Heading into the 2020 season, which NFL teams are the most complete?
That's the question my esteemed editors at NFL.com posed to me. My initial thought: What does "most complete" even mean? Are we talking about the most TALENTED teams? The teams with the best starting lineups? The deepest rosters, from 1 to 53? Could take this in a lot of different directions ...
After spinning my wheels for a while, I eventually embraced a columnist cliché: Let's consult my friend Merriam-Webster, and see what she has to say!
The top definition for the word "complete": having all necessary parts, elements, or steps.
Well alright. With that phraseology as my guide, I shall identify the most complete teams in the NFL today. This is NOT a Power Ranking; it's a rundown of the teams that have "all necessary parts," Schein Nine style:
General manager Eric DeCosta has assembled the best roster in the NFL, bar none. Last season, the Ravens led the league in scoring and finished third in scoring defense. Both units are positioned to dominate once again in 2020.
On offense, it obviously starts with Lamar Jackson. The former Heisman Trophy winner and reigning NFL MVP took a massive leap forward in his second pro season, leading the league with 36 touchdown passes and shattering Michael Vick's QB record with 1,206 rushing yards. Scary thought: He's only going to get better, with a talented, young supporting cast he can continue to grow alongside. Second-round pick J.K. Dobbins, with his talent, toughness, work ethic and pedigree, was put on Earth to run the football for the Ravens. With Dobbins joining a backfield that already featured Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, Baltimore has every possible skill set you could want from the running back position. Meanwhile, second-year wideout Hollywood Brown can fly, making him a big-play threat on every snap. And tight end Mark Andrews is fresh off a breakout season that ended in the Pro Bowl, thanks to 852 yards and 10 touchdowns. Marshal Yanda's retirement is a hit to the offensive line, no doubt, but the Ravens boast one of the NFL's top tackle tandems in 26-year-old Ronnie Stanley and 24-year-old Orlando Brown Jr.
Defensively, Baltimore remains absolutely stacked in the back end, with first-team All-Pro CB Marlon Humphrey fronting one of the league's most talented secondaries. On the second level, the Ravens snagged first-round pick Patrick Queen, whose athletic game is perfect for the modern NFL. And up front, DeCosta traded for Calais Campbell and added Derek Wolfe in free agency, giving the D-line a pair of experienced, versatile veterans with great leadership skills. Did I mention that Campbell's been a Pro Bowler in five of the past six seasons?
No NFL team is perfect, but DeCosta's fine work -- in free agency and the draft -- has produced a roster with the fewest blemishes in the league today.
Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch need to take a bow. San Francisco traded DeForest Buckner and Matt Breida, let Emmanuel Sanders walk, watched Joe Staley retire and ... somehow got even better.
The Niners still boast the game's best defensive line. First-round pick Javon Kinlaw replaces Buckner. And I loved the decision to prioritize the resigning of Arik Armstead. The former first-rounder rarely receives the credit he deserves, but he really came into his own last season with 10 sacks. Nick Bosa has never lacked for praise, and rightfully so -- the 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year is already a bona fide game wrecker. And what a luxury it is to have Dee Ford as a designated speed rusher. Elsewhere, Fred Warner is emerging as a prototype linebacker for the modern NFL, while Richard Sherman's an ageless wonder at cornerback.
On the other side of the football, the 49ers have the best tight end in football. George Kittle is an absolute force as a receiver and blocker. Speaking of blockers, Trent Williams slides right into Staley's spot on the blind side -- and he's my pick for Comeback Player of the Year. First-round pick Brandon Aiyuk is a brilliant replacement for Emmanuel Sanders; he'll nicely complement playmaking stud Deebo Samuel, who should be able to come back from last month's broken foot pretty early in the season. Jimmy Garoppolo remains polarizing, but I don't know how you can view him as anything worse than solid after last season's performance. And he's obviously helped by San Francisco's potent run game. Raheem Mostert's trade request is concerning, yes, but are you really going to bet against Shanahan forging a productive ground attack one way or another?
Please don't misinterpret the Chiefs' No. 3 ranking on this particular list. I'm picking them to win the Super Bowl. Just like I did last year. Shoot, with Patrick Mahomes now signed through the 2031 season, it's hard to imagine a time when I won't be picking Kansas City to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL, the best player in the NFL and the best show in sports today. Two teams sit above K.C. in this ranking because their rosters are more well-rounded. But with Mahomes' singular greatness, the Chiefs enter the 2020 season as the definite team to beat.
And it's not like the quarterback is surrounded by chopped liver. Home-run hitter Tyreek Hill headlines a receiver group that possesses incredible speed, talent and depth, while Travis Kelce's the best tight end this side of George Kittle. In the draft, Brett Veach scooped up Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a dynamic all-purpose back whom Andy Reid described as being better than Brian Westbrook. The defense is highlighted by Pro Bowl DT Chris Jones. He's a difference-making star -- just look at how he wrecked the 49ers' Super Bowl hopes -- and K.C. needs to get him signed. Safety Tyrann Mathieu is a certified stud. So is edge menace Frank Clark.
