By Christopher Harris
June 26, 2006
It's the system, stupid.
Okay, it's not always the system. But let me ask you a few questions: Would you rather own the backup running back for Houston or Tampa Bay? Would you rather your stud first-rounder rush behind the offensive line in Miami or Minnesota? Would you rather your rookie sleeper wideout catch passes from Drew Bledsoe or Donovan McNabb?
Knowing how an offense likes to play and how powerful it's likely to be can lead to good fantasy personnel decisions on draft day. Knowing which head coaches are more likely to throw caution to the wind or which offensive lines are ready to put their enormous bodies most effectively in harm's way can help you choose between similar players when it's your turn to pick. And realizing which offenses are, for various reasons, doomed to fantasy failure can help you sidestep much-hyped players in hopeless situations.
With all this in mind, I present to you our 2006 Offensive Juggernaut Index. These team rankings take into account the overall fantasy effectiveness of an offense: its skill-player and offensive-line personnel, its play-calling philosophy, its red-zone efficiency and its schedule strength. We've got one eye focused on last year's performance, and the other cast eagerly on what fantasy players can expect in '06. In a nutshell, I believe the more players you have from the higher-ranked teams on this list, the more likely your fantasy squad will benefit from some big offensive numbers.
1. Indianapolis Colts
|Rushing:||106.4 (16th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||61 (2nd)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.7 (24th)||Red Zone TD:||60.7% (5th-T)|
|Passing:||261.9 (4th)||Red Zone FG:||26.2% (27th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.90 (15th)||Red Zone Empty:||13.1% (12th)|
|Scoring:||27.4 (2nd)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.484 (11th)|
Key Offensive Additions: RB Joseph Addai
Key Offensive Subtractions: RB Edgerrin James
The numbers from 2005 don't look quite as dominant as years' past, but this is still the offense that boasts the best combination of consistency and explosiveness in the NFL. With James gone, the tandem of Addai and Dominic Rhodes assume RB duties, which could mean an uptick in the passing offense. Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne will probably both be WR1 in most leagues, but beware of WR Brandon Stokley; by the end of '05, the Colts liked to run a lot of two-tight end sets with Dallas Clark and Bryan Fletcher. Quietly, this offensive line is one of the best two or three in football: they aren't super-explosive, but they very rarely allow negative plays, either rushing or passing. If Tony Dungy had his way, Indy would run even more. However, there's this guy named Peyton Manning in the house, so don't expect it to happen any time soon.
2. Denver Broncos
|Rushing:||158.7 (2nd) ||Red Zone Poss.:||58 (5th-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||4.7 (2nd-T)||Red Zone TD:||60.3% (7th)|
|Passing:||210.8 (20th)||Red Zone FG:||25.9% (28th-T)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||1.17 (3rd-T)||Red Zone Empty:||13.8% (13th)|
|Scoring:||24.7 (7th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.516 (20th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: WR Javon Walker; QB Jay Cutler; TE Tony Scheffler
Key Offensive Subtractions: RB Mike Anderson; TE Jeb Putzier
The Broncos continue to boast the best run-blocking system in the NFL. Don't undervalue the home-grown personnel here – OTs Matt Lepsis and George Foster, OGs Ben Hamilton and Cooper Carlisle, and C Tom Nalen – but the system itself is borderline dirty and amazingly effective. Given the extremely run-heavy tendencies here, RBs Ron Dayne and Tatum Bell make an exciting platoon (if anyone wins outright, they'll be fantasy gold, and I think Dayne gets the first crack at the goal-line role that was Anderson's), but it also leads me to wonder if there are enough receptions here to keep both Walker and Rod Smith fantasy-relevant. Jake Plummer helms the team again, and was incredibly efficient and risk-averse in '05 (18 TDs, 7 INTs); if he can't keep it up this year, Cutler waits.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
|Rushing:||119.4 (11th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||62 (1st)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||4.2 (9th-T)||Red Zone TD:||56.5% (11th)|
|Passing:||245.9 (7th)||Red Zone FG:||32.3% (20th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.85 (17th)||Red Zone Empty:||11.3% (11th)|
|Scoring:||26.3 (4th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.543 (31st-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: WR Antonio Chatman; OT Andrew Whitworth
Key Offensive Subtractions: QB Jon Kitna; TE Matt Schobel; WR Chris Henry (?)
This superior aerial attack has a couple extraordinary questions that make owning its skill players highly volatile. First and foremost is the health of QB Carson Palmer, who blew out his knee in 2005's AFC Wild Card game. I think it's unlikely Palmer will be the same guy he was last year, but with Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh at wideout, he doesn't have to be Superman to have a ton of fantasy value – (Henry is a question mark because of his multiple arrests this offseason.) This offensive line is actually my No. 1 favorite in the NFL for 2006: filthy and ferocious blocking for RB Rudi Johnson, but allowing the second-fewest sacks in the league; draftee Whitworth is massive, but I think he'll wind up more a guard than a tackle. This line (and especially OTs Willie Anderson and Levi Jones) is so good, the Bengals will score no matter what.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
|Rushing:||148.9 (4th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||54 (8th-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||4.6 (5th)||Red Zone TD:||51.9% (14th)|
|Passing:||250.9 (5th)||Red Zone FG:||37.0% (12th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||1.03 (10th-T)||Red Zone Empty:||11.1% (10th)|
|Scoring:||25.2 (6th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.527 (26th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: QB Brodie Croyle; OG Ian Allen
Key Offensive Subtractions: FB Tony Richardson
Based on last year's numbers, you'd probably have to rank the Chiefs even higher than this, but I'm worried about the age on this otherwise-superior offensive line. OT Willie Roaf is 36 and OG Will Shields is 35 (plus OT John Welbourn unexpectedly retired during minicamp, meaning disappointing Jordan Black is the starter). Roaf is still a terrific run-blocker, but has lost something in pass-blocking (he also missed time in '05 with a torn hamstring). Also for the first time last year, defenses were able to take away TE Tony Gonzalez in the red zone (he matched a career-low with two TDs in '05). QB Trent Green is 36 and nearing the last round-up, and this team still doesn't have a real No. 1 wideout (neither Eddie Kennison nor Samie Parker really fills the bill). Still, with Larry Johnson carrying the rock, and this offensive line incredibly stout while healthy, Kansas City will be fine.
