It seems like this NFL season more than ever, teams have experienced serious injuries that have weakened their rosters, which means the role of backups is more important than it's ever been. Just in this last week we saw Rob Gronkowski and Tyrann Mathieu, among others, land on injured reserve. And we probably aren't done seeing major injuries hit as the wear and tear of the season takes its toll on players.
The question then becomes: Which team is best suited if one of its starters was to get hurt? To answer that question, we present to you the NFL Depth Chart Rankings, which evaluate the depth of talent on every NFL roster heading down the home stretch of the season and into the playoffs.
First, a few details on how the rankings were constructed. We took the ideal lineup for each team based on their current healthy players, as well as the players likely to return this season, and ranked the backups for each team. These rankings were created using overall PFF Grades of the backup players over their last 1,000 snaps and focused on the strength of the quality backups rather than the inexperienced backups. Each player's grade was capped at plus-5.0 so that an individual backup would not overly influence the team's rating.
The quarterback position was also ignored, since nearly every team would see their Super Bowl dreams shattered if their starting quarterback was hurt. The focus of these rankings is to illustrate how much depth each team features -- and whether they can survive -- in the event starters are lost due to injury.
Backups grade: 53.6 | Deepest position group: Halfback
Shallowest: Offensive line | Best non-starter: HB Darren Sproles (+30.2)
The Saints are full of quality offensive skill players, including Sproles, fullback Jed Collins (+16.5) and tight end Benjamin Watson (+15.7), making it so the offense could still be effective if an injury were to occur. On defense, they have serviceable veteran depth at defensive back in Chris Carr (+7.5), Rafael Bush (+4.9) and Isa Abdul-Quddus (+2.1). Due to their heavy rotation of players on both offense and defense, they are prepared for an injury to nearly any of their players.
Backups grade: 40.1 | Deepest position group: Linebacker
Shallowest: Tight end | Best non-starter: LB Malcolm Smith (+15.2)
The Seahawks front seven is filled with part-time players who could be full-time starters on other teams. They are highlighted by Smith, who showed during Bruce Irvin's suspension that he could excel in run defense, pass rushing and coverage, but who now can't get on the field due to how good the starting linebackers are. While there is some depth on offense, there isn't as much compared to other teams.
Backups grade: 36.1 | Deepest position group: Running back
Shallowest: Linebacker | Best non-starter: TE Ben Hartsock (+19.4)