• Challenging Redraft Offensive Rankings

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    Welcome to the second half of the challenging consensus ranking series. Last time, I tackled IDP players (see what I did there?) who I believe were mis-ranked. This time we will hit each offensive position. You can view rankings and other tools to help get ready for your drafts with the IDPGuys Redraft Kit (which can be purchased here).

    As with IDPs, this is just a challenge of the consensus on where they are going, not necessarily on-field analysis. Some of my favorite players in the league I think are overranked for fantasy. I refer to fantasy finishes a few times in the article. These finishes come from a half-PPR, with no extra bonus scoring system. Note: General stats are taken from Pro-Football-Reference, snap/alignment stats from PFF, and the ranks from the aforementioned IDPGuys draft kit!

    Let’s get into it with the signal callers!

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    Higher: Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks (QB18, 207.5th overall)

    Geno Smith was absolutely phenomenal in 2022. Was it real or a flash in the pan? He would be the outlier, as you almost never see a breakout from a 30+-year-old player. However, the advanced numbers show Geno was legitimately great, not just lucky. Looking at PFFs Big Time Throw % (BTT%) and Adjusted Completion percentage (ADJ%) outline how good he was. In these areas, Geno finished third and fifth, respectively amongst the 22 QBs with 430+ dropbacks (the number used to include Tua and Dak). Geno was aggressive and accurate throughout the year, not propped up by luck.

    Personnel-wise, the Seahawks added to their great 1-2 punch by drafting Jaxon Smith-Njigba 20th overall. The WR corps of D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and JSN is one of the best in the league and will give Smith more open spots on the field. They return a solid OL, with tackles who should improve in year two. The run game has another face as well, one who is also a solid check-down and blocking option, in Zach Charbonnet. All signs are great for Geno Smith, and he should be closer to QB10 than 20 with his skills and the improving talent on the offense as a whole.

    Lower: Daniel Jones, New York Giants (QB10, 78th overall):

    Daniel Jones broke out for fantasy in 2022, after a few years of struggling as the Giants' signal caller. Jones almost completely cut out the turnovers that maligned his early career and ran the ball efficiently under Brian Daboll. But the question here, as with Geno Smith, is “Is this real?” Unlike Smith, the passing metrics are not overly positive. Amongst the 22 QBs with 430+ dropbacks, Jones had the lowest aDOT and second fewest BTT%, with only 7(!!!) total on the year. Jones was not trusted to make any big throws on the year, which led to 15 Passing TDs and only 5 INTS (still a middle-of-the-pack turnover-worthy play %).

    Jones’ fantasy value came largely as a runner, tallying 708 yards and 7TDs. But will that continue? Can Jones win games with his arm? We have not seen this ability yet. Now paid, we shouldn't expect to see as many carries. Add in the lack of weapons, and it is a concern that there is talent to help lift him. Darren Waller is an upgrade, but Parris Campbell and Isaiah Hodgins as WRs 1 and 2 are scary. With questions about his passing ability and rushing usage, he projects closer to an upside QB2 than a QB1.

    Higher: Desmond Ridder, Atlanta Falcons (QB29, 372nd overall):

    Desmond Ridder does have projections with him, as a second-year player who was a third-round pick. He does have a good skill set, though, as he has a high football IQ, a plus arm, decent accuracy, and very good mobility (even though he doesn’t scramble much). The scheme and talent (three top-10 skill position picks) are friendly for a QB. Similar to rookie and second-year Dak Prescott, Ridder does not need to be a top-10 QB to put up QB1 fantasy numbers.

    Ridder should not be ranked as a QB1, but he is a solid choice for a QB2. The offense will allow him room to make easy plays to great playmakers and rack up points. The mobility does give some additional upside, but passing to Pitts, London, and Robinson is spectacular. The surrounding team gives Ridder a high floor, and if he lives up to the QB1 hype many scouts gave him, he could sneak into the QB1 territory.