5. Seattle Seahawks
|Rushing:||153.6 (3rd) ||Red Zone Poss.:||60 (3rd)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||4.7 (2nd-T)||Red Zone TD:||71.7% (1st)|
|Passing:||227 (14th)||Red Zone FG:||18.3% (32nd)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||1.10 (5th-T)||Red Zone Empty:||10.0% (6th)|
|Scoring:||28.3 (1st)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.457 (3rd-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: WR Nate Burleson; OG Tom Ashworth; OG Rob Sims
Key Offensive Subtractions: OG Steve Hutchinson; WR Joe Jurevicius
Super Bowl losers have had rough follow-up seasons in recent years (see: '05 Eagles, '04 Panthers, '03 Raiders, '02 Rams, '01 Giants), but none of those teams had RB Shaun Alexander, who tied the single-season TD mark last year. Running is what these guys do best, which makes RB Maurice Morris a must-handcuff to Alexander. QB Matt Hasselbeck is coming off a sore foot, but should be fine, and emerging TE Jerramy Stevens had knee surgery in April, but is expected back the third week of August. Most worrisome for Seattle is Hutchinson's departure; arguably the best guard in football will be replaced either by Pork Chop Womack or Ashworth. If the 'Hawks can answer the Hutchinson question and keep running, everyone wins. If not, Alexander will still get TDs, but Seattle's offense will slow down.
6. New England Patriots
|Rushing:||94.5 (24th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||58 (5th-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.4 (29th-T)||Red Zone TD:||63.8% (3rd-T)|
|Passing:||270.1 (3rd)||Red Zone FG:||25.9% (28th-T)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.78 (23rd-T)||Red Zone Empty:||10.3% (8th)|
|Scoring:||23.7 (10th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.473 (7th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: RB Laurence Maroney; WR Chad Jackson; WR Reche Caldwell
Key Offensive Subtractions: WR David Givens; OG Tom Ashworth; TE Christian Fauria
What in the wide, wide world of sports happened to the Pats' numbers in '05? Injuries. Losing OT Matt Light (13 games), C Dan Koppen (7 games), OT Brandon Gorin (5 games) and Ashworth (3 games) made a disaster of the running game, and RB Corey Dillon's injuries and inconsistencies didn't help. In place of New England's usual ground game, QB Tom Brady set a career-high in passing yards. Expect more balance this year; the line is healthy and much deeper, and Dillon has a legitimate backup in Maroney. Givens will be missed; Caldwell isn't a true NFL starter, so the mantel may fall to Jackson. With Fauria gone, TE Ben Watson may become an end-zone target. Dillon will be under-valued and WR Deion Branch a bit over-valued on a team that will get back to its running roots.
7. New York Giants
|Rushing:||138.1 (6th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||59 (4th)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||4.7 (2nd-T)||Red Zone TD:||45.8% (22nd)|
|Passing:||235.1 (11th)||Red Zone FG:||37.3% (9th-T)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.84 (18th)||Red Zone Empty:||16.9% (20th)|
|Scoring:||26.4 (3rd)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.543 (31st-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: WR Sinorice Moss; OG Grey Reugamer
Key Offensive Subtractions: none
This isn't a power offensive line, but that's okay, because this isn't a power offense. WR Plaxico Burress is definitely a fantasy factor, but the best receiver in New York is RB Tiki Barber, who was second in the NFL in yards rushing, first in yards-per-carry, third among all backs in receptions, and led the entire league in yards from scrimmage – 2005 was a career year, but he'll be very good again in '06. Burress is a head case, but fortunately locker-room chemistry doesn't count in fantasy. QB Eli Manning is the man of the moment, and as such, the offense will continue to flow through him. If TE Jeremy Shockey would just shut up and play, his potential would be limitless. OT Kareem McKenzie had a very good first year on this side of the Apple, and bookend Luke Petitgout stayed healthy. They don't maul you up front, but they protect for the pass well. It's a tough division, but they'll make their bones via the air.
