Offensive Tiers and ADP Bargains - Footballguys

Ranking NFL offenses as units and identifying valuable fantasy assets from each

This article started in 2015 as a two-part series called "Being a Fantasy Elitist" and then continued in 2016 and last year. The theme of the article is "you are judged by the company you keep."

The purpose of this exercise is to rank offenses and to convince fantasy drafters that a secondary option on an elite offense can deliver the equal or better value as a top option on a poor offense.

In fantasy football, the means in the event of a tie between two players (especially early in fantasy drafts), we should strive to avoid drafting the player on a bad offense because they're going to be weighed down by bad teammates or coaching schemes. It's not earth-shattering to say that when a team scores very few points, its players tend to score fewer fantasy points than those with a similar opportunity on higher-scoring teams.

Now that we have the basics, let's get into the tiers. Outside of using our own Matt Bitonti's offensive line rankings, these rankings are solely my own and opinion-based. For quarterbacks, I multiplied the score by three because of the position's importance to the whole offense. And because I don't want to provide an article without actionable advice, I've chosen my favorite player from each team factoring in their current ADP.

Feel free to reach out to me at either hester@footballguys.com or @RyanHester13, but just know that a half-point here, a full point there isn't going to change too much. These rankings are more of a litmus test than something to treat as gospel.

Fertile Fantasy Soil

Rank Team QB RB WR/TE OL OC Total Comments
1 PIT 4.5 5.0 5.0 4.5 3.0 31.0 Roethlisberger-Bell-Brown make for the narrow production funnel; new OC Randy Fichtner an unknown.
2 GB 5.0 3.0 3.0 4.5 4.5 30.0 Last year showed just how important Rodgers is; can he stay effective with lesser receivers?
3 NO 4.0 5.0 3.5 4.0 5.0 29.5 Sean Payton continues to be effective - in a multitude of ways. Kamara-Ingram highlight the group.
4 NE 5.0 3.5 3.5 2.0 5.0 29.0 Brady at the helm; Belichick driving the bus; Gronkowski scoring at will; but WRs are lacking.
4 LAR 3.5 5.0 4.0 4.5 5.0 29.0 Wunderkind Sean McVay turned this around fast. Goff is good; weapons are plenty; OL can make time.
4 PHI 4.0 3.5 4.0 5.0 4.5 29.0 What a difference a year makes; Wentz's progression and Pederson's scheme have made this an elite group.

The first four are no surprise, but the Rams and Eagles join them after ranking in the mid-to-low 20s in this exercise last season. That highlights the importance of quarterback and coaching.

Favorites by ADP

  • Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger - Relative to his elite fantasy-producing counterparts, Roethlisberger is a value. In today's late-round quarterback era, if he slips past the RB40/WR40 range, he's worth taking.
  • Green Bay: Davante Adams - The price tag is high, but getting Aaron Rodgers' top target in the mid-to-late second round seems like a steal.
  • New Orleans: Mark Ingram II II - If he weren't suspended, where would he be going? Fantasy GMs can fill his spot with a committee in the first four weeks because their rosters will be healthiest during that time without byes to worry about.
  • New England: Rex Burkhead - His ADP should rise with Sony Michel's concerns, but he was a value before then and likely still will be. He's the only back on New England's roster that doesn't make the play call predictable.
  • L.A. Rams: Cooper Kupp - This was nearly Brandin Cooks due to the contractual commitment the team made to him, but it remains to be seen what Cooks' usage will be. He'll also face the top cornerback on most opposing teams, while Kupp will move around and see a slot corner. Reports also show that Kupp and Goff are vibing in camp.
  • Philadelphia: Nelson Agholor - When an offense makes a leap, the fantasy market tends to overreact in the following year. That results in the best values being fringe players. Agholor will be the second-most productive receiver on a top-tier offense, but he's being drafted sub-40 at the position. While he won't be an every-week must-start, he will provide profit at his ADP.

The Best of the Next

Rank Team QB RB WR/TE OL OC Total Comments
7 ATL 3.5 4.5 4.0 4.5 3.0 26.5 Second year of Sarkisian should be better than first; still plenty of weapons and veteran QB.
8 KC 2.5 3.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 24.5 Patrick Mahomes II is the key here; if he can deliver on his promise the weapons will flourish.
8 LAC 3.5 4.0 3.5 3.0 3.5 24.5 Rivers still getting it done; Allen and Gordon highly effective; losing Henry at TE hurt but is minor.

This mini-tier isn't quite as good as the elite teams but is a step above the group below.

Favorites by ADP

  • Atlanta: Julio Jones - It's hard to say the 12th overall player is the best value, but this is more a point to say that Jones should be valued similarly to the top three wide receivers instead of a second-round pick in many drafts.
  • Kansas City: Patrick Mahomes II II - Reason #1,276 why fantasy drafters shouldn't select a quarterback early. Mahomes has top-six potential.
  • L.A. Chargers: Tyrell Williams - This is more of a best-ball flier, but with their tight end troubles, why wouldn't the Chargers keep three receivers on the field at all times?

