The NFL’s best and worst offensive arsenals: Barnwell’s 32-1 ranking

Updated: July 11, 2019

7:05 AM ET

When I was compiling my rankings of each NFL team’s offensive weaponry last year, the Chiefs came out at No. 1. I was a little surprised. I ran through the rosters again. The Chiefs were still tops. I ran with it, and, well, things went OK. Patrick Mahomes won league MVP in his first season as a starter, and while Mahomes is unquestionably an incredible quarterback, it didn’t hurt to be surrounded by the likes of Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill.

Now, it feels like a mistake as I mention that the Chiefs aren’t atop these rankings for the second consecutive season. There’s no clear-cut leader for the best set of weapons in football, but instead probably four or five teams that could easily be considered No. 1 without much of an argument. By a different set of rules, you could very easily justify picking the Chiefs or another team. Here’s what I went for in creating my list:

These rankings are attempting to consider a team’s skill-position talent without including the impact of the quarterback, offensive line or scheme. This is extremely important. If you’re getting angry because these rankings don’t include the impact of Tyron Smith, Tom Brady, or Matt Nagy, you’re wasting your time. This isn’t a list of offenses.

  • These rankings don’t include contract value. I’ll mention a contract here and there, but if a team has a good player on a bad deal, the money doesn’t matter for the purposes of this piece.

  • I’m solely considering how these players will perform in 2019. I’m looking at typical aging curves and injury histories to estimate how a player will perform in the upcoming season, but I’m not focused on anything after 2019. I’m also factoring in suspensions or likely suspensions, which cap the value of players like Hill and Kareem Hunt.

  • The arsenals are weighted more toward receivers. The NFL’s 20 largest active multiyear deals for wide receivers pay those players an average of $14.2 million per season. That same figure comes in at $6.6 million for tight ends and $6.8 million for running backs. The league clearly values wide receivers as more important than players at the other skill positions, so my rankings follow suit.

  • Top-level talent wins out over depth. To try to sort between the various teams, I generally focused on each team’s top six options across running back, wide receiver and tight end, as those are the guys most likely to see the field. I gave a bit of extra credit for truly transcendent weapons like Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins, who manage to shoulder enormous workloads while playing at a high level. When there were relatively similar scores, I gave the edge to the team with more depth, which helped the likes of the Eagles and Patriots move up the board.

  • Finally — and this is also important — I didn’t mention everyone. Just because a player isn’t discussed in the blurb doesn’t mean he wasn’t considered as part of the analysis. In some cases, I only briefly touch on star players, if only because I don’t need to tell you how good Michael Thomas or Ezekiel Elliott are.

when I did this exercise in 2017 and stuck around in last for 2018. The good news: Signing Le’Veon Bell to a massive deal has propelled the Jets out of last place in the weapons rankings! It remains to be seen whether it’ll do the same in the real standings, but for now, let’s start with the new bottom team:

Jump to a team:
ATL | CAR | NO | TB | ARI | LAR | SF | SEA

32. Jacksonville Jaguars

2018 rank: No. 25 | 2017: No. 13

Nick Foles might have won a Super Bowl in Philadelphia, but he’ll have way less help on his new team. The Jags’ most prominent weapon is running back Leonard Fournette, who hasn’t been healthy or productive across his first two pro seasons. Just 35.9% of his carries have improved Jacksonville’s chances of scoring by ESPN’s Expected Points model, which ranks 34th among 46 backs with 200 carries or more over the last two years. This is a make-or-break year for the former No. 4 overall pick.

The Jaguars are young at receiver, and there’s still reason to hope that the likes of Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole and DJ Chark will get better with improved quarterback play, but the No. 1 option here — nominally Westbrook, Chiefs import Chris Conley or the returning Marqise Lee, who missed all of 2018 after an ACL tear — might be as low as fifth on some other depth charts around the league. There’s also little at tight end, where Geoff Swaim and rookie third-rounder Josh Oliver will compete. Foles will miss Zach Ertz Co.

The investments Washington has made at wide receiver haven’t worked out. Former Seahawks wideout Paul Richardson, signed to a five-year, $40 million deal, wasn’t healthy in Seattle and caught just 20 passes in seven games last season. Former first-rounder Josh Doctson hasn’t developed, and Washington just declined his fifth-year option. Jamison Crowder left for the Jets and is in line to be replaced by Mr. Irrelevant Trey Quinn. Jay Gruden Co. drafted Terry McLaurin in the third round, but is there any reason to think Washington is going to start developing wideouts effectively? This is likely the league’s worst group of starting wide receivers.

Washington is better at other positions, but injury concerns perennially loom over Jordan Reed and now 34-year-old running back Adrian Peterson. Derrius Guice, a second-round pick in 2018, is coming off a torn ACL, while Chris Thompson was banged up all season and saw his efficiency metrics crater after returning from a broken leg. An impressive debut season from Guice would give Washington a building block for 2020.

27. Arizona Cardinals

2018 rank: No. 20 | 2017: No. 9

You certainly can’t accuse the Cardinals of standing pat at wide receiver. Kliff Kingsbury is going to use plenty of three- and four-wideout sets in his Air Raid attack, and the Cards added to starters Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk by drafting Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson. Former Bears first-round pick Kevin White‘s here as a flier, too. The moves to sign tight ends Charles Clay and Maxx Williams make less sense given how infrequently this team is likely to use multiple tight ends for anything beyond special-teams plays.

Strangely, this is probably the first year in over a decade in which the most important weapon for the Cardinals isn’t the guy wearing No. 11. Fitzgerald is going to be a Hall of Famer, but as he turns 36 and enters what is likely to be his final season, the Arizona offense will need to depend more heavily upon Kirk and David Johnson, who never seemed to get going last season. This offense will move fast and should generate a ton of possessions, which will bump up everyone’s numbers, but if Johnson doesn’t piece together an impressive year, it’ll make the 27-year-old’s breakout campaign from 2016 look more like an aberration than an indication of what was to come.