NFL Power Rankings: Draft lifts Cardinals, Broncos; Patriots fall

Print

Whether you were in Chicago, watched from home or sat in a bowling alley, you saw what was initially deemed an unsexy draft turn out to be legit entertainment for three days.

The 15 hours or so of live coverage uncovered so many stories. There was the stuff we didn't need to hear that dropped right before the proceedings began on Thursday night. There were the unfortunately injured players receiving good fortune on Day 2. And of course, the human interest stories that spanned the globe on Day 3. All the roster additions equate to a shakeup among the pecking order of all 32.

You bet, Walter. Been doing these Power Rankings for six years now. The post-draft version is always challenging: Do I overreact to a solid draft or tap the brakes on rookie expectations?

So without further ado, let's rejigger this Power Rankings deal. As always, give me your take: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence!

NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our March 16 Power Rankings, posted after the opening week of free agency.

RANK

1

PANTHERS

Can't find a strong enough reason to nudge these guys from the top spot. I am as concerned as any Panthers fan over Josh Norman lining up in D.C. nowadays. At the same time, Carolina will be welcoming Kelvin Benjamin back to Mike Shula's offense this season. That is a huge addition without really being an addition. The key for Ron Rivera's group is whether or not CBs James Bradberry and Daryl Worley -- the team's Day 2 picks -- can make an immediate impact. There were plenty of folks who thought both players were taken a bit early. As Hall of Fame head coach Bill Walsh used to say, That jazz doesn't matter if they help the football team. Well, he kind of said it like that.

RANK

2

CARDINALS

1

Entertained some Twitter feedback recently about the Cardinals being the most overrated team in the league. Respectfully disagree. This organization's primary offseason need was filled a month before the draft, when Arizona traded for pass rusher Chandler Jones. The Cards still needed assistance in the front seven -- and found it in 29th overall pick Robert Nkemdiche. Oh, and don't sleep on Chris Johnson coming back healthy. No one is talking about that. A Johnson & Johnson backfield! No more tears, Cardinals fans.

RANK

3

STEELERS

1

Did the Steelers do enough in the draft to shore up the porous pass defense? Well, they couldn't do much more, considering the first two picks went toward defensive backs, including Artie Burns at 25th overall. Second-rounder Sean Davis might have a ways to go in terms of becoming a polished pro, but his size and speed are enticing. If these guys contribute in Year 1, and if Pittsburgh stays relatively healthy, what's to keep Mike Tomlin's multiple chains out of Houston on Super Bowl Sunday? By the way, seventh-round pick Tyler Matakevich is good at football.

RANK

4

PACKERS

1

If there is one NFC squad that can leapfrog the Panthers and Cardinals into Super Bowl LI to face the Steelers, it's Green Bay. The Packers will benefit greatly from Jordy Nelson coming back healthy. Obvi. First-round choice Kenny Clark immediately should make the defensive front better. He came on the set of "NFL HQ" last month and didn't strike me as someone who felt the pro game would be too big for him. Selecting tackle Jason Spriggs was as much an accounting maneuver as an on-field move, given the contracts that are coming up soon on the offensive line. Third-round pick Kyler Fackrell is a rush linebacker who was taken in a spot where select cheeseheads were hoping for an ILB, an area of need coming into the draft.

RANK

5

BRONCOS

1

Don't know about you, but I loved the campiness of Jake Plummer skiing down the slope to announce a Broncos Day 3 pick. Genius. Besides the fact that I thought Plummer was competing in an over-40 handball tournament somewhere, the idea of having a mediocre quarterback from every franchise's history announce a draft pick from a regionally appropriate locale is awesome. The Texans could have Matt Schaub shout the team's fifth-round pick from a field of cow chips. Oh wait, he's still playing. The Raiders might ask Andrew Walter to announce their sixth-round pick from Wally's Tattoos and Body Piercings. The Packers could have Lynn Dickey provide their seventh-round choice from ... from ... wherever people stereotypically congregate in Green Bay. Loved the Paxton Lynch pick, but I still maintain Mark Sanchez will be alright. There was no reason to trade for Sam Bradford. Still, the Broncos remain at the back end of the top five due to the cadre of quality players they lost this offseason.

RANK

6

PATRIOTS

4

Despite not owning a first-round draft choice, the Patriots still managed to pull in talent from the college marketplace. Malcolm Mitchell was a hidden gem on Day 3. Alabama product Cyrus Jones could start in nickel packages on opening Sunday. Tabbing Jacoby Brissett as built-in Jimmy G competition was one of the more interesting moves of the draft. All and all, New England drafted nine players. So why are the Pats at six? You know why, whether you approve or not.

