With the 2020 NFL Draft in the books, your daily media consumption has likely been filled with draft grade articles. How typical!
While there’s truth to the droning chorus of “we can’t judge yet,” in regards to delivering a verdict about a draft class, you can still critique the process a decision-maker took during the selection process.
But that’s not what we will do here.
One thing you can certainly judge after an NFL draft is the state of the roster now that most teams are almost completely set heading into a season.
Here, I’ll give a grade (A through F style) for each offense as it stands in late April. Now, I don’t know how you all graded growing up, but back in good old Virginia terms, a C was average ...
... my mom didn’t think so, but that’s what the scale said.
So if your team has a C, it’s an average looking offense. If it’s C+ or better, an above-average offense. C- or worse, you’re on the other side of average.
It’s difficult to not be brazenly optimistic about the 2020 Cardinals offense. Kyler Murray was gifted All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins after an Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign when he flashed supreme arm talent. Hopkins completes a receiving corps that already featured solid starters in Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, with some intriguing young depth. Running back Kenyan Drake was retained to reprise a role he crushed last season. The team even beefed up a line that over-performed in 2019 with third-round rookie Josh Jones.
In theory, Arizona does not have any holes at the skill positions for the offense Kliff Kingsbury wants to run. This grade could look way too cautious by mid-October.
The Falcons have a great quarterback teamed with one of the best wide receiver duos in the league. Tight end and running back did experience some shakeup, however. Hayden Hurst taking over for Austin Hooper is a downgrade but Hurst at least has some untapped potential. The move from Devonta Freeman to Todd Gurley can’t be anything worse than a lateral one, even if the former Ram is 70 percent of his prior form. As long as some of the offensive linemen drafted last year can stay healthy, this should be one of the most dangerous attacks in the league.
Lamar Jackson is coming off a 2019 season featuring some wildly efficient passing, a quarterback rushing record, and an MVP trophy. His presence alone makes this scoring unit one of the league’s best. Natural scoring regression will hit this group but there is room to grow, as well. Marquise Brown is a breakout waiting to happen. It’s wild that Jackson was as productive a passer without the ultra-talented Brown healthy and popping off for 16 games.
The Bills have made a concerted effort to improve their offensive firepower in each of the last three seasons. After drafting quarterback Josh Allen in 2018, the team gifted him John Brown and Cole Beasley prior to 2019 before going all-out to trade for Stefon Diggs this March. The result is a receiver corps featuring two of the best separators in the league and a solid slot option between them. The backfield also has plenty of talent after Devin Singletary flashed explosive traits as a rookie and the Bills sank a Day 2 pick into Zach Moss. They’ll run behind a near league-average offensive line.
With so much high-end potential at every position, the question with this unit only lies with the quarterback. Can Josh Allen take another leap as a pure passer and push for top-15 NFL QB status? That’s a rather significant query, keeping Buffalo off the A range.
Carolina clearly believes they’re set on offense because they spent all of their 2020 draft picks on the other side of the football. They might not be totally wrong. On paper, this cast looks good. Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore were both productive last year despite dealing with bottom-barrel quarterback play. Adding Robby Anderson should free up Curtis Samuel to do more than just run deep routes. The questions for this unit lie with the offensive line and behind center. If Teddy Bridgewater can play at the level he did for New Orleans last year, this offense can be an above-average unit.
Let’s start off with the positive. Allen Robinson is one of the best receivers in football. Anthony Miller looks like he’ll be a great long-term running mate, averaging 63 yards per game over the final seven weeks of 2019. Tarik Cohen remains an enjoyable weapon out of the backfield. After that, things get murky. The receiver depth is a question mark, as is the hodgepodge tight end room led by well-over-the-hill Jimmy Graham. David Montgomery wasn’t a positive force as a rookie. The offensive line still has big question marks. Mitchell Trubisky is still the theoretical starter and he’s confirmed not good. Relying on Nick Foles as anything more than a trusty backup in a good situation has proven to be an unfruitful endeavor.