8. Carolina Panthers
|Rushing:||104.9 (19th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||53 (10th-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.4 (29th-T)||Red Zone TD:||58.5% (9th)|
|Passing:||217.8 (16th)||Red Zone FG:||32.1% (21st-T)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||1.08 (8th)||Red Zone Empty:||9.4% (5th)|
|Scoring:||24.4 (8th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.504 (15th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: WR Keyshawn Johnson; RB DeAngelo Williams; C Justin Hartwig; OT Rashad Butler
Key Offensive Subtractions: RB Stephen Davis; C Jeff Mitchell; WR Ricky Proehl; OG Tutan Reyes
John Fox wants to run, run, and then run some more; his conservative play-calling makes Rush Limbaugh look like Leo Buscaglia. In '05 the Panthers ran Davis a lot in the red zone, where he was effective, but also ran him a lot everywhere else, where he was not. The additions of Johnson and Williams, along with Hartwig replacing Mitchell at center, increase the potential variety here, thereby upping this offense's explosiveness. The problem is: whom do you draft? Williams and DeShaun Foster will likely split touches, but I'll give Foster the edge around the goal line, a crucial spot in Fox's offense. QB Jake Delhomme will have Johnson and Steve Smith to choose from, but Fox would prefer it if Jake the Rake would sling guns a little less frequently. Smith will be huge because he's great, and this team will be good. But as long as the new o-line pieces fit, the most important battle here is in the backfield.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers
|Rushing:||138.9 (5th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||56 (7th)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||4.0 (12th-T)||Red Zone TD:||60.7% (5th-T)|
|Passing:||194 (25th)||Red Zone FG:||37.5% (8th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||1.45 (1st)||Red Zone Empty:||1.8% (1st)|
|Scoring:||24.3 (9th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.531 (28th)|
Key Offensive Additions: WR Santonio Holmes; OG Willie Colon
Key Offensive Subtractions: RB Jerome Bettis; WR Antwaan Randle El
If Carolina is Rush Limbaugh, pick your favorite right-wing nut to describe the Steelers. The NFL's most run-heavy team for the second consecutive year and the fourth time in six years, Pittsburgh figures to do their best to stay conservative in '06, despite Bettis's departure. Willie Parker will carry most of the mail between the 20s, but the real question is: who'll be Bill Cowher's new goal-line back? Unless they sign a veteran, either Duce Staley or Verron Haynes will wind up having a ton of value. The o-line is solid run-blocking but has fallen off protecting QB Ben Roethlisberger; it's a gritty bunch that's a bit susceptible to speed. WR Cedrick Wilson will likely take Randle El's place, but this offense is so run-oriented, it's often not worth owning more than Hines Ward or TE Heath Miller in the passing game.
10. San Diego Chargers
|Rushing:||129.5 (9th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||50 (15th)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||4.5 (6th)||Red Zone TD:||70.0% (2nd)|
|Passing:||233.6 (12th)||Red Zone FG:||24.0% (30th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.88 (16th)||Red Zone Empty:||6.0% (3rd)|
|Scoring:||26.1 (5th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.488 (12th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: OT Marcus McNeill
Key Offensive Subtractions: QB Drew Brees; WR Reche Caldwell
The pressure will be on RB LaDainian Tomlinson this year, as Brees takes his aerial attack to New Orleans and defenses line up to duplicate the final five games of '05, where LT never eclipsed 100 yards and scored only once. QB Philip Rivers has the reins, which means as a security blanket, TE Antonio Gates is even more valuable, if that's possible, and this team will take on a run-heavier look. The o-line is bruising, with underrated OT Roman Oben leading the way (second-rounder McNeill is a giant with the potential to start next season). Power runs are the specialty with Marty Schottenheimer, which means three wideouts rarely see the field at the same time. Rivers will treat Gates as his first option; WRs Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker are a distant second.
11. Jacksonville Jaguars
|Rushing:||122.4 (10th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||49 (16th-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.9 (16th-T)||Red Zone TD:||59.2% (8th)|
|Passing:||209.5 (21st)||Red Zone FG:||30.6% (23rd)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||1.03 (10th-T)||Red Zone Empty:||10.2% (7th)|
|Scoring:||22.6 (12th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.488 (12th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: TE Marcedes Lewis; OT Mike Williams; OT Stockar McDougle; RB Maurice Drew
Key Offensive Subtractions: WR Jimmy Smith; OT Mike Pearson; OT Ephraim Salaam
Strangely, the Jags are a passing team in a rushing team's body. To me, there's little question Jacksonville was most effective under first-year offensive coordinator Carl Smith last year when QB Byron Leftwich was throwing the ball. RB Fred Taylor was often ineffective, and Greg Jones's goal line work pretty much rendered Taylor a fantasy non-factor. However, the emergence of WRs Matt Jones and Ernest Wilford, two huge targets, made Leftwich look great until he busted his ankle. One problem was the offensive line, specifically tackle, where Maurice Williams struggled at times. One-time first-rounder Mike Williams is a mashing run blocker, and if he gets healthy, could be a terrific signing and could even replace Maurice Williams in the starting lineup. All that said, Taylor is still a fantasy disaster waiting to happen. Hopefully the Jags continue to open up the playbook, and realize their best players play in the aerial attack.
12. Washington Redskins
|Rushing:||136.4 (7th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||47 (18th)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||4.2 (9th-T)||Red Zone TD:||63.8% (3rd-T)|
|Passing:||209.1 (22nd)||Red Zone FG:||21.3% (31st)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||1.09 (7th)||Red Zone Empty:||14.9% (14th)|
|Scoring:||22.4 (13th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.516 (20th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: WR Brandon Lloyd; WR Antwaan Randle El; TE Christian Fauria
Key Offensive Subtractions: TE Robert Royal; C Cory Raymer; OG Ray Brown
Joe Gibbs recognizes what he has in RB Clinton Portis. Perhaps more importantly, he recognizes what he has in QB Mark Brunell. In D.C., though the passing game showed dramatic improvement with the breakout campaign of WR Santana Moss, running wins games. OTs Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels were both hindered by injury last year (thumbs and knee, respectively), but they make one solid pair of bookends, especially blocking for the run. For fantasy purposes, the best thing that could happen to this offense would be Jason Campbell beating out Brunell; he's got a bigger arm, better legs, and would make teams fear the pass more than they do. As it is, with Brunell at the helm, expect Moss to get tons of attention (the way he did against Seattle in the playoffs last year), Portis to get blanketed, and Lloyd and TE Chris Cooley to see some single-coverage. This group has come a long way from being one of the worst offenses in football two years ago.
