Grading 2021 NFL offenses: Tom Brady-led Buccaneers be part of elite standing, however Chiefs rule supreme as soon as once more


As you certainly know by now, offense is king within the fashionable NFL. Increasingly more in recent times, what determines whether or not or not your staff is profitable in a given season is how your offense holds up over the course of the 12 months. 

Who’s your quarterback? Who’s defending him? Who does he throw to? Who does he have subsequent to him within the backfield? Who’s scheming these gamers open? Are there damage or depth points at all or any of these positions? All of the items matter. The diploma to which they matter varies significantly, in fact, however every performs a job in making an offense hum at peak effectivity. 

Welcome to our second annual offensive infrastructure rankings. Just a few necessary notes earlier than we start:

  • We used a weighted grading system the place every staff was given a 1-5 rating (1 = horrible, 3 = common, 5 = elite) within the following areas: Quarterback, Play-Caller (head coach or offensive coordinator), Offensive Line, Go-Catchers (WR/TE), and Working Backs. 
  • These scores have been then weighted in order that the quarterback was a very powerful part of the offense, adopted by play-caller, offensive line, and pass-catchers, after which lastly operating backs, in order that the weights mirrored as carefully as attainable the fact of the best way fashionable NFL offenses work.
  • Within the occasion that groups ended up with the identical weighted rating, the primary tiebreaker was the quarterback rating. The second tiebreaker was the mixed rankings of the play-caller and offensive line.
  • These are usually not rankings of how we anticipate these offenses to carry out through the 2021 season. They’re an try to seize which offenses are finest positioned for achievement primarily based on the standard of their quarterback and the expertise the group has chosen to encompass them. There’s, in fact, the chance that gamers elevate their video games (like Josh Allen did in 2020) or transcend their supporting forged (as Russell Wilson does nearly yearly), or {that a} quarterback’s subpar efficiency undermines an in any other case sturdy offensive unit (like Jimmy Garoppolo and his backups did in 2020).
  • Simply as I did final 12 months, I compiled an preliminary draft of those rankings, which I then ran by the remainder of the writers, editors, and podcasters on the CBSSports.com NFL workers. I integrated their suggestions to create the model of the rankings you may see beneath. The commentary in every part is mine.

Obtained all that? OK, nice. Right here we go…

Tier 5: 32-26

Due to the best way we weight these rankings, this tier is populated completely by groups which might be usually missing within the quarterback, offensive line, and/or play-calling division. Not one of the seven groups on this tier graded larger than 3.5 in any of these three classes, which clearly weighs down the general rating. 

You will discover a brand new part on the finish of every chart, with the weighted rating of the staff’s non-quarterback infrastructure. I wished to incorporate that this 12 months to indicate which of those groups are being propped up or held again by their quarterback play. The Giants, Dolphins, and Broncos stand out as groups that would take a large step ahead if their quarterback performs at an above-average degree, as a result of surrounding expertise they’ve on the talent positions. Your diploma of confidence in Daniel Jones, Tua Tagovailoa, and Drew Lock might lead you to agree or disagree with their placement right here. 

The identical can be true of the Texans, however with the uncertainty surrounding whether or not or not Deshaun Watson will play this season, we needed to cut up the distinction on their quarterback rating and assume Tyrod Taylor will probably be beneath middle for no less than a few of the season. 

Additionally be aware that rookie quarterbacks not named Trevor Lawrence got a below-average rating as a default, since most rookie quarterbacks are fairly dangerous. (Lawrence, a generational prospect, was given a median rating.) It does not imply we anticipate Justin Fields and/or Zach Wilson to be dangerous perpetually. The Bears’ rating additionally assumes that Andy Dalton will play for no less than a number of weeks, and as we noticed final 12 months in Dallas, he isn’t notably near being an above-average starter at this level. 


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Tier 4: 25-19

That is essentially the most eclectic group of groups on this train. They’re all below-average for various causes, starting from their offensive line (Bengals, Steelers) to their weapons (Raiders), to their quarterback (Panthers, Patriots). 

