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Pre-Draft NFL Roster Rankings

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Pre-Draft NFL Roster Rankings
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Evan Silva releases his Pre-Draft Roster Rankings, ranking the NFL's teams 1-32

These are my second annual Pre-Draft Roster Rankings; the link to last year's can be found here. The process in devising these rankings is imperfect, and inarguably subjective. Inevitably, certain teams will perform better than I anticipate during the upcoming season. Others will do worse.

Please keep in mind that the rankings are a projection for 2014, not a regurgitation of last year's results. I make plenty of references to 2013 in the Offensive and Defensive Overviews, but there has been a lot of player movement since last season ended, and the idea is to get a feel for where every team stands heading into May's draft. Quarterbacks and defensive line -- with a special nod to pass rush -- weigh heavily into the rankings because they can mask or compensate for flaws and deficiencies elsewhere on a team.

* = Offseason Addition.

1. Seattle Seahawks

QB: Russell Wilson
RB: Marshawn Lynch
WR: Percy Harvin
WR: Doug Baldwin
TE: Zach Miller
TE: Luke Willson
LT: Russell Okung
LG: James Carpenter
C: Max Unger
RG: J.R. Sweezy
RT: Michael Bowie

Offensive Overview: The Seahawks don't have the prettiest offense on paper, but play a distinct brand and effectively identify players who fit that philosophy. Lynch is the centerpiece of OC Darrell Bevell's unit, which has ranked first and second in rushing attempts in Wilson's two years as a starter, and 32nd and 31st in pass attempts. Depth is strong at the skill positions, with rugged third-down back Robert Turbin and mega-talent Christine Michael behind Lynch. Jump-ball specialists Jermaine Kearse and Sidney Rice back up Baldwin and Harvin. Michael and athletic freak Willson are 2014 breakout candidates. The Seahawks were quiet in free agency, but Harvin is essentially an addition after appearing in just one regular season game last year. Expect GM John Schneider to supplement the line in May's draft, and target a potential alpha-type receiver.

LE: Michael Bennett
RE: Cliff Avril
NT: Brandon Mebane
DT: Tony McDaniel
MLB: Bobby Wagner
WLB: K.J. Wright
SLB: Bruce Irvin
LCB: Richard Sherman
RCB: Byron Maxwell
FS: Earl Thomas
SS: Kam Chancellor

Defensive Overview: Defense is where Seattle butters its bread. The Seahawks are loaded up front, with 2013 third-round DT Jordan Hill, versatile DE/DT Greg Scruggs, "Monstar" Jesse Williams, and 2013 preseason star Benson Mayowa behind a standout first team. Super Bowl 48 MVP Malcolm Smith is the fourth linebacker. If Seattle has question marks on defense, they're at slot cornerback with Walter Thurmond III gone to the Giants, and "five-technique" end with Red Bryant off to Jacksonville after Schneider made him a cap casualty. The Seahawks have the best defense in football, but could afford to upgrade their depth at the second and third levels.

2. Denver Broncos

QB: Peyton Manning
RB: Montee Ball
WR: Demaryius Thomas
WR: Wes Welker
WR: Emmanuel Sanders*
TE: Julius Thomas
LT: Ryan Clady
LG: Orlando Franklin
C: Manuel Ramirez
RG: Louis Vasquez
RT: Chris Clark

Offensive Overview: Denver returns eight starters from an offense that led the NFL in per-game points (37.9), yards (457.3), and plays (72.3). LG Zane Beadles and tailback Knowshon Moreno are easy to replace, though No. 2 wideout Eric Decker's red-zone efficiency will be missed. From a fantasy perspective, it could force more scoring onto the Thomases' plate. As Manning will be 38 1/2 years old when the season starts, the Broncos plan to lean more on the run with Ball as a candidate to approach 300 carries. Sanders is an excellent crossing-route runner, a staple in OC Adam Gase's attack. The O-Line figures to be better than last year, when Clady missed all but two games with a Lisfranc fracture. Clark was stretched at times at left tackle, and should be more comfortable on the right side. Peyton is likely to experience natural regression off his 2013 stats, but this should remain the NFL's best offense for one more year.

LE: Derek Wolfe
RE: DeMarcus Ware*
DT: Sylvester Williams
NT: Terrance Knighton
MLB: Nate Irving
WLB: Danny Trevathan
SLB: Von Miller
LCB: Chris Harris
RCB: Aqib Talib*
FS: Rahim Moore
SS: T.J. Ward*

Defensive Overview: Jack Del Rio's defense will receive major talent injections at all three levels this season, with Miller due back healthy, fellow edge-bender Ware signed to book end him in sub-packages, and 2013 Pro Bowlers Talib and Ward added in the back end. Expect GM John Elway to use an early-round pick at middle linebacker, upgrading on Irving. In terms of depth and talent, the Broncos can rival Seattle for the NFL's most fearsome front seven. Beyond the starters listed here, Denver has beastly third-year pro Malik Jackson, trusty utilitymen Mitch Unrein and Kevin Vickerson, and sophomore sleeper Quanterus Smith, who "redshirted" his rookie season.

3. San Francisco 49ers

QB: Colin Kaepernick
RB: Frank Gore
FB: Bruce Miller
WR: Michael Crabtree
WR: Anquan Boldin
TE: Vernon Davis
LT: Joe Staley
LG: Mike Iupati
C: Daniel Kilgore
RG: Alex Boone
RT: Anthony Davis

Offensive Overview: Similar to division-rival Seattle, San Francisco plays run-foundation offense with a dual-threat quarterback who offers big-play ability but is primarily tasked with avoiding turnovers. In Kaepernick's first full season as a starter, the 49ers ranked third in rushing attempts and last in pass attempts. That run-first approach won't change this year, even with potential transition in the backfield. Kendall Hunter and sophomore Marcus Lattimore will push 31-year-old Gore for carries. 4-of-5 starters return from arguably the league's sturdiest offensive line. The 49ers are big and physical with YAC ability at wideout, but lack a vertical stretcher capable of fully capitalizing on Kaepernick's cannon arm. GM Trent Baalke will likely target one in the draft.

