I was thinking about Pete Prisco’s lame Pre-Season ranking where he used a rather incomplete “Four-Pronged Approach.” It ignored too much data, and placed unrealistic value on a select few arbitrary positions. In particular, the Minnesota Vikings were unfairly ranked too low, since our most valuable players on offense and defense didn’t even make the rankings. So I started wondering how it could have been done better. What if, instead of only looking at the Quarterback/Wide Receiver tandem for offense he looked at all 11 players? And what if instead of looking at only Pass Rushers and Cornerbacks on defense, he considered all 11 players? Well, since it’s the summer and I have a ton of free time on my hands I went to work with some calculations.
First, let me point out what this Ultimate Power Ranking is not. It is not my prediction for how each team will finish the 2013 season. Rather, it is a Power Ranking of where the teams are as of this moment. Using the end-of-regular-season data from 2012, and taking into account free agency moves and the draft, this power ranking takes into account every team’s current depth chart, as posted on ESPN. And it assumes that players will basically perform the same way in 2013 that they did in 2012. I have ranked every single player listed on the depth charts, based on the positional rankings found on Football Outsiders that attempt to quantify a player’s “value” from the 2012 season. I then simply added up every player’s value to come up with a total “team” number.
So, for starting positions, I am assuming a standard starting lineup: one tight end, one running back, one quarterback and three wide receivers, along with the offensive line (which counted as one entire unit). For example, since there are 96 total players in the wide receiver pool (32 teams with 3 receivers each), the #1 player got 96 points and the #2 player got 95 points and so on until the last ranked player received 1 point. Since there are only 32 running backs ranked, the #1 RB received 96 points and the #32 running back received 65 points. This was the same for every position, except for QB who I gave a slight boost in value. Here are the weighting point scales and possible rankings:
So, for example, if a team has the top ranked player at every single position on offense, they would max out with 701 possible points. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if a team had the worst ranked player at every single position, then they would bottom out with 298 points. A “league average” team would end up with 499.5 points. Again, the points I assigned were based on 2012’s performance from Football Outsiders, so for free agents joining new teams, I used the stats from their old team. For any rookies or players not ranked by Football Outsiders, I moved them to the bottom of the ranking and arbitrarily ranked them in alphabetical order. In the case of a tie, any stats/rankings from 2011 were used to break the tie. Because the spreadsheets I used to calculate all of this would take up way too much space in this article, I have made them available here in case anyone is interested. This first post will consider only the offensive rankings. Part 2 will cover the defense, and Part 3 will cover Special Teams. Then finally, Part 4 will take all three phases into consideration and rank the overall teams. So, without further preamble, here are the Offensive Rankings for all 32 teams:
Ultimate Power Ranking – Offense
1. Denver Broncos 640
The Broncos hold the top spot because of their Quarterback Peyton Manning holding the #2 overall spot, and their two excellent wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker holding the #3 and #4 overall spots, respectively. Their passing attack could be nearly unstoppable now with the signing of Wes Welker who ranks #19 overall. Their tight end situation leaves a lot to be desired, but otherwise they have no real weaknesses with a solid rushing attack led by Knowshon Moreno and the #12 offensive line overall. This is a scary, scary offense.
2. New Orleans Saints 632
Like Denver, the Saints have an elite QB in #3 ranked Drew Brees and top-notch receivers. They also have an elite tight end with #8 ranked Jimmy Graham and an average #17 ranked offensive line. There is no real weakness on this offense, as even the receiver position is stacked. Their top two receivers are ranked #5 and #6: Lance Moore and Marques Colston respectively. Even the third option Joe Morgan ranked #32 overall.
3. Seattle Seahawks 604
The Seahawks are the sexy playoff pick this year after they traded for #37 ranked Percy Harvin. But even before that trade they had a stocked offense with rookie Russell Wilson ranked #8 overall and strong receivers in Sidney Rice and Golden Tate, ranked #14 and #18 respectively. But it is their rushing attack helmed by #2 running back Marshawn Lynch and their elite #3 offensive line that boosts them to the #3 overall mark.
4. Green Bay Packers 591
The Packers have two things going for them, an elite QB in #4 ranked Aaron Rodgers and one of the best wide receiver corps in in the NFL with Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jordy Nelson all ranked #12, #13 and #17 respectively. All three of those receivers could be a #1 guy on any team in the league. What prevents them from being at the top of the list is their running game which will now be headed up by rookie Eddie Lacy, an unknown ranked 31st and a horrendous offensive line also ranked second worst in the league.
5. Atlanta Falcons 579
The Falcon’s Matt Ryan has finally joined the upper echelon of quarterbacks, ranked #5 overall. Their passing attack is lethal with the tandem of Roddy White and Julio Jones, ranked #9 and #11, and don’t forget about #2 ranked tight end Tony Gonzalez, the ageless wonder. They addressed the aging running back Michael Turner by replacing him with free agent #9 ranked Steven Jackson. While this sounds great and is what puts them in the top 5, there is a ceiling. What prevents them from being higher is their average offensive line, ranked #16 and their lack of depth at receiver. Their third receiver, Harry Douglas ranked #80 overall and there is virtually no one behind him.
6. San Francisco 49ers 574
The 49ers rode the hot hand of Colin Kaepernick into the Super Bowl last season, and they made the right choice as he ranked #13 overall, ahead of incumbent Alex Smith. They have elite players at receiver in Michael Crabtree, tight end with Vernon Davis and running back with Frank Gore. But what prevents them from being higher is the depth at wide receiver, with #28 ranked Anquan Boldin as the number two receiver and #64 ranked Mario Manningham as their third receiver. Their offensive line is also league average, ranked #14. I’m not sure what the prognosis is for Michael Crabtree after his Achilles tear, but if he misses significant playing time (and it looks likely) the 49ers offense will get a significant downgrade, potentially as low as 12th or 13th. But for the time being, we’ll keep it here.
7. Dallas Cowboys 563
The Cowboys have one of the stronger rosters on paper, but always seem to underachieve in the win column. But with Tony Romo leading the way and ranked #6 along with elite receivers in #7 overall Dez Bryant and #29 overall Miles Austin, the Cowboys can be dangerous. Jason Witten is one of the best tight ends in the league ranked #4 overall. They do have question marks along the #17 ranked offensive line and their depth at wide receiver is questionable with their third receiver D. Harris ranked #72 overall. Still, DeMarco Murray shows promise as a running back, ranked #13 and this offense is just brimming with talent.
8. Carolina Panthers 554
In what might come as a surprise, the Panthers find themselves in the Top 10, thanks to a solid all-around roster. Their only top 10 player is tight end Greg Olsen who ranked #5 overall. But Cam Newton ranked a respectable #15, and Steve Smith a respectable #23. While DeAngelo Williams is starting to show his age ranked #21 overall, their depth at receiver has improved greatly over the past couple years with Brandon LaFell ranked #41 and free agent acquisition Domenik Hixon ranked #24. Their offensive line still leaves a lot to be desired ranked #28, but otherwise this is a team without any other serious weaknesses.
9. New York Giants 543
The Giants have one of the best quarterback/offensive line combos in the league with #9 ranked Eli Manning and a #1 ranked offensive line. They’ve got a great receiver in Victor Cruz ranked #25, but are inconsistent after that with #56 ranked Hakeem Nicks and an inexperienced Reuben Randle ranked #44. Ahmad Bradshaw is no longer a Giant, and they’ve handed the rushing reins to youngster David Wilson, ranked #20 overall. They have an average tight end with Martellus Bennett ranked #13. That along with a lack of depth at receiver keeps this offense from being in the top 5.
10. Tampa Bay Bucs 542
An offense led by #15 ranked receiver Vincent Jackson, #8 ranked running back Doug Martin and an elite offensive line ranked #7, this team rounds out the top 10. Josh Freeman still has some developing to do as he is ranked #23, but the depth behind Vincent Jackson is pretty good with Mike Williams (#38) and Kevin Ogletree (#49). However, they have one of the worst starting tight ends in the league after losing Kellen Winslow with his replacement L. Stocker (who?) ranked #29 overall. But they are young and have talent at key positions.
11. Detroit Lions 539
The Lions have one of the best quarterback/wide receiver tandems in the league with #7 ranked Matthew Stafford and #1 ranked Calvin Johnson. But what keeps them out of the Top 10 is their depth at wide receiver, tight end and running back. They sport an average offensive line, but are missing a lot of pieces in the offense. Perhaps free agent acquisition Reggie Bush can give this offense a spark, because Mikel LeShoure was an average #16 overall running back.
