NFC South starting lineup grades

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They are coming out quickly now, getting ready for opening weekend. Here is the NFC South starting lineup grades.

New Orlean Saints

eileenploh / Pixabay

Atlanta Falcons
QB Matt Ryan is often overrated, but mostly gets the job done. Most mistakes come from trying to do too much. His contract extension was sizable but structured well. B+
RB Devonta Freeman Speaking of overrated…though his ceiling tops out well below that of Ryan. How much does Freeman really have in the tank? B-
WR Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and R Calvin Ridley. Drafting Ridley was an odd choice for a team with 2 solid receivers and a lot of defensive issues. Still, this group will help Ryan put points on the board. B+
TE Austin Hooper, Logan Paulsen. Hooper has some potential but makes a lot of critical mistakes. Paulson was a nice veteran FA addition and is a solid blocker. C+
OL LT Jake Matthews LG Andy Levitre C Alex Mack RG Wes Schweitzer RT Ryan Schraeder team is returning all 5 starters, but Brandon Fusco may push Schweitzer for the RG job. Mack is an All Pro. Levitre is an excellent run blocker but is coming off an injury. B-
DL Takkarist McKinley, Terrell McClain, Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley Letting Dontari Poe leave remains a huge mistake. Claybourn is also gone (NE). Beasley and Jarrett are respectable. McKinley showed good pass rush skills his rookie season, but this group still feels soft. C
LB WLB Duke Riley MLB Deion Jones SLB De’Vondre Campbell. Jones is a Pro Bowler. Campbell is improving and has benefited from the move to SAM in 2017. Riley is behind the rest of the group and there’s not much depth. C
DB CB Robert Alford, Desmond Trufant, Brian Poole. Lack of depth and underperformance in critical situations in this group contributed hugely to the Falcons demise last season. Attempts to bolster CB this offseason with Justin Bethel (Cardinals) and Isaiah Oliver didn’t  impress me much.  FS Keanu Neal, SS Ricardo Allen. Lots of depth in this group. Allen is a true QB of the defense. C+ (safeties B+, CBs C-)
Carolina Panthers 
QB Cam Newton gets an A when it comes to natural talent, but that will never matter unless he finally gets his head screwed on straight. C
RB CJ Anderson, Christian McCaffrey. Anderson was a nice pickup, but the acquisition is getting more attention than it should. McCaffrey is a stellar pass catcher and excels at finding the end zone, but can’t realistically carry the load on the ground. C+
WR Torrey Smith, Devin Funchess, DJ Moore. Underwhelming but functional group. Can Moore be a breakout contributor? Big changes this offseason, but are the really any different in terms of where they rank than the disappointing receiving corps from 2017? C
TE Greg Olsen is among the league’s best. A
OL LT Matt Kalil, LG Amini Silatolu, C Ryan Kalil, RG Trai Turner, RT Taylor Moton. The Panthers have lost 3 starters to injury, all of whom have uncertain timetables. Matt Kalil just had his knee scoped. The depth isn’t good and the term “position catastrophe” has been tossed around by local media. D
DL Julius Peppers, Dontari Poe, Kawann Short, Mario Addison Solid across all 4 spots. Poe was a near perfect replacement for Star Lotulelei. Depth is the only potential issue. A-
LB SLB Shaq Thompson, MLB Luke Kuechly, WLB Thomas Davis. Kuechly is among the league’s best. Davis will start the season serving a four-game suspension. The Panthers have some depth to absorb that, but it’s largely unproven. B+.
