Around this time in each of the last three offseasons, we have used this space to unveil our annual NFL Survivor Squad, which represents our attempt to build the best possible roster using one representative and only one representative from each of the 32 NFL teams. It is once again that time of year, so we're here to do it once more.
To make things more challenging on myself and avoid reprinting the same article year after year, I have once again unilaterally declared every player and coach who made any of the 2020, 2021, or 2022 rosters off limits for this year's exercise.
That means none of Bill Belichick, Andy Reid, John Harbaugh, Greg Roman, Brian Daboll, Shane Steichen, Robert Saleh, Patrick Graham, Don Martindale, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Jonathan Taylor, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, DK Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson, Michael Thomas, CeeDee Lamb, Cooper Kupp, Zach Ertz, Darren Waller, George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson, Travis Kelce, Cole Kmet, Kenny Golladay, Ja'Marr Chase, Deebo Samuel, Jake Matthews, Laremy Tunsil, Rashawn Slater, Quenton Nelson, Ali Marpet, Joel Bitonio, Brandon Linder, Corey Linsley, Frank Ragnow, Zack Martin, Brandon Scherff, Alex Cappa, Jack Conklin, Lane Johnson, Tristan Wirfs, Von Miller, Khalil Mack, Brian Burns, Myles Garrett, T.J. Watt, Matt Judon, Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, DeForest Buckner, Stephon Tuitt, Jonathan Allen, Jeffery Simmons, Kenny Clark, Kyle Van Noy, Nicholas Morrow, Micah Parsons, Bobby Wagner, Eric Kendricks, Roquan Smith, Demario Davis, De'Vondre Campbell, Foye Oluokun, Tre'Davious White, James Bradberry, Xavien Howard, Kendall Fuller, A.J. Terrell, Marshon Lattimore, Chris Harris Jr., Marlon Humphrey, Byron Murphy, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Budda Baker, Justin Simmons, Jeremy Chinn, Jalen Ramsey, Jevon Holland, Tress Way, Logan Cooke, Michael Dickson, Randy Bullock, Younghoe Koo, Ka'imi Fairbairn, Adoree' Jackson, Gunner Olszewski, or Braxton Berrios were eligible for this year's team.
In an exercise like this, it's important to know exactly how you want to build. To compete in the modern NFL, one must recognize that the passing game is king, and build the roster accordingly. Teams tend to go as far as their quarterbacks take them, and the best teams put their quarterback in the best position possible to succeed while making things as difficult as possible for the opposing team's signal-caller. So, in all toss-up decisions, the tie was broken in favor of whichever player or coach would help our offense throw the ball efficiently and explosively or help our defense stop the opposing offense from doing the same.
Once again, we wanted our team to be as flexible as possible -- especially on defense, where the ability to disguise what you're doing and have players fill multiple roles depending on the snap is paramount. So, pass-catching running backs, receivers who could play on the perimeter or in the slot, defensive linemen who could flex to the edge or inside, linebackers who excel against the run and the pass, and safeties who could drop down into the box, play up high, or slide to the slot were all things that we looked for in building the roster.
All that said, a few quick notes before you get to the reveal of the full roster:
- The players (and coaches) selected at each position are not necessarily the best players (and coaches) at that particular position, but those who made the most sense on a roster where you can only (and must) take one representative from each team.
- The same is true of the players (and coaches) listed in the "also considered" section. Those players are also not listed in any particular order.
- Like last year, there were not necessarily any "must-have" players on this year's team, but it was exceedingly difficult to find representatives for a few teams, like the Rams, Cardinals, Texans and Titans; and equally tough to nail down the best representative among many options for teams like the 49ers, Eagles, Chiefs, Giants and Jets.
Without further ado, let's walk through our squad.
