Bleacher Report Community Offensive Skill Position Rankings

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystMay 15, 2020

Bleacher Report Community Offensive Skill Position Rankings

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    The NFL draft has come and gone, and the 2020 schedule has been released. There are still some high-profile free agents looking for work, but we have a pretty good idea of how teams (and their respective schedules) look for the campaign to come.

    Given that, there's only one sensible thing to do now—start speculating about how the 2020 season will pan out and comparing clubs to one another.

    It's the latter we're going to do here—and this time we've enlisted the Bleacher Report community to help.

    Over on the Bleacher Report app, we tasked fans with ranking the top offensive skill position units in each of the NFL's eight divisions. Some were razor-thin calls. Others were blowouts. And at least one was quite the upset.

    Then we slotted those eight great offenses in a power ranking of the NFL's best on the offensive side of the ball.

    Which teams reign supreme among NFL offenses? And who reigns supreme among them?

    Read on to find out (in ascending order).

8. NFC North: Detroit Lions

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    D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

    Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones and Davante Adams in Green Bay? Whatever. 

    Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph in Minnesota? Yawn.

    Let's talk about the Detroit Lions!

    This is easily the biggest upset in these rankings. It's also the first time the Lions have won anything since the early 1990s.

    Snideness aside, once you look past the fact that the Lions have been terrible since the dawn of ever, the reality is that they do have an impressive group of skill-position talents.

    It's especially true at wide receiver. Kenny Golladay is an elite option after a coming-out party that saw him amass nearly 1,200 receiving yards and catch an NFL-leading 11 touchdown passes in 2019. He's not a one-man show, either. Marvin Jones Jr. is a capable veteran No. 2 wideout who reeled in nine scores last season.

    Tight end T.J. Hockenson didn't post big numbers as a rookie, but he was one of the highest-regarded prospects at his position to come into the pros in a while.

    The running back position is very young, but it could also be very good.

    When he's been able to stay on the field, Kerryon Johnson has shown high-end talent, averaging 4.5 yards per carry over two seasons. But regardless of his health, Johnson may be relegated to a secondary role by the arrival of Georgia's D'Andre Swift, who was the top-ranked running back in the class of 2020 on more than a few boards.

    The man running this show has been a constant in the Motor City for over a decade. Matthew Stafford enters his 12th season in Detroit as the franchise's all-time passing leader in just about every statistical category. He has piled up over 41,000 passing yards, and he's still just 32 years old.

7. NFC West: San Francisco 49ers

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The San Francisco 49ers are the defending champions of both the NFC West and the conference as a whole. But the Niners are also thought of by most as a defensive team—it's not the upset the Lions were, but seeing the Niners offensive weapons ranked ahead of the Seattle Seahawks and the new-look Arizona Cardinals is still a brow-raiser.

    There's one position where it can't be argued that San Francisco's advantage is both clear and substantial. In three years, George Kittle has become an elite tight end in every sense of the word. There isn't a better run-blocker at his position in the league, and in each of the last two seasons, Kittle has caught at least 85 passes and topped 1,000 yards.

    The wide receiver spot is less certain, but there's potential galore. Deebo Samuel was a revelation as a rookie—his 57/802/3 stat line in the regular season doesn't tell the story of his emergence as the year wore on. With Emmanuel Sanders gone, the No. 2 spot is a question mark, but John Lynch used a first-round pick on Arizona State's Brandon Aiyuk as a potential answer.

    As to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo? He's an easy target for detractors. He's never going to throw for 5,000 yards. He can't run around all day like Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson. But he's 19-5 as San Francisco's starter—in no small part because he also doesn't take unnecessary risks. He might not be a great quarterback, but he's a great quarterback for that team.

    The 49ers also have a run game that is the living definition of "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts." You can make an argument that there are more talented runners in the division than Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert. But this is a team that led the NFC with 2,305 rushing yards in 2019, averaged 4.6 yards a pop and paced the NFL in rushing touchdowns.

6. AFC East: Buffalo Bills

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    The times they are a-changing in the AFC East.

    Had this poll been conducted as recently as a year ago, the New England Patriots would have been a runaway winner. But that was before Tom Brady decided to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Now, it's the Buffalo Bills' turn to shine, and Bills Mafia is loving every minute of it.

