2020 NFL triplets rankings: Chiefs overtake Saints at No. 1
Time for your favorite arbitrary ranking of the year: offensive triplets! Assessing each team’s QB-RB-pass catcher trio might feel a bit antiquated and unscientific, but it can provide a decent snapshot of an offense’s capability.
Consider that in our 2019 triplets rankings, 11 of the top 16 groups represented teams that actually finished 16th or better in total offense. Three of the five that didn’t — the Colts, Panthers and Steelers — very well could have, if their starting quarterbacks hadn’t gotten hurt early in the campaign or retired before it even began.
Like last year, I ranked each team’s top running back and pass catcher from 1 to 32 based on a combination of past production and overall ability heading into 2020. I then assigned each player a score commensurate with their placement. For example, Julio Jones earned the Falcons 32 points for being the top-ranked pass catcher, while Michael Thomas collected the Saints 31 points for coming in at No. 2. Because of the increased importance of the quarterback position, I wanted to capture both confidence and contribution in my assessment of each team’s QB1. So I evaluated all 32 starting passers by two metrics:
1) Whom I would want in a one-and-done situation in 2020.
2) Projected 2020 production. Yes, this means a QB’s supporting cast factored into his ranking.
QB value boost: Lastly, to further account for the position’s value, I attached a 1.5 multiplier to each passer’s combined tally.
The rankings below reflect the total score across all three positions.
Quarterback: Dwayne Haskins — Rank: T-30 (One game: 32 | 2020 prod.: 30)
Running back: Adrian Peterson — Rank: 24
Pass catcher: Terry McLaurin — Rank: 24
McLaurin and the ageless Peterson are locked in, but Haskins remains immersed in a three-way competition with Kyle Allen and, miraculously, Alex Smith. Haskins doesn’t have the tape, stats or experience to support his spot as Washington’s QB1, but the former first-rounder does have recency bias working in his favor. While Kyle Allen was imploding in Carolina during the final weeks of the 2019 campaign, Haskins was piecing together a few confidence-boosting starts (that conveniently replaced the initial drafter’s-remorse-inducing nightmares from earlier in the season). Alex Smith is the ultimate wild card here. As a long-time Smith stan, I fully expect the 36-year-old to win the QB job outright — If he’s healthy, and if the competition is truly as open as Ron Rivera has declared.
Quarterback: Sam Darnold — Rank: 29 (One game: 28 | 2020 prod.: 29)
Running back: Le’Veon Bell — Rank: 22
Pass catcher: Denzel Mims — Rank: 32
So much for expecting Darnold to take a major leap forward in Year 2. … Maybe the third year’s the charm? The former No. 3 overall pick looked overmatched and indecisive too often last season, resulting in 16 total giveaways in just 13 games. Part of my optimistic outlook on the young QB stemmed from Bell’s arrival, but the former All-Pro rusher was one of the least effective backs in the league last year. Now, we can’t in good conscience knock the Jets’ QB-RB battery without acknowledging the five-man turnstile upfront. Hard for Darnold to develop and Lev Bell to return to his Pro Bowl ways when the guys paid to protect them ranked 28th in pass blocking (per PFF) and contributed to the worst expected yards-per-carry mark in the NFL (3.81, per NGS). In fact, they were so bad, the organization added four new projected starters to the unit during the offseason. With former No. 1 WR Robby Anderson now in Carolina, it was a toss-up between Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims and Breshad Perriman to round out New York’s triplets. I went with the promising big-play threat, because the other two are known quantities of average quality.
Quarterback: Mitchell Trubisky — Rank: T-30 (One game: 31 | 2020 prod.: 31)
Running back: David Montgomery — Rank: 27
Pass catcher: Allen Robinson — Rank: 9
That the Bears wound up paying Nick Foles $21 million fully guaranteed and coughing up a fourth-round pick during the same period in which the New England Patriots committed just $550,000 to Cam Newton makes me want to bury my feelings in some air-mailed Lou’s. I picked Trubisky over Foles in this exercise not because the former is a better player, but because I think the Bears will give their 2017 first-rounder every opportunity to save his job. (It’s already starting.) One way that might be possible: Lean on the most unheralded receiver in the league. Hard to think of an active elite wideout outside DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald (both of whom hit QB gold later in their careers) that has worked with a more troubling collection of quarterbacks than Robinson (See: Blake Bortles, Chase Daniel, Chad Henne, Mitchell Trubisky). Yet, somehow, he’s managed the 15th highest yards-per-game mark (66.0) of any receiver since 2014 (min. 300 receptions). Ryan Pace, please pay him. Montgomery was one of the least efficient running backs in the NFL last year, tying Le’Veon Bell for the second-fewest scrimmage yards per touch (4.0, a tick higher than Sony Michel’s 3.9, among those with a minimum of 200 touches). The second-year RB will have to be the breakout candidate my colleague Maurice Jones-Drew expects him to be for the Bears to have a shot at the playoffs.