No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow will take over an offense that is far from a bare cupboard. While the Bengals essentially stood pat on the offensive line in this year’s draft, they do get 2019 first-rounder Jonah Williams back at left tackle. That could be huge. The receiver room is pretty underrated here. Rookie Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and John Ross as the top three would give Zac Taylor a “good No. 2s collection” in his receiver corps similar to the group he worked with under Sean McVay on the Rams. A healthy A.J. Green would transform this into an excellent receiver unit. Joe Mixon is threatening a holdout but even if he were to foolishly miss games, Gio Bernard is a fine fill-in.
What a challenging group to grade. The backfield features one of the best in the game with Nick Chubb leading the way. Kareem Hunt is at worst an excellent complement and has a strong history as a starter. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry still form one of the NFL’s best wide receiver duos in the league, even if Beckham endured an injury-marred down season in 2019. Austin Hooper was added to the mix and the team picked up fellow tight end David Njoku’s fifth-year option. The resumes here are nothing short of awesome.
The success of this group in 2020 hinges on the offensive tackle additions (Jedrick Willis, Jack Conklin) being enough to work out some of the bad habits Baker Mayfield developed in his second season. Mayfield was legitimately bad last year but looked quite promising as a rookie. We should buy a rebound for the Browns offense.
As long as Dak Prescott is in the fold, this is clearly one of the best offenses in the NFL. Adding CeeDee Lamb at the 17th overall selection in April was an outright coup. He’ll join a unit that already featured a pair of receivers who both cleared 1,100 yards last year in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Ezekiel Elliott is still one of the better backs in the league and now has an explosive change-of-pace mate with Tony Pollard on the roster. Mike McCarthy claims to have learned many lessons in his year away from football after he let the Packers offense go stale. If that’s true, this team will be so fun to watch.
The Broncos did everything in their power to surround Drew Lock with a good supporting cast this offseason. Free-agent add Melvin Gordon will partner with Phillip Lindsay to form a strong one-two punch in the backfield. First-round pick Jerry Jeudy teams up with 2019 breakout receiver Courtland Sutton, giving Lock an enviable duo of potential No. 1 level receivers. The speedy K.J. Hamler was also added to compete with fellow Penn State product DaeSean Hamilton for the WR3 gig. Noah Fant is also on the breakout radar at tight end after stabilizing his play late last year. The one truly weak area might be the offensive line, especially the tackle spots. Still, if Lock is even a near-average starting quarterback in his second season, this offense is going to make a nice leap.
Matthew Stafford was playing at a high-level before a back injury sank him in the second half of 2019. If he gets back to that level, this can be a strong unit. Kenny Golladay is one of the best young receivers in football and led the league in touchdowns last season. Behind him, No. 2 receiver Marvin Jones is coming off a trip to IR and the depth behind him isn’t that desirable. They’ll be counting on T.J. Hockenson to live up to his billing as the eighth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. D’Andre Swift was added to push oft-injured Kerryon Johnson at the top of the running back depth chart — the only position on the offense that features quality depth.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers have one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, a top-five receiver in the league and a running back who tied for the most rushing/receiving touchdowns in 2019.
But that is, quite literally, about it.
The team that needed instant contributors in its pass-catching corps from the NFL Draft more than any other drafted two players (Jordan Love, A.J. Dillon) with their first two picks that won’t see the field in Year 1, at the very least. At a time in Aaron Rodgers’ career when they should be surrounding him with even more firepower to make his life easier as his skills decline, they’re asking him to work with fewer receivers than ever.
In one year, Houston essentially fixed its offensive line. Then they went and broke their receiving corps. It’s not as if the trade of DeAndre Hopkins left Deshaun Watson with nothing to work with but it’s still an immeasurable loss. Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, and Randall Cobb will be left to pick up the pieces. That’s a lot of speed mixed with a lot of durability questions. You’ll find those same queries with top running back David Johnson, who the team got back in the Hopkins deal. He also hasn’t played well for any long stretch of time since 2016. Watson is one of the best players in the league and he’ll help elevate this crew.