RE: Justin Smith
LE: Ray McDonald
NT: Glenn Dorsey
ILB: Patrick Willis
ILB: Michael Wilhoite
OLB: Aldon Smith
OLB: Ahmad Brooks
LCB: Tramaine Brock
RCB: Chris Cook*
FS: Eric Reid
SS: Antoine Bethea*

Defensive Overview: It's fair to wonder if San Francisco's defense could take a fairly significant step back this season. Aldon Smith's off-field transgressions may result in a lengthy suspension, and "Cowboy" Justin Smith turns 35 in September. Not listed here due to ACL and MCL tears, ILB Navorro Bowman isn't due back before midseason. Baalke has 11 picks, and will have to attack cornerback in the draft. One could argue the 49ers need a new starter to play opposite Brock, as well as a nickel package slot defender. Chris Culliver can't be counted on following his March 28 hit-and-run arrest, while listed starter Cook is a chronic underachiever.

4. New England Patriots

QB: Tom Brady
RB: Shane Vereen
WR: Julian Edelman
WR: Danny Amendola
WR: Aaron Dobson
TE: Rob Gronkowski
LT: Nate Solder
LG: Logan Mankins
C: Ryan Wendell
RG: Dan Connolly
RT: Sebastian Vollmer

Offensive Overview: The Pats have injury issues to sort out at tight end and receiver, and the coaching staff understandably lost confidence in primary early-down back Stevan Ridley due to ball-security woes last season. But New England returns the top six members of one of the league's top offensive lines, including G/T Marcus Cannon, and a future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback. Despite an incredible amount of adversity, the 2013 Patriots finished No. 7 in total offense and No. 3 in points scored. This remains an elite NFL offense even as it experiences a transitional phase. Look for the Patriots to use an early-round pick on a "move" tight end, adding multiplicity to OC Josh McDaniels' unit by giving him flexibility to use diverse personnel packages.

RE: Chandler Jones
LE: Rob Ninkovich
NT: Vince Wilfork
DT: Tommy Kelly
MLB: Jerod Mayo
WLB: Jamie Collins
SLB: Dont'a Hightower
LCB: Darrelle Revis*
RCB: Brandon Browner*
FS: Devin McCourty
SS: Duron Harmon

Defensive Overview: The Patriots' secondary is as deep and talented as it's been in many years following the additions of Revis and Browner. Collins flashed three-down promise as a rookie down last season’s stretch. Mayo's return from a right pectoral tear that cost him all but six games in 2013 will give this impressive back seven another big boost. New England is shakier in the front four, where only Jones and Ninkovich return as bankable starters. Wilfork is entering his age-33 season and tore his Achilles' tendon late last September. Kelly is 33 and coming off a torn ACL. Young reserve DTs Joe Vellano and Chris Jones may benefit from having played more snaps than intended, but New England's defensive front badly needs an interior difference maker.

5. New Orleans Saints

QB: Drew Brees
RB: Pierre Thomas
FB: Erik Lorig*
WR: Marques Colston
WR: Kenny Stills
TE: Jimmy Graham
LT: Terron Armstead
LG: Ben Grubbs
C: Tim Lelito
RG: Jahri Evans
RT: Zach Strief

Offensive Overview: Sean Payton is laying the groundwork for a truly balanced offense, moving on from "satellite" back Darren Sproles and toward a traditional under-center run game featuring Khiry Robinson and Mark Ingram. Thomas will stay involved due to his versatility, but I like Robinson's chances of leading the 2014 Saints in carries. New Orleans' top three offseason additions were a fullback (Lorig) and two defensive players (Champ Bailey, Jairus Byrd), and I expect them to continue to supplement Payton's revised strategy in May's draft. A powerful early-round center would be a particularly telling addition. The Saints' passing game may lose volume, but returns an elite skill-position corps of Brees, Graham, Colston, and sophomore Stills, who combined efficiency with big-play ability as a rookie and is a candidate for a sizable year-two leap.

RE: Cameron Jordan
LE: Akiem Hicks
NT: Brodrick Bunkley
ILB: Curtis Lofton
ILB: David Hawthorne
OLB: Junior Galette
OLB: Victor Butler
LCB: Champ Bailey*
RCB: Keenan Lewis
FS: Jairus Byrd*
SS: Kenny Vaccaro

Defensive Overview: Rob Ryan's 2013 unit ranked No. 4 in both total defense and points allowed, and looks better on paper than it finished last season. Byrd and Vaccaro give the Saints arguably the league's premier safety tandem, while rising youngsters DE Glenn Foster, DT John Jenkins, and ILB Kevin Reddick will push for more front-seven snaps. The wild card "addition" is Butler, who possesses intriguing pass-rush ability and will be more than 12 months removed from last June's ACL tear when training camp begins. I'm not sure what Bailey has left at age 36, but I do know he had a much better 2012 season than people think, before an injury-ruined 2013. I expect New Orleans to use its first-round pick on defense, either at corner or outside linebacker.

6. Green Bay Packers

QB: Aaron Rodgers
RB: Eddie Lacy
WR: Jordy Nelson
WR: Randall Cobb
WR: Jarrett Boykin
TE: Andrew Quarless
LT: David Bakhtiari
LG: Josh Sitton
C: J.C. Tretter
RG: T.J. Lang
RT: Bryan Bulaga

Offensive Overview: Even with arguable deficiencies at tight end and the interior line, there are not many offenses in football with more talent than Green Bay's. There may be none. This is the strength of GM Ted Thompson's roster, bolstered by the returns of Rodgers, Cobb, and Bulaga, who combined to miss 33 games last season. The Packers should lose nothing replacing James Jones with Boykin at third receiver, while sophomore Bakhtiari figures to improve in his second year on Rodgers' blind side. Lacy is a battering ram in the backfield, capable of wearing down defenses and putting away games in the fourth quarter. Look for Thompson to explore early-round additions at tight end and center or guard. Say those positions were not upgraded; I still think the Packers have an assembly to push for the top offense in the league.

RE: Julius Peppers*
LE: Datone Jones
NT: B.J. Raji
ILB: A.J. Hawk
ILB: Brad Jones
OLB: Clay Matthews
OLB: Nick Perry
LCB: Tramon Williams
RCB: Sam Shields
FS: Morgan Burnett
SS: Micah Hyde

Defensive Overview: The Packers have been annual defensive underachievers under Dom Capers, from whom Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy refuse to move on. Over the past three years, Green Bay has finished 32nd, 11th, and 25th in total defense, and 19th, 11th, and 25th in points against. I don't think the Packers' defensive failings have necessarily been due to a lack of talent, though injuries have played a role. I am surprised 64-year-old Capers has gotten such a long leash. Green Bay has plenty of theoretical pass rushers and run stoppers, and one of the deepest cornerback depth charts in football, especially with 2012 star rookie Casey Hayward returning healthy. Although the Packers are commonly linked to safeties in mock drafts, they are quite high on sophomore Hyde, and by no means ready to give up on $26 million man Burnett.

