A recent article written by Bill Barnwell of ESPN ranked the best and worst offensive arsenals in the NFL since 2019. Some of the factors he mentioned were/weren't taken into consideration for the list:
- The rankings don't include contract value
- The list is solely based on projected production in 2019
- The arsenals are more weighted towards wide receivers
- Top-level talent outweighs depth
Barnwell had the New England Patriots ranked at no. 9 on his list. Here is what he had to say about the Super Bowl LIII champions.
"No team has suffered a bigger drop-off at any one spot than the Patriots, who go from arguably the most impactful tight end in NFL history with Rob Gronkowski to Benjamin Watson. The veteran Watson is already suspended for the first four games of the season, which means the Week 1 starter at tight end might very well be Matt LaCosse. With Josh Gordon likely unavailable and Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson and Dwayne Allen all gone, more than 52% of the passing yards Tom Bradyposted a year ago went to players who are no longer on the roster.
"As good as Gronk was, does anyone really think the Patriots will be a mess on offense this season? We know they'll adjust. They used a first-round pick on N'Keal Harry and signed Dontrelle Inman and Demaryius Thomas, though the latter might not be healthy enough to play as he recovers from a torn Achilles. No team in the league is deeper at running back, where the Patriots can run out some combination of Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead and third-round pick Damien Harris from snap to snap. It won't look the same without Gronk, but let's be honest: This offense is going to work just fine."
Listing New England as the 9th best offensive arsenal in the league is a bit surprising. Even if the rankings are weighted towards receivers, the Patriots still have SBLIII MVP Julian Edelman and first-round wideout N'Keal Harry. Though Harry hasn't proven anything yet in the NFL, something should be said for his ability and where they drafted him.
Aside from that, they have, as Barnwell does mention, one of the deepest backfields in the league, along with one of the leagues best offensive lines. And I haven't even mentioned Tom Brady yet. They all count towards the rankings in some fashion.
Not having Rob Gronkowski definitely hurts their offense, but Barnwell is giving the tight end a little too much credit. Gronkowski was not a prominent part of New England's passing game in 2018, and was instead more prolific in the run game as a blocker. That type of production can be made up for much more easily compared to the Gronkowski of old who was elite as a receiver and blocker.
Consider me not a fan of New England's rankings on this ESPN list.