The Colts have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and added the athletic Jonathan Taylor to a backfield that already featured Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines. This team is set up well for success as a rushing attack. You still have to ask plenty of questions about what type of passing offense they’ll be in 2020. Philip Rivers was added to be a stopgap solution for a team that continues to build but still wants to compete following the sudden loss of Andrew Luck. There’s no question Rivers will play with far superior pass protection and in an offense that suits him better in Indianapolis. However, there was a noticeable decline in his arm strength last year that nearly got him benched. The team needs rookie receiver Michael Pittman Jr. to hit right away for this receiving corps to be good enough to offset Rivers’ weaknesses.
The Jaguars’ problems start upfront where their offensive line looked overmatched too often in 2019. The team hasn’t done much to supplement the players they played with last year and will have to hope from improved play out of left tackle Cam Robinson now that he’s healthy. D.J. Chark broke out in Year 2 with 1,008 yards and eight scores. He’s the best player on this unit. Rookie Laviska Shenault Jr. will push Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook behind Chark. Leonard Fournette’s bottom-line stats look fine but he led an offense that ranked 30th in rushing success rate last year. If Gardner Minshew can recapture some of the poise and form he played with during September and October of last year, this can look more like a league-average unit. That is not a lock.
Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes is a football deity and the most valuable player on the planet. You could stop the analysis there.
Kansas City also boasts Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, who are two of the best players at their positions. Kansas City should give Mecole Hardman a chance to push Sammy Watkins for the WR2 gig. Watkins is good for big games in spurts but is far from a consistent asset. Either way, those two round out an explosive trio of wideouts. To top it all off, Kansas City made a luxury pick they can afford at 32nd overall by taking running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The organization feels he compares favorably to former Andy Reid favorite, Brian Westbrook. Patrick Mahomes personally requested they draft this pass-catching dynamo.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders snagged a great young running back in Josh Jacobs last year and added a gifted speed merchant in this year’s draft with Henry Ruggs III. You can question the wisdom of going with Ruggs over CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy, but what’s done is done. And Ruggs will certainly help this team in a myriad of ways. Las Vegas continued to flush their pass-catching corps with talent by adding swiss-army knife Lynn Bowden and interesting sleeper Bryan Edwards on Day 2. This group will work with a receiving crew led by tight end Darren Waller alongside Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow.
Suddenly, Derek Carr has a lot to work with.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers will feature a starting quarterback who is not named Philip Rivers for the first time since 2006. Coaching staff favorite Tyrod Taylor will open 2020 as the starter but should eventually give way to toolsy rookie Justin Herbert. Taylor is not a franchise quarterback but has played well in stable conditions. The Chargers offer such a situation. No. 1 receiver Keenan Allen returns after clearing 100 catches in 2019. His running mate Mike Williams took big steps last year. Hunter Henry was retained via the franchise tag and is a dynamic player when healthy. Stud running back Austin Ekeler will slide into near full-time duty with Melvin Gordon officially out of the picture. The left side of the line and Herbert’s ceiling are the only true question marks.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams started to piece together a different but effective offense toward the end of the 2019 season. After moving to a 12-personnel, power-run-based attack that ditched some of the looks from the early McVay era, Los Angeles averaged 29 points per game over their final five games. This will be the approach going forward. Tight end Tyler Higbee will look to capitalize on the chance to prove he truly broke out last year. During that same stretch, Higbee averaged over 10 targets per game. Receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp remain the top two here with Brandin Cooks shipped off to Houston. Rookie Van Jefferson will hope to win the third receiver job and kick Kupp inside, where he’s much more suited to thrive. Rookie Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr. will form a committee and battle to take over the RB1 gig left behind by Todd Gurley. That’s nothing worse than a lateral move.
Jared Goff was more comfortable when they moved the pocket for him rather than asking him to win from the pocket behind a suspect line. Los Angeles didn’t do much to alter that unit so expect Goff to boot plenty in 2020. This unit is trending down overall but still has some good pieces.
After a fun stretch to end 2019, the Dolphins didn’t waste any time adding resources to secure the future of their offense. While Ryan Fitzpatrick is back as the possible Week 1 starter and at least the veteran mentor, Miami drafted Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick. He’s a strong prospect who brings precision passing and technical prowess to the table. Both of these quarterbacks have a solid group of weapons to work with, as long as their 2019 runs weren’t flukes. Undrafted free agent Preston Williams earned a starting spot in the preseason and continued to flash. One-time draft bust DeVante Parker finally turned the light on and finished red-hot. Mike Gesicki made plenty of progress at tight end. Given that we don’t have a long sample of good play from any of these young assets and the offensive line is still a work in progress, it’s fine to be cautious about projecting this as anything more than an average unit.
