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Most Improved Offenses - NFL Draft Reaction


The 2019 NFL draft is now in the books, and that means that the months of speculation can begin!

It's also time when we see the biggest changes to a roster, outside of the opening of free agency, so fantasy owners will have a multitude of questions after the draft. In this article, I'm going to tackle the biggest one: "Who improved the most?"

Here are the teams that improved most as a whole and should carry a number of fantasy-relevant players in 2019 and beyond.

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Arizona Cardinals

The logical place to start is the team that had the number one pick, selecting quarterback Kyler Murray. I won't go into the Cardinals too much here, because frankly fellow writer Justin Carter already covered the team fantastically well in this piece.

However, let's quickly give them some limelight here. The Cardinals really struggled with quarterback Josh Rosen last season, who had limited passing options outside of receiving duo Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald.

The team still has an elite running back in David Johnson, but had to rely on him far too much last season behind an offensive line that couldn't stop defenders closing gaps for him. This season, they decided to make a change behind center in selecting the aforementioned Murray but added to their receiving options with Hakeem Butler and Andy Isabella added to the fold. They may not have made the investment that was required in their offensive line, but with Murray's mobility and additional options out wide teams shouldn't be able to stack the box as much.

This offense will look dramatically different, and that in and of itself is a good thing.

 

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons didn't need to make massive changes on offense, they already had talent throughout the depth chart. The Falcons scored the 10th most points in the league, with Matt Ryan finishing with 4,924 yards and 35 touchdowns, and having the leading receiving yards receiver Julio Jones on the roster (who had 113 catches and eight touchdowns)

However, what they did add was some talent on their offensive line in selecting two linemen in the first round, selecting Chris Lindstrom and then trading up to get Kaleb McGary, to help keep quarterback Ryan upright. Ryan has shown himself to be a highly effective quarterback and if he can be given time to find Jones or Calvin Ridley downfield, then fantasy owners will be happy with the output.

Devonta Freeman is one of my favorite bounce-back candidates this offseason. Freeman missed the majority of the season through injury, but the Falcons were clearly happy enough he would return to allow Tevin Coleman to leave. The offensive line talent should give him wider gaps to get through, and combined with his involvement in the passing game there is a great chance to be one of the better valued running backs this season.

 

Denver Broncos

Case Keenum really struggled to get the offense moving last season, partly due to a struggling offensive line putting him under pressure, and partly due to being without receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas for the majority of the season. John Elway had clearly seen enough, and decided to move for quarterback Joe Flacco.

Flacco has long been a fan of the tight end, and the Broncos added a great receiving option in Noah Fant at the position. In the second round, they also added an offensive tackle who should help sure up the line and help keep Flacco upright in the pocket, and give running back duo Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman gaps to run through.

The Broncos did add quarterback Drew Lock in the second round, but the early reports are that he isn't expected to play this season. Elway hasn't made positive quarterback choices recently, but that surely has to change at some point.

Flacco has led defensive-minded teams to success before, and with defensive-minded coach Vic Fangio moving over from the Chicago Bears, that looks to be the mold that the Broncos will return to.

 

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings had issues last season with their offensive line, putting Kirk Cousins under pressure to get the ball out, and in doing so struggled to control the clock. The team then made moves in the draft to amend that, and plug those holes with their first four draft picks being offensive talent. The team clearly didn't need to select wide receivers with the elite duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.

Cousins is clearly the big winner, with the Vikings picking up two offensive linemen while also selecting tight end Irv Smith Jr. to block pass rushers. Smith will have to compete with fellow tight end Kyle Rudolph, but both options have similar skills sets as 'complete' tight ends.

With Dalvin Cook an injury concern, the team also moved to select Alexander Mattison for their backfield. Mattison will be looked at to fill the shoes left by Latavius Murray, who just signed for the New Orleans Saints. Mattison isn't the fastest player (4.67 40 time) and needs consistent touches to be effective, but with Cook's injury history he could be a good handcuff.

 

New England Patriots

When Rob Gronkowski had to move outside in the playoffs, it was clear the Patriots had a need to fill. The Patriots addressed that need in selecting N'Keal Harry, who should really give them a downfield threat, assuming that Tom Brady will still be able to get the ball downfield.

The Patriots followed that up with selecting running back Damien Harris with the 87th pick, adding him to a running back room that already includes talented running backs Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead. Burkhead missed significant time through injury last season, and there are doubts if he would be the same player as he has been in previous seasons.

 

Oakland Raiders

Last season was certainly one to forget for Raiders fans, they looked a team that was devoid of a plan or identity. Fast forward to the draft and Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock used the draft capital at their disposal to lay a new foundation for the team. The team selected Josh Jacobs as the only running back to go in the first round of the draft. The Raiders had a clear need with the future of Marshawn Lynch decided, with Lynch retiring (again).

The Raiders might have helped their offense more by actually improving their defense. The Raiders struggled to get off the field last season, but the addition of multiple pieces on defense should mean that the offense can stay on the field more often. The Raiders already made their best move outside of the draft, trading for Antonio Brown. If Brown can establish a connection with quarterback Derek Carr, then this offense could be intriguing.

 

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers' 2018 season seemed to be derailed before it ever really ever started. Newly-acquired running back Jerick McKinnon didn't play a single snap, while quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo also missed significant time through injury.

However, not everything was lost with George Kittle breaking the single-season receiving yards record for tight ends, and Dante Pettis impressing when he was on the field. Tevin Coleman, who worked with Shanahan in Atlanta, was added during free agency and is a dynamic dual-threat running back at his best.

The 49ers have doubled down on their offense, in selecting receiving duo Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd with their early picks. Both receivers have played a multitude of positions in their careers, and that jack-of-all-trades quality should give both players the ability to upgrade the receiving corps in San Francisco.

Kyle Shanahan is a great offensive mind and was able to keep the 49ers somewhat competitive with players switched in and out of the rotation, and at one point playing their third choice quarterback in Nick Mullins.

With the players returning from injury, and the additions in free agency and the draft, the 49ers should be much improved this season.

 

Honorable Mentions

There were other selections in the draft that should help improve their team's offense, but as of yet, there are barriers to success for them.

Seattle Seahawks - D.K. Metcalf gives Russell Wilson a deep option who works perfectly with the run-first offense the Seahawks use. However, the uncertainty over the future of Doug Baldwin, and Seattle not addressing their offensive line needs until the fourth round casts some doubt over their outlook.

Philadelphia Eagles - Philly also went for offensive pieces early in their draft selections. Philadelphia added depth to their already impressive offensive line, receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside and running back Miles Sanders. The Eagles offense is already well established for fantasy purposes and the pieces that they have added haven't really made a huge impact on their offensive scheme for this season.

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