7. Cincinnati Bengals

QB: Andy Dalton
RB: Giovani Bernard
WR: A.J. Green
WR: Marvin Jones
TE: Jermaine Gresham
TE: Tyler Eifert
LT: Andrew Whitworth
LG: Clint Boling
C: Mike Pollak
RG: Kevin Zeitler
RT: Andre Smith

Offensive Overview: The Bengals are widely considered one of football's most talented teams -- and they are -- but shortcomings at quarterback and positions where impact players left in free agency keep them behind New England, New Orleans, and Green Bay for me. Cincinnati's 2014 offense will be coordinated by Hue Jackson, a proven talent maximizer who believes in a run foundation complemented by vertical shot plays. In Jackson's last stop, he coaxed career-best performances out of Darren McFadden, Jason Campbell, Michael Bush, Denarius Moore, and Darrius Heyward-Bey, among others. Jackson's 2010-2011 Raiders offenses ranked fourth and seventh in the NFL in rushing attempts. Expect much less volume for Dalton and a potential breakout season for Bernard, assuming the Bengals don't use an early-round draft pick at running back.

RE: Carlos Dunlap
LE: Wallace Gilberry
NT: Domata Peko
DT: Geno Atkins
MLB: Rey Maualuga
WLB: Vontaze Burfict
SLB: Emmanuel Lamur
LCB: Terence Newman
RCB: Leon Hall
FS: Reggie Nelson
SS: George Iloka

Defensive Overview: The Bengals' three most notable free agent losses were LT Anthony Collins, RE Michael Johnson, and WR Andrew Hawkins. Johnson's replacement figures to be targeted in the draft, while cornerback is a glaring need as Newman enters his age-36 campaign, nickel back Pacman Jones goes on 31, and Hall attempts to return from his second Achilles' tear in three seasons. Cincinnati brings back some excellent pieces, but this defense has holes, and the departure of DC Mike Zimmer is sure to be felt. Zimmer was a master at getting the most out of players. The Bengals may need a homerun draft to avoid a fairly sizable regression on defense.

8. Philadelphia Eagles

QB: Nick Foles
RB: LeSean McCoy
WR: Jeremy Maclin
WR: Riley Cooper
TE: Brent Celek
TE: Zach Ertz
LT: Jason Peters
LG: Evan Mathis
C: Jason Kelce
RG: Todd Herremans
RT: Lane Johnson

Offensive Overview: Chip Kelly fielded the NFL's most efficient 2013 offense, leading the league in both yards per pass (8.7) and yards per rush (5.1). Only three teams scored more points. Philly's lone significant offseason loss was DeSean Jackson, whom the coaching staff seems to believe will be easily replaced. With Maclin back healthy and second-year breakout candidate Ertz ascending, the Eagles can continue to run a big-play passing attack with multiplicity, excelling out of various personnel groupings. The unsung heroes of Kelly's offense play up front. 5-of-5 starters return from an offensive line that Pro Football Focus graded as the league's best run-blocking group by a wide margin. The foundation of Kelly's offense will remain the McCoy-led run game.

RE: Fletcher Cox
LE: Cedric Thornton
NT: Bennie Logan
ILB: Mychal Kendricks
ILB: DeMeco Ryans
OLB: Trent Cole
OLB: Connor Barwin
LCB: Bradley Fletcher
RCB: Cary Williams
FS: Malcolm Jenkins*
SS: Nate Allen

Defensive Overview: Billy Davis deserves credit for coordinating a defense that stayed competitive throughout 2013 despite a below-average assembly of players, particularly excelling versus the run. The unit still needs upgrades at all three levels. Cole is no longer a franchise pass rusher going on age 32, while Barwin is a better cover guy and edge setter than threat to enemy quarterbacks. The secondary played well as a unit last year, but lacks a high-end starter. The Eagles could use a bulkier nose tackle to take snaps off undersized Logan's plate. I think this defense remains a work in progress, and I expect Philly's draft approach to confirm they agree.


9. Indianapolis Colts

QB: Andrew Luck
RB: Trent Richardson
WR: T.Y. Hilton
WR: Hakeem Nicks*
TE: Dwayne Allen
TE: Coby Fleener
LT: Anthony Castonzo
LG: Donald Thomas
C: Khaled Holmes
RG: Hugh Thornton
RT: Gosder Cherilus

Offensive Overview: Ryan Grigson has been extremely aggressive entering his third full season as the Colts' GM, often to a fault. Upper management and coaching staff blunders have been regularly masked by Luck's playmaking ability and penchant for erasing deficits, engineering eight fourth-quarter comebacks and 11 game-winning drives through 32 regular season starts. Luck has helped Indianapolis overcome both in-game and supporting-cast adversity, as the team lost Allen, Reggie Wayne, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Thomas to year-ending injuries last season while fielding an oft-putrid run game, Pro Football Focus' No. 25 pass-blocking unit, and a sub-average defense. Like it or not, franchise quarterbacks weigh heavily into these rankings because they compensate for deficiencies elsewhere. And there is no better example of that than the Colts.

RE: Arthur Jones*
LE: Cory Redding
NT: Josh Chapman
ILB: Jerrell Freeman
ILB: D'Qwell Jackson*
OLB: Robert Mathis
OLB: Erik Walden
RCB: Vontae Davis
LCB: Greg Toler
FS: Delano Howell
SS: LaRon Landry

Defensive Overview: Grigson's latest free agent splashes are Jones and Jackson, signed to upgrade the NFL's 26th-ranked run defense. Jones should also add pass-rush juice from the interior in sub-packages. The Colts do not have a top-50 pick and need a sophomore leap from 2013 first-rounder Bjoern Werner, who struggled in all phases as a rookie and failed to supplant underwhelming Walden. Toler was a 2013 free agent disaster, while third-year safety Howell is penciled in as a starter after appearing in only four games on defense last season. Thankfully due to Luck's presence, Indianapolis does not need a dominant defense to win the AFC South and get back into the playoffs. Grigson & Co. need to do a better job to get the Colts atop the NFL mountain.