DB CB James Bradberry, Kevon Seymour, FS Mike Adams, SS Da’Norris Searcy. Bradberry and Adams are the only returning starters after a season in which this group sank the entire defense. Searcy has experience but will be pushed in camp by younger candidates. Lots of questions about how the lack of depth here will impact play against teams using heavy receiver sets. C-
New Orleans Saints
QB Drew Brees can throw successfully to anyone, against anyone, protected by anyone, and he never gets injured despite advancing age. A
RB Mark Ingram (suspended 4 games PEDs), Alvin Kamara. Ingram was overrated last season and will go right back to being the Ingram we all know and hate now that he’s off the PEDs. Kamara has a ton of talent and can pick up the slack during Ingram’s suspension, but can he stay healthy? B-
WR Ted Ginn Jr., Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, Cameron Meredith. Unremarkable group? Yes. Does it matter? Not a bit. Brees spreads the ball around better than anyone in football and can make mediocre receivers look good. C+
TE Benjamin Watson, Josh Hill. Watson is a good leader who once had good physical talent, but he’s old and has had multiple head injuries. C
OL LT Terron Armstead, LG Andrus Peat, C Max Unger, RG Larry Warford, RT Ryan Ramczyk. This might be the best OL in the league. They’re not an A in a vacuum, but they sure are when you grade on a bell curve. A
DL Cameron Jordan, Sheldon Rankins, Tyeler Davison, Alex Okafor, R Marcus Davenport. Potentially excellent, especially in terms of depth, but can they continue to develop at the pace they achieved last year? Was drafting Davenport really the right way to go? B-
LB SLB AJ Klein, MLB Manti Te’o WLB Demario Davis. Weakest and most concerning unit on an otherwise up-and-coming, solid defense. Worst LB corps in the division. Klein has good experience as Kuechly’s backup in Carolina, but can he stand on his own? C-
DB CB Ken Crawley, Marshon Lattimore, Patrick Robinson FS Marcus Williams SS Kurt Coleman. Critical youth-driven mistakes cost them dearly in the playoffs last season. That should improve as the group ages and gains experience. B
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Jameis Winston starts the season with a 3-game suspension and can’t stay out of trouble, forcing Fitzpatrick to start for the 3 opening tilts and possibly again if Winston can’t keep it together. On the field, Winston has been decent but seems to have stagnated in terms of career progress, likely a coaching issue. C
RB Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers, Ronald Jones. Hugely concerning unless you’re a big believer in the potential of Ronald Jones. Did it really make sense to release Doug Martin? C-
WR Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson. Evans is as good as it gets, Jackson has lost some flash but still contributes well. Depth is decent but not exceptional. A-
TE OJ Howard, Cameron Brate Howard is well on his way to being a star at the position. A-
OL LT Donovan Smith LG Ali Marpet C Ryan Jensen RG Caleb Benenoch, Demar Dotson. Tons of issues with 80% of starters returning from a disastrous 2017 group, though positions have been rejiggered slightly. This is still a bottom half of the league line. D+
DL Jason Pierre-Paul, Gerald McCoy, Beau Allen (R Vita Vea), Vinny Curry The talent level here is ridiculous, but the group underachieved horrifically last season. We mostly blamed coaching, and unfortunately that doesn’t look like it will change much. The players themselves get a B+
LB SLB Adarius Taylor MLB Kwon Alexander WLB Lavonte Davis. This group underachieved far less than others on this defense last season, and their positional coach was hired away. B+
DB CB Vernon Hargreaves, Brent Grimes, R Carlton Davis, S Chris Conte, Justin Evans. A lot of youth and inexperience in the position group. Hargreaves has had some injury issues, and the safeties concern me. C-