    There are still elements of Josh Allen's game that need work (it rhymes with "maccuracy," if you were wondering). But after throwing for 3,089 yards and 20 scores with another 510 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground, Allen has claimed the title of the division's best quarterback.

    At least part of Allen's success a year ago is attributable to the improvements the Bills made at wide receiver in 2019 free agency. John Brown tallied career highs in both catches (72) and yardage (1,060) during his first year in Buffalo, while slot maven Cole Beasley pitched in a 67/778/6 stat line.

    The Bills took those improvements further in 2020, dealing their first-round pick in this year's draft to the Minnesota Vikings for wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who piled up a career-best 1,130 receiving yards while averaging almost 18 yards per catch last season.

    Finally, while the Bills are young and a tad unproven at running back, there's quite a bit of talent there. Devin Singletary averaged 5.1 yards per carry and came just shy of 1,000 yards from scrimmage as a rookie, while third-round pick Zack Moss offers depth and a physical between-the-tackles presence.

5. AFC South: Indianapolis Colts

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The AFC South winner for best skill-position talent is proof of how quickly things can change in the NFL.

    A year ago, the Houston Texans would have been an easy call. But although they compensated for the loss of DeAndre Hopkins with the addition of Brandin Cooks, there's still that whole "lost DeAndre Hopkins" thing.

    While the Texans were shedding talent, the Indianapolis Colts were adding it all over the place.

    At quarterback, they signed veteran Philip Rivers in free agency to upgrade over Jacoby Brissett. Rivers is coming off a relatively disappointing 2019 season with the Los Angeles Chargers in which he threw 20 interceptions, but we're still talking about an eight-time Pro Bowler who once led the NFL in passing yards and posted big numbers as recently as two years ago.

    Plus, he has the tools to succeed in Indianapolis.

    With Hopkins now on the Arizona Cardinals, T.Y. Hilton is the division's most dangerous downfield receiver. Like with Rivers, his 2019 was forgettable, but the 30-year-old posted a 76/1,270/6 stat line two years ago and has five 1,000-yard seasons over eight NFL campaigns.

    Hilton isn't a one-man band, either. Indy has plenty of complementary pass-catchers in players like wideouts Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman Jr. and tight end Jack Doyle.

    Rivers should benefit from a stout ground game in 2020, too.

    Marlon Mack tallied his first 1,000-yard season on the ground in 2019, averaging a respectable 4.4 yards per carry. Third-year pro Nyheim Hines has caught 107 passes in two seasons as Indy's third-down back. And in the second round of this year's draft, the Colts added Jonathan Taylor, who posted consecutive 2,000-yard seasons at the University of Wisconsin.

4. AFC North: Cleveland Browns

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    OK, so I can sense the seething Baltimore Ravens fans already.

    Hey, it was a vote. You all have no one to blame but yourselves, because democracy.

    Sarcasm aside, it's not outlandish that the Cleveland Browns beat out the Ravens here. Baltimore obviously has a decided edge at quarterback, but that's about the only position at which it does.

    At wide receiver, it's no contest.

    The LSU crew of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry is possibly the best one-two punch at receiver—not just in the AFC North, but in all of the NFL. Even in an injury-marred disappointment of a 2019 season, Beckham caught 74 passes and topped 1,000 yards. Landry did even better, hauling in 83 throws for a career-best 1,174 yards.

    The duo complements one another perfectly as a nightmare on the boundary and a force over the middle.

    It's a closer call at running back. But once again, the Browns have a top two as formidable as any in the NFL. Nick Chubb exploded in 2019 to the tune of 1,494 yards, 5.0 yards per carry and eight scores on the ground. Kareem Hunt only played in eight games because of suspension, but the 2017 rushing king still piled up over 450 total yards on just 80 touches.

    Add in tight end Austin Hooper and you have an array of offensive weaponry as frightening as any in the league. But if the Browns do become scary-good offensively in 2020, it will be because Baker Mayfield recaptures the 2018 form that saw him break the record for touchdown passes by a rookie quarterback.

    Mayfield ain't Lamar Jackson. But he doesn't have to be.

3. NFC East: Dallas Cowboys

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    This was one of the more obvious calls. Had any team but the Dallas Cowboys been the pick as the NFC East's best assemblage of skill-position talent, it would have been a massive upset.

    That the Cowboys couldn't get to the postseason last year despite all this firepower goes a long way toward explaining why former head coach Jason Garrett is in New York.