Sean McVay (LAR)
Ben Johnson (DET)
Dan Quinn (DAL)
Head coach: Sean McVay (Rams)
- 2022 (ineligible): John Harbaugh (Ravens)
- 2021 (ineligible): Andy Reid (Chiefs)
- 2020 (ineligible): Bill Belichick (Patriots)
Given that we already used Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp in previous seasons, finding the best representative from the Rams proved exceedingly difficult. There just were not very many options, but McVay was pretty clearly the best of the bunch anyway. Yes, the Rams fell apart last season and McVay seemingly lost his spark, but this is a team that has been consistently good for the significant majority of his tenure, and he has shown a proven ability to elevate players within his offense. It ended up being a close call between McVay and Mike Tomlin for the head coach spot, but L.A.'s lack of truly viable players who could fit this roster nudged things in McVay's direction.
Also considered: Matt LaFleur, Kyle Shanahan, Frank Reich, Mike Vrabel, Mike Tomlin, Dan Campbell, Doug Pederson, Pete Carroll
Offensive coordinator: Ben Johnson (Lions)
- 2022 (ineligible): Shane Steichen (Eagles)
- 2021 (ineligible): Brian Daboll (Bills)
- 2020 (ineligible): Greg Roman (Ravens)
Johnson was one of the hottest names on the head coaching market this offseason before eventually deciding to return to Detroit for another season as the offensive coordinator. The job he has done to take advantage of the strength of Detroit's offensive line and the skill sets of the few high-level playmakers among the team's skill-position corps has been excellent, and he has demonstrated that he knows how to put players in position to succeed.
Defensive coordinator: Dan Quinn (Cowboys)
- 2022 (ineligible): Don Martindale (Giants)
- 2021 (ineligible): Patrick Graham (Giants)
- 2020 (ineligible): Robert Saleh (49ers)
Quinn's evolution since arriving as the defensive coordinator in Dallas has been pretty remarkable. He is now one of the most aggressive and versatile defensive play-callers in the NFL, and his ability to scheme up one-on-ones and mismatches along the defensive front is nearly unmatched leaguewide. Give him enough players with the athleticism and motor to cause problems for the opposing offense and he will make things extraordinarily difficult for pretty much any quarterback.
Also considered: Ejiro Evero, Vin Fangio, Jim Schwartz, Brian Flores, Sean Desai, Steve Wilks, Aaron Glenn, Raheem Morris, Lou Anarumo, Shane Bowen
Offensive skill players
Justin Herbert (LAC)
Nick Chubb (CLE)
Christian Kirk (JAX)
Chris Olave (NO)
Quarterback: Justin Herbert (Chargers)
- 2022 (ineligible): Josh Allen (Bills)
- 2021 (ineligible): Aaron Rodgers (Packers)
- 2020 (ineligible): Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs)
This ended up being a very close call between Herbert, Jackson, Burrow, and Hurts. Ultimately, the version of the roster with Herbert under center made the most sense. (Strangely, it has to do with the overall lack of good slot cornerback candidates and our need to use Mike Hilton in that spot.) Herbert hasn't yet fully tapped into his enormous potential; but he has been quite good, and under new Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore he should be in line for his best year yet. He has the physical skill set to do pretty much anything you ask of a quarterback, and in the context of this type of roster, that's what you want.
Running back: Nick Chubb (Browns)
- 2022 (ineligible): Jonathan Taylor (Colts)
- 2021 (ineligible): Dalvin Cook (Vikings)
- 2020 (ineligible): Christian McCaffrey (Panthers)
You'd ideally like a running back with more pass-catching experience, but it's not like Chubb has been bad in that department. He just hasn't been asked to do it as often as some other top backs. Among the 47 backs with at least 100 receptions since Chubb entered the league in 2018, his 9.03 yards after catch average ranks fifth behind only Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, Jonathan Taylor, and Austin Ekeler. The ability is there. Oh, and he's also probably the best pure runner in the league. That's nice to have.
Perimeter receivers: Stefon Diggs (Bills) and Tyreek Hill (Dolphins)
- 2022 (ineligible): Davante Adams (Raiders) and Justin Jefferson (Vikings)
- 2021 (ineligible): DK Metcalf (Seahawks) and A.J. Brown (Titans)
- 2020 (ineligible): DeAndre Hopkins (Cardinals) and Mike Evans (Buccaneers)
Since arriving in Buffalo, Diggs has posted receiving lines of 127-1,535-8, 103-1,225-10, and 108-1,429-11. Give him a high-level quarterback and a top role in the offense and he is going to absolutely eat every single season. His route-running and ability to challenge defenses to every level of the field makes him one of the most dangerous players in all of football.
Speaking of dangerous ... Hill left the best quarterback in football and promptly posted the best season of his career despite not having his quarterback for several games. Nobody in the league is more of a threat with the ball in his hands, and the speed he brings to all areas of the field makes him nearly impossible to cover. Pairing him with Diggs and Herbert almost seems unfair.
Slot receiver: Christian Kirk (Jaguars)
- 2022 (ineligible): Cooper Kupp (Rams)
- 2021 (ineligible): CeeDee Lamb (Cowboys)
- 2020 (ineligible): Michael Thomas (Saints)
Kirk had a true breakout season as Trevor Lawrence's No. 1 receiver, posting career-high marks in targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. He did most of his work out of the slot, with only CeeDee Lamb (867) posting more receiving yards than Kirk (823) when lined up inside. Having a player who lines up inside that is a threat both over the middle and deep down the field provides a big challenge for opposing defenses, and that is where Kirk does his best work.
Tight ends: Mark Andrews (Ravens) and Pat Freiermuth (Steelers)
- 2022 (ineligible): Travis Kelce (Chiefs) and Cole Kmet (Bears)
- 2021 (ineligible): George Kittle (49ers) and T.J. Hockenson (Lions)
- 2020 (ineligible): Zach Ertz (Eagles) and Darren Waller (Raiders)
Andrews is behind only Travis Kelce when it comes to being a receiving threat from the tight end position. His work over the middle and up the seams stretches a defense to its breaking point. His size and strength make him a dynamic threat after the catch, and few tight ends anywhere are more of a threat to create a big play. Freiermuth ended up being our Steelers representative because McVay-Freiermuth seemed better than Tomlin-Tyler Higbee. He's off to a solid start to his career with back-to-back 60-plus-catch seasons, and last year he increased his yards-per-reception and yards-per-target averages, showcasing his ability to be more than just an underneath threat.
Offensive flex: Chris Olave (Saints)
- 2022 (ineligible): Deebo Samuel (49ers)
- 2021 (ineligible): Ja'Marr Chase (Bengals)
- 2020 (ineligible): Kenny Golladay (Lions)
Olave had a truly fantastic rookie season, checking in sixth among all wide receivers in target rate (27.7%) and seventh in yards per route run (2.42), among the 51 players who caught at least 50 passes. And all that was with Andy Dalton under center. Olave is as smooth as they come, and his ability to create separation on short and intermediate routes, combined with his speed to get down the field, should keep him among the league's best wideouts for quite some time.
Also considered: Ekeler, Pollard, Robinson, Smith, Aiyuk, Moore, Pitts
Christian Darrisaw (MIN)
Teven Jenkins (CHI)
David Andrews (NE)
Chris Lindstrom (ATL)
Taylor Moton (CAR)
Left tackle: Christian Darrisaw (Vikings)
- 2022 (ineligible): Rashawn Slater (Chargers)
- 2021 (ineligible): Laremy Tunsil (Texans)
- 2020 (ineligible): Jake Matthews (Falcons)
We worked our way through a tonnnnn of offensive line combinations, but most of them ended up including Darrisaw. He finished last season ranked 10th among tackles in Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking grade, exemplifying his growth year over year. As a rookie in 2021, Darrisaw allowed 22 pressures on 398 pass-blocking snaps. In 2022, he was asked to pass block 173 more times, yet yielded two fewer pressures than the year before. He was also an absolute mauler in the run game, which is an added bonus for a player whose primary responsibility is blind-side protection.
