We’re a week out from the seemingly most-analyzed event in all of sports: the NFL draft. I see a new mock draft out every day, and teams are picking different players every time. By the time Thursday rolls around, you’d think one of these experts will have called it correctly. No mock draft today, but here are my NFL power rankings ahead of the draft:
1. Philadelphia Eagles
We owe it to the champs to keep them on top until proven otherwise. After adding big names to their front line in Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata to replace Vinny Curry and Beau Allen, the Eagles shouldn’t see too much of a drop-off on defense this season. With Carson Wentz back, this team should still be the (slim) favorite to return to the Super Bowl.
2. New England Patriots
Will the Patriots ever fall off? Probably not until Brady and Belicheck depart, so until then, near the top they shall stay. Belicheck has two first-round picks to work with this season, and he’s had success developing first rounders in the past—8 out of 15 first-rounders taken by the Patriots under Belicheck have made the Pro Bowl—bad news for the rest of the league.
3. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are building an All-Pro team right before our eyes—McVay has a plethora of new talent to work with in Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and Brandin Cooks. The Rams should have the best defense in the league, and if Goff can take the next step, the rest of the league is in trouble.
4. Minnesota Vikings
Complete QB overhaul in Minnesota—Bridgewater, Bradford, and Keenum are all out, replaced by Kirk Cousins and Trevor Siemian. Time will tell the impact these quarterback changes will have, but with the return of Dalvin Cook, the Vikings should once again be the favorite in the NFC North.
5. New Orleans Saints
I’m still wondering how the Saints lost to the Vikings in the playoffs. Luckily for them, they’re in good position to return to the postseason again. Kenny Vaccaro was the only notable loss, and Drew Brees is locked up for the next two years. Saints win the South again.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steeler’s window is closing—they still have the best trio in the game, but Roethlisberger isn’t getting any younger, Bell has constant contract issues, and the Jaguars are on the rise. But the window isn’t shut yet—the Steelers swapped Mike Mitchell for Morgan Burnett in free agency, and should contend in the AFC once again.
7. Green Bay Packers
A little high for the Pack? Probably. But that’s what happens when Aaron Rodgers returns. The Packers were 4-1 with him in the lineup last season, and the addition of Jimmy Graham should have Rodgers licking his chops. They will need to add to their secondary in the draft.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars lost both “Allen” receivers but netted a huge addition in guard Andrew Norwell—look for Fournette to have another big year and it’s up to Bortles to carry playoff momentum to next season.
9. Atlanta Falcons
Not a ton of free agency activity for the Falcons, which means they should be able to produce a similar season next year. Matt Ryan will look for his third straight playoff victory in this upcoming season.
10. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers finished the season on fire last year, winning six of their last seven—Rivers is climbing in age, but I like this team to be the favorite to win the AFC West for the first time since 2009.
11. San Francisco 49ers
I have succumbed to the Garoppolo hype—the Niners won their last five games and added key players in Richard Sherman and Jerick McKinnon. San Fran is a possible landing spot for Dez Bryant, and a top-ten draft pick will do wonders for a team on the rise.
12. Tennessee Titans
I had the Titans as the two-seed last year—a bit premature, but this team reached the divisional round in what was considered a successful season. The addition of Malcolm Butler will help tremendously in the secondary.
13. Kansas City Chiefs
The Patrick Mahomes era has officially begun—and don’t look now, but this is a Chiefs team that, pending quarterback play, could have a prolific offense. They added Sammy Watkins to compliment Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, and Travis Kelce.
14. Carolina Panthers
Andrew Norwell is a huge loss for this team—the first-team All-Pro guard will be missed, but the Panthers don’t fall too much, adding Dontari Poe to compliment the loss of Star Lotulelei and more receiving weapons for Newton.
15. Seattle Seahawks
I’m not giving up on the Seahawks just yet—they’ve lost a ton of high-profile players this offseason, but Russell Wilson is still at the helm, and a strong draft can keep them afloat in the playoff race this season.
