a runner as Jones, averaging 4.14 YPC on 186 carries, but he was equally effective in keeping this offense on track, ranking 5th with a 57% carry success rate, and he also was PFF’s 5th ranked running back in terms of run grade (88.1). That’s similar to what Dillon did in 2021, when he averaged 4.29 YPC on 187 carries, ranked 1st with a 63% carry success rate, and was PFF’s 3rd ranked running back in run grade (90.0). He’s arguably the best #2 running back in the league and the 2020 2nd round pick may have further untapped upside, going into his 4th season in the league. Jones and Dillon give the Packers one of the best running back duos in the league and both backs are also capable of handling the load as the featured back for a stretch if the other one gets hurt.

Grade: A

Offensive Line

Offensive line was a concern for the Packers heading into 2022, but, despite the Packers’ disappointing season overall, the Packers’ offensive line was probably better than expected. The biggest concern going into last season was that arguably their two best offensive linemen, David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, were coming off of significant injuries, but both played most of the season and turned in pretty good years, with Bakhtiari finishing as PFF’s 11th ranked offensive tackle in 11 starts (79.8 grade) and Jenkins finishing 12th among guards in 15 starts (72.3 grade). 

Jenkins could be even better in 2023, another year removed from the injury, still in his prime in his age 28 season. A 2019 2nd round pick, Jenkins has earned an above average grade from PFF in all four seasons in the league and had a 82.1 PFF grade in 2021 prior to going down with injury, so he comes with a pretty low floor and has the upside to be one of the best guards in the league if he plays as well as he did in 2021 before getting hurt. Jenkins also has the ability to move to tackle if needed, making five starts at right tackle in 2022.

Bakhtiari’s long-term outlook is not as favorable though, even another year removed from the injury that kept him out for almost all of the 2021 season. Bakhtiari should play more games than he did a year ago, when injuries kept him out of six contests, but unlike Jenkins, Bakhtiari is not in his prime anymore, going into his age 32 season, and durability remains a significant concern for him going forward, given how much time he has missed over the past two seasons. Bakhtiari was a better player than Jenkins in his prime, finishing in the top-7 among offensive tackles on PFF in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2020 and, even at less than his best in 2022, he was still one of the better offensive tackles in the league, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he continued declining in 2023 and, even if he doesn’t, his best days are almost definitely behind him at this point.

With Bakhtiari missing six games last season, Zach Tom was forced into 489 rookie year snaps, but, despite only being a 4th round pick, Tom held up pretty well, finishing the season with a PFF grade of 68.3, while seeing action both at guard and tackle. This year, Tom will likely compete with Yosh Njiman for the right tackle job, with the loser of that battle providing depth as the swing tackle. Njiman went undrafted in 2019 and barely played in his first two seasons in the league, but he’s made 21 starts over the past two seasons with Bakhtiari and Jenkins missing time with injury and has held up decently, earning PFF grades of 63.2 and 63.1 respectively. Tom probably has a little more upside, but both are decent options on the right side.

With Jenkins healthy, Tom’s path to playing time at guard is likely blocked, with Jon Runyan locked in as the other starting guard. Runyan was only a 6th round pick in 2020, but he has made 33 starts over the past two seasons and has been decent, finishing with PFF grades of 65.1 and 62.6 respectively. He might not have the upside to be more than a decent starter, but he’s not a bad starting option and comes with a relatively low floor. He and Jenkins will be backed up by Royce Newman, who struggled across 451 snaps last season, after struggling across 1,084 snaps as a 4th round rookie in 2021. Newman could still have untapped upside and isn’t a bad backup, but would likely struggle if forced into significant action again in 2023.

Center Josh Myers completes this offensive line. The 2021 2nd round pick missed most of his rookie season with injury, limited to 293 snaps, but made all 17 starts last season and was decent, finishing with a 60.4 PFF grade. He hasn’t shown himself to be anything more than a decent starter thus far in his career, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take a step forward in his third season in the league in 2023 and, even if he doesn’t, he should remain at least a capable starter. Outside of Bakhtiari and Jenkins, the former of whom is going into his age 32 with significant durability concerns, the Packers’ offensive line is pretty nondescript, but this is a solid unit overall.

Grade: B

Edge Defenders

The Packers’ defense was actually a bigger part of the problem last season than their offense, as their offense finished the year 11th in DVOA, while their defense finished 20th. A big part of the problem was the absence of stud edge defender Rashan Gary for the second half of the season after he suffered a torn ACL in week 9. The Packers weren’t a great defense even with Gary, but Gary had been one of the most effective pass rushers in the league prior to going down, totaling 6 sacks, 8 hits, and a ridiculous 18.6% pressure rate. He was PFF’s 14th ranked edge defender overall at the time of his injury, with his pass rush grade ranking 11th at the position.