10. Chicago Bears

QB: Jay Cutler
RB: Matt Forte
WR: Brandon Marshall
WR: Alshon Jeffery
WR: Marquess Wilson
TE: Martellus Bennett
LT: Jermon Bushrod
LG: Matt Slauson
C: Roberto Garza
RG: Kyle Long
RT: Jordan Mills

Offensive Overview: What a difference a year makes. In one season under coach Marc Trestman, the Bears transitioned from a defensive- to offensive-oriented team. We'll get to the defense in a minute, but the offense is a precisely-orchestrated, high-octane engine that returns all 11 starters after finishing second in the league in points scored. GM Phil Emery places a premium on big wide receivers, which translates to exceptional red-zone efficiency, and Forte has proven an ideal schematic fit in Trestman's pass-first scheme. The offensive line has quickly gone from a major weakness to a strength. 6-foot-3, 194-pound sophomore Wilson is a 2014 breakout candidate. As is Cutler, who was on pace for career-best statistics in his first season under quarterback whisperer Trestman before ankle and groin injuries largely ruined his second half.

RE: Jared Allen*
LE: Lamarr Houston*
NT: Stephen Paea
DT: Jay Ratliff
MLB: D.J. Williams
WLB: Lance Briggs
SLB: Shea McClellin
LCB: Tim Jennings
RCB: Charles Tillman
FS: Chris Conte
SS: Ryan Mundy*

Defensive Overview: Defense is the obvious weakness of Emery's team, but he did well to patch holes in free agency and can enter the draft with a passable front seven in place. Allen's snaps need to be scaled back at age 32, but he is coming off an 11.5-sack season and can still cause havoc if managed properly. Houston will be an enormous run defense upgrade and likely kick inside on nickel downs. McClellin failed at defensive end, but has all the tools to be a functional Sam 'backer. Look for Emery to invest two early-round draft picks at defensive back, targeting a Week 1 starting safety and 33-year-old Tillman's heir apparent. As is, this defense remains a bottom-15 unit, but isn't remotely the league-worst group it finished last season as.

11. Detroit Lions

QB: Matthew Stafford
RB: Joique Bell
WR: Calvin Johnson
WR: Golden Tate*
TE: Brandon Pettigrew
TE: Joseph Fauria
LT: Riley Reiff
LG: Rob Sims
C: Dominic Raiola
RG: Larry Warford
RT: LaAdrian Waddle

Offensive Overview: I didn't list Reggie Bush as a starter because I don't think he'll be the lead back for new coach Jim Caldwell. I think Bush will end up playing nearly 50% of the Lions' offensive snaps, but anticipate Bell pacing the team in 2014 carries. Caldwell and rookie OC Joe Lombardi will employ an older-school, under-center rushing attack utilizing I-formations and lead blocker Jed Collins to clear alleys for skilled inside runner Bell. I expect Bush to be used like Darren Sproles. As Lombardi hails from New Orleans, expect the pass game to incorporate Sean Payton elements with diverse personnel packages, Tate in the move-receiver role, and Megatron often aligned in the slot. The Lions' offense is quite close to a finished product with all five O-Line starters returning, depth at tailback, and a franchise quarterback in place. My best guess is Detroit will use its first-round pick on defense, although I wouldn't rule out North Carolina TE Eric Ebron.

RE: Ziggy Ansah
LE: Jason Jones
DT: Ndamukong Suh
DT: Nick Fairley
MLB: Stephen Tulloch
WLB: DeAndre Levy
SLB: Ashlee Palmer
LCB: Chris Houston
RCB: Darius Slay
FS: Glover Quin
SS: James Ihedigbo*

Defensive Overview: The fact that Detroit wasn't an annual playoff team under ex-coach Jim Schwartz despite a dominant defensive line and high-powered offense spoke to their need for change. No team in football has underachieved as badly over the past half-decade. New DC Teryl Austin, formerly Baltimore's secondary coach, inherits a unit returning ten starters from a defense that finished No. 6 versus the run and combines an explosive edge presence in Ansah with one of the premier interior duos in the game. The Lions have theoretical talent at cornerback, but were plagued by injuries and inconsistent performance during the Schwartz era. Ihedigbo is best suited as a third safety/special teamer, so Detroit may explore using the No. 10 pick on Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Even without major draft upgrades, this is an above-average defense on paper.

12. Baltimore Ravens

QB: Joe Flacco
RB: Ray Rice
WR: Torrey Smith
WR: Steve Smith*
TE: Dennis Pitta
TE: Owen Daniels*
LT: Eugene Monroe
LG: Kelechi Osemele
C: Jeremy Zuttah*
RG: Marshal Yanda
RT: Rick Wagner

Offensive Overview: The Ravens are undergoing a fairly major philosophical change in 2014, transitioning from pass-first Jim Caldwell to run-heavy mind Gary Kubiak as coordinator. Whether their personnel matches Kubiak's style of play remains to be seen. Flacco isn't a bootleg quarterback as Kubiak historically prefers, and both Rice and Bernard Pierce are coming off terribly disappointing seasons. The offensive line can't possibly be worse -- and will benefit from the addition of Zuttah as well as Osemele's healthy return -- but needs a new starter at right tackle. I'd rank the Ravens' offensive assembly in the bottom half of the league, probably somewhere in the low teens or high 20s. To execute Kubiak's scheme, a rusher must step forward as a foundation back. There's a decent chance Baltimore will supplement its backfield in the draft.

RE: Chris Canty
LE: Haloti Ngata
NT: Brandon Williams
ILB: Daryl Smith
ILB: Arthur Brown
OLB: Terrell Suggs
OLB: Elvis Dumervil
LCB: Lardarius Webb
RCB: Jimmy Smith
FS: Darian Stewart*
SS: Matt Elam

Defensive Overview: Defense is the strength of GM Ozzie Newsome's roster, where every critical piece save DE Arthur Jones and SS James Ihedigbo returns from a group that finished top 12 in both points and yards allowed, 11th in run defense, and 12th versus the pass. The Ravens could stand to improve via sophomore leaps from Brown, Williams, Elam, OLB John Simon, and DE Kapron Lewis-Moore. While Baltimore arguably needs upgrades at free safety and nickel corner, the first team is impressive and there is potential for the Ravens to field one of the NFL's deepest defenses. They stop the run, rush the passer, and play effective man coverage.

13. Kansas City Chiefs

QB: Alex Smith
RB: Jamaal Charles
WR: Dwayne Bowe
WR: Donnie Avery
TE: Anthony Fasano
TE: Travis Kelce
LT: Eric Fisher
LG: Jeff Allen
C: Rodney Hudson
RG: Rishaw Johnson
RT: Donald Stephenson

Offensive Overview: In LT Branden Albert (Dolphins), RG Geoff Schwartz (Giants), and OG Jon Asamoah (Falcons), free agency cost the Chiefs 28 offensive line starts from their 2013 playoff team, and they'll presumably replace those players in-house with only one draft pick in the top 85. That pick (No. 23) is expected to be used either at wideout or safety. Even though he turns 30 years old next month, Smith was an ascending passer by the end of last season as coach Andy Reid opened up Kansas City's offense, and Smith showed a career-most willingness to pull the trigger on intermediate and vertical throws. The Chiefs were still the NFL's only team whose running back led them in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving scores. Sophomore Kelce is an intriguing breakout candidate, as Reid figures to continue to try expanding Smith in his pursuit of a more multi-dimensional offense. Line play is the biggest concern here.

RE: Vance Walker*
LE: Mike DeVito
NT: Dontari Poe
ILB: Derrick Johnson
ILB: Joe Mays*
OLB: Tamba Hali
OLB: Justin Houston
LCB: Brandon Flowers
RCB: Sean Smith
FS: Husain Abdullah
SS: Eric Berry

Defensive Overview: Whereas Reid's offense made strides over the course of 2013, DC Bob Sutton's defense took steps back. I tend to attribute the regression to injuries rather than personnel. The Chiefs have one of only a handful of NFL defenses capable of collapsing the pocket with both inside pressure (Poe) and a fearsome edge-rush duo. It's a lethal combination when everyone is healthy. I like the additions of Walker and Mays as cost-effective role-playing run stoppers, and the secondary returns as above average, even if Kansas City doesn't find a starting free safety in the draft. I don't think the Chiefs are anywhere near Super Bowl contention, but there is every reason to believe this team can continue to push for Wild Card appearances.

14. San Diego Chargers

QB: Philip Rivers
RB: Ryan Mathews
WR: Keenan Allen
WR: Eddie Royal
TE: Antonio Gates
TE: Ladarius Green
LT: King Dunlap
LG: Chad Rinehart
C: Nick Hardwick
RG: Jeromey Clary
RT: D.J. Fluker

Offensive Overview: Among the teams I sold short in my 2013 preseason team rankings, the Chargers stand out as particularly underestimated. Not only was first-year coach Mike McCoy a QB whisperer when it came to widely-written-off Rivers, his offense coaxed career-best years out of Mathews, Green, Dunlap, and Rinehart while spotlighting strengths and camouflaging weaknesses. For instance, Rivers' defining attribute is no longer his vertical arm. So McCoy essentially turned him into Peyton Manning, picking apart the short and intermediate sections while controlling games at the line of scrimmage. I expect San Diego's 2014 offense to push for the NFL lead in rushing attempts with a three-deep tailback corps, two-tight end "12 personnel" packages that dare defenses to play dime, and Fluker drive-blocking opponents in the trenches.

RE: Corey Liuget
LE: Kendall Reyes
NT: Sean Lissemore
ILB: Manti Te'o
ILB: Donald Butler
OLB: Dwight Freeney
OLB: Melvin Ingram
LCB: Shareece Wright
RCB: Richard Marshall
FS: Eric Weddle
SS: Marcus Gilchrist

Defensive Overview: Chargers DC John Pagano's defense is far from a finished product -- San Diego currently has the weakest cornerback depth chart in football and is in desperate need of a two-gap nose -- but I think this unit could improve markedly if GM Tom Telesco nails a second straight draft. The biggest reinforcements are at rush linebacker, where Freeney (quad) and Ingram (ACL) combined to miss 24 games last season. Liuget and Reyes both showed stretch-run improvement in their first season with Pagano at the helm, while Te'o is finally 100 percent after battling a foot injury throughout his rookie year. This is a bottom 8-10 group on paper as it stands, but rediscovering a pass rush can be the surest path to a quick defensive fix.

15. Washington Redskins

QB: Robert Griffin III
RB: Alfred Morris
FB: Darrel Young
WR: Pierre Garcon
WR: DeSean Jackson*
TE: Jordan Reed
LT: Trent Williams
LG: Shawn Lauvao*
C: Kory Lichtensteiger
RG: Chris Chester
RT: Tyler Polumbus

Offensive Overview: Offensive-minded Jay Gruden waltzed into a favorable situation. While they were in Washington, the Shanahans drafted legit franchise players at left tackle and running back, signed a No. 1 wideout, and also drafted potential franchise players at quarterback and tight end. Gruden and returning GM Bruce Allen have supplemented Griffin's firepower with Jackson, who can blow the lid off of defenses and keep a safety occupied on vertical routes. With a healthy RG3, the Redskins should have little trouble bouncing back offensively. The Skins could afford to add an immediate offensive line starter in the draft. Gruden has been working to make the front five bigger with designs on implementing more power runs.

RE: Jason Hatcher*
LE: Chris Baker
NT: Barry Cofield
ILB: Perry Riley
ILB: Darryl Sharpton*
OLB: Brian Orakpo
OLB: Ryan Kerrigan
RCB: David Amerson
LCB: DeAngelo Hall
FS: Ryan Clark*
SS: Brandon Meriweather

Defensive Overview: The Redskins boast an above-average defensive front seven, which they presumably hope will mask a secondary that got torched throughout last season and did little this offseason to improve. Clark is entering his age-35 campaign and generated scant free agent interest after a poor season in Pittsburgh. New nickel back Tracy Porter was also toward the bottom of the free agency barrel, and hasn't been an effective cover man in years. The team will hope for a sophomore leap from Amerson, a gifted prospect who took his lumps as a rookie. The Redskins can hang their hat on Hatcher, Orakpo, Cofield, and Kerrigan as disruptive presences up front. They are light on depth at all three levels and will likely address that issue in the draft.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers

QB: Ben Roethlisberger
RB: Le'Veon Bell
WR: Antonio Brown
WR: Markus Wheaton
WR: Lance Moore*
TE: Heath Miller
LT: Kelvin Beachum
LG: Ramon Foster
C: Maurkice Pouncey
RG: David DeCastro
RT: Marcus Gilbert

Offensive Overview: Pittsburgh's offensive outlook quietly seems to be trending up with a respectable starting front five established, Bell entrenched as a three-down bellcow back, and Miller likely to be more effective after appearing slowed by his December 2012 triple-knee-ligament tear last season. Roethlisberger is still only 32, and coming off one of his better NFL seasons, having set four-year highs in completion rate (64.2) and passing yards (4,261) and throwing the second most touchdown passes (28) of his career. The Steelers have reportedly promised Big Ben a "big receiver" in the draft, which could be a major boon to Pittsburgh's red-zone efficiency. None of the team's current top three wideouts are above 5-foot-11 or 190 pounds.


