Best First Down Offense For Each Team

Today I look at the best offensive weapons formations for each team to get a first down. The results are a spreadsheet of the top formation and offensive weapons that achieved the most first downs in 2018 for each team. All offensive personnel are included except for the offensive line.

The team makeup is for 2019. So if a player switched teams his 2018 1st down count is used but for his 2019 team. Rookies are not included with one exception. I included Kyler Murray as he will most likely be the starting 2019 quarterback. For his first down totals I used the average for starting quarterbacks as he was quite the mobile quarterback. Here are the results by team with a color grouping. I also show the personnel and have in bold font the teams that use two running backs in their best first down formation.

Rank Team Sum 1st Dwns Personnel
1 LAR 281 1-1
2 NOR 259 1-1
3 CLE 255 2-1
4 PIT 250 2-1
5 KAN 242 2-1
6 CAR 241 1-1
7 PHI 238 1-1
8 DAL 237 1-1
9 ATL 236 1-1
10 LAC 233 2-1
11 IND 229 1-1
12 TAM 229 1-2
13 TEN 229 2-1
14 MIN 225 1-1
15 SFO 220 2-1
16 BAL 214 2-1
17 BUF 214 2-0
18 GB 208 1-1
19 HOU 207 1-1
20 NYG 207 1-2
21 NWE 206 1-1
22 CIN 205 1-2
23 CHI 202 1-1
24 SEA 199 2-1
25 DEN 189 2-0
26 ARI 187 2-1
27 OAK 181 2-1
28 DET 180 1-1
29 WAS 163 2-2
30 JAX 149 2-1
31 NYJ 141 2-1
32 MIA 95 1-1

Some observances. These have to do specifically with achieving first down.

  1. Fifteen teams are most loaded offensively with a formation of two running backs. Almost half the league. Two contributing factors for this are (1) Most first downs are achieved in short yardage situations and more teams tend to run in those situations and (2) the proliferation of dual threat running backs.
  2. Only five teams fail to have a player that earned 50+ first downs in 2018. The teams with their highest first down players are BAL (QB Lamar Jackson – 48), BUF (QB Josh Allen – 45), JAX (WR Dede Westbrook – 40), NYJ (WR Robby Anderson – 30) and MIA (WR Kenny Stills – 27) . The last three were also the bottom three of the ranked teams. However Baltimore and Buffalo were mid-range at 16 and 17 respectively. They were aided immensely by  the top two dual threat quarterbacks for first downs.
  3. The LA Rams are way out in the lead in first down players. Their 1-1 formation earned 281 first downs in 2018. The second place team, New Orleans, earned 22 less first downs.
  4. The top three players for first downs were all dual threat backs with Ezekiel Elliot at one with 98. He was followed right behind by Christian McCaffrey and Todd Gurley both with 97. The next backs were Saquon Barkley (85) and James Conner (82).
  5. The top receivers were DeAndre Hopkins with 81 and Julio Jones with 80.
  6. Eight teams have two play-makers in their top 1st-down formation that had 50+ first downs. They are CIN, GB, IND, KAN, LAC, NOR, PHI and PIT. The Bengals are the lowest ranked of the eight at 22.  They are not far from the Packers at 18. All the rest of the eight teams fall in the top 11.
  7. Three teams have three play-makers with 50+ first downs in their top formation. They are CLE, LAR and SF. The Browns and the Rams were in the top there teams. However the 49ers were down at 15. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo only played three games and had a low first down count.
  8. The Giants were seriously hurt be the Beckham trade. They rank 20th. If Beckham were still on the team they would have ranked 5th. Dallas benefited big by the Amari Cooper trade moving up to eighth. The Raiders benefited with Antonio Brown but only moved up to 27th. They would probably been on the bottom right above Miami.
  9. As I said the 2019 rookies are not counted in this analysis. Some teams hoping to get a boost in 2019 from the draft with their rank and 1st round pick are the Lions (28th rank – TE TJ Hockenson), Broncos (25th – TE Noah Fant), Raiders (27th – RB Josh Jacobs), Ravens (16th – WR Marquise Brown) and the Patriots (21st – WR N’Keal Harry).

Here is the spreadsheet that contains the top formation for all 32 teams and the above table – First Down Weapons. The dual threat players are listed twice for their receiving and rushing first downs.

PS: This is a break from the series I was running. I really fell behind on the series and will see if I continue that series. I got sidetracked on this topic.

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