    Lower: Sam Howell, Washington Commanders (QB24, 217th overall):

    Sam Howell takes the reins for a Washington team with playoff aspirations this season. With only one NFL start, it is difficult to project how he will adjust to NFL speed. In his favor, Washington does have a great 1-2 punch at WR, with Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. However, the OL is atrocious, maybe the worst in the league. At UNC and thus far in camp/preseason Howell has shown poor poise and almost no willingness to stay in the pocket. 

    Howell is a decent athlete, with good arm strength, but has poor accuracy and feel. These traits combined with a bad OL and solid weapons give potential for some solid performances as well as some disastrous ones. A fifth-rounder, he has even longer odds for success than Ridder and is on a worse offense overall with an unknown scheme. Ranking Howell as a QB2 is generous, as he is a bigger unknown than Ridder. He is a fine upside shot, but more as a QB3 or waiver pickup, not as a QB2.

    Now we go to the RBs!

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    Higher: Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos (RB25, 109.5th overall)

    Is it weird – maybe even a tad reckless – to say an RB in a new scheme, 10 months out from a major knee injury should be a top-18 RB? Yes, it may be. But Javonte Williams is not a normal RB. Williams is one of the most powerful runners in the game and added receiving ability to his repertoire pre-injury. In 2021, he forced 63 missed tackles (per PFF) behind only Jonathan Taylor’s 66, who had almost 130 more carries. Per PFF’s yards after contact per carry, Williams finished behind only Taylor, Nick Chubb, and Elijah Mitchell in 2021. 

    Williams adding receiving work – 16 receptions in 4 games – raises his profile and ceiling immensely. Samaje Perine is a solid RB and is Williams’ backup, but should not cause large concern. Sean Payton has loved both bruising RBs and receiving ones while allowing multiple RBs at a time to thrive. All reports from camp suggest he will be ready and close to 100% in Week 1. The added injury risk and presence of a solid backup are enough to make keeping him lower logical. But if he is as close as it seems, he has a league-winning upside and should be closer to a high RB2 than a high RB3.

    Lower: Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys (RB6, 19th overall)

    Tony Pollard has been a fantasy darling for years and now has the Dallas backfield to himself. He has been a big play machine as Dallas’ RB2/1B/1A with Ezekiel Elliott, who is gone now. However, the assumption that the same success will translate to a full, 17 game workload is bold and far from a given. Pollard is a smaller back and has not been massively efficient in his career, feasting off explosive plays. That upside remains, but getting up to 10 more touches a game will wear him down.

    Mike McCarthy has said he wants to run the ball more, but with Pollard as the only viable RB on the roster, it feels unlikely. Pollard has been very good, even in one-off games as the leadback, but over a full season? He has not had 200 carries in any season (139 total in college) and could be expected to be at 300 this year. I have never been a big believer and with a huge uptick in expectations, ranking him right next to Nick Chubb feels incredibly bold and like a letdown waiting to happen.

    Higher: Miles Sanders, Carolina Panthers (RB23, 89th overall)

    Miles Sanders just signed a big deal in Carolina after a career year in Philly. While the Panthers’ roster as a whole is not nearly as good as Philly’s, they are solid. The offensive line is very good, which is great for Sanders. Also in Sanders’ favor are the scheme and lack of elite passing game weapons. Both new HC Frank Reich and OC Thomas Brown (under Sean McVay) have led/been major parts of teams with great rushing attacks, often led by one back.

    Sanders has little competition behind him, so should get the lion’s share of carries. Contrary to popular belief, he is also a very good receiver (see Penn State and rookie year). With no other backs on the roster excelling here and no elite receivers, Sanders could see a large share of targets as well. Sanders is the best skill player on the team and has received praise from the staff all offseason. Being ranked as a borderline RB2 is surprising, as he does have top-eight upside, if from usage alone. With his talent and role, Sanders should be a top-15 RB easily.

    Lower: D'Andre Swift, Philadelphia Eagles (RB24, 109th overall)

    Next up is a player hoping to take a portion of Sanders’ work over in Philly. D'Andre Swift fell out of favor in Detroit so was traded to Philly. Now he is hoping to be more than Philly’s third-down back, which alone is not a great fantasy role (Eagles targeted RBs 61 total times last season).

