Back in October 2014, realizing we were looking at the best offensive triplets since Aikman, Emmitt & the Playmaker, we set out to determine which current team had the best set. Four updates and countless tepid imitators later, it's high time for the OG to re-evaluate where all 32 teams' triplets stand for 2017. As usual, I've ranked the players in each position group from No. 1 to 32, then inverted those rankings (e.g., Le'Veon Bell is my No. 1 RB, so he gets 32 points). I also multiplied the QB's score by 1.5, to reflect the position's importance. The totals determined each trio's ranking. Previous rankings are from August 2016.
Please feel free to disagree in the comments section below. But let's be honest: You and I both already know my opinions are 100 percent accurate.
Over the last four years, Brown has operated at a peerless level, and not just compared with his contemporaries. No one -- not Jerry Rice, not Megatron -- has ever put together a period of statistical success like the Steelers star has: 481 catches, 6,315 yards and 43 touchdowns since 2013. Bell, at a minimum, is in the conversation about the NFL's best RB, and probably worthy of the contract he wants, despite the fact he's made 16 starts just once -- especially with the looming threat of the future Hall of Fame QB's retirement, potentially as soon as after this season. If 2017 is the last campaign for Roethlisberger, at least he'll go out with the most talented offensive unit of his career.
Have you heard the Cowboys have a good O-line? Well, they do ... but don't allow that fact to marginalize the talent of Big D's skill-position triplets. Zeke and Dez would be stars anywhere -- dynamic as they are, it's their brute physicality that wears down foes week after week. Curmudgeons focused on whether Prescott benefitted from being in a favorable situation (spoiler alert: he did), but that shouldn't diminish how efficient and crafty the rookie was, right up to Packers kicker Mason Crosby slicing that field-goal try through the posts last January and ending the Cowboys' season.
Forget about Kyle Shanahan's play-calling in the second half of Super Bowl LI and instead focus on what's ahead: Will the reigning MVP continue to thrive without Shanahan as his offensive coordinator? The answer is very likely yes, thanks to Freeman (and his partner, Tevin Coleman) and the historically transcendent talent of Jones.
MVP, ROY, a 15-1 Super Bowl run, multiple national commercials ... and yet, Cam somehow feels under-appreciated as one of the most distinct, dominant talents the NFL's ever seen. McCaffrey's around to help lighten the load on Superman, and the buzz is already hyperbolic. But this isn't hyperbole: Olsen is headed to the Hall of Fame.
Yes, Carr's broken fibula basically ended Oakland's Super Bowl hopes in December, but the Raiders had a magical 2016 otherwise, thanks to a borderline MVP season from the QB. A tepid bit of concern for this year: Can Carr and Co. continue to be on the right side of so many nailbiters? The answer is likely yes, with so much talent on both sides of the ball, specifically Cooper, who's put up great numbers, even though he has yet to reach his perceived ceiling. Lynch is on the other side of things, hoping to provide at least some of the bone- and soul-crushing style that was essential to both of the Seahawks' Super Bowl runs.
Brady is the G.O.A.T., Rodgers is the best. What's the distinction? I have absolutely no idea ... but I can say with certainty that the King in the North is the best I've ever seen play quarterback. Then again, as the seasons go by, I wonder if Packers fans are bothered by the fact that they've had a top-three QB for the last quarter-century but have only two Lombardis in that time (the same total delivered to Baltimore by Joe Flacco and Trent Dilfer). Nelson is the best WR Rodgers has had, but is that damning with faint praise? I anticipate Montgomery showing the world last year was just the start of a successful career change, but wherever you come down on him, you have to agree he's the best RB to wear No. 88 ever. EVER.
Brady still reigns as the G.O.A.T. (even removing the 2016 postseason, his 28:2 TD-to-INT ratio in the regular season was plum remarkable), but a couple people who know what they're talking about have already told me Brady v. Garoppolo will be 2018's biggest offseason soap opera. Meantime, let's see if the five-time champ can buck history and take this loaded roster to a Super Bowl as a 40-year-old. White probably should've been the Super Bowl LI MVP, but who knows if he'll even see the field week to week? Gronk certainly will, so long as the Best Tight End of All Time is in good health.
He's one of the 10 best QBs of the Super Bowl era, but Brees' home-road splits over the last several seasons (10,945 yards, 86 TDs, 24 INTs and a 109.7 passer rating at home vs. 9,247 yards, 55 TDs, 31 INTs and a 92.2 rating on the road since 2013) are an abomination. Peterson may or may not resemble the player he was in his prime, but New Orleans has depth at running back, either way. Thomas is the clear-cut No. 1 option for a QB who spreads the ball around as well as anyone in the league.
