NFL Offenses: Ranking and Analysis (16-10)
NFL offenses drive our fantasy teams. We constantly scour over the data trying to find sleepers and breakout players to help us win this year and beyond. Now, more than ever, it behooves us to understand the general trends that drive the league and use those trends to try and anticipate the best sources of fantasy scoring. This is our third installment of this series, touching on the 16th through 10th ranked squads. In the team breakdowns, I will give you some information on the team overall, and if I feel they will have much fantasy success this year.
We have seen that NFL offenses are changing. Over the past two years, NFL top wide receivers have seen a dip in their receptions because teams are starting to spread it out more. Concurrently, while WR1’s have seen a dip in overall target shares, WR3’s, tight ends, and pass-catching running backs are seeing increases. With spreading it out more resulting in astronomical passing numbers over the past few years, defenses have started to shift to counteract that- playing more defensive backs and lessening the men in the box. And as a response to that, we’ve also seen more teams commit to running the ball, at a time when the running back had been seriously devalued (to the point of absolute studs being drafted late in the second round in the NFL Draft).
Plan- For this four-part series, I am going to break down every NFL offense and rank them from worst to first, giving you an idea of what offenses will succeed this year and which are set up for success for the coming years. I will also try and touch on some possible free agents who could affect the team if they are let go in the coming years.
Methodology- My rankings are the result of a combination of three different rankings: Offensive Line rankings (h/t to Pro Football Focus), Quarterback rankings (h/t to our rankings), and Offensive Weapon rankings (personal analysis of top three wideouts, tight end, and running backs).
While ranking the offenses I will give some quick hits on who I think will be relevant in certain roles and whether or not they have breakouts or sleepers. As always, if you have any fantasy questions or want to discuss my rankings hit me up on twitter @SportsfanaticMB !
16. Washington Redskins
Offensive line ranking (per PFF)- 12
Quarterback ranking- 26
Offensive weapon ranking- 12
It’s rare to see a franchise let an ostensible franchise player walk away from that franchise. Over the past three years, Kirk Cousins has been setting franchise records for Washington but only led them to one playoff appearance, and wasn’t considered a franchise player by some in the front office. A mediocre 2017 saw Washington suffer multiple injuries, especially to their offensive line, where they literally played players who had never played the position just to be able to field a team. What capped off such a weird 2017 was bringing in Alex Smith and paying him $71 million over five years, something Kirk Cousins had been looking for the past two years. While Alex Smith is a bit more mobile than Cousins they are fairly comparable in the other facets of their games. With a healthy offensive line and a mobile quarterback can coach Gruden lead this team to an NFC East title?
2018 could be interesting for Washington. Jay Gruden has specialized with more mobile quarterbacks and he is getting just that in Alex Smith. While Smith isn’t known to throw the deep ball much, that might actually be fine with Washington as most of their more explosive weapons all play close to the line of scrimmage. Despite Derrius Guice being out for the year, they still have some decent wide receivers and running backs. Everything for this offense is going to be tied to how well Alex Smith plays; if he continues the successes he’s had in the last couple of years, I think Washington could finish second in this division.
Quarterbacks: Alex Smith, Colt McCoy, Kevin Hogan
Alex Smith posted a career fantasy year in 2017, averaging 23.2 points a game and ranking fourth at the end of the year. He also went a long way to dispel the myth that he couldn’t pass the ball deep down the field. He finished ranked number one as a downfield passer in adjusted completion percentage according to PFF. If Gruden can tailor the offense around Smith like Reid did, he will likely have another top-15 year. Colt McCoy is the backup and has shown he can fill in if the quarterback gets hurt.
Running backs: Derrius Guice, Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine, Byron Marshall, Kapri Bibbs, Adrian Peterson, Martez Carter
Unfortunately, Guice’s season was over before it began with a torn ACL, but he will likely be back and ready to go before the start of next season. Guice is a stud and had a chance to battle with Saquon Barkley for rookie of the year- this injury shouldn’t slow him down beyond 2018 and is the guy to own here.
Rob Kelley and Adrian Peterson will likely split some first and second down carriers. Peterson may be decent to start the season, but I see him fading down the stretch and I don’t see much fantasy relevance. Chris Thompson will be the receiving and third-down back but by his own admission isn’t fully healthy and likely won’t be until November. As long as Thompson stays healthy and on the field, he’s the best player in this group.