RANK

7

SEAHAWKS

Second-round choice Jarran Reed can start at DT this year. My colleague Daniel Jeremiah had him as his 13th-best prospect in the entire draft. Meanwhile, Quinton Jefferson, another defensive tackle, could be a rotational guy for Pete Carroll. Point is, the Seahawks addressed a major area of need by drafting these guys. It will be interesting to see how third-rounder C.J. Prosise fits in at running back. Thomas Rawls was awfully productive before a season-ending ankle injury last December, but he may or may not be a full-time starter in the making. Not disparaging Rawls, but bear in mind he was an undrafted free-agent signee.

RANK

8

CHIEFS

The Chiefs' draft lacked sex appeal. So what? Trading out of the first round often causes fans to think a team did nada in a draft. For Kansas City, this couldn't be further from the truth. Let's start with second-round pick Chris Jones, who literally danced in front of me and Scott Hanson on the Selection Square stage like he was listening to Mark Morrison in 1997. The other picks might not be macks (short for "mack daddy," a late-'90s term, in case you're reading this article in your Missouri State dorm room), but they all filled minor needs -- from competition at guard, to backup quarterback, to the secondary. It was a functional, practical draft for Andy Reid and Co.

RANK

9

VIKINGS

1

Imagine it's five years ago and you hop on YouTube ... Instead of watching "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" or "Rawhead Rex," you take in some 2011 Manchester United highlights. You live in, uhh, let's say Duluth, Minnesota. And you think, Damn, that Premier League soccer looks rad! So you try out for a soccer club over in chi-chi Edina. Five years pass, and here you are, about to play for Manchester United. #MoritzBoehringer

RANK

10

BENGALS

1

Mixed reviews on Cincy's draft haul. Former Ravens defensive end Chris Canty, my cohort on "NFL HQ" on Monday, liked what the Bengals did. My concern was that they were not able to get one of the first-round wide receivers. That said, I met Tyler Boyd a month ago and can tell you that guy is not lacking in confidence. If he can be as prolific a pass catcher as he was at Pitt, Cincy found itself a WR2 better than Mohamed Sanu or Marvin Jones.

RANK

11

RAIDERS

2

Too high? Maybe. Yet, as we move through the offseason and hurtle toward training camp, certain teams that didn't make the postseason will begin creeping into the territory of last year's playoff field. This is the opening salvo on that front, as the free agency period and culture around this organization is evolving from perennial hopelessness to surging contention. Tabbing Karl Joseph in the first round absolutely filled a need, even if it wasn't a BPA move. (Yeah, that's "best pick available" in draftspeak.) The key to the successful draft? DEs Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun carrying the proper combativeness to be meanies in the trenches. That's the book on both guys. #meanies

RANK

12

TEXANS

Houston is a competitive football team that we won't judge further until the preseason. Nice job on the Nick Martin and Tyler Ervin picks. Still, between free agency and the draft, this offense has turned over like the woman in those late-night Tempur-Pedic mattress commercials (originally developed by NASA). With a new QB, RB, WR2 and C, it will be interesting to see how this all rolls together ... or if the Texans get Rickrolled by the Jaguars in the South. A few of you readers just got rickrolled now. It's perpetual.

RANK

13

REDSKINS

2

Defending NFC East champs. Feels cool to say, right? Hasn't been said much over the last 25 years, not since Joe Gibbs was hiking his maroon pants halfway up his stomach and donning that classic burgundy Redskins trucker hat. So how does Washington stay atop what was once the most feared division in football? It starts with a repeat performance from Kirk Cousins, an even season from DeSean Jackson and any semblance of consistency from the running game. Matt Jones can't put the ball on the carpet like he did in 2015 (five fumbles, four lost). One of the last picks of the 2016 draft, running back Keith Marshall (Round 7, No. 242 overall), could provide pop. This kid runs a 4.3 40-yard dash. That's almost Darrell Green speed.

RANK

14

BILLS

Thumbs up to the # BillsMafia. Your team pieced together a draft class that has the potential to push Buffalo into the playoff heap. I recapped the Bills talented haul immediately after the draft, and a few days later, I feel at least 50-50 that Rex Ryan's group will be in the 10-win range. Much depends on the quarterback. Oh, and Buffalo can't get swept by the Patriots or lose to both the Seahawks and Cardinals. Essentially, the Bills need to beat a quality team that isn't the Jets this year. Still, there's no question Ryan's defense has the requisite oomph.

RANK

15

GIANTS

1

Who knows who's going to win the NFC East? The Redskins are the defending champs, but they have a suspect running game and a quarterback who has performed at a high level for only one season. The Cowboys are a solid football team when Tony Romo is healthy, but they're set to be without their two pass rushers for the first four games of the season. Meanwhile, the Giants added several major pieces on defense in free agency, drafted corner Eli Apple in the first round, then knocked it out of the park with the second-round selection of receiver Sterling Shepard. He could be a terror in the slot.