Quarterback: Gardner Minshew — Rank: 27 (One game: 25 | 2020 prod.: 26)
Running back: Leonard Fournette — Rank: 20
Pass catcher: D.J. Chark — Rank: 29
I think it’s fitting that the jester in jorts earned the same rank and score as draft classmate Daniel Jones, who, as Minshew Mavens will be quick to tell us, did not play like he was 172 picks better than the Jags QB last year. While Gardner’s rookie stats look impressive on paper, the tape tells a more complete story. Jacksonville’s offense — almost unbearable to watch for extended stretches — ranked 26th in third-down conversion percentage (34.5%) and 27th in three-and-out percentage (23.9%). As the leader of the group, Gardner must be a more constant force in keeping his unit humming. While Fournette seems to have put his ugly sophomore season in the rearview, he’s still far too inconsistent (didn’t break 100 scrimmage yards in eight of his 15 games) to crack the top 15 at his position. Chark was one of the biggest offensive surprises across the NFL in 2019, posting more than five times the receptions and yards from his rookie season (2019: 73 for 1,008; 2018: 14 for 174). The trio’s potential arguably warrants a slightly higher placement in this ranking, but I’m fine taking the L if they significantly outperform the groups ahead of them.
Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick — Rank: T-24 (One game: 22 | 2020 prod.: 28)
Running back: Matt Breida — Rank: 30
Pass catcher: DeVante Parker — Rank: 20
Fitzpatrick’s entertaining bushy-beard-don’t-care mentality made the Dolphins far more enjoyable to watch than anyone expected. On throws of 20-plus air yards, per NGS, Fitz boasted a passer rating of 100.8 and had as many dimes (8) and touchdowns (6) as Dak Prescott, despite hurling those deep throws into tight windows at the highest rate of any QB in the league (56.6%). Nobody benefited more from Fitzpatrick’s ambitiousness than Parker, who hauled in 9 of 19 deep passes from Fitzpatrick for 338 yards, 3 TDs and a catch percentage above expectation of +19.2%. Parker blew the roof off of his previous career highs in basically every statistical category, earning a four-year, $40 million extension before the season was even over. If and when Fitzpatrick turns the keys over to Tua Tagovailoa, Parker has proven he can be the team’s No. 1 receiver. As for the third component of Miami’s trifecta, it was a toss-up between Breida and Jordan Howard. I went with the more explosive Breida, who should have ample opportunity to convince us he’s more than a Kyle Shanahan success story.
Quarterback: Tyrod Taylor — Rank: T-30 (One game: 30 | 2020 prod.: 32)
Running back: Austin Ekeler — Rank: 12
Pass catcher: Keenan Allen — Rank: 5
While Justin Herbert could certainly wind up with the higher snap count, the learning curve at the position and dearth of acclimation opportunities during the pandemic makes me think Taylor will be asked to carry most of the load this year. That said, the possible QB switch, and Taylor’s lack of recent playing time (just 91 attempts over the past two seasons), puts him at the bottom of the position pecking order. L.A. gets a massive lift from Ekeler and Allen, though, two guys who will decide the Chargers’ 2020 success. To those of you who might question whether Ekeler should rank this high, I point you to his 6.9 scrimmage yards per touch (No. 1 among qualifying RBs) and 11 total touchdowns (No. 8) in 2019. The 25-year-old is more than ready to replace Gurley as the best running back in the city. Allen is right to take offense to his Top 100 ranking; there are NOT 13 better receivers in the NFL than him. If the Chargers QB (whoever it is) cooperates, Allen should hit 1,000 yards for the fourth straight season.
