Entering the 2023 NFL season, former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr takes a look at all offensive players and ranks his top 15. For the first quarter of the season, the rankings are based on a combination of:
- Player accomplishments from the 2022 season.
- Weekly performances, factoring in strength of opponent.
Rankings will be solely judged on this season's efforts following Week 4. Heading into Week 1, here is Carr's list:
Patrick Mahomes enters the 2023 season as the best player in the game. Coming off a season in which he became the first player in NFL history to lead the league in pass yards and pass TDs, win NFL MVP and be named Super Bowl MVP in the same season, it feels like he's the only choice for the No. 1 spot to start the season. Also, there’s a real chance he might finish here ... again.
Justin Jefferson has staked his claim as the NFL’s top wide receiver after racking up a league-leading 128 receptions and 1,809 receiving yards on his way to winning 2022 Offensive Player of the Year. The All-Pro wideout is a walking highlight reel as the featured playmaker in Kevin O’Connell’s offense. He has 2,000 yards in his sights, and I won’t be shocked if he becomes the first player in history reach that mark in a single season.
Jalen Hurts’ development in Year 3 earned him a second-place finish in the MVP voting and he nearly led the Eagles to their second Lombardi Trophy. He was 9-1 against teams above .500 last season (including playoffs). Everything in this offense rightfully runs through Hurts, who enters this season as part of one of the best rosters in the NFL. He should be a mainstay in the top five in 2023.
Travis Kelce continues to set a high bar, posting 1,000-plus receiving yards in seven straight seasons -- the longest such streak of all time among tight ends. The chemistry he’s found with Mahomes over the last five seasons has allowed the Chiefs to shuffle through wide receivers and still have one of the best offenses in the league. Let's hope the hyperextended knee he sustained Tuesday doesn't sideline him for long -- if at all.
I’m not going to let a calf strain knock Joe Burrow out of the top five. He’s done so much -- and then some -- for the Bengals, breaking franchise passing records and taking them to back-to-back AFC title games. He’s trending toward starting in the season opener against the Browns, a positive development for Burrow’s MVP quest.
After a disappointing conclusion to last season, I expect Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense to hit the ground running in Week 1 -- especially considering the opponent. Allen is the only player in NFL history to post at least 35 pass touchdowns and 600 rush yards in multiple seasons in his career (2021 and 2022), per NFL Research. Putting up those numbers again shouldn’t be a problem with the weapons he has at his disposal in 2023.
Tyreek Hill ranked second in the league in catches (119) and receiving yards (1,710) in 2022, his first season in Mike McDaniel’s offense. The addition of Hill made the Dolphins’ passing attack one of the most explosive units a season ago. If Tua Tagovailoa stays healthy for a full season, Hill could very well be the first to reach the elusive 2,000-yard receiving mark.
The 2022 rushing champion enters the season with a new one-year contract and a “clean slate” with the Raiders. It looked rocky there for a while, but he now looks poised to once again be the focal point of Josh McDaniels’ offense after accounting for 80.3 percent of the team’s total rushing yards in 2022.
A.J. Brown looked right at home in his first season in Philadelphia, recording career-highs in targets (145), receptions (88), receiving yards (1,496) and receiving touchdowns (11, matching his 2020 output). He’s a complete receiver who routinely wins contested targets and led the NFL with 547 receiving yards and six touchdowns on go routes last season, per Next Gen Stats. With a full offseason to work alongside Jalen Hurts and DeVonta Smith, expect another huge season from the two-time Pro Bowl receiver.
It feels like we didn't hear as much about George Kittle in 2022, but he still racked up 11 receiving touchdowns (second most among tight ends), including seven in his final four games. He should continue to be a reliable target for Brock Purdy, and his utilization in the run game as a blocker makes him one of the most complete tight ends in the NFL. Hopefully his groin injury will not sideline him in Week 1.
Justin Herbert set an NFL record with 102 offensive touchdowns over his first three seasons. And now, the five-year, $262.5 million extension he signed this offseason is allowing him “to play fearless” in new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s system. This could be a special season for the Chargers’ QB1, who has seen his win total increase with each season he's been in the league (6-9 in 2020; 9-8 in 2021; 10-7 in 2022).
Christian McCaffrey took the 49ers to another level in 2022, as they went 10-0 in the regular season with the dynamic running back as a starter after acquiring him before the trade deadline. He's been one of the league's top backs since entering the league in 2017, but watching him in Kyle Shanahan’s offense is a thing of beauty. McCaffrey is in line to have a career year in his first full season in San Francisco.
Saquon Barkley was an integral part of the Giants’ success last season, and he was rewarded with a one-year deal worth up to $11 million. I feel for Barkley and other stud running backs in the current market (SEE: Josh Jacobs and Austin Ekeler). I’d love nothing more than to see the two-time Pro Bowler best his 2022 production and sign a well-deserved multi-year deal next offseason -- whether that’s with the Giants or another team.
You could argue that Nick Chubb is the most consistent player in the NFL. He set career-highs in carries (302), rush yards (1,525) and scrimmage touchdowns (13) last season, but more impressive is the fact that he’s averaging 5.2 yards per carry for his career, which is tied for second in NFL history among players with at least 1,000 carries. He’s a workhorse and I don’t see him slowing down just because Deshaun Watson might return to his 2020 form.
Back in Los Angeles with a revised contract after previously seeking a trade, Austin Ekeler will have a big role in Kellen Moore’s offense. Yes, his system should support a more explosive passing attack, but Ekeler’s ability as a dynamic playmaker between the tackles and as a pass-catching option for Justin Herbert should ensure he gets his opportunities. After all, he has led the league in scrimmage touchdowns in back-to-back seasons.