Teams have just finished creating their initial 53-man rosters for the upcoming season. As a result, it’s prediction season for the playoffs, awards and naturally, the Superbowl itself. With this, a question wandered its way into my head: what is the best team that could be made? Now this is not a full-on buffet where one can load up on just the BBQ chicken and ice cream but instead, we must dive into the salad bar as well. In other words, this team is constrained by the salary cap among other things:
- 11 starters on offense, 11 starters on defense, 1 kicker, punter, and long snapper. (25 players overall).
- A team built for the 2021/2022 season ONLY.
- Cap hit totalling no more than $140 million. The top 25 cap hit of NFL mostly total between $130 million and $150 million. The overall salary cap for the 2021 season is $188.4 million.
- To avoid filling the team with rookie contracts; no more than 4 players across the 2018-2021 draft classes (excluding kicker, punter, and long snapper).
- Team can be made of any formation desired, in this case, 11 personnel on offense, and a 4-2-5 nickel on defense (playing with smaller, versatile D-Lineman at the DT position; also only two LBs so no Sam-backer).
With these rules, this team is hopefully representative of what can happen if a team drafts, signs, and trades well. This team is built of contracts that could feasibly be part of an actual team; so, let’s get to the team:
(Salary Cap information from Spotrac)
QB: Patrick Mahomes (KC – 2017) – $7,433,381
Shouldn’t be any surprise, the best QB in the game at this very moment and he comes with a discount due to being on the 5th year option. A bullet arm QB will be able to stretch the field, pushing the defense back to open rushing lanes and screen passes if they counter with pass rush.
RB: Christian McCaffrey (CAR – 2017) – $6,899,500
A dual threat RB who hits harder through the inside holes than he is given credit for. McCaffrey is elite, he can regularly break defender’s ankles (see Panthers @ Buccaneers 2019 at Wembley). McCaffrey is great at screen plays and that impacts choice of O-Lineman.
WR1: Davante Adams (GB – 2014) – $16,787,500
The highest cap hit on the team for arguably the best WR in the game. I have no worries about him working with Mahomes instead or Rodgers, if anything, he will boost Mahomes’ play with his incredible route running. Adams will work the outside and intermediate part of the field, hopefully take up double coverage to allow other players to shine.
WR2: Robert Woods (LAR – 2013) – $5,875,000
Th most underrated player in the league? Woods is a do-it-all threat. He’d be able to take a few end arounds and play any place in the offense. He has reliable hands and will thrive in this offense.
WR3: DeSean Jackson (LAR – 2013) – $3,264,705
He may be very experienced, but the burner has shown he has hardly lost a step. Jackson will adore catching deep balls from Mahomes and diverting safeties away from Adams, pushing them back for Woods, Adams and McCaffrey underneath. Jackson will also dominate on play action, quickly getting behind the linebackers on crossers and posts for decent games. This wily veteran is a great addition to the team.
TE: Travis Kelce (KC – 2013) – $7,650,000
Reuniting the dynamic due of Mahomes and Kelce. The best current TE in the game. Kelce will find holes underneath, sit in between the zones and keep the chains moving. He also gives the team a prolific Red Zone target. When the other offensive outlets are covered, Kelce will cut the defense through curls, hitches and drags.
LT: Mekhi Becton (NYJ – 2020) – $4,192,284
Giant man-mountain; that’s how to describe Becton. Imagine being the backside DB on a weak side scree, trying the square McCaffrey up with Becton in between you. You don’t have a chance. To add to this, Becton was very good in pass protection, he isn’t just a mauler. Infact, PFF graded Becton 74.4 last year, he will be great for a very long time and even in his second year, he has earned my trust.
LG: Joe Thuney (KC – 2016) – $4,500,000
Thuney is an agile O-Lineman who is at home on toss plays, able to get up to the second level quickly and efficiently. Spending his early years under the tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia in New England, Thuney has learned from the best and here he gets to reunite with an old teammate by his side.
C: David Andrews (NE – 2015) – $1,727,932
Andrews is an undrafted gem found by Belichick and Scarnecchia out of Georgia. He is a well above average centre who has previously posted an 84.7 PFF grade in 2017 and after returning from a season-ending injury in 2019, was more than serviceable with a 67.7 PFF grade last year; he’s likely to only improve this year coming.
RG: Zack Martin (DAL – 2014) – $9,950,000
The best guard in the league? Very possibly. Martin has been stalwart in that fearsome Dallas O-Line. Martin is brilliant in space, clearing out LBs and DBs. Every QB and RB want to play with him and no defensive player wants to play against him. A leader on this team.