16. Houston Texans
Deshaun Watson was on his way to the best statistical rookie season we’ve ever seen before he went down with an ACL injury, throwing for 19 touchdowns in six games. The Texans added Tyrann Mathieu to boost their defense and should be in the playoff race next season.
17. Oakland Raiders
What happened to the Raiders? Two years ago, the Black-and-Silver were Super Bowl contenders before Derek Carr went down. After a disappointing 6-10 season last year, the Gruden era begins—his return to the Raiders is a perfect fit. He’ll have some new weapons in Rashaan Melvin and Jordy Nelson.
18. Detroit Lions
The Lions have an uphill climb to contend in the NFC North, and it falls on the shoulders of two people: Matthew Stafford and new head coach Matt Patricia. Stafford will once again be tasked to carry the offense, and Patricia must use his defensive mind to change the culture on defense in Detroit.
19. Baltimore Ravens
It would shock me if the Ravens passed on Calvin Ridley in the upcoming draft, should the top receiver out of Alabama be available. Despite adding Michael Crabtree and John Brown, Baltimore is still depleted on the receiving side, losing Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin.
20. Dallas Cowboys
The time was right to move on from Dez Bryant—the 29-year old was completely overpaid for his current level of production. But the Cowboys should be wary in that he alluded to playing against Dallas twice next season. The return of Elliot should help Dak Prescott in his third season.
21. Denver Broncos
I don’t think the acquisition of Case Keenum will keep Elway from drafting a QB at 5th overall next week—look for a pivotal draft as the Broncos also look to replace their 1,000-yard rusher in C.J. Anderson.
22. Washington Redskins
Perhaps no team lost more than the Redskins this offseason, including their franchise quarterback. You could make the argument that Alex Smith is a viable replacement, but it’s an uphill battle for Washington.
23. Buffalo Bills
The Bills snapped a 17-year playoff drought last season, and then proceeded to give us one of the worst offensive playoff games ever. They’ll almost certainly draft a QB to challenge the newly-acquired A.J. McCarron for the starting spot.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Marvin Lewis is 0-7 in the playoffs as a head coach, and he’s probably lucky to still be around—this roster still has plenty of talent, it’s time to start winning in January.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs added some huge D-line talent this offseason, grabbing JPP, Vinny Curry, and Beau Allen. This team has the pieces—it’s just waiting for Winston to take the next step. It starts with cutting down the turnovers—he had seven fumbles last season, tied for the most in the NFL.
26. Chicago Bears
Chicago isn’t quite ready to contend in the NFC North, but they’re making the right moves to work their way up. New additions Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, and Taylor Gabriel make things a lot easier on sophomore Mitchell Trubisky.
27. Arizona Cardinals
I’ve got the Cardinals taking Baker Mayfield to light a fire under this team—that fire isn’t going to be lit by injury-prone Sam Bradford.
28. Cleveland Browns
Only the Rams did more this offseason, and suddenly the brown-bag Browns have a chance to win a couple of games this year. If they figure their quarterback situation out, the weapons on offense—Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, David Njoku—are all in place. The loss of Hall of Fame tackle Joe Thomas is huge, though.
29. New York Giants
The OBJ saga has captured the headlines in New York this offseason, but the Giants grabbed Nate Solder to solidify their offensive line. This team will likely finish higher than this position next season, but they’ll have to prove it to us first.
30. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins lost a lot of big names this offseason—Jarvis Landry, Ndmaukong Suh, and Mike Pouncey. Hopefully Tannehill can make a solid recovery and lead this team to the playoffs once again. Jay Cutler was serviceable but wasn’t getting the job done.
31. New York Jets
The Jets must have a guy they really want to take at No. three (it’s going to be a quarterback), because they traded the 6th overall pick, two second-round picks this year, and a second-round pick in 2019 to move up. New York added Trumaine Johnson to boost a defense that allowed 60 passing touchdowns last season.
32. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have upside in the future with the Jets’ draft picks, but unless Andrew Luck returns to form, this team will struggle once again.