That’s nothing new for Gary, a 2019 first round pick who had a dominant 2021 campaign as well, finishing 5th among edge defenders overall on PFF and totaling 9.5 sacks, 19 hits, and another ridiculous pressure rate of 18.1%. Gary took a couple years to breakout, but he was one of best pass rushers in the league at the time of his injury and, still only in his age 26 season, has a good chance to bounce back to at least close to his old form in his first season back from injury. He hasn’t had durability issues in the past (two games missed total across his first three seasons in the league) and his future is still really bright.

In Gary’s absence, 5th round rookie Kingsley Enagbare saw the biggest uptick in playing time, but he didn’t come close to matching Gary’s production, finishing his rookie season with a 9.8% pressure rate and a middling 61.4 PFF grade across 465 snaps. Enagbare could be better in his second season in the league, but I wouldn’t expect him to see as many snaps as he did a year ago. Not only is Gary returning, but the Packers also used their first round pick on Iowa edge defender Lukas Van Ness, who figures to be no worse than the Packers’ #3 edge defender as a rookie and who has the upside for a lot more.

Van Ness will push Preston Smith, the incumbent starter opposite Gary, for playing time, after Smith had a middling 2022 campaign in which he received a 66.4 PFF grade across 825 snaps and totalled 8.5 sacks, 14 hits, and a 10.1% pressure rate. Smith has had better years, including a 76.3 grade in 2018 and a 81.5 grade in 2021, but, aside from those two seasons, the 8-year veteran hasn’t received a grade higher than 67 from PFF and now he heads into his age 31 season, so his best days are almost definitely behind him and he could easily decline further. I would expect a smaller role for him in 2023 with Gary back and Van Ness added in the first round. This is a pretty deep and talented group overall, assuming Rashan Gary can return to form as their top edge defender.

Grade: A-

Interior Defenders

The Packers lost a pair of interior defenders this off-season who played significant snaps last season, Dean Lowry (482 snaps) and Jarran Reed (705 snaps). Both earned middling grades from PFF, 59.3 and 61.9 respectively, but Reed was at least effective as a pass rusher, totaling 2.5 sacks, 12 hits, and a 8.4% pressure rate from the interior and the Packers didn’t really do anything to replace either one. Instead, they will be relying on a couple younger players stepping into bigger roles, Devonte Wyatt and TJ Slaton.

Devonte Wyatt is the surer bet of the two, going in the first round a year ago and showing promise with a 69.9 PFF grade on 224 rookie year snaps. He has the upside to breakout as an above average every down interior defender in year two and, even if he doesn’t quite do that, he should be an upgrade over Lowry and Reed. Slaton, on the other hand, was only a 5th round pick in 2021 and has earned grades of 52.8 and 61.7 on snap counts of 266 and 333 in his first two seasons in the league respectively. He’ll primarily be counted on as a situational nose tackle, but the 6-5 340 pounder hasn’t shown much as a run stuffer either, earning grades of 44.7 and 61.9 against the run in his first two seasons in the league.

Kenny Clark remains as the Packers’ top interior defender, as he has been for several seasons. The 2016 1st round pick broke out in his second season in the league and received overall grades of 87.3, 90.2, and 79.9 from PFF in 2017, 2018, and 2019. His run defense has fallen off in recent years, but he has still remained a dominant interior pass rusher, with a 11.1% pressure rate over the past two seasons combined and 26.5 sacks, 34 hits, and a 10.5% pressure rate total since his breakout 2017 campaign. He’s still in the prime of his career in his age 28 season, so I would expect more of the same from him in 2023. He may continue struggling against the run, but he should remain a dominant interior pass rusher.

Depth is a concern with the Packers not adding any veterans of note to this group this off-season. They added Auburn’s Colby Wooden and Bowling Green’s Karl Brooks in the 4th and 6th round of the draft respectively, but neither one can be considered a reliable reserve rotational option in year one and if either was forced into a significant role by injuries ahead of them on the depth chart, they would almost definitely struggle. Clark and Wyatt have good upside as the Packers’ top-2 interior defenders, but the Packers’ other options aren’t reliable.

Grade: B


Not much has changed in the Packers’ linebacking corps this off-season, with De’Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker returning as every down players. Walker struggled in 2022, posting a 51.9 PFF grade on 846 snaps, but he was a rookie and the first round pick has the talent to take a big step forward in year two. Campbell, meanwhile, is a 7-year veteran, but didn’t break out until year 6 in 2021, finishing below average on PFF in four of his first five seasons in the league, maxing out with a 69.2 grade in 2017, before finishing the 2021 season with a 85.0 grade and the 2022 season with a 74.2 grade. Campbell is now in his age 30 season and could start to decline soon and, even after two good years, his history of inconsistency is still concerning, but he also has a good chance to remain at least an above average every down linebacker for another year.

