Who’s the best player at each position entering the NFL season? That question would be a lot easier to answer if the job descriptions for each position didn't change so frequently.

By The SI Staff
July 01, 2016

Who’s the best player at each position entering the NFL season? That question would be a lot easier to answer if the job descriptions for each role didn't change so frequently. As offenses and defenses adjust to each other’s tendencies faster than ever, it’s hard to pin down exactly what we should call J.J. Watt (other than a menace to quarterbacks everywhere) or Chris Harris (other than a lockdown artist any smart passing game should steer clear of). Before training camps open and the 2016 season kicks off, we reset our ledgers by ranking the game’s elite class at each common position, broadening the net for each role slightly to include every possible type of scheme. 

Check back in the coming weeks as our rankings continue.

Winslow Townson

Why the reigning MVP doesn’t crack the top two yet, and which youngsters are knocking on the door of the elite. Don Banks’s complete rankings

William Purnell/Icon SMI

Injury attrition hangs over the position like a cloud, but the league’s star RBs still shine when they’re on the field. Chris Burke’s complete rankings

Gene J. Puskar/AP

The long list of wide receivers who can wreck defenses on the outside is a big reason why the entire league is taking to the air. Chris Burke’s complete rankings

Stephen Pond/Getty Images

The big names on this list underscore how important playing inside has become to receivers of all sizes. Doug Farrar’s complete rankings

Julio Cortez/AP

Gronk is still lapping the field at his position, but the field is not lacking for nightmare-inducing matchups for defenses. Melissa Jacobs’s complete rankings

Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Just because both of last year’s Super Bowl teams lacked elite tackle play doesn’t mean the position has dipped in its importance as a franchise cornerstone. Greg Bedard’s complete rankings

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Thanks to a series of strong drafts, there may be more elite guards in the league now than ever before. Chris Burke’s complete rankings

Mark Davison/Icon SMI

Every O-line coach should have this tattooed somewhere on his body: Without a great center, your offensive line, and in turn your entire offense, won’t go very far. Doug Farrar’s complete rankings


The free and strong safety positions always have been vital and consistently feature some of the game’s top athletes.​ Which strong safeties really set themselves apart? Chris Burke’s complete rankings


On top of their own duties, safeties have to be cornerbacks and linebackers as well.​ Which free safeties do the best job at that? Chris Burke’s complete rankings


It takes a lot more than a peek at the NFL’s interceptions leaderboard to determine the league’s best outside cornerbacks. Eric Single’s complete rankings

Bob Levey/Getty Images

They may not have islands named after them, but they are vital to the modern NFL defense. Doug Farrar’s complete rankings

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Luke Kuechly is the quintessential modern linebacker. Who’s the next in line? Jacob Feldman’s complete rankings

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

With the proliferation of nickel and dime defenses, these players need to meet the diverse demands of a position in flux. Chris Burke’s complete rankings

Sean Gardner/Getty Images

No matter what position the media guide lists them at, they can all get after the quarterback. Greg Bedard’s complete rankings

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In an changing league, these trench weapons are asked to do more than ever. Doug Farrar’s complete rankings

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