Pick Your Spots

Rank Team QB RB WR/TE OL OC Total Comments
10 TEN 3.0 3.5 3.5 4.0 3.5 23.5 Won't be surprised if they outkick this rating; LaFleur should make the offense better.
10 MIN 3.5 3.5 4.5 2.0 3.0 23.5 Much improved from this space last season; Cousins could make them even better than 2017.
10 CAR 4.0 3.5 3.0 2.0 3.0 23.5 Newton needs to be Superman. Will they unleash McCaffrey? Will the WRs step up?
13 SF 3.5 2.0 2.0 3.0 5.0 22.5 Shanahan's ability to coach offense is the best asset here; need emergence from young stars.
13 SEA 4.5 2.0 2.0 2.0 3.0 22.5 A good QB can overcome a lot, and Wilson will have to. A lesser defense could lead to more offense.
15 WAS 3.0 2.5 2.0 4.5 4.0 22.0 If Jay Gruden can make this group top-10 he's exceptional. Smith breaking in new weapons.
16 DET 3.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 21.5 Whether or not Golladay and RBs can emerge will determine how good this unit is.
16 DAL 3.0 5.0 1.0 4.5 2.0 21.5 Prescott significantly better with Elliott; who will catch passes here?
18 HOU 3.5 2.5 3.5 1.0 3.5 21.0 Watson's rehab is key - especially if he'll be running for his life behind a bad OL.
18 JAX 2.0 4.5 3.5 4.0 3.0 21.0 Bortles is back but the team revolves around the run and D. The WR group is young and strong.
20 BAL 2.5 3.0 3.0 4.0 3.0 20.5 Flacco inspired by the drafting of Jackson; WR group new but showing promise.

Each of these teams has a strength (and in some cases, two strengths), but there are weaknesses throughout.

Favorites by ADP

  • Tennessee: Dion Lewis - As long as reports suggest Lewis and Derrick Henry are splitting time at a near 50/50 split, Lewis is a value at this price.
  • Minnesota: Latavius Murray - This is an aspirational pick, but Murray could have some standalone value with Dalvin Cook healthy. And if Cook goes down, Murray gets the lion's share of a highly productive backfield.
  • Carolina: Cam Newton - Early quarterback may not be the best way to go. But if Newton slips too far and it's between him and some undesirable flex players, he may be the exception to the late-round quarterback. There is overall QB1 potential with Newton this season.
  • San Francisco: Marquise Goodwin - Any time a team's WR1 is being drafted more than round after its WR2, it should raise eyebrows. If George Kittle's shoulder injury looks like it won't cost him a significant part of the season, our Phil Alexander discussed plenty of reasons to draft Kittle.
  • Seattle: Tyler Lockett - At the price of next-to-free, fantasy GMs can have a starting receiver with electric big-play ability on a Russell Wilson-led team. Keep an eye on Jaron Brown as well, in case he passes Lockett at some point.
  • Washington: Alex Smith - Jay Gruden has turned water into wine with Andy Dalton to the tune of a top-five fantasy finish. Smith is smart enough and capable enough to finish in that neighborhood.
  • Detroit: Marvin Jones Jr Jr - It's not a ton of value at the price, but Jones has a wide range of outcomes, most of which is at or above this price.
  • Dallas: Allen Hurns - Dallas is an odd case. Ezekiel Elliott is a top-five drafted player. And the ADP of their next player is below 100. That player is Hurns, who figures to lead the team in targets as their most experienced receiver. Even on what figures to be a poor offense, that's worth something.
  • Houston: Lamar Miller - Miller's price suggests that fantasy players are assuming D'Onta Foreman will return. But Foreman is still recuperating from an Achilles' injury. Miller also lost weight, which could get him back to the quicker, more efficient player he was in Miami.
  • Jacksonville: n/a - This is more process of elimination. Leonard Fournette is fine at his price but not a value. And there are too many receivers to accurately forecast how things will go with the pass-catchers. Blake Bortles is probably the best fantasy value on the team, but there are other QB2s with more upside.
  • Baltimore: Michael Crabtree - Health permitting, Crabtree will lead the team in targets. And without established tight ends or other tall receivers, he's the favorite to lead the team in red zone targets and receiving touchdowns as well.