Isaiah McDuffie also remains as the likely top reserve, after playing 175 nondescript snaps in 2022. McDuffie was only a 6th round pick in 2021 and has played just 176 total career snaps on defense, so he would likely prove to be overmatched if forced into a significant role by either Campbell or Walker missing an extended period of time, but he’s not a bad depth option. Campbell might not be as good in 2023 as he has been in 2021 and 2022, but any regression the Packers get from Campbell could be offset by Walker improving in year two and this is a solid linebacking corps overall.

Grade: B


Things are mostly the same in the secondary for the Packers this season as well. The one big difference is the Packers let veteran safety Adrian Amos walk in free agency after a disappointing 2022 season in which he finished 88th among 96 eligible safeties on PFF with a grade of 53.4. The Packers didn’t really replace him though and their best option to start in his absence is likely Rudy Ford, who earned a 74.6 PFF grade on 443 snaps last season as the Packers’ third safety, but who has made just 10 career starts on defense in six seasons in the league and struggled with a 57.7 PFF grade on 423 snaps in the only other season of significant action in his career in 2021. It’s possible the 2017 6th round pick could prove to be a late bloomer and turn into a solid starter, but the odds are against it.

Ford’s primary competition for the starting role will be a pair of underwhelming free agency signings, Tarvarius Moore and Jonathan Owens. Moore was a third round pick by the 49ers in 2018, but has mostly made his living as a special teamer, making 13 defensive starts in five seasons in the league and maxing out with 541 snaps played in 2020, a year in which he managed a mediocre 60.2 PFF grade. Owens, meanwhile, made 17 starts for the Texans last season, but he finished as PFF’s 92nd ranked safety out of 96 eligible with a 48.3 PFF grade and the 2018 undrafted free agent has only played 178 other defensive snaps in his career outside of last season. 

The situation at safety is made worse by the fact that the player locked in as the other starter is Darnell Savage, who is coming off of a terrible season in which he finished as PFF’s 93rd ranked safety out of 96 eligible with a 47.5 PFF grade and who was briefly benched last season. Savage has had better days in the past, as the 2019 first round pick earned grades of 65.7 and 72.1 in his first two seasons in the league respectively, but he also struggled with a 57.3 PFF grade in 2021 and is no guarantee to find his old form again. The Packers could also get below average play at both safety spots again in 2023, even with Amos not being retained.

The other difference in this secondary from a year ago is the Packers should get a healthier season out of starting cornerback Eric Stokes, who was limited to 477 snaps in 9 games by injury last season. Stokes was struggling even before getting hurt, earning a 53.7 grade from PFF, but he was better in 14 starts as a rookie in 2021 (65.5) and the former first round pick has the talent to develop into an above average starter long-term. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to make a big leap in year three in 2023, but he has a good chance to if he’s healthy and, even if he doesn’t, I would expect more out of him than the Packers got from him in 2022, when he struggled and missed half the season.

Keisean Nixon filled in admirably for Stokes as the third cornerback last season, with a 63.9 PFF grade on 290 snaps last season, but he shouldn’t be any higher than the 4th cornerback going into 2023, which is a better fit for him, considering the 2019 undrafted free agent is very unproven, playing just 564 total defensive snaps in his career. He’s flashed some potential, but could easily struggle if forced into significant action again in 2023.

Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas remain as the other two of the Packers’ top-3 cornerbacks. Alexander is their top cornerback and one of the best cornerbacks in the league. He finished last season as PFF’s 10th ranked cornerback with a 80.3 grade and isn’t a one-year wonder, finishing #1 among cornerbacks on PFF with a 90.7 grade in 2020, with a lost year due to injuries in 2021 in between. The 2018 first round pick has only missed five games in his other four seasons in the league, so he’s doesn’t really have a history of injuries and, still only going into his age 26 season, he’s very much in the prime of his career so I would expect him to remain one of the top cornerbacks in the league for years to come.

Douglas, meanwhile, is a journeyman who was with five different teams between being drafted in the 3rd round by the Panthers in 2017 and joining the Packers in 2021, but he has found a home in Green Bay, playing 734 snaps and 915 snaps respectively over the past two seasons and earning PFF grades of 74.5 and 71.1 respectively. Douglas also earned a 72.5 PFF grade on 660 snaps in 2018, so his solid play the last two seasons hasn’t come completely out of nowhere and, still only going into his age 28 season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him keep it up for a third season in a row. Safety remains a position of weakness for the Packers in the secondary, but they should get good cornerback play again, perhaps even better than a year ago, with Eric Stokes returning from injury.

Grade: B


The Packers have a wide range of outcomes this season because of the uncertainty around inexperience starting quarterback Jordan Love. Love has the upside to be at least a solid starting quarterback, but he also could prove to be a significant downgrade from Aaron Rodgers, for a Packers team that went 8-9 even with Rodgers. Beyond their quarterback concerns, the Packers also have a very inexperienced receiving corps and a questionable defense. In a weak NFC, the Packers could be a playoff team, but they’ll need Love to not be a significant downgrade under center.  I will have a final prediction at the end of the off-season when all previews are completed.