    Swift maintained some relevance over his career with some sporadic big plays, however, has been largely inefficient otherwise. He is a talented back but has had struggles in consistency, blocking, and health (missed 10 games over three seasons). The backfield is crowded with Rashaad Penny, Kenneth Gainwell (who appears to be the starter), and Boston Scott. There is too much uncertainty to rank Swift as an RB2. He is an upside shot for a zero-RB strategy but could also fizzle out as he has before.

    And now let’s talk about some pass catchers, starting with a pair of veteran teammates… and their new friend!

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    Higher: Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks (WR35, 87.5th overall) … plus a little sneak of JSN (WR37, 98.5th overall)
    Lower: D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks (WR12, 28th overall)

    The Seahawks have one of the best WRs in the league in Tyler Lockett. Oh, and the Greek God himself, D.K. Metcalf. Neither may be elite, but both are in that next tier or two of receivers. They share a QB featured earlier in this article – Geno Smith – who is coming off an incredible year and is ready to repeat. Over the past 4 seasons (since 2019, Metcalf’s rookie year) the duo has combined for 645 receptions for 8,537 yards and 70 TDs. Lockett has had more receptions and yards than Metcalf has (they each have 35 TDs) over this span. 

    The gap between the ranking of Metcalf and Lockett is too large. Metcalf’s upside is higher, with his athletic profile and youth, so ranking him higher definitely makes sense. However, they have had similar stats since they have been together, and Lockett has been more consistent.  Lockett has been a top-15 WR each year since 2019, so should be ranked higher than 35. Metcalf has also ranked as a top-18 WR since 2020, so a ranking as a borderline WR1 is not egregious. His “lower” status is to point out he is not the clear lead, nor the only target in the offense.

    If it were just Metcalf and Lockett in the WR room, this ranking would make sense! However, the Seahawks added the top WR in the draft this season in Jaxon Smith-Njigba (currently ranked WR37, I would also say he should be higher!). The trio each can have multiple weeks as a WR1, but there are so many mouths to feed.

    Add in a strong running game with new investments, and ranking both Metcalf and Lockett in the WR1 range is a challenge. The ordering of the WRs makes sense with upside (Metcalf), consistency (Lockett), and unknown third (JSN). They should be ranked closer together and in the WR2 range instead of their current dispersion. 

    Higher: Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints (WR13, 28th overall)

    WR13 for a second-year player is high, but Chris Olave should be ranked even higher! He was the best rookie WR last season (yes, I know Garrett Wilson exists) and has a big QB upgrade. Olave's usage will be more diverse this season, after large efficiency as a deep threat in 2022. With Juwan Johnson primed for a breakout, Michael Thomas returning (in theory), and added RB depth in Kendre Miller and the “First Swagg Kazekage”, Jamaal Williams, there is more help for the offense as a whole. Now there is less pressure and focus on Olave and Alvin Kamara (upon return from his suspension).

    Since 2012, only four rookies have had higher yards per route run than Olave: Odell Beckham Jr., A.J. Brown, Justin Jefferson, and Ja'Marr Chase. Not a bad list, eh? While this does not guarantee superstardom, it gives backing to his upside. He was a reliable, big-play machine as a rookie, and should improve in his second season. A player off a phenomenal rookie season with a better team should be a solid WR1, similar to Garrett Wilson. If ranked and taken as a mid-third-round pick, Olave can be a league winner this season.

    Lower: Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals (WR14, 28th overall)

    Tee Higgins is a great WR, he may be the second-best WR2 in the league (behind my adored Jaylen Waddle). However, he is ranked at what may be his fantasy ceiling. He has finished as WR17 and 22 over the two full seasons he has had with Ja'Marr Chase and Joe Burrow, which is phenomenal for a WR2, but his ranking is higher than that. In 2022, Chase had more snaps, targets, receptions, yards, and TDs than Higgins, while playing in four fewer games. Burrow hyper-targets his LSU and Cincy teammate, capping Higgins’ upside. 

    Higgins has clear talent and upside however he is the clear number two option. Both Dolphins’ WRs have had target shares and schemes, where you could argue either, is the one, but this is not the case (or far less so) with the Bengals. Higgins has not finished this high yet, so this feels like his ceiling. Even with a QB as fantasy-friendly as Joe Burrow, Higgins still has limited upside as the second option. Players ranked this high should have league-winning potential, and not many WR2s have that ability. Higgins still should be a WR2, but farther back, behind the other team’s top targets.

    Higher: Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (WR27, 60.5th overall)

    Unlike Higgins, Chris Godwin is currently ranked at his floor. Since his second season, he has only finished below WR26 one time, a year where he missed 4 games and finished as WR32. He has been massively consistent over his career, even with multiple different QBs. Tom Brady is the goat, but Godwin’s best fantasy season came with the erratic Jameis Winston. Baker Mayfield takes over in TB, and his similar style should see Godwin peppered with targets. 

    Godwin is an elite receiver within 20 yards, which may be all Mayfield can throw behind a poor and injured OL. There are not many better security blankets in the league, and that is what Mayfield needs more than anything else. Tampa is projected to be behind often, so should be passing often. Even with a worse QB situation, Godwin should not see a significant decrease in targets. He has been a surefire-high WR2 and should still be seen as such in 2023.

    Lower: D.J. Moore, Chicago Bears (WR18, 41.5th overall)

    This lower status is very much about risk, specifically with the QB. Justin Fields was one of the worst passers in the NFL last season but should progress in 2023. D.J. Moore has had horrid QB luck in his career, catching Cam Newton at the end of his peak during his rookie season and then a makeshift room since.

    With that said, Fields may not prove to be a massive upgrade as a passer. Fields will need to progress massively to be a league-average passer, which is far from guaranteed. Unlike Godwin (who put up a WR2 overall season, with subpar QB play), Moore has never had a season higher than the WR18

    The Bears attempted fewer passes than any other team last season. Should this change? Probably. But whether or not it gets to a league-average level remains to be seen. He will help Fields progress, but he is not the level of player that A.J. Brown was before moving to the Eagles (many analysts expect the same results).

    Ranking a WR (albeit a very talented one) in the top 18 while having a poor passing QB and a low pass volume offense is very risky. Ranking him as a lower-level WR2 (while noting the upside) would feel better, due to the amount that must go right for him to blow up. 

    Finally, we will hit TEs!

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    Higher: David Njoku, Cleveland Browns (TE9, 116th overall)

    David Njoku is coming off of the best season of his career, finally breaking out. He was great with Jacoby Brissett in the first part of the season but did struggle a bit with Deshaun Watson, though so did Watson and the offense as a whole. Njoku did catch 2 of his 4 TDs in five games with Watson, which is notable. Watson targeted TEs often in Houston, which should continue with the athletic and reliable Njoku.

    Being on the field is a massive aspect of the weak TE landscape. Last season, Njoku was on the field for 84% of possible snaps, by far the most of his career. Cleveland is expected to pass more often this season, which will increase Njoku’s looks. Since he has built some rapport with Watson – who should also be better in his second season in Cleveland – he will get many looks. A dynamic receiver with a locked-in (and increasing) role is a safer option amongst TEs, which should see him closer to 5 than 10.

    Lower: George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers (TE5, 55.5th overall)

    There are two main concerns with George Kittle, the fantasy player. One is his health. Two, the number of mouths to feed in San Francisco. Kittle has only missed five games over the past two seasons but feels like he is rarely close to 100%. He also is one of four elite pass catchers on the team with Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk, and Deebo Samuel also in the fold. 

    Kittle has seen his targets per game and yards per route run drop in each of the last three seasons, which has seen his fantasy numbers drop as well. The numbers have dropped as the other talent has arrived and broken out and the QB tumult. With Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers had a solid, if unspectacular, option at the position.

    Now they are trusting Brock Purdy, a second-year, seventh-rounder coming off a major elbow injury, or Sam Darnold. While Kittle is still one of the best TEs in the league, there are so many concerns around him. His time as a top fantasy TE may very well be over, which makes 5th overall TE feel too high.

    Thank you for tuning in to the offensive portion of challenging consensus! It was a pleasure to challenge the consensus of our awesome rankers! I hope you enjoyed and please feel free to reach out on Twitter or Discord with any questions @JoeLow63 

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