While there remains plenty of validity behind the old adage that defense wins championships in the National Football League, offenses are more important in today’s NFL than at any point in history. Anybody who has a doubt about that should speak with a linebacker who is literally afraid he’ll be flagged anytime he hits a quarterback, or with a defensive back who feels that league rules favor wide receivers as it pertains to one-on-one battles down the field. Teams don’t win Super Bowls without top-tier quarterbacks or QBs who are in-form and on hot streaks in January and early February (‘sup, Nick Foles?).
Because of the nature of the league in 2018, not to mention the fact there is zero sign this trend is ending anytime soon, offensive players are scrutinized more than ever before. Quarterbacks are expected to be stars as soon as they enter lineups, either as rookies or as new additions to teams. A tight end merely being good at blocking, and little more, is not enough. Offensive coaches are the next sideline stars awarded with opportunities to guide entire rosters, hopefully to Super Bowl Sunday appearances. Players deemed to be the least effective individuals for their offenses usually have got to go, either to free agency or to the bench.
32 Arizona Cardinals: Sam Bradford
Who could have guessed that the Arizona Cardinals giving journeyman quarterback Sam Bradford $15 million in guaranteed money would end poorly for the franchise? Oh, that’s right: Literally everybody. Bradford has looked ancient during the early portions of the regular season, and Arizona may have already turned to rookie Josh Rosen to take control of the offense before you read this piece. Perhaps Bradford should have tried to convince the New York Giants to trust him over Eli Manning so that he could have stayed with coach Pat Shurmur. Arizona would do well to attempt to shop Bradford for anything the team could get for his services.
31 Atlanta Falcons: Logan Paulsen
31-year-old Logan Paulsen can be a fine mentor and also a skilled run-blocker, but the tight end is not going to contribute much, statistically speaking, to the passing attack. Considering his age and his contract, one cannot help but assume the Falcons could, at worst, get similar output from a younger player who, at least, has some upside. In Paulsen’s defense, he does offer Atlanta a skill that doesn’t show up in a box score, and his salary cap hit isn’t anything to write home about. Someone had to be mentioned for this offense that may get better by December, so it’s Paulsen who gets called out.
30 Baltimore Ravens: Matt Skura
One does not have to wonder if those running the Baltimore Ravens believe the team needs upgrades on its offensive line. Following Baltimore’s Week 2 contest, ten different linemen were brought in for workouts. Matt Skura, serving as the team’s center as of the posting of this piece, could be one of the odd-men out. Those who have seen Skura on the field understand why his next spot could be on the bench. Opposing pass-rushers may feast on Skura, not to mention those around him, if he remains in the lineup unless he manages to flip the figurative switch and perform better. That’d be quite the pleasant surprise for the Ravens.
29 Buffalo Bills: Nathan Peterman
We are sure that Nathan Peterman is a nice guy and somebody who wants to do the best he can for the team that is employing him at any given time. He just shouldn’t be the starting quarterback for the Buffalo Bills or any NFL franchise in 2018. He may not even be one of the 32 best backups in the league, which has been made clear by the fact that the Bills are forcing Josh Allen into the lineup over Peterman even though the first-year pro should not be anywhere near the field so early into his career. Replace Peterman with anybody who can start, Buffalo, before you ruin Allen.
28 Carolina Panthers: Greg Olsen
When Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen is not dealing with a foot injury that could cost him at least a month of the season, he is one of the better weapons at the position. Unfortunately for both Olsen and the Panthers, there are worries that these types of injuries will be lingering issues that prevent him from being at his best. Earlier this year, there were reports that Olsen was considering retirement, but he ultimately signed a new contract with the Panthers that should keep him with the franchise up through the end of his playing days. Maybe he is closer to that end than he believed this past spring.
27 Chicago Bears: Kevin White
We are not really sure why wide receiver Kevin White is still on the roster of the Chicago Bears, other than the fact that the Bears likely did not receive any decent offer for the former first-round pick before September. It was believed White was fighting for a place on the depth chart during the preseason, and he has become a forgotten man over the first couple of weeks of the campaign. The Bears declined the fifth-year option on White’s contract earlier this year, essentially guaranteeing that the two won’t be together past this season. Maybe Chicago won’t even wait that long to move on.
26 Cincinnati Bengals: Cedric Ogbuehi
Offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi has experienced quite the fall since the Cincinnati Bengals took him with a first-round pick back in 2015. Cincinnati tried moving Ogbuehi between both tackle slots, and the franchise also gave him a chance to prove his worth on the line as a guard. The 26-year-old made the 53-man roster, to the surprise of many who cover and follow the Bengals, but the Cincinnati coaching staff apparently would prefer to keep him inactive and stash him away in case somebody else suffers an injury. The Bengals are going to get rid of him in 2019 barring some unforeseen miracle.