Kapri Bibbs could be the sleeper of this group. He is a great pass catcher and can run the ball if the other running backs start to struggle. Watch out for Bibbs to be a waiver wire pick up later this season.
Wide receivers: Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder, Simmie Cobbs, Trey Quinn
Josh Doctson should be WR1 of this group but he has yet to establish himself. Doctson has the speed to run by guys but will likely be the possession receiver now for this offense. If he can get some chemistry with Alex Smith he has a chance to be a decent wide receiver, but I think he will be limited in yards and touchdowns.
Paul Richardson is going to be the deep threat for this offense. While he doesn’t have the skill that Tyreek Hill does, he proved in Seattle he can be the guy if given the ball. His value is going to rely completely on Alex Smith. If Smith can continue to throw the deep ball like he did last year, Richardson could be a fantasy sleeper this year.
Jamison Crowder will continue to be the guy in the short area for this offense. Smith has been known to target the guys in the short area more often, and he has a stud in Crowder if he is able to do so. If Jordan Reed is healthy this might eat into some of Crowder’s work, but chances are Crowder will be a PPR machine again.
Trey Quinn is a guy with upside that was Washington’s last pick in the NFL draft. He has decent speed and is someone to watch out for in the future for this offense.
Tight ends: Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle
Jordan Reed can be a top three tight end when healthy, and he could be fully healthy for the first time in over two years. Washington hasn’t played him much this preseason in attempts to keep him that way. Alex Smith has always consistently targeted the tight end, and if Reed is healthy he will likely be a top-five option.
Vernon Davis has proven he can play in place of Reed while he is injured. If Reed is healthy and playing Davis likely doesn’t have much fantasy value. However, if Reed is out Davis could end up being a top 12 option so he’s worth monitoring or handcuffing if you own Reed.
Roster Sleepers: Derrius Guice (RB) will be a stud next year though he’s probably not much of a sleeper. Kapri Bibbs (RB) could be a sleeper this year, especially if those other guys struggle. Trey Quinn (WR) is the sleeper on this roster to watch for the coming years.
Impact 2019 Free Agents:
Running Back- Adrian Peterson likely will retire after this season but is a free agent. Kapri Bibbs will be a free agent, which likely just increases the roles of Thompson and Guice. Rob Kelley will be a free agent, further clearing the way for Guice.
15. Carolina Panthers
Offensive line rank per PFF- 21
Quarterback rank- 8
Offensive weapons rank- 16
Carolina had a good 2017: they finished with a top-four record in the NFC, finishing the year 11-5, getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs. The offseason saw a new owner (Dave Tepper) and two new coordinators (Norv Turner as the new OC and Eric Washington as the new DC). They added some key veterans in the offseason in Torrey Smith and C.J. Anderson, while also drafting a young dynamic wide receiver in D.J. Moore. With a loaded NFC can the Panthers push for another playoff run?
Carolina’s 2018 offense is very intriguing. Norv Turner loves to run the ball and has already shown how he wants to use Christian McCaffrey as a workhorse. Devin Funchess looks to try and establish himself as the WR1 of this offense, and this could be a sneaky good wide receiver corps with the players they have. Greg Olsen is back for at least two more years and will look to continue to be a top tight end and possibly mentor his replacement in Ian Thomas.
Quarterbacks: Cam Newton, Kyle Allen, Garrett Gilbert, Taylor Heinicke
Cam Newton has the skill and ability to be a top-ten QB again this year. While he does struggle with accuracy and lacks a true number one on the outside, is rushing ability is matched by none besides maybe Deshaun Watson. As long as Cam is healthy he will continue to be a top option at the position. Garrett Gilbert is likely going to be Cam’s backup. He doesn’t have much fantasy relevance even if Newton is hurt.
Running backs: Christian McCaffrey, C.J. Anderson, Kenjon Barner, Cameron Artis-Payne, Elijah Hood
McCaffrey is going to be a stud this year: he is already being used as an every down back during the preseason and the coaches have said they want him to get 20 carries a game. Add in his receiving work as well and he could easily finish in the top 10 at his position. I don’t see him losing much work to Anderson outside of some goal-line work.
