Entering the 2022 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 2021 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:
No surprise here: The back-to-back MVP enters the season at the top of my rankings. I'm curious to watch how this season plays out in Green Bay, with Davante Adams gone and Rodgers throwing to a new crop of receivers. The veteran QB has routinely elevated the play of his pass catchers in past seasons; if he can do that again, there's a good chance Rodgers keeps a tight grip on the NFC North -- and perhaps the No. 1 spot.
Kupp had the season of all seasons for a wide receiver in 2021. He captured the receiving triple crown in the regular season before being named the game MVP in the Rams' victory over the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. With his historic season and a contract extension in the rearview, Kupp's focus has been on improving this offseason. "The name of the game is being bigger, stronger, faster than you were the year before, and then all the stuff you can do cognitively to be able to slow the game down. ... It's not about what the paper says at the end of the day, it's what the film says," Kupp told Rich Eisen last week. "And I want to go look at film and say I was a better football player than I was in 2021." If he's better on film, it's not outlandish to think his stat line could equal what we saw last season (145 catches, 1,947 receiving yards, 16 receiving TDs). Scary, isn't it?
Though the Bills didn't get past the Divisional Round, Allen went off in last year's postseason, completing 77.4 percent of his passes for 637 yards and nine pass TDs with zero picks in two games. If he plays even close to that level this fall, the preseason MVP favorite could end up collecting the actual hardware. Even if he doesn't (and I personally don't see it happening), the well-rounded Bills should still be in good position to make a run.
The Chiefs have been in the AFC Championship Game for four straight years, and while Mahomes isn't the sole reason for their success, he's a big one. With a Gumby arm that allows him to make any and every throw in the playbook, Mahomes is a proven winner. Playing without Tyreek Hill for the first time in his career, Mahomes must find new ways to keep the Chiefs at the top of the AFC West. It won't be easy, but you can't put anything past him after the Grim Reaper moment.
With 2,171 scrimmage yards and 20 total touchdowns in 2021, Taylor nearly ran the Colts to the postseason with almost no help from the 26th-ranked passing game. Now that former MVP Matt Ryan is leading Marcus Brady's offense, we can expect a more balanced attack in 2022. That could lessen Taylor's production -- but not his impact as a runner or pass catcher.
As good as Cooper Kupp and Justin Jefferson have been, there's nobody better at the position than the new Raiders receiver. (Kupp ranks above Adams because of the former's impact on the Rams' postseason success.) Unmatched at the line of scrimmage, Adams is nearly impossible for defensive backs to plaster. Combine that with his elite hands and body control, and there's no questioning why Las Vegas went after him hard this offseason. He's a game-altering player, and you can't get enough of those if you're a team in the AFC West.
Derek had one of his best statistical seasons in 2021 and helped get the Raiders back to the postseason for the first time since 2016, accomplishing that in a season full of trials and tribulations in Las Vegas. The Raiders added the league's top wide receiver (Adams) and hired offensive guru Josh McDaniels as head coach to put Derek in prime position to build on last season's success.
Herbert has steadily improved his play since taking over as QB1 in Week 2 of 2020, but he looks poised to take even bigger strides in his second season with OC Joe Lombardi. Herbert is going to be more comfortable, and the loaded Chargers defense is going to give him more chances, which will help boost Herbert's production and confidence.
Carr, Herbert and Burrow could've gone in any order, if I'm being honest. While Burrow helped lead his team to the Super Bowl last season, he received a boost from his supporting cast that Carr (only one player topped 665 receiving yards) and Herbert (the Chargers ranked 28th in yards allowed per game from December on) did not. Burrow is in good position to build off the postseason run, with the offensive line being revamped and most of his offensive playmakers coming back.
Jefferson has been electric early in his career, and he holds the NFL record for most receiving yards in a player's first two seasons, with 3,016. While what he's done so far is impressive, I'm more tuned in to his hunger heading into Year 3. In July, Jefferson stated, without hesitating: "I'll say after this year I'll be the best receiver in the NFL." He's not satisfied with simply being a top-five wide receiver. With that mindset and the fact that he's now playing in Kevin O'Connell's receiver-friendly offense, Jefferson could have his best season to date.
The only way Brady wouldn't start the season in my top-15 list is if he had stayed retired. Just named No. 1 by his peers in the Top 100 Players of 2022, the 45-year-old continues to raise his game every time he steps on the field. It's been an interesting preseason in Tampa, with Brady taking extended time off and injuries to the offensive line, but we've seen Brady overcome before. This year won't be any different.
Kelce is one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the game right now. Mahomes' favorite target, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end is an incredibly reliable pass catcher who always pushes for the extra yard. Kelce has had six straight seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards, and this model of consistency -- while sprinkling in a flashy play here and there -- is coveted by every offensive coordinator and despised by every defensive one.
Chase emerged as a major downfield playmaker for the Bengals as he led the league with seven deep receiving touchdowns (20-plus air yards) last season, per Next Gen Stats. The second-year wideout held the final spot in these rankings heading into last year's regular-season finale, and Chase's big postseason effort keeps him in.
The 2019 league MVP looks ready for REVENGE SZN, and it all starts with having his All-Pro left tackle back. The sand in the contract hourglass is running out, but whether or not a deal gets done, Jackson should be back to making highlight-reel plays with his legs and arm. Sunday can't come soon enough.
It's tough to put a player who spent most of the prior season on IR in the top 15, but this guy is different. Henry finished ninth in the NFL in rushing yards in 2021 (937) despite missing nine games. Healthy and motivated heading into his seventh season, Henry is poised to wreck defenses once again.
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