13. Miami Dolphins
|Rushing:||118.6 (12th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||52 (12th)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||4.3 (7th-T)||Red Zone TD:||40.4% (26th)|
|Passing:||216.1 (17th)||Red Zone FG:||34.6% (17th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.80 (21st)||Red Zone Empty:||25.0% (32nd)|
|Scoring:||19.9 (16th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.469 (6th)|
Key Offensive Additions: QB Daunte Culpepper; OT L.J. Shelton; OT Mike Pearson; WR Derek Hagan; OG Alonzo Ephraim
Key Offensive Subtractions: QB Gus Frerotte; QB Sage Rosenfels; RB Ricky Williams; OT Stockar McDougle; WR Bryan Gilmore
Out with the old, in with the new. Pretty much all of Miami's eggs are riding on Culpepper's reconstructed knee, but he reportedly looks great and I expect him to have a big year with WR Chris Chambers. RB Ronnie Brown may not play much better than last year (when he was pretty good), but he'll be much more valuable from a fantasy perspective without Williams around. Nick Saban did his best to re-shape an o-line that struggled mightily in the red zone in '05: Shelton is massive, and Pearson adds depth, plus the team re-signed C Seth McKinney, who missed much of last year with a knee injury. It's certainly not a top-10 line, but I like the potential for an improved passing game here, slightly better balance (meaning a bit more running) and the weak-ish schedule, too.
14. Atlanta Falcons
|Rushing:||159.1 (1st) ||Red Zone Poss.:||54 (8th-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||4.8 (1st)||Red Zone TD:||57.4% (10th)|
|Passing:||181.7 (28th)||Red Zone FG:||35.2% (14th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||1.18 (2nd)||Red Zone Empty:||7.4% (4th)|
|Scoring:||21.9 (14th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.508 (17th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: OT Wayne Gandy; WR Adam Jennings; QB D.J. Shockley
Key Offensive Subtractions: OT Kevin Shaffer; WR Peerless Price
Sure, the numbers look overly skewed toward the run, but remember, QB Michael Vick's rushing stats (597 yards, six TDs) are factored here, too. The loss of Shaffer hurts (and will help Cleveland quite a bit), but Gandy is an old pro who should step right in, and second-year man Frank Omiyale adds great depth at tackle. In the fantasy world, of course, the split between RBs Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett means frustration; this will continue to be a run-first version of the West Coast offense, and Dunn was excellent last year, but he'll always lose goal-line touches. The pass protection is decent, and the wideouts are Roddy White and Michael Jenkins, but with Vick passing, it's hard to recommend either. I'd like to be a contrarian here and tell you Vick is going to prove all his fantasy doubters wrong, but I don't believe it. Except for security blanket TE Alge Crumpler, you probably don't want any part of this passing game.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
|Rushing:||89.5 (28th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||41 (27th)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.9 (16th-T)||Red Zone TD:||53.7% (12th)|
|Passing:||243.9 (8th)||Red Zone FG:||29.3% (25th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.59 (31st)||Red Zone Empty:||17.1% (21st)|
|Scoring:||19.4 (17th-T)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.520 (23rd)|
Key Offensive Additions: WR Jabar Gaffney; QB Jeff Garcia; OT Winston Justice; WR Jason Avant
Key Offensive Subtractions: WR Terrell Owens; QB Mike McMahon; RB Lamar Gordon
The numbers are skewed a bit low because of QB Donovan McNabb's sports hernia last year, but without question, this will continue to be one of the most aerial attacks in the NFL in '06. Owens is gone, so Gaffney and Todd Pinkston will duke it out to start alongside Reggie Brown, but the short passing game is what these guys like best anyway, meaning RB Brian Westrbook (especially in point-per-reception leagues) and TE L.J. Smith should put up huge fantasy seasons. Once again, Ryan Moats is a must-handcuff for Westbrook owners. McNabb should be fine, and re-signing OT Jon Runyan should keep him that way; Runyan and OG Shawn Andrews make a lethal right side on this line. They don't maul opponents much anymore, but they're terrific at pass-blocking and screens. Drafting Justice may have been a steal as well: he's got first-round-tackle talent, but maturity issues that caused him to drop in the draft.
16. Arizona Cardinals
|Rushing:||71.1 (32nd) ||Red Zone Poss.:||46 (19th-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.2 (32nd)||Red Zone TD:||28.3% (31st)|
|Passing:||295.2 (1st)||Red Zone FG:||54.3% (2nd)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.54 (32nd)||Red Zone Empty:||17.4% (22nd)|
|Scoring:||19.4 (17th-T)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.500 (14th)|
Key Offensive Additions: RB Edgerrin James; TE Leonard Pope; OG Milford Brown; QB Matt Leinart; OG Deuce Lutui
Key Offensive Subtractions: QB Josh McCown
It's hard to imagine a more intriguing offense. Dennis Green now has three All-Pro-level skill players, in James and WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, each of whom topped 100 catches in '05. Of course, having the top-rated passing offense (and bottom-rated rushing offense) led to the Cardinals scoring only 19 points a game, so it's safe to say they needed a new plan. QB Kurt Warner will play as long as he holds up, but Leinart is exciting in the wings. The real question here is offensive line: it was nearly the worst in football last year. Brown is a shaky new starter at guard, until Lutui is ready, and otherwise it's more of the same (OT Leonard Davis makes superstar money and doesn't play like one), and that's why I'm not sanguine about this offense becoming elite yet. They should stay healthier, but James has to be downgraded some. They'll definitely throw more than they run.
