Fitzpatrick will be Geno Smith's replacement as Smith recovers from his broken jaw, and it's reasonable to say that Fitzpatrick is an upgrade. He's a veteran with a better deep ball than people may think, and he's a reliable field general as long as his limitations are kept in check.
2 of 25David E. Klutho for Sports Illustrated
Running back: Jeremy Hill, Bengals
The 2014 second-round pick will be Cincinnati's bellcow back in 2015, and for good reason—no back in the NFL gained more yards in the second half of the season than Hill, who had 929.
3 of 25Bill Frakes for Sports Illustrated
Receiver: Donte Moncrief, Colts
Moncrief caught 32 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns in his rookie season, and head coach Chuck Pagano has said that he's the right kind of big receiver to get a major upturn in touches in his second season. Don't be surprised if Moncrief starts taking over a few games in 2015.
4 of 25Al Tielemans for Sports Illustrated
Receiver: Jordan Matthews, Eagles
Matthews caught 64 slot passes for 835 yards and eight touchdowns in his rookie season, trailing only Green Bay's Randall Cobb as the NFL's most productive slot receiver. The Eagles went three-wide on 66% of their offensive snaps in 2014, eighth-highest in the
NFL, so expect Matthews's numbers inside to continue.
5 of 25Jed Jacobsohn for Sports Illustrated
Tight End: Travis Kelce, Chiefs
Kelce's profile was dragged down by Kansas City's far-from-productive passing game last season, but he ranked fourth overall at his position in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted metrics and tied for the team lead with five receiving touchdowns. Not a lot of deep passes from Alex Smith, but Kelce caught all three deep passes thrown to him in 2014 for 73 yards and a touchdown.
6 of 25Jim Owens/Icon SMI
Offensive Tackle: Andrew Whitworth, Bengals
By virtue of pressures allowed, the 33-year-old Whitworth was the most efficient pass blocker in the NFL in 2014. He allowed no sacks, one quarterback hit and eight quarterback hurries in 533 total passing snaps. Whitworth isn't an athletic marvel, but he can play guard and tackle with equal aplomb, and few linemen use leverage better.
7 of 25Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
Offensive Tackle: Ricky Wagner, Ravens
Wagner was the unsung hero of Baltimore's outstanding offensive line, allowing two sacks and 23 total pressures in his second NFL season. Not bad for a fifth-round pick.
8 of 25William Purnell/Icon SMI
Guard: Kelechi Osemele, Ravens
With Marshal Yanda's contract year coming up and the superstar guard expecting to make a mint in free agency, don't be surprised if Osemele is the real future of Baltimore's inside line with his exciting combination of strength and mobility.
9 of 25Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/MCT
Guard: Trai Turner, Panthers
Turner was a perfect fit for Carolina's run-heavy offense, and the LSU alum was a pile-driver in his rookie season when he was healthy. Turner allowed no sacks in 825 snaps last season, per Pro Football Focus.
10 of 25Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Center: Corey Linsley, Packers
Linsley acquitted himself very well in his first NFL start, which just happened to be at Seattle in the 2014 season opener. He went on to allow just two sacks in 1,216 total snaps and help
pave the way for a rebirth in Green Bay's running game.
11 of 25Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire
Defensive End: Olivier Vernon, Dolphins
With Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh killing offensive lines on one side of Miami's front four this season, Vernon will get a whole bunch of single-teams in his fourth NFL season, and he has the talent to take advantage. His sack totals dropped from 11.5 in 2013 to 6.5 last year, but he had 48 total pressures in 2014.
12 of 25Greg McWilliams/Icon Sportswire
Defensive End: Ryan Davis, Jaguars
First-round pick Dante Fowler, Jr's season-ending knee injury was a big blow to Jacksonville's pass rush, but the relatively unheralded Davis stands to benefit from more than a situational role in 2015. He's one of the NFL's best multi-gap pass-rushers.
13 of 25Robert Beck for Sports Illustrated
Defensive End: Mike Daniels, Packers
Daniels is a tough, productive standout hybrid player in a diverse set of fronts on a Green Bay defensive line that isn't what it used to be. He excelled in 2014 with 44 total pressures in just 794 total snaps.