Anderson will likely be a change of pace guy and goal-line back. He hasn’t been getting much run with the team so far, and likely won’t as the season continues. If McCaffrey goes down it will likely be a running back by committee but Anderson will get the bulk of the work.
Wide receivers: Devin Funchess, Torrey Smith, Curtis Samuel, D.J. Moore, Jarius Wright, Damiere Byrd
Devin Funchess will likely be the number one wide receiver for this offense, but I think he is a bit miscast for that position; he’s better suited to a complementary wide receiver role as he isn’t quite a deep threat or possession receiver. Torrey Smith will be the vertical threat for this offense. While Newton isn’t known for being accurate he does have a cannon, so if Smith can get deep he’ll get some opportunities and will likely be a WR3 or WR4.
Curtis Samuel injured his ankle early last year and many didn’t think he would be available to start this year. He has looked good in the preseason and will likely play in the slot. Cam has looked for him and could continue to do so as long as he stays healthy. He’s a sneaky PPR stud in this offense who could break out this year.
Moore has the chance to be a deep threat and a serious contender for offensive rookie of the year if he can link up with Newton. He showed he had the speed and catching ability to be a top option if he works some in the slot or beats out Smith. Moore could be a huge fantasy asset this year and is the future one of this offense.
Tight ends: Greg Olsen, Ian Thomas
Greg Olsen will continue to be a stud in this offense and is Newton’s favorite weapon on the team. Olsen only played in seven games last season, but as long as he is healthy he will be a top-five player at the position again.
Ian Thomas was a good tight end in college and now is in the best position to grow. He will likely get some playing time but will sit behind a Hall of Famer at the position and learn. It usually takes tight ends two to three years to fully be integrated into an offense. Olsen will likely retire in two years, making Thomas the guy to own.
Roster Sleeper: Curtis Samuel (WR) and D.J. Moore (WR) are the future studs of this offense and the wide receiver position. Ian Thomas (TE) will be the new Greg Olsen in two years when he retires.
Impact 2019 Free Agents:
O-Line- Ryan Kalil (C). Losing their center would be a huge blow to the running game.
Wide Receiver- Devin Funchess. Losing him would be hard to overcome unless Moore takes a huge step forward.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Offensive line rank per PFF- 22
Quarterback rank- 14
Offensive weapons rank- 8
2017 did not go the way the Buccaneers or their fans thought it would. Many thought head coach Dirk Koetter and Jameis Winston would have a great year and lead them to the playoffs. The Bucs finished 5-11 and last in the NFC South (probably one of the toughest divisions in football). To pile on, Winston had another off the field incident (this time with an Uber driver) that has lead to him being suspended for the first three games of the season. This is another in a long list of issues off the field that Winston has had: this incident marks Winston’s fifth public off-field issue in as many years. That is leading some to say Tampa Bay move on from him [including the editor, who is a Tampa Bay native-Ed.]. For many Tampa Bay fans, it’s truly disappointing as Winston has been one of the best QBs inside of a clean pocket. In that span, only Matt Ryan (8.63), Kirk Cousins (8.31), and Drew Brees (8.25) have boasted better Pass YPA averages when kept clean than Winston (8.20).
2018 will likely start off rough for the Buccaneers as Ryan Fitzpatrick will lead them against three tough opponents (the Saints, Eagles, and the Steelers). Once Winston comes back he will have multiple offensive weapons to turn to and a new-and-improved offensive line. A new running back in the fold, a top wide receiver option with an intriguing rookie, and two offensive tight ends. Can the Buccaneers become kings of the loaded NFC South?
Quarterbacks: Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin
Winston has improved each year that he’s been in the league, and has produced as a top QB. His off the field issues are his biggest concerns. He is worth a late redraft pick and worth holding in dynasty, but if his off the field issues continue he might not be playing for the Buccaneers anymore. Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the backup once Winston comes back but is the starter for the first three games. Fitzpatrick can be serviceable but not someone to rely on unless desperate.
Running backs: Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones, Jacquizz Rodgers
Peyton Barber has been named the starter come opening day. Last year Barber was good in small doses and likely will bring some decent fantasy value this year. He does have Jones right on his tail but is the second best pass catcher out of this group. While Barber is not built for an every-down role I think he will get most of the work in this offense.
