Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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2024 NFL offensive infrastructure rankings: Chiefs continue their reign at the top, Texans take a giant leap

Even in an age where defenses are doing all they can to fight back, offense is still king in the modern NFL. There is nothing more determinative of a team’s success in this league than the quality of its quarterback and the pieces with which the organization surrounds him. If you have the right mixture, you can overcome almost anything else.

Who is your QB? Who is protecting him? Who is catching his passes? Who is next to (or behind) him in the backfield? Who is scheming those players open and putting them in position to succeed? Are there injury and/or depth issues at any or all of those positions? 

All the pieces matter. The degree to which they matter varies greatly, of course, but each plays a role in allowing an offense to hum at peak efficiency. With all that in mind, we welcome you to our fifth annual offensive infrastructure rankings

A few important notes before we begin:

  • We once again used a weighted grading system where each team was given a 1-5 rating (1 = terrible, 3 = average, 5 = elite) in the following areas: Quarterback, Play-Caller (head coach and/or offensive coordinator), Offensive Line, Pass-Catchers (WR/TE), and Running Backs. Those scores were then weighted so that the quarterback was the most important component of the offense, followed by play-caller, offensive line, and pass-catchers, and then finally running backs, so that the weights reflected as closely as possible the reality of the way modern NFL offenses work.
  • In the event that teams ended up with the same weighted score, the first tiebreaker was the quarterback score. The second tiebreaker was the non-quarterback score. The third tiebreaker was the combined play-caller, offensive line, and pass-catcher score.
  • These are not necessarily rankings of how we expect these offenses to perform during the 2024 season. They’re an attempt to capture which offenses are best positioned for success based on the quality of their quarterback and the talent with which the organization has chosen to surround him. There is, of course, the possibility that players elevate their games (as Baker Mayfield did in 2023) or transcend and raise the level of their supporting cast (as C.J. Stroud did last season), or that a quarterback’s subpar performance undermines an otherwise fairly strong offensive unit (like the Falcons a year ago).
  • The tiers are more rigid than the order within them, and teams within the same tier should be considered of roughly similar quality, as exemplified by their weighted grades. It would take more convincing to move a team up or down a tier than it would to move it ahead of or behind a team in the same tier. 
  • Just as I did the past three years, I compiled an initial draft of these rankings, which I then ran by the rest of the writers, editors, and podcasters on the CBSSports.com NFL staff. I incorporated their feedback to create the version of the rankings you’ll see below. The commentary in each section is mine.

Got all that? OK, great. Here we go …

Tier 6: The Patriots (32)

Team

QB

PC

OL

WR/TE

RB

Total

Weighted

Non-QB

32. Patriots

2.5

3

2.5

2

3.5

13.5

2.57

2.60

There was quite a bit of separation between New England at the bottom and the next-closest team, so we had to put the Patriots in their own tier. We assumed Jacoby Brissett would be the team’s starter to begin the season, which seems reasonable as the team will likely want to bring Drake Maye along slowly due to the lacking supporting cast the Pats have at the moment. 

Tier: 31-29

Team

QB

PC

OL

WR/TE

RB

Total

Weighted

Non-QB

31. Panthers

2

4

3

2.5

3.5

15

2.80

3.20

T-29. Raiders

2.5

2.5

3

4

3.5

15.5

2.97

3.20

T-29. Broncos

2.5

3.5

3.5

2.5

3.5

15.5

2.97

3.20

Even hiring former Bucs offensive coordinator Dave Canales as their head coach couldn’t lift the Panthers above more than one team. They still have one of the worst pass-catching groups in the NFL, and we can’t upgrade the running back ranking before we see how healthy Jonathon Brooks is coming into the season. And after the way Bryce Young played last year, we had to downgrade his ranking until we see him do better. (That’s why he’s at a 2 while Bo Nix is at 2.5, which is our standard ranking for first-round rookies picked outside the top five.)

The Raiders and Broncos, meanwhile, are tied in total score, weighted score, quarterback score, non-quarterback score, and combined pass-catcher, offensive line, and play-caller score. (We’re assuming that Gardner Minshew will start for Las Vegas.) We had to downgrade Sean Payton’s rating in the play-caller department after last season, while the Broncos have seen some attrition among their pass-catcher corps as well. The Raiders’ depth of pass-catchers (Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Brock Bowers, Michael Mayer) props up the rest of the group, which looks pretty average. 

