We've been using this space of late to unveil our preseason All-Division teams, as is our annual tradition around this time of year. As always, the rosters were compiled largely by a panel of one, though there was significant input from the writing and editorial staff at CBSSports.com after I took an initial run at the rosters on my own.
We began last week by working our way through the AFC. Here are the rosters for the AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, and AFC West. This week, it's on to the NFC. We started Tuesday with the NFC East, continued on Wednesday with the NFC North and Thursday with the NFC South, and finish things up today with the NFC West. Without further ado ...
Offensive skill positions
QB: Matthew Stafford (LAR)
RB: James Conner (ARI)
WR: Cooper Kupp (LAR), Deebo Samuel (SF), DK Metcalf (SEA)
TE: George Kittle (SF)
FLEX: Allen Robinson II (LAR)
There's probably a world where Trey Lance immediately takes the league by storm and becomes a superstar in his second NFL season, like Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson before him; but it's much more likely that Stafford remains the best quarterback in this division. Everything that congealed to lead him to success last year is still there, with the exception of Andrew Whitworth at left tackle, but Joe Noteboom should be able to step in and provide quality protection at that spot. Without DeAndre Hopkins for six games, we're skeptical about Kyler Murray outperforming Stafford this year.
Conner gets the running back spot almost by default, as he's the only back in the division who doesn't seem like he'll be splitting snaps (Rashaad Penny, Kenneth Walker, DeeJay Dallas, and Travis Homer all figure to be in the mix in Seattle; and Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson will both factor heavily for the Rams) or coming off the field on passing downs (Elijah Mitchell almost never played in those situations last year). Kittle is arguably the best all-around tight end in the NFL when you account for his impact as a blocker and ability to create after the catch. He's not going to have the receiving volume of some of the other top guys, but his affect in the game is nearly unmatched.
There were a lot of receiver options in this division. Kupp, coming off a record-setting season, was a no-brainer. Beyond him, though, each of Samuel, Metcalf, Robinson, Brandon Aiyuk, Tyler Lockett, and even Hopkins (despite missing six games) has a good argument. Samuel's versatility makes him arguably the most unique player in the NFL at the moment, and even if his rushing volume decreases, the threat of him lining up in the backfield at any time is going to cause tremendous headaches. Metcalf seems like a better fit for the Geno Smith/Drew Lock era than does Lockett, who is unlikely to get as many of those moon-ball deep shots from those guys as he did from Russell Wilson. And we're chalking up Robinson's disastrous 2021 season to whatever the heck was going on in Chicago. Working with Stafford and Sean McVay should help him rediscover top form.
OT: Trent Williams (SF), Rob Havenstein (LAR)
G: Justin Pugh (ARI), David Edwards (LAR)
C: Rodney Hudson (ARI)
Williams has as good an argument as anybody for being the best individual offensive lineman in the league. Havenstein beats out linemate Noteboom, 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey, and Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries due to his ability to A. stay on the field; and B. pass protect. Alex Mack (retirement) and Laken Tomlinson (free agency) are no longer in this division, which dramatically thinned out the reasonable interior offensive line options. Hudson remains a stalwart center, even if he's clearly toward the tail end of his career. He gets the nod over Brian Allen due to his longer track record of quality play, which gives us greater confidence that he'll be a net-positive this season. Pugh has been an average or better guard for a while now, and Edwards has taken steps forward in protection every year.
EDGE: Nick Bosa (SF), Leonard Floyd (LAR)
IDL: Aaron Donald (LAR), Arik Armstead (SF)
LB: Dre Greenlaw (SF), Fred Warner (SF)
FLEX: Bobby Wagner (LAR)
This group is positively terrifying. It contains the best defensive player (and arguably best player, period) in the NFL (Donald). It has one of the small handful of best edge rushers in the league (Bosa). It has one of the NFL's most versatile defensive linemen (Armstead), who has shown high-level ability both on the edge and inside. It has three good-to-great coverage linebackers (Greenlaw, Warner, and Wagner) who are also damn good against the run. And it has Floyd, who has been highly productive every season in L.A. If these guys were all actually on the same team at the same time, offensive coordinators would be left trembling.
CB: Jalen Ramsey (LAR), Charvarius Ward (SF), Byron Murphy (ARI)
SAF: Budda Baker (ARI), Jordan Fuller (LAR)
Ramsey is the NFL's best defensive back. I know the last image we saw of him included getting beat downfield in the Super Bowl, but A. that happens to everyone; and B. Ja'Marr Chase does that to everyone. Ramsey is just fine. Ward was a really interesting signing for San Francisco, as he brings a level of physicality and in-your-face press style that the Niners didn't have a year ago. He should shine under DeMeco Ryans. Murphy had a really good start to last season and cooled off a bit later on, but he showed he can work well in the slot, which is incredibly tough to do.
Baker and Fuller are really fun players to watch, both because Baker is perhaps the most unusually sized player in the league not named Derrick Henry (he's a 5-10, 195-pound safety who does his best work in the box) and because Fuller absolutely flies down from the top of the defense to make plays all over the field.
K: Matt Gay (LAR)
P: Michael Dickson (SEA)
RET: Rondale Moore
I won't lie ... I asked our resident kicking expert (John Breech) who he thinks are the best kickers and punters in each division, and copy/pasted those names onto each All-Division team. Moore should have a larger offensive role this season than he did a year ago (especially early in the year, with Hopkins out) but he's such a dynamo with the ball in his hands that Arizona figures to still let him contribute in the return game, where he's a huge threat to break a big gain.