Jones is a talented rookie who has not impressed thus far in the pros. Jones was drafted 38th overall in the 2018 draft and was a highly touted prospect out of USC. I do think Jones is the guy to own in this backfield still but has much to improve on. He still has work to do in the passing game and pass blocking. Until he can do so he will lose out on the starting role to Barber. Rodgers will likely fill in the Sims role until he is back. However, there is some word Sims will be out all year once again, and if that’s the case Rodgers will have some fantasy value this year (but not much long-term).
Wide receivers: Mike Evans, Desean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Chris Godwin, Justin Watson, Freddie Martino
Evans is the stud of this offense and since their first year together has had great chemistry with Jameis. While he likely won’t take to much of a drop with Fitzpatrick he will take a jump up once Winston comes back. While I have never been a huge fan of Evans, even if Jameis is let go from this team he will continue to be a top-12 wide receiver for the foreseeable future.
Jackson has always been a great deep threat; we all remember what he was able to do in Philadelphia and Washington before coming to Tampa Bay. While it seems not only that Jackson has lost a step he has a guy nipping at his heels as well. While he still has two years left on his contract there is a good chance by the end of the year he’s the third option in this WR corps.
Adam Humphries the current starter in the slot for Bucs, and he played well in his time there last year. While many are worried that he will lose his job to Godwin who can also play the slot, I think Humphries will be entrenched in this role early. If he continues to improve he will likely keep a starting job here.
Chris Godwin is the young player everyone wants to see succeed in this offense. Drafted last year out of Penn State, he is the second best player in this group outside of Evans. Many have been waiting to see him ascend to a prominent role in this offense and this will likely be the year. While he will have to battle with Humphries to get work in the slot, he has a legitimate chance to beat out Jackson to play opposite Evans. Godwin and Evans are the future of this offense.
Justin Watson is a guy to watch here, but he likely won’t have much of a role this year unless it’s on special teams. He has a lot of skill and was a good player at Pennsylvania. If given the chance in 2019 Watson could quickly rise up the ranks- he’s worth a hold or stash in dynasty.
Tight ends: Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Alan Cross
Cameron Brate, much like Evans, has had a connection with Winston, especially when it comes to the red zone. Brate signed a new contract this offseason for six years and will likely be the top tight end target for the next few years.
Howard was drafted for being a superior offensive weapon in college. While many have hoped Howard would continue progressing in this offense I do think he is a bit limited behind Brate. If Howard can develop the same chemistry with Winston that Brate has, he could have similar value in the red zone. Until then he is the second tight end behind him, which severely limits his fantasy value.
Roster Sleepers: Justin Watson (WR), has the chance to be a good wide receiver if developed correctly.
2019 Impact Free Agents:
Quarterback- Ryan Fitzpatrick. Though unlikely to move on from Winston, Fitzpatrick can be a serviceable backup when needed.
Wide Receiver- Adam Humphries. If he is let go could clear room for Godwin and Watson to make their moves.
Running back- Peyton Barber. He likely won’t be let go, especially if Jones keeps struggling.
13. Chicago Bears
Offensive line rank per PFF- 22
Quarterback rank- 20
Offensive weapons rank- 10
2017 was both the start of the Mitch Trubisky era and the end of the John Fox era. Chicago ranked 30th in total offense, 29th in scoring, and dead last in pass attempts and passing yardage. Defensive-minded John Fox’s conservative approach wore thin on fans and Bears GM Ryan Pace, and Chicago fired him at the end of the season (along with OC Dowell Loggains). Chicago went bold with their head coach choice- 40-year-old Chief’s OC Matt Nagy. Nagy was part of the staff that got a career year out of veteran QB Alex Smith in 2017 and turned in the 5th-ranked offense in the NFL.
2018 has given the Bears a lot of expectations. Many believe they can be what the Rams were last year and have a complete turnaround. While I can’t imagine they are going to be that good Chicago does have a lot of new pieces in this offense: Allen Robinson was brought in during free agency and Anthony Miller was drafted. While I don’t envision a meteoric rise in the offense I am a believer in Nagy and his ability to turn this offense around, given the weapons and talent of their skill players.
Quarterbacks: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniels, Tyler Bray
Trubisky was highly touted but had many questions surrounding him, having only played one year in college. While he didn’t light up the offense he played well and has given fans hope they have their franchise quarterback. Trubisky has a myriad of weapons around him; two good running backs and two good wide receivers mixed in with two offensive tight ends. If Nagy can tailor the offense around Trubisky he will likely have a good year. Chase Daniels is the backup and will play only if Trubisky goes down, and even then hasn’t shown much in his NFL career.
