Power Rankings  

 

NFL Power Rankings: Packers rise after draft, while Panthers slip

The 2014 NFL Draft is in the rearview. Thankfully, we have two months of top-10 shows to look forward to ... Oh, but that's not true, as rookie minicamps crop up on the calendar and the Michael Sam saga rolls on.

Brooks: Draft grades
Bucky Brooks performs a division-by-division assessment of the draft, highlighting notable picks and handing out grades. READ

Yes, the draft spawned so many enticing storylines. We learned that Jeff Fisher has a spontaneous streak, that three quarterbacks were first-round worthy, and that the Chiefs still expect Alex Smith to do it himself. The offensive tackles certainly had their way, and we saw (thanks to Greg Robinson and Jordan Matthews) that the bow tie is still in play.

There aren't many sporting events that can match the prolonged drama of the NFL draft. It also provides an opportunity for teams to restock -- and for us to review. So how does the league hierarchy stack up after last week's talent grab? See below, and feel free to share your take ... @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence ...

NOTE: The lineup below reflect changes from our March 19 Power Rankings, posted just after the 2014 free agency period kicked off.

RANK

1

SEAHAWKS

Sorry, but no change at the top. The Seahawks accomplished what they needed to in this draft -- although they also might as well have condemned receiver Paul Richardson to a Klingon penal colony when they took him in the second round. Unless he follows Golden Tate and escapes one day, Richardson's dreams of topping 1,000 yards likely will fade, just like those of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Sidney Rice, Deion Branch, Braylon Edwards and every other wideout who flamed out in Coffee Land. At least Percy Harvin had a bang-up 2013 season ... being banged up. That said, I liked the fourth-round selection of receiver Kevin Norwood and the seventh-round pickup of running back Kiero Small -- who is hardly that at 5-foot-8 and 244 pounds.

Power rankings trivia: Who was the last Seahawks receiver to hit the 1,000-yard mark? Hit me up with your answers @HarrisonNFL

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2

49ERS

1

The draftniks all like what Niners general manager Trent Baalke accomplished in the great college marketplace. It should be interesting to see what safety Jimmie Ward (first round) and inside linebacker Chris Borland (third round) deliver for coach Jim Harbaugh this year. Ward should play in the nickel and Borland should play on any downs that don't require the nickel. Can Borland help fill in while NaVorro Bowman recovers from knee surgery? I love that NFL Media's Mike Mayock called Borland "a thundering hardhead." Just the right kind of guy to challenge Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, no?

RANK

3

BRONCOS

1

The defending AFC champs drop slightly, but only because the 49ers drafted about 659 players to retool their roster. I'm not in love with Denver's selections of cornerback Bradley Roby (first round) and receiver Cody Latimer (second). Still, the latter could learn a lot from Peyton Manning.

In other news, I'm looking for veteran safety Rahim Moore to have a nice year with the Broncos. I got a Facebook friend request from him last week. Let's hope none of my random posts sail over his head.

RANK

4

PATRIOTS

Oh, how the Patriots required a defensive tackle. Here's hoping -- for their sake -- that Dominique Easley fits the bill. Consider this a small risk, as the 29th overall pick is coming off an ACL injury. With Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly both nearing AARP age, New England really had no choice with that choice.

While the Jimmy Garoppolo pick in the second round was sexy, I hope the quarterback prospect realizes Tom Brady wants to win, like, five more Super Bowls. Basically, when Garoppolo is 34, he can step right in under center. Obviously, Bill Belichick, that sultan of style, was preoccupied by his search for the handsomest QB duo pro football has to offer.

RANK

5

SAINTS

Sneaky-good draft from those New Orleans Saints. Receiver Brandin Cooks -- all 5-foot-10 of him -- must be jumping for joy after going to the team with the 20th overall pick. Cooks' 4.33-second 40-yard dash aside, his ability to effortlessly catch the ball will be welcomed by a team that always throws for 5,000-plus yards.

In the second round, the Saints went with a big corner in Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Too bad they didn't have the 6-3, 218-pounder covering on that Kenbrell Thompkins disaster at Gillette last year. Tell me that ending wasn't a dry shave for Saints fans.

RANK

6

PACKERS

1

Nice little arrangement for those always-competitive Packers, watching Ha Ha Clinton-Dix slide on down to them at No. 21. I'm still amazed the Rams, Bears, Steelers, Cowboys and Ravens -- all of whom could have used a safety, and all of whom picked before Green Bay -- passed on the guy many considered to be the top talent at that position in the draft. Shoot, even the Jets did Packers GM Ted Thompson a solid, taking safety Calvin Pryor at No. 18.

