It is about that time.
The 78th annual college flea market is in the books, and every team has new hope. Vikings fans certainly expect their team to be No. 1 in our post-draft Power Rankings. I Ponder'd it, for about two milliseconds.
Patience is the word of the day. Let's remember that these are fresh-faced kids who need time to develop. When I was 22, I was driving a teal green Probe with an equalizer. Like I said, give them time to grow.
Speaking of patience, your neighborhood writer pulled a Peter King and penned much of this column at Starbucks ... But not before he had to wait in line behind a guy with an uncomfortable amount of neck hair as he ordered a venti half-caff macchiato with a soy dandelion-root chaser. Basically, you should have gotten these Power Rankings 10 minutes earlier.
Now let's get to it. As always, feel free to drop off your thoughts at the usual place: @Harrison_NFL.
Let the dissension commence!NOTE: The following pecking order reflects changes from the March 19 Power Rankings, published after the initial free agency surge.
The Seahawks make the big leap, pushing the Broncos down -- not because of anything that Denver did wrong, but rather because of how formidable Pete Carroll's group has become. First, the Seahawks have an outstanding free agency period. Then they follow that up with effective drafting. The Jesse Williams pick represents great value, as there is no way that guy should have fallen to Day 3.
Calm down, Denver. Your team is looking awesome. It's just one slot, this Broncos "drop." The only reason Denver falls here is because Seattle had the best free agency/draft offseason out there. For those non- Broncos fans out there who think Denver does not deserve to be ranked ahead of New England, Houston and Baltimore, bear in mind this club has the easiest strength of schedule (.430) in the league. That's scary -- especially considering this is a club that recently added Wes Welker, Louis Vasquez, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Terrance Knighton. Oh, and also drafted Montee Ball.
New England typically knows what it's doing, so it's difficult to question organizational philosophy, but ... Couldn't this club have used a top-notch player, instead of trading down for more picks? Look around the roster; more and more, the Patriots are becoming Tom Brady ... and a bunch of guys. As opposed to: Tom Brady, Corey Dillon, Willie McGinest, Ty Law and Richard Seymour.
OK, so we basically learned in this draft that Green Bay hated all of its running backs. Ryan Grant probably isn't getting a Christmas card this year, and James Starks is penciled in for five carries ... like, in Oakland or somewhereselseville. Still, this idea that "You can never have enough running backs" is bogus. Quit treating these guys like they're MLB hurlers on an 80-pitch count. Whether The Guy is Eddie Lacy or Johnathan Franklin, I'm just not a fan of taking two backs in the first four rounds of a draft. There are scores of running backs throughout NFL history -- from Tony Dorsett to Barry Sanders to Curtis Martin -- who carried the ball 250 times per season. Franklin's a nice kid and a talented player, but at 125, Green Bay could have fortified the O-line, secondary or even drafted a backup quarterback.
Doesn't seventh feel about right for the Texans? They signed Ed Reed, and have taken out the Bengals in two straight postseasons, yet don't really deserve to be viewed as any better than the seventh-best team in football. In fact, the club directly above Houston shredded the Texans' defense in prime time last year -- a game known as Jordy Nelson Night in America. Is it just me, or does DeAndre Hopkins seem like the quintessential No. 2 receiver? ...
Super Bowl champs drop again. Three reasons why:
1) The last time we did these rankings, it looked like Ed Reed might stay. Baltimore lost a little too much leadership to keep a top-five slot.
2) The Ravens play the fifth-hardest sked in the league.
3) Cincinnati is the most balanced club, from top to bottom, in the AFC North.
The Redskins didn't have a first-round pick, but they grabbed themselves a player in Round 2. David Amerson picked off 13 balls in 2011. Last year, he "only" had five. The last time a Redskins DB intercepted more than 18 passes over two seasons, Rob Schneider made a good movie. Which is to say, never.
Vikings fans have to be excited about this draft class, though NFL Network researcher Drew Christensen made a hopeful plea to me on the subject of Cordarrelle Patterson: "Less Troy Williamson ... more Moss." Either way, that Vikings first round looks damn good on scrolls. (I'll be here all week.) Random aside: Anyone else think Aliens when they saw Patterson's hair under his hat?
Chicago took a leap of faith in taking inexperienced offensive guard Kyle Long in the first, and then followed with Jon Bostic, a linebacker out of Florida, in the second. I spoke with Lance Briggs on Saturday, and while his comments were ever-diplomatic and "team-first," I could tell the guy was wondering if Bostic can play -- and clearly believes the club will miss Brian Urlacher. This offseason, the defense parted ways with a well-respected defensive coordinator ( Rod Marinelli left for Dallas), as well as its on-field leader of the last 13 years. The problem at linebacker -- and ultimately in replacing Urlacher -- is that no teams really had any middle 'backers rated in the top 20 players of this draft class. Chicago picked 20th. So, hello, Kyle Long.
The Colts rank 14th on the strength of Andrew Luck and some smart, if not dynamic, free-agent signings. The addition of Greg Toler makes sense. This is an unheralded player who performed very well in Arizona last season. Meanwhile, LaRon Landry feels like Bob Sanders 2.0. Let's hope he doesn't parallel Sanders' injury history.
Miami got its man on draft day, and was willing to pay the price to do it. Jeff Ireland rolled the dice a lot this offseason, in more ways than just dealing his 42nd overall pick to swoop in at No. 3 and obtain the draft's best pass-rushing prospect ( Dion Jordan). I ran into Jordan in March, as well as at the draft. Bottom line: If his shoulder is right, he can be a force. With Cameron Wake, Randy Starks, Dannell Ellerbe and Reshad Jones in the mix, you might be looking at a wild-card team.
