<
>
Insider

The ultimate 53-man roster

Getty Images

A version of this article appears in ESPN The Magazine's NFL Preview Issue. Subscribe here!

The premise for the following exercise was simple: Assemble the best possible 53-man NFL roster under the salary cap, using each player's 2015 cap charge. I tried not to just pick the best players available based on the money, but to find players within each position group and unit who could complement each other. I wanted a balanced offense, a 4-3 defense and a roster that could hold up on special teams as well.

I followed two rules: No rookies, and stay under the NFL's $143,280,000 salary cap. In certain instances, I chose to move players out of their natural positions because I felt like it meshed with this roster's strengths. Representatives from 27 teams are included -- the Cowboys and Bills led the way with four picks each, while the Patriots, Saints, Buccaneers, Titans and 49ers got shut out.

Without further ado, the best NFL roster $142,383,980 can buy.

(I put asterisks next to the players who would start for this team in Week 1.)

Quarterback

*Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts ($7,034,363): This will likely be the last year I can afford Luck on my ultimate roster, as he's due to get a massive deal next offseason. But for now, with the 20th-highest cap hit among quarterbacks, he's a no-brainer to be my starter.