Tier 5: 27-20

Team QB PC OL WR/TE RB Total Weighted Non-QB

T-27. Steelers

2.5

3.5

3.5

2.5

4

16

3.00

3.25

T-27. Giants

2.5

4

3

3

2.5

15

3.00

3.25

26. Commanders

3

3

2.5

3.5

3.5

15.5

3.03

3.05

25. Seahawks

3

3

2.5

4

4.5

17

3.20

3.30

T-23. Saints

3

3

3.5

3.5

3.5

16.5

3.23

3.25

T-23. Buccaneers

3

3

3.5

3.5

3.5

16.5

3.23

3.25

22. Titans

2.5

3.5

3.5

4

3.5

17

3.27

3.65

21. Jaguars

4

2.5

3

3

4

16.5

3.30

2.95

20. Cardinals

3.5

3.5

3

3.5

4

17.5

3.43

3.40

If it weren’t for their unenviable quarterback and pass-catcher situations, the Steelers would look pretty good here. You’ll notice that their non-quarterback score is better than that of a couple teams ahead of them, and equal to three more of them. Arthur Smith is a significant upgrade as the play-caller, even if he leaves something to be desired, and the offensive line has more upside beyond the current rating if the rookies play well. Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren are a strong RB duo. But the Russell Wilson/Justin Fields combo is uninspiring and the pass-catching corps lacks both star power and depth. The Giants nudge ahead of the Steelers on the strength of the Brian Daboll/Mike Kafka combination having a slightly higher rating than Smith. The Giants are pretty significantly lacking in other areas, though the addition of Malik Nabers is enough to get the pass-catching grade up to average.

We don’t really know what Kliff Kingsbury looks like when he’s *just* the offensive coordinator, so we defaulted to an average grade for him here. Jayden Daniels gets the top-five quarterback pick rating, and the pass-catcher and running back situations feel like they are ever-so-slightly above-average in Washington. There’s a bit of a gap between the Commies at 26 and the Seahawks at 25, but we didn’t feel like it there was enough of a difference among this entire group to do another tier break here.

The Seahawks have the weaponry to outperform this ranking if they get better play from Geno Smith, which seems at least somewhat dependent on both new offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb and the remade offensive line. Then we have the Saints and Buccaneers, who are tied in every category. Which feels right. Like, that’s the NFC South in a nut shell. 

The addition of Calvin Ridley and Tyler Boyd to a pass-catcher corps that was extremely lacking a year ago really helped the Titans here, as did the additions of Lloyd Cushenberry and JC Latham up front. They should get an upgrade in play-caller with new head coach Brian Callahan, one of the architects of the Cincinnati offense over the past few years, but we couldn’t be too aggressive with his rating given that he hasn’t called the plays himself just yet. The Jaguars might be in front of the Cardinals if not for the fact that Doug Pederson keeps trying to make Press Taylor happen. Drew Petzing is a significant advantage for Arizona in that area, and that, plus the Cards adding Marvin Harrison Jr. while the Jags lost Ridley and replaced him with Gabe Davis and Brian Thomas Jr., was enough to push Arizona ahead despite our giving Trevor Lawrence the nod over Kyler Murray.

Tier 4: 18-14

Team

QB

PC

OL

WR/TE

RB

Total

Weighted

Non-QB

T-18. Bears

3

3.5

3.5

4.5

3.5

18

3.53

3.80

T-18. Jets

4

2

4

3.5

4.5

18

3.53

3.30

T-16. Falcons

3.5

4

4

3.5

4.5

18.5

3.57

3.60

T-16. Chargers

4.5

3.5

4

2

2.5

16.5

3.57

3.10

15. Colts

3

4.5

3.5

4

4.5

19.5

3.70

4.05

14. Browns

3

4

4.5

4

3.5

19

3.73

4.10

We’re into the group of above-average offenses here. Chicago’s offseason renovation of the pass-catching corps (adding Keenan Allen and Rome Odunze), plus the changes at quarterback (Caleb Williams) and offensive coordinator (Shane Waldron replacing Luke Getsy) were enough to lift it out of the bottom few tiers. That might seem aggressive, but if Williams has a good rookie campaign, it could actually look fairly tame. The Bears still wouldn’t be tied with the Jets, though, if New York didn’t insist on keeping Nathaniel Hackett around. But Aaron Rodgers is essentially the general manager there, so that’s the way it goes. The Jets technically check in ahead of the Bears with Rodgers having the higher rating than Williams.

We have another tie at 16, with the Chargers getting the nod over the Falcons on the strength of Justin Herbert’s rating over Kirk Cousins. Herbert, plus the offensive line now having dual anchors in Rashawn Slater and Joe Alt, lift the tide for a Chargers offense that looks pretty barren at the skill positions. They could underperform this ranking pretty significantly if that group doesn’t step up. We’ll have to see what happens with the Falcons, with Cousins coming back from a torn Achilles and a new play-caller (Zac Robinson) coming in to take the reins and hopefully, fingers crossed, getting more out of Bijan Robinson, Drake London and Kyle Pitts.