This is just what the team with the QB Rating King, the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year and now Julius Peppers needed: help from everybody else.

RANK

7

COLTS

1

Draft day didn't garner too much attention for the Indianapolis Colts, who had just five picks, none of which were in the first round. Of course, looking at their rookie haul, methinks GM Ryan Grigson did better than Kevin Costner in "Draft Day" ... or Kevin Costner in "Waterworld." And unlike the latter, Indy's draft has a premise I understand. The Colts' first pick -- offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, snagged in the second round -- should step in and play somewhere. Now.

RANK

8

CHIEFS

Kansas City's roster still carries a heckuva lot of talent, and the Chiefs should be in the hunt for an AFC wild-card spot again. That said, it was tough to appreciate the selection at No. 23 of defensive end Dee Ford, who wasn't seen by many teams as a first-rounder -- and whom the Chiefs, frankly, didn't need. At least, they didn't need him as much as they did a wide receiver, a tight end or secondary help. Yes, Kansas City did pick up cornerback Phillip Gaines in the third round, but the jury is still out as to how NFL-ready he is. Quarterback Alex Smith could use a wubby besides Jamaal Charles.

RANK

9

EAGLES

For who? For what? That was the feeling at Radio City Music Hall when outside linebacker Marcus Smith's name was called as the Eagles' pick at No. 26. No one anticipates him alligator-arming on his pass rush, and perhaps Trent Cole will be on a pitch count this year, but Marcus Smith in the first round? On another note, I spoke with receiver Jordan Matthews after Philly grabbed him in the second round. He's ready to get to work and totally stoked to tee it up for coach Chip Kelly.

RANK

10

CARDINALS

1

If you dug Adrian Wilson's nachos, you're gonna be all hot dogs and apple pie about safety Deone Bucannon, Arizona's choice at No. 27. This dude will be able to make plays near the line of scrimmage and in coverage. Plus he can tackle, which is kind of cool in a league that has devolved into grab, grab, grab. By the way, Deone is pronounced "DAY-own." Wanted you to know in case you're asked to sound it out at one of Matt Leinart's hot tub parties.

RANK

11

PANTHERS

1

How do we feel about Carolina taking receiver Kelvin Benjamin at No. 28 over Marqise Lee, Panthers fans? Give me a holler ... @HarrisonNFL. Can't blame anyone who works for this team if they didn't want to chance yet another USC flameout. Remember the halcyon days of other former Trojan receivers in Panthers unis? Ugh.

On a more positive note, I spoke to second-round pick Kony Ealy on Friday night. Dude knows he's a lucky fella to be joining the D-line in Charlotte. Holy cow, that's quite a group.

RANK

12

BENGALS

1

You want answers? You want answers?! Fine. Yes, Cincinnati had the best draft. We already wrote about it here, but let's just say this: For all the criticism of Mike Brown and this organization overall, no team -- NO team -- has more talent than the Cincinnati Bengals.

RANK

13

CHARGERS

1

This Jason Verrett is supposed to be one heckuva player. The Chargers' first-round selection is 5-9, has had a torn labrum and has a vertical of nearly 40 inches. Your friendly writer is 5-9, has had a torn labrum and has a 20-inch vertical. So there you go.

In other news, second-round pick Jeremiah Attaochu's first order of business should be getting Dwight Freeney's cell number and blowing it up non-stop. Maybe that way, the rookie outside linebacker will average more than one sack for every 10 games played, otherwise known as "a torrid Melvin Ingram pace."

RANK

14

BEARS

Bears GM Phil Emery is getting it done in Chicago. Last year, he revamped a clear team weakness on the offensive line. This year, he went to work on the defensive line via both free agency and the draft, bagging a nice haul last weekend. I do feel Chicago's scouting department likely wanted defensive tackle Aaron Donald at No. 14, but the Rams snagged him at No. 13. Still, Green Bay and the rest of the NFC North should look out.

RANK

15

RAVENS

The Baltimore Ravens went about their work very quietly during draft week. Some wonder how defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, taken in the second round, fits into their scheme. On the flip side, the selection of safety Terrence Brooks was a slam dunk. The mid-third-rounder certainly could have gone earlier; Brooks has the potential to be a complete player in run support, blitzing and coverage. He and Matt Elam might end up being the best tandem since Michael Bolton and Samir Nagheenanajar.