Running backs: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham, Ryan Nall
Jordan Howard is going to be the two down back and is being talked up to get some more catches, something that hasn’t happened much for him the past two years. Howard is a good running back but in the systems run by Nagy and new OC Mark Helfrich, I’m not sure how well he fits into this system. If he is given the ball he will likely be able to rack up rushing yards. If he can get some catches he could vault into the top-12 at the running back position.
Cohen will be the change of pace and receiving down back. Cohen had multiple good games last year, yet it seemed every time he played well John Fox decided not to use him for multiple games in a row. That likely won’t be an issue here with Nagy, as he will find innovative ways to use Cohen in the backfield and possibly split out at times. While I do think the Cohen hype is a little out of control he has a great chance to finish as a top-25 option. Cunningham will likely be the backup if either Howard or Cohen goes down, but he does produce more in the passing game than as a rusher.
Wide receivers: Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Josh Bellamy, Kevin White, Javon Wims
Allen Robinson will be coming back off a torn ACL last year. While he has apparently looked good in practice we haven’t seen anything from him in the preseason. Robinson had one stud year in Jacksonville with the wildly inconsistent Blake Bortles, and if Trubisky can get him the ball he will likely return close to the form he showed in Jacksonville. While he has struggled with some drops in his down year, he will be the guy here and likely their biggest red zone threat.
Gabriel became a star in Atlanta under Kyle Shanahan. While Nagy runs a similar offense, Gabriel has shown he can be an explosive slot receiver option. While he will likely lose out on some looks operating in the same area as Burton and Shaheen, Gabriel has WR3 upside.
Anthony Miller has looked explosive in the preseason, justifying his draft hype (even if it was against second-string defenses). He looks to be a good slot option but will be competing with Gabriel at that position. I think Miller can play on the outside as well, and he could be a great third option for Trubisky if he can make it there in his reads. Miller will likely be fantasy relevant in 2018 but is the future of this wide receiver corps.
Kevin White has struggled with injuries and barely been on the field. While he has looked good this preseason it may be time for him to move on. If he stays on the team he will likely be a rotational player. If he is cut or traded he is still someone to watch as he does still have a lot of talent. Javon Wims has opened a lot of eyes in Chicago this preseason. I expect he will make the team and he has great speed and catch ability. He could be someone placed in the rotation who can be a burner for this offense much like Ted Ginn Jr. in New Orleans.
Tight end: Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Dion Sims
Trey Burton was brought over in the offseason on a big contract and is expected to be an offensive force for this team. While playing for Philadelphia and filling in for Zach Ertz when he was hurt, Burton showed he can catch and run with the ball. While he is not a great blocker, Nagy will likely have him on the field a lot for the mismatches he causes. Burton will likely be the best offensive tight end of this group and has a chance to finish in the top 10.
Shaheen was drafted to be the future star tight end for this team. He disappointed last year and suffered a foot injury early this preseason that could land him on IR. Shaheen is much bigger than Burton and is better than him in his all-around game. However, he needs to get on the field to continue to learn the game and build chemistry with Trubisky. While he may not have much value this year Shaheen will be a top tight end option by 2019.
Roster Sleepers: Anthony Miller (WR) will likely breakout this year and is someone who could be a serious slot receiving monster. Javon Wims (WR) has game-changing speed, and while likely a better best ball option or deep dynasty play if he is on the field, he has a chance to score every play.
2019 Impact Free Agents:
Wide Receiver- Kevin White. While likely not long for this roster he still has a lot of talent and is worth watching if cut or let go. If he lands on another team he may be worth a stash as that kind of talent doesn’t come around often.
12. Detroit Lions
Offensive line rank per PFF- 8
Quarterback rank- 7
Offensive weapons rank- 23
Detriot had a decent year in 2017, finishing 9-7 and just missing the playoffs. Detroit finished 7th in scoring offense, the first time the Lions finished as a top-10 scoring offense since 2011. Their offensive output wasn’t enough to save the job of coach Jim Caldwell as he was fired and former DC Matt Patricia was brought on as the new head coach. Detroit has been a bottom-five rushing team in each of the last four seasons and still hasn’t had an individual 100-yard rusher in a single game since Reggie Bush accomplished it in 2013. New signing LeGarrette Blount and draftee Kerryon Johnson hope to change that statistic.