Prediction: XX-XX, XX in NFC North

Chicago Bears 2023 NFL Season Preview


Expectations were very low for the Bears last season, starting a rebuild that left them with by far the lowest combined average annual salary of any roster in the league, parting ways with numerous high-paid veterans last off-season, following mediocre finishes in 2019 (8-8), 2020 (8-8), and 2021 (6-11). The Bears surprised a lot of people with a 2-1 start in 2022, but went on to lose their last 11 games in a row after starting 3-3. Losing all those games will likely prove to be a good thing in the long run though, as the Bears earned the #1 pick for finishing with the worst record in the league, a huge asset for their rebuild, along with the league’s most cap space this off-season, after a year of minimal spending.

The #1 pick left the Bears with the choice between drafting one of the top quarterbacks, in a draft in which three quarterbacks ended up going in the first four picks, which would mean trading Justin Fields, the quarterback they selected 11th overall just two years ago, or trading the #1 pick and building around Fields as the quarterback of the future. The Bears chose the latter, sending the #1 pick to the Panthers for the 9th pick, the 61st pick, a 2024 first round pick, a 2025 second round pick, and talented young wide receiver DJ Moore.

Time will tell whether the Bears made the right move and it’s tough to evaluate their decision without knowing what kind of return Justin Fields would have brought in a trade, but the Bears’ decision makes sense as Fields is more of a proven commodity than any of the quarterbacks in this draft and likely still has untapped potential, only heading into his age 24 season. The downside with Fields compared to a rookie is he is two years into his rookie contract, meaning he’ll be due a hefty pay raise on a long-term extension within the next couple years, but the Bears have the cap space to afford that. 

Fields might not have the upside as a passer as some of the quarterbacks in this draft class and he has been inconsistent in that aspect of his game thus far in his career, completing 59.7% of his passes for an average of 6.99 YPA, 24 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions, but he is a weapon as a runner, averaging 6.74 YPC with 10 touchdowns on 232 carries, and his inconsistent passing production has in large part been due to his lack of a supporting cast. With the Bears building around Fields this off-season, he has a good chance to take a leap forward as a passer in his third season in the league in 2023.

One area of concern is backup quarterback, with the Bears’ best options as of now being Nathan Peterman and PJ Walker, who have career QB ratings of 39.4 and 63.9 respectively. Fields’ playing style naturally leaves him more prone to injury and the Bears would be in big trouble if that happened without a capable option behind him. The Bears should address this position before training camp.

Grade: B-

Receiving Corps

As I mentioned, a big part of the return from Carolina for the #1 pick was talented young receiver DJ Moore, who gives the Bears another big needed weapon in the receiving corps. The 24th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Panthers, Moore has been one of the best receivers in the league since entering the league, totaling the 11th most receiving yards in the league over the five years since he entered the league, despite regularly having mediocre quarterback play. 

Moore’s 63/888/7 slash line and 73.9 PFF rating in 2022 were his lowest since his rookie season, while his 1.74 yards per route run were the worst of his career, but those figures are all still above average, last season was arguably the worst quarterback play he’s ever had and, still only going into his age 26 season with minimal injury history (two games missed in five seasons), there’s no reason why Moore can’t bounce back now on a better offense in Chicago. His presence should be a big boost for this passing game.

Moore’s addition isn’t the only reason to be optimistic about this receiving corps either, as the Bears could also get a bounce back year from Darnell Mooney, who was limited to a 40/493/2 slash line in 12 games in an injury plagued 2022 season, but who also is just a season removed from a 81/1055/4 slash line as the Bears’ #1 receiver in Fields’ rookie season in 2021, and who is still only heading into his age 26 season and theoretically in the prime of his career. Despite a big drop off in receiving yards, Mooney wasn’t actually that much worse in 2022 than he was in 2021, with his PFF rating only dropping from 74.7 to 69.2 and his yards per route run only dropping from 1.72 to 1.58. 

Mooney isn’t as proven as Moore, with only one season of 1,000+ yards in three seasons in the league, and he likely won’t see the 140 targets he had in 2021 (11th most in the league), with Moore now in town, so he’s unlikely to be as productive overall as 2021, but he could easily be more efficient than he has been the past two seasons, with another talented receiver to take some of the coverage away from him. Moore will likely be the Bears’ de facto #1 receiver, but Mooney is a good #2 receiver to have as well.

The Bears also traded for another young receiver Chase Claypool at last year’s trade deadline. The Bears overpaid, giving up what ended up being the 32nd pick in the draft, for a receiver who did next to nothing in his 7 games with the Bears (14/140/0) and who only has one year left on his cost controlled rookie deal, but Claypool is still a talented receiver who should be able to give the Bears more than he did a year ago, now with a full off-season in the system under his belt. 

Claypool has seen his PFF rating (75.5 to 67.2 to 61.8) and yards per route run (1.90 to 1.67 to 1.07) drop off in each of the past two seasons since a promising rookie season in 2020, but he’s still only going into his age 25 season and has the potential to be a useful receiver for the Bears. They still overpaid, giving up a premium pick for a player who will likely be their third receiver this year, but he should be more useful for the Bears than he was a year ago.