RANK

16

STEELERS

Many Steelers fans wanted somebody other than Ryan Shazier at No. 15 overall. But hey, this kid could really turn into one of the most disruptive and athletic inside linebackers in football. Besides, who needs a wide receiver when you can't protect Ben Roethlisberger anyway?

RANK

17

JETS

1

It was hard not to like the Jets' draft. While we're at it, let's give some kudos to Rex Ryan for admitting some homerism in the selection of quarterback Tajh Boyd. Or call it quasi-nepotism; Ryan's son played with Boyd at Clemson, so the New York coach made the move. All good. A sixth-rounder shouldn't threaten Geno Smith, anyway.

RANK

18

DOLPHINS

1

On Saturday night, we made it pretty clear that the Dolphins' draft didn't sit well with us. Did new GM Dennis Hickey stumble? Who knows? To make that evaluation, we'll need at least two years, if not more. Hickey should get credit for shoring up one of the most woeful offensive lines in the league. Speaking of ... Mike Pouncey certainly showed he learned a lot from the Martin-Incognito mess -- or not.

RANK

19

GIANTS

Mark it down: Odell Beckham catches eight touchdown passes in 2014. That'll be enough to make the 12th overall pick a certifiable fantasy sleeper -- and send Rueben Randle back to the 500-yards-and-five-touchdowns range. Meanwhile, departed tight end Brandon Myers clearly was not a good fit for the down-the-seam highballs in former coordinator Kevin Gilbride's offense, but Big Blue could've used a big coup at TE in the draft. That is wordplay. Enjoy.

RANK

20

FALCONS

We're on the record with our approval of the Falcons' top pick, so let's take a deeper look at what GM Thomas Dimitroff tried to accomplish. After offensive tackle Jake Matthews went to Atlanta at No. 6 overall, seven of the Falcons' remaining eight picks were used on defensive players. Dimitroff got a force in the interior line ( Ra'Shede Hageman) in the second round. Third-round choice Dezmen Southward, who is uber fast (and faster than all the Uber drivers who own Priuses), should play immediately, at corner, nickel or safety. Lastly, Dimitroff completely restocked his linebacker corps and special teams by taking four linebackers on Saturday.

RANK

21

RAMS

2

Best haul in the NFC right here. Love the pick of defensive tackle Aaron Donald at No. 13. Imagine being an opposing offensive line coach prepping your squad to face the line Donald is joining, which also includes Chris Long, Michael Brockers and Robert Quinn ... No worries, fellas, if you get your butts handed to you this week ... Cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, scooped up in the second round, should help immediately. Now, we know you might be tired of the Michael Sam coverage. Cool. Still, I thought this was the most poignant, cut-to-the-chase analysis of the whole situation.

RANK

22

COWBOYS

1

Sometimes Cowboys fans seem to want owner Jerry Jones to think less about marketing and be a bit more shrewd with the football decisions (or just hire a football man to be general manager, but that's not happening). So what did the Cowboys do in the draft? Exactly what fans SAY they want, taking perhaps the best player available at No. 16 -- offensive tackle Zack Martin -- instead of making a "splash" pick with Johnny Manziel, who would have had to sit on the bench, and who has about a 2 percent chance of being better than Tony Romo. So most Dallas fans were happy with a non-nonsensical football selection, right?

Nope. They wanted Manziel. Of course.

RANK

23

BUCCANEERS

1

Boy, the Bucs are beginning to look like playoff contenders. Now if they would only go back to their old orange-and-whites. ... I caught up with Derrick Brooks, soon to be the proud owner of a new gold jacket, and I can tell Bucs fans that Brooks thinks the team is making the right moves.

Enter receiver Mike Evans with the seventh overall pick. Between the 6-5, 231-pound Evans and the 6-5, 230-pound Vincent Jackson, quarterback Josh McCown will have two trees to target on the outside -- just like he had with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery during his transcendent 2013 campaign in Chicago. Oh, then Tampa Bay landed 6-5 tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round. Good grief. The Bucs' air attack has gone from Oasis to U2's The Joshua Tree overnight.

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24

LIONS

2

How do we feel about this draft, Lions fans? Detroit could've used help at corner, where neither Chris Houston nor Darius Slay played especially well last year. ... But, despite having the pick of the (non-Justin Gilbert) litter at the 10 spot, the team went with a tight end. Eric Ebron might be a solid player; perhaps the Lions can score 28 points per game with him. At this rate, they'll have to, as they added only one player to their secondary, Nevin Lawson, and they waited until pick No. 133 to do it. Oh, and to all those who laughed when we listed "kicker" in Detroit's section of our NFC North draft needs piece: Did you see this?