Ask any Bucs teammate about Winston, and they'll gush about leadership, focus on football and a desire to win. More tangibly, his numbers all went up from Year 1 to Year 2 -- including his interception total. Reducing those picks is obviously essential, but the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner is tracking in the right direction, thanks largely to superstar receiver Evans (no stranger to making Heisman winners look good). Which Martin shows up this season is tough to determine, but the head coach questioning how long he'll have his starting job isn't exactly a good sign.
It's no coincidence Tannehill turned the corner in Adam Gase's first season as head coach. Behind an O-line that could be among the league's best, watch out for the QB and 2016 breakout star Ajayi to prove last season was no mirage. Steady standout Landry could only be helped by more consistent contributions from other pass catchers. By the way, did you know Tannehill played WR in college?
Rivers' already-strong HOF resume would be significantly upgraded by a Super Bowl appearance, which isn't unrealistic, provided the O-line keeps him clean and Allen stays healthy. Gordon's a high-end talent who likes punishing guys for trying to tackle him.
Johnson is a phenom who, by any measure, is a top-three running back in the league. Fitzgerald is one of the five best wide receivers of the Super Bowl era. And then there's Palmer, who had a near-MVP season in 2015 ... capped by an atrocious NFC title game that seemed to leave him (and the team) with a year-long hangover. Time to get over it, Carson -- or it'll be time for Arians to move on.
Luck may have taken over for the uber-efficient Peyton Manning, but he plays more like an Elway/Favre-style gunslinger, relying on late-game heroics to overcome self-inflicted wounds (and the sizable point totals of the Colts' foes). Ageists may point to Gore's birth year (1983) as the reason for his so-so production in Indy, but an abysmal O-line deserves the majority of the blame. Hilton's terrific, but he (and Luck) need more consistent help.
Dalton is an NFL-caliber starting QB. That's it. He can succeed when there's a lot of talent around him, but he can't elevate an otherwise mediocre offense. As usual, he'll have one of the five best WRs in the world on his side, while some real upgrades have been made to the supporting cast. But the shoddiness of the O-line and being two years removed from Hue Jackson's tutelage aren't good harbingers for 2017. Mixon is an overwhelming talent with a troubling personal history.
Considering all the on-field success and weird off-the-field melodrama (mostly owing to Richard Sherman), it's kinda hard to believe Wilson has only been around for five seasons. During that time, he's never won fewer than 10 games in any one season, but the team's transition from being run-dominant to adopting a more pass-reliant philosophy has been a mixed bag. Last year, Wilson set a career mark in passing yards (4,219) -- and also interceptions (11). His 92.6 passer rating was reasonably good -- but it was also the worst of his career. Thomas Rawls might take the No. 1 role from Lacy by the end of camp, but it says here C.J. Prosise will have vaulted past both by November.
There were plenty of hot takes about party boats and holes punched in walls, but one under-reported fact of the 2016 Giants is this: Manning was lousy. This year, with what appears to be the most talented collection of pass catchers he's ever had, Eli needs to right the ship (then keep his teammates off of it, to avoid the media members who reside on Mt. Pious). Perkins didn't fully distinguish himself in his rookie year, but this offense is pass-first, anyway, so don't be surprised if Super Bowl XLIX hero Shane Vereen sees more playing time. (P.S., Odell Beckham is still good.)
Along with Jameis Winston, Mariota is disproving the notion that QBs taken 1-2 in the same draft can't both succeed. Early reports are that Mariota is looking fine after last year's fractured fibula, as the team appears to be transitioning away from "exotic smashmouth" to throwing more with some big additions to the passing game. Still, Walker remains the most dependable option. And don't sleep on Murray, who only Chip Kelly knows how to slow down.
It's too bad the Buffalo brass doesn't seem to share fantasy football owners' affection for Taylor, who's been mostly good in his two years under center despite not having a whole lot of guys to throw to. Fortunately, he's had McCoy, the correct answer to the question, "Who's the fourth-best RB after the Big Three?" The bigger question for coach Sean McDermott and Bills fans, though, is, can Watkins stay healthy?