17. Dallas Cowboys
|Rushing:||116.3(13th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||53 (10th-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.6 (25th-T)||Red Zone TD:||52.8% (13th)|
|Passing:||227.4 (13th)||Red Zone FG:||32.1% (21st-T)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||1.04 (9th)||Red Zone Empty:||15.1% (16th)|
|Scoring:||20.3 (15th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.504 (15th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: WR Terrell Owens; OT Jason Fabini; OG Kyle Kosier; TE Anthony Fasano
Key Offensive Subtractions: WR Keyshawn Johnson; OG Larry Allen; OT Torrin Tucker; TE Dan Campbell
What held back this offense in 2005 was a crummy offensive line, and while the Cowboys tried to address its holes, questions still abound. Allen's departure is a good thing, but Kosier isn't a first-rate lineman, and Fabini has to show he's back from knee and pectoral injuries; OT Flozell Adams missed the second half of '05 with a torn ACL, and was reportedly fat as a motel in minicamp. For as long as he stays off the suspended list, Owens is going to get his, to the likely detriment of WR Terry Glenn; QB Drew Bledsoe is immobile but still has the big arm that can send T.O. downfield. RB Julius Jones was a huge disappointment last year, though you can blame the line for some of that. However, Marion Barber ran behind that same cruddy blocking, and was more effective. Bill Parcells would love nothing more than to be able to rush more and more, but I don't think it'll happen with this line. Expect some explosive passing games, but some maddening inconsistency.
18. St. Louis Rams
|Rushing:||95.9 (22nd) ||Red Zone Poss.:||51 (13th-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||4.0 (12th-T)||Red Zone TD:||47.1% (19th)|
|Passing:||271.9 (2nd)||Red Zone FG:||37.3% (9th-T)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.64 (28th-T)||Red Zone Empty:||15.7% (17th)|
|Scoring:||22.7 (11th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.508 (17th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: TE Joe Klopfenstein; QB Gus Frerotte; OT Todd Steussie; RB Tony Fisher
Key Offensive Subtractions: QB Jamie Martin; TE Brandon Manumaleuna; OT Rex Tucker; RB Arlen Harris
First off, can I just say that FB Madison Hedgecock has the best name in sports? Next off, the departure of Mike Martz is probably the best thing for this team; it's certainly the best thing for QB Marc Bulger, who I'd imagine was pretty sick of Martz's "put-everyone-in-a-pattern-and-don't-worry-about-blocking" style of offense. New coach Scott Linehan likes to air it out, too (check out Miami's stats on this page), but he'll be a bit more sane about it. You can certainly expect WR Torry Holt to be a huge fantasy factor, and I actually like Kevin Curtis more than Isaac Bruce at the WR2 slot. However, you can lump Steven Jackson with about ten other backs who disappointed in '05, and are question marks in '06. OT Alex Barron is a comer on one side, but the old guys on this line – OT Orlando Pace, OG Adam Timmerman, C Andy McCollum – simply aren't going to hold up for an entire year. The run/pass ratio will grow and the tight end might once again be relevant, but the line will prevent a truly explosive offense.
19. Oakland Raiders
|Rushing:||85.6 (29th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||45 (22nd)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.8 (20th-T)||Red Zone TD:||46.7% (20th)|
|Passing:||242.7 (9th)||Red Zone FG:||35.6% (13th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.61 (30th)||Red Zone Empty:||17.8% (23rd)|
|Scoring:||18.1 (23rd)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.516 (20th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: QB Aaron Brooks
Key Offensive Subtractions: QB Kerry Collins
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. I guess Norv Turner's newfound commitment to the run wasn't quite strong enough to save his job, so Art Shell is back, and he'll turn over the reins to New Orleans bust Brooks, who certainly has the big arm to keep WRs Randy Moss and Jerry Porter happy, but whose QB rating was a robust 70.0 last year. Color me skeptical. RB Lamont Jordan is worth drafting here, and is one of the most valuable players around in point-per-reception leagues; the fact that he caught 70 passes (league-high for RBs) in '05 accounts for some of the low run/pass ratio. And there's no question Moss was hurt, and will be more effective this year. The Raiders made surprisingly few changes on what was a pretty bad offense, including the line, where former first-rounder Robert Gallery is trying to switch from right tackle back to the more crucial left tackle slot. It's Oakland; they'll score some, and throw a lot. But don't invest too heavily.
20. Minnesota Vikings
|Rushing:||91.7 (27th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||51 (13th-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.9 (16th-T)||Red Zone TD:||45.1% (23rd)|
|Passing:||215.6 (18th)||Red Zone FG:||33.3% (18th-T)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.75 (26th)||Red Zone Empty:||21.6% (27th)|
|Scoring:||19.1 (19th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.457 (3rd-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: RB Chester Taylor; OG Steve Hutchinson; OG Jason Whittle; FB Tony Richardson; QB Mike McMahon
Key Offensive Subtractions: QB Daunte Culpepper; WR Nate Burleson; RB Michael Bennett; RB Moe Williams; OG Toniu Fonoti
The Meathead is gone, and former Philly offensive coordinator Brad Childress is in charge. He sure does have a new offense. QB Brad Johnson was capable in Culpepper's stead last year, but he's not an exciting fantasy option. What the Vikes have at running back is three third-down specialists: Taylor, Mewelde Moore and Ciatrick Fason; Fason maybe gets red-zone duties, while Taylor gets most carries and Moore catches third-down passes. Maybe. There's no one guy to be Brian Westbrook in this offense. Similarly, you have a bunch of receivers not suited for the West Coast offense: Troy Williams, Koren Robinson, Marcus Robinson … none of these guys is especially known for precision route-running. They just go downfield. Travis Taylor would appear to be the best fit, but he's Travis Taylor. Hutchinson is a great addition, and certainly helps. Check out Philly's ratios for last year to get an idea of what to expect in Minny in '06.