RT: Ryan Ramczyck (NO – 2017) – $5,514,824
The last pick of round 1 in the 2017 draft, Ramczyk seemed elite from day 1 and he hasn’t looked back since. Brees hardly ever needed to worry about pressure from the right side due to Ramczyck, infact he only allowed 10 sacks in his career (4 seasons) so far. He completes the offense
DT: Cameron Heyward (PIT – 2011) – $7,481250
With 58 career sacks, Heyward has been recking O-Lines for a decade. He is still reaching new ground, including his first INT last season. He can play multiple places along the D-Line and is a great piece for this 4-man D-Line.
DT: Shelby Harris (DEN – 2014) – $4,000,000
Harris is overlooked, perhaps his 7th round draft status has led to this but one thing is for certain, he has only improved year by year. In fact, PFF graded him an 88.3, not bad, huh? Harris will be the run-stopping master in this front seven, the first line of attack against the league’s best rushers.
Edge: Chase Young (WFT – 2020) – $ 7,855,362
It took one year for Young to become a feared edge in the league. Recording 7.5 sacks and 44 tackles in a rookie season is incredible. Young has such extreme athleticism that tackles simple can’t do anything and with a year under his belt, he will start winning many mental battles as well.
Edge (hybrid): Matthew Judon (NE – 2016) – $6,323,529
Judon is the swiss-army knife of the defense. He has great rush ability as he proved last season with the Ravens recording 6 sacks as well as 9.5 the season prior. He can also drop into coverage if needed to confuse opposing QBs. Judon has already been blowing up preseason both in training camp and on the field.
Mike-backer: Demario Davis (NO – 2012) – $6,900,000
A true veteran who is still playing top quality football. Davis is a great tackler with pass rush ability as displayed by his 26.5 career sacks. Davis is a steal at just under $7 million.
Will-backer: Lavonte David (TB – 2012) – $3,360,000
Completing the all-veteran LB corpse is David. Perennially underappreciated. David is an all-time great and he finally got to taste that sweet Superbowl success last year. No play design is going to fake him out, he will get to the ball before any other LB because he knows where it WILL be, not where it IS.
CB1: Tre’Davious White (BUF – 2017) – $6,782,000
A top 5 CB in the game for under $7 million, absolute steal. What’s special about White is his ability to dominate in man and zone, he is an all-around great CB. White is feisty and although his athleticism might not be top tier, his competitiveness and mental game are off the charts. He knows what route the receiver is running and he reaps the rewards.
CB2: Jaycee Horn (CAR – 2021) – $3,838,572
The only rookie on the team, Horn would have a lot of pressure on him, but reviews from camp have been practically an A+. He has already shown he will not back down, even getting involved in a scuffle at joint practise with the Ravens. Horn has adept in both man and zone, adding to versatility and his “Alpha” mentality that has been reported is just what you should want on defense.
Slot CB: Kenny Moore II (IND – 2017) – $6,385,294
Another undrafted free agent, Moore II has thought this way onto a starting roster, eventually settling with the Colts. He may only be 5ft 9in (at a stretch) but Moore II is a high-class slot corner. He has the agility to keep up with the shiftiest slot receivers and Moore has shown the speed needed to even pick a few sacks on corner blitzes (6 career sacks). He is also coming off a career high INT year with 4.
Strong Safety: Jordan Poyer (BUF – 2013) – $7,851,470
Poyer is part of an insane Buffalo DB room also including Tre’Davious White and Micah Hyde. He has reached over 100 combined tackles for 3 seasons and has recorded 13 INTs in his last 4 seasons.
Free Safety: Minkah Fitzpatrick (PIT – 2018) – $2,722,878
Ever since Fitzpatrick hasn’t had to do seemingly EVERYTHING on defense, he has materialized into a star. The Steelers simplified his role down after they spent a first round pick acquiring him from the Dolphins. This has seen Minkah explode, 9 INTs over the last 2 years. The ball-hawking safety also has a talent for taking those INTs back to the house with 3 career pick sixes. He is the home run hitter on defense.
K: Harrison Butker (KC – 2017) – $3,940,000
A powerful leg, Butker can score from anywhere and his accuracy has only improved, he’s used to kicking extra points from his time with the Chiefs.
P: Jake Bailey (NE – 2019) – $922,245
Bailey is a rising star in the punting world. Belichick has always loved his special teams and he hit the bullseye with Bailey. He has always had power but it was last year when he stopped out-kicking his coverage and alongside the future HOF gunner (hopefully) in Matthew Slater, created a deadly punt team for the Patriots.
LS: Joe Cardona (NE – 2015) – $1,176,471
My knowledge of long snappers is not deep so I’ve relented into trusting former high school long-snapper Bill Belichick with his assessment. Cardona has been with the Patriots since 2015, splitting time with the US Navy – he must be pretty good.
Overall Cap: $139,974,197