The 2023 NFL season is rapidly approaching, which means it is once again time for us to unveil our preseason All-Division teams. We've done this exercise for the past several years, and the point is to preview which players at each position, in each division, we expect to put forth the best performance this coming season.
We'll begin today with the AFC East, then move through the rest of the conference this week. Next week, it's on to the NFC. Without further ado ...
Offensive skill positions
There was just a bit more hesitation before writing in Allen's name at the quarterback spot this year than there was a year ago. He still has a ceiling that can be reached or exceeded seemingly only by Patrick Mahomes, though, so even if Tua Tagovailoa had a great year and Aaron Rodgers can be expected to put forth a better performance than he did a year ago, it's still Allen's slot.
With Dalvin Cook and Breece Hall likely so split work in New York, James Cook likely ceding at least some short yardage and goal-line snaps to Damien Harris, and Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, and Devon Achane sharing the load in Miami, we'll roll with Stevenson, who does have Ezekiel Elliott behind him but has the passing-down role locked in and should be able to out-perform Zeke nearly as dramatically as Tony Pollard has over the past few years.
Diggs has posted receiving lines of 127-1,535-8, 103-1,225-10, and 108-1,429-11 since arriving in Buffalo. He remains the fairly uncontested No. 1 option in a pass-heavy offense piloted by one of the league's best quarterbacks. He's going to smash again. Hill and Waddle went absolutely berserk alongside each other last year, especially in games Tua started and finished under center. Maybe Tyreek won't reset career-highs in catches and yards again, but he's a lock for a monster target share and he essentially can't be tackled by the first defender. Waddle, meanwhile, has now proven he can be a short-range possession guy and a field-stretching deep threat. Wilson should operate as Rodgers' No. 1 wideout all year, and that role has been wildly profitable for whomever has filled it for years now.
With each of the teams in this division splitting the tight end role between multiple players (Henry and Mike Gesicki; Dawson Knox and Dalton Kincaid; Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah; Durham Smythe, Eric Saubert, and Tyler Kroft), it was tough to pick the best option here. Henry's got the best track record of the group so we went with him.
The issue with Armstead is always -- ALWAYS -- injuries. Whenever he's on the field, he remains one of the NFL's top tackles. Of course, he already got banged up during training camp. But if he plays often enough, he'll deserve a spot here. Dawkins ranked inside the top 16 in Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking grades last season, and has allowed a pressure on just 4% of dropbacks over the past two years. He's a better bet to keep up that level of play than Trent Brown, who is now in his 30s.
AVT missed a bunch of time due to injury last season but his rookie year was promising enough that we're willing to bet on his development. Onwenu is yet another in a long line of mid-to-late-round picks that turned into starters along the offensive line for New England, and he's a damn good one. He's played all over the line but figures to slot in at right guard again this year. Andrews, meanwhile, has been a high-level starting center for some time now, and he's stayed pretty healthy over the past three years after missing the entire 2019 season. (He's played 43 of 50 possible games.) You could make an argument for Mitch Morse for this spot after he made the Pro Bowl last year, but Andrews has been the better player and is probably the better bet for a slightly higher level of play in 2023.
Von Miller is the best edge rusher in this division, but he's coming off a torn ACL and may or may not be healthy (or full-go) to begin the season. So, we're going with a trio of rushmen who have flashed high ceilings at different times. Judon has reached that ceiling most often because he's been in the league the longest, having notched 12.5 and 15.5 sacks in 2021 and 2022. Phillips and Rousseau, each first-round picks in 2021, seem primed for breakouts working across from quality rushers (Bradley Chubb and Miller, respectively) and have already put together impressive seasons to begin with.
Williams deservingly got himself a monster contract extension this offseason, and along with Sauce Gardner (more on him below) is one of the lynchpins of a New York defense that should be among the best in the NFL. Wilkins has been a pretty good player through his four NFL seasons, but it seems like there is still untapped upside. Making more of an impact in the pass-rush department (he has 11.5 sacks and 27 QB hits in four years) can take his game to another level.
Milano last season finally got the recognition he's long deserved, getting named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro First Team for the first time. He's an ace in coverage -- which is more important than ever these days -- and a really good playmaker from sideline to sideline. He won't have Tremaine Edmunds next to him anymore, but that shouldn't reduce his impact. Meanwhile, Mosley's recovered quite well from the injury that ended his season in 2020, notching at least 158 tackles in each of the last two years and returning to the Pro Bowl last season. He's getting up there in age for a player who has to cover as much ground as he does (he'll be 31 this season) but has shown no signs of a drop-off yet. Working in the context of a very talented defense, he should still shine this year.
Jalen Ramsey had one of these spots sewn up before the injury that ended most of his season before it began. But Gardner might be the best corner in the league already, and Reed has put together consecutive excellent seasons. White took a while to come back from his ACL tear and seemingly wasn't at full strength even when he returned, but those guys are typically better in Year 2 off the injury. There are arguments to be made for Xavien Howard and any of the various New England corners that played at a high level last year, but these guys seem like the best bets.
This division is straight up loaded with talent at safety. In addition to Holland (one of the most versatile back-seven defenders in football) and Poyer (a Pro Bowler last season despite missing five games), there's Micah Hyde, Kyle Dugger, Jordan Whitehead, and even Brandon Jones. If Hyde is fully recovered, he probably deserves a spot. Giving it to Holland is a nod to the third-year safety's immense potential and a hedge against Hyde's injury status.
Sanders has connected on 82.9% of his field-goal tries in his career and has connected on multiple 50-plus-yard kicks in each of the last four years. Martin has averaged more than 40 net yards per punt (punt yards minus return yards) in eight of his 10 NFL seasons. Jones led the NFL in total punt return yards and average yards per return last season, while also averaging 23.9 yards per kick return. He was a First Team All-Pro. Miami's Braxton Berrios earned the same honor the year before and could compete with Jones again this year.