    At quarterback, Dak Prescott is coming off a career season. His 4,902 passing yards trailed only Jameis Winston, his 30 touchdown passes ranked fourth in the NFL, and his passer rating of 99.7 slotted inside the top 10.

    In the backfield, the Cowboys boast arguably the NFL's best back over the last four years in Ezekiel Elliott. In a "down" 2019 campaign, he piled up 1,357 yards on the ground (fourth in the league), scored 12 touchdowns, averaged 4.5 yards per carry and caught 54 passes. Elliott has paced the league in rushing twice in four seasons.

    The wide receiver corps in Dallas is as deep as any in football.

    Amari Cooper may have vanished at times last year, but when the dust settled on the 2019 campaign, he had still tallied 79 catches for a team-leading 1,189 yards. And he wasn't the only wideout in Dallas who topped 1,100 yards.

    Michael Gallup emerged as an excellent pass-catcher in his own right during his second season. Plus, the Cowboys added yet another dangerous downfield weapon in the 2020 draft, selecting Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb in Round 1.

    That Dallas lacks an established receiving option at tight end barely registers here given all those weapons.

2. NFC South: New Orleans Saints

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    Brett Duke/Associated Press

    This was the closest call among the NFL's eight divisions—and understandably so. There isn't a division in the NFL more loaded with offensive skill position talent than the NFC South.

    Still, the defending division champions won the vote, and it doesn't take long to see why.

    It all starts under center with quarterback Drew Brees.

    Over 19 years in the NFL with the Chargers and Saints, Brees has thrown for 77,416 yards and 547 touchdowns. No player has more of either. There have been 12 seasons in NFL history in which a quarterback topped 5,000 yards, and he owns five of them.

    A quarterback is only as good as the weapons around him, and Brees has long benefited from a loaded arsenal in New Orleans.

    Running back Alvin Kamara is one of the most dangerous dual-threats options in any NFL backfield. He has yet to average less than 4.6 yards per carry during a single season, has topped 1,300 total yards in three straight campaigns and has averaged a staggering 81 receptions per year.

    If Kamara isn't the target of a Brees pass, then it's a safe bet that Michael Thomas is. The fifth-year veteran was the league's most-targeted wideout in 2019 by a staggering margin, setting an NFL record with 149 catches and topping 1,700 receiving yards. The Saints brought in a dependable No. 2 receiver in free agency by adding Emmanuel Sanders and his three career 1,000-yard seasons.

    Finally, the Saints might not have an in-his-prime Jimmy Graham anymore, but after a career 2018 with the Oakland Raiders, Jared Cook joined the Saints and proceeded to average a career-high 16.4 yards on 43 receptions while finding the end zone nine times.

1. AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    I know. You're stunned. It's OK. Take a moment. Collect yourself.

    There's no way that any team but the Kansas City Chiefs was going to find itself atop these rankings. The Chiefs are an offensive buzzsaw that may well go down as one of the most prolific and potent units in NFL history.

    The maestro of this symphony of destruction is quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

    In his second season, Mahomes topped 5,000 passing yards and threw 50 touchdown passes—a feat only Peyton Manning had accomplished before him. Mahomes was the 2018 MVP and led the Chiefs in 2019 to their first Super Bowl win in half a century.

    He looks like he's playing the game on a lower difficulty level than his opponents. He's impossible to defend.

    He's also 24.

    Of course, some of that impossibility stems from the embarrassment of riches at his disposal. Kansas City's Legion of Zoom wideout corps is an amalgamation of vertical threats, the stuff of nightmares for cornerbacks. Tyreek Hill had just under 1,500 receiving yards and 12 scores in 2018, and if you manage to keep him under wraps, Mecole Hardman and Sammy Watkins will beat single coverage downfield.

    If they don't, then tight end Travis Kelce will eviscerate you underneath. Kelce is the gold standard for tight ends in the AFC (if not all of the NFL) and has four straight 1,000-yard seasons.

    If the Chiefs had a "weakness" offensively, it was probably at running back. Damien Williams isn't bad, but he's not Saquon Barkley or Derrick Henry, either.

    However, the Chiefs used their first pick in 2020 on LSU's Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a do-it-all running back whose skills mesh well with Kansas City's scheme. Should he be as advertised, these Chiefs will be better than the "Greatest Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams.

    And that's saying something.


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