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Barnwell Ranks The Best Offensive Teams

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I won’t lie, there are some WTH’s in here.  Having the Panthers, Bills & Giants in the top 10 makes no sense.  Apparently the Falcons have the worst set of offensive weapons in the NFCS


Ranking offensive weapons for all 32 NFL teams in 2020: Barnwell picks the best and worst

  • Contract value doesn't matter. I'm strictly focusing on performance here, so while there are players on this list who might be considered bad values, the only thing that matters is what they do on the field.

  • Only 2020 matters. Long-term value doesn't matter, so I'm strictly considering how each player is likely to perform in the 2020 season after accounting for his quarterback, line and coaching staff. The NFL can be a mystery, but I'm trying to use aging curves, recent history and the typical value produced by draft picks to estimate performance. I'm also factoring in injuries for players such as Deebo Samuel and injury histories for players such as Will Fuller V when estimating their availability.

  • Wide receivers matter more than other positions.The league considers wide receivers more valuable than running backs or tight ends. The top 10 multiyear deals for wideouts are worth an average of $17.4 million per season. The top 10 running back deals average $9.3 million per year, while the top 10 tight ends are at $7.8 million per campaign. I don't weigh the value of wide receivers to be quite as significant as those numbers suggest, but a great wideout is worth more than a similarly effective running back or tight end.

  • Top-level talent is worth more than depth. Since an NFL team will typically run out some combination of five running backs, wide receivers and tight ends on the vast majority of its offensive snaps, I focused on the five most valuable weapons. I handed out a bonus for players who would widely be considered among the best at their respective positions, including Travis Kelce and Michael Thomas. When two teams were close, I broke ties by considering those teams with more depth at the skill positions, such as the Patriots, Eagles and 49ers.

  • Not everyone who was considered gets mentioned.While I looked at the entire depth chart in evaluating each team's weapons, listing and writing about every single player in those groups would make this column longer than it already is. If I don't mention someone in a write-up, it's not because they were ignored or not considered.

The Jaguars were in the basement in these rankings last year. They're not 32nd again, although Jacksonville fans won't have to go too much further to find Gardner Minshew's weapons on this list:

Jump to a team:
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF


32. Washington

2019 rank: No. 28 | 2018 rank: No. 18

It's rock-bottom for Washington, which has a budding star in No. 1 wideout Terry "F1" McLaurin and little else after the 24-year-old. McLaurin was second among rookies in receiving yards and yards per route run behind A.J. Brown, and his speed proved to be absolutely devastating, especially when stretching defenses out of the slot. He was a couple of long misses away from a 1,000-yard, nine-touchdown season.

After McLaurin, though, the weapons for second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins are underwhelming. Washington has moved out disappointing additions like Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson, but the receivers who replaced them were Kelvin Harmon and Steven Sims, the latter of whom averaged just 9.1 yards per catch. Trey Quinn ranked No. 103 out of 111 wideouts in yards per route run. The organization is optimistic about Harmon and 6-foot-4 fourth-round pick Antonio Gandy-Golden, but over the past decade, less than 16% of fourth-round picks have topped 500 yards during their rookie season. And while it seemed like Washington would add tight ends to replace the departing Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, those replacements were Logan Thomas and Richard Rodgers.

The running back depth chart looks like someone is dedicating a homage to your fantasy waiver wire of a year ago. Adrian Peterson and Peyton Barber are low-ceiling, run-only veterans who serve little purpose for a rebuilding organization. Derrius Guice and Bryce Love have serious injury histories and have combined for 95 pro snaps over their first three seasons. The big hope here is hybrid weapon Antonio Gibson, who is converting from serving as a wideout in college, but it would be a surprise if he's an impactful player from the jump. The bright side is that this is one of the youngest groups in the league.


12. Atlanta Falcons

2019 rank: 10 | 2018 rank: 3

The Falcons are in transition as they try to shift badly needed resources from their offense to their defense. They've downgraded by dropping from Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper to Russell Gage and Hayden Hurst, although I'm optimistic about 2018 first-round pick Hurst's chances of repeating Hooper's production with the expanded role. Running back Todd Gurley is likely an upgrade on the oft-injured Devonta Freemanand will certainly be better as a receiver. Gurley has a high ceiling thanks to this offensive line and a low floor as a result of his knee condition; he could be an Offensive Player of the Year candidate or he could sputter through five games and miss the rest of the year.




