Quarterbacks can be the driving force behind it NFL; having is often the difference between contending for the playoffs and contending for a Lombardi trophy. However, football is a team sport, which means QBs still require help on both sides of the ball. And there are plenty of important pieces in other premium positions.
With that in mind, here’s a look at a non-QB that each team can least afford to lose in 2023:
Presumably they will already be down QB Kyler Murray at the start of the year. Losing their most accomplished tackle, whose injury-related absence in 2022 helped fuel offensive dysfunction, would also jeopardize the next QB.
With Tyler Allgeier behind rookie Bijan Robinson and Jonnu Smith now behind Kyle Pitts, neither RB nor TE lacks depth. However, young QB Desmond Ridder needs to stay upright to feed the weapons, and Matthews is a solid blindside bodyguard.
New WR Odell Beckham Jr. is already an injury risk, but Lamar Jackson’s biggest concern in 2023 is staying on the field. Linderbaum was an underrated rookie cog up front and he is instrumental to their ground attack as the line’s QB.
This is why his reported offseason frustrations with Buffalo were such a concern. Without his killer route running and alpha mentality, Josh Allen only has the mercurial Gabe Davis as a proven WR weapon, though rookie TE Dalton Kincaid could help.
At the end of the day, it’s all about keeping rookie QB Bryce Young comfortable in the pocket, especially at his unprecedented size. Ekwonu was solid as a rookie left tackle, and his continued presence there doesn’t get enough attention.
Justin Fields is an electric enough scrambler to avoid a collapsing pocket, but what he really needs in 2023 is improved decision-making through the air. Moore is the only legitimate No. 1 target in their overhauled WR corps and could be the key to unlocking the QB.
Star wideout Ja’Marr Chase is a home run, but Joe Burrow has proven he can survive by leaning on Tee Higgins and Co. Hendrickson, meanwhile, is severely underrated as a persistent press artist at the forefront of Cincinnati’s defensive front.
If Deshaun Watson were to lose No. 1 WR Amari Cooper, he could be in deep trouble, with Elijah Moore and Donovan Peoples-Jones better suited to secondary roles. But what is the Browns’ defense without Garrett, who single-handedly terrorizes opponents?
CeeDee Lamb is a big star, and his absence will certainly affect Dak Prescott, who will count on Brandin Cooks to help him downfield. But Parsons is the heart and soul of the team, his springy athleticism allowing Dallas to be creative on the “D.”
No matter what happens with Russell Wilson’s supporting cast, Sean Payton’s biggest hurdle will likely be getting the QB back into a comfortable scheme and mental rhythm. Surtain, on the other hand, bends the stingy “D” with its covering abilities on the outside.
An elite blocker in a 2022 breakout, Sewell is one of the biggest reasons Jared Goff was able to surprise skeptics with borderline top-10 production last year. His size and athleticism at right tackle is simply unteachable.
Left tackle David Bakhtiati is already absent so frequently that his loss wouldn’t necessarily change offensive plans. But Watson is the most skilled and explosive in a young receiving corps that freshman Jordan Love will lean on.
Assuming rookie QB CJ Stroud gets the nod under center, he’ll need all the help he can get up front, not only because the interior remains a question mark, but because Stroud isn’t necessarily known for his mobility. Protect the signaller!
RB Jonathan Taylor remains their most dynamic all-around talent, but if rookie QB Anthony Richardson starts most of 2023 as expected, his own legs could help the ground game. Pittman, meanwhile, is basically the only sure thing at his position.
Why not new WR1 Calvin Ridley? Well, Trevor Lawrence and Co. did reasonably well without him in 2022. Etienne, on the other hand, is an underrated multi-purpose safety valve for the young QB who is quietly accounting for 1,400+ scrimmage yards in his debut.
It wouldn’t have been crazy to vote for Kelce as MVP over Patrick Mahomes in 2022. He’s as reliable as they come and always finds green grass over the middle. And with Mahomes’ WR space shuffling again, he’ll remain the de facto No. 1 pass target.
