The 2023 NFL season has arrived, which means it is once again time for us to unveil our preseason All-Division teams. We’ve done this exercise for the past several years, and the point is to preview which players at each position, in each division, we expect to put forth the best performance this coming season.
We began last week with the AFC, beginning with the, continuing to the and and finally finishing up with the . This week, it’s on to the NFC. We began Tuesday with the , continued Wednesday with the , move on Thursday with the NFC South, and finish up Friday with the NFC West.
Without further ado …
Offensive skill positions
This division has perhaps the least-inspiring group of quarterbacks in the league. Carr gets the spot here almost by default because rookies (Bryce Young) typically are not very good, Baker Mayfield ain’t it, and the Falcons are going to run the ball too much for Desmond Ridder to outperform Carr as a passer. Speaking of the Falcons … just because it probably wasn’t the best idea to take a running back in the first round — let alone No. 8 overall — doesn’t mean Robinson isn’t going to be awesome when he’s actually on the field. Atlanta already had a borderline top-10 run game and now drops an elite back into the same scheme behind an improved line.
Do you know how many receivers were targeted on a greater share of their routes last season than Olave? Five. Do you know how many averaged more yards per route run? Seven. He’s already a star. One of those receivers targeted more often than Olave? London. He also exceeded 2.00 yards per route run — an elite mark for any receiver, but especially a rookie. He’s going to be a really good player. Godwin and Evans are ultra-talented and will probably underperform this season compared to what they have done in the past thanks to their downgrade at QB, but they’re too good not to give them the nod here. And Pitts … when Arthur Smith actually lets him on the field to run routes, he still commands elite volume (among all receivers and tight ends that ran at least 100 routes last season, only Tyreek Hill, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Davante Adams and Cooper Kupp were targeted on a greater share of their routes run than Pitts). But Marcus Mariota barely threw balls within Pitts’ catch radius, and Smith for some reason limits Pitts’ workload. Still, he has the talent to reach 1,000 receiving yards (he did it as a rookie), which probably isn’t the case for any of the other tight ends in this division.
OT: Tristan Wirfs (TB), Ryan Ramczyk (NO)
G: Chris Lindstrom (ATL), Brady Christensen (CAR)
C: Bradley Bozeman (CAR)
There is sure to be an adjustment period for Wirfs moving from the right side of the line to the left, but it’s not like we haven’t seen plenty of top-flight tackles make the switch before. Eventually, he should reassume his Pro Bowl level of play. It was tough to choose between Ramczyk, Taylor Moton and Jake Matthews for the other tackle spot, but Ramczyk has shown the highest ceiling of the bunch (three All-Pro nods), so that ultimately tipped the scale in his direction.
Lindstrom is in the inner circle of best guards in the NFL, and if it weren’t for the existence of Zack Martin we could probably just say he is the flat-out best. He got deservingly paid this offseason and will show this year exactly why he did. The rest of the guards in this division have either been bad or not shown very much in their NFL careers. Christensen at least flashed as a pass-blocker last season, allowing 17 pressures on 533 dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. The center crop is arguably just as thin, but at least Bozeman has shown the ability to be an above-average starter at times.
EDGE: Brian Burns (CAR), Cameron Jordan (NO)
IDL: Grady Jarrett (ATL), Vita Vea (TB)
LB: Demario Davis (NO), Lavonte David (TB)
FLEX: Derrick Brown (CAR)
Burns has still yet to have the true blow-up season where he notches something like 18 sacks, but he’s coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl campaigns during which he collected 21.5 of them, along with 40 quarterback hits. Whenever the Panthers actually sign him to an extension, he’s going to come back and play really well in his age-25 season. I know Jordan is getting up there in age, but the dude is still so freaking good. He’s one of the best two-way defensive linemen (pass-rushing and run-stopping) in the league, regardless of age or position. You can’t keep him off this team.
Jarrett has seemingly slowed down a bit over the past few seasons, but his peak is still better than the other interior linemen in this division. If he can recapture some of the pass-rush juice, he should earn this spot. Vea, meanwhile, is just terrifying, and moves in a way no man his size should be capable of. He’s firmly in his prime and ready to wreck opposing offensive lines. It took him a few years but Brown last season finally hit something close to the level of play people expected from him coming out of Auburn. He should continue to be a two-way force on the interior.
Davis and David are arguably the two best non-Fred Warner coverage linebackers in the NFL. That they are each in their mid-30s now makes no real difference. They’re that good.
CB: Marshon Lattimore (NO), A.J. Terrell (ATL), Jaycee Horn (CAR)
SAF: Antoine Winfield Jr. (TB), Tyrann Mathieu (NO)
You know what you’re getting with Lattimore. In games where he isn’t challenged by an elite receiver, he might not be at his best. But whenever he gets to go against one of the game’s top receivers (especially when it’s Mike Evans), he’s going to bring it. Terrell regressed a bit last year but he still got his hands on the ball a lot and has obviously shown an All-Pro ceiling. We’re betting he bounces back. And while Horn has been somewhat overshadowed by draft-mate Patrick Surtain II, he’s been pretty damn good himself and is well on his way to being a star corner.
Winfield has been one of the league’s premier safeties pretty much from the jump. He has range on the back end and is willing to fly down into the box to make tackles in the run game. While there are plenty of questions about Todd Bowles as a head coach, we know he is going to put his defenders in position to succeed. Honey Badger just keeps going out there and making plays, year after year. He’s one of the most versatile defensive backs in the league, and despite his size, also one of the toughest and most physical.
K: Younghoe Koo (ATL)
P: Johnny Hekker (CAR)
RET: Cordarrelle Patterson (ATL)
Since arriving in Atlanta, Koo has been uniformly excellent. He’s made 90.8% of his kicks overall, and in each of the past three years has made at least four from 50-plus yards. Hekker isn’t at his peak anymore but he remains one of the league’s better punters, consistently landing the ball inside the opposing 20-yard line and avoiding touchbacks. Patterson’s return role has been reduced since he got to Atlanta, but with Bijan Robinson coming in to take more running back snaps, he should get back to playing more on special teams. If he does, there’s no reason to expect he’ll be anything but excellent once again.
This content was originally published here.