RANK

16

COWBOYS

1

It was hard to love the Ezekiel Elliott pick at first. Not because it wasn't exciting -- it was more the combination of Elliott with second-round selection Jaylon Smith. If the Cowboys had spent their first-round pick on Jalen Ramsey -- a defender who can contribute right away -- then the Smith pick would've made more sense to me. Taking Elliott and Smith means a defense devoid of its top two outside rushers the first four games of the season -- thanks to the suspensions of DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory -- gets no immediate blue-chip bump from the draft. So, while the Elliott and Smith selections were awesome individually ... As a mixture? I'm not so sure.

RANK

17

JAGUARS

1

Thought the Jaguars enjoyed the most delicious draft feast. This after a highly prolific free agency period that saw the front office only miss out on Olivier Vernon (who was priced too high, anyway). GM David Caldwell has earned 2x whatever he's making this spring, by virtue of making Jacksonville relevant for the first time since Fred Taylor and MJD rumbled past the Steelers in the 2007 wild-card round. It's fun that these guys don't stink anymore.

RANK

18

COLTS

1

Most takes on the Colts' draft are of the glowing variety, with analysts far and wide strongly approving of the organization protecting its quarterback. First-round pick Ryan Kelly receives high grades, and is a far more popular pick than wide receiver Phillip Dorsett was last year. Now, if Dorsett takes a step forward as a sophomore, the passing game could be formidable. Interesting, though, that selecting a center would be more popular than drafting a WR. One pick missing from last week's haul? Another RB.

RANK

19

FALCONS

What is this team? Are the Falcons the guys who started 6-1 last year or the outfit that dropped seven of its last nine? Clearly coach Dan Quinn is looking to build the defense, as three of Atlanta's first four picks went toward that side of the ball. The assumption is that first-rounder Keanu Neal will play close to the line, supporting the run so effectively that clubs will be forced into third-and-not-manageables. Thumbs up on the selection of linebacker De'Vondre Campbell.

RANK

20

BUCCANEERS

The Bucs must be trying to get back to the early 2000s. The entire draft was dedicated to defense, special teams and physical players. Four of GM Jason Licht's seven selections boosted the D, while the two offensive players were a 305-pound tackle ( Caleb Benenoch) and a fullback ( Dan Vitale). The latter can catch the football, which gives him a solid shot of making a contribution. Pretty cool that he was taken on a day that Dick Vitale announced one of Tampa's picks. But there's no relation, BAY-BEE!

RANK

21

DOLPHINS

Multitudes of Dolphins fans hit up the comments section of my post-draft manifesto Saturday, as well as the old Twitter account (@HarrisonNFL), with disgruntlement over my review of the organization's draft class. I'm not saying Miami messed it up; the worry with the draft is the pressure Laremy Tunsil is under, as well as the question of which other picks will contribute come Week 1 at Seattle. Underneath all the drama surrounding Tunsil is the fact that Ryan Tannehill is much less likely to be pummeled by Michael Bennett now. Speaking of Twitter, though, your hack writer would like to hear Dolphins fans' take on whether Jay Ajayi can become the lead back in Adam Gase's offense.

RANK

22

RAVENS

1

Ronnie Stanley should be a solid pick at sixth overall, and unlike Laremy Tunsil, Stanley will not be under the microscope with regard to everything he does off the field. That can only be an advantage for the Ravens' first-round draft choice, fair or unfair (of course, it's unfair to Tunsil). But where does Stanley play? Spoke about this with Canty, and he said there is no way the team is benching right tackle Ricky Wagner. In other words, seven-year veteran Eugene Monroe is on notice. What is it with Ozzie Newsome always drafting players whose names you can't pronounce? Simply wondering.

RANK

23

LIONS

1

Don't know about you, but I am ready for a Super Bowl in Detroit. No, not a Super Bowl in which we hear 5,657 times about Jerome Bettis. Rather, a Super Bowl in which the Lions are actually involved. Perhaps this draft class was the first step. Rookie GM Bob Quinn went all Olivia Newton-John -- that is, he got all physical in this draft, from offensive line all the way out to the safety position. Check out this fourth-round pick. First-round choice Taylor Decker isn't playing around, either. By the way, did you know Detroit hosted Super Bowl XVI at the Pontiac Silverdome? The Lions beat the champs that year -- the 49ers -- in Week 1. They also toppled the Niners' eventual opponents in the '81 NFC Championship Game -- the Cowboys -- in Week 11. However, the Lions managed to lose the division at home in Week 16. #sameoldLions

RANK

24

JETS

1

Forget all the QB drama for a moment. Get excited about first-round pick Darron Lee, a linebacker who could enter the starting lineup with the Jets' veteran group almost immediately. OLB Jordan Jenkins out of Georgia could make an impact, as well, potentially providing coach Todd Bowles with this really neat football-related thing called "sacks from someone not named Muhammad Wilkerson." Back to the quarterback: I dived into the Christian Hackenberg pick Saturday. Solution: Give the veteran nucleus a veteran QB.