N'Keal Harry runs routes with Cam Newton

Cam Newton and N'Keal Harry meet for the first time as fellow Patriots to get some practice in.

The Falcons have their core at wide receiver with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, although Jones' production dropped slightly from a league-high 104.8 receiving yards per game in 2018 to 92.9 yards per contest last season. Ridley's season-long numbers and snap rate were virtually identical, but he went from playing 16 games to 13. Prorated to 16 games, Ridley would have posted a 78-1,065-9 line, and while you can't count on perfect health, he should be able to top those marks without Hooper in the fold.


11. Los Angeles Rams

2019 rank: 1 | 2018 rank: 6

The dream fell apart for the Rams, who responded to a frustrating season by doing something that would have been unimaginable two years ago: trading away Brandin Cooks and cutting Todd Gurley. They replaced the duo by using second-round picks on Cam Akersand Van Jefferson. Sean McVay desperately needs Akers or 2019 third-rounder Darrell Henderson to step up as an every-down back given how ordinary Malcolm Brown has been for most of his career.

The big three at wide receiver is now a big two with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, but Los Angeles still has three devastating receiving weapons when you add tight end Tyler Higbee to the mix. Over the last five weeks of 2019, Higbee led all receivers -- not tight ends, but all pass-catchers -- in receiving yards (522). That number probably isn't sustainable with Gerald Everett back in the mix, given that the other Rams tight end played just four snaps over that five-game stretch, but if Higbee is a top-end TE1, this team might not miss Cooks.


10. Philadelphia Eagles

2019 rank: 4 | 2018 rank: 7

On paper, the Eagles should be higher. At wide receiver, they can utilize two talented veterans (DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery), two highly drafted young players (JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Jalen Reagor) and two speed demons (Marquise Goodwinand John Hightower). When you throw in Zach Ertzand Dallas Goedert at tight end, this should be one of the best receiving corps in the league.

Of course, that group has flaws. Jackson missed most of 2019 with a core injury, and his future with the team is uncertain after he posted anti-Semitic messages on social media. Jeffery suffered a Lisfranc injury in December, and he has no timetable for return. Arcega-Whiteside was a disaster as a rookie, averaging just 0.58 yards per route run while dealing with injuries and making mental mistakes. Goodwin has missed 12 games over the past two season with various injuries and personal absences. Reagor and Hightower are rookies. Chances are that one or two of these guys will turn out to be productive players, but there's also a realistic chance that Philadelphia is frustrated by its wide receivers again in 2020.

The workload at running back will fall on Miles Sandersand Boston Scott, although it still seems likely that the Eagles will add at least one veteran back before the start of the regular season. Sanders narrowly topped 800 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards as a rookie. The list of backs to hit the 500-500 club as a rookie since the 1970 merger is pretty impressive: Sanders, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Gio Bernard, Reggie Bush, Edgerrin James, Marshall Faulk, Herschel Walker, Earl Cooper and Billy Sims.


9. Arizona Cardinals

2019 rank: 27 | 2018 rank: 20

The Cardinals have made significant additions to their weapons core via trade. Last season, they traded for Kenyan Drake, who racked up 814 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns after being given a reprieve from the tanking Dolphins. Arizona followed up this offseason by stealing DeAndre Hopkins from the Texans in the David Johnson trade, which might have qualified as further addition by subtraction. With Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk both returning, the Cardinals could easily justify a higher position in the top 10.

I'm more pessimistic than those names might indicate. Fitzgerald's numbers have dropped dramatically since his last Pro Bowl appearance in 2017; he is a franchise icon, but his ceiling seems to be a lot lower than we might remember. Drake's performance over the second half was out of line with his career production and was extremely inconsistent. He scored six touchdowns on eight carries inside the 5-yard line with the Cardinals, when the league-average rate is 45%. Drake also had scored just once on five such touches during his time with the Dolphins. He can be productive in this offense, but I'm not sure I expect the sort of yardage or touchdown pace we saw from him over the second half of 2019 in 2020.