14 of 25Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire
Defensive Tackle: Tom Johnson, Vikings
Johnson is a situational pass-rushing tackle who impressed in 2014 with his ability to strike quickly at a blocker and get free with leverage and strength. The former CFL veteran racked up 30 total pressures as a rotation player last season, tying him with Carolina's Kawann Short and Dallas's Henry Melton for 13th-best among all NFL defensive tackles.
15 of 25Al Tielemans for Sports Illustrated
Defensive Tackle: Bennie Logan, Eagles
The Philly front seven is full of talent, but Logan is the nose tackle who makes it all go. No defensive tackle had more solo tackles last season than his 44, and he led the NFL in run stops at tackle with 33.
16 of 25Bill Frakes for Sports Illustrated
Outside Linebacker: Jabaal Sheard, Patriots
Sheard got a bit lost in Cleveland's defense over the last two seasons as an outside linebacker, but before that he was an outstanding run-stopping end. Bill Belichick, who understands how to maximize the abilities of his players like few other coaches, will likely play Sheard at his preferred position.
17 of 25Greg McWilliams/Icon Sportswire
Outside Linebacker: Derrick Morgan, Titans
Morgan is still seen by some as a bit of a disappointment—that's what happens when you're taken in the first round of the 2010 draft and have just 23.5 total sacks in your first five seasons. But he had an outstanding year in 2014, totaling 43 pressures, just one short of Tamba Hali's total and good for 15th among all 3-4 outside linebackers.
18 of 25Daniel Gluskoter/Icon Sportswire
Outside Linebacker: Sio Moore, Raiders
Moore is less a pure pass rusher and more a 4-3 do-it-all guy, and that's what he did in 2014. The second-year player was a star in blitz situations and improved as a run-stopper and coverage player. He's a future star in Oakland's underrated front seven.
19 of 25Bill Frakes for Sports Illlustrated
Inside Linebacker: Chris Kirksey, Browns
Few may be familiar with Kirksey's game, but the rookie from Iowa flashed on the tape as the kind of range player who could be extremely valuable over time as a nickel inside linebacker. Don't sleep on his development in Cleveland's improving defense.
20 of 25MSA/Icon Sportswire
Inside Linebacker: Avery Williamson, Titans
Williamson was a real asset in Ray Horton's blitz-happy Titans defense, showing range and impressive tackling ability. The 2014 fifth-rounder racked up two sacks against the Steelers in November, and he'll get more chances to do that as the strong-side linebacker and playcaller in Tennessee's defense.
21 of 25Nick Wass/AP
Cornerback: Chris Culliver, Redskins
Culliver was one of the quieter defections from San Francisco's roster this off-season (it's tough to keep track of it all), but his absence will be felt in the 49ers' secondary as he helps shore up Washington's leaky pass defense. The Redskins signed him to a four-year, $32 million contract in March, and that was smart business—only five starting cornerbacks allowed an opponent passer rating lower than Culliver's 66.5 last season.
22 of 25Al Tielemans for Sports Illustrated
Cornerback: Josh Norman, Panthers
Norman came on for the Panthers late in his rookie season, and there's a lot more to his story than his recent training camp fight with Cam Newton. The third-year man from Coastal Carolina allowed a paltry 53.2 opponent passer rating last season, with just 27 catches for 291 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on 58 targets. He's got the potential to be named along the greats at his position.
23 of 25Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire
Cornerback: Brice McCain, Dolphins
The Steelers lucked out when they were able to trade with the Eagles for Brandon Boykin, another exceptional slot cornerback, because the loss of McCain to the Dolphins in free agency would have hurt otherwise. Pittsburgh's defense was an atypical disaster against the pass in 2014, but it wasn't McCain's fault. He allowed a 70.5 passer rating and no touchdowns on 35 slot targets last season.
24 of 25Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire
Safety: George Iloka, Bengals
It took the highly athletic Iloka a while to get the hang of the NFL, but there's no doubt that 2014 was his breakout season, especially as a pass defender. According to Pro Football Focus metrics, no safety in the league with over 500 total snaps had a lower passer rating allowed than Iloka's 18.4. He allowed just 12 catches, 176 yards and no touchdowns on 31 targets, with three picks and six passes defensed.
25 of 25Carlos M. Saavedra for Sports Illustrated
Safety: Reshad Jones, Dolphins
Jones missed the first four games of the 2014 season to a PED suspension but managed three picks in 767 total snaps. He's also an underrated run defender and a great weapon in blitz packages.
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