LE: Cam Thomas*
RE: Cameron Heyward
NT: Steve McLendon
ILB: Lawrence Timmons
ILB: Vince Williams
OLB: Jason Worilds
OLB: Jarvis Jones
LCB: Cortez Allen
RCB: Ike Taylor
FS: Mike Mitchell*
SS: Troy Polamalu

Defensive Overview: Pittsburgh's 2013 defensive meltdown was its team undoing, as Dick LeBeau's unit finished 21st against the run and 27th in sacks. Parting with ILB Larry Foote, RE Brett Keisel, OLB LaMarr Woodley, and FS Ryan Clark, the Steelers have made a concerted effort to get younger. 34-year-old Taylor took a whopping $4.25 million pay cut to keep his roster spot, but is likely to lose his starting job to a first-round pick. The Steelers need a new starting outside corner and are dangerously thin on the line. I'd expect this defense to be better than last year, but the talent in place is no better than average, and there are lasting run-defense concerns.

17. Carolina Panthers

QB: Cam Newton
RB: DeAngelo Williams
FB: Mike Tolbert
WR: Jerricho Cotchery*
WR: Tiquan Underwood*
TE: Greg Olsen
LT: Byron Bell
LG: Amini Silatolu
C: Ryan Kalil
RG: Garry Williams
RT: Nate Chandler

Offensive Overview: The Panthers have Newton, Olsen, Ryan Kalil, and then not a whole lot else on offense. OC Mike Shula orchestrates a run-based attack, and top tailback Williams is 31 with an annually declining yards-per-carry average. The wideout corps is the weakest in football. The line isn't far off, with only center settled entering May's draft. Coach Ron Rivera, then-rookie GM Dave Gettleman, and the Panthers' players all deserve credit for last season's 2013 finish, but will have to work some serious magic to come anywhere near a repeat with a decaying, startlingly talent-deficient offensive cast. Gettleman has only three draft picks in the top 125. He must emerge with at least two starters on offense -- ideally a left tackle and a playmaking wide receiver.

RE: Greg Hardy
LE: Charles Johnson
NT: Star Lotulelei
DT: Dwan Edwards
MLB: Luke Kuechly
WLB: A.J. Klein
SLB: Thomas Davis
RCB: Melvin White
LCB: Antoine Cason*
FS: Charles Godfrey
SS: Roman Harper*

Defensive Overview: The Panthers' roster strength is its dominant front seven, which keyed last year's league-high 60 sacks and No. 2 total defense. Only Seattle allowed fewer points. Carolina can go four-deep at both tackle and end. Sophomore leaps from Klein, White, and 2013 second-rounder Kawann Short would give the Panthers a chance to repeat as the NFC's second-best defense, though their offensive predicament makes any defensive step back worrisome in an NFC South sure to be better than last season. Regardless of how well Gettleman does in the draft, I think Carolina would do well to get back to 9-10 wins, pushing for a Wild Card spot. Realistically, they are a prime regression candidate that could return to mediocrity or worse.

18. Arizona Cardinals

QB: Carson Palmer
RB: Andre Ellington
WR: Larry Fitzgerald
WR: Michael Floyd
TE: Rob Housler
TE: John Carlson*
LT: Jared Veldheer*
LG: Jonathan Cooper
C: Lyle Sendlein
RG: Earl Watford
RT: Bobby Massie

Offensive Overview: The Cards surprised a lot of people by finishing 10-6 last year and overtaking the Rams for third place in the NFL's best division. I attribute the overachievement more to good coaching, and less to overwhelming talent. Palmer can still keep an offense moving and power the ball downfield when well protected, but is 34 years old and likely in his last season with Arizona. As much as we all love Ellington, he isn't an NFL feature back. Neither of the Cards' tight ends is a proficient blocker, which is the foremost requirement of tight ends in Bruce Arians' offense. Arizona's right-side offensive line starters combined to play 50 snaps in 2013. I like the Cardinals' receiver corps, and the addition of Veldheer combined with Cooper's healthy return gives the front five a significant lift. In terms of sheer talent, however, this is a sub-average group.

RE: Calais Campbell
LE: Darnell Dockett
NT: Dan Williams
ILB: Daryl Washington
ILB: Kevin Minter
OLB: John Abraham
OLB: Matt Shaughnessy
LCB: Patrick Peterson RCB: Antonio Cromartie*
FS: Tyrann Mathieu
SS: Rashad Johnson

Defensive Overview: Defense is the strength of Arizona’s roster. The Cards return 6-of-7 starters from a front seven that keyed Arizona’s No. 1 finish against the run and No. 6 ranking in sacks. Pairing Cromartie (6’2/208) with Peterson (6’0/219) gives them a Seattle-like look on the perimeter. There are question marks, though. Abraham turns 36 in May, and Arizona lacks an edge rusher to compensate if he misses time or breaks down physically. Washington pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in March and may face a lengthy suspension. Mathieu tore his left ACL and LCL in Week 14, and is questionable for Opening Day. Difference-making ILB Karlos Dansby is gone. Dockett is going on age 33. In all likelihood, this unit will take a 2014 step back, barring high-impact rookie additions. Just how far a step back may determine the Cardinals’ fate.

19. New York Giants

QB: Eli Manning
RB: Rashad Jennings*
WR: Victor Cruz
WR: Rueben Randle
WR: Jerrel Jernigan
TE: Adrien Robinson
LT: Will Beatty
LG: Geoff Schwartz*
C: J.D. Walton*
RG: Chris Snee
RT: Justin Pugh

Offensive Overview: The Giants were the NFL's busiest team in free agency, executing 26 signings or re-signings between March 12 and April 28. While they did not grossly overpay anyone, large-scale roster churning could be a sign GM Jerry Reese has begun feeling uneasy about his job. His recent drafts have certainly disappointed. New York's offense looks better than it finished last season, but the Giants still have big question marks at "X" receiver, tight end, and at least two positions on the line. New OC Ben McAdoo hails from Green Bay, where the Packers mostly played quarterback-centric offense with three-wide "11 personnel" as their base package. I think McAdoo would have a tough time playing that way with the Giants' current cast.