With Moore coming in, Mooney likely to be healthier, and Claypool likely to be more productive, the Bears likely won’t need big roles from veteran journeymen Equanimeous St. Brown (555 snaps in 2022) and Dante Pettis (523 snaps), who will now be reserves if they even make the final roster. The Bears also used a 4th round pick on Cincinnati’s Tyler Scott and could get more out of 2022 3rd round pick Velus Jones, who couldn’t crack a weak wide receiver group as a rookie (158 snaps played), but who has the upside to give the Bears more in year two.

The Bears also have a promising young tight end in Cole Kmet, who they selected in the 2nd round in 2020. Kmet had a mediocre rookie season, but has seen his yards per route run average increase to 1.23 in 2021 and 1.27 in 2022, both decent numbers for a tight end, especially when you consider that Kmet has played on a mediocre offense overall over the past few years. He’s also proven to be a solid blocker as well and, only going into his age 24 season, could easily have more untapped upside as a pass catcher and run blocker. He probably won’t be a huge part of the Bears’ offense this season with an improved receiving corps around him, but he still should be a useful player for this offense.

Kmet will likely be backed up by former Packer Robert Tonyan, who the Bears added in free agency this off-season. Undrafted in 2017, Tonyan came out of nowhere to have a 60/668/12 slash line with the Packers in 2020 (1.55 yards per route run), but he benefited significantly from playing with Aaron Rodgers and, even with Rodgers as his quarterback, Tonyan has averaged just 1.22 yards per route run in his career outside of that 2020 campaign. He’s a solid backup who can make some starts if needed, but he’s unlikely to ever come close to repeating what he did in 2020. Overall, this is a much improved receiving corps from a year ago, which should lead to more consistent passing performances from young quarterback Justin Fields.

Grade: B+

Offensive Line

Along with DJ Moore, the 9th overall pick was a big part of what the Bears received in return for the top pick. The Bears traded down one more time from 9 to 10, but ultimately settled on Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright, who will also fill a big need for the Bears, whose offensive line play has been as big of a problem for their offense as their receiving corps has been. Larry Borom (7 starts) and Riley Reiff (10 starts) were the Bears’ primary right tackles last season, but both were middling at best and, even if he has some rookie struggles, Wright has a much higher upside long-term. Reiff is no longer with the team, while Borom will likely be the primary swing tackle, which is a good role for him, after holding his own in 15 starts over the past two seasons since being selected in the 5th round by the Bears in 2021.

Wright will play the right side because left tackle Braxton Jones was one of the few bright spots on this mediocre offensive line, finishing with a 75.4 PFF grade in 17 starts as a rookie, 20th best among offensive tackles, despite only being a 5th round rookie. Jones is still unproven and the fact that the whole league let him fall to the 5th round a year ago can’t be ignored yet, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he wasn’t quite as good in his second year in the league, but he also could easily still have further untapped upside and could be as good or even better in his second season in the league. At the very least, he should be a solid starter, with the upside for more.

Another bright spot on this offensive line last season was guard Teven Jenkins, who finished with a 80.7 PFF rafting in 11 starts, actually making him PFF’s third highest graded guard. Jenkins was a second round pick by the Bears in 2021, but he missed most of his rookie year with injury and was so horrible in the limited action he did see that some felt he was already a bust and wondered if he would even make the Bears’ team in 2022. 

When Jenkins couldn’t earn a starting job at tackle in 2022, the Bears kicked him inside to guard and, from his first full game at guard in week 5, he seemed to be significantly more comfortable at his new position, a full year removed from his major injury. He’s still relatively unproven and his season ended with another injury, so durability is a concern for a player who has made just 13 starts in his first two seasons in the league combined, but he has the upside to develop into one of the better guards in the league long-term if he can stay healthy. The selection of Darnell Wright to bookend Braxton Jones long-term ensures that Jenkins will stay at guard, which is the best case scenario for him.

In addition to the big return they got for the #1 pick, the Bears also used their league leading amount of cap space to address some needs in free agency, including the offensive line, which should get a big boost from free agent acquisition Nate Davis, who comes over from the Titans on a 3-year, 30 million dollar deal. A third round pick in 2019, Davis struggled his rookie season, but has turned into a solid player with PFF grades of 71.1, 69.2, and 70.6 over the past three seasons respectively, with his 2022 grade ranking 16th in the league among guards. He’s not an elite guard, but he’s a solid starter with experience (54 career starts) and is still in the prime of his career in his age 27 season, so his contract should prove to be a good value and he fills a need for the Bears’ upfront.

With Davis coming in and Jenkins staying at guard, the Bears will likely kick veteran Cody Whitehair inside to center, but he has experience at all three interior offensive line positions and he should be an upgrade over mediocre incumbent Sam Mustipher, who is no longer with the team. Whitehair’s age is becoming a concern, heading into his age 31 season, but he has been at least a solid starter in all seven seasons in the league (107 starts) and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if he continued that into 2023. 

