Whether it’s fantasy leagues, the Pro Bowl, or the All-Madden teams, football players are constantly being ranked and put into groups based on their unique skills and attributes. As a fan of the game myself, this practice has inspired me to create my own team based on a quintessential element of football: the tailgate party.
And to be a member of the 2023 Ultimate Tailgate Team, the most important qualification is the player’s name.
First, a few disclaimers. I did my best to avoid duplicate names while also representing each team in the NFL. As such, even though there may be multiple players who share a name, only one or two were selected.
I also went deep into the rosters in search of the best candidates, so there may be a few names that are unfamiliar – but trust me, all of them are deserving. The rosters were also my source for each player’s official team position.
Without further ado, I present to you the 2023 Ultimate Tailgate Team.
You can’t have the ultimate tailgate unless you have amazing grill masters. Who better to put in charge of the grill than Detroit Lions linebacker Anthony Pittman and Chicago Bears wide receiver D’Onta Foreman, aided by Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Ezekiel Turner?
They’ll need multiple assistants to help them prepare everything, and Carolina Panthers safety Alex Cook, Buffalo Bills running back James Cook, and New York Jets quarterback Tim Boyle are more than up to the challenge.
We’ll also have grill specialists who can cook your burger exactly the way you like it. If you prefer it medium, see Montaric Brown, cornerback for the Jacksonville Jaguars, or Jake Browning, quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals. If you prefer it well done, Las Vegas Raiders linebacker Amari Burney and Panthers outside linebacker Brian Burns will take care of you.
There should be plenty of options to put on the grill that go beyond the traditional hamburger. These will be overseen by Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, Minnesota Vikings fullback C.J. Ham, and Atlanta Falcons tight end Feleipe Franks.
Poultry can be provided by Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, and Henry Byrd, offensive lineman for the 49ers practice squad.
The right seasonings can make or break your grilled meats. Those can be supplied by New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner and 49ers long snapper Taybor Pepper.
If you prefer fish, rest assured that Bills kicker Tyler Bass and Denver Broncos tight end Adam Trautman have you covered. For some unconventional options, we can enlist Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Malik Herring, Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb, and Broncos outside linebacker Nik Bonitto, whose last name is one T away from a tasty tuna-like fish.
And I can’t imagine a better trio for cleaning and preparing any fresh-caught fish than punter Trenton Gill and long snapper Patrick Scales, both of the Bears, and Los Angeles Chargers safety AJ Finley.
With such a variety of meat and fish, we’ll need some delicious side dishes. Chiefs wide receiver Rashee Rice and Indianapolis Colts center/guard Will Fries are the perfect duo to handle this part of the menu. New York Giants wide receiver Parris Campbell will supplement with a selection of soups and stews.
An amazing tailgate requires a lot of bread – rolls, pitas, sandwich bread, pizza dough. Budda Baker, safety for the Cardinals, will head up this division, with help from New England Patriots offensive tackle Tyrone Wheatley Jr., Cowboys defensive end Tyrus Wheat, and Los Angeles Rams defensive back Russ Yeast.
Even though it’s a tailgate party, you should still eat your veggies. Cesar Ruiz, center/guard for the New Orleans Saints, and Antoine Green, wide receiver for the Lions, will have no trouble putting together an excellent salad, and New York Jets wide receiver Randall Cobb can bring the corn.
AJ Cole III, punter for the Las Vegas Raiders, will handle the slaws. Defensive back Jabril Peppers of the Patriots can chop up vegetables for a crudité platter, and we’ll put David Mayo, linebacker for the Washington Commanders, in charge of making a dip.
If veggies aren’t really your thing but you still want to enjoy the dip, you can always substitute some of the chips brought by Commanders wide receiver Byron Pringle.
In addition to vegetables, there’ll also be plenty of fruit, as provided by Miami Dolphins cornerback Eli Apple and Seattle Seahawks running back Kenny McIntosh.
Braxton Berrios, wide receiver for the Dolphins, can take charge of the mixed berry salad, assisted by Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry, Broncos center Lloyd Cushenberry III, and brothers David Quessenberry, who is a tackle for the Vikings, and Scott Quessenberry, a center for the Houston Texans.
Snacks will likewise be abundant. Camaron Cheeseman, long snapper for the Commanders, and Tucker Kraft, tight end for the Green Bay Packers, can collaborate on an epic charcuterie board, and Tennessee Titans running back Julius Chestnut will bring an assortment of mixed nuts.
The beer cooler will be fully stocked, thanks to the combined efforts of Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Chandler Brewer, Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joey Porter Jr., Baltimore Ravens punter Jordan Stout, and Saints running back Kendre Miller.
Matt Hennessy, offensive lineman for the Falcons, will oversee the cognacs and other spirits, and Sheldrick Redwine, defensive back for the Cowboys practice squad, and Zach Chardonnay – I mean, Charbonnet – running back for the Seahawks, will take care of the wines.
A selection of non-alcoholic beverages will be provided by Steelers defensive tackle Isaiahh Loudermilk, Texans center/guard Juice Scruggs, and Lions quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
And of course, we can’t forget dessert. Baker Mayfield, quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will supervise, aided by Teair Tart, defensive tackle for the Titans. Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham can toast marshmallows for s’mores with some help from Chargers quarterback Easton Stick, and Packers wide receiver Malik Heath and New York Giants kicker Cade York can provide the candy bars.
If you want seconds on anything on the menu, head on over to Elijah Moore, wide receiver for the Browns. He’ll hook you up.
Wide receiver Cooper Kupp and defensive back Ahkello Witherspoon, both of the Rams, will supply all the necessary plates, utensils, and so forth, and the centerpieces will be provided by Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers. Once the festivities have drawn to a close, Browns guard Michael Dunn will take charge of the cleanup.
And if at any point we run out of anything, we can always send Jaxson Kirkland, guard for the Bengals practice squad, on a Costco run.
– Teresa Santoski
Originally published November 26, 2023