New Orleans is locked and loaded once again. GM Mickey Loomis had a superb offseason in free agency and the draft. On the open market, the Saints astutely added Emmanuel Sanders, the perfect complement to Michael Thomas, and re-acquired old friend Malcolm Jenkins, who brings valuable experience and leadership to the secondary. In the draft, New Orleans made one of the game's best offensive lines even better with the addition of Cesar Ruiz, before grabbing a potential steal in third-round linebacker Zack Baun.
Drew Brees still has gas in the tank at age 41, especially when he's throwing to the best receiver in the game. And a return to health for Alvin Kamara cannot be understated; when he's right, the Saints back is an electric playmaker running and receiving. In a related vein, the defense should be healthier than it was down the stretch last season. Third-year DE Marcus Davenport could be poised for a breakout campaign.
Much has been written about the offense. Not surprising, with Tom Brady's relocation to Tampa. The G.O.A.T is still great -- and now he has the league's premier 1-2 punch at receiver in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. And Rob Gronkowski's reuniting with the quarterback, while joining a TE group that already included O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Talk about a wealth of receiving options! Not to mention, the Buccaneers' O-line got better with the addition of No. 13 overall pick Tristan Wirfs.
But the defense is what sells Tampa Bay as a total package. In the second half of last season, when the Bucs' young secondary started to come into its own, this D was top-tier. Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh form a brick wall against the run, Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul hunt quarterbacks off the edge, and Lavonte David and Devin White comprise the best linebacking duo in the game.
Trade acquisition Stefon Diggs gives Josh Allen the true No. 1 receiver he needed -- and gives Buffalo legit depth and talent at receiver, joining John Brown and Cole Beasley. Allen was so tough and clutch last year when it mattered during the regular season. I really think he's primed for a monster 2020. Devin Singletary and Zack Moss will be a solid 1-2 punch at running back, too.
It's only fitting that I haven't even mentioned Sean McDermott's defense, the unit which -- unbeknownst to many -- finished last season at second in points allowed and third in total D. The front seven is very strong, with Tremaine Edmunds emerging as one of the game's most dynamic young linebackers. Tre'Davious White is a flat-out star at corner, earning first-team All-Pro honors last season.
Buffalo isn't the flashiest team in the NFL, but it's definitely one of the league's best.
Dallas oozes offensive talent. Ezekiel Elliott is still one of the NFL's top running backs. The Amari Cooper-Michael Gallup-CeeDee Lamb trio at receiver is dreamy. Yes, Lamb was highway robbery at the No. 17 pick; he's going to be a star. With Mike McCarthy coaching him up, Dak Prescott will dominate and put up gaudy numbers. (Note to Jerry and Stephen Jones: The longer everyone drags their feet on this extension, the more it's going to cost.) Don't be surprised when this offense carries Dallas to the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC playoffs.
While losing Byron Jones was a blow to the defense, Dallas still has horses on that side. I still strongly believe in Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. DeMarcus Lawrence and Gerald McCoy should present plenty of problems for opposing offensive lines.
They belong on this list because of the gobs of talent across this roster. Baker Mayfield enjoyed a splendid rookie campaign before regressing last year. A new coach will get him back on the right track. As will bookend additions Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills Jr., who change the offensive line. Odell Beckham Jr. should bounce back in a major way with better health, while Jarvis Landry will be his typically reliable self. Austin Hooper is an upgrade as a pass-catching tight end. Lastly, Nick Chubb is one of the best pure running backs in the business, while Kareem Hunt would be starting on a large number of teams.
The Browns' defense has dudes all over the place, beginning with Myles Garrett. He was well on his way to a second consecutive Pro Bowl before losing his mind and striking Mason Rudolph with the quarterback's own helmet. That ghastly incident rightly cost Garrett the rest of the season. Will he come back motivated -- with something to prove -- in 2020? When it comes to the former No. 1 overall pick's talent, the sky's the limit.
Yes, over their AFC South foes in Tennessee. I love this team. Indy has the best offensive lineman in football in Quenton Nelson -- and there's a solid argument for the O-line as a whole being the NFL's best. RB Jonathan Taylor and WR Michael Pittman Jr. were draft steals. Neither was selected in the first round, but both made Lance Zierlein's list of the top 10 Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates. Philip Rivers is coming off of a down year, but the future Hall of Famer is an upgrade for the Colts at quarterback.
The defense wasn't bad last season, but the unit should take a step forward after the trade for DeForest Buckner. He's a game-wrecking force up front, the kind of menacing defender who'll make life easier for Indy's supreme linebacking corps. Darius Leonard is one of the best defensive players in football, while Bobby Okereke showed plenty as a rookie and Anthony Walker was stout as always.