Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Ranking the continuity of all 32 NFL teams’ passing games

Getting better at anything typically involves putting in more practice. This idea has helped NFL teams overcome a talent deficiency thanks to high-end chemistry built from years of continuity. It makes sense that truly knowing your teammates can have a hidden benefit in an 11-on-11 sport like football.

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Of course, change isn’t necessarily always bad; the Arizona Cardinals adding DeAndre Hopkins is objectively great news for their WR room. Still, recent history indicates we’d likely be better off lowering expectations on newly signed free agents and acquired WRs alike. Typically, good teams don’t let good players leave town.

Today we’ll attempt to get a grip on on each team’s passing game continuity from 2019 to 2020 in three key categories:

  • Offensive line
  • QB and receivers
  • Coaching

The reason we’ll refrain from breaking down backfields is because they’re seemingly always in a constant state of flux, and teams use anywhere from one to four RBs during the course of any given game. Attempting to quantify changes in a backfield without diving deeper into the respective projected roles would largely be a waste of time. (Because of this, I’ve already gone in depth on the projected roles for every RB room; you can check out my thoughts on every NFL backfield here.)

Depth charts are always a bit difficult to nail before the season. I’ve determined 2019 starters by 1) If that player was a Week 1 starter and/or 2) If that player took at least 50% of the offense's snaps in 2019.

Offensive Line

The following teams have five, four, three or two starters across the offensive front returning in 2020:

  • 5: Cardinals, Falcons, Bills, Texans, Colts, Jaguars, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Patriots
  • 4: Ravens, Bears, Bengals, Cowboys, Packers, Vikings, Saints, Eagles, Steelers, 49ers, Buccaneers, Titans, Washington
  • 3: Browns, Broncos, Lions, Giants, Seahawks
  • 2: Panthers, Chargers, Dolphins, Jets

Be sure to check out our 2020 PFF offensive line rankings for in-depth analysis on every unit.

Ten teams are returning all five starters across the front ahead of 2020. The Falcons and Jaguars represent examples of how continuity of a bad unit probably isn’t a good thing. … The Cardinals and Texans alike were a bit better than their stats indicated in 2019; both Kyler Murray and Deshaun Watson have a tendency to take extra pressures and sacks in their respective efforts to create big plays. … The Colts boast the near-consensus best offensive line in the league. … The Bills, Chiefs, Raiders and Patriots were all largely above-average units in 2019 and could take a step forward next season thanks to this continuity. … The Rams oddly declined to add any sort of real upgrade to their porous offensive front, which is troubling in expecting a bounce-back effort from Jared Goff and the offense as a whole in 2020.

Some quick notes on the rest of the league’s revamped offensive lines:

  • The Ravens and Bears need to replace longtime starting guards Marshal Yanda and Kyle Long, respectively.
  • The Bengals essentially get two first-round picks between Joe Burrow and 2019 first-round OT Jonah Williams.
  • The Cowboys lost long-time stud C Travis Frederick to retirement, but the emergence of RT La’El Collins as one of the position’s true difference-making talents should keep Dallas near the top of the rankings.
  • The Eagles won’t have all-world G Brandon Brooks (Achilles) in 2020, but at least they managed to get Jason Peters back under contract.
  • The 49ers replacing retired LT Joe Staley with Trent Williams is potentially a big upgrade. Either way, expect continued schematic genius from Kyle Shanahan and company.
  • The Browns managed to potentially add two high-quality tackles; we’ll find out if Baker Mayfield (No. 33 in QB rating when kept clean in 2019) can improve his general performance in Year 3.
  • Each of our four offensive lines with just two starters returning qualify as units that don’t have much room to go but up based on their 2019 performances.

Next we’ll take a look at the return of every team’s passing attack.

QB and receivers

A team’s continuity through the air will be determined through the QB, TE and top-three WRs. The following bullets denote whether teams are returning five, four or three members of their aerial groups. Note that these are based on projected 2020 starters. So while the Broncos return all of their 2019 WRs, the expectation that they’ll be starting two rookies at the position would only give them one returning starter.