25 Cleveland Browns: Tyrod Taylor
Unless Baker Mayfield gets injured, there's no reason to see Tyrod Taylor on the field again this year. Mayfield delivered their first win in 19 games in impressive fashion, easily outplaying Taylor. The offense looked alive under Mayfield, something we couldn't say about Tyrod. His injury against the Jets was a blessing in disguise for the Browns faithful, as we finally got to see what the first overall pick of 2018 could do. If Hue Jackson wants to keep his job for another year, it's time to cut the veteran. Taylor's time as a starter is over.
24 Dallas Cowboys: Allen Hurns
Once the Dallas Cowboys parted ways with wide receiver Dez Bryant — a move the team probably does not regret one bit as of the middle of September — the thought, at the time, was that Allen Hurns could climb the depth chart and perform as he did during his best seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Hurns has never been the same type of weapon since hamstring problems plagued him during the 2016 season, and he fell down the Dallas depth chart throughout the summer and the first couple of games of the season. There’s still time for Hurns to turn things around, but it’s not looking good at the moment.
23 Denver Broncos: Devontae Booker
The Denver Broncos did everything short of buying billboards around the region to tell fans, fantasy football owners and random strangers that Devontae Booker was going to drop down the depth chart during the regular season. Booker has not only fallen beneath Royce Freeman, who disappointed in his first two games. Phillip Lindsay, who is from the area, could be the lead back for at least a period of time or until Freeman earns the top spot in the backfield. Booker is now a rotational back, and the 26-year-old may have the most value to the franchise as a piece in a trade; if any other team could be sold on taking him, that is.
22 Detroit Lions: LeGarrette Blount
Those of us who are not in the building every day cannot say, for sure, just how bad things are going behind the scenes for the Detroit Lions, but reports that some people within the locker room are not loving life under new head coach Matt Patricia are a bit alarming. Earlier this year, the Lions brought veteran LeGarrette Blount in to be the team’s short-yardage back even though Detroit did not have a shortage at the position. Blount is 31-years-old, and he has, no disrespect meant, looked his age since joining the franchise. Even if he turns things around, a quick divorce involving the two seems inevitable.
21 Green Bay Packers: Lance Kendricks
Much like with the Atlanta Falcons, this one was a bit difficult. After all, how much does one really expect tight end Lance Kendricks to offer the offense of the Green Bay Packers, especially with Jimmy Graham in the lineup and still building chemistry with quarterback Aaron Rodgers? Age is a factor here. Kendricks turns 31-years-old next January, and he could be one of two tight ends who aren’t with the Packers when 2019 training camp sessions open if the Rodgers-Graham partnership isn’t everything the Packers hoped it would be when the team brought the future Hall of Fame tight end to Lambeau Field.
20 Houston Texans: Ryan Griffin
It is still early days on this one, which is why the Houston Texans would probably not agree with the idea that the team needs to get rid of Ryan Griffin in 2018. As a starter in the offense, Griffin has underwhelmed, except for the fact that he has taken on a leadership role in the locker room, but it is believed the Texans will begin using different rotations to get more out of the position in the passing game. Houston could save a good chunk of money by moving on from Griffin after this year. He is playing for a contract over the last three months of the season.
19 Indianapolis Colts: Christine Michael
There are more than a few reasons why some continue to link the Indianapolis Colts with trading for Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (more on him later). Along with having the available funds to play Bell, the Colts have the need at the position, especially if the club wants to take a big swing toward a championship with Andrew Luck healthy and in the lineup. Christine Michael will be closer to 30 than 25 come the middle of November, and it does not appear as if he is going to be given any real chance to become the lead back if others on the depth chart remain healthy.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars: James O'Shaughnessy
It was not all that long ago when some seriously would have listed quarterback Blake Bortles as the least effective player on the offense of the Jacksonville Jaguars. That could still be the case by the end of the season if Bortles fails those around him once the weather cools, but tight end James O’Shaughnessy is the pick as of the early fall. O’Shaughnessy could have been a breakout candidate for the Jaguars before the start of the campaign. Now, he is well behind Austin Seferian-Jenkins as long as ASJ is healthy. O’Shaughnessy may have to give Jacksonville a discount to remain with the club past 2018.