2018 should yield close to the same results for the Detriot Lions. They have improved their offensive line and added weapons around Stafford. With three talented wide receivers and two talented running backs, Jim Bob Cooter should have this offense humming along. However, they are playing in arguably one of the toughest divisions. Can they make the playoffs in Patricia’s first run as a head coach?
Quarterbacks: Matthew Stafford, Matt Cassel, Jake Rudock
Stafford is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in fantasy. He has finished as a top 10 option for three years in a row and I see him making it four this year. With the weapons around him and JBC calling the plays, Stafford will be good to go for years to come.
Running backs: LeGarrette Blount, Kerryon Johnson, Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, Dwayne Washington
Blount has become a mercenary of sorts, signing one year deals and moving on the next year. He has done the same thing this year with Detriot. Blount will be the first down back and likely see a ton of goal-line work. He does struggle to catch the ball so he won’t do much there. With the improvements to this offensive line, if he can hold off Johnson, Blount could break both the 100-yard game and 1,000-yard season barriers for the Lions. Johnson is the future back of this offense and is the guy who will likely lead this backfield come 2019. For now, he is going to sit behind Blount, though he will spell him at times and likely get some receiving work that doesn’t go to Riddick. If Johnson can seize this backfield I think he has top-15 upside, but until he does that he likely will be in the 25-35 range.
Riddick will be used exclusively as their receiving back. While he will likely get some carries, 95% of his work and value comes from the receiving game. If he can stay healthy he will continue to be dependable. His biggest issue will be all the splitting of work with Kerryon Johnson. However, assuming Blount is gone at the end of the year or an injury occurs his usage will get a major uptick. Abdullah is the odd man out here: if he survives the cuts he will likely be inactive most game days unless there is an injury. He is still someone to watch for if he lands on a team who needs help.
Wide receivers: Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay, T.J. Jones
Marvin Jones was a top-12 wide receiver last year and is overlooked constantly (much like other players on his team). With Golladay coming on some he will likely lose some deep field targets and the two will likely cannibalize each other some. While I don’t see him finishing as a top-12 option again he will likely be a top-15 option. Golden Tate is Mr. Reliable in this offense: he has caught 90 balls the past few years and he will likely do so again this year, especially working in the slot. What worries me about his long-term prospects is that Detriot has seemed hesitant to sign him to a long-term contract.
Golladay is the young gun everyone wants to see succeed in this offense. He has the talent to play on the outside but struggled with injuries last year. As stated with Jones they have similar games so they will cannibalize each other some, but Golladay will be the future and could get a huge bump in work if Tate is gone after this year.
Tight ends: Luke Wilson, Michael Roberts, Levine Toilolo
Luke Wilson will likely be the only guy worth rostering and is not likely to produce much. He is worth watching as Stafford did like to target Ebron, especially in the red zone.
Roster Sleepers: Kerryon Johnson (RB) and Kenny Golladay (WR) will be the future of this offense.
2019 Impact Free Agents:
Wide Receiver- Golden Tate and T.J. Jones. If Tate isn’t resigned he is worth watching as he is a PPR monster and it will make room for Golladay and Jones. If Jones is also let go, however, this wide receiver corps will be thin.
Running back- LeGarrette Blount and Ameer Abdullah. Blount will likely be gone this year which gives all the work to Kerryon and Riddick, and I expect Abdullah to not last the season.
11. Cleveland Browns
Offensive line rank per PFF- 14
Quarterback rank- 18
Offensive weapons rank- 7
Cleveland Browns are all of a sudden the sexy team in the NFL: maybe that’s Hard Knocks or maybe it’s the newly-loaded roster. It couldn’t get worse for them after going 0-16 in 2017. Hue Jackson wasn’t fired even though he has gone 1-31 in two years. In the middle of the year, John Dorsey was brought in and has transformed this roster. He brought in Carlos Hyde and traded for Tyrod Taylor. This defense has improved compared to what it was last season, but one of the most interesting hires for me was bringing in Todd Haley to run this offense and take those duties out of Hue Jackson’s hands.