NFC North Starting lineup grades

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For everyone asking for NFC North starting lineup grades, here you are. Hope you have time to get ready for opening weekend.

Chicago Bears

RonnyK / Pixabay

NFC North
Bears
QB Mitch Trubisky
I am not sure Mitch is the right guy but he is all they have C
RB Jordan Howard
Howard is solid but this group is deep with quality A-
WR Allen Robinson & Taylor Gabriel & Anthony Miller
Robinson is FA from JK. He & Gabriel will start. White is a bust & may get cut. Miller & Fowler will stay. B
TE Trey Burton
Miller is out so Burton will start C
OL lt Charles Leno lg James Daniels c Cody Whitehair rg Kyle Long rt Bobby Massie
Right side is OK left not so much. C
DL le Jonathan Bullard nt Eddie Goldman re Akiem Hicks
Hicks is solid rest are not D
LB lolb Khalil Mack lilb Danny Trevathan rilb Nick Kwiatkoski rolb Leonard Floyd
Group is solid and will be better with Mack and when Roquan Smith gets in B+
DB lc Prince Amukamara rc Kyle Fuller fs Eddie Jackson ss Adrian Amos
This is the strength of the D and will get better with Amukamara healthy B+
Lions
QB Matthew Stafford
Top 5 and has a RB now. A-
RB LeGarrette Blount
2 time NFL Champ that can hit the middle of the D. B+
WR Marvin Jones & Golden Tate
This group is outstanding. Tate FA from SE. A-
TE Luke Willson & Michael Roberts
Wilson can catch Roberts is the blocker B-
OL lt Taylor Decker lg Frank Ragnow c Graham Glasgow rg T.J. Lang rt Ricky Wagner
Group is green as baby peas but has potential C-
DL le Anthony Zettel lt A’Shawn Robinson rt Sylvester Williams re Ezekiel Ansah
Ansah is find the rest are not D
LB Solb Devon Kennard ml Jarrad Davis wolb Jalen Reeves-Maybin
Davis & Reeves-Maybin are young & have potential. Kennard is OK C-
DB lc Darius Slay rc Teez Tabor fs Glover Quin ss Quandre Diggs
Tabor is the weak link otherwise OK B-
Packers
QB Aaron Rodgers
If the OL can keep him healthy he is fine A-
RB Jamaal Williams
He is OK but needs better blocking by the OL C
WR Davante Adams & Randall Cobb & Geronimo Allison
2/3 of the group are fine Allison is the problem B-
TE Jimmy Graham
SE Loss is GB Gain B+
OL lt David Bakhtiari lg Lane Taylor c Corey Linsley rg Justin McCray rt Bryan Bulaga
lt Bakhtiari is solid rest not so much C-
DL le Muhammad Wilkerson nt Kenny Clark re Mike Daniels
re Daniels is decent. FA Wilkerson may help vs run. C-
LB lolb Clay Matthews lilb Blake Martinez rilb Oren Burks rolb Nick Perry
Matthews is fine if healthy. Martinez stops the run. Rest are average B-
DB lc Jaire Alexander rc Tramon Williams fs Ha Ha Clinton-Dix ss Josh Jones
Corners are weak but HaHa & Jones are OK. C
Vikings
QB Kirk Cousins
Risked everything to bring in Cousins after getting to the NFC Champ game last year C
RB Dalvin Cook
Cook was hurt most of last year. Should be fine this season. B
WR Adam Thielen & Stefon Diggs
Cousins has never has this good a group of WR A-
TE Kyle Rudolph
Solid A-
OL lt Riley Reiff lg Tom Compton c Pat Elflein rg Aviante Collins rt Mike Remmers
OL is very over rated C
DL le Danielle Hunter lt Linval Joseph rt Sheldon Richardson re Everson Griffen
Griffen is solid rest is not. Depth will help. B
LB solb Anthony Barr mlb Eric Kendricks wolb Ben Gedeon
Barr & Kendricks are solid, Gedeon is a project B+
DB lc Xavier Rhodes rc Trae Waynes fs Harrison Smith ss Andrew Sendejo
Rhodes & Smith are all pros Rest are OK. A-

NFC East starting lineup Grades

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Lets take a look at the NFL NFC East starting lineup grades. Get the grades before you make your trades.