The Vikings have a clear identity and play into it well. The team brings back the duo of Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. The former operated as a clear bell cow, while the latter flashed considerable ability when given opportunities. Kirk Cousins operates the play-action, boot-based offense off that running game quite well. While not a perfect player, he’s good in this system. The loss of Stefon Diggs stings. He was this unit’s best player and is the best route runner in the NFL. However, the team replaced him with ready-to-contribute rookie Justin Jefferson. He’s a strong technician that will be ready to play right away alongside Adam Thielen. The offensive line also got beefed up in the draft with the hulking Ezra Cleveland at tackle.
New England Patriots
How do the Patriots plan on scoring points whenever they next find themselves playing football games? You can argue this team has the worst quarterback room, wide receiver corps, and tight end depth chart in the entire league. New England made paltry additions to shake up those positions. Brian Hoyer will compete with Jarrett Stidham. Marqise Lee is the new face at wide receiver, joining past-their-prime vets Mohamed Sanu and Julian Edelman, and then there’s N’Keal Harry (12 catches as a rookie). They threw two third-round draft picks at developmental tight ends this year. The offensive line got better as the 2019 season went on but is not exactly a top-five unit across the NFL. The running back stable produced a league-average (at best) rushing attack in 2019.
It is perfectly reasonable to trust Bill Belichick. Maybe another move is coming. Perhaps they’re planning to tank for Trevor Lawrence. But let’s be real. On paper, this is easily one of the worst offenses in the NFL.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints will roll out a well-stocked group in 2020. Michael Thomas is a complete stud coming off a record-breaking 2019. Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook showed last year they still have it and give Thomas his best henchmen in quite a few years. Alvin Kamara should be a force once again in 2020 after an injury-riddled season last year. When he does need spelling, Latavius Murray is a strong complement. This group is well-set to accentuate the still-strong portions of Drew Brees’ game and minimize the impact of areas where he’s starting to slip. All of them will go to work behind one of the five best offensive lines in football.
New York Giants
In theory, the Giants have a good receiving corps. Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate are really good veterans, while Darius Slayton way outkicked expectations in Year 1. Evan Engram is one of the best pass-catching tight ends in football. The trouble is they rarely seemed to have them all on the field thriving together last year. That might be the case again in 2020 as Engram is currently nursing a foot injury. Saquon Barkley also struggled with injuries last year but is established as one of the best backs in the league. New York has invested in the offensive line in each of the past two offseasons and the unit is improving. Daniel Jones had big games last year but needs to stabilize his play in order to take advantage of a strong supporting cast.
New York Jets
There is hope yet for the Jets but this group remains a severe work in progress. Running back Le’Veon Bell was a huge letdown in his first year with the Jets. You can write it off to a poor situation and the hangover from taking a full season away from football, but it’s still concerning. The wide receiver room is one of the weakest in the league, especially from a depth perspective. Jamison Crowder is a solid slot receiver and will anchor this group. Journeyman Breshad Perriman and second-round rookie Denzel Mims will likely win the outside gigs. Perriman had played well when called upon and Mims was one of the most talented wideouts in this year’s draft. All three will complement the tight end duo of Ryan Griffin and Chris Herndon.
Everyone knew the Eagles needed to get faster this offseason. No one knew it more than the Eagles themselves. After taking Jalen Reagor in Round 1, the team added two more fast receivers on Day 3. Reagor’s selection raised some eyebrows simply because he went ahead of Justin Jefferson but he really fits exactly what the Eagles need. Philadelphia quickly became a small-ball offense last year, flowing through two tight ends, slot receivers, and pass-catching backs. Reagor opens up the entire field for them and that can’t be understated. Veteran DeSean Jackson will still factor in when he’s healthy, presenting a lot of problems for opponents. Miles Sanders showed flashes of brilliance last year and could take a huge leap forward.