While many league observers question Jarvis Jones' longevity, the short term is an issue in Pittsburgh. More than at any time in recent memory, the Steelers are hoping a bunch of kids -- Le'Veon Bell, Markus Wheaton and Jones -- can provide significant contributions right now. Throw in David DeCastro, too, whose rookie season was pretty much a wash due to injury.
Exhibit A of modern pro football: In less than two months, the Buccaneers transformed a major weakness into a strength. They signed safety Dashon Goldson, traded for cornerback Darrelle Revis and drafted CB Johnthan Banks. Tell me those guys wouldn't have helped Tampa in the final six weeks of 2012, when the team completely fell apart and lost five games. The Bucs allowed 297.4 passing yards per game -- most in the NFL -- but at least they made up for it by recording the third-fewest sacks in the league.
Take another look at the defensive middle, once the weakness of this team. Ron Rivera now has Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short at DT, with 2012 rookie phenom Luke Kuechly at the "Mike." If the draftniks had Lotulelei and Short pegged correctly, consider it safe to say the Panthers' run D won't be giving up 110 rushing yards per game in 2013. Maybe, like, 75. Good night.
Don't look now, but those little San Diego Chargers had themselves a nice draft. Offensive tackle D.J. Fluker and wide receiver Keenan Allen could start immediately (although the transition to wideout at the pro level is often difficult). Meanwhile, all those people who bag on Manti Te'o have no idea what a student of the game he is. San Diego boasts Melvin Ingram (last year's No. 1 pick), Donald Butler, Jarret Johnson and Te'o at linebacker. How many teams have a more talented LB corps?
Philadelphia is yet another club that just completed an exemplary draft. Whether or not you're on the Matt Barkley train, the fact this team got him at 98th overall is notable. Philadelphia filled needs all over the place with savvy picks, starting, of course, with offensive tackle Lane Johnson, who should step in and start immediately. Tight end Zach Ertz should get on the field plenty, whether he starts or not. Ditto Bennie Logan on the defensive line.
A lot of Browns fans are not happy with the club's draft. It's imperative to remember, though, that Josh Gordon should be included as part of this class. (Taken in last year's supplemental draft, Gordon used up this year's second-round pick.) He's completely overlooked when the subject of young stars comes up. Considering Gordon caught 50 balls for 805 yards, even with Brandon Weeden's struggles, he shouldn't be.
The Lions got their man in Ziggy Ansah, a kid the Detroit staff was able to see up close and personal while coaching him at the Senior Bowl. Interestingly enough, GM Martin Mayhew drafted two other players (OG Larry Warford and TE Michael Williams) that his staff coached in the Senior Bowl. Power Rankings side note: Ran into Nate Burleson a couple of times at my hotel in New York. He's pumped about being the WR2 in Detroit's passing attack -- a spot that was ransacked by injury and inconsistency in 2012 -- and seemed ready to rock. Not to mention, he can sport a brick-colored vest without a hint of irony.
There were some concerns heading into the draft regarding Sheldon Richardson and his motivation. Let's just say this: Most of these guys who walked across the stage Thursday night are 21 or 22 years old. Richardson is 22. Give him a chance to grow up. Here's the other deal with Sheldon: He led all SEC interior defensive linemen with 75 tackles. Last I checked, that was a pretty strong conference with relatively talented D-linemen. Last I checked, the Jets' run defense was watching Chris Johnson take one 94 yards to the house on Monday Night Football ...
... Speaking of the Titans, this is a franchise we'd like to move up. Nonetheless, it's hard to do. Reviews on their draft were mixed. Chance Warmack is a heckuva football player; guards never go in the top 10, so that tells you something. Yet, this club gave up too much to get Justin Hunter. Not to mention, Tennessee just drafted Kendall Wright 20th overall last year. Plus, the question mark that is Jake Locker certainly wasn't answered by the acquisition of Ryan Fitzpatrick. So I defer to you, Titans Nation. (Is there such a thing as " Titans Nation?") How do you feel about the draft and the general status of your team? The dropbox for all things Music City is @Harrison_NFL.
You know that "Sports Science" show that routinely studies the "catch radius" of a wide receiver? One wonders what that looks like for Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin, as well as the other six or so guys Buffalo currently has on its depth chart. OK, EJ Manuel actually has fared alright in bad weather, and accuracy is not a concern. But that was a helluva draft risk, Buddy Nix, even if you did pick up two extra picks by moving down to the 16 spot in the first round. Hope it all works out. No, really. Bills fans deserve it.
Let's chat about something other than an offensive tackle who is unhappy with his contract. (Seriously, how much run is Branden Albert -- an OT on a 2-14 team -- getting in the media?) Third-round pick Travis Kelce (TE) and fourth-rounder Nico Johnson (ILB) are far more interesting; they could help the Chiefs immediately. Despite being a Day 3 guy, Johnson could beat out Akeem Jordan in August.
Matt Flynn has only started two NFL games, yet in those two games he's looked better than Blaine Gabbert has in his brief career. That gives Oakland the nod here over Jacksonville, because, frankly, both clubs have holes up and down the roster. Third-round pick Sio Moore could really give this team a lift at linebacker. He was quite productive last year at Connecticut, where he racked up 72 tackles, eight sacks and 11 pass breakups. Moore finished his college career with six tackles and a sack in the Senior Bowl.
The Jags keep swapping places with the Raiders. While I like the fact that Jacksonville was able to get an NFL-ready player in Luke Joeckel, that just means they have two solid tackles to protect a quarterback who doesn't make plays or, evidently, take responsibility. Justin Blackmon's four-game suspension doesn't help matters.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.