17 Kansas City Chiefs: Chris Conley
The offense of the Kansas City Chiefs is clicking with Patrick Mahomes performing like a Most Valuable Player candidate under center, and there are no complaints from fans as of the start of fall. Mahomes deserves credit for spreading the wealth and for getting Sammy Watkins more active in the offense after Watkins was mostly invisible during the summer and the preseason. Chris Conley could find some favorable match-ups because of all the weapons in the offense, but that does not necessarily reflect on what he gives the Chiefs. Each time Conley takes the field, he is trying to earn a spot on the 2019 Chiefs or a different team.
16 Los Angeles Chargers: Antonio Gates
Antonio Gates turned 38 years old earlier this year, and the Los Angeles Chargers brought him back in September only because the team had such a glaring hole at the tight end position. Maybe there is some truth to the saying that you can’t go home again with this story. Gates brings some name value to a fantasy football team, but his numbers have been declining the past few seasons. Remember that the Chargers were fully prepared to move on from Gates, and for good reasons, until the end of the preseason. There is little to no chance that he will be on the roster come 2019.
15 Los Angeles Rams: Tyler Higbee
Trying to find a least effective member of the Los Angeles Rams offense is like looking for a problem in a nice sunset. Sure, it might be a bummer if there are a couple of clouds in the sky, but that isn’t a reason to complain. Predictions about former fourth-round pick Tyler Higbee potentially becoming a breakout tight end with the Rams may have been premature, if not inaccurate, but it is difficult to crush either him or the team’s scheme. The Rams probably would not miss a step if Higbee was not available for one reason or another. Don’t forget this team is a Super Bowl contender.
14 Miami Dolphins: DeVante Parker
Obviously, wide receiver DeVante Parker is not the least effective offensive player on the Miami Dolphins regarding stats and figures. The first-round pick from the 2015 NFL Draft also has not lived up to that value, and he may have to work to take targets away from others once he is able to return from a finger injury. There were more than a few rumblings during the summer that the Dolphins were interested in shopping Parker to a team needing a receiver. He may have more value to the 2018 Dolphins in a transaction than on the field, depending on what his services would fetch from a WR-hungry club.
13 Minnesota Vikings: Tyler Conklin
As Nick Olson of Vikings Territory pointed out in August, David Morgan is widely regarded as one of the best blocking tight ends in the league, so it’s Tyler Conklin who is singled out among those playing for a Minnesota Vikings offense that should improve as players get comfortable with Kirk Cousins featuring under center. In Conklin’s defense, he is a fifth-round pick who is not supposed to be all that effective his rookie year. This doesn’t mean Minnesota should get rid of him, but it also doesn’t eliminate the reality that a better product at the same price could be available down the road.
12 New England Patriots: Cordarrelle Patterson
The New England Patriots acquired former first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson via a trade with the Oakland Raiders earlier this year, but there have been all kinds of rumors about the team shopping for a different wide receiver throughout the summer. Dez Bryant was linked with the Pats, as was Denver Broncos starter Demaryius Thomas. Neither of those players joined the Patriots, and the Cleveland Browns ended up offering troubled wideout Josh Gordon to New England for little compensation. The completion of that trade could lead to Patterson falling down the depth chart and out of favor with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady as long as Gordon produces and stays on his best behavior.
11 New Orleans Saints: Mike Gillislee
The New Orleans Saints were hoping to get some help in the rushing attack, outside of Alvin Kamara, with Mark Ingram beginning the season banned for the first four games. There are no signs Mike Gillislee is going to be what New Orleans hoped he would be in Ingram’s absence. Gillislee may just need a little more time to adapt to his new surroundings, but patience won’t be a virtue with Ingram’s return lingering. Maybe the Saints should have tried signing Adrian Peterson during the summer. Oh wait, we saw that movie before, and its ending was horrible. Perhaps New Orleans, not Gillislee or Peterson, is the problem in this situation.
10 New York Giants: Ereck Flowers
This past May, the New York Giants declined the fifth-year option on offensive tackle Ereck Flowers, as the team signed Nate Solder ahead of moving Flowers to the right side of the line. The entire New York offensive line is a mess, and Flowers is not going to be an answer for the team’s woes up front. Those who never liked the signing may point to veteran running back Jonathan Stewart as the least effective offensive player, but he is behind Saquon Barkley on the depth chart. Flowers is still a starter even though he has rarely looked capable of handling that responsibility since the Giants used a first-round pick to get him.
9 New York Jets: Kelvin Beachum/James Carpenter
One could say that the New York Jets have a shaky offensive line. Others would be harsher in those criticisms. Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold has played like a future franchise signal-caller since even before earning the starting gig over veteran Josh McCown, but he needs better from those tasked with keeping him on his feet. Offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum and guard James Carpenter are both playing for their jobs, let alone spots on the Gang Green roster and New York could get rid of the two, find younger replacements and have a better unit. Changes are coming to both New York offensive lines.