Ben Roethlisberger will return in 2020 after missing almost all of last season with an elbow injury. The veteran passer will be a clear outlier among what’s a young group of skill position players. JuJu Smith-Schuster is coming off a down season when he struggled with injuries and played outside too often. With three options to play on the perimeter in place this year, Smith-Schuster can return to a more comfortable position. James Washington produced when asked last year, while Diontae Johnson showed flashes of brilliant route-running. Rookie Chase Claypool brings a hulking, vertical presence to the outside receiver spot, as well. Tight end Eric Ebron was also added to the mix. If James Conner and Ben Roethlisberger stay healthy and recapture their 2018 forms, this unit could exceed expectations.
San Francisco 49ers
Let’s be clear: If they didn’t have Kyle Shanahan, this crew might just be lost at sea.
But they do have him, so there’s no need to frame it any other way.
The 49ers have one of the two best tight ends in football with George Kittle; a universe-shifting talent. Brandon Aiyuk brings both a vertical element in addition to the ability to add even more after-catch juice to a receiving corps that already has Deebo Samuel. The Shanahan system elevates both the performance of their running backs and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The team made sure there was no offensive line drop-off when Joe Staley retired by executing a steal of a trade for Trent Williams. We should project no drop-off for the 49ers this year.
The Seahawks always limit their own ceiling by playing too conservatively and over-committing to the running game. Nevertheless, this is a talented group of players, especially at the top. Russell Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and his chemistry with Tyler Lockett is almost second to none. Second-year receiver DK Metcalf showed he has top-flight ability during his rookie season. If he makes even more progress as a player, he’ll form one of the best receiver duos in the league alongside Lockett. The depth at receiver isn’t great and Greg Olsen just adds more health questions to an already shaky tight end group. The Seahawks have a good offense every year because of Wilson and hopefully, with two great receivers in 2020, they can take a leap forward toward great.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are loaded. Even if you acknowledge that Tom Brady is not the player he once was, he’ll get to play with some of the best supporting talents of his entire career. Chris Godwin is a bonafide stud and proved it at every level last season. Mike Evans remains one of the better perimeter receivers in the league. Rob Gronkowski is unlikely to return in peak form but he still makes for a fine addition as the third fiddle in the passing attack. He’ll be the leading man in the tight end room but O.J. Howard can still be deployed in creative ways as a compliment. The offensive line got a shot in the arm in the draft with their first-round left tackle; a needed move. As was the drafting of Ke'Shawn Vaughn. A sturdy pass protector and disciplined runner, the rookie may push Ronald Jones from the top spot on the depth chart.
It’s Super Bowl or bust for Tampa this year.
The Titans were a dramatically different offense with Ryan Tannehill under center. Gone was the stale, stagnant attack of the Marcus Mariota days. Derrick Henry is one of the most unique backs in the NFL, a massive explosive weapon out of the backfield. There are certainly questions about whether these two can run it back in 2020. Henry handled a ton of touches last year and the team did not commit to him long-term, hitting him with the franchise tag. Tannehill was given a multi-year deal before he could consider testing the market. He’ll be back to slice teams with the play-action game. The other figurehead of this offense is A.J Brown, a gifted receiver who looked every bit a No. 1 wideout in his rookie campaign. The Titans need other bit players like Jonnu Smith to take another leap this year but have the makings of a strong attack.
Washington made big moves in the draft last year to acquire a hopeful future face of the franchise in Dwayne Haskins and a top receiver for him in fellow Ohio State product Terry McLaurin. The latter was awesome as a rookie. Anything you want to see from a first-year receiver to be wildly optimistic about their future prospects, McLaurin showed you in 2019. Unfortunately, he’s the one for-sure good piece locked-in for 2020. Washington has a mercurial stable of running backs. You can’t be certain any of them is an above-average starter at this point in their careers. Rookie Antonio Gibson, a hybrid gadget weapon, is currently the most intriguing of the bunch. The team will hope one or more of Anthony Gandy-Golden, Kelvin Harmon, and Steven Sims steps up to provide a running mate for McLaurin. There is a lot of youth here, so don’t rule out progress, but right now this unit has a long way to go.