You can see why Jacobs is holding out for financial security. Davante Adams can play a more important position, but with Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Renfrow out, Las Vegas can at least make do with WR reserves. Jacob’s power was their offense in 2022.
All eyes will be on whether Justin Herbert can successfully grow as an aggressive passer under new coordinator Kellen Moore, but first he needs to get comfortable in the pocket, where Slater was elite at LT before an injury wiped out most of his last season.
You could argue that LT Joe Noteboom belongs here, given that Matthew Stafford isn’t built to withstand another year of hard hits. But Kupp is the only real weapon at the QB’s disposal, and his loss last year left them scrambling for yards each week.
Nothing is more important in Miami than Tua Tagovailoa’s health after the QB’s string of concussions led to retirement considerations at just 25. Armstead is clearly their best blocker, so his absence could throw everything into a tailspin.
Perhaps the easiest choice of the entire roster, Jefferson has rightfully drawn MVP consideration for his seamless play in Minnesota. Take him out of the lineup, and Kirk Cousins is left to lean on KJ Osborn and rookie Jordan Addison.
Most of Mac Jones’ supporting pieces—both old and new—are fairly interchangeable, which speaks to their offensive struggles. However, Bill Belichick leans on the “D” and Judon has been one of his most consistent performers coming off the edge.
Who else rushes the passer if the longtime veteran goes down? New QB Derek Carr probably can’t afford to lose top WR Chris Olave either, what with Michael Thomas’ injury history. But Dennis Allen’s team is still built to fill opposing offenses.
His success in 2022 confirmed his arrival as a top young tackle a la Penei Sewell in Detroit. For all the talk of getting Daniel Jones more help out, Brian Daboll’s offense probably depends more on Thomas standing pat at LT to keep the QB upright.
Sauce Gardner is infinitely more talented at corner, and Garrett Wilson could be Aaron Rodgers’ new Davante Adams. But what happens if Rodgers’ LT goes down? Is he conditioned when he turns 40 to exceed a bad pocket? The fact that Brown himself is 38 and coming off an injury-plagued season doesn’t necessarily bode well for A-Rod’s setup in the trenches as currently constructed.
RT Lane Johnson, one of the best in the game at his position, is probably more important overall. But he’s already an annual candidate to miss a few games due to injury, and if Brown wasn’t active, DeVonta Smith would be Jalen Hurts’ only truly trusted WR.
Alex Highsmith filled the stat sheet for Watt in 2022, but the latter’s injury-related absence was still felt throughout Mike Tomlin’s defense. This remains a team built around that side of the ball, and Watt’s ferocious edge work cannot be replicated.
No matter which QB opens in 2023, whether it’s Brock Purdy, Trey Lance or even Sam Darnold, Kyle Shanahan will need his best tackle to be in full form. We all saw what happened last year when the protection broke down and their QBs dropped like flies.
Once again, it’s all about giving the QB a clean pocket. Geno Smith’s turnover tendencies started to flare up down the stretch in his breakout 2022. With Jaxon Smith-Njigba joining the WR corps, Cross is an overlooked key to them staying in the mix.
Mike Evans is a fair candidate, considering he’s the most reliable, consistent member of a WR corps that lacks many answers beyond teammate Chris Godwin. But imagine Baker Mayfield under center if Wirfs, their best blocker, gets knocked out of the lineup.
For years they have made Henry the focal point of the offense. Nothing has changed. As Ryan Tannehill navigates another makeshift collection of WRs, King Henry is tasked with carrying Mike Vrabel’s offense on his bruisers.
If Ron Rivera truly believes new QB Sam Howell is capable of emerging as a long-term answer, he better hope the team’s WR1 stays healthy, giving the second-year gunslinger a downfield threat that has been relatively QB-safe in terms of production.