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The Brandt Report

NFL's 10 most talented teams: Eagles, Jaguars lead the way

Talent is not necessarily a guarantee of success in the NFL, where injuries, bad luck and, yes, kickers can derail the hopes of even the most imposing preseason juggernaut. But while we continue to count down the days until the on-field chaos can be unleashed, let's consider what we know now, in June, and take a look at the 10 most talented teams overall.

It can be hard for Super Bowl winners to sustain success, especially with other teams flocking to poach your assistants, scouts and coordinators. It's a price you have to pay, and the reigning champs -- who lost Frank Reich and John DeFilippo to the Colts and Vikings, respectively -- are no exception. Luckily for Philadelphia, this team has tons of on-field talent. Quarterback Carson Wentz was a leading MVP candidate before hurting his knee last season. Zach Ertz is one of the top five tight ends in football. Lane Johnson (one of the top right tackles around), Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and right guard Brandon Brooks (one of the most underrated linemen in the game) anchor the O-line. The defensive line -- led by Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett -- is very strong. Malcolm Jenkins is a difference-maker, and then there are veterans like Michael Bennett, Chris Long and Nigel Bradham. Philly also smartly lined up young guys to elevate over the older players on their way out, like second-year player Sidney Jones replacing Patrick Robinson. Or consider Barnett essentially stepping in for cap-casualty Vinny Curry -- if you think about it like a trade, with Barnett coming back in a swap for Curry, you'd do that deal in a minute.

One year after ranking sixth on offense and second on defense, the Jaguars remain loaded with blue-chip talent at every level -- including cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive lineman Calais Campbell, both top-five players at their respective positions. The offensive line got a big upgrade when Jacksonville shelled out big bucks to sign guard Andrew Norwell, who will fit well on a unit that also includes Cam Robinson, a standout player drafted in the second round in 2017. Quarterback Blake Bortles remains the main question mark, but I think offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's skill at developing quarterbacks will be made apparent by Bortles' continued improvement in 2018. With Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns both gone, Keelan Cole will have to come through at receiver, though I think Marqise Lee will keep trending in the right direction. And, of course, there's Leonard Fournette and the top-ranked running game. Finally, the Jags' first four draft picks this year -- defensive tackle Taven Bryan, receiver D.J. Chark, safety Ronnie Harrison and offensive tackle Will Richardson -- were strong and will further boost this squad.

The Rams simply made one great move after another this offseason. New additions Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib are excellent cornerbacks, while new receiver Brandin Cooks will further stretch opposing defenses. Free-agent signee Ndamukong Suh is a great player who will team with Aaron Donald up front to make life miserable for offenses across the NFL. Jared Goff and Todd Gurley headline a Rams roster that was already one of the best in the NFL in 2017 -- adding Peters, Talib, Cooks and Suh should only make this squad better. And here's an interesting wrinkle to the Rams' moves: Unlike traditional free-agent signings, they won't count against Los Angeles when compensatory picks are awarded for the 2019 NFL Draft, meaning the team was able to bring in big-time offseason help while preserving its chance to be handed some extra choices next year. (Suh's signing doesn't count against the Rams because his previous team, the Dolphins, released him.)

Case Keenum was a good quarterback for the Vikings in 2017, but Kirk Cousins will, in the long run, be more reliable and consistent, both over the course of the regular season and in terms of playoff potential. It's hard not to like this move for an offense that already ranked 11th overall after having Keenum at the helm for most of last year. And I think Minnesota made a good contingency move in acquiring backup QB Trevor Siemian. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen offer serious playmaking ability, but the receiver depth chart beyond those two is probably the weakest part of this team. Having Dalvin Cook healthy for a full season at running back will only further enhance this attack. As for the No. 1 ranked defense, adding Sheldon Richardson -- who has proven Pro Bowl talent -- is almost unfair.