  • 5: Giants, Lions, Ravens, Titans, Chiefs
  • 4: Cardinals, Rams, Seahawks, 49ers, Falcons, Saints, Washington, Eagles, Packers, Vikings, Browns, Bengals, Steelers, Jaguars, Chargers, Raiders, Bills, Dolphins
  • 3: Cowboys, Colts, Texans, Patriots, Jets
  • 2: Buccaneers, Panthers, Bears, Broncos

Five teams are expected to again trot out the same QB, WR1, WR2, WR3 and TE in 2020. The Giants have two fairly high-valued fantasy prospects in Daniel Jones and Evan Engram, but each of Darius Slayton, Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard are arguably undervalued in fantasy drafts of all shapes and sizes due to their respective history of production and status as #good talents. … The Lions were quietly one of the league’s best passing games during the first eight weeks of last season before Matthew Stafford (back) was injured; expect another downfield heavy attack in 2020 under OC Darrell Bevell. … The Ravens probably could have used a high-end upgrade to their WR room, but Lamar Jackson still has a solid core group in Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead and Mark Andrews. … The Titans figure to funnel the majority of their passing attack through A.J. Brown, but the likes of Corey Davis, Adam Humphries and Jonnu Smith are also back for $118-million man Ryan Tannehill. … Patrick Mahomes has the whole squad back in 2020, which is both equally terrifying and exhilarating to think about.

Some quick notes on the rest of the league’s revamped passing games:

Next we’ll take a look at the continuity of each team’s coaching staffs.

Coaching staff

Every coaching staff has a head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator. On rare occasions the top dog will hold two of these roles. The following teams have either all three, two, one or zero of these top coaches back in 2020.

  • 3: Cardinals, Ravens, Bills, Bengals, Packers, Colts, Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers, Patriots, Saints, Jets, Steelers, 49ers, Seahawks, Buccaneers
  • 2: Falcons, Bears, Broncos, Lions, Texans, Jaguars, Eagles, Titans
  • 1: Cowboys, Rams, Dolphins, Vikings
  • 0: Panthers, Browns, Giants, Washington

Just four teams are replacing every top decision-maker on the coaching staff. … The addition of Matt Rhule and Joe Brady in Carolina is a great sign for Teddy Bridgewater and the team’s plethora of talented skill-position weapons; just don’t expect this defense to resemble even a below-average unit in 2020. … The Browns are (again) re-racking everything. There’s enough talent on defense to expect a strong group, but the passing game might have to demonstrate extreme efficiency in order to overcome a likely run-first attack if coach Kevin Stefanski’s 2019 performance with the Vikings indicated anything. … The Giants are letting Jason Garrett run the offense. Please sweet baby Jesus don’t let the clapper pull Saquon Barkley off the field on passing downs for Dion Lewis. … Washington appears a bit more stable with Ron Rivera at the helm, although projecting the performance on either side of the ball — with the exceptions being the defense’s beastly front and Terry McLaurin — is taking a bit of a leap of faith

Some other quick notes:

  • The Cowboys should have a similar offensive approach after retaining Kellen Moore.
  • The Vikings are (for once) struggling with continuity both on their roster and in their coaching staff.
  • New Broncos OC Pat Shurmur is great news for the development of Drew Lock, as well as the potential for Melvin Gordon to assume a true bell-cow role.
  • Don’t expect Leonard Fournette to get anything close to triple-digit targets with Jay Gruden and Chris Thompson in town. Only Austin Ekeler and Christian McCaffrey had more targets than Thompson in Weeks 1-5 last season before Gruden was fired.
  • The Bears, Rams and Eagles are technically replacing their offensive coordinators, but each of their respective head coaches are expected to continue to largely be the offense’s key decision-maker.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 2020 pass-game continuity rankings.

2020 pass-game continuity rankings

We’ve broken down the continuity of each team’s offensive line (five players), passing game (five players) and coaching staff (three coaches). Excluding the defensive coordinator leaves us with a 1-12 scale on each team’s continuity.

  • 12: Chiefs
  • 11: Cardinals, Ravens, Bills, Raiders, Falcons, Titans
  • 10: Bengals, Packers, Colts, Patriots, Saints, Steelers, 49ers, Lions, Texans, Jaguars, Rams
  • 9: Seahawks, Eagles, Vikings
  • 8: Chargers, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Giants, Washington
  • 7: Jets, Bears, Dolphins, Browns
  • 6: Broncos
  • 4: Panthers

The Chiefs are somehow scarier than last season. Best of luck to all 31 defensive coordinators who have to deal with Patrick Mahomes and company in 2020.

The 2020 offseason has been incredibly unique due to the challenges presented from COVID-19. Unproven and new pecking orders can bring about newfound opportunity, but also reduced efficiency. Strongly consider prioritizing incumbent starters on well-equipped and already-proven offenses as opposed to rookies or new-look pieces in 2020.

Complete Hartitz offseason series:


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