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I want to see more growth and consistency out of Arizona's younger receivers. Nearly 36% of Kirk's 709 receiving yards and all three of his touchdowns came in two games. Andy Isabella, a second-round pick last year, had 166 receiving yards across back-to-back games in midseason and just 23 yards otherwise, while fourth-rounder Hakeem Butler was a disappointment in camp before missing the entire season on injured reserve. There are a lot of mouths to feed in this offense, but it would hit another level if Kirk can push ahead of Fitzgerald.


8. Buffalo Bills

2019 rank: 25 | 2018 rank: 29

The Bills built an entirely new core of weapons for Josh Allen last year, and in many cases, they landed on hits. John Brown played like a legitimate No. 1 wideout, averaging 2.15 yards per route run. Cole Beasley wasn't far behind. Tyler Kroft didn't stay healthy, but Dawson Knox emerged as a matchup problem (albeit with drop issues) as a rookie and didn't give the job back. Devin Singletary helped lead a comeback in the opener, averaged 5.1 yards per carry, finished 13th in DVOA and was versatile enough to take over as an every-down back by Week 16, but he fumbled four times on 180 touches.

Now, of course, the Bills have added a superstar wide receiver to that lineup in Stefon Diggs, who ranked third in yards per route run among wide receivers last season. The only guy who averaged more yards when targeted was A.J. Brown. Diggs adds a dominant weapon to the lineup and pushes everybody else down a spot. The 2019 version of John Brown could be the most overqualified second wideout in football outside of Chris Godwin. If the second-year guys such as Singletary and Knox make strides in holding onto the football, the Bills could be a top-5 unit in 2021.


7. New York Giants

2019 rank: 8 | 2018 rank: 2

If everyone could just get on the field at one time, the Giants would be something to stress out about for opposing defenses. Daniel Jones wasn't able to get his five key weapons -- Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton -- on the gridiron together for a single snap in 2019. Jones dropped back 77 times with only Shepard missing from that bunch and posted a passer rating of 100.7, 13 points higher than his season-long total.

Slayton was the revelation of the bunch, leading the team with 740 receiving yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie fifth-round pick. The Giants don't have anybody as valuable as DeAndre Hopkins, but they are deeper one through five than the vast majority of teams and still have position-leading upside at running back and tight end with Barkley and Engram. If they just could stay healthy ...


6. New Orleans Saints

2019 rank: 7 | 2018 rank: 11

While NFL executives named Julio Jones the league's best wide receiver, Michael Thomas is comfortably the most productive wideout by the majority of measures. The only argument you could have made against Thomas was the idea that he wouldn't be the same quarterback without Drew Brees at the helm, but across Teddy Bridgewater's five starts, he actually averaged more receiving yards per game (110.2) and yards per target (10.6) than he did otherwise (106.7 and 8.8, respectively.) We've never seen a player absorb as much volume and threaten teams downfield as frequently as Thomas while simultaneously catching more than 80% of the passes in his direction.


Over the past two seasons, Michael Thomas has 274 catches for 3,130 yards and 18 touchdowns. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Saints found a second weapon behind Thomas in Jared Cook, who set career highs in yards per catch (16.4) and touchdowns (nine). Cook didn't absorb a ton of volume, and I wonder if there will be enough in the way of opportunities for another big-name addition in Emmanuel Sanders. I'm more pessimistic about Sanders than the market, owing to his age (33), recent injury history and inconsistent production with the 49ers; but as long as Sanders can win his one-on-one matchups for three or four catches a week, he'll be fine.

The only disappointing weapon for the Saints last season was Alvin Kamara, who suffered from some severe touchdown regression past the mean. After he scored once every 15.4 touches between 2017 and 2018, the dynamic running back scored once every 42 touches last season. His receiving efficiency also dropped off, and he fumbled four times after fumbling just once in each of the prior two campaigns. I'm optimistic about Kamara bouncing back in 2020, but asking for the unreal touchdown rate of his first two seasons is probably too much.


5. Carolina Panthers

2019 rank: 22 | 2018 rank: 17

It's hard for a running back to be more productive than Christian McCaffrey, who finished with the third-most yards from scrimmage (2,392) in NFL history. McCaffrey scored 19 touchdowns, was efficient as a runner and receiver, absorbed huge volume and only fumbled once on 403 touches. The only hole I can poke in his production is that much of it came with the Panthers trailing; he (453 receiving yards) and teammate DJ Moore (421) ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in receiving yards when their team's chance of winning was below 10%. It's difficult to imagine McCaffrey being quite as productive in 2020, but even 80% of his 2019 season would make him one of the NFL's best backs.