Quarterback: Cam Newton — Rank: T-17 (One game: 14 | 2020 prod.: 22)
Running back: Sony Michel — Rank: 29
Pass catcher: Julian Edelman — Rank: 25
The Pats see a rankings slide at every position from last year’s edition. Michel’s productivity, in particular, fell off a cliff in 2019, as he finished the season ranked last among all running backs in scrimmage yards per touch (3.9, min. 200 touches). His drop-off was undoubtedly a byproduct of an entire unit failing to muster any real momentum, but his one-dimensional game pushed him down among the RBs. Although Edelman broke the 1,000-yard mark and, for the fourth straight season, averaged just over 11 yards per catch, he fell among receivers because guys like Cooper Kupp and DeVante Parker surpassed him by developing into legit No. 1 options. Both Michel and Edelman could get a huge boost, though, if Newton — who was passed over repeatedly this offseason — resembles the QB he was before foot and shoulder injuries robbed him (and football fans at large) of his unique skill set. I’m cautiously optimistic about which Cam we’ll see in 2020. If he’s indeed closer to the 2015 version, good luck league. You know the man’s kept receipts.
Quarterback: Daniel Jones — Rank: T-24 (One game: 27 | 2020 prod.: 23)
Running back: Saquon Barkley — Rank: 2
Pass catcher: Evan Engram — Rank: 30
Barkley’s Wolverine-like recovery from a high ankle sprain last season allowed him to still suit up for 13 games, but if we’re being honest, the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year was never quite himself after that Week 3 injury. With a full offseason to recover, the former Pro Bowler should rebound in 2020, even with left tackle Nate Solder opting out and a new playbook to learn. Why? Daniel Jones. I think QB evaluator extraordinaire Gregg Rosenthal’s recent assessment of the second-year passer is spot on. Assuming Jones’ turnover troubles (23 picks and fumbles lost) don’t follow him into Year 2, his athleticism and aggressiveness should inject life into the Giants’ offense and ease the burden on Barkley’s massive quads. While he won’t be throwing to any superstars on the perimeter, Jones will have a bevy of B-listers like Engram, Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard, who possess the talent (though not the track record) to be A-level guys.
Quarterback: Jared Goff — Rank: 20 (One game: 20 | 2020 prod.: 18)
Running back: Malcolm Brown — Rank: 32
Pass catcher: Cooper Kupp — Rank: 18
Crazy what happens to an offense — and a quarterback’s efficiency — when you struggle to run the football. The Rams’ rushing attack plummeted 33 percent year-over-year in yards per game (139.4 to 93.7), shining a spotlight on Goff’s flaws under center. As a result, the team scored 122 fewer offensive points than it did in 2018, and Goff — pressing more than he had at any point since head coach Sean McVay’s arrival in 2017, Goff’s second year in the NFL — averaged a whole yard less per attempt (7.4). After a shock to the system like that, it’s no wonder McVay is looking to mimic the RB-by-committee approach of the reigning NFC champions, especially considering how said approach effectively elevated a quarterback of a similar talent level in San Francisco. Brandin Cooks’ departure makes official what became crystal clear last year: When at 100 percent, Kupp is the most reliable offensive weapon on L.A.’s roster.
Quarterback: Philip Rivers — Rank: T-17 (One game: 17 | 2020 prod.: 19)
Running back: Marlon Mack — Rank: 28
Pass catcher: T.Y. Hilton — Rank: 22
The N.C. State QB-room takeover in Indy gives the Colts arguably the most depth at the position. While Jacoby Brissett deserves credit for his highly effective game-managing (and game-winning) skills prior to hurting his knee in Week 9, Rivers will add a much more aggressive and attacking attitude to the Colts’ offense. His ultracompetitiveness should help the team’s veterans (Hilton) and youngsters (Michael Pittman Jr.) alike. Hilton battled injuries (missed six games) and inconsistent QB play last season, limiting him to just 501 receiving yards and 11.1 yards per catch — his first sub-15.9 mark since he finished with 13.2 in 2013. If both his hamstring and Rivers comply, Hilton should leap back into the teens — but perhaps with another team — by next year’s edition. Although Mack just captured his first 1,000-yard rushing season, he’s a non-factor in the passing game and must hold off FBS’ third-leading rusher from last year, Jonathan Taylor. Fortunately for Mack, Taylor also isn’t known for his pass-catching prowess, so the fourth-year back’s experience could give him the edge over the rookie in 2020.