12. Washington Redskins 517
The Redskins gave up the farm in the 2012 draft for Robert Griffin III and it paid off as he was the #11 quarterback as a rookie. They have an elite rushing attack with #5 ranked running back Alfred Morris and an average offensive line ranked #14. But Pierre Garcon has not proved to be the elite receiver they were hoping for in free agency as he ranked only #39 overall. Santana Moss as their third receiver had more value to the team ranked #36 overall. But they lack depth at receiver after those two, and their tight end Fred Davis is a bit overrated, ranked #18 overall. It remains to be seen if RGIII will start for the Redskins week 1 since he’s still rehabbing a torn ACL, so if Kirk Cousins is the starter for any extended time then this ranking will have to be downgraded a few spots.
13. Indianapolis Colts 505
Andrew Luck had an overrated rookie season. While he lead the team to the playoffs, his performance made him only the #19 ranked quarterback overall. The real surprise was rookie tight end Dwayne Allen who may have overtaken the hyped Coby Fleener as the #1 tight end on the team when Fleener went down to injury. Allen was the #9 ranked tight end overall last season. T.Y. Hilton showed a lot of promise ranked as the best receiver last season for the Colts at #26. Reggie Wayne’s age may finally be catching up with him as he only ranked #40 overall. Their running game and #25 ranked offensive line leave a lot to be desired with #22 overall back Vick Ballard the presumed starter. They need better depth at receiver than free agent signing Darius Heyward-Bey.
14. New England Patriots 500
Surprised to see them so low? Don’t be. Sure, they have the best quarterback/tight end tandem in the league with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski both #1 at their respective positions. They have an elite offensive line ranked #2 and an elite rushing attack lead by #7 ranked Steven Ridley too. So how can this team be so low? Simple. While they excel at all of those positions, there aren’t any receivers left. Wes Welker signed with Denver and Brandon Lloyd is still on the street. Their best receiver last year, Julian Edelman ranked #54 overall. Danny Amendola is supposedly going to be the new Wes Welker, but don’t expect great things to happen overnight. He was only the #66 ranked receiver last year, and he’s dealt with injuries his entire career. Who else is there? Oh yeah, Michael Jenkins, formerly of the Vikings ranked a dreadful #78. Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger and can’t do it all, and until one of these receivers emerges and proves they belong in the elite column, the Patriots passing attack may take a step backwards in 2013. It’s possible that this ranking is naturally biased against New England’s two tight end approach, because Aaron Hernandez is not factored into this ranking. But even then, Hernandez had an off-year last year and would have slotted in as the #30 tight end. Perhaps he rebounds and pushes this offense higher, but until then, the Patriots sit just ahead of league average.
15t. Houston Texans 501
The Texans still have one of the best receivers in the league with #2 ranked Andre Johnson. And they have a great offensive line ranked #6, and above average players at quarterback and running back with Matt Schaub and Arian Foster both ranked #12 overall. But what really keeps this offense buried in the middle of the pack is the total lack of depth at wide receiver after Kevin Walter left in free agency. They will be relying on unproven rookie DeAndre Hopkins (#95) and L. Jean (Who?), ranked #63. Owen Daniels is beginning to show his age as he was a below average option last year ranked #20.
15t. San Diego Chargers 501
The Chargers look so good on paper, but it just doesn’t translate into wins. Philip Rivers is ranked a modest #22, but his receivers now look legitimate with #10 overall Malcolm Floyd and #16 overall Danario Alexander. Antonio Gates is getting older and has dropped out of the elite category coming in at #16 overall. But that is still a solid core to work with in the passing game (and who knows what Vincent Brown might be able to do when healthy). They have a below average running game with #23 ranked Ryan Mathews and a dreadful offensive line ranked #30 overall. Rookie Keenan Allen comes in ranked #93, but if he can get healthy and play as advertised in the draft, he could help propel this offense back to its glory days.
17t. Baltimore Ravens 500
Last year’s Super Bowl champs find themselves buried in the middle of the pack. Joe Flacco might have gotten himself a sweet free agent deal after his elite performance in the playoffs, but his regular season play was merely average as he ranked #17 overall. They do have an elite rushing attack with #6 Ray Rice and a #8 ranked offensive line, but the rest of the team is average or below. Torrey Smith is now their best receiver after Anquan Boldin was traded to San Francisco, and he was only ranked #39 last year. Jacoby Jones slots in as the second receiver, and he’s a mediocre #58. T. Doss (Who?) is the third best ranked a terrible #73. Flacco will need to play like he did in the 2013 playoffs and Super Bowl all year if the Ravens offense hopes to overachieve this #15 ranking.
17t. Pittsburgh Steelers 500
The Steelers have question marks all over their offense. Sure, #10 ranked Ben Roethlisberger always gives them a chance, and they have an elite tight end in #3 ranked Heath Miller. But their rushing attack has serious question marks with rookie LeVeon Bell the presumed starter. After losing Mike Wallace to the Dolphins in free agency, and almost losing #30 ranked Emmanuel Sanders, they are relying on #43 ranked Antonio Brown and an aging #70 ranked Jerricho Cotchery. They also have a below average offensive line, ranked #24.
19. Chicago Bears 493
The Bears are the quintessential offense that doesn’t suck, but can’t excel at anything either. They have a below average QB in #25 ranked Jay Cutler, but a monster receiver in #21 ranked Brandon Marshall. They have an elite running back in #10 ranked Matt Forte, but one of the worst starting tight ends in the league in #31 ranked Kellen Davis. They have a below average offensive line ranked #22, and average depth at receiver with Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett, ranked #48 and #61 respectively. There just isn’t anything elite about the Bears offense and for every good thing they have (Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte), they have a converse bad (Kellen Davis and the offensive line). So, slightly below league average is appropriate.
20. Miami Dolphins 486
Miami is a young, unproven team with a second year QB ranked #24 overall in Ryan Tannehill, and a total unknown rookie running back in Lamar Miller, ranked dead last. They made some interesting free agent signings in the off-season bringing in Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson at receiver. If they get the 2012 Wallace, ranked #87, they could be in for trouble. But if they get the 2011 Wallace, ranked 5th overall, this could turn into one of the better offenses in the league, especially if Lamar Miller proves to be in the top half of running back talent. But as it stands now, the Dolphins still have a lot to prove that they belong in the upper half of the league. There are questions along the offensive line, ranked #20 overall, but bringing in the veteran Dustin Keller, ranked #11 should help.
21. Cincinatti Bengals 477
This is an offense without any elite talents. Sure AJ Green is great, ranked #22 overall, and Jermaine Gresham is decently ranked at #15. But there isn’t anyone that truly stands out. Andy Dalton is ranked #20. Green-Ellis is ranked #24. The offensive line is below average ranked #21. This is an offense that lacks elite players and lacks depth, as the receivers after Green are Mohamad Sanu ranked #56 and Andrew Hawkins ranked #75. They have a good young core that needs to continue to improve if they want their offense to be ranked more highly. On the upside though, there isn’t a glaring weakness on either.
22. St. Louis Rams 457
The Rams are an offense that has some decent pieces in place, but after losing Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson in free agency, they lack an elite option. Most of their pieces are middle-of-the-road talent. Sam Bradford is ranked #16, Daryl Richardson is ranked #18, and their offensive line is ranked #12. Their tight end Lance Kendricks might be their most valuable piece on offense, ranked #10 overall. But there are major question marks at receiver. Their most proven option, Chris Givens is a 2nd year player who ranked #45 last year, and rookie Tavon Austin is totally unproven. The Rams’ third receiver Pettis (who?), was ranked #59 overall. Like the Dolphins, there are a lot of young, unproven options in this offense.
23. Philadelphia Eagles 443
The Eagles have one of the least exciting rosters in the league, which is surprising when you consider they still have Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson. But neither of them has been relevant in a couple of years. Vick was ranked #26, and Jackson was a pathetic #76 overall. Their best receiver last year was actually their third option Jason Avant, who ranked #34 overall. Even their tight end Brent Celek looked particularly bad last year, ranked #28. Bryce Brown even looked better than starter LeSean McCoy who ranked 26th. There was just nothing to like about the Eagles offense last year, with even their offensive line ranked a terrible #29. This team is basically returning all of the same pieces, and none of them are getting any younger. It’s possible that we may see Nick Foles starting sooner rather than later.
24. Cleveland Browns 442
This might be the most uninspiring offense in the league. Their 2nd year QB Brandon Weeden will already turn 30 during the season, and there were some reports about Jason Campbell looking great in OTAs. His #30 ranking doesn’t inspire much confidence. Trent Richardson passed the eye test, but that didn’t prevent him from ranking a mediocre #27 overall. Their bigger issues remain at wide receiver where their best option is second-year man Josh Gordon, ranked #53 overall. They brought in free agent Davone Bess, ranked #50, but he and Greg Little (ranked #67) may not be enough to turn this offense around. They have an average offensive line ranked #15.
25. Minnesota Vikings 436
I will freely admit that this might be the most underrated ranking on the list, and it’s not because I’m a biased fan. They have the #1 running back in Adrian Peterson and a good offensive line ranked #11. However, their QB Christian Ponder is in the bottom half of the league, ranked #21, and even more than that they have no go-to wide receiver. None of their options is ranked higher than #62 overall…and that ranking belongs to Jarius Wright, who is their third receiving option. Yes they traded Harvin to the Seahawks, but replacing him with Greg Jennings might be a bit of a gamble. If they get the 2012 Jennings, ranked #68 overall, this offense will sink. If they get the 2011 Jennings, ranked 11th overall, then this offense could rebound significantly. But, it also hinges on what they’ll get out of their second option Jerome Simpson. He ranked a paltry #88 overall last year. So, if both of those players can improve dramatically, this offense could easily leap-frog into the Top 10. Kyle Rudolph looked great in the Pro Bowl, but he completely disappeared in several regular season games and ended up ranked #24 overall. So there are still a lot of questions about this offense that will need to be answered. While there is a lot of potential, they have yet to show it.
26. Buffalo Bills 432
Like the Vikings, the Bills have a talented running back in C.J. Spiller ranked #3 overall, and an elite offensive line, ranked #5. But their wide receiver situation is in even worse shape with Stevie Johnson ranked #42, TJ Graham ranked a dreadful #85, and an unproven rookie as the #3 option, ranked #96. Tight end Scott Chandler is below average at #21 and I haven’t even mentioned the new starting quarterback Kevin Kolb, who is ranked #27. Aside from a strong running attack, there is nothing to get excited about with this offense, unless Robert Woods can make a lasting impression as a rookie.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars 424
It may be surprising to see the Jaguars ranked better than last, but they have some talented pieces on offense. Maurice Jones-Drew had a down-year last year ranked #19, but I expect he’ll be better than that in 2013. Cecil Shorts emerged as a legitimate receiving option, ranked #27. They have a below average offensive line ranked #23, but what keeps them down near the bottom is the QB Blaine Gabbert, ranked #29, and the complete lack of receiving options after Shorts. Justin Blackmon had a dreadful rookie season, ranked #84 and Jordan Shipley didn’t do much better, ranked #83. Marcedes Lewis has the look of an elite tight end, but somehow isn’t able to perform like one, as he ranked #22. If Gabbert and his receivers can take a step forward, then this offense could start to climb the rankings.
28. Kansas City Chiefs 421
The Chiefs did the right thing in trading for Alex Smith, as he was a significant upgrade over Matt Cassel. Smith ranked #15. They have a bad offensive line ranked #26, but an elite running back in Jamal Charles who comes in ranked 11th. They could still use some help at receiver as Dwayne Bowe is a bit overrated. He ranked #46 last season, and their next best options Donnie Avery and Jonathan Baldwin were ranked #89 and #86 respectively. Tony Moeaki is a player brimming with potential and ranked #17, but he just can’t seem to stay on the field. If they can improve their receiver situation and elevate the rest of their positions above average, they could jump the rankings too.
29. New York Jets 411
If you had to guess which part of the Jets offense was in the top 10, which part would it be? It’s a trick question, there isn’t one. They have a decent running game with Bilal Powell ranked #14 overall, but after that this offense takes a nose-dive pretty quickly. Their offensive line is below average, ranked #19. Mark Sanchez was the 2nd worst starting QB in the league, and their best receiver, Jeremy Kerley, ranked a measly #60. After losing Dustin Keller to the Dolphins, they’re left with J. Cumberland (who?) ranked #26 at tight end. Santonio Holmes is talented, but he hasn’t had a good year in a while, ranked #69 last year. Hill had a bad rookie year ranked #81. This is an offense in need of a major overhaul.
30. Oakland Raiders 407
We’ll play the same game here that we did with the Jets. Which one part of the Raiders offense ranked in the Top 10 last year? If you guessed tight end Brandon Myers, who ranked #6 overall, then you were right! They have an average offensive line ranked #18, an unproven quarterback in Matt Flynn ranked worst in the league, and even Darren McFadden had a down year last year, ranked #29. Their best receiver was Rod Streater, ranked #52. Denarius Moore showed some flashes, but ultimately had a bad year ranked #77, and their third option, J. Criner (who?) was one of the worst receivers in the league last year, ranked #90. Maybe Flynn proves to be viable, and maybe McFadden and Moore can bounce back. But even on paper, this offense looks to be in trouble.
31. Tennessee Titans 386
Where to begin? They have one of the worst offensive line in the league, ranked #27 and bad options at quarterback (Jake Locker ranked #28), running back (Chris Johnson ranked #25) and tight end (Jared Cook ranked #25). But even worse, this might be the least valuable set of receivers in the NFL with Kendall Wright ranked #82, Kenny Britt ranked #91 and Nate Washington ranked #47. There isn’t one thing I can point to in this offense and say, yes, that is something they do well.
32. Arizona Cardinals 380
As bad as the Titans are, the Cardinals are somehow worse. Trading for Carson Palmer was a good idea as it gives them at least a league average quarterback, ranked #18. But they have hands down the worst offensive line in the league, ranked #32, and even their star receiver Larry Fitzgerald looked dreadful last year, ranked #92. They brought in running back Rashard Mendenhall, but after the ACL tear last year, he ranked #28. I give the Cardinals credit for trying to give their offense an overhaul, but until they get the offensive line fixed, this offense is going nowhere. When your third receiving option Andre Roberts is the best one (he ranked #55), you’ve got problems. The Cardinal’s starting tight end, R. Housler (who?) was ranked #30 too. There is no worse offense in the NFL right now than the Arizona Cardinals.
A Few Observations
This ranking system isn’t perfect, and I’m sure there will be some disagreements. Even I don’t think it’s 100% correct. For example, as I was going through the wide receiver ranks I noticed that Larry Fitzgerald was near the bottom, and normally I would put him in the top 10 easily. This surprised me, especially considering that Football Outsiders ranked both of his teammates ahead of him. But when you sit back and look at it this can be explained partly by looking at the QB position in 2012 as well as the fact that most teams double-covered Fitzgerald all year, and in fact, he had one of his worst years statistically in 2012. So, some of the wide receiver ranks (and conversely the quarterback ranks) are directly tied to one another. It’s rare when a QB sits atop the ranking without also having highly ranked receivers along with them. I don’t see it particularly as a problem, but there are some instances where certain high profile players end up without a lot of points and a low ranking through no fault of their own, because they are determined solely by their performance in 2012, and not their body of work in their whole career.
Also, some players were injured last year and naturally their ranking suffers as a result. Assuming that the player will perform at the same level in 2013 is incorrect, obviously. So there will be some offenses that will naturally perform better than this ranking assumes, and like I said at the outset, this ranking is not intended to predict how the teams will perform by the end of the 2013 season. It is more a ranking that considers if these offenses had to play right now today, then how would they be ranked based on the performance of their starters last season. So, many of those injured players are not fully healed, and in some cases it may take a few weeks to get their “game legs” back even when the season does finally start in 3 months. This ranking also doesn’t take into account the effect free agency might have on a player. In some cases, a player thrives in a new environment, while in others they suffer. So in the case of free agents, I think their ranking is particularly susceptible to change, and this ranking doesn’t really account for that. So, again, it’s not 100% perfect, but I think it’s impossible to do so. But I’m happy with the results and think they are pretty close.
All that said, this was an incredibly fun exercise and I’m curious to see where the defense and special teams leads me in my quest for the Ultimate Power Ranking.