Top 10 NFL Triplet’s Entering the 2016 Season
10. Kansas City Chiefs – Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles, Jeremy Maclin
When Jamaal Charles went down with a torn ACL, it was a shocking blow to not just the Chiefs organization, but the entire NFL. Luckily for the Chiefs, Alex Smith showed his ability to lead a team, as the Chiefs won their last ten games in the regular season, finishing 11-5. Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware filled in admirably in Charles’ absence, but this is Jamaal’s team and he should return to his previous form this season as the league’s best speed back. Couple him with Alex Smith and the versatile Jeremy Maclin and you’ve got a decent trio on offense. It is by no means an Elite trio, but with Jamaal returning, this offense is a completely different monster.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – QB Andy Dalton, RB Jeremy Hill, WR A.J. Green
If Jeremy Hill returns to his rookie form, this is no-doubt a Top 5 trio, but after seeing his YPC drop off from 5.1 in his rookie season to 3.6 in his second season, I’m not sure that it will happen. Hill still found 11 touchdowns last year, two more than his rookie season, so don’t be fooled, Hill is still a quality back. The connection of Andy Dalton to A.J. Green is the glue that holds this offense together. Dalton may not be among the ranks of the NFL’s elite, but is and will continue to be a serviceable quarterback that can get you to the playoffs. Pairing him with superstar wideout A.J. Green is a perfect recipe for a Top 10 trio.
8. Steelers – QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Antonio Brown
In my mind, the Steelers have the best triplet when Le’Veon Bell is on the field, but this article is about the best triplets ENTERING the 2016 season. If I wrote this article after Bell’s likely four-game suspension, the Steelers would be first. There’s a reason that the Steelers are Super Bowl contenders this year, and it starts under center with Big Ben. Barring any injury troubles like last year, Ben Roethlisberger should surpass 4,000 yards again, even without Martavis Bryant lining up wide. Antonio Brown is the best receiver in football. If they had Le’Veon, I don’t know how you couldn’t put this trio at No. 1, but they have DeAngelo Williams starting entering Week 1. Williams actually had a great season last year, but at 33-years old, I doubt that he has much gas left in the tank to replicate it.
7. Carolina Panthers
Having Cam Newton under center certainly doesn’t hurt the Panthers in these rankings. Newton was the best quarterback, no, player in the league last year, and he has his superstar wideout, 6’5” Kelvin Benjamin, coming back from injury. Johnathan Stewart almost broke the 1,000 yard mark last season, coming just 11 yards short. At 29-years old, he should be able to replicate that, so long as Cam Newton continues to draw defenders to him and Guard Trai Turner continues to open up holes.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Blake Bortles, RB Chris Ivory, WR Allen Robinson
As much as I love the Jacksonville defense coming into this year, I feel equally strong about the offense. Bortles almost broke 4,500 yards while tossing 35 touchdowns to 18 interceptions. Those are extremely impressive for a second year player, and why shouldn’t we expect the same from him this season? A huge key to Bortles success was his new favorite target, Allen Robinson. Robinson produced at a high level consistently throughout the season, finishing with 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns to his name. With an improving offensive line, Bortles should only have more time to find his favorite target wide open, just like he did all of last season. Free agent addition Chris Ivory felt unneeded to me, as they had a promising back in T.J. Yeldon coming off of a 740-yard season, but adding Chris Ivory, who is coming off of his best season and quickly establishing himself as one of the best power backs, can’t hurt the run game at all.
5. Falcons – QB Matt Ryan, RB Devonta Freeman, WR Julio Jones
Remember last offseason when the Falcons had a competition for the starting running back spot between Devonta Freeman and then-rookie Tevin Coleman? One year later, there is no question who the top running back is on that depth chart. Freeman passed the 1,000-yard mark on the ground, while catching 73 passes for over 500 yards. Talk about versatile. Freeman caught the second-most passes and scored the second-most touchdowns on the Falcons. Of course, Julio Jones was No. 1. Julio finished with 136 receptions for over 1,800 yards and 8 touchdowns. You could debate that he or Antonio Brown is the top receiver in the league and you could have a strong case for either. Matt Ryan may not be the clutch, elite quarterback that he once was, but he is more than capable of leading a team still. Ryan exceeded 4,000 yards for the fifth-straight season last year, and with Julio still in town and Mohamed Sanu coming in, there’s no reason to think that he can’t make it six.
4. Buccaneers – QB Jameis Winston, RB Doug Martin, WR Mike Evans
Throwing for over 4,000 yards and going to the Pro Bowl in your rookie season is even more than I would have expected out of the former No. 1 pick. All of the strengths on Winston’s scouting report showed up in his rookie season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he topped 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns in his second year. Doug Martin has had one of the weirdest career paths so far. After surpassing 1,400 yards as a rookie, Martin was supposed to be the next big thing in the NFL. Injuries and a shaky offensive line caused him to not even reach the 500-yard mark in his next two seasons. Backup Charles Sims was closing in on his starting job and the identity of Tampa’s backfield was in question. Just when we thought that Martin was finished, he exploded for another 1,400 yard season, averaging about 5 YPC and regaining his reputation as one of the league’s best young running backs. Mike Evans may have taken step back in his rookie season in terms of red-zone effectiveness, but he caught for about 200 yards more than in his rookie season. Evans is an elite receiver, and it seems like people aren’t giving him the credit that he deserves after catching only 3 touchdowns in 2015.
3. Arizona Cardinals – Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald
Who would’ve expected Carson Palmer to have in MVP caliber season at 36 years old? Who would’ve expected a Northern Iowa running back to emerge as a Top 10 running back? This Cardinals team is an unexpected one, but one thing that has remained consistent is Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz caught his 1,000th pass this season, and is looking for his 100th touchdown this upcoming season. He is currently at 98. Looking back a few years at the Carson Palmer at Oakland, I would have never thought that he could resurrect his career, but when you have a coach like Bruce Arians, any career could be resurrected, except maybe Johnny Manziel’s. David Johnson has shown the power and versatility to be the Cardinals starting running back for seasons to come, but the Cardinals also have Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson to feed some carries as well.
2. Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant
I know what you all are thinking: ‘But Kip, Elliott hasn’t even taken a snap in the NFL yet and you are already think that he will make this a Top-2 trio?’. Believe me, I know the concerns. Regardless, this is still a Top-2 triplet, and I was very close to putting this at No. 1. Elliott was the best running back in the draft class, and he is probably the best running back to come through the draft in the last five years. Now, put him behind the best offensive line in the league and you have the perfect recipe for 1,200 yard season. Remember, this is the offensive line that made Darren McFadden a 1,000 yard rusher. Anything is possible. Tony Romo, barring any injury, should once again be a Top 10 quarterback and Dez Bryant should become the beast that we are all accustomed to seeing on Sundays now that he has is star quarterback returning. Worst-case scenario: Elliot only rushes for 700 yards and this the 8th or 9th best trio in the league.
1. Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson
Besides Aaron Rodgers being Aaron Rodgers, the rest of the Packers team wasn’t what we were accustomed to seeing last season. 10-6 is not what we are used to, and a lot of it had to do with Jordy Nelson going down with a season-ending injury before the season had ever started. Eddie Lacy slowed down lasts season, a lot of it because of his weight, and that was a huge contributor because it left the Packers with a run game that no team respected. This season, Jordy Nelson is back and ready for huge season, like the one he had in 2014, and Eddie Lacy has certainly taken the criticism to heart. I expect the Packers to at least win twelve next season thanks in large part to their trio of superstars getting back to business.