Also considered: Tyron Smith, Andrew Thomas, Jordan Mailata, Trent Williams, Taylor Decker, Terron Armstead, Jedrick Wills Jr., Kolton Miller, Ronnie Stanley, Orlando Brown, David Bakhtiari, Charles Cross
Left guard: Teven Jenkins (Bears)
- 2022 (ineligible): Joel Bitonio (Browns)
- 2021 (ineligible): Ali Marpet (Buccaneers)
- 2020 (ineligible): Quenton Nelson (Colts)
Moving to the interior from tackle proved beneficial for Jenkins, and even though he played right guard last year, we're using him on the left side because that's where the Bears figure to use him after signing Nate Davis in free agency. Jenkins is already a road-grater as a run blocker, and he showed great improvement in pass protection last season. We played with configurations where D.J. Moore was the Bears' representative, but this version of the team worked best.
Center: David Andrews (Patriots)
- 2022 (ineligible): Frank Ragnow (Lions)
- 2021 (ineligible): Corey Linsley (Chargers)
- 2020 (ineligible): Brandon Linder (Jaguars)
Andrews has been a consistently above-average two-way center for pretty much his entire tenure in New England. His ability to set protections and work as a fulcrum in the run game would prove valuable to any offense, and he's been the anchor of some very good units during his time with the Patriots.
Right guard: Chris Lindstrom (Falcons)
- 2022 (ineligible): Alex Cappa (Bengals)
- 2021 (ineligible): Brandon Scherff (Commanders)
- 2020 (ineligible): Zack Martin (Cowboys)
Lindstrom deservingly got himself a huge contract this offseason, and over the past couple years has thrusted himself into the conversation among the best guards in the game. He's shown improvement with each passing season, and he just had by far his best year in pass protection. (After allowing 14, 29, and 31 pressures during his first three NFL seasons, Lindstrom yielded just nine a year ago.) He was a pretty easy choice as Atlanta's representative for this squad.
Right tackle: Taylor Moton (Panthers)
- 2022 (ineligible): Tristan Wirfs (Buccaneers)
- 2021 (ineligible): Lane Johnson (Eagles)
- 2020 (ineligible): Jack Conklin (Browns)
Moton's an underrated player, and a bit of a strange one being that he's a right tackle who is far superior in pass protection than he is in the run game. Lucky for him and us, though, we're looking for exactly that type of player when building our squad. There were configurations where Jaycee Horn or Derrick Brown represented the Panthers and our right tackle was Rob Havenstein or Braden Smith, but this situation is preferable.
Quinnen Williams (NYJ)
Edge rushers: Maxx Crosby (Raiders) and Haason Reddick (Eagles)
- 2022 (ineligible): T.J. Watt (Steelers) and Matt Judon (Patriots)
- 2021 (ineligible): Brian Burns (Panthers) and Myles Garrett (Browns)
- 2020 (ineligible): Von Miller (Broncos) and Khalil Mack (Bears)
Good luck to opponents trying to block this duo. Crosby has finished the past two seasons ranking first and third in total pressures, with only Micah Parsons and Nick Bosa in the same zip code as him. Across the two seasons combined, he generated a sack, hit, or hurry on 15.5% of his pass-rush snaps, the 11th-highest rate among 220 players who rushed the passer at least 300 times, according to TruMedia. Reddick ranked 31st in the same list, but he was sixth (15.8%) out of 104 such players in 2022. He's collected 39.5 sacks in three seasons since moving to the edge full time, and he's done so while playing for three different teams, in three different schemes. Unleash him off the edge, and he is going to wreak havoc.
Also considered: Demarcus Lawrence, Rashan Gary, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Cameron Jordan, Nick Bosa, Joey Bosa, Trey Hendrickson, Aidan Hutchinson, Josh Allen, Jaelan Phillips, Greg Rousseau, Josh Sweat, Montez Sweat, Harold Landry, Shaq Barrett
Interior defensive linemen: Chris Jones (Chiefs) and Dexter Lawrence (Giants)
- 2022 (ineligible): Jonathan Allen (Commanders) and Jeffery Simmons (Titans)
- 2021 (ineligible): DeForest Buckner (Colts) and Stephon Tuitt (Steelers)
- 2020 (ineligible): Aaron Donald (Rams) and J.J. Watt (Texans)
If Donald didn't exist, we would probably talk like Chris Jones like he was an alien. An inner-circle Defensive Player of the Year candidate a year ago, Jones has now made four consecutive Pro Bowls and three straight All-Pro teams (one first, two second) as he has become practically unblockable on the inside. Among the aforementioned 104 players whop rushed the passer at least 300 times last season, Jones ranked 19th in overall pressure rate (13.2%), posting the highest mark among interior players. A few ticks behind him (12.9%) was Lawrence, who has blossomed into a monster over the course of his career. It makes no sense that a player with his size (6-4, 342 pounds) moves the way he does and shoots gaps as quickly as he does.