21. Green Bay Packers
|Rushing:||84.5 (30th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||46 (19th-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.4 (29th-T)||Red Zone TD:||47.8% (17th-T)|
|Passing:||247.8 (6th)||Red Zone FG:||28.3% (26th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.64 (28th-T)||Red Zone Empty:||23.9% (31st)|
|Scoring:||18.6 (22nd)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.449 (2nd)|
Key Offensive Additions: WR Marc Boerigter; WR Greg Jennings; OT Daryn Colledge; OG Jason Spitz
Key Offensive Subtractions: WR Javon Walker; C Mike Flanagan; OG Grey Ruegamer; RB Tony Fisher; WR Antonio Chatman
If this is the gunslinger's last go-round, you know he's going out firing. For that reason, in addition to the possibility that two rookies will start on this offensive line, you should probably stay away from the running game here; Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport and Samkon Gado are all coming off major injuries, as well. For sure, Donald Driver is worth owning as QB Brett Favre's WR1, but the second slot is up for grabs: Robert Ferguson, Rod Gardner, Jennings and Boerigter are all possibilities. The tackles (Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher) are very solid pass-blockers, but the middle of this line is going to be a wreck, meaning you shouldn't expect much yards-per-carry improvement. The Packers will be better this year, but the only place I'd invest is with the receivers.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|Rushing:||114.1 (14th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||40 (28th)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||4.0 (12th-T)||Red Zone TD:||50.0% (15th-T)|
|Passing:||198.2 (24th)||Red Zone FG:||30.4% (24th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.94 (13th)||Red Zone Empty:||15.0% (15th)|
|Scoring:||18.8 (20th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.539 (29th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: OG Davin Joseph; OT Jeremy Trueblood; OG Toniu Fonoti; OT Torrin Tucker; RB Jerald Sowell; WR David Boston
Key Offensive Subtractions: QB Brian Griese; OT Todd Steussie; OT Matt Stinchcomb
The same five interior lineman started all 16 games for Tampa in '05. One look at the numbers and Tampa's '06 draft, and you can conclude yourself whether that was a good thing. Jon Gruden likes a balanced attack, but between Griese, Chris Simms and shoddy pass protection, the Bucs had a hard time generating a consistent pass attack outside WR Joey Galloway. Gruden would love Joseph and/or Trueblood to assert themselves and start, but either way, the o-lineman haul was huge this offseason, so it's a deep group. Simms showed a bit of promise last year, with defenses' attention on RB Carnell Williams, who is immensely talented but whose straight-ahead running style scares me, as he could become injury-prone. Michael Clayton was horrible last year on the other side of Galloway.
23. Detroit Lions
|Rushing:||91.9 (26th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||36 (31st)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.6 (25th-T)||Red Zone TD:||50.0% (15th-T)|
|Passing:||188.8 (26th)||Red Zone FG:||33.3% (18th-T)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.78 (23rd-T)||Red Zone Empty:||16.7% (19th)|
|Scoring:||15.9 (28th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.473 (7th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: QB Jon Kitna; QB Josh McCown; OG Rex Tucker; WR Corey Bradford; TE Dan Campbell
Key Offensive Subtractions: QB Joey Harrington; QB Jeff Garcia; OG Kyle Kosier
The sad thing about the recent edition of the hapless Lions is that their offensive line has been quite good. OTs Jeff Backus and Kelly Butler are more than serviceable, OG Damien Woody makes too much money for a guard (he's supposed to be the center), but is adequate, and C Dominic Raiola has been an anchor. OG Rick DeMulling has been a disappointment since coming from Indy; he and Tucker will battle for the other spot. All this is good news for new offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who has a lot of speed at skill positions to work with; however, I think it's a mistake to buy the hype this soon. Neither Kitna nor McCown should be a starting NFL QB, and you shouldn't own either. RB Kevin Jones has potential, but he's had potential for a couple years now, and if you think Martz is going to stick to the run, you're crazy. I like WR Roy Williams a lot this year; he seems to have a skill set not terribly unlike Torry Holt, though without the incredible competitiveness. Hey, this was one of the league's absolute worst offenses last year. Baby steps, people.
24. New Orleans Saints
|Rushing:||105.5 (18th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||42 (25th-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||4.0 (12th-T)||Red Zone TD:||38.1% (28th-T)|
|Passing:||225.3 (15th)||Red Zone FG:||40.5% (6th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.76 (25th)||Red Zone Empty:||21.4% (26th)|
|Scoring:||14.7 (31st)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.539 (29th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: QB Drew Brees; RB Reggie Bush; C Jeff Faine; OG Jonathan Goodwin; QB Jamie Martin; OT Jahri Evans; RB Michael Bennett
Key Offensive Subtractions: QB Aaron Brooks; C LeCharles Bentley; OG Kendyl Jacox; WR Az-Zahir Hakim; RB Antowain Smith
Let's get this out of the way: Bush is going way too high in early-summer drafts. With RB Deuce McAllister healed and back, it's unlikely either of these guys is going to be worth a first-round (or maybe even a second-round) pick. Obviously new coach Sean Payton is throwing a lot of new pieces against the wall and seeing what sticks, which is rarely a recipe for fantasy greatness. The o-line is completely re-made; Bentley and Jacox were starters, and are replaced by Faine in the middle and some combination of Goodwin, rookie Evans and Montrae Holland. Brees and his reconstructed shoulder are huge question marks, as is the health of WR Joe Horn, who was terrible last year. Payton wants to run, so expect to see the run/pass number go up, and worry about this passing game.
