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NFL's top 10 most complete teams for 2024 season: 49ers robust; Browns, Jets could contend

Let's get this out of the way early: Bills and Dolphins fans won't be too happy when they read this. Neither will supporters of the Cowboys, Rams or Steelers.

None of those teams -- all of which made the playoffs last season -- are featured on my list of the NFL's most complete rosters. They were close, but in the end, there were enough questions with each to leave all of them off.

In the cases of Buffalo, Miami and Dallas, notable offseason departures and/or particularly lean positions heading into the season raised big concerns. Teams such as the Steelers or even the Bears might stake a claim to joining these ranks by season's end, but I wasn't yet ready to include them.

So have at it, folks. Tear this rundown to shreds. If you're looking for ammunition to use against me, might I suggest starting with a look at last year’s edition? There were enough non-playoff teams featured to enjoy a good chuckle.

There are fans of 20 or more franchises that might make the case for belonging on a list of teams featuring the most talent (and the fewest major questions), but only 10 made the cut.

You can’t have a list of the best rosters and not offer up the 49ers. They might not be as strong at quarterback as other teams featured on this list are, but Brock Purdy showed growth last season. Plus, he has arguably the best play-caller in the business in Kyle Shanahan and a terrific supporting cast.

Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle are arguably as good a quartet of playmakers as there is in the NFL today. There are a few Niners units that might not be truly special, such as the offensive line (even with Trent Williams), secondary and special teams, but there really isn’t a position that you can consider a glaring weakness.

The defense was a top-10 unit a season ago and will bring back standouts such as Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, Charvarius Ward, Dre Greenlaw, Javon Hargrave and Talanoa Hufanga. The depth across the board, but especially on defense, is better than it was a few years ago. That’s impressive, considering the number of bold, expensive moves the team has made to land star talents.

Even without an elite quarterback, the Niners have as few questions about their roster as almost any team in the league.

The Ravens felt the sting of an offseason that saw them lose depth and experience on both sides of the ball. Their offensive line ranks have been depleted, the loss of Patrick Queen takes away one emerging playmaker and they arguably took a small step backward in talent at receiver.

They’re also debatably less deep in the backfield, even if the addition of Derrick Henry and the return from injury of Keaton Mitchell provide hope. With reigning MVP Lamar Jackson at the peak of his powers, helped by a strong supporting cast of Henry, Mark Andrews, Zay Flowers and others, the offense should keep humming -- assuming the offensive line can find enough pieces to man all the positions ably.

Defensively, this remains a very good group, even with the losses of Queen, Jadeveon Clowney and Ronald Darby. Kyle Hamilton and Roquan Smith are two of the very best at what they do. Keeping Justin Madubuike was crucial; he teams with Michael Pierce to form a very stout middle up front. The hope is that young pass rushers Odafe Oweh, David Ojabo and Adisa Isaac can keep the rush unit effective after a 60-sack season.

The Ravens’ special teams might not have been quite as dominant last season as in years past, but this remains a group that ranks up there with the best rosters in the NFL.

The Chiefs are beautifully flawed -- by no means perfect, and arguably less talented than several teams on this list, but quite gifted nonetheless. Measuring football talent is not a uniform, homogeneous endeavor. Some positions are simply more important than others, starting with quarterback, where the Chiefs have the best player in the world.

Patrick Mahomes’ brilliance can overcome some of the shortcomings of a roster, as we’ve seen during back-to-back Super Bowl championships. Last season was more stark, with the Chiefs’ receivers threatening to destroy the whole operation. But even with Rashee Rice’s offseason legal troubles leading to questions about his status for the 2024 campaign, the additions of veteran Marquise Brown and first-rounder Xavier Worthy help stabilize the group and provide more vertical speed.

Mahomes is joined by other elite (or borderline elite) offensive teammates: TE Travis Kelce, another future Hall of Famer, and offensive linemen Creed Humphrey, Joe Thuney and Trey Smith. Along with some solid contributors such as Isiah Pacheco and Jawaan Taylor and the genius of Andy Reid, there’s more than enough here.

Following the trade of L’Jarius Sneed, the Chiefs don’t have many top-tier defenders outside of Chris Jones and Trent McDuffie, but there’s a strong corps of contributors on every level of Steve Spagnuolo's group. There might be a few softer spots, but this was a top-five unit last season. As with the offense, the Chiefs have done a masterful job of team building.

Detroit Lions

When Brad Holmes took over as Lions general manager in 2021, he inherited probably one of the 10 worst rosters in the NFL, maybe bottom five. But Holmes and his staff have made sweeping changes in the three-plus years since then and have turned the Lions into one of the league’s more enviable situations.

Jared Goff might not be elite, but last season proved you absolutely can win with him. Similar to the 49ers, the Lions are just so talented at most positions, allowing a very strong supporting cast to hold the entire operation together. There aren’t any truly weak positions in Detroit now. Safety and wide receiver might be a little lean after a certain point of the depth chart, the special teams remain a small question and the Lions would really love for another front-seven defender or two to level up. But across the board, there’s nice starting talent and decent depth.

The Lions’ offensive line is one of the league’s very best. There are fine playmakers in Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jahmyr Gibbs, David Montgomery, Sam LaPorta and potentially Jameson Williams, if he takes another step. They all benefit from the return of offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.

Defensively, there are strong talents on all three levels for what should be an improved unit. Aidan Hutchinson is already a star. Brian Branch might turn into one soon, as could emerging talents such as Alim McNeill, Ifeatu Melifonwu and Jack Campbell. There’s a good collection of glue guys: D.J. Reader, Alex Anzalone and Derrick Barnes among them. Depth issues at cornerback were addressed with the trade for Carlton Davis and drafting of Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr.

It’s hard to argue that Philadelphia's late-season collapse was a function of talent. To me, it looked like a good team burned out amid the most taxing portion of the schedule. Assuming the Eagles can restore some good vibes in the locker room and stay firm through the tougher stretches of the schedule, they absolutely can be top-shelf contenders again.

The retirements of Jason Kelce and Fletcher Cox cannot be overlooked, and some positions offer far more depth than others. The secondary is a young group, with two rookies possibly playing big roles, and linebacker remains a question until proven otherwise. But other than that, there really aren’t too many problem areas.

The offense looks like an elite unit, especially after the addition of Saquon Barkley. Jalen Hurts took a step backward last season, but he has star traits and two top-tier receivers -- A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith -- as well as a quality tight end in Dallas Goedert. That’s a great group of playmakers, even if there’s a drop-off thereafter. Led by Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson, the O-line has the makings of another strong group, although Kelce’s departure creates a giant hole in the middle.

The Eagles’ recent drafts have had more of a defensive bent, with their past four first-rounders all coming on that side of the ball. Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis are a wicked duo inside, and the pass-rush combo of Josh Sweat and Bryce Huff looks like a good one. Devin White is a wild card at linebacker, but the secondary looks far more stabilized with the return of C.J. Gardner-Johnson and the drafting of CB Quinyon Mitchell and DB Cooper DeJean.

The Bengals went 9-8 last season despite being without Joe Burrow for seven games and having to face arguably the league’s toughest schedule. That’s a testament to the talent they’ve collected.

Tee Higgins requested a trade back in March, but he said in April that he expects to play for the team in 2024, so it sounds like we’ll see Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase once again form one of the best 1-2 WR punches. They’re backed by more depth from recent drafts. The offensive line was once a problem but appears mostly fixed after a few years of repair work. The biggest questions on offense are at running back, where Chase Brown and Zack Moss are the top options, and tight end, with Mike Gesicki, Drew Sample and Tanner Hudson atop the depth chart.

The defense suffered a backslide last season but has the talent to return to respectability. A reunion with Vonn Bell helps solidify a shaky secondary, and DT Sheldon Rankins helps offset the loss of D.J. Reader in free agency. Trey Hendrickson leads a good rush unit, while Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt comprise one of the league’s most underrated linebacker duos. Do the Bengals have enough in the secondary to get by? I think they do.

The return of Burrow, a top-10 quarterback, means Cincy should be in the Super Bowl hunt once more. The division is a bear, but there’s ample talent to make a push while Higgins remains on the roster.

What a difference a year makes. The Texans weren’t devoid of talent prior to last season, but they most certainly weren't roundly considered among the most well-stocked teams. Following Rookie of the Year seasons from C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson Jr., it’s hard not to see what they’ve started building in Houston. A few aggressive moves this offseason only underscored that effort.

After seeing how advanced Stroud was in Year 1, the Texans chose to go all in with trades for Stefon Diggs, Joe Mixon and Ben Skowronek on offense and the signings of Danielle Hunter, Azeez Al-Shaair, Denico Autry and a slew of veteran defensive backs on defense. Combining them with a strong group of first-, second- and third-year talent gives Houston a roster several other clubs would be envious of. 

Stroud has a strong group of pass catchers now with Diggs, Nico Collins, Tank Dell, Robert Woods and Noah Brown, along with the return of TE Dalton Schultz. They were hamstrung as an offense with an inconsistent run game, which the arrival of Mixon figures to boost. And a long-maligned offensive line, one which was beset significantly by injury a year ago, appears to be in far better shape now.

The pass rush of Anderson and Hunter will be a big part of the defense. The group has some questions at defensive tackle, could use more plays from its linebacker unit and has a secondary that might take some time to meld. But don’t overlook Houston’s special teams, which were among the best in the league last season.

DeMeco Ryans and Nick Caserio are putting a solid group together as the young Texans try to barnstorm their way to another playoff appearance.

The Packers have selected 35 players in the past three drafts. They also watched the quarterback they drafted 26th overall in 2020 flourish last season, as Jordan Love went from midseason question to down-the-stretch star. Seeing that, the Packers made two rare free-agent plunges -- one on each side of the ball -- to capitalize on a suddenly deep well of talent in Green Bay.

Love has arguably the best young receiving corps in the NFL, even if there’s not a clear-cut No. 1 option right now. With Jayden Reed, Romeo Doubs, Christian Watson, Dontayvion Wicks and others, Green Bay's teeming with second- and third-year talent. The same holds true at tight end with Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft. The offensive line still has some roles to sort out, but the run game could be strong regardless, given the additions of two-time Pro Bowler Josh Jacobs and third-rounder MarShawn Lloyd.

The addition of safety Xavier McKinney makes a good defense better. The Packers allowed some big pass plays and didn’t force enough turnovers last season, but there’s a pretty stout front, more promise at linebacker and enough CB talent outside of Jaire Alexander to solidify that position. The nucleus of Alexander, Rashan Gary, Kenny Clark, Preston Smith, Quay Walker, Lukas Van Ness and others could make this a top-12 unit by season’s end.

The Browns arguably made only one major veteran addition this offseason and had a depleted draft till, but the amount of talent that returns from injury helps put them on this list. Jerry Jeudy arrived via trade and remains a question of sorts, but he adds weaponry to an offense that hasn’t been as effective as Cleveland's D.

Amari Cooper, David Njoku and Jeudy likely open the season as Deshaun Watson’s top receiving options, but watch out for Cedric Tillman and Elijah Moore, too. Watson remains a wild card, but he at least was rounding into form before his season-ending shoulder injury flared up. 

Running back Nick Chubb and right tackle Jack Conklin are still working their way back from major knee injuries, and the Browns’ top three tackles all were hurt last year. But with a strong interior and decent depth, Cleveland's O-line can return to form. Watson and the injured players give this offense higher variance, but it looks to be a better group on paper.

Cleveland had one of the best defenses in the NFL last season, and it won’t be surprising if that’s the case again. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith are a top rush duo, and Dalvin Tomlinson has more help inside with the additions of Quinton Jefferson and rookie Michael Hall Jr. Jordan Hicks looks like a solid acquisition to line up next to Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at linebacker. The secondary boasts perhaps the NFL’s best CB trio in Denzel Ward, Martin Emerson Jr. and Greg Newsome II, along with an unremarkable but fairly deep group of safeties.

New York Jets

I debated a host of teams for the final spot here, including AFC East rivals Buffalo and Miami, the Cowboys, and up-and-coming teams such as the Bears. But once I looked closer, it became obvious to me: The Jets have enough to be considered a top-10 roster -- all things considered -- at least for this season. 

Aaron Rodgers’ injury left the passing game in shambles. It accounted for 11 TDs, 15 INTs and a mere 5.6 yards per attempt. But even so, the Jets went 7-10, losing three one-score games at home, and I believe the roster -- irrespective of Rodgers -- is simply stronger than it was a year ago.

Offensively, the Jets have a true No. 1 receiver (Garrett Wilson), a stacked backfield led by Breece Hall and an offensive line deep enough where first-round OT Olu Fashanu might not be required to start immediately thanks to the additions of Tyron Smith and Morgan Moses. Tight end remains average, and the receiving depth could be tested if Mike Williams has injury issues or rookie Malachi Corley isn’t ready, but for the most part, New York is in far better shape on this side of the ball.

Bryce Huff and John Franklin-Myers departed on defense, but the additions of Haason Reddick and Javon Kinlaw could help offset those losses. The rest of the unit continues to look strong for a group that ranked top five in several categories and allowed fewer points than the much-ballyhooed Browns. Anchored by Quinnen Williams up front, C.J. Mosley in the middle and Sauce Gardner on the back end, Gang Green figures to field another great defense.

There might be questions about head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, but the Jets’ talent is stronger than many are ready to admit. If Rodgers is healthy, this is a playoff contender.

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