General manager Jon Robinson deserves a lot of credit for taking what was probably one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2015 and turning it into a legitimate Super Bowl contender three years later. The ground attack features a pair of studs in Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, while the 13th-ranked defense -- which was led by Jurrell Casey and Kevin Byard -- will get a boost from the additions of free-agent Malcolm Butler and rookies Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry. I'm counting on Marcus Mariota taking another step forward at quarterback, and I'm placing my faith in new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to help this offense develop further. The offensive line is very, very good -- Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin are among the best in football. Receiver is something of a question mark, but I think Corey Davis has a chance to show something if he can stay healthy. Mike Vrabel will be phenomenal as a head coach.

Age still hasn't caught up with 36-year-old QB Philip Rivers, who led the NFL's top passing attack in 2017. The Chargers should and will be even better in the passing game in 2018, even with Hunter Henry lost to a torn ACL. 2017 first-rounder Mike Williams, whose rookie season was stunted by a back issue, will get a chance to show what he can do alongside Keenan Allen (who is as good as any receiver in the NFL), Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram comprise the best pass-rushing tandem of 4-3 ends working today, while rookie Derwin James should be an immediate starter at strong safety, providing a serious upgrade for a defense that already promised to pose a stout challenge to opponents.

The Saints absorbed much criticism for expending serious draft capital to add an unproven pass-rushing talent in Marcus Davenport in the first round. But to me, it was a good move, because the thing this defense needed was a pass rusher, and Davenport checks all the boxes except for the one next to "high-level experience." If defense has been the Saints' failing in years past, it wasn't last year and shouldn't be this year. A fantastic batch of rookies -- including Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams -- contributed to that unit's surprisingly good showing in 2017. The additions of veterans Demario Davis, Patrick Robinson and Kurt Coleman will only help. Offense, of course, has never really been an issue during the Sean Payton- Drew Brees era, and that won't change now, even with Mark Ingram suspended for the first four games of the season. With the Bucs, Browns, Falcons and Giants in that stretch, New Orleans should emerge 2-2, at worst. Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara remains a shining light. And really, when Brees is under center, you always have a chance to be great.

The offense ranked eighth in 2017 -- and that could be considered a disappointment, given the level of talent on this unit. I think that relative underperformance can partly be blamed on the need to adjust to new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. But Sarkisian is a very good coach who is basically doing the same things his predecessor, current 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, was doing, with rhythm being the main difference -- I figure everyone will be on the same page this season. The guards also struggled in 2017, so the Falcons went out and got Brandon Fusco, a veteran who can play anywhere on the line. Rookie receiver Calvin Ridley should make the passing game even better. The key for the ninth-ranked defense will be the continued improvement of youngsters Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and Takk McKinley. Vic Beasley will move back to being a 4-3 edge rusher, which is the position he was in when he racked up 15.5 sacks in 2016. After a down year, quarterback Matt Ryan will revert to the mean -- which, for him, means returning to MVP-status. And then there's receiver Julio Jones, who will go down as one of the top 10 receivers of all time.

The Steelers basically have a Pro Bowl-caliber player at every position on offense other than tight end -- and even there, I think Jesse James is an emerging player. It's tough to find a more imposing set of triplets than Ben Roethlisberger at QB, Le'Veon Bell at RB and Antonio Brown at WR. Losing linebacker Ryan Shazier to injury does really set the defense back, but the unit still features studs like Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and T.J. Watt. Defensive backs coach Tom Bradley, meanwhile, is going to further help the defense -- he could be a coordinator somewhere.

It might be shocking to see a three-win team on this list, even with all the buzz generated by rookie Saquon Barkley. But as I've written previously, Barkley is the best RB prospect I've graded in recent memory. Between Barkley and new left tackle Nate Solder, the Giants' offense is on the verge of imitating the defense's own free-agency-and-draft-fueled turnaround of two years ago. Barkley should top 1,000 yards while pushing for Offensive Rookie of the Year, while Odell Beckham will be healthy again and tight end Evan Engram serves as a real matchup nightmare for people in coverage. Eli Manning might be in his late 30s, but I still think he's three to four years away from the end. In short, New York has a chance to emulate Philly's worst-to-first run from last year -- especially if the Giants can master the Eagles in their head-to-head matches this season.

Follow Gil Brandt on Twitter _@GilBrandt_.

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