With the quarterback and offensive line having such a significant impact on how a team's playmakers perform, it's tough to pinpoint exactly how good the NFL's wide receivers, running backs and tight ends really are. The Russell Wilsons of the world can make most pass catchers look great, but many talented playmakers find it hard to shine when relying on a below-average quarterback to throw them the ball.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell addressed this topic by ranking every team's core unit of offensive playmakers — running backs, wide receivers and tight ends — based on how they would perform with league-average coaching, a league-average quarterback and a league-average offensive line. In his rankings, Barnwell only considered 2022 performance, rather than the coming years. He also gave increased weight in his rankings to wide receivers and noted players' injury histories in his evaluation.
From these evaluations, Barnwell ranked the Broncos' offensive playmakers 14th overall, three places higher than last season's ranking of 17th overall. Barnwell expects multiple players to make leaps in 2022, and he foresees an even higher potential jump in next season's rankings.
"Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Albert Okwuegbunam and even injured deep threat KJ Hamler have the potential to post spike weeks throughout the season," Barnwell wrote. "Their numbers should all improve overall. Second-year back Javonte Williams could be the 2022 version of Jonathan Taylor. The Broncos could legitimately rank No. 1 in these rankings next year if everyone lives up to expectations."
While Barnwell doesn't expect every Broncos playmaker to have a breakout year, there are two players he believes can have the greatest impact if they rise to the occasion this season.
"As deep as the Broncos are, the best thing for their future would be breakout seasons from Jeudy and Williams. Both seem possible," Barnwell wrote.
Because these rankings do not take quarterbacks into account, Barnwell's evaluation should give Broncos fans hope. If these playmakers are 14th in the NFL playing alongside a league-average quarterback, the sky will be the limit with a nine-time Pro Bowler at the helm.
Below the Fold
Barnwell's rankings reveal the strength of the offensive playmaking units for the entire AFC West, as each team in the conference placed in the top half of his evaluations.
The Chiefs made a significant drop from sixth in 2021 to 16th in 2022 after the departure of wide receiver Tyreek Hill, but they have added wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuester and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to revamp their receiving core. The Chargers hold the sixth spot this year after wide receiver Mike Williams had a breakout season in 2021, and wide receiver Keenan Allen continued to dominate. The most significant jump came from the Raiders, who have gone from 22nd to second after adding superstar wide receiver Davante Adams.
With talented offensive playmakers on each team in the division, the strength of coaching, quarterbacks and offensive lines will become as crucial as ever.