PFF has spent the best part of the NFL offseason been ranking players and position groups to give fans a better idea of where things stand. Now it’s time to rank entire sides of the ball, starting with these tiered offense rankings.
Rather than list teams from top to bottom and split hairs between similarly elite or poor groups, we have arranged the NFL's 32 teams into groups of comparable units, comprising five tiers.
Tier 1: The NFL's ELITE
You can argue that the depth isn’t there compared to some other teams, and it remains to be seen how an almost entirely new offensive line will gel together without much lead-in time. Still, any team quarterbacked by Patrick Mahomes and coached by Andy Reid and Eric Bienemy will be tough to move from the top spot, especially when it boasts targets like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
Mahomes is a special player capable of things other quarterbacks don’t even consider attempting. The Chiefs led the NFL in expected points added (EPA) per play last year, and the only thing that might keep them from the same thing this season is the question mark surrounding the offensive line. The good news for them is that this year's offensive line group is unlikely to be worse than the unit that so desperately struggled through injury last year, even if it doesn’t hit the ground running.
The fact that the Bucs won a Super Bowl last season should be ominous for the rest of the NFL because a lot of the things working against the team last season simply aren't there anymore. Tom Brady may be another year closer to old-age discounts, but he's now recovered from the torn MCL and has a full grasp of the offense. His receivers are all back, and there are even some new additions, from the likes of Jaelon Darden via the draft to the return of O.J. Howard from injury.
Tampa Bay may have the deepest roster of any team in the NFL and a quarterback who earned the second-best overall PFF grade (92.4) of any player at his position last season despite playing on a torn knee ligament all year.
With the Aaron Rodgers saga now drawn to a close, we can assess the packers firmly in the knowledge that both the future Hall of Famer and his favorite receiver (R̶a̶n̶d̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶C̶o̶b̶b̶ Davante Adams) will be in the lineup.
Both players led the league at their respective positions in overall PFF grade last season, with Rodgers’ MVP season producing a mark of 94.5, the highest grade of his illustrious career. Adams also led the league in yards per route run (2.96) as one of the most unstoppable players in the game.
The Browns are the first team in the top tier of NFL offenses without a sure-fire stud at the quarterback position. Baker Mayfield is still a work in progress at this point, and his true ceiling remains a moveable target. He struggled badly in some games early last year, but you can certainly mitigate those performances with real issues outside his control, such as a new system with no preseason to work on things.
Mayfield earned a top-five PFF passing grade in the second half of the year, and the team has still yet to see the full impact of a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. on this offense. With the best offensive line in the league on paper and two elite running backs ready to exploit it, this offense has balance and depth — not to mention potential yet to be realized.
Josh Allen’s breakout 2020 season propelled the Bills offense into a different realm the franchise hasn't visited for a long time. Allen’s overall PFF grade jumped from 64.1 in 2019 to 90.3 last season and put him among the very best players in the league. Stefon Diggs also proved to be a shrewd acquisition, as he thrived with the extra opportunity he received within the Buffalo passing attack. This offense is also one of the league’s most cutting edge in terms of pass-happy balance on neutral downs, giving them an analytics boost over many other units in the league.
Tier 2: On the Verge
The addition of Julio Jones has massive potential within this offense and was a move the team needed to make, given the losses of Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith in free agency. Jones has been banged up lately, but he ranked fourth in the league in yards per route run last year, a statistic he has owned during his career. The threat of Julio on the outside should open things up significantly for A.J. Brown on the other side of the formation and Derrick Henry in the backfield. Ryan Tannehill has already proven he can exploit favorable matchups when they present themselves.
The Seahawks have a consistently strong offense as long as Russell Wilson is at quarterback, but they do have a dilemma of how best to modify it to fit his unique skill set. The debate has tended to focus on passing volume and whether Wilson has the ball in his hands enough, but maybe it would be better focused on how he has the ball and the types of passing plays the team is focusing on. Either way, Wilson is too good for this offense not to rank this highly, especially when he is throwing to the likes of Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf.