Dallas Cowboys

skeeze / Pixabay

Cowboys
QB Dak Prescott is a capable leader who had an outstanding rookie campaign but regressed notably in his sophomore effort. Jury’s still out on whether the problem was him or his offensive teammates. C+
RB Zeke Elliott – Assuming he stays out of trouble and off the suspended list, he’s among the best in the NFL. A-
WR Allen Hurns was a good pickup. Terrance Williams is a perpetual underachiever. Cole Beasley is yet to develop into the Julian Edelman type he’s been touted as. Pain in the butt though he may be, this wasn’t the right time to cut Dez. C
TE Witten’s abrupt retirement put the team in a bad spot at TE. Geoff Swaim and Rico Gathers don’t look up to the task. D
OL LT Tyron Smith LG Connor Williams C Travis Frederick RG Zack Martin RG La’el Collins. Smith is having a great camp, but there are no standouts here and the whole group badly underachieved last season. C-
DL DE Demarcus Lawrence DT Datone Jones DT Jihad Ward DE Tyrone Crawford A decent group whose stats are handicapped by poor coaching. Will Taco Charlton ever improve enough to contribute more? C
LB SLB Damien Wilson MLB Jaylon Smith WLB Sean Lee Layton Vander Esch was the first round pick. Where does he fit? Lee is productive but cant stay healthy. C+
DB CBs Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie FS Xavier Woods SS Jeff Heath. Underwhelming as a group, with the CBs grading out slightly better than the safeties. C-
New York Giants
QB Eli Manning We’ll see both Good Eli and Bad Eli this season, as we do every year. The question is which one shows up more frequently, and can Good Eli do enough to help a Giants team coming off an incredibly embarrassing season? B
RB Saquon Barkley‘s skill set is legit, but can he carry the brutal load of an NFL RB1? B
WR OBJ is good but vastly overrated and has health concerns. Sterling Shepard also has health issues. The rest are just guys. C
TE Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison. Engram had an impressive rookie campaign. Can he continue in that vein? Ellison is a solid workhorse blocker. B
OL LT Nate Solder LG Will Hernandez C Jon Halapio RG Patrick Omameh RT Ereck Flowers. Hugely improved with the acquisition of Solder and the Hernandez pick, but carries concerns about L-R balance. C+
DL DE BJ Hill NT Damon Harrison DE Dalvin Tomlinson. The scheme change may help, but the entire defense lacks depth and talent, no more so than in the DL group. Where will the pass rush come from? D-
LB SLB Kareem Martin MLB Alec Ogletree MLB BJ Goodson WLB Olivier Vernon A tick better on paper than the DL unit, but will likely suffer at their hands. D
DB CBs Eli Apple, Janoris Jenkins FS Curtis Riley SS Landon Collins Collins gets the job done. Jenkins was a disastrous underachiever last season. Apple is a problem on multiple levels. D
Philadelphia Eagles
QB Nick Foles/Carson Wentz Can Foles keep it together long enough to allow Wentz to safely get back to 100% before taking the field? Wentz has a ton of talent and Foles really stepped up in the playoffs, but Foles’ luck is probably running out and we don’t know how Wentz will look when he returns. B
RB Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles. I like both of these guys better than most do, especially Sproles. If Tiny Beast can stay healthy, they have a lot of creative options in the run game. B
WR Alshon Jeffrey, Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor. If Mike Wallace actually behaves in the best interest of his team, it will be the first time ever. Jeffrey has health issues, but the talent here is good. B
TE Zach Ertz. Among the best in the league and somehow still often undervalued. A
OL LT Jason Peters LG Stefen Wisniewski C Jason Kelce RG Brandon Brooks RT Lane Johnson A lot hinges on whether Peters plays or if Johnson has to move to LT. Among the best OLs in the NFL regardless. A-
DL DE Derrick Barnett DT Tim Jernigan DT Fletcher Cox DE Brandon Graham. Solid group with depth that also has Michael Bennett, Chris Long, and Haloti Ngata in the mix. A
LB SLB Nathan Gerry MLB Jordan Hicks WLB Nigel Bradham. The Eagles have almost unmatched depth across the entire front 7. A
DB CBs Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby S Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod. This is the defensive unit for the Eagles that I have the least confidence in, but they’re still better than 90% of the league. A-
Washington Redskins
QB Alex Smith is one of the league’s smartest at the position, but lacks the physical skills to mesh well with Washington’s other offensive weapons. B
RB Already lost rookie Derrius Guice for the season to an ACL tear, who many believed was the ‘Skins answer here. Chris Thompson is a capable pass catcher, but not an every down guy. Rob Kelley isn’t going to be anyone’s hero. C-
WR Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder, Paul Richardson.  Not a bad group but a poor match with Smith. Doctson is solid but has had injury issues. Richardson’s signing hurt Seattle more than it helped Washington. B-
TE Jordan Reed has injury issues and a highly contentious relationship with the coaching staff. Vernon Davis is too old to be much use. C
OL LT Trent Williams LG Shaun Lauvao C Chase Roullier RG Brandon Scherff RT Morgan Moses. Williams is among the league’s best. Scherff is top 10 at his position. Roullier and Moses are learning but still have work to do. LG is a huge problem and the internal options aren’t good. B-
DL DE Jonathan Allen NT D’Ron Payne DE Matt Ioannidis. Allen is solid. Payne was a decent pick, he’s smart and has potential. Ioannidis, a 5th round pick in his third season, has a lot to prove. C+
LB SLB Preston Smith MLB Mason Foster MLB Zach Brown WLB Ryan Kerrigan. Brown played well last season and earned a new contract. Foster missed most of last season with a torn labrum but appears to be healthy now. Kerrigan has been incredibly steady and consistent throughout an 8-year career. C
DB CBs Quinton Dunbar, Josh Norman, SS Montae Nicholson FS DJ Swearinger. Norman’s play can’t keep up with his mouth. Swearing er is ok. The rest are unremarkable and the unit depth is not good. D

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