Workforce

QB

PC

OL

WR/TE

RB

Whole

Weighted

Non-QB

25. Cincinnati Bengals

3

3

2

4

4

16

3.07

3.10

24. Carolina Panthers

2

4

2.5

4

5

17.5

3.10

3.65

23. Jacksonville Jaguars

3

3

3

3.5

4

16.5

3.17

3.00

22. Pittsburgh Steelers

3.5

3

2

4

3

15.5

3.17

3.25

21. New England Patriots

2.5

4

4

3

3

16.5

3.23

3.60

20. Las Vegas Raiders

4

3.5

3

2

4

16.5

3.30

2.95

19. Philadelphia Eagles

3

3

4.5

3

4

17.5

3.37

3.55

The Bengals notably handed on an opportunity to enhance one of many NFL’s worst offensive traces with a excessive draft decide, electing to take Ja’Marr Chase moderately than Penei Sewell. It provides them one of the vital explosive large receiver corps within the league, however Joe Burrow primarily redoing his rookie season behind one other subpar line, whereas typically working out of empty formations, might not be as certain a recipe for achievement as they assume. The Panthers have all of the items to place Sam Darnold in place to succeed, as evidenced by their considerably larger non-QB score right here. Joe Brady had a superb first season as offensive coordinator, they changed the departed Curtis Samuel with Terrace Marshall Jr., and Christian McCaffrey must be more healthy this 12 months. It is too dangerous we will not essentially rely on high-level safety for Darnold. 

I am in wait-and-see mode with the Jaguars. This could possibly be nice or it could possibly be a catastrophe. Ben Roethlisberger appeared nearly cooked final 12 months, so our 3.5 score for him may be a bit variety. We’re leaning a bit closely on monitor report for a participant working with a brand new play-caller and the worst offensive line he is had in years. New England upgraded its pass-catching corps an ideal deal, however that solely bought the Pats to about common. They’ve Josh McDaniels and a superb O-line, however we will not actually be certain what this offense will seem like, as a result of it’s going to rely largely on whether or not Cam Newton or Mac Jones is beneath middle. 

The Raiders have one of many worst pass-catching corps within the league, with Darren Waller surrounded by a bunch of big query marks. Their saving grace these previous few years has been Jon Gruden dialing up sturdy ideas for a well-protected Derek Carr, however after they let go of half their offensive line this offseason, we will not rely on that anymore. The Eagles must be more healthy than a 12 months in the past and fortunately added some pace and run-after-catch capacity with Devonta Smith, however we have to see Jalen Hurts have extra passing success than he did as a rookie to place the next grade on him. Is Nick Sirianni the man to get him there?

Tier 3: 18-12

This group of groups is seemingly one piece away from becoming a member of the ranks of the simply above-average offenses. 

Ryan Fitzpatrick has a really excessive ceiling… and a really low flooring. Washington’s choice to chop Morgan Moses and insert Samuel Cosmi immediately into the beginning lineup knocked the offensive line grade down a bit, whereas selecting up Curtis Samuel in free company gave the Soccer Workforce a a lot wanted improve within the pass-catching division. The 49ers may be the staff most held again by their present quarterback state of affairs. (Test the distinction between their weighted rating and non-QB rating above.) If Trey Lance turns into pretty much as good as they assume he will be, look out. For now, we’re assuming Jimmy Garoppolo and his low-risk type of play prevents the unit from constantly reaching its true ceiling. 

Considerably equally, the Colts are well-positioned for a great deal of success if Carson Wentz can rediscover something resembling his 2017 kind. Then once more, we have been saying that about Wentz for some time now, and it hasn’t occurred. The Vikings including Christian Darrisaw to the offensive line was a robust transfer, however not sufficient to offer them an above-average unit simply but. We have got some questions on Kliff Kingsbury, in addition to Arizona’s offensive line and unusual dedication to conservative decision-making in short-yardage conditions, the place Kyler Murray must be (however has not but been) one of the vital environment friendly gamers within the league. 

The Titans shedding Arthur Smith and Corey Davis is an enormous blow within the infrastructure rankings. It’s going to be fascinating to see this 12 months if Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, and A.J. Brown could make up for it. Wilson has constantly been held again by his state of affairs for years now in Seattle. The Seahawks switched out their offensive coordinator this 12 months, however there is not any telling how Kevin Waldron will change issues up from the Brian Schottenheimer period, they nonetheless have a meh-at-best offensive line, they usually’re nonetheless far too dedicated to a run-oriented type. Ah, what could possibly be if they simply “Let Russ Cook dinner”. 


Getty Photos

Tier 2: 11-4

These groups ought to all have excellent offenses in 2021. We might anticipate them to be in or across the prime 10 in scoring, yardage, effectivity. There’s just a bit one thing holding us again from placing them within the actually elite tier. 

What an enormous improve for the Chargers, huh? Justin Herbert seems like a stud. New offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi ought to name a extra fashionable sport than Anthony Lynn. They’ve maybe the most-upgraded offensive line within the league. Issues are wanting up. The Saints, as regular, have a superb roster. The questions listed below are at quarterback (Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill?) and a curious lack of large receiver depth past Michael Thomas. Possibly tight finish Adam Trautman makes up for that in some way, however we will not simply assume it. 

The Falcons offense must be again to cooking with gasoline this 12 months, particularly after including Kyle Pitts. Smith is aware of what he is doing, and Matt Ryan has a ton of firepower at his disposal on the skin. A supposed catastrophe 12 months for the Ravens wasn’t really all that dangerous by the numbers. They reshuffled the offensive line and added a bunch of pace and playmaking at large receiver, which ought to assist diversify the passing sport, which was sorely wanted final 12 months. We do not wish to double-credit Kevin Stefanski for getting the most effective out of Baker Mayfield final 12 months, so he stays a 3.5 (slight above-average) for now. Cleveland can also be missing depth at large receiver, the place Odell Beckham has well being questions and there is not a lot else past Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins and the tight ends are stable however unspectacular. The Browns may need the most effective operating again duo within the league, however that solely means a lot right here. 

The Payments, Rams, and Cowboys are all in considerably related conditions. They’ve gifted quarterbacks, good play-callers, good offensive traces (with some age- and health-related questions for the Rams and Cowboys), and good weapons. Allen was essentially the most improved participant within the NFL final season, and with Brian Daboll returning for one more 12 months and the Payments bringing in Emmanuel Sanders to interchange John Brown, they need to stay extraordinarily explosive. The one factor preserving them from overtaking Dallas and L.A. is a relative lack of playmaking within the backfield. It is extremely shut, although. 

We’re extraordinarily bullish on Matthew Stafford in essentially the most talent-laden offense he is most likely ever performed in, accounting for Sean McVay as his play-caller. The Rams ought to stay extraordinarily harmful. The Cowboys ought to get a full-strength Dak Prescott this 12 months, however we have bumped down the grades for the offensive line and operating again teams a bit, to account for Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, and Zack Martin’s damage points, and Ezekiel Elliott’s clear lack of explosion for many of final 12 months. Nonetheless, the Cowboys have all of the items to be a top-five offense. 

Tier 1: 3-1

The three elite offenses with no actual weaknesses. 

We’re assuming Aaron Rodgers remains to be in Inexperienced Bay on this situation, clearly. Shedding Corey Linsley at middle hurts, however the Packers have proven through the years that they’ll lose Professional Bowlers on the road and simply hold issues transferring. Davante Adams and Robert Tonyan elevate an in any other case pedestrian pass-catching corps, whereas Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon must be electrical on the bottom. (And perhaps Jones will lastly get the lion’s share of the passing-down work, making him a extra harmful menace.) 

We, uh, might have underrated Tampa’s offense a bit final 12 months. Do not look it up. I am by no means coming near “perhaps Tom Brady is on the downslope” ever once more. A minimum of till he retires. Most likely. After dramatically reshaping their offensive line this offseason (Orlando Brown, Joe Thuney, Austin Blythe, Kyle Lengthy, and Creed Humphrey now be part of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Mike Remmers up entrance), the Chiefs retain the highest spot in our rankings. Truthfully, they’re going to most likely have it so long as Andy Reid is the coach and Patrick Mahomes is the quarterback. They’re going to undoubtedly have it so long as they’ve these two guys, plus Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill



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