Defensive front flex: Quinnen Williams (Jets)
- 2022 (ineligible): Micah Parsons (Cowboys)
- 2021 (ineligible): Nicholas Morrow (Raiders)
- 2020 (ineligible): Kenny Clark (Packers)
Another monster-sized interior defender with a 12.9% pressure rate last season, Williams ended up getting our Jets nod instead of Sauce Gardner because I honestly needed to save a top-flight corner for next year's roster because that position is getting a bit thin right now, given how we've picked it over through these four years. Plus, Williams is really damn good.
|Fred Warner (SF), Lavonte David (TB)|
Mike Hilton (CIN)
Kevin Byard (TEN)
Kamren Curl (WAS)
Tariq Woolen (SEA)
Linebackers: Fred Warner (49ers) and Lavonte David (Buccaneers)
- 2022 (ineligible): De'Vondre Campbell (Packers) and Foye Oluokun (Jaguars)
- 2021 (ineligible): Roquan Smith (Bears) and Demario Davis (Saints)
- 2020 (ineligible): Bobby Wagner (Seahawks) and Eric Kendricks (Vikings)
The best and most unique linebacker in football, Warner can do things nobody else in the league is capable of. Just go watch the play from the Niners' playoff win over the Cowboys where he bluffs an A-gap blitz and covers CeeDee Lamb up the seam and makes a play on the ball more than 30 yards down the field. The type of coverage range Warner has is practically unheard of, and he's a hell of a run defender, too. David, meanwhile, is one of the more underrated players of the past decade. He has long been one of the NFL's best coverage linebackers, and his ability to make plays in space has freed teammate Devin White to do only the things he does best. David is just as solid and dependable as they come in every area of the game.
Outside corners: Patrick Surtain II (Broncos) and Jaire Alexander (Packers)
- 2022 (ineligible): A.J. Terrell (Falcons) and Marshon Lattimore (Saints)
- 2021 (ineligible): Xavien Howard (Dolphins) and Kyle Fuller (Broncos)
- 2020 (ineligible): Tre'Davious White (Bills) and James Bradberry (Giants)
Just two years into his career, Surtain is already among the small handful of best corners in the game. He finished last season allowing a reception just once every 15.5 coverage snaps, per PFF, the sixth-best mark among 135 qualifying cornerbacks. And he might have been ever better as a rookie, when he allowed just a 69.7 passer ratings (compared with 84.0 last year.) His size-strength-speed-agility combination makes him a strong bet to be one of the best DBs in the league for the next decade or so. When healthy, Alexander is an outright star. He's allowed a sub-70 passer rating in each of his past two healthy seasons, and during his career has yielded just 1.08 yards per coverage snap. He's on the slighter side for a modern corner (5-10, 196 pounds) but he plays bigger than his size.
Slot corner: Mike Hilton (Bengals)
- 2022 (ineligible): Byron Murphy Jr. (Cardinals)
- 2021 (ineligible): Marlon Humphrey (Ravens)
- 2020 (ineligible): Chris Harris Jr. (Chargers)
Hilton has been an above-average or better slot corner for his entire career. His versatility and ability to make plays in the box as a run defender or blitzer brings an element that every secondary needs these days. It feels a bit strange to prioritize him on a team with so many talented players, but the lack of options at this position meant this was the direction that felt best.
