Ranking the NFL’s top five playmaker groups

By Bucky Brooks, NFL.com Analyst, former player and NFL scout

As a rookie with the Buffalo Bills in 1994, I stepped into a K-Gun offense that would fit right into the modern NFL. QB Jim Kelly, RB Thurman Thomas and WR Andre Reed headlined a unit that torched opponents by utilizing tempo, receiver-heavy formations and superior playmaking ability.

When I arrived in Buffalo, the Bills were fresh off a fourth straight Super Bowl appearance. Although the organization never hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, its explosive offense not only revolutionized the game, but it provided the next generation of team builders with a blueprint on how to construct a championship-caliber attack for a more wide-open league.

Surveying the NFL landscape today, it is apparent that the league is dominated by teams loaded with offensive playmakers — guys who can make special things happen with the ball in their hands. While we know a franchise quarterback is typically needed to compete for the title in today’s high-octane game, a roster stocked with electric game-breakers can transform an average quarterback into an all-star at the position.

So, which offense currently boasts the most prolific pack of running backs, wide receivers and tight ends? Which quarterback is flanked by the most dangerous supporting cast of point scorers?

Two months into the 2022 NFL season, here are the top five playmaker groups.

Rank 1

San Francisco 49ers: 4-4 · 2nd in NFC West

Kyle Shanahan certainly had plenty of weapons at his disposal prior to acquiring Christian McCaffrey, but the addition of the five-star playmaker to a lineup that already features ultra-versatile talents like Deebo SamuelKyle Juszczyk and George Kittle could make this unit impossible to defend. With CMC immediately showing his big-play chops on San Francisco as a triple-threat with scoring potential as a runner, receiver and passer, opponents must pay close attention to the backfield while neglecting the rest of the explosive players on the perimeter, a group that also includes Brandon Aiyuk. Considering Samuel, Kittle and Juszczyk have routinely shown the capacity to dice up defenses from their respective positions, the 49ers have the ability to really stress opponents with favorable matchups all over the field.

Rank 2

Miami Dolphins: 5-3 · T-2nd in AFC East

It is not a coincidence that Mike McDaniel has quickly transformed the Dolphins into an offensive juggernaut after spending his formative years working with Kyle Shanahan. The former 49ers assistant has elevated the play of his young quarterback by surrounding him with a dynamic set of playmakers. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are the most explosive pass-catching tandem in the league. With their speed, quickness and burst, opponents are tasked with defending every blade of grass, from sideline to sideline and end line to end line. This stretches the field out, creating space for Mike Gesicki in the passing game and Raheem Mostert (as well as new trade acquisition Jeff Wilson Jr.) on the ground. With Tua Tagovailoa growing increasingly comfortable in the system, the Dolphins have started to light up scoreboards around the league with a high-octane offense that’s a nightmare to prepare for.

Rank 3

Philadelphia Eagles: 8-0 · 1st in NFC East

Credit general manager Howie Roseman for surrounding Jalen Hurts with a dream team on the perimeter. The Eagles’ emerging franchise quarterback has played at an MVP level in 2022 by efficiently distributing the ball to a diverse group of playmakers with complementary games. With A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith taking turns making plays on the outside, Dallas Goedert controlling the middle of the field and Quez Watkins providing the occasional splash play, the Eagles have the capacity to win with efficiency or explosiveness in the passing game. As Miles Sanders and Hurts continue to torment opponents with an option-based running game that forces defenders to pause at the point of attack, Philadelphia’s offense creates chaos with its creativity, variety and overwhelming talent.

Rank 4

Cincinnati Bengals: 4-4 · 2nd in AFC North

Do not let the Bengals’ slow start overshadow the immense talent and potential of a group that features three high-caliber pass catchers and a blue-chip running back. Now, Ja’Marr Chase‘s hip injury gave me pause when considering whether to include Cincinnati in this ranking at this very moment. He’s clearly the straw that stirs the drink. But seeing how the Bengals have chosen to not place him on injured reserve, it appears he could be back in action sooner than initially expected. And once he does return, the playmaking quartet of Chase, Tee HigginsTyler Boyd and Joe Mixon provide the kind of explosive capability that can fuel a Super Bowl run. (Remember last season?) Whether it is Chase and Higgins blowing past defenders on vertical routes, Boyd moving the chains on catch-and-run plays or Mixon bullying opponents between the tackles, the Bengals’ diversity makes them a challenge to defend as a high-powered offense. If Cincy’s offensive line holds its own at the line of scrimmage, it is hard to deal with Zac Taylor’s squad.

Rank 5

Seattle Seahawks: 5-3 · 1st in NFC West

Maybe Russell Wilson misevaluated the playmakers around him in Seattle. The NFC West leaders are flourishing with journeyman Geno Smith at the helm due to the dynamic playmaking ability of DK MetcalfTyler Lockett and now rookie sensation Kenneth Walker III. Metcalf and Lockett are all-star-caliber pass catchers with the ability to blow past defenders on vertical routes. In addition, each playmaker is capable of turning a short gain into an explosive play on a catch-and-run concept. With Walker adding a different dimension to the offense as a hard-nosed runner with electric speed and quickness, the Seahawks’ old-school offense has become a headache to defend in a pass-happy league.

The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football league consisting of 32 teams, divided equally between the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). The NFL is one of the four major