Call it the Matt Flynn Effect, but like everyone else, I just don't believe Bill O'Brien's pronouncements about Tom Savage being the team's QB this year. Conversely, I do believe Watson will show the world he was the best quarterback in the '17 draft (although I have a hunch about DeShone Kizer, too). Miller had a nice first season in Houston, but his production dipped in the passing game. So did Hopkins' ... but glass-half-full Texans fans can now blame both downturns on now-departed-QB Brock Osweiler.
If Bortles doesn't look like a different guy by the end of training camp, the Jags owe it to the rest of the roster and the fan base to seriously consider another option. If only there were a viable starting QB out there, maybe someone who's gotten within one throw of winning a Super Bowl ... To be fair, few quarterbacks would've thrived behind the 2016 Jags' line, and with Branden Albert now retired, things may not get much better. But Fournette will still be able to return the team to its rich history of having star RBs.
Skeptical Eagles fans might have questioned their citizenship in Wentzylvania after the QB's second-half swoon, but those who remain will be rewarded in Wentz's second campaign, thanks to the return of Lane Johnson and a much-needed upgrade in the pass-catching department. Jeffery is among the best in the league, but he's also had just two 16-game seasons in his five-year career. Blount once again played a big role for the Super Bowl champs, registering 1,161 yards and 18 scores (both career bests) in New England, but when it comes to expecting the same level of production from an ex-Patriot, caveat emptor!
Stafford, plain and simple, deserves more credit. The Lions depend on Stafford's right arm about as much as the Packers and Pats depend on the arms of their respective QBs. (And if you don't believe me, check the pass-run ratio over the last couple of years: since 2014, the Lions have averaged 652 pass plays and 367 run plays). Tate's no Megatron, but don't be confused: The lack of an early-down back is what hamstrings this offense most. (Well, aside from the subpar O-line.)
In what figures to potentially be his farewell season in our nation's capital, Cousins promises to help make himself even more attractive to QB-needy teams (especially ones that wear red and gold and play in the Bay Area and are coached by Kyle Shanahan and are called the 49ers) with a still-loaded group of pass catchers, led by Reed. If the team wants to get back to the postseason, though, Fat Rob will need to turn those flashes into sustained production.
Though Bradford's now clearly proven he wasn't quite worthy of being the first player taken in the 2010 NFL Draft, he did a good job last year taking care of the ball for a team with a top-tier defense. If he can repeat that performance, it could be good enough, thanks to the game-breaking ability of Diggs and Cook, who's gonna hit the ground running (and catching) in his rookie campaign ... IF one of 2016's worst O-lines performs a bit better this season.
While Todd Gurley languished against eight-man fronts last year, Howard, a rookie, finished second in the league in rushing, despite making just 13 starts with a Bears offensive unit decimated by injury. Meredith (and Zach Miller, et al.) give new/undervalued QB Glennon some capable targets. Still, Chicago brass would no doubt like to see the 2015 draft's seventh overall pick, Kevin White, break away from the pack (and get behind Packers DBs).
Time will tell who wins the QB gig (I predict it'll be Lynch), but the task remains largely the same as it was two years ago during the Super Bowl run: Don't screw things up for the D. Charles was dynamite in his 2012 return from a knee injury, but we'll see if he can still be the home-run hitter he was in his K.C. heyday. Thomas gets knocked for the occasional drop, but how 'bout some credit for five straight seasons with at least 90 catches?
For all the alleged "QB whisperers" among us, Andy Reid actually seems able to get the most out of almost any quarterback -- but he's likely squeezed all he's gonna get out of Smith (hence the Patrick Mahomes pick). That's not necessarily a knock, given the team's 23 regular-season wins the last two years, but it ain't a compliment, either. Top-4 NFL TE Kelce will be further complemented -- if not replaced as the team's top target -- by 2016 breakout star WR Tyreek Hill.
Gurley will look more like his rookie self in 2017, thanks to an O-line that -- at minimum -- won't be the NFL's worst this year. Austin would be better suited as the finishing touch on a contender's offense, not as a key cog. Big sophomore season for Goff, who needs to prove he can elevate a pro offense.
Flacco's magical four-game stretch of early 2013 is growing faint in the rearview mirror, obscured by inconsistency and losing records in three of the four ensuing seasons. No Kenneth Dixon means West will get the early-down touches ... but watch out for Danny Woodhead ultimately playing the larger role.
Hyde is one of the league's 15 most talented RBs, but he's been wasted in a lousy offense. That said, getting rid of Colin Kaepernick and replacing him with Hoyer makes no football sense. Garcon is fine, but he is not a No. 1 receiver at this point.