RE: Jason Pierre-Paul
LE: Damontre Moore
DT: Cullen Jenkins
NT: Johnathan Hankins
MLB: Jon Beason
WLB: Spencer Paysinger
SLB: Jameel McClain*
LCB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie*
RCB: Prince Amukamara
FS: Stevie Brown
SS: Antrel Rolle

Defensive Overview: I hate to sound like I'm reducing an entire side of the ball to one player, but do believe a large percentage of New York's 2014 defensive outlook hinges on Pierre-Paul rediscovering past form. Wracked by shoulder and back injuries last season, and allegedly poor conditioning the year before, the Giants' defensive catalyst has managed two sacks over his last 18 games after posting 16.5 during the 2011 season alone. I like how the secondary has come together on paper, and am intrigued by the potential of young linemen Hankins and Moore, but ultimately all of those complementary players will be more effective with Pierre-Paul operating at his peak. For now, I'm taking a glass-half-full approach and would recommend buying low on JPP in Dynasty IDP leagues. Pierre-Paul avoided offseason surgery, and is still only 25 years old.

20. Miami Dolphins

QB: Ryan Tannehill
RB: Knowshon Moreno*
WR: Mike Wallace
WR: Brian Hartline
WR: Brandon Gibson
TE: Charles Clay
LT: Branden Albert*
LG: Shelley Smith*
C: Mike Pouncey
RG: Nate Garner
RT: Dallas Thomas

Offensive Overview: The fact that Miami's 2013 offense was functional at all is a huge credit to Tannehill considering its utter lack of pass protection, anemic run game, and vanilla-to-be-kind scheme. Last year's Dolphins were poorly coached and even more poorly constructed. OC Mike Sherman and GM Jeff Ireland both deservedly lost their jobs, and were replaced by ex-Eagles QBs coach Bill Lazor and former Bucs personnel director Dennis Hickey, respectively. Lazor tutored Nick Foles in Philly, and witnessed first-hand Chip Kelly's success with a run-foundation offense. Hickey bought the line a new left side in free agency, and needs at least one right-side starter in the draft. Tannehill is ascending entering just his third straight full season at quarterback after converting from college receiver. The rest of this offense is a work in progress.

RE: Olivier Vernon
LE: Cameron Wake
DT: Randy Starks
NT: Earl Mitchell*
MLB: Dannell Ellerbe
WLB: Philip Wheeler
SLB: Koa Misi
LCB: Brent Grimes
RCB: Cortland Finnegan*
FS: Louis Delmas*
SS: Reshad Jones

Defensive Overview: Ireland's 2013 linebacker swap backfired spectacularly, as Ellerbe and Wheeler both turned in miserable seasons while departures Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett each had excellent years for their new teams. Miami's defensive line remains strong and deep, with Jared Odrick and Dion Jordan headlining the reserves. The back seven is suspect beyond Grimes. Theoretically, the Fins return enough pass-rush talent to help camouflage weaknesses in the back end, and both of their safeties are generally sturdy in run support. A concern for Miami's secondary is Delmas and Jones' lack of ideal range, which may force playcaller Kevin Coyle to lean heavily on off coverage, giving enemy receivers cushion. Ultimately, I think this is a pretty average defense. Combine an unfinished offense, and you get the league's 20th-ranked roster.

21. Dallas Cowboys

QB: Tony Romo
RB: DeMarco Murray
WR: Dez Bryant
WR: Terrance Williams
TE: Jason Witten
TE: Gavin Escobar
LT: Tyron Smith
LG: Ronald Leary
C: Travis Frederick
RG: Mackenzy Bernadeau
RT: Doug Free

Offensive Overview: The Cowboys return at least four quality O-Line starters and one of the top skill-position corps in the league. They also have depth, with the ability to go three wide featuring Bryant, Williams, and Cole Beasley, or attack in “12 personnel” with either Escobar or James Hanna alongside Witten. Unfortunately, the Cowboys are built in an incredibly lopsided manner with what should be a shoo-in top-ten offense that will likely be forced to carry one of football’s weakest defenses. We’ll get to the latter in a minute. New OC Scott Linehan’s Lions offenses ranked sixth, third, first, first, and fifth in pass attempts over the last five seasons. Linehan embraces decidedly pass-first offense, and is very likely to continue to employ one as Dallas leans on its pass game in attempts to erase deficits created by the other side of the ball.

RE: Jeremy Mincey*
LE: George Selvie
DT: Henry Melton*
NT: Terrell McClain*
MLB: Sean Lee
WLB: Bruce Carter
SLB: DeVonte Holloman
LCB: Brandon Carr
RCB: Orlando Scandrick
FS: Jeff Heath
SS: Barry Church

Defensive Overview: We know Dallas’ defense was bad last year -- historically bad -- and don’t have to revisit that. The product on paper here isn’t much better. Salary cap constraints forced the Cowboys to cut top defender DeMarcus Ware, while Mincey (two years, $3 million), McClain (three years, $3 million), and Melton (one year, $3.5 million) were bargain-bin offseason pickups. That isn’t to suggest those players won’t make 2014 impacts -- Melton has the best shot -- but there’s a reason their free agency markets weren’t busier. The linebackers are suspect to be kind beyond injury-riddled Lee. The secondary got burnt to a crisp last season and returns fully intact. Dallas has three top-80 picks in May’s draft. I expect at least two to be used on defenders.

22. Atlanta Falcons

QB: Matt Ryan
RB: Steven Jackson
WR: Julio Jones
WR: Roddy White
WR: Harry Douglas
TE: Levine Toilolo
LT: Sam Baker
LG: Justin Blalock
C: Joe Hawley
RG: Jon Asamoah*
RT: Lamar Holmes

Offensive Overview: The Falcons are positioned similarly to Dallas in that they return quality skill-player talent -- and look good on paper from a fantasy football perspective -- but are far more deficient than the Cowboys at offensive line, tight end, and running back. Although Atlanta is rumored to be considering a trade up for Jadeveon Clowney, its roster composition suggests a trade down would be in GM Thomas Dimitroff’s best interest. The Falcons do not have one of the league’s bottom-ten rosters only because they have a franchise quarterback. Elsewhere, they compare similarly or worse to teams like the Vikings and Texans. The O-Line is littered with turnstiles, there isn’t a pass-catching tight end on the team, and the top tailback is a broken-down player going on age 31. Dimitroff has ten draft picks, but could use even more.

RE: Osi Umenyiora
LE: Tyson Jackson*
NT: Paul Soliai*
DT: Jonathan Babineaux
MLB: Paul Worrilow
WLB: Sean Weatherspoon
SLB: Kroy Biermann
RCB: Desmond Trufant
LCB: Robert Alford
FS: Dwight Lowery*
SS: William Moore

Defensive Overview: Dimitroff and personnel director Lionel Vital deserve major kudos for nailing 2013 draft picks Trufant and Alford, who both look like ten-year starters after promising rookie campaigns. The Falcons' alleged interest in moving up for Clowney does make sense from the standpoint that failing to supply young cornerbacks with pass-rush support is a potentially damaging undertaking. Umenyiora, entering his age-33 season, is currently Atlanta's best pass rusher. Jackson and Soliai were signed to fortify the run defense, while I found Lowery to be a savvy under-the-radar addition. He is only 28 and was a quality starter before last September's year-ending concussion in Jacksonville. Ultimately, however, this is a defense in need of vastly improved line play, at least one starting linebacker, and an immediate impact defensive back.