Quarterback: Teddy Bridgewater — Rank: T-24 (One game: 23 | 2020 prod.: 27)
Running back: Christian McCaffrey — Rank: 1
Pass catcher: D.J. Moore — Rank: 27
McCaffrey single-handedly elevates this trio out of the pits. No offensive player outside Lamar Jackson had a more outstanding 2019 than the All-Pro, and that’s no disrespect to Michael Thomas. McCaffrey annihilated the field in scrimmage yards per game (149.5), tied for the league lead in total touchdowns (19), ranked fourth in scrimmage yards per touch (5.9) among RBs and didn’t lose a single fumble — all while facing a loaded box at the sixth-highest rate (36.9%, min. 150 carries), according to Next Gen Stats. His 2,392 scrimmage yards were the most during the entire decade! Probably didn’t need all of that to justify his No. 1 ranking, huh? Could’ve just pointed to his fat new contract and saved myself about 100 words. Bridgewater, who successfully polished off two years’ worth of rust during his six-game subbing in New Orleans, will be an immediate upgrade over Kyle Allen. That’s good news for 2019 breakout sensation Moore, who will have his sights set on back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns.
Quarterback: Josh Allen — Rank: 23 (One game: 24 | 2020 prod.: 24)
Running back: Devin Singletary — Rank: 14
Pass catcher: Stefon Diggs — Rank: 15
Loved the Bills’ aggressive trade for Diggs. He immediately adds a jolt to Buffalo’s receiving corps, giving the rocket-armed Allen one of the game’s premier big-play threats. When at optimal form, Allen’s far better than this ranking. It’s those sub-optimal performances that give me major pause. Singletary flashed feature-back potential as a rookie, tying for eighth among running backs in scrimmage yards per touch (min. 150 touches) while owning a solid 0.4 rushing yards above expected, per Next Gen Stats. He’s at least a few spots higher than his minimal accomplishments might warrant, but like my colleague MJD, I have high expectations for the elusive second-year player in the Bills’ RB-driven offense.
Quarterback: Drew Lock — Rank: 22 (One game: 26 | 2020 prod.: 21)
Running back: Phillip Lindsay — Rank: 16
Pass catcher: Courtland Sutton — Rank: 16
I know Melvin Gordon was Denver’s flashy offseason signing, but I’m sticking with Lindsay as the team’s RB1, because he was more efficient last year and has far more tread remaining on his tires. And if the undrafted running back, who’s eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards in back-to-back seasons on 4.9 yards per carry, needed any extra motivation (he doesn’t), he’s in the final year of his current contract, set to become a restricted free agent in 2021. Given the opportunity he’s already earned to be the team’s lead back, he should outproduce the former Charger. When Lindsay isn’t churning up yards on the ground, Lock will have the Broncos surging through the air. At least, he had better, after GM John Elway invested Denver’s top two draft picks on receivers Jerry Jeudy (No. 15 overall) and KJ Hamler (No. 46) to team with WR1 Sutton and 2019 first-round tight end Noah Fant. The buzz bubbling out of Mile High is contagious. I’m banking on the second-year passer meeting the moment.
Quarterback: Joe Burrow — Rank: 28 (One game: 29 | 2020 prod.: 25)
Running back: Joe Mixon — Rank: 8
Pass catcher: A.J. Green — Rank: 13
Burrow played the position at a historically great level last year at LSU. And while the lack of rookie camps and preseason games will presumably hinder the rate at which he adjusts to NFL speed, the No. 1 overall pick has an extremely talented cast of weapons (and an improved O-line) to lean on. None are more important, though, than A.J. Green. The seven-time Pro Bowler, finally healthy after missing 23 games over the past two seasons (including all 16 last year), is a Hall of Fame talent who’s about two full season’s short of Hall of Fame numbers. His ability to elevate Burrow and rookie wideout Tee Higgins will ripple through the entire unit, giving dual-threat back Joe Mixon the complementary passing game he’s so desperately needed since entering the league in 2017. This triplet could make me look real stupid by season’s end, especially with 2019 first-round tackle Jonah Williams set to make his debut.
Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo — Rank: 21 (One game: 19 | 2020 prod.: 20)
Running back: Raheem Mostert — Rank: 26
Pass catcher: George Kittle — Rank: 11
Niners fans came after me hard during the team’s Super Bowl run after I (boldly) predicted that Jimmy G would stumble on the sport’s biggest stage, thereby leading the team to seek other options under center this offseason. The Twitter rumblings receded after he faltered in the most critical of moments. And the accounts were deactivated (probably) after reports emerged connecting the G.O.A.T. to the Bay Area. Alas, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan opted to ride with the seventh-year signal-caller for another season. Although it may not seem like it, I think Jimmy G is a good quarterback. One with whom the 49ers can win a Super Bowl. I just don’t think he’s a great quarterback. Not yet at least. He makes too many terrible decisions (18 total giveaways in 2019) in a system strategically schemed to limit the number of bad choices available. That same scheme enabled two undrafted running backs (Mostert and Matt Breida) to average more than 5 yards per rush last season. The near equal distribution of touches at the position makes picking an RB in this exercise challenging, but I opted for Mostert over Tevin Coleman and the resurrected Jerick McKinnon because of Mostert’s incredible efficiency (+0.55 yards above expectation per rush, according to NGS). Garoppolo consumed my word count (like he’s consuming the 49ers’ salary cap), but fortunately I only need five to describe Kittle: NFL’s most complete tight end.
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger — Rank: T-12 (One game: 12 | 2020 prod.: 13)
Running back: James Conner — Rank: 18
Pass catcher: JuJu Smith-Schuster — Rank: 23
Roethlisberger’s return saves me from writing about Duck Hodges/Mason Rudolph, so the QB already has a W in my book. To be frank, I moved Big Ben up and down the QB rankings too many times to count. When he’s right, the 38-year-old is elite. But when he’s off — especially on downfield passes — he’s a liability. The future Hall of Famer is still far better than the Steelers’ alternatives, but I’m not sure he’s still capable of taking a solid supporting cast and making it great. Based on his ranking above, though, you can see I’m not completely counting him out just yet. If JuJu wants the Steelers’ WR1 crown, he has to deliver no matter who’s under center. You can’t celebrate 1,426 yards while playing with Big Ben and Antonio Brown, then ignore that Smith-Schuster managed just 552 yards with Hodges-Rudolph. Same goes for Conner, who posted 41.6 fewer scrimmage yards per game last season (71.5, down from 113.1 in 2018) while battling leg and shoulder injuries. Given what we know, the middle of the pack feels right for this group.
Quarterback: Carson Wentz — Rank: 11 (One game: 11 | 2020 prod.: 12)
Running back: Miles Sanders — Rank: 23
Pass catcher: Zach Ertz — Rank: 19
Despite finishing the year ranked 28th in touches per game (14.3, among those with a minimum of 100 touches), Sanders produced the 13th-most scrimmage yards (1,327) among running backs. The former Penn State standout broke through by season’s end, averaging 4.7 yards per rush and 112 scrimmage yards per game over the final four weeks. Landing the RB1 last year allowed the Eagles to focus on improving the receiving corps this summer. And while Jalen Reagor and DeSean Jackson should add a vertical dimension to Philly’s passing attack, it’s reliable tight end Zach Ertz who gets the pass catcher nod here. The tight end led the team in receiving yards for the fourth straight season, while making his third consecutive Pro Bowl. Wentz, who narrowly outplayed division rival Dak Prescott last year, continues to teeter on the top-10 tightrope. If the Eagles are able to overcome the loss of Brandon Brooks and take the NFC East in 2020, the fifth-year passer will be the reason why.
Quarterback: Kirk Cousins — Rank: 16 (One game: 16 | 2020 prod.: 15)
Running back: Dalvin Cook — Rank: 4
Pass catcher: Adam Thielen — Rank: 26
Cook makes everything look so effortless, whether he’s sprinting past defensive ends on an outside zone or taking a dump-off in the flat for 40. While durability is a legitimate concern, I’m conveniently overlooking those what-ifs and focusing my attention on his immense value. He’s the engine that drives the Vikings’ ship. He’s also largely responsible for Cousins’ career year last season. As I recently wrote in our 30 over 30 file, Cousins is a really good quarterback who’d instantly improve half the league’s QB1 situations. But in those less-than-ideal conditions, would he still be a top-10 passer? That’s what I’m not so sure about. Hampered by hamstring issues, Thielen caught just 30 balls for 418 yards and 6 TDs over 10 games. With Stefon Diggs gone, can Thielen carry Minnesota’s receiving corps?
