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NFL Power Rankings: Patriots reclaim top spot with stellar draft

2015 NFL Draft ... done. Free agency ... largely in the books, too.

So what's next?

A whole lot of speculation. And with that, it's an appropriate time to take a snapshot of how the league's 32 member clubs stack up against one another with a post-draft edition of the NFL Power Rankings.

We pulled off this exercise after the initial burst of free agency -- and caught some flak for elevating the Super Bowl runner-up (Seattle) over the Super Bowl champion (New England). While the list below won't necessarily predict how things will finish in 2015, it should provide at least some perspective on who now has the strongest chance at competing for a slot in Super Bowl 50. (Yeah, right.) Speaking of Super Bowl 50, here's my way-too-early, spring prediction for the big game:

I'm wavering on the latter. Like, teetering. (Seriously, spending the first-round pick on another wide receiver, Colts?) For my extended thoughts on those two teams -- and the rest of the league -- take a gander below. And, as always, feel free to share your thoughts: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence!

NOTE: The lineup below reflect changes from our March 17 Power Rankings, posted after the opening week of free agency.

New England recaptures the top spot by virtue of a stellar draft. One notion Bill Belichick has derived from those whimsical jaunts on Jimmy Johnson's boat out in the Keys: Acquire as many picks as possible, so you can get as many players off your big board as possible. Well, the Pats picked up ***11*** newbies, beginning with first-rounder Malcom Brown, who immediately firms up the soft underbelly of a Pats defense devoid of Vince Wilfork.

I'm not sure any general manager knows what he's doing more than Ted Thompson. Green Bay quite simply elevated its talent base this past weekend, while dotting some I's and crossing some needs along the way. If we had to nitpick anything, we'd point out that Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins are CB/S tweeners. But the Pack needed a nickel, and I could see Randall filling that role just fine when Green Bay opens at Soldier Field. (Oh, and by the way, I'm leaning toward Green Bay in Super Bowl 50.)

The Seahawks fall back to Earth, as part of the fallout from a so-so draft. For the third year in a row, Seattle didn't make a selection on Day 1. (In 2013 and '14, the 'Hawks traded their first-round pick to Minnesota; this year, they sent the selection to New Orleans in the Jimmy Graham trade.) While Seattle got leapfrogged by the team that bested it in a classic Super Bowl three months ago, much of that had to do with New England's college haul. Meanwhile, with Green Bay also having a better draft -- and home-field in this year's head-to-head matchup, an advantage the Seahawks thoroughly enjoyed in every recent bout against the Packers -- Seattle now resides in the three hole. Most draftniks thought the Seahawks reached on their top selection, second-round DE Frank Clark. OK. But former K-State star Tyler Lockett could contribute right away. Here's hoping Darrell Bevell thinks he's more aggressive to the ball than Ricardo Lockette.

It might be all the rage to say Seattle could get toppled in the NFC West this year, but we're not there yet. Arizona had itself a fine draft, particularly with the selection of offensive tackle D.J. Humphries. David Johnson, a running back nabbed in the third round, could end up playing the most snaps this season. All that said, Carson Palmer must put up a bigger -- or more efficient -- campaign than normal for the Cards to take the division. (How about 3,700 yards, 28 TDs and a 100 passer rating?) Cardinal to keep an eye on: Bucannon, Deone.

Ugh. Well, your hack writer thought the Colts would get a defensive stud in the first round to support his Super Bowl 50 prediction. Nope. GM Ryan Grigson went all Best Player Available on us and took speedy wideout Phillip Dorsett. He'll need to do something -- despite the fact that production could be limited, given Indy's truckload of targets -- or everyone will complain about a club this close not drafting a guy who can club running backs coming through the hole. DE Henry Anderson, a third-round selection, must get it going quickly ... like Week 1.

Plenty of folks were disappointed with Dallas not drafting a running back. After hearing Stephen Jones speak on SiriusXM NFL Radio, I think the Cowboys felt that no running back after a certain point (like, late in Day 2) was going to beat out Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar anyway. The 'Boys carry three backs ... McFadden has had huge days in the NFL before. Randle averaged 6.7 yards per carry last year. And Dunbar is flat-out explosive -- he will be a third-down guy, for certain. So let's put a muzzle on the "Why didn't they replace DeMarco?" whining.