2018 I think will be a huge leap forward for the Browns offense. Tyrod is a proven quarterback and I think will lead this team to a playoff spot this year. Cleveland has players at each offensive position this year that could finish in the top 12. If Tyrod gets hurt and Baker Mayfield becomes the starter I don’t think there is much of a drop-off. For the first time in decades, the Browns could have an explosive offense.
Quarterbacks: Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield
Tyrod is the starter for now and if they make the playoffs like I have predicted, he will remain the starter all year unless he gets injured. Tyrod doesn’t turn the ball over but also doesn’t take any risk either. Tyrod has a safe floor but not nearly the ceiling that Mayfield has. Even if Tyrod plays great this year chances are he is gone after this year.
Baker will likely take over this team in 2019. I personally think it will be good for him to sit the year and continue to learn an NFL offense. If Cleveland goes on a prolonged losing streak or if Tyrod gets hurt Baker will see the field this year. Baker was the best quarterback of this draft class and I think has a chance to be a top-10 player at the position in the near future.
Running backs: Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb, Duke Johnson Jr.
Hyde will be the lead back here at least for now. He’s looked good in the preseason and I do think could be great for the Browns this year. He finished as a top-12 back last year, though he got most of the work in San Francisco. In Cleveland, he will likely get all of the rushing work but will lose out on catches to Johnson. Cleveland can get out of his contract after this year so I’m not sold he has long-term viability here, but if he stays healthy he will be the guy for 2018.
Duke Johnson, Jr. finished as a top-15 running back last year and almost all of his work came in the receiving game. Duke will continue this role and I think could get an uptick in catches with Haley calling the plays (Haley got Le’Veon Bell 90 receptions last year). While I don’t think he will get that much I think Duke is in for another great year.
Chubb is the future workhorse of this offense. While I do think he could see some time this year, mostly to spell Hyde on a series or two, Hyde has struggled with injuries through his career. If Hyde gets hurt Chubb will be the guy. While this offensive line has struggled some, I think it will get better. Chubb has the talent to be a top option at running back for 2018 and beyond.
Wide receivers: Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis
Josh Gordon has the talent to be an elite wide receiver. Only his off-field issues have limited him. He is now playing with the best quarterback he has ever played with, and Tyrod loves to throw the deep ball. While Gordon won’t start early in the season and needs to “earn” his spot, once he becomes a starter again he is an instant fantasy threat. Long-term will always be a question with him but Gordon has a chance to be top-10 this year.
Landry’s value has always come from his volume in Miami, getting over 80 receptions every year and over 100 twice in his four-year career. While I don’t think he will get targeted that much, Tyrod is again the best quarterback he has played with. They have talked about putting Landry on the outside- I feel he will thrive more in the slot and is a dynamic weapon there. Regardless of where he is, he will still return top-15 value and continue to be a PPR stud in Cleveland.
Callaway has a chance to be the best wide receiver from this draft class. Much like Gordon if he can stay on the field he has the talent to produce. While I think he is the perfect fit opposite Gordon, he is still learning the offense. Callaway could break out this year but is more likely to be fantasy relevant in 2019.
Higgins is a decent slot wide receiver and will likely see time in the while Gordon is not in the starting lineup. Once he comes back I think Jarvis moves back into the slot. While Higgins has the talent, he’s the fourth player on this depth chart. If he gets more playing time he could be good for PPR leagues and deep leagues.
Tight ends: David Njoku, Seth DeValve
Njoku is a physical freak and by far the best tight end on this roster. While he didn’t get much playing time last year sitting behind DeValve, it should be all Njoku this year. He has struggled with drops, but he is their best red zone threat and is a sleeper to break out in a thin fantasy position. DeValve is a better blocker than Njoku so he will likely be in more on run plays. While I do think he’ll take a back seat to Njoku this year, if Njoku gets hurt DeValve has shown he can be a force if given the ball.
Roster Sleepers: Antonio Callaway (WR) could be their number one option if Gordon is gone after this year. Rashad Higgins (WR) could become a PPR stud if given the opportunity to play. Nick Chubb (RB) will be the future star running back of this team.
2019 Impact Free Agents:
Quarterback – Tyrod Taylor. Unless he wins the Super Bowl he is likely gone after this year.
Wide Receiver- Josh Gordon and Rashad Higgins. While a restricted free agent next year, there are some rumors Cleveland could let Gordon go. If they do he is still one of the most dynamic players in the NFL when he is on the field. Higgins is a good depth player for the Browns. He will likely be kept but if he isn’t, watch where he goes because he could emerge for a team in need of a slot wide receiver.
10. Tennessee Titans
Offensive line rank per PFF- 5
Quarterback rank- 11
Offensive weapons rank- 24
While Tennesse didn’t look great at times they finished out 2017 with a 9-7 record and a playoff win before getting knocked out by the New England Patriots. They replacing the archaic Mike Mularkey with a first-time head coach Mike Vrabel, a first-time offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, and a veteran defensive coordinator Dean Pees. Matt LaFleur is the best under-the-radar hire of 2018. After spending 2015-16 in Atlanta under Kyle Shanahan (QBs coach) and 2017 as OC on Sean McVay’s Rams, LaFleur has been attached to the two most play-action heavy teams, which plays right into what Marcus Mariota has shown to excel at.
For 2018 this entire offense is going to rise and fall with Mariota. LaFleur will tailor this offense around Mariota and I think he has a chance to be a top option. Dion Lewis could be huge for this team- in my opinion, he should be the lead back and will be a good outlet for Mariota. While they will be in a tough division this year, the AFC as a whole is not strong so the Titans have a chance for another playoff run.
Quarterbacks: Marcus Mariota, Blaine Gabbert, Luke Falk
Mariota is the entrenched starter here and might finally have an offense tailored to his skill set instead of the ground and pound offense of years past. Mariota succeeded in college in this offense and so we are expecting big things for him this year and going forward.
Running backs: Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry, Akrum Wadley, David Fluellen
Dion Lewis is the best back on this team when healthy. He is a smart runner who can make people miss and is a great receiver out of the backfield. Lewis can pass block and run routes. Where Lewis struggles is where Henry thrives: hitting the hole and running people over. As long as Lewis is healthy I think he will be the guy to own. Henry, a former Heisman winner, will be the likely goal-line rusher and bruiser. While Henry and Lewis will likely split carries at times, I think Lewis will get more of them. Henry has struggled to be a consistent and valuable rusher for this team.
Akrum Wadley is a guy to watch here. He had a great college career and early on was considered to be a top running back out of college. He is a bit undersized so likely won’t be an every down threat, but could be a nice change of pace player and satellite back.
Wide receivers: Rishard Matthews, Corey Davis, Tajae Sharpe, Taywan Taylor
Rishard Matthews is the most underrated WR1 on an offense. In his last year in Miami and two years in Tennesse, he has continued to produce and should this year as well. He is still Mariota’s number one until Davis passes him which I don’t see is this year.
Corey Davis came out of college with a lot of hype. While struggling with injuries last year Davis flashed at times including in the playoffs. Davis has the chance to be the top option here but I don’t see that happening until 2019.
Tajae Sharpe is finally getting on the field but doesn’t have much value unless Davis or Matthews go down (which could happen, as both have struggled to stay healthy). Taylor is an explosive player who was also drafted last year but couldn’t get on the field. Being in the slot now bodes well for his explosiveness and route running. If he becomes their main slot receiver watch out for this kid; he can easily take a 5-yard pass to the house.
Tight ends: Delanie Walke, Jonnu Smith, Luke Stocker
Delanie Walker is “Ol’ Reliable” when it comes to fantasy. He has done nothing but produce every year and yet is constantly overlooked because of his age. Well, I don’t see this year as being his cliff year. Walker is a top option at tight end and one of Mariota’s most trusted pass catchers. Mariota will continue to throw to him and Walker will continue to put up points. Though Jonnu Smith is on his heels I don’t see him taking much work from him this year.
Smith is the incumbent for Walker whenever he retires or starts to slide in his offensive work. Smith has talent and will be the future tight end of this bright offense, though I don’t see him being much of a threat this year. He could start to be someone to use as early as 2019.
Roster Sleepers: Taywan Taylor (WR), if used in the slot, could be someone who is not only good in 2018 but for the future.
Jonnu Smith (TE) likely won’t get much work until Walker is gone, but Mariota will target him when he is on the field.
2019 Impact Free Agents:
The Titans don’t have any impact offensive free agents next year.