Quarterback: Derek Carr — Rank: 15 (One game: 13 | 2020 prod.: 17)
Running back: Josh Jacobs — Rank: 10
Pass catcher: Darren Waller — Rank: 21
Although the arrow in this ranking is pointing down, the Raiders’ offense is actually trending up. Their minor drop is almost entirely due to Antonio Brown’s brief (and maddening) stint with the team last August, as he was my No. 3 WR. While GM Mike Mayock probably rues that personnel move, he’s got zero regrets about using a first-round selection on Josh Jacobs. My pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year, the do-everything back posted the third-highest yards per rush above expectation (+.81), per Next Gen Stats, while ranking eighth at the position in scrimmage yards per game (101.2). His success, plus Waller’s breakout season (which it seems only one analyst saw coming), helped lay the foundation for what should be a balanced, pick-your-poison Raiders offense in 2020. Carr remains the base of this re-powered unit. What better way to capture the rollercoaster ride that’s been his six-year career than for him to land basically in the middle. While the QB has been far from perfect, he’s fueled more fourth-quarter comebacks (17) and game-winning drives (18) than any other signal-caller over the last five seasons. And as Adam Rank, the Bret Hart of NFL Media, recently wrote, it’s a bit absurd that the three-time Pro Bowler is seemingly always under fire (especially by his own fan base). With rookie Henry Ruggs and his 4.27 speed joining the Las Vegas outfit, Carr now has all the pieces in place to cement his spot with the franchise for years to come.
Quarterback: Matthew Stafford — Rank: 10 (One game: 8 | 2020 prod.: 10)
Running back: D’Andre Swift — Rank: 25
Pass catcher: Kenny Golladay — Rank: 17
Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell singing Golladay’s praises sounded like a Howard Shore score to my ears. The 26-year-old receiver has tremendous upside, not only as an elite home-run hitter, but as someone defenses must start accounting for on every snap. That he led the league in TD receptions in 2019 despite catching passes from Jeff Driskel and David Blough for half the season is a testament to Golladay’s development. Curious to see how the Lions allocate touches between Kerryon Johnson and Swift. The rookie’s best asset might be his availability, as Johnson, who flashed so much promise as a rookie in 2018, has played just 18 of a possible 32 games in his career. While the Lions’ two-headed backfield provides them some insurance at the RB position, they have no room for error under center. Signing Chase Daniel is great for the film room, but Stafford is the guy who makes this offense hum. If he can pick up where he left off, Detroit will make a run in the NFC.
Quarterback: Deshaun Watson — Rank: T-6 (One game: 4 | 2020 prod.: 9)
Running back: David Johnson — Rank: 21
Pass catcher: Brandin Cooks — Rank: 28
The Texans replaced DeAndre Hopkins, one of the most dependable and productive receivers of the last half-decade, with three guys who have lengthy injury histories. What could go wrong? Watson’s production ranking takes a hit as a result, sinking his overall spot among the QBs more than I would like. Still, his overall rise from last year’s ranking overcomes the loss of Hopkins to boost Houston six spots. While I’m not optimistic Cooks will bounce back with his fourth team in five seasons, I am holding out hope that Johnson recaptures the hearts of (fantasy) football fans around the world in 2020. The lack of opportunities that doomed DJ in the desert shouldn’t be an issue in Houston. Not hard to imagine an agitated Bill O’Brien feeding Johnson the rock every which way he can to stick it to the critics who have counted both of them out. And with the uncertainty at the receiver position, the coach might not have any other choice.
Quarterback: Baker Mayfield — Rank: 19 (One game: 21 | 2020 prod.: 16)
Running back: Nick Chubb — Rank: 6
Pass catcher: Odell Beckham Jr. — Rank: 7
Oof. I missed worse on my 2019 Browns ranking than a Baker Mayfield deep ball … Maybe I was just a year early? Baker is far too talented a passer to double down on his disappointing sophomore season. And Cleveland’s expected shift toward more zone-blocking concepts — with an increased emphasis on play-action passing — under new head coach Kevin Stefanski should help Mayfield and Chubb alike. Just look at what the approach achieved for teams like the 49ers, Titans and Vikings. More variety and misdirection should create clearer passing lanes, discouraging Baker’s penchant for recklessly forcing throws into tight windows — particularly to Beckham. We know Chubb is going to handle his business. But can Baker and (a healthy) Beckham form the QB-WR duo that made Cleveland the talk of the 2019 offseason? If they do, I’m adding last year’s take to the win column.
Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill — Rank: 14 (One game: 15 | 2020 prod.: 14)
Running back: Derrick Henry — Rank: 5
Pass catcher: A.J. Brown — Rank: 14
I recently heard a rumor that at least 37 DBs contemplated retirement this offseason after helplessly chasing after Brown and Henry last year. Holy hell, is there an RB-WR combo more frightening running with the ball than this one? Boosted by the NFL’s leading rusher, and a guy who averaged 20.2 yards per catch (nearly 2.5 yards more than any other rookie in the last 20 years), Tannehill turned in the best season of his life and cashed out a hefty sum. To his credit, he lived up to the play of those around him, finishing the campaign ranked No. 1 in both yards per attempt (9.6) and passer rating (117.5). As convincing as his 2019 performance was, however, he’s as likely to repeat that level of production and efficiency as his head coach is to follow through on this promise.