As I guessed they would in my All-32: Pre-Draft Burning Questions column, the Steelers dedicated this draft to the defense, allocating six of eight picks to that side of the ball. Truthfully, I thought it would be seven of eight, with one spot committed to the search for veteran tight end Heath Miller's replacement. The Steelers did take that latter action with the 160th overall pick, snagging Jesse James. They might have addressed the position in the second round, had Baltimore not leapfrogged them to get Maxx Williams. (Damned Ravens.) Getting Bud Dupree at 22nd overall was like winning an eBay auction on a Civil War chess set for five bucks because no one else was bidding. Great pick.

Thought the Chiefs performed well this past weekend, scoring the touchdowns in the draft that their wideouts couldn't on the field. (We are legally obligated to bring up the woes of Chiefs WRs a minimum of 50 times. Our draft coverage only did so 47 times. We're back-filling.) The key here, though, might be second-round guard Mitch Morse. Like the Chargers -- who provided Philip Rivers with a dangerous backfield-mate in Melvin Gordon -- the Chiefs looked to give their most important offensive player some help. If Morse, who played tackle at Missouri, can adjust to interior line play on a full-time basis, Jamaal Charles could go for 15 and 15 this year: 1,500 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.

Knocked the Broncos back a bit, something Floyd Mayweather refused to do to Manny Pacquiao on Saturday night. (A hundred bucks for that?!) Didn't feel Denver needed to move up to draft Shane Ray. While Manny Ramirez might have been cut anyway, dealing him plus two picks to fill a position of strength didn't make much sense. That said, love the Jeff Heuerman pick -- tight ends who can block will never go out of style -- as well as the selection of center Max Garcia. Run the rock, GK.

Another fantastic draft haul for the Bengals. They do this every year. Do what? you say. Take care of business in the NFL draft like nobody's bidness. Here's a stat for you: 21 of the Bengals' 22 projected starters were either drafted by them or signed as undrafted free agents. The lone wolf? Safety Reggie Nelson, a mid-tier free-agent signee no one noticed a few years ago -- a guy who has gone on to start the last four years in Cincy, forcing 18 turnovers in the process. Also like the fact Cincinnati drafted a tight end who can seal the edge in the run game: Tyler Kroft. Not to be confused with Seals and Crofts.

Nice move by the Lions, picking up offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson in the first round -- and acquiring more picks in the process (by virtue of the trade with the Broncos). The pick I really liked was running back Ameer Abdullah, a Day 2 steal, according to many draftniks -- and a guy who gives the club a nice counterbalance to plodder Joique Bell. Megatron aside, the Lions' best chance to win is to run the football more than they have in years past. Quit hinging every outcome on Matthew Stafford.

Bumped the Eagles back a spot from the free agency edition of this file, but don't misunderstand me: I thought Chip Kelly and his scouting department did fine. And no, I'm not wondering what Kelly is thinking right now. Even if he did offer two 1's, Evan Mathis, Ron Jaworski and Jeremiah Trotter for Marcus Mariota. Thought Philly could've gone after a pass rusher somewhere on Day 1 or Day 2, given the departure of Trent Cole. While Kelly did nab LB Jordan Hicks, it wasn't for his pass-rush abilities.

Questions abound regarding Breshad Perriman. Either the Ravens know something everyone else doesn't, or they aren't too concerned about drops. Perhaps they should be: The Ravens Featherstone'd 29 balls last season, tied for fifth-most in the league. Still, it's remarkable that Perriman runs a mid-4.2 40 at his size (6-foot-2, 212 pounds). Of course, it's freaking unbelievable that someone runs a 4.2 at all. My God, we have become desensitized to today's speed numbers. Maybe it was all that running away by Mayweather.

Chargers get a small pat on the butt in these proceedings, as GM Tom Telesco's draft class was a wee bit more impressive than the Texans' or Panthers'. Here's a quick grade -- with analysis -- on said class. On another note, the best quote on any prospect might be one AFC director of scouting's take on second-round pick Denzel Perryman before the draft: "I have a little higher grade on Perryman than I probably should, but we like thumpers and badasses inside -- and he's both."