25. Tennessee Titans
|Rushing:||95.3(23rd) ||Red Zone Poss.:||46 (19th-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.8 (20th-T)||Red Zone TD:||47.8% (17th-T)|
|Passing:||237.3 (10th)||Red Zone FG:||30.4% (24th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.67 (27th)||Red Zone Empty:||21.7% (28th)|
|Scoring:||18.7 (21st)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.527 (26th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: WR David Givens; C Kevin Mawae; RB LenDale White; QB Vince Young
Key Offensive Subtractions: QB Steve McNair; OT Brad Hopkins; C Justin Hartwig
Again, there are too many moving parts here. Billy Volek takes over as quarterback, though he's a placeholder for Young. Givens, a career WR2, has the pressure of a big contract, a la Peerless Price. Mawae is a 13-year vet coming off a torn triceps, though if he's healthy, he'll be great. Jeff Fisher simply doesn't seem to believe in RB Chris Brown, as he keeps bringing in people to take his job (e.g., Travis Henry, White). There are a ton of wideouts here (Brandon Jones, Courtney Roby, Roydell Williams, Tyrone Calico), none of whom should start – Drew Bennett is opposite Givens. Mawae aside, the offensive line isn't that talented, and is extraordinarily thin, especially at tackle. The only thing for sure is offensive coordinator Norm Chow likes to throw to the tight ends. Both Ben Troupe and Erron Kinney will be worth owning. Vince Young needs to see some time this year, though for re-draft leagues, he probably won't be worth drafting.
26. Baltimore Ravens
|Rushing:||100.3 (21st) ||Red Zone Poss.:||42 (25th-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.6 (25th-T)||Red Zone TD:||38.1% (28th-T)|
|Passing:||211.3 (19th)||Red Zone FG:||38.1% (7th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.81 (20th)||Red Zone Empty:||23.8% (30th)|
|Scoring:||16.6 (25th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.523 (24th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: QB Steve McNair; RB Mike Anderson; C Chris Chester; WR Demetrius Williams
Key Offensive Subtractions: RB Chester Taylor; OT Orlando Brown; QB Anthony Wright; WR Randy Hymes
A potential platoon of Anderson and Jamal Lewis speaks of fantasy disaster for both; it's possible that Anderson becomes the goal-line back and Lewis takes the middle of the field, but it's also possible they split carries right down the middle. McNair is a vast improvement over Kyle Boller, but how long can he stay healthy? TE Todd Heap is the best fantasy player on this team. The offensive line was hurt and had an extremely rough year in '05; OT Jonathan Ogden's ankle limited him severely, but he's entering his 11th year, and the dropoff could be permanent, Tony Pashos will get the first shot at replacing Brown, and the rest of the starting line is aging. WRs Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton will be comfortable catching short passes from McNair, and will certainly have more value than last year. But a combination of an old line and an oft-injured signal-caller makes this a scary situation.
27. Cleveland Browns
|Rushing:||93.9 (25th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||39 (29th)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.8 (20th-T)||Red Zone TD:||28.2% (32nd)|
|Passing:||207.7 (23rd)||Red Zone FG:||51.3% (3rd)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.79 (22nd)||Red Zone Empty:||20.5% (24th)|
|Scoring:||14.5 (32nd)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.512 (19th)|
Key Offensive Additions: WR Joe Jurevicius; C LeCharles Bentley; OT Kevin Shaffer; RB Jerome Harrison; WR Travis Wilson
Key Offensive Subtractions: QB Trent Dilfer; WR Antonio Bryant; OT L.J. Shelton; TE Aaron Shea
The good news is that one of the league's least-powerful offensive lines got more powerful with the additions of Bentley and Shaffer, who will help quite a bit up front, upgrading RB Reuben Droughns a bit. The bad news is that WR Braylon Edwards won't be at full speed until the middle of the year, and may not play until then because of his torn ACL. In his and Bryant's place are Jurevicius and Dennis Northcutt, who'll catch passes from second-year man Charlie Frye. The league's worst red-zone offense will get a little better, and I think Droughns and Jurevicius will score some TDs. But this is still a work in progress that will probably stay a little pass-heavy as the team finds itself behind in a lot of games. It's worth noting that All-Punk-Team nominee TE Kellen Winslow Jr. hopes to be back at full-speed, and if he is, will be a nice security blanket for Frye.
28. Buffalo Bills
|Rushing:||100.4 (20th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||49 (16th-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.8 (20th-T)||Red Zone TD:||34.7% (30th)|
|Passing:||178.3 (29th)||Red Zone FG:||42.9% (5th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.93 (14th)||Red Zone Empty:||22.4% (29th)|
|Scoring:||16.9 (24th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.477 (9th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: C Melvin Fowler; OG Tutan Reyes; WR Andre' Davis; WR Peerless Price; TE Robert Royal, QB Craig Nall
Key Offensive Subtractions: OT Mike Williams; C Trey Teague; TE Mark Campbell
Cutting ties with former first-rounder Williams was the smartest thing Buffalo could've done; he was hurt last year, and could turn out decent in Jacksonville, but the time for him here was done. Moving on, Buffalo attempts to patch together the serviceable pass-blocking schemes it sorely lacked last year. I'm not a believer in QB J.P. Losman, but even I have to admit it's hard to throw from your butt. RB Willis McGahee thinks he's better than he is, but if OG Chris Villarrial can finally stay healthy, this is an okay run-blocking team. The problem is too many uncertainties via the air: does Losman or Kelly Holcomb (or even Craig Nall) get the gig, who plays beside WR Lee Evans, who plays in the slot, will the tight end ever get used? Evans is worth owning, and so is McGahee, though probably not at the price you'll have to draft him. But there's little reason to think this team's pass ranking will improve.