The Great Unknowns

Rank Team QB RB WR/TE OL OC Total Comments
21 CHI 2.0 3.5 3.5 3.0 4.0 20.0 Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich look to spice things up; Howard is solid; the WR group is new but promising.
21 NYG 2.0 4.0 5.0 1.5 3.5 20.0 The weapons are legit; can Manning make good use of them behind a poor line?
21 CIN 2.5 3.5 4.0 1.5 3.5 20.0 A.J. Green makes the WR group rating high all by himself; the rest is a picture of mediocrity.
21 OAK 2.5 2.5 3.5 4.0 2.5 20.0 Solid RBs but no playmakers; Carr stepped back in 2017; no Crabtree hurts; will Gruden add value?
25 CLE 2.5 3.5 2.5 2.0 3.5 19.0 Admit it...this isn't as bad as you thought it would be - or as an 0-16 team should be.
26 IND 3.0 1.0 2.0 1.5 4.0 17.5 Frank Reich has his work cut out for him; the QB rating assumes Luck can play but hedges for potential rust.
27 TB 2.5 2.0 3.5 1.5 2.5 17.0 Knocked 1/2 point off QB for Winston's suspension; not a lot of certainty outside Evans and TEs.
28 DEN 2.5 1.5 3.0 2.0 2.0 16.0 New OC Bill Musgrave unproven; WR group is the best asset; can Keenum make them flourish?

New coaches, new coordinators, and new personnel all leave this tier as difficult to predict. It's the unknowns that keep these teams from ranking higher. Some of them could be where the Rams and Eagles are next year; some could be down even lower.

Favorites by ADP

  • Chicago: Jordan Howard - There isn't a ton of value this high in the draft, but Howard can finish as a top-tier RB1 if the offense emerges and game scripts allow. He's young, durable, talented, and there isn't a lot of competition for touches - especially in the running game.
  • N.Y. Giants: n/a - All of these players are priced at or above their most likely finishes. Evan Engram has overall TE1 skills, but with Odell Beckham Jr Jr returning and Saquon Barkley in the fold, his target share is difficult to predict.
  • Cincinnati: Joe Mixon - The weight loss should make him quicker and able to avoid tacklers; the offensive line improvements should help to open more holes than last season.
  • Oakland: Marshawn Lynch - The veteran running back has lost weight and appears quicker. Jon Gruden's philosophies have been questioned, but he has praised Lynch. Even if the team struggles, Lynch should get more touches than most players being selected in a similar range.
  • Cleveland: Jarvis Landry - Josh Gordon being selected ahead of Landry shouldn't be happening anymore. Gordon's skills align better with Tyrod Taylor on paper, but Landry and Taylor are clicking in camp practices. The team plans to use Landry all over the field.
  • Indianapolis: n/a - If Andrew Luck stays at QB10 or below after he shows us he's healthy in preseason games, he may offer some value. The team's defense is going to be putrid. Multiple shootouts during the season are possible.
  • Tampa Bay: n/a - Jameis Winston has a cheap price tag, but he's only worth rostering in large bench leagues. After his three-game suspension, he has one game before the team's Week 5 bye. If roster spots are at a premium, holding on to Winston for five weeks, with only one being usable, is a tough ask.
  • Denver: Emmanuel Sanders - Both of Denver's starting receivers are values at their prices. This figures to be a team with a narrow target funnel (meaning plenty of targets for Sanders and Demaryius Thomas). Sanders also has more slot experience than Thomas, something that might work in his favor with new quarterback Case Keenum. Adam Thielen had a successful 2017 with Keenum in Minnesota, with plenty of his damage coming from the slot.

Tread Lightly

Rank Team QB RB WR/TE OL OC Total Comments
29 ARI 1.5 5.0 2.0 1.5 2.5 15.5 Johnson's return is exciting. A defensive-minded HC and uninspiring quarterback duo are not.
30 MIA 1.5 2.0 3.5 1.5 3.0 14.5 The starting QB is just OK and missed last season; the backup QB is Brock Osweiler.
31 NYJ 1.5 3.5 2.5 2.0 1.5 14.0 McCown is serviceable; Bridgewater once was; but how often will either hold off Darnold?
32 BUF 0.5 2.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 6.5 If McCoy doesn't play…they have next to nothing. Clay should see plenty of targets at least.

Fantasy players who don't roster any players from this tier on their teams probably won't be missing much -- and could win their leagues.

Favorites by ADP

  • Arizona: n/a - David Johnson has overall RB1 potential (remember, his 2016 was even better than Todd Gurley's 2017), but it's hard to say he's a value with other elite players around him.
  • Miami: Kenny Stills - DeVante Parker is disappointing again. Stills gets no respect, despite being more than a one-trick pony. His deep speed is his best asset, but he's capable of producing on all three levels.
  • N.Y. Jets: Isaiah Crowell - Investing in a two-down running back on what should be a poor team is a risky proposition. But if Crowell gets third down work as well, he becomes less dependent on game scripts. And the bad team and offense are priced in.
  • Buffalo: n/a - No desirable commodities here, unless they fall a round or so below their current price.

Questions, comments, suggestions, and other feedback on this piece are always welcome via e-mail hester@footballguys.com