Mixed reviews thus far on the Texans' draft, but it's hard to argue with what CB Kevin Johnson offers. Receiver Jaelen Strong was a heckuva pick at 70th overall, too. Still, so much of what Houston does this season rests on the Are-either-Ryan Mallett-or-Brian Hoyer-better-than-just-good-enough-to-get-you-beat? conundrum -- as well as the age-old question of Arian Foster's health on a week-to-week basis.

Carolina might have moved on linebacker Shaq Thompson a bit early, and the Panthers paid a hefty price to grab WR Devin Funchess near the top of the second round. Regardless, there's no way we're putting any team in the NFC South ahead of Carolina. It's too bad the Trail Blazers don't play the Panthers this year, or any year. Who wouldn't want Hack-a-Shaq II?

Fortify wide receiver even further? Check. Stock up on the defensive line? Check. Draft two talented players multiple spots beneath their talent level? Double check! DeVante Parker would have gone to the Texans at 16, guaranteed. (OK, if not, he wouldn't have lasted much longer.) Some draftniks found it mildly startling that teams like the Rams (picking 10th overall), Browns (12th) and Saints (13th) didn't take the Louisville wideout. How DT Jordan Phillips fell to 52 is anybody's guess. Maybe Nostradamus inked a quatrain about it somewhere. We'll get to that next time in our seer Power Rankings (Edgar Cayce, the new No. 1).

Blast the horn thing no one can spell: Minnesota had a doggone solid draft! (Gjallarhorn -- looked it up on Wikieverything.) I provided my own "best and worst" of the 2015 NFL Draft here, and gave the Vikings multiple positive marks. A quality haul indeed. And while these rankings don't reflect it just yet, the space between the Lions at 11 and the Vikings at 18 is thisclose.

Win, lose or draw, the Todd Gurley selection at 10th overall was fun, man. Slowly but surely, teams are going back to controlling the line of scrimmage and running the rock. (Well, everyone but the Colts, who will be drafting five more wide receivers under the best-player-available banner. But we digress.) Gurley might not be the starter come September, but with the completely retooled offensive line -- Les Snead drafted four linemen, including two on Day 2 -- and a dominant D-line, Nick Foles might not have to do nearly as much as was required of his trade counterpart/predecessor.

OK, so some folks -- including many Bills fans, apparently -- weren't quite pleased as punch with the draft. In fact, one member of my favorite organized mafia reached out on social media to say briskly, "they blew there draft." You know a true post when "their" is replaced with "there." That's how you know it's for real. Truthfully, though, the overall feel with these Bills should be one of optimism, as this group is the most likely to climb these rankings quickly. So much depends on the EJ Manuel- Matt Cassel conundrum. (Hint: Cassel will start.)

Nice bump for the Jets, who have done a lot since the Darrelle Revis signing. They signed Antonio Cromartie afterward, in a move that received about 1/100th the publicity. Also flying under the radar: the Stevan Ridley acquisition. Loved the Jets' picks. Well, at least, most of them. Who loves everything about anything? (#noncommittal male) Getting Leonard Williams at No. 6 was enough to bearhug their draft.

Falcons fans are getting excited, and with reason. Dan Quinn procured what his defense had to have: a pass rusher. Grabbing Vic Beasley, coupled with cover corner Jalen Collins, adds two to three wins for Atlanta, provided both capitalize on their draft pedigree. And while we're on the subject: How about that young group of CBs? Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford and now Collins? To think, not a one of them was alive when Keith Sweat slid into the mainstream.

If you're wondering about the tiny drop here, it's easier to trust the Bills' and Jets' defenses in a tight game right now. Defense still wins football games, as Falcons fans are all too aware. Still, this position is subject to change.