Whitehair should still be a better option than Lucas Patrick, who has the versatility to play all three interior positions and who has made 31 starts over the past three seasons, but who has been middling at best in those three seasons (PFF ratings of 64.8, 57.2, and 55.9 respectively) and who would be best as a versatile reserve rather than a starter. With Nate Davis and Darnell Wright being added to the starting lineup, the Bears have a noticeably better group upfront this year than a year ago and, with several players who were forced into starting roles last year now being reserves, their depth is a lot better as well. This is a solid group with the upside to be more, with most of their starters aside from Whitehair being relatively young.

Grade: B+

Running Backs

The Bears didn’t retain running back David Montgomery as a free agent this off-season, after he lead the team in carries in each of the past four seasons, but Montgomery was mediocre for most of his time as the starter in Chicago, averaging just 3.94 YPC on 915 carries over the past four seasons, and the Bears feel they have a better option in 2021 6th round pick Khalil Herbert, who has averaged 5.02 YPC on 232 carries as Montgomery’s backup over the past two seasons, including a 5.67 YPC on 129 carries in 2022 that dwarfed Montgomery’s 3.99 YPC on 201 carries.

The gap between Montgomery and Herbert is smaller when you look at carry success rate, with neither back doing a good job of keeping this offense on schedule, as Herbert ranked 34th out of 42 eligible backs with a 47% carry success rate and Montgomery ranking 39th with a 46% carry success rate, but, any way you look at it, Herbert was their most effective running back last season and Montgomery’s departure should open up a bigger role for him. He wasn’t as effective as his impressive YPC average last season would suggest and it’s unclear how he’ll handle a larger workload, but he has a good chance to be an upgrade over what Montgomery was last season.

The Bears also added a couple other backs this off-season to take some of the workload away from Herbert, signing veteran D’Onta Foreman to a 1-year, 2 million dollar deal in free agency and then using a 4th round pick on Texas’ Roschon Johnson. Foreman is a bigger back at 6-0 235 who can take some short yardage carries away from the 5-9 212 pound Herbert and, after an injury plagued start to his career, the 2017 3rd round pick has averaged 4.40 YPC on 336 carries over the past two seasons, with carry success rates of 50% and 52% respectively. He’s a good power complement to the smaller, speedier Herbert. 

Johnson, meanwhile, will likely be the #3 back as a rookie, but should still have a role in passing situations, where his upside intrigues the Bears. Neither Foreman (23 catches in 43 career games), nor Herbert (23 catches in 30 career games) are much use in passing situations, so many of those snaps will go to the rookie. Johnson could prove to be overwhelmed in that role in year one, so passing down back could be a position of weakness for the Bears in 2022, but this isn’t a bad backfield overall, with Herbert and Foreman both being solid early down options and Johnson at least possessing upside in passing situations.

Grade: B-

Interior Defenders

As bad as the Bears’ were on offense last season, their defense was even worse. While their offense ranked 25th in DVOA, their defense was dead last and by a pretty wide margin. Fortunately, defensive performance tends to be much less consistent on a year-to-year basis than offensive performance and the Bears also added a significant amount of talent to their defense this off-season, making use of their league leading cap space. At the interior defender position, the Bears didn’t make any splash additions, but they didn’t have a single interior defender earn higher than a 49.2 grade from PFF last season so it won’t take much for the Bears to be better at this position in 2023.

Justin Jones (746 snaps), Armon Watts (531 snaps), Angelo Blackson (393 snaps), and Mike Pennel (363 snaps) were their top-4 interior defenders last season and only Jones remains for 2023. Jones also has a good chance to be better in 2023 than 2022, as his 45.8 PFF grade from 2022 was the worst of his career. Jones’ better years came on much lower snap counts than his 2022 snap count (his 527 snaps he played in 2020 were previously his career high), but the Bears probably won’t need as many snaps from him in a better position group in 2023. He’ll probably remain a mediocre option and he only has a PFF grade higher than 60 in one of his five seasons in the league, but he should be better than last year and he should play a smaller role as well.

To try to improve this position group, the Bears used second and third round picks on Florida’s Gervon Dexter and South Carolina’s Zacch Pickens respectively and added veteran Andrew Billings in free agency. Even as rookies, I would expect Dexter and Pickens to be upgrades over what the Bears had at the position last season, though it would not be a surprise at all to see both players go through growing pains in year one. Both have the upside to be solid starters long-term, but we might not see that from them this season.

Billings, meanwhile, is just a situational run stuffer, managing only a 6.0% pressure rate for his career, but he didn’t break the bank on a 1-year, 2.75 million dollar deal and, even just as a run stuffer, he should be an upgrade over what the Bears had a year ago. His 72.3 run defense grade from PFF in 2022 was a career high, but he also had grades of 68.8 and 68.4 in 2018 and 2019 respectively, which were his last two healthy seasons prior to last year, with most of 2020 and 2021 lost to injury. Durability remains a concern for Billings going forward, but he’s only in his age 28 season and should remain at least a solid run stuffer as long as he can stay on the field.

The Bears also signed DeMarcus Walker and Rasheem Green, who are hybrid players who can play both on the edge and on the interior of the Bears’ defensive line. On the interior, their primary role will likely be as situational pass rushers in sub packages and obvious passing situations. Walker was the bigger signing, coming over on a 3-year, 21 million dollar deal while Green got 2.5 million on a one-year deal, and Walker will likely have the bigger impact as well. 

A second round pick in 2017, Walker’s career got off to a slow start, but he has proven to be a late bloomer over the past couple seasons, totaling 9 sacks, 17 hits, and a 11.3% pressure rate as a part-time player for the Texans and Titans and is still relatively young in his age 29 season, so I wouldn’t expect a sudden drop off from him. Walker leaves something to be desired against the run and has never played more than 458 snaps in a season so he’s a projection to a larger role, but he should be a useful situational pass rusher for them and his ability to play both inside and outside will be valuable as well.

Green, meanwhile, has played bigger snap counts in his career, averaging 581 snaps per season over the past four years, but he doesn’t have the same pass rush productivity (8.5% pressure rate over those four seasons) and isn’t much of a run defender either. In fact, his 62.4 PFF grade last season was the highest of his career, finishing below 60 in each of his first four seasons in the league prior to last season. The 2018 3rd round pick is still only in his age 26 season and could theoretically have untapped upside, but he’ll likely have to play a big role again on this defense and I would expect him to continue being middling at best. The Bears’ interior defender group should be better in 2023 than it was in 2022, but that could largely be by default.

Grade: C

Edge Defenders

While Walker and Green will see some action on the interior in passing situations, they will primarily be counted on for big roles on the edge. That’s because, like the interior defender position, the Bears didn’t have a single edge defender play a snap for them last season and earn even an average grade from PFF, but, unlike the interior defender position, the Bears didn’t add any other players of note this off-season, relying primarily on Walker and Green, as well as holdovers Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson, who finished last season 120th and 124th respectively among 129 eligible edge defenders on PFF, across snap counts of 649 and 541 respectively.

Gipson and Robinson are both recent 5th round picks (2020 and 2022 respectively) and both have the upside to be better this season than last season, but both are still underwhelming options and, even if they are better than a year ago, they could still have below average seasons. Gipson probably has the better chance to have a solid season, as he received a PFF grade of 70.4 on 489 snaps in 2021, but that’s his only above average season in three seasons in the league and it came on a much smaller snap count than the one that he handled last year and that he will likely see again in 2023, in once again an underwhelming position group. He’s a decent pass rusher with a career 10.0% pressure rate, but he has struggled mightily against the run throughout his career.

Robinson, meanwhile, could take a step forward in year two, but it also wouldn’t be a surprise if he never developed into even a solid rotation player, given where he was drafted and how much he struggled as a rookie, particularly as a pass rusher, managing just a 5.3% pressure rate. Walker and Green aren’t bad additions and could easily be better than what the Bears had at the edge defender position a year ago and Gipson and Robinson theoretically have untapped upside, but, even if they’re better at this position than a year ago, this still figures to be a position of weakness for the Bears in 2023.

Grade: C-


The position on defense where the Bears committed the most resources this off-season is the off ball linebacker position. Tremaine Edmunds and TJ Edwards were signed to contracts worth 72 million over 4 years (4th highest average annual value among off ball linebackers) and 19.5 million over 3 years respectively and both figure to play close to every down for this team. Edmunds is the bigger name and has the most upside as a former first round pick only going into his age 25 who earned a PFF grade of 79.0 in 2022, but Edmunds is a one-year wonder in terms of earning the grade from PFF that he did, struggling mightily in coverage earlier in his career before breaking out with a 88.1 coverage grade in 2022.

Because of Edmunds past struggles and his bigger contract, Edwards is likely to prove to be the better value of the two signings, earning grades of 66.5, 76.3, and 84.8 from PFF over the past three seasons respectively and also still being relatively young like Edmunds, only going into his age 27 season. It’s possible that neither Edmunds nor Edwards is quite as good as a year ago, when they earned the 11th highest and 2nd highest grade respectively among off ball linebackers from PFF, both doing so across 1,000+ snaps each, but both should remain at least above average every down linebackers and both should be significant upgrades over the underwhelming linebacking corps the Bears had a year ago. 

The only off ball linebacker of note that the Bears brought back from last year’s team is Jack Sanborn. The Bears won’t have much need for a third linebacker with Edmunds and Edwards playing every down, but they do play a 4-3 defense, which means they’ll use a third linebacker in certain base packages and that role will likely fall to Sanborn, who flashed some potential on 330 snaps last season, despite being an undrafted rookie. He would probably be a big drop off from Edmunds or Edwards if he had to fill in as an every down injury replacement, but he should be able to hold his own in a situational role. His biggest competition for the third linebacker job will be veteran special teamer Dylan Cole and 5th round rookie Noah Sewell, both of whom would be underwhelming options. Led by every down players Edmunds and Edwards, this is a talented linebacking corps and their depth isn’t bad either.

Grade: A-


The Bears didn’t make any big additions in the secondary this off-season, but there is still reason to believe they can be better in this unit in 2023. For one, they have a pair of 2022 2nd round picks who could take a step forward in year two. Kyler Gordon improving would be the most impactful of the two, as the Bears are counting on him as a starting cornerback, but he struggled mightily in that role as a rookie, finishing 124th out of 136 eligible cornerbacks on PFF across 14 starts (863 snaps). 

That’s definitely not a good start to his career and even if he is better in 2023 it could largely be by default, but a bad rookie year also doesn’t mean that Gordon can’t develop into an above average starter long-term, even if he doesn’t become that in his second season in the league. Safety JaQuan Brisker was the other rookie second round pick who started for the Bears in the secondary last season and he held up much better in year one than Gordon did, finishing with a solid 67.0 grade in 15 starts (954 snaps). He should at least be a solid starter again and has the upside for more in his second year in the league.

The Bears also could get a healthier year out of fellow starting safety Eddie Jackson, who was limited to 697 snaps in 12 games last season. Jackson was PFF’s 15th ranked safety last season before he got hurt and is one of their best players when healthy, so his return will be a welcome one, but he also has a history of inconsistency and might not be as good in 2023 as he was in 2022 before getting hurt. Jackson was also PFF’s #1 ranked safety in 2018, but, aside from that season and last season, he hasn’t had another season with 70 grade or higher from PFF and he’s finished below 60 twice in six seasons in the league. He’s still relatively young in his age 29 season, but his inconsistent history makes it tough to count on him being a high level starter again, even if he ends up playing more games than he did a year ago.

Jaylon Johnson is another starter who missed time in the Bears’ secondary last season, limited to 656 snaps in 11 games. A second round pick in 2020, Johnson was middling at best before going down last season (62.9 PFF rating) and his career best PFF rating in three seasons in the league is just 64.2 in 2021, but he could still have untapped upside, still only going into his age 24 season and, even if he doesn’t take a step forward this season, he should still be a welcome return given how much the Bears’ cornerbacks struggled in his absence last season, with Johnson being the only one who played significant snaps who even earned a middling grade from PFF.

The one addition the Bears did make to this group this off-season was using another second round pick on the unit, selecting Miami’s Tyrique Stevenson, which is another reason to expect better play out of the Bears’ secondary in 2023. Stevenson will likely have growing pains in year one, but it wouldn’t be hard for him to be an upgrade over Jaylon Jones (48.4 PFF rating across 466 snaps) or Kindle Vildor (59.4 PFF rating across 531 snaps), who will likely be reserves at best in 2023 with Stevenson being added and Johnson returning from injury. 

Stevenson figures to be the third cornerback, behind Johnson and Gordon, and the Bears added another cornerback in the 5th round (Minnesota’s Terell Smith) to give them additional depth at the position. Depth is still a concern at the cornerback position if one of their top-3 cornerbacks gets hurt, as it is at the safety position, where 2022 7th round pick Elijah Hicks (just 168 defensive snaps played as a rookie) and 2023 7th round pick Kendall Williamson are penciled in as the primary reserves, but, even with depth concerns and an overall young, inexperienced unit, it wouldn’t be hard for this group to be better than they were a year ago.

Grade: B-


The Bears finished with the worst record in the league last season, but that was largely by design, as the Bears’ primary goal last season was to accumulate cap space and draft capital that they could use to rebuild their team in 2023 and beyond. The Bears also probably weren’t the worst team in the league last season, despite their record, as 8 of their 14 losses came by one score or less and both the Texans and Colts finished with a lower DVOA than they did.

The Bears did a good job using their cap space and draft capital to rebuild this roster and are a much more talented team now than they were a year ago, with key additions that include wide receiver DJ Moore, first round offensive tackle Darnell Wright, guard Nate Davis, and off ball linebackers TJ Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds, all of whom should give them above average play at positions where they did not get that a year ago. 

The Bears might not be a playoff team in 2023, but considering how many of their losses were close a year ago, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if the Bears turned a significant amount of those losses into wins this season and, in a division that will likely see both the Packers and Vikings decline from a year ago, the Bears have a shot to go from worst to first and earn a surprise division title. I don’t know if I would predict that happening, but it’s definitely a possibility and, even if they don’t win the division, the Bears should still be able to compete for a wild card spot in an overall weak NFC. I will have a final prediction at the end of the off-season when all previews are completed.

Prediction: XX-XX, XX in NFC North