8 Oakland Raiders: Doug Martin
The Oakland Raiders’ dedication to featuring an old team is almost as impressive as the franchise’s desire to ship a Defensive Player of the Year candidate off to the Chicago Bears rather than paying him. One of the biggest questions hovering over Oakland’s roster decisions in 2018 involves running back Doug Martin and why the Raiders bothered bringing him to town in the first place. Martin averaged under three yards per carry in each of the past two seasons, and the Raiders could get what he is giving the offense from somebody who won’t be 30 years old in January. The Raiders are going to be a roller-coaster ride up through December.
7 Philadelphia Eagles: Nick Foles
Life comes at you fast, even for a reigning Super Bowl MVP. The Philadelphia Eagles kept Nick Foles to start in place of Carson Wentz this September as Wentz worked to recover from the knee injury that prematurely ended his 2017 season, and he lucked into a win before he and the Eagles were defeated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With Wentz set to return and (hopefully) be as good as he was last fall, the Eagles now have a backup carrying a salary cap hit of $13.6 million. The value that same backup would have been worth on the trade market last March is much lower six months later.
6 Pittsburgh Steelers: Le’Veon Bell
As of the third week of the 2018 NFL season, everybody reading this piece is no less effective for the offense of the Pittsburgh Steelers than running back Le’Veon Bell, who has not played a down of football while remaining away from the club in an attempt to either earn a paycheck or force a trade to a franchise that will give him a new deal. Bell can be the best back in the NFL when he is motivated and healthy. A reunion between him and the Steelers seems unlikely, which is why Pittsburgh shipping him to a club such as the New York Jets or Indianapolis Colts may be the only way this story ends.
5 San Francisco 49ers: Kendrick Bourne
Was the touchdown that San Francisco 49ers second-year wide receiver Kendrick Bourne caught during the team’s second game of the season enough to prevent the Niners from shopping for a different player at the position? We’re not so sure about that. Teams need depth at wide receiver, and Bourne is on a cheap contract through the 2019 season. San Francisco would not have to get rid of him, completely, if the team added to its offense, but quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo needs more talent in the lineup if the franchise is going to get the most out of the high-priced signal-caller during the 2018 campaign.
4 Seattle Seahawks: C.J. Prosise
In the summer of 2018 and ahead of the start of the regular season, the Seattle Seahawks offered hints the club was going to say farewell to running back C.J. Prosise. Prosise surprisingly made the final roster, but he is so behind Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny that he cannot get a look in the backfield other than a handful of passes. This is similar to the situation between Kevin White and the Chicago Bears. Why keep an offensive player around just to keep him when you could see what somebody else at the position could offer? It’s not as if Prosise has any real value on a trade market in the fall of 2018.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston
No offensive player on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can be less effective than quarterback Jameis Winston, who was handed a three-game ban ahead of the start of the regular season. To the delight of those within the organization who (allegedly) may be looking for a reason to get rid of Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick performed well and became a popular figure among fans and those inside of the locker room over the first two games. Fitzpatrick isn’t winning Tampa Bay a Super Bowl, but he could play well enough to give the Bucs the ability to trade Winston to a team willing to take a flier on the QB.
2 Tennessee Titans: Blaine Gabbert
Blaine Gabbert — yes, that Blaine Gabbert, is the best option as a backup quarterback to start for the Tennessee Titans when Marcus Mariota is injured? That can’t be right; and no, this has nothing to do with Colin Kaepernick and the fact that he does not have a job as a backup in the NFL. Gabbert completes under 15 passes per game these days, and the 28-year-old is not going to be the next coming of Nick Foles or Case Keenum. The Titans may be better off having Robert Griffin III ahead of Blaine Gabbert on the depth chart, and nobody believes RG3 will ever be what he was as a rookie.
1 Washington Redskins: Vernon Davis
Perhaps Alex Smith and Vernon Davis will make the most out of their time with the Washington Redskins before the end of the 2018 regular season. With a cap hit of over $5 million, though, the Redskins need more from the veteran than being a declining second option at tight end behind the younger and talented Jordan Reed. Because of the dead cap value attached to Davis’ contract, the Redskins couldn’t get rid of him in 2018 unless he retired. Washington can, and should, reclaim a decent amount of cash by parting ways with him in 2019 even if he and Smith become a solid one-two punch during Smith’s first season with the franchise.