29. Houston Texans
|Rushing:||113.5 (15th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||37 (30th)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||4.2 (9th)||Red Zone TD:||43.2% (25th)|
|Passing:||116.3 (30th)||Red Zone FG:||45.9% (4th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.97 (12th)||Red Zone Empty:||10.8% (9th)|
|Scoring:||16.3 (26th-T)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.523 (24th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: WR Eric Moulds; TE Jeb Putzier; C Mike Flanagan; QB Sage Rosenfels; OT Charles Spencer; OT Eric Winston; WR Kevin Walter
Key Offensive Subtractions: WR Jabar Gaffney; RB Jonathan Wells; OG Milford Brown; OT Victor Riley; WR Corey Bradford
Let's face it: you can talk yourself into falling in love with the possibilities in any offense. One could make the argument that new coach Gary Kubiak is going to install an impressive, Denver-esque offensive line that will free up RB Domanick Davis and allow QB David Carr to find WR Andre Johnson, Moulds and Putzier downfield. Maybe. But it's more probable that this o-line continues to suck for a while. After all, it allowed an unbelievable 68 sacks (that's 4.25 a game!) in '05. Flanagan is hoary but can help, but otherwise this is pretty much the same group, with two well-thought-of rookies (Spencer and Winston) for depth. Kubiak is going to try and run to take pressure off Carr. Good luck, Gary.
30. Chicago Bears
|Rushing:||131.2 (8th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||43 (23rd-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||4.3 (7th-T)||Red Zone TD:||46.5% (21st)|
|Passing:||137.6 (31st)||Red Zone FG:||37.2% (11th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||1.17 (3rd-T)||Red Zone Empty:||16.3% (18th)|
|Scoring:||16.3 (26th-T)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.445 (1st)|
Key Offensive Additions: QB Brian Griese; WR Devin Hester
Key Offensive Subtractions: none
Offense? We don't need no stinking offense! This low ranking isn't really meant to be indicative of how good or bad I think the Bears will be in the real world. In fantasy, however, they're as exciting as a documentary about Mike Ditka's mustache. The offensive line is better than average, and should be even better with QB Rex Grossman actually threatening to throw the ball downfield (not that he ever will). Unfortunately, the RB mojo will be split between Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson (unless Jones gets dealt), limiting each in the fantasy world. WR Muhsin Muhammad is wasted in an offense that won't go downfield; his running mate should be Mark Bradley. I don't mean to be overly negative about a team that could post a winning record. It's just that Lovie Smith is just so conservative, and there are only so many 13-10 games I can watch.
31. New York Jets
|Rushing:||83.0 (31st) ||Red Zone Poss.:||43 (23rd-T)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.5 (28th)||Red Zone TD:||44.2% (24th)|
|Passing:||186.8 (27th)||Red Zone FG:||34.9% (16th)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||0.82 (19th)||Red Zone Empty:||20.9% (25th)|
|Scoring:||15.0 (29th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.465 (5th)|
Key Offensive Additions: OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson; C Trey Teague; OT Anthony Clement; C Nick Mangold; QB Kellen Clemens
Key Offensive Subtractions: C Kevin Mawae; OT Jason Fabini; RB Jerald Sowell; OG Jonathan Goodwin
Well, at least the handcuffs Herman Edwards routinely put on this offense are gone. Problem is: so is much of the offensive line. Ferguson and Teague will play right away as replacements, but the three remaining guys (OT Adrian Jones and OGs Pete Kendall and Brandon Moore) played all last year, and didn't do much. QB Chad Pennington will have competition from Patrick Ramsey and Clemens, who reportedly looked the best of the trio in minicamp. WRs Laveranues Coles and Justin McCareins had immensely frustrating seasons in '05, and with the defensive-minded Eric Mangini in charge, it's hard to imagine this offense suddenly opening wide. Mangini was often reported to be a bit overwhelmed as the one-year defensive coordinator in New England, so I'm not ready to annoint him the next Nick Saban. It's going to be another long year.
32. San Francisco 49ers
|Rushing:||105.6 (17th) ||Red Zone Poss.:||28 (32nd)|
|Yards Per Carry: ||3.9 (16th-T)||Red Zone TD:||39.3% (27th)|
|Passing:||136.9 (32nd)||Red Zone FG:||57.1% (1st)|
|Rush/Pass Ratio:||1.10 (5th-T)||Red Zone Empty:||3.6% (2nd)|
|Scoring:||14.9 (30th)||'06 Schedule Strength: ||.477 (9th-T)|
Key Offensive Additions: TE Vernon Davis; WR Antonio Bryant; OG Larry Allen; QB Trent Dilfer
Key Offensive Subtractions: WR Brandon Lloyd; WR Johnnie Morton; OT Anthony Clement
It's hard for me to imagine that the league's worst overall offensive line was made better by the acquisition of a fading Larry Allen. QB Alex Smith was thrown to the wolves last year, and while I don't hate his chances for stardom in the long run, it won't happen in '06. Of the backs, I like Frank Gore best because of his toughness, but he's injury-prone; I hope no one out there is still buying into the sham that is Kevan Barlow as a fantasy star. The top wideouts are Arnaz Battle and Bryant, who are polar opposites: Battle's a hard-working kid without scads of natural ability, while Bryant is a trash-talking punk who could be good if he'd close his mouth. Should you take Vernon Davis? Sure … he's a wideout in a tight end's body. Should you take him in the second or third round? No. Davis will get his, but one assumes he'll have blocking issues to start. This will continue to be an ineffective, run-first offense.
Christopher Harris is a Fantasy Sports Writers Association award-winning columnist and beagle-owner who has written about fantasy sports for SportsIllustrated.com, NBA.com, and TalentedMrRoto.com. Send Christopher a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Monday, Jun 26, 2006 10:59 am, EDT
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