Quarterback: Kyler Murray — Rank: T-12 (One game: 18 | 2020 prod.: 7)
Running back: Kenyan Drake — Rank: 17
Pass catcher: DeAndre Hopkins — Rank: 3
I gobbled up as much Murray stock as I could as soon as the Hopkins trade took over Twitter. The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year made plenty of mistakes through his first 16 games, but none that seem insurmountable or irremediable. Drake was a running back renewed after his midseason arrival from Miami, posting the third-highest rushing average (5.2) and third-most total touchdowns (8) from Weeks 9 to 17 (min. 100 carries). While it might not be realistic to expect Drake to sustain a 5 yard average, I don’t expect too steep a drop-off for the fifth-year back, now that opposing defenses must key Hopkins on every play. The three-time All-Pro should free up opportunities across the board, helping an offense already on the rise be that much better in 2020.
Side note: Super weird to rank a Cardinals triplet that doesn’t include Larry Fitzgerald.
Quarterback: Lamar Jackson — Rank: 2 (One game: 3 | 2020 prod.: 3)
Running back: Mark Ingram — Rank: 15
Pass catcher: Marquise Brown — Rank: 31
Last year, I said the Ravens’ core was the group I was most excited to watch, describing Lamar Jackson as one of the league’s most electrifying players. Nailed it. I also ranked them 26th … whoops. Consider this my formal apology. And a precursor for more “sorrys” 12 months from now if this 9 spot comes back to haunt me. Selecting the Ravens’ pass-catching rep — let alone ranking him — was one of the biggest challenges of this whole project. I opted for Hollywood over Mark Andrews because the speedy wideout was drafted to be the guy. While that title might help distinguish him among his Raven flock, it doesn’t in the pass catcher rankings at large. He’s more talented than several of the receivers ranked above him, but potential can only count for so much compared to actual pro production. And when you total 65 receiving yards over your final five regular-season games, you don’t have much of a leg (or ankle) to stand on. Ingram’s vision and veteran savvy keep him in the top 15 among RBs. He’ll have to share some of the pie with rookie J.K. Dobbins, but the three-time Pro Bowler isn’t done eating just yet.
Quarterback: Tom Brady — Rank: 4 (One game: 6 | 2020 prod.: 5)
Running back: Ronald Jones — Rank: 31
Pass catcher: Mike Evans — Rank: 4
Count me among those who think the Brady-Arians-Leftwich-Evans-Goodwin-Gronk-Howard conglomerate will live up to expectations this year. I recently waxed poetic about Brady and his projected 2020 production, and we all know about Evans’ dominance, so it should be clear why I’ve got the Bucs in my top 10. It should also be clear what (or who) is keeping them out of the top five. … I couldn’t in good conscience rank RoJo any higher considering his paltry production two years into his pro career, but that doesn’t mean I think the former second-rounder is a bust. Quite the opposite, actually. I believe the Smokescreen King when he says Jones has “shown that he’s the guy” and that he has “all the confidence in the world” in him. If BA believes in him, then so does AB.
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers — Rank: 9 (One game: 5 | 2020 prod.: 11)
Running back: Aaron Jones — Rank: 9
Pass catcher: Davante Adams — Rank: 8
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: Rodgers’ numbers have been in decline for a few years, and he’s missing more throws than ever before. No argument here. I concede both points. And still I ask you, in your heart of hearts, to name five other QBs you’d rather have under center right now in a one-and-done situation. Not sure I totally get Green Bay investing a second-round pick in a running back after Aaron Jones’ 19(!)-touchdown season, but I guess you can’t have too much talent at one position … unless that position is receiver, in which case, the Packers seem completely fine rocking with one stud (Adams) and a bunch of backup singers with names > production.