Deep safety: Kevin Byard (Titans)
- 2022 (ineligible): Justin Simmons (Broncos)
- 2021 (ineligible): Marcus Maye (Jets)
- 2020 (ineligible): Minkah Fitzpatrick (Steelers)
There are few players who are better at making plays on the ball than Byard, who is also one of the league's most durable and consistent players. He hasn't missed a game in his seven-year career, which features two Pro Bowls and two First Team All-Pro berths. Byard lines up all over the place for the Titans, but his primary role is as a deep center-fielder, and that's exactly the type of guy we want here.
Box safety: Kamren Curl (Commanders)
- 2022 (ineligible): Jeremy Chinn (Panthers)
- 2021 (ineligible): Budda Baker (Cardinals)
- 2020 (ineligible): Jamal Adams (Jets)
Curl is one of the NFL's most underrated defenders, and his work in the box against the run, covering tight ends and linebackers, and just affecting everything that goes on near the line of scrimmage is just terrific. Every defense needs this type of player these days.
Back seven flex: Tariq Woolen (Seahawks)
- 2022 (ineligible): Jevon Holland (Dolphins)
- 2021 (ineligible): Jalen Ramsey (Rams)
- 2020 (ineligible): Kyle Van Noy (Dolphins)
If it weren't for Sauce Gardner, Woolen would have been a slam-dunk Defensive Rookie of the Year. Ho-hum, another late-round defensive back find for the Seahawks.
Also considered: James, Jayron Kearse
Desmond King (HOU)
Rigoberto Sanchez (IND)
Matt Prater (ARI)
Returner: Desmond King (Texans)
- 2022 (ineligible): Braxton Berrios (Jets)
- 2021 (ineligible): Gunner Olszewski (Patriots)
- 2020 (ineligible): Adoree' Jackson (Titans)
King ranked seventh in total punt return yardage last season, and there was a shortage of players from which to choose on the Texans' roster, so we settled on him as the team's representative.
Punter: Rigoberto Sanchez (Colts)
- 2022 (ineligible): Michael Dickson (Seahawks)
- 2021 (ineligible): Logan Cooke (Jaguars)
- 2020 (ineligible): Tress Way (Commanders)
Kicker: Matt Prater (Cardinals)
- 2022 (ineligible): Ka'imi Fairbairn (Texans)
- 2021 (ineligible): Younghoe Koo (Falcons)
- 2020 (ineligible): Randy Bullock (Bengals)
The Colts and Cardinals were the last teams left without representatives.
Also considered: None
|Head Coach||Sean McVay (LAR)|
|Off. Coordinator||Ben Johnson (DET)|
|Def. Coordinator||Dan Quinn (DAL)|
|Quarterback||Justin Herbert (LAC)|
|Running Back||Nick Chubb (CLE)|
|Perimeter WR||Tyreek Hill (MIA)|
|Perimeter WR||Stefon Diggs (BUF)|
|Slot WR||Christian Kirk (JAX)|
|Tight End||Mark Andrews (BAL)|
|Tight End||Pat Freiermuth (PIT)|
|Off. Flex||Chris Olave (NO)|
|Left Tackle||Christian Darrisaw (MIN)|
|Left Guard||Teven Jenkins (CHI)|
|Center||David Andrews (NE)|
|Right Guard||Chris Lindstrom (ATL)|
|Right Tackle||Taylor Moton (CAR)|
|Edge Rusher||Maxx Crosby (LV)|
|Interior DL||Chris Jones (KC)|
|Interior DL||Dexter Lawrence (NYG)|
|Edge Rusher||Haason Reddick (PHI)|
|Def. Front Flex||Quinnen Williams (NYJ)|
|Off-ball LB||Fred Warner (SF)|
|Off-ball LB||Lavonte David (TB)|
|Perimeter CB||Patrick Surtain II (DEN)|
|Perimeter CB||Jaire Alexander (GB)|
|Slot CB||Mike Hilton (CIN)|
|Deep Safety||Kevin Byard (TEN)|
|Box Safety||Kamren Curl (WAS)|
|Back Seven Flex||Tariq Woolen (SEA)|
|Returner||Desmond King (HOU)|
|Punter||Rigoberto Sanchez (IND)|
|Kicker||Matt Prater (ARI)|