Everybody knows McCaffrey is a star, but even given those numbers above, I'm not sure people are appropriately valuing Moore. The 2018 first-rounder finished with 1,175 receiving yards despite catching passes from Kyle Allen and a compromised Cam Newton. Moore could be a top-10 receiver with better quarterback play from Teddy Bridgewater this season. I'm not quite as optimistic about Curtis Samuel, who averaged less than 6.0 yards per target a year ago, but new addition Robby Anderson also should benefit from an improved passer. The biggest question is Ian Thomas, who impressed at the end of 2018 and will have the first shot at taking over for Greg Olsen at tight end.


4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2019 rank: 14 | 2018 rank: 15

While a drop in possessions is likely to drag down their cumulative numbers, the Bucs have a strong case for sporting the NFL's best receiving corps. They have the best one-two punch at wide receiver in the game with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin -- who solved his fumble problems and emerged as a great second option. The only downside is that Tampa Bay didn't really replace third wideout Breshad Perriman, who was one of the league's most productive wideouts in December after Evans and Godwin went down injured.

No team is deeper at tight end with O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and now Rob Gronkowski. Even if we only see the guy whose numbers declined in 2018, Gronk posted a 47-682-3 line and finished 11th among tight ends in fantasy football. With a year to rest his ailing back, he has more red zone upside than that line would suggest.

As was the case a year ago, though, the Buccaneers have the worst group of running backs in football. Ronald Jones improved after a dismal rookie campaign, but his issues with fumbles and pass protection make it difficult to expect Bruce Arians to give the 2018 second-rounder significant volume. The only players of note behind Jones are rookie third-rounder Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Dare Ogunbowale. This is a team crying out for a veteran back such as Devonta Freeman, Lamar Miller or LeSean McCoy.



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4 hours ago, FalconsIn2012 said:

What’s funny is if you look at their two prior Pre season rankings they were 8th and 2nd.  Dude must be a Giants fan

I believe he is a Panthers fan.  I also think he is a bit jaded with the Falcons because he might have lost money betting on the team the past couple of years.

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Barnwell is typically a good writer. Not sure what happened here. His rankings make no sense.

He penalizes us for losing Hooper and Sanu, but we still have the best wide receiver in football and one of the best young wide receivers in football. 

In the NFC south, I would put us behind Tampa Bay and that is it. I would take our skill players over the Saints and Carolina any day of the week.

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3 hours ago, Jpg428gggg said:

Barnwell is typically a good writer. Not sure what happened here. His rankings make no sense.

He penalizes us for losing Hooper and Sanu, but we still have the best wide receiver in football and one of the best young wide receivers in football. 

In the NFC south, I would put us behind Tampa Bay and that is it. I would take our skill players over the Saints and Carolina any day of the week.

Brady looked to be in decline last year. And Tampa’s running game is In ? as well.

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1 hour ago, Vandy said:

Brady looked to be in decline last year. And Tampa’s running game is In ? as well.

Yeah, I agree. I think these rankings are based off skill players so it only looks at rb's, wr's, and tight ends. If you added QB's to mix, I agree we are ahead since Ryan > Brady at this point in their careers.

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14 hours ago, JOEinPHX said:

Just to put things in perspective, Barnwell ranks the Browns at #2, up from #3 last year - a year in which their offense was outgained by 21 other teams and outscored by 20.

To be fair, if it’s just based on talent, the browns do have one of the most talented offenses on paper. 

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2 hours ago, Vandy said:

Brady looked to be in decline last year. And Tampa’s running game is In ? as well.

I honestly don't think the NFL will be a thing this year, but if it is, Tampa certainly is intriguing.  Good, bad, average?  I wouldn't put money on any of the possibilities.

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On 7/14/2020 at 3:07 PM, FalconsIn2012 said:

I won’t lie, there are some WTH’s in here.  Having the Panthers, Bills & Giants in the top 10 makes no sense.  Apparently the Falcons have the worst set of offensive weapons in the NFCS

Barnwell obviously pulled these rankings outta his rear end!!!

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