Quarterback: Russell Wilson– Rank: 3 (One game: 2 | 2020 prod.: 8)
Running back: Chris Carson — Rank: 11
Pass catcher: Tyler Lockett — Rank: 12
This blurb is not for those of you wanting to read about Chris Carson. Desperate to hear more about Russell Wilson’s greatness? Here ya go. If you came looking for D.K. Metcalf analysis, feel free to stop reading, too. We’re here to talk about Tyler Lockett. He’s not the biggest guy, or the fastest. He won’t lead the league in yards or catches, or earn any fancy end-of-year hardware for his individual efforts. But the veteran wideout is as reliable and efficient as they come. He finished last season tied with Michael Thomas for the highest catch percentage above expectation (12.7%), per NGS, while taking in a career-best 82 receptions for 1,057 yards and 8 TDs. Over the past three seasons, no pass catcher has a higher catch rate above expectation (12.4%) or passer rating when targeted (129.2) than the sixth-year Seahawk, and only Tyreek Hill averaged a better yards-per-target mark (10.6) than Lockett’s 10.3 (min. 250 targets). We don’t talk about Lockett as a top-10 player at his position. We should.
Quarterback: Matt Ryan — Rank: T-6 (One game: 9 | 2020 prod.: 4)
Running back: Todd Gurley — Rank: 13
Pass catcher: Julio Jones — Rank: 1
I’ve thrown a lot of stats around in this ranking, but when placing Gurley within the RB hierarchy, I went with my always-objective gut. I think a change of scenery — especially to a setting as familiar as Atlanta — will bring out the best in the two-time All-Pro, who, by most measures, was not an effective back last season. And if it doesn’t, then Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and an up-and-coming O-line should do the trick. Even if he struggles — and he might, if the reports about him limping in practice signal more nefarious news on the horizon — the Falcons are led by two of the best veterans in the NFL at QB1 and WR1. The talent doesn’t end there, as you might’ve heard, since the offense’s entire starting 11 consists of former Day 1 picks. I know this spot might seem like a reach to some. But I’m buying the dip on Gurley, ready to accept the consequences if this decision blows up in my face.
Quarterback: Dak Prescott — Rank: 5 (One game: 10 | 2020 prod.: 2)
Running back: Ezekiel Elliott — Rank: 3
Pass catcher: Amari Cooper — Rank: 10
Not sure the Star’s 91-acre campus is large enough to hold all the talent on the Cowboys’ offense. Prescott’s flirtation with the top five in our QB Index last year could turn into a career-spanning commitment after the Cowboys lucked out with the draft’s No. 1 receiver. Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup — a three-receiver set to rule them all. Elliott has apparently lost a step, according to some critics, which his pathetic 1,357 yards and 12 TDs on a 4.5 average clearly shows. Yep, the man who ranks second only to Jim Brown in scrimmage yards per game (125.5 to 125.4) clearly isn’t the same back anymore. Keep peddling that nonsense. The former No. 4 overall pick is the type of player you dream about on a $250 million mega yacht, while contemplating how life could be any better. Oh, what’s that you say? Dallas still boasts a top-10 O-line? Yacht life is the best life (I’ve heard).
Quarterback: Drew Brees — Rank: T-6 (One game: 7 | 2020 prod.: 6)
Running back: Alvin Kamara — Rank: 7
Pass catcher: Michael Thomas — Rank: 2
The Saints lose their triplets crown after Brees and Kamara narrowly miss top-five status at their respective positions. The Hall of Famer’s arm strength and overall mobility have noticeably diminished. But what I wrote a year ago in this space still holds true: I’d rather have a bounded Brees than the majority of QB1s around the league. His otherworldly accuracy helped Thomas perform like superstar, and now the most productive receiver in the game (and two-time All-Pro) is returning the favor. So what? Leg injuries limited Kamara last year, but the three-time Pro Bowler still averaged just shy of 100 scrimmage yards per game. I don’t see this trio taking its demotion lightly. Always happy to supply some bulletin-board material.
Quarterback: Patrick Mahomes — Rank: 1 (One game: 1 | 2020 prod.: 1)
Running back: Clyde Edwards-Helaire — Rank: 19
Pass catcher: Travis Kelce — Rank: 6
MVP, Super Bowl champ, Super Bowl MVP, highest-paid athlete in team sports and now, Triplets King. Mahomes was saving the best for last, clearly. His sweep of the two QB categories, plus my overzealous ranking of CEH, narrowly nudges Kansas City into the No. 1 spot. It’s probably unfair (and even unwise) to rank a rookie so high, but just think about what that offense extracted from guys like Damien Williams, Kareem Hunt and Spencer Ware, and then imagine what it might do for someone with CEH’s skill set and pedigree. The Chiefs are spoiled with two playmakers who would likely land in the top 15 in a straight pass catcher ranking, but for the purposes of this exercise, I stuck with Kelce — the $57 million human security blanket for the best quarterback in the world.
Follow Ali Bhanpuri on Twitter @AliBhanpuri.
Source: Read Full Article