Arguably the most unique offense in the NFL, the Ravens system has been built around the singular freakishness of Lamar Jackson as an athlete and playmaker. Only the Chiefs generated more EPA per play than the Baltimore Ravens last year, and this was while the passing attack lost its way and stagnated compared to the season before.
Baltimore then went and added receivers in the shape of Sammy Watkins and then first-round rookie Rashod Bateman, as well as made some remedial repairs to the offensive line. We should expect this offense to be formidable once again in 2021.
Dak Prescott‘s return should propel this team back among the better offenses in the NFL, even if Prescott doesn’t quite match the scintillating level he was playing at last year before his injury. Second-year receiver CeeDee Lamb has been one of the stars of training camp so far, and Dallas has arguably the most imposing trio of wide receivers in football. Lamb spent 93.2% of his snaps last season lined up in the slot, but an expanded role this year could see him primed for a monster season.
There are a lot of unknowns with the Rams offense heading into 2021. We know that this system can be among the best offenses in the league, but we don’t know to what extent it has been hamstrung by the limitations of Jared Goff at quarterback. We're also yet to find out how much Matthew Stafford will alleviate that as the new starter.
Stafford is capable of spectacular things, but he has never earned an overall PFF grade higher than 82.6 over a single season, a figure that would have ranked 13th in the league last year. We know that Sean McVay is sold on what Stafford can do, but the same thing was true when he anointed Goff.
Tier 3: The Chasing Pack
No team in the league was as decimated by injury last year as the San Francisco 49ers. Even outside of losing their quarterback for most of the year, they couldn’t keep their playmakers healthy at the same time. Even with average injury luck, this team will present a much more formidable group on a consistent basis, and the 49ers posted a top-10 yards per play figure over the season (5.9) even with the group they had last year. The biggest question is where the ceiling is for this offense, and how different is it with Jimmy Garoppolo starting versus Trey Lance, the heir apparent.
Quarterback Derek Carr just enjoyed his best season since 2016, and maintaining that kind of level is vitally important for an offense that now needs his supporting cast to step up. Darren Waller is a superstar at tight end, but sophomore wideout Henry Ruggs III now needs to show what he only flashed as a rookie — game-changing big-play ability.
Ruggs battled injury and a role that disappeared from under him over his rookie season, but he ended the year with an overall PFF grade of just 54.0, the worst of the rookie receivers. The Raiders also have some work to do along the offensive line, as their group has aged and begun to be replaced.
Justin Herbert was phenomenal as a rookie, surprising his detractors and finishing the year as PFF’s top-graded quarterback under pressure. The Chargers made major moves in the offseason to improve the offensive line in front of him, bringing over players like Corey Linsley, the best-graded center in football last year. Linsley allowed just four total pressures across 12 games, and reducing the amount of pressure Herbert will be under is a big deal because his performance in the face of that pressure is extremely likely to regress in Year 2. Herbert has weapons to throw to and a line that looks much improved on paper.
Kirk Cousins has the seventh-best PFF passing grade in the NFL over the last three years, and two of the players ahead of him (Drew Brees and Andrew Luck) are now in retirement. Cousins has an impressive group of playmakers around him, with Dalvin Cook in the backfield as well as Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen as receiving targets. Depth is a potential concern, but not as big as the offensive line is. Minnesota’s offensive line ranked 28th in the league last year in PFF pass-blocking grade, surrendering 170 total pressures.
Signing Ryan Fitzpatrick to start at quarterback isn’t typically something to get that excited about, but Fitzpatrick represents a massive upgrade over what the team had a year ago. Dwayne Haskins was the worst starting quarterback in the league, mustering an overall PFF grade of 48.4, and though Alex Smith won games late after completing his incredible comeback story, he was a shell of his former self.
Fitzpatrick’s PFF passing grade ranks 15th in the league since 2018, almost exactly league average, and the Washington Football Team has surrounded him with the kind of talent that means average quarterback play could prove to be extremely productive.
This is a make-or-break year for the Arizona Cardinals and their offense, with both quarterback and head coach needing to take another step forward in their development to show there is a long-term future in what they are building. Kyler Murray was solid and dynamic as a rushing threat last year but needs to prove he can be an elite passer. Meanwhile, his head coach needs to show he can continue the evolution of his offensive scheme so that Murray has that opportunity. Arizona has receiving weapons, a better offensive line and talent to thrive, but they have yet to prove it consistently.
The Atlanta Falcons may be a fading force, but with a new head coach and system that has been extremely successful in Tennessee, there may be life left in Matt Ryan as a high-level quarterback, even without Julio Jones. Calvin Ridley has been an able understudy to Jones and actually averaged 107 yards in games Jones wasn’t playing. Kyle Pitts is only a rookie, but he is a true unicorn in terms of potential impact at the NFL level and could go a long way toward replacing what the team loses in Jones. Don’t fade the Falcons too hard just yet.
Tier 4: Critical Flaws
The Saints offense may be heading into a season without Drew Brees for the first time since 2006, but let’s remember how successful Sean Payton has been with other quarterbacks pinch-hitting for Brees over the past couple of years. Whether Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston ends up as the starter, this offense will likely still have a modicum of success, particularly as they are working behind a top-five offensive line.
The biggest question for Pittsburgh is whether the offensive line they can field can be viable, as it has the potential to undo everything else on offense, given the prospective starting five.
PFF has ranked the current unit 31st in the league, potentially bad enough to prevent any resurgence from Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. Despite weapons to throw to, Roethlisberger ranked 33rd out of 42 qualifiers last season in average depth of target (7.4), and that’s just not enough to carry the passing game.
The Bears offense has to be looked upon through the prism of who their quarterback has been in recent seasons. Andy Dalton should be a significant upgrade over Mitchell Trubisky, and if and when Dalton gives way to Justin Fields, it has the potential to transform a unit that has a lot of talent within a scheme that can still be extremely successful.
Allen Robinson II is a top-tier receiver who earned a top-five PFF grade last season and has had the lowest rate of catchable targets in the NFL over the past three years. If Robinson is suddenly working with an accurate passer, the sky is the limit.
With a receiving corps that suddenly looks extremely formidable and a quarterback that is all of a sudden underrated, the Giants would have a very good offense on paper were it not for an offensive line that seems to be a massive weakness. Daniel Jones was actually the 18th-ranked quarterback in terms of overall PFF grade last year despite some lackluster statistics, but he struggles when holding the ball for a long time, and New York’s pass-blocking may only magnify those issues. Andrew Thomas struggled as a rookie at left tackle, surrendering 10 sacks, but he was markedly better down the stretch. A significant step forward from the now sophomore would be a big boost to this group.
It’s very much a group of potential, but that potential in Jacksonville is real. Trevor Lawrence is the best quarterback prospect to come into the NFL since at least 2012 — and perhaps going back even further than that — and he has a surprising amount of talent around him for a team that picked No. 1 overall. Young, talented receivers such as D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault give him options, as does the potential matchup problems that Travis Etienne presents as the team cross-trains him as a receiver. Don’t be surprised if the Jaguars offense jumps itself into a higher tier quickly.
Based on training camp hype alone, it’s difficult to pin down where this offense will be. Early reports were extremely encouraging before they gave way to familiar stories of Joe Burrow running for his life behind an overmatched offensive line. The line gave up 181 total pressures last season and ranked 29th in PFF pass-blocking grade. Ja’Marr Chase may have been the correct draft pick in the first round regardless, but the fears of everybody that wanted them to draft Penei Sewell instead may well still be realized.
The synchronized foot surgeries of quarterback Carson Wentz and guard Quenton Nelson certainly don’t help the team’s ranking, but both players are expected to be back and feature heavily in the regular season. Nelson has been the most valuable offensive lineman — at any position — by PFF WAR in each of the last two seasons, and he anchors what is the league’s second-best offensive line heading into the year. Wentz represents the real X-factor of this unit, with his range of outcomes anywhere from 2020 disaster to 2017 MVP candidate.
Tier 5: The Rest
The Jets have done a lot right in the last couple of seasons, but how that will translate into 2021 success is still up for debate. Zach Wilson was spectacular last season in college, but there are real concerns about how big a sample size there is of that elite play. Similarly, the pieces are in place for his receiving corps to look very good, but it’s lacking in track record as of now. The Jets offense has one of the wider range of outcomes of any team in the league.
Miami’s biggest question mark is the play of second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. His biggest problem in a rocky rookie season was an absence of big plays, evidenced by the lowest big-time throw (BTT) rate in the NFL (2.7%). If he can progress in his development to be more aggressive and add those big plays, that’s a huge step in the right direction.
The team’s second-biggest problem is an offensive line that ranked 28th in the NFL last year in overall PFF grade and only made it as high as 23rd in pass-blocking grade because Miami had one of the fastest average time to throw figures in football at 2.47 seconds.
New England’s offense struggled last season, but what does the 2021 version look like now that it has made two different tight ends amongst the highest-paid in the NFL? The Patriots look to be zigging with their schematic approach as the rest of the NFL zags, and it remains to be seen whether that will lead to increased success. Cam Newton was the 23rd-ranked quarterback in overall PFF grade last year, sandwiched between Jared Goff and Andy Dalton, but now he has the threat of being replaced by Mac Jones if he can’t find a better consistent level of play.
Philadelphia had a chance to upgrade at quarterback this season once they traded away Carson Wentz, but instead elected to address the wide receiver position and turn the keys over to Jalen Hurts for at least a season.
DeVonta Smith has the potential to make a massive impact even as a rookie. He is one of the most technically sound receivers to enter the league in years, with passes thrown his way in college resulting in an NFL passer rating of 153.4. Hurts may put a cap on how good this offense can be, but he also raises the floor with his threat as a rusher.
The Sam Darnold experiment continues with a new team this offseason, with Carolina willing to gamble that Darnold was simply a victim of ugly circumstances in New York. The Panthers have some impressive receivers for Darnold to throw to, but there are massive concerns along the offensive line despite (or, in fact, because of) additions made this offseason. Darnold has a career PFF passing grade of just 36.8 when pressured, and if they can’t keep him secure in the pocket, it could be another ugly season for him.
The Lions are only part of the way through their rebuilding project. And though they have addressed the trenches, building what looks to be a top-10 caliber offensive line, it means they have one of the weakest receiving corps in the league on paper.
Jared Goff is battling to stay in the league after being unceremoniously axed by the team that drafted him, but he has little in the way of proven quality to throw to for him to change his narrative. Tight end T.J. Hockenson is by far the team’s most proven receiving option, but he has just 152 career targets to his name.
The Denver Broncos have an elite-level offense across the board except for the quarterback position, and nothing shows the importance and power of that position than the team’s ranking here. Drew Lock ranked 40th out of 42 qualifiers in adjusted completion rate last season, finishing 35th in overall PFF grade. Teddy Bridgewater is coming off the worst starting season of his career despite a solid situation around him in Carolina. So if neither player shows a significant improvement this year, it’s difficult to see how Denver’s offense won’t struggle.
Deshaun Watson was one of the best quarterbacks in football last year, but the magnitude of his off-field legal issues can't be overstated. The now Texans quarterback is currently at training camp in a bizarre limbo world of attendance without really featuring, and the team is preparing to roll into the season with Tyrod Taylor as the starter. Taylor has quality starting play on his resume, but his last two stretches in a starting job were ugly. Houston’s offense could badly struggle in 2021.