If Kevin White doesn't start from Day 1, it's Jay Cutler's body language's fault. The Eddie Goldman pick in the second round took this whole 3-4 fad from talking point to the point of attack when the Packers come calling Week 1. That will be a raucous matchup: 2014 rookie stud Corey Linsley and Goldman, mano a mano. Was a little surprised GM Ryan Pace opted for Jeremy Langford at No. 106 overall, given that Ka'Deem Carey already backs up one of the best backs in football. But perhaps this was another case of the BPAs. And while I am typing this, the robot scene from Rocky IV (Paulie's birthday gift) is playing on the TV. Thought all you Bears fans should know.

The Saints had two first-round picks -- and yet, it's difficult to say whether Sean Payton's group got better this offseason. The club added running back C.J. Spiller but lost tight end Jimmy Graham. Advantage: other guys. New Orleans added O-lineman Andrus Peat but lost Ben Grubbs. Advantage: other guys. OK, defensively, the Saints did improve, starting with -- but not limited to -- the addition of newbies Stephone Anthony and Hau'oli Kikaha at linebacker.

The 49ers certainly filled needs in the 2015 NFL Draft, so long as you look past injury issues with a couple of their picks. We're speaking of linebacker Eli Harold, the club's third-round selection, and receiver DeAndre Smelter, taken in the fourth. If Smelter's rehab from a December knee injury progresses well, we might see an Anquan Boldin II. The last couple of 49er drafts have been so-so -- at best. They need to hit on this group.

Could this be the nobody-is-noticing team of 2015? Does anyone talk about the Giants competing for the playoffs? (If so, his name is either George Martin, Harry Carson or Howard Cross.) Are the Cowboys dominant? No. The defense is mediocre with serious character concerns -- and maybe one less Twitter account -- in the pass-rush department. Oh, and no DeMarco. Philly has new personnel and a bunch of questions to go with it -- like, who will play all 16 games? The Redskins have a giant question mark at the most important position in football. So why not Big Blue?

Oh, did this team ever need Landon Collins, by the way.

Thought Jacksonville nailed it this draft, thus they move up a spot in these here rankings. The Jags hit their needs while getting top-flight talent. Dante Fowler Jr. not only brings the pass rush, but he also makes us all feel better about the awful suits our parents put us in back in 1983. Whether or not T.J. Yeldon was taken too early, here's an early guess that he will run for over 800 yards as a rookie. Fantasy sleeper.

 * Fowler tore his left ACL during rookie minicamp practice on Friday and will miss the entire 2015 season*. 

Interesting draft, to say the least, for the Redskins, who plugged a few roster leaks. Yet all anyone can talk about is Washington taking offensive lineman Brandon Scherff over defensive lineman Leonard Williams at fifth overall. To paraphrase Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh, If he helps your football team, who cares if people thought you took him early? Jamison Crowder might be able to help this team early, be it out of the slot or on special teams.

The Raiders receive a boost based on a solid draft and perhaps the safest pick -- by nearly all accounts -- of the first round. If receiver Amari Cooper is indeed ready to rock, then Oakland should improve by two wins simply by virtue of having a playmaker for Derek Carr from opening day forward. The second-best tight end in the draft, Clive Walford, could team with Mychal Rivera to give the Raiders major flexibility on O.

While Cleveland had a decent draft in terms of quality, the story here is quantity. Rarely do you want the latter over the former, but like the Patriots, the Browns acquired enough talent to spark competitive training camp battles. My favorite? Seventh-rounder Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. If Ekpre-Olomu gets back to where he was before he got hurt in December, then this was a steeaaaaaaal.

Liked the Titans' draft overhaul, as I wrote immediately after the draft. Obviously, as Marcus Mariota (or Mariot-oh, per the creative pronunciation Thursday night) goes, so go the Titans ... and Ken Whisenhunt ... and Ruston Webster. You know what would really help? Bishop Sankey running for 1,150 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Why last? Tampa had a decent draft, but the Bucs were the worst team in the NFL in 2014. Moreover, much is dependent on whether Jameis Winston can be the leader of this team on and off the field. Meanwhile, Tennessee's concern with its rookie quarterback is onefold: The potential issue with Mariota lies solely between the lines. The Browns had nearly twice as many picks as the Bucs, so give Cleveland a slight nod when it comes to talent infusion. Lastly, of all the current -- current -- bottom feeders, the Raiders are the most comfortable with their quarterback.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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