RANK

25

BILLS

Helluva draft for a relatively new GM. Seriously, there's no way you can look at the Bills' dalliance in the rookie marketplace and not give a big bro hug to Doug Whaley. Yes, he traded for the fourth overall spot and landed a big name in receiver Sammy Watkins. But what if linebacker Preston Brown, a third-round choice, knocks it out of the park next to Brandon Spikes and the team's rookie rock star from last year, Kiko Alonso? Brown had 98 tackles and an astounding 12.5 tackles for loss in 2013.

RANK

26

REDSKINS

5

The jump up for Washington reflects the April signing of receiver DeSean Jackson, which happened since we last did this whole exercise. As for how the Redskins did in the draft ... So they didn't have a first-round pick -- big whoop. In the third round, Washington got a bottom-of-the-first-round talent in Morgan Moses, who should step in at right tackle immediately. Moves like that -- or even like the signing of Andre Roberts to play the slot -- might not be as exciting as Peter Jackson doing 15 CGI movies in a row. But they win football games.

RANK

27

VIKINGS

2

Major kudos to Vikings GM Rick Spielman for trading back into the first round to get the quarterback he wanted (well, among those not named Johnny Manziel) at No. 32 before the Texans (or someone who might have swapped spots with the Texans) did it at No. 33. Those Seahawks have become quite the trade buddies for Minnesota. Be more excited about ninth overall pick Anthony Barr, however. Guarantee: The linebacker will tip a pass to himself and take it to the house this year, Jason Taylor style. Mark it down.

RANK

28

JAGUARS

Landing Marqise Lee in the second round had to feel awesome for Jags fans, as few observers anticipated the receiver would last beyond Day 1. It should be noted that some Jacksonville backers jumped all over me for suggesting that there will be frustration if quarterback Blake Bortles isn't ready to play as a rookie. Regardless of what GM David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley say, you want the third overall pick of the draft to be ready to perform at some point in his first season; you don't want him taking a "redshirt" year. This isn't Marcus Lattimore we're talking about. Third overall picks should be able to contribute quickly.

RANK

29

TITANS

3

Would've liked to see the Titans address needs a bit more directly. That said, 11th overall pick Taylor Lewan should start immediately somewhere on the offensive line (even over free-agent signee Michael Oher). Plus, if you care about such things, Lewan has a personality. The selection of running back Bishop Sankey in Round 2 certainly makes sense, lest you want Shonn Greene getting 30 carries per game for this team. As for quarterback Zach Mettenberger, added in the sixth round? Glad there are those who think he'll be able to learn on the bench while incumbent starter Jake Locker plays. Yes, that sounds very, very good ... until Locker winds up on injured reserve in Week 2.

RANK

30

BROWNS

3

The drop for Cleveland solely reflects the potential suspension of receiver Josh Gordon -- not the Browns' draft, which was pretty solid. So everyone has seen the supposed leaked Patriots scouting report on Johnny Manziel by now. Apparently, he's spoiled, walks away from coaches, gets allowance from Gramps (still), believes in partiality when it comes to knowing the playbook and has some jealous teammates. Wonder if it said "still 200 times better than Brandon Weeden" on there.

RANK

31

RAIDERS

1

It was cool that Matt Millen served as an analyst on our NFL.com Live draft special. Say what you want about his days in Detroit's front office, but always remember that Millen has not one but four Super Bowl rings, and that he also had one of the best rookie seasons in Raiders history. Let's hope linebacker Khalil Mack, whose selection by Oakland at No. 5 was universally lauded, can duplicate the latter in 2014. What a prospect.

The key is what second-round pick Derek Carr can do. This team will not be getting out of the basement any time soon if the rookie quarterback doesn't beat out veteran Matt Schaub, especially if Schaub carries the same lack of confidence he clearly displayed on the field last year.

RANK

32

TEXANS

What will fourth-round selection Tom Savage -- one of the most interesting picks of the 2014 NFL Draft -- give coach Bill O'Brien and staff? By all accounts, Savage has the right attitude; he should learn from O'Brien and quarterback coach George Godsey, who did a terrific job as tight end coach for the Patriots ( Rob Gronkowski, anyone?) and was a solid QB himself at Georgia Tech. Don't worry, though: Savage won't make Texans fans forget about Schaub that quickly. After all, Savage rushed for -319 yards in college.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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