Offensive line being worth more than running back in the weighted grading system is what pushes the Browns ahead of the Colts here despite our having downgraded their running back rating with Nick Chubb’s health in question. Giving Deshaun Watson an average rating feels perhaps too kind given his performance since arriving in Cleveland, but we know he has the capability to reach an elite level in there somewhere, so it’s more of a hedge than anything else. 

Tier 3: 13-10

Team

QB

PC

OL

WR/TE

RB

Total

Weighted

Non-QB

13. Vikings

2.5

4

4.5

5

3.5

19.5

3.77

4.40

T-11. Cowboys

4.5

3.5

3.5

4

2.5

18

3.87

3.55

T-11. Ravens

4.5

4

3

3.5

4

19

3.87

3.55

10. Bills

5

3.5

3.5

3

3.5

18.5

3.90

3.35

This is a really interesting tier because we have Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen propping up what are otherwise somewhat ordinary units at this point after they all sustained talent losses this offseason, and then we have the Vikings being dragged down by rookie QB J.J. McCarthy’s rating. Take a look at the non-QB scores and the Vikes come out significantly ahead of the three teams in front of them, but a trio of MVP candidate quarterbacks carry the day for their offenses. If the offensive lines come together for Dallas and/or Baltimore, it of course wouldn’t be a surprise to see them reprise as top-10 offenses, and the same applies to the pass-catchers in Buffalo.

Tier 2: 9-4

Team QB PC OL WR/TE RB Total Weighted Non-QB

9. Dolphins

4

5

2.5

4.5

5

21

4.07

4.10

8. Packers

4

4.5

4

4

4

20.5

4.10

4.15

T-6. Texans

4

4.5

3.5

5

3.5

20.5

4.17

4.25

T-6. Rams

4

5

4

4

3.5

20.5

4.17

4.25

5. Bengals

4.5

4

4

4.5

3

20

4.20

4.05

4. Eagles

4

4

4.5

4.5

4.5

21.5

4.23

4.35

Every team in this tier is average or better in every category except for the Dolphins, whose offensive line is still just not very good. But when you have Mike McDaniel scheming things up and Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Raheem Mostert, De’Von Achane, and now Jaylen Wright, plus Tua Tagovailoa to get them the ball, well, this is where you end up on the list. After the way the Packers played over the latter half of last season, they shot up this list, and could well move up higher if one or more of their pass-catchers breaks out as Jordan Love’s clear-cut top option. Depth is good; having studs is better.

C.J. Stroud performed like an elite quarterback last year. If he does it again, his rating gets bumped up, and the Texans probably do, too. We’d just like to see it again before we grade it that way. Given the addition of Stefon Diggs to the receiver corps and what should hopefully be an improved offensive line, let’s say we’re optimistic about the prospects of a repeat performance. Meanwhile, the Rams are back near the top after the addition of Puka Nacua rejuvenated Matthew Stafford, and after they made some key additions on the offensive line this offseason.

The Eagles nudge ahead of the Bengals by a hair largely because their offensive line is still the superior unit and because the Saquon Barkley-led backfield should be a good deal better than the Zack Moss/Chase Brown pairing. So, even though Joe Burrow has a better rating than Jalen Hurts and the Ja’Marr Chase/Tee Higgins-led skill corps draws even with A.J. Brown/DeVonta Smith/Dallas Goedert, the Eagles come out slightly ahead.

Tier 1: 3-1

Team QB PC OL WR/TE RB Total Weighted Non-QB

3. Lions

4

4.5

5

4

4.5

22

4.33

4.50

2. 49ers

4

5

3.5

5

5

22.5

4.37

4.55

1. Chiefs

5

5

4

4.5

4

22.5

4.63

4.45

Here’s the elite tier. Other than San Francisco’s offensive line, each of these three teams has a rating of 4 or better in every category. We have the best quarterback (Patrick Mahomes) and play-callers (Andy Reid and Kyle Shanahan) in the league right here, as well as its best offensive line (Detroit) and best skill-position group (Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, et al). Throw in Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta, David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs, Jared Goff and Ben Johnson in Detroit, plus Brock Purdy in San Francisco and Travis Kelce, Rashee Rice, Marquise Brown, Xavier Worthy and Isiah Pacheco in Kansas City, and it seems rather clear that this trio of teams is ahead of the pack. And the Chiefs, of course, are at the top of the entire pyramid. That’s what having the best player in the league and a perfect synergy with one of the best offensive minds of all time will do for you.

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