By 750 THE GAME STAFF
ESPN conducted an exercise to rank the best core of rosters across the NFL entering the 2023 season.
Five players on each team’s roster – their best or most-important players – are considered by ESPN to be a team’s core. Quarterbacks lead the way, supplemented by a mix of reliable veterans in their prime and ascending players on rookie contracts at key positions.
For the Seahawks, a surprise playoff team from last season, quarterback Geno Smith leads the list of core players, joined by his top pass-catchers in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Rounding out the core is second-year cornerback Tariq Woolen and second-year left tackle Charles Cross.
Where does that rank among the league’s best?
Right in the middle, says ESPN, slotting Seattle at 14th.
“When Russell Wilson left Seattle, he struggled,” wrote Seth Walder of ESPN Analytics who authored the rankings. “When Smith stepped into the starting role in Seattle, he thrived. There were other factors, but I have to wonder if Metcalf and Lockett’s role in their quarterbacks’ success has been underrated.”
Metcalf and Lockett combined for 174 receptions for 2, 081 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, with Lockett missing just one game and Metcalf playing all seventeen. Each ranked in the top 20 in the league in catches and receiving yards.
Cross was Seattle’s first-round choice in 2022 and impressed at left tackle as a rookie, a daunting task in the NFL. Woolen finished third in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting behind winner Sauce Gardner of the Jets and Detroit pass-rusher Aidan Hutchinson. ESPN listed that rookie duo from last year to round out Seattle’s core.
The Hawks core ranks one spot ahead of the New York Giants at No. 15 who have freshly paid quarterback Daniel Jones and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence leading their core along with former Ducks standout Kayvon Thibodeaux at pass-rusher, Andrew Thomas at left tackle and tight end Darren Waller, who was acquired for a mid-round pick from the Raiders this off-season.
The Vikings come in a spot ahead of Seattle at No. 13 led by quarterback Kirk Cousins and All-Pro receiver Justin Jefferson who many consider to be the top player at the game at his position.
Unsurprisingly, the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs are No. 1 in these rankings with the Cincinnati Bengals at two.
Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers check in at No. 7.
Former Oregon Ducks tackle Penei Sewell is included in the Detroit Lions core, ranked 18th in the league.
Russell Wilson leads the Broncos core which comes in at No. 20.
Former Duck and 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner is in the Indianapolis Colts core that ranks 30th.
San Francisco has the highest-ranked core among NFC West teams at No. 10, with Seattle at No. 14, the Los Angeles Rams at No. 21, and the rebuilding Arizona Cardinals a league-lowest No. 32.
Check out the full rankings from ESPN+ here (ESPN+ subscription required).