RANK

25

EAGLES

1

Sam Bradford apparently still wants to be traded. Whoopty-doo. This is how that situation will play out: The Eagles will hold on to him, unless they are completely blown away by a trade offer, which is going to come from ... where, exactly? Which team needs Bradford that badly? Per Jay Glazer, a former colleague at Fox, Philly likes the idea of a "pissed-off" Bradford. Meanwhile, Chase Daniel -- who worked with new coach Doug Pederson in Kansas City the last three seasons and, given the opportunity, might prove to be as good as Bradford -- is pulling farther ahead. Everyone I've spoken with is high on No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz. They think he merely needs time. All the more reason to hold on to Bradford for a year.

RANK

26

RAMS

1

The Jared Goff Era begins. It's exciting. Former Rams QB Jim Everett looks excited -- at least, if you're going by the gusto he displayed in announcing the team's Day 3 selection of Pharoh Cooper on Saturday. The guy looked slightly more excited than he did when talking to Jim Rome back in the day. Still on the fence as to whether it is better to let a quarterback sit or throw him to the wolves Week 1. Either way, playing in the Pac-12 meant Goff was facing top-notch talent on a week-in, week-out basis.

RANK

27

CHARGERS

2

The Bolts' selection of Joey Bosa three picks into Round 1 was the draft's earliest shocker. The sharkskin suit he was wearing was surprise No. 2. That sucker was sweet. We'll be able to say the same about the pick if Bosa can develop into more than a guy who stops the run and contributes a handful of sacks. No matter what, he won't be playing DE in the version of the 3-4 that S.D. runs. If S.D. sticks with the three-man front, Bosa will be an edge OLB; otherwise, he'll move to DE in a 4-3. OK, I'm acronym'd out. I trust DC John Pagano on this deal.

RANK

28

BEARS

2

Spent a bit of time with tight end Zach Miller during draft week. The dude is excited for the season. He also is rocking that sweet, shaved-side (clipper No. 1), slick-haired-with-the-hard-part look. It's sporty. With five of the Bears' first six picks aimed towards the defensive side of the ball, it's obvious John Fox wants to sport an imposing defense for a change. Whether it was in Carolina or Denver, Fox has always wanted to run the football and play D. While taking a divergent path with the Peyton Manning Broncos, remember it was during Fox's regime that Denver drafted Von Miller and Malik Jackson and signed DeMarcus Ware. The Bears lost out on the C.J. Anderson sweepstakes; now youngster Jeremy Langford must make hay as the lead back. That job will be made easier if second-round choice Cody Whitehair makes the left guard job his by preseason.

RANK

29

TITANS

2

Think general manager Jon Robinson should receive early votes for Executive of the Year. There's no question the Titans are in better shape than they've been in at any time in recent memory, probably since at least 2008. Even that 13-3 team was worse at QB, with Kerry Collins slingin' the rock. So why is Tennessee 29th here? Because all of these slick Robinson moves must make beautiful music together on the field if there is to be relevant January football in Nashville. Curious to see how much read-option the Titans run with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, who are rock 'n' roll in a single-back, deep-set formation.

RANK

30

SAINTS

2

Oh boy ... don't particularly enjoy placing the Saints this low on the Power Rankings, but what do you do with a team that allowed 45 touchdowns through the air in 2015? New Orleans also allowed 476 points, and you can't tangle all of that in former coordinator Rob Ryan's hair. Yet, the club only drafted three players on defense (the Saints had the fewest picks overall with five). That said, teaming Cameron Jordan with first-rounder Sheldon Rankins makes this front formidable.

RANK

31

49ERS

1

This ranking is not indicative of the Niners' draft. Rather, it reflects a team that endured a poor 2015 campaign and still doesn't have a plan at the quarterback position. Colin Kaepernick's excitement for playing in San Francisco resembles that of your girlfriend after you ask her to play Axis & Allies. Blaine Gabbert is a reasonable option in a pinch, but the point is, waiting until the sixth round to draft Jeff Driskel isn't going to cut it. And this is coming from someone who really liked the 49ers' draft.

RANK

32

BROWNS

It's OK to be excited, Browns fans. No, really. The infusion of talent in Berea is real, as the organization is bringing in 14 draft picks to compete for starting jobs. Thankfully, that includes quarterback Cody Kessler, who, per executive Sashi Brown, will compete with Robert Griffin III for the No. 1 spot. Brown said "not to sleep on Cody Kessler." Hey, we're not planning to do so. We'd just rather not fall asleep on the Browns at midseason because they're 2-8 again.

Elliot Harrison is an analyst on NFL Network's "NFL HQ" and can also be seen regularly on NFL Now. Follow him on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop