Michael Nania ranks every team at every position to put together his 2020 NFL power rankings and record predictions.
Do you feel that feeling in the air?
That, my friends, is the feeling of football. It’s finally here.
You’ve probably read plenty of power rankings and record predictions by now, but these are juuuuust a bit different. Rather than arbitrarily stack everybody up, I ranked all 32 units at every position and put together my overall rankings according to each team’s composite performance across the board.
A few things to know:
- The position rankings are heavily influenced by advanced statistics and things I have seen on film, but ultimately are my personal opinion and not based on a particular formula or rules.
- The only position group that I did not personally rank is special teams. All 32 special teams units are ranked according to each team’s special teams DVOA over the past three seasons with 50% weight to 2019, 33% to 2018, and 17% to 2017.
- A team’s final, overall score is calculated as follows: 47.5% from its offensive ranking, 47.5% from its defensive ranking, and 5% from its special teams ranking.
- All offensive and defensive positions are valued equally except for QB, OL, RB, and TE.
- QB and OL receive a value boost. A team’s QB ranking receives a 50% boost while OL (as a unit) receives a 25% boost (the value of QB goes without saying, while the offensive line group features more players on the field than any other unit).
- RB and TE are devalued. RB takes a 50% cut in value while TE takes a 25% slice (each position usually only has one player on the field compared to other groups that usually have multiple. Additionally, in my opinion, RB is the least valuable position on offense or defense due to its reliance on the OL.)
- The projected win totals are based on a team’s overall score versus league average. All projections add up to 256, the number of wins handed out per season.
Let’s dive in! First, I’ll rank all 32 teams from worst-to-best. After that, you will see all of the data nicely laid out in one table, color-coded and all.
32. Carolina Panthers (3.6 projected wins)
- Offense rank: 27th (QB #28, RB #2, WR #23, TE #32, OL #22)
- Defense rank: 32nd (S #32, CB #32, LB #24, IDL #23, EDGE #29)
- Special teams rank: 16th
Keep pounding! For Trevor Lawrence.
I think Matt Rhule will be a great NFL head coach – he was one of my favorite candidates for the Jets’ vacancy in 2019 – but the Panthers need to give him a free pass this year.
There isn’t a single position on this roster that is close to average save for running back, where Christian McCaffrey is arguably the best talent in the league thanks to his abilities in the passing game (I have another team’s RB position at #1 thanks to their one-two punch). The defense looks even more awful than the unit that ranked 26th in DVOA a season ago.
McCaffrey fantasy owners like myself have to love the Teddy Bridgewater addition. Over his five starts in 2019, Teddy Bridgewater threw 28.5% of his pass attempts to running backs, even higher than McCaffrey’s whopping 22.4% target share in 2019.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (4.4 projected wins)
- Offense rank: 32nd (QB #26, RB #32, WR #27, TE #28, OL #25)
- Defense rank: 31st (S #27, CB #27, LB #11, IDL #25, EDGE #24)
- Special teams rank: 6th
The Joe Schobert/Myles Jack linebacker duo has potential that intrigues me, but otherwise, the Jaguars are right there with the Panthers in the battle for “worst team on paper.” They do have some upside at EDGE, with Josh Allen entering his second year alongside 2020 first-round pick K’Lavon Chaisson.
30. Miami Dolphins (4.8 projected wins)
- Offense rank: 30th (QB #24, RB #24, WR #21, TE #24, OL #28)
- Defense rank: 30th (S #30, CB #4, LB #27, IDL #29, EDGE #21)
- Special teams rank: 18th
Miami is on the right track, but even after an overachieving 2019 season and a bevy of free agent additions in 2020, their roster still has a ways to go. Their biggest strength is easily cornerback, where the Byron Jones/Xavien Howard duo has the potential to be the league’s best.
29. Washington Football Team (5.3 projected wins)
- Offense rank: 31st (QB #27, RB #31, WR #29, TE #31, OL #19)
- Defense rank: 26th (S #13, CB #24, LB #28, IDL #19, EDGE #11)
- Special teams rank: 8th
Ron Rivera is the type of coach who can turn an organization around, but like Rhule, his team needs to cut him some slack. Washington is far too thin on the offensive side of the ball for anything substantial to be expected of them. The defense has an outside chance at respectability, though. Chase Young, Ryan Kerrigan, and Matt Ioannidis lead a pass-rush that has a very high ceiling.
28. Cincinnati Bengals (5.7 projected wins)
- Offense rank: 29th (QB #29, RB #12, WR #9, TE #30, OL #32)
- Defense rank: 27th (S #28, CB #29, LB #26, IDL #4, EDGE #14)
- Special teams rank: 4th
Cincinnati has some nice weapons for Joe Burrow in A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon, but their offensive line looks no better than the unit that I had ranked as the league’s 30th-best in 2019. The Bengals’ 2019 first-round pick (11th overall), Jonah Williams, will start at left tackle after missing his entire rookie season. They’ll need him to get off the ground quickly to help keep Burrow’s career from starting off on the wrong foot.
27. Los Angeles Chargers (6.4 projected wins)
- Offense rank: 26th (QB #31, RB #9, WR #12, TE #9, OL #29)
- Defense rank: 17th (S #31, CB #2, LB #22, IDL #28, EDGE #3)
- Special teams rank: 32nd
This roster has an odd makeup. Los Angeles is absolutely stacked at a few spots, but atrocious in others.
The Chargers are loaded at the skill positions (Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Hunter Henry, Williams), but the offensive line looks lackluster even with the addition of stud right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Tyrod Taylor has proven to be only a fringe-level starter, a checkdown king with very limited explosiveness.
Defensively, the Chargers have an outstanding cornerback trio with Casey Hayward, Chris Harris, and Desmond King, but they took a major blow at safety with Derwin James‘ season-ending injury. It could have been the best secondary in football, but safety is a major weakness now. Upfront, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram form an elite edge duo, but the interior defensive line is one of the league’s least intimidating.
26. New England Patriots (6.9 projected wins)
- Offense rank: 25th (QB #23, RB #23, WR #28, TE #29, OL #3)
- Defense rank: 25th (S #7, CB #1, LB #31, IDL #24, EDGE #31)
- Special teams rank: 9th
New England will likely exceed this projection because Bill Belichick is just that good, but this will be the biggest test of the Hoodie’s career. This roster is weak.
The Patriots obviously lost their somewhat well-known quarterback, but they also lost playmaking linebacker Jamie Collins to the Lions via free agency and had the following starters opt out of the season; Dont’a Hightower (LB), Patrick Chung (S), and Marcus Cannon (RT), all three of which are solid-to-great players.
Belichick’s legacy is already cemented – struggling with this roster will not put an asterisk on the six-time Super Bowl champ’s career – but if he can win with this group, it will be another feather in his cap.
25. Chicago Bears (7.0 projected wins)
- Offense rank: 28th (QB #32, RB #19, WR #19, TE #18, OL #24)
- Defense rank: 7th (S #14, CB #25, LB #5, IDL #17, EDGE #5)
- Special teams rank: 19th
Chicago’s defense could be solid anchored by two great linebacker duos; Khalil Mack/Robert Quinn on the edge and Roquan Smith/Danny Trevathan off the ball. Eddie Jackson offers big-time upside at safety, although he had a down 2019 season.
Offensively, the Bears do not have much hope. The hopelessly inaccurate Mitchell Trubisky remains the starting quarterback after beating out Nick Foles (not a great look for the former Super Bowl MVP). Allen Robinson is fantastic, but Chicago lacks a second threat in the passing game.
24. Las Vegas Raiders (7.1 projected wins)
- Offense rank: 13th (QB #18, RB #7, WR #26, TE #4, OL #11)
- Defense rank: 29th (S #25, CB #31, LB #12, IDL #13, EDGE #25)
- Special teams rank: 25th
The Raiders offense was surprisingly good last year, ranking ninth in DVOA. I don’t see another top-10 finish, but they should be solid again. The offensive line is sturdy, while the tight end position is stacked with Darren Waller, Jason Witten, and Fabian Moreau. That unit helps make up for the thin wide receiver position, where Tyrell Williams‘ season-ending injury hurts badly. Henry Ruggs will need to be on his game quickly, and Hunter Renfrow needs a second-year jump.
I like Las Vegas at the linebacker and interior defensive line positions. Both units have players that are excellent in the passing game; Cory Littleton/Nick Kwiatkowski at linebacker and Maurice Hurst/Maliek Collins/Jonathan Hankins on the line. The secondary and edge rush are problems once again, though.
23. Los Angeles Rams (7.3 projected wins)
- Offense rank: 21st (QB #14, RB #30, WR #10, TE #8, OL #31)
- Defense rank: 23rd (S #19, CB #8, LB #32, IDL #2, EDGE #30)
- Special teams rank: 14th
The Rams’ biggest issue is their ignorance of the offensive line. They barely made any changes to a unit that destroyed a once-dominant offense last year. L.A. has impressive talent at wide receiver (Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods) and tight end (Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett), but it is tough to see Jared Goff turning it around if the offensive line has another bad season, which it most likely will.
Los Angeles won games on the strength of its ninth-ranked defense (by DVOA). That unit took a hit with the losses of Dante Fowler (EDGE), Cory Littleton (LB), Nickell Robey-Coleman (CB), and coordinator Wade Phillips. Star power remains with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, but they alone can’t patch up every hole.
22. New York Giants (7.4 projected wins)
- Offense rank: 19th (QB #25, RB #5, WR #17, TE #11, OL #20)
- Defense rank: 20th (S #17, CB #23, LB #19, IDL #7, EDGE #23)
- Special teams rank: 13th
With skill position talent (Saquon Barkley, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard) and an improving offensive line featuring top-4 pick Andrew Thomas, the potential is there for the Giants offense to have a productive year if Daniel Jones can improve, but I am personally not high on the Duke product’s game.
The Giants improved their 28th-ranked defense, but it seems to lack the potential to be much better than mediocre. Free agent pickups James Bradberry (CB) and Blake Martinez (LB) raise the floor, but neither is anything close to elite. The interior defensive line does look fantastic with Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, and Dalvin Tomlinson. They anchored a top-10 unit last year. With a full season of Leo and Lawrence entering his second season, the Giants IDL could push for the top spot.
21. Arizona Cardinals (7.6 projected wins)
- Offense rank: 15th (QB #19, RB #18, WR #6, TE #15, OL #21)
- Defense rank: 19th (S #15, CB #13, LB #21, IDL #27, EDGE #12)
- Special teams rank: 26th
Arizona is one of the league’s favorite breakout candidates. I think there might be one more step left for them until they jump to elite status, but the potential is definitely there for them to skyrocket straight up to the top this year.
There are not many serious holes on this roster. The question for me is whether Arizona can be more than a .500 type of team this year. If they are going to be great, it all comes down to the quarterback position. Can Kyler Murray make a Carson Wentz/Jared Goff type of second-year leap? The pieces are in place for him to do so with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins and a full season of Kenyan Drake, who averaged over 80.0 yards and one TD per game after coming to Arizona last year.