23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB: Josh McCown*
RB: Doug Martin
WR: Vincent Jackson
WR: Louis Murphy*
TE: Brandon Myers*
TE: Tim Wright
LT: Anthony Collins*
LG: Carl Nicks
C: Evan Dietrich-Smith*
RG: Jamon Meredith
RT: Demar Dotson

Offensive Overview: The Bucs' offense is deficient to the extreme with a journeyman who'll turn 35 before the season at quarterback, a goose egg at No. 2 wideout, one of the worst tight end depth charts in football, and needs at one or both guard positions, depending on Nicks' health. New coach Lovie Smith demonstrated zero aptitude for offense in Chicago, while new OC Jeff Tedford has never coached in the NFL before. That's a glass-half-empty take to be sure, but I think there are real concerns. Smith promises to run a Ground 'N Pound, run-oriented attack featuring Martin with competent reserve backs Mike James and Bobby Rainey around to provide breathers. I think the Bucs will need creativity from Tedford and definitely better blockers to avoid a two-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust run game. Tampa also has only three draft picks in the top 140.

RE: Michael Johnson*
LE: Adrian Clayborn
DT: Gerald McCoy
NT: Akeem Spence
MLB: Mason Foster
WLB: Lavonte David
SLB: Jonathan Casillas
RCB: Alterraun Verner*
LCB: Johnthan Banks
FS: Dashon Goldson
SS: Mark Barron

Defensive Overview: Whereas I'm worried about Tampa Bay's offense, I'm excited about their defense, which could push Carolina to be the best in the division, and perhaps a top-five NFC group. The Bucs finally have a stable of pass rushers and defensive line depth, with "sub-rusher" DT Clinton McDonald likely to replace Spence on passing downs, and power end William Gholston as a run-stopping role player. The linebacker corps is headlined by David, a sideline-to-sideline striker who perfectly fits Lovie's Tampa 2. Verner is capable of excelling in both man and zone technique, and will be Smith's new Charles Tillman. There is a lot of talent on this side of the ball, and it will be well coached. Even with a limited pass game, the Bucs should be competitive week in and week out with a run-oriented offense complemented by a potentially superb defense.

24. St. Louis Rams

QB: Sam Bradford
RB: Zac Stacy
WR: Kenny Britt*
WR: Stedman Bailey
TE: Jared Cook
TE: Lance Kendricks
LT: Jake Long
LG: Brandon Washington
C: Scott Wells
RG: Rodger Saffold
RT: Joseph Barksdale

Offensive Overview: The Rams are commonly perceived as a team on the way up -- or at least they used to be -- but they've failed to make the playoffs in each of Jeff Fisher's first two years, and fell to fourth in their division last season, getting leapfrogged by Arizona. St. Louis' 2013 acquisitions of Cook and Tavon Austin flopped, while third-year GM Les Snead's drafts have left much to be desired despite a surplus of selections from the 2012 Robert Griffin III trade. Bradford is entering his fifth NFL season as a seemingly shell-shocked and ultimately mediocre quarterback from whom the franchise will have to move on in 2015 if he doesn't take a major 2014 step. Not helping Bradford's cause is a shaky pass-catching corps and sub-par line, though it could easily be argued that Bradford's limitations exacerbate those perceived flaws. The Rams' most bankable offensive asset is Zac Stacy, who averaged 3.89 yards per carry as a rookie.

RE: Robert Quinn
LE: Chris Long
DT: Michael Brockers
DT: Kendall Langford
MLB: James Laurinaitis
WLB: Alec Ogletree
SLB: Jo-Lonn Dunbar
LCB: Trumaine Johnson
RCB: Janoris Jenkins
FS: Rodney McLeod
SS: T.J. McDonald

Defensive Overview: Fisher and Snead have had a lot more success building up this side of the ball, although it's worth noting they "inherited" both Quinn and Long from former GM Billy Devaney's drafts, as well as Laurinaitis. Regardless of who picked whom, St. Louis returns every starter from a defense that finished No. 9 against the run and No. 3 in sacks. The Rams do have some relatively minor holes to fill -- free safety needs an upgrade, and they could use a better slot corner -- but all in all this defense is a strength. St. Louis would come in higher in these rankings if I felt confident Bradford was a franchise quarterback, and if the Rams had a better offensive line.


25. Cleveland Browns

QB: Brian Hoyer
RB: Ben Tate*
WR: Josh Gordon
WR: Andrew Hawkins*
TE: Jordan Cameron
TE: Jim Dray*
LT: Joe Thomas
LG: Jason Pinkston
C: Alex Mack
RG: John Greco
RT: Mitchell Schwartz

Offensive Overview: The Browns aggressively upgraded the skill positions in free agency, poaching Hawkins on a four-year, $13.6 million offer sheet and giving Tate one of the offseason's better running back deals. This offense obviously isn't a finished product, needing a quarterback, legit every-down second wideout, and arguably one more lineman. They're the team best suited to take on Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel. New OC Kyle Shanahan worked with another dual-threat signal caller in Washington, Manziel has big hands to play in inclement weather, and in Gordon the Browns already have a Type-A wide receiver in place. (Gordon is actually a talent upgrade on Manziel's college go-to guy, Mike Evans.) The "ifs" are many in Cleveland -- and I admittedly felt similarly about them last offseason -- but I think this team has a chance to take a 2014 leap.

LE: Ahtyba Rubin
RE: Desmond Bryant
NT: Phil Taylor
ILB: Karlos Dansby*
ILB: Craig Robertson
OLB: Paul Kruger
OLB: Jabaal Sheard
LCB: Joe Haden
RCB: Buster Skrine
FS: Tashaun Gipson
SS: Donte Whitner*

Defensive Overview: The Browns are short at multiple key positions on offense. The same can only be said on defense for right corner, where returning starter Skrine would be best suited to a sub-package role. Rookie GM Ray Farmer has ten draft picks, including six in the top 106, and I fully expect him to use at least one at cornerback. Otherwise, this group looks ready to play with a strong starting lineup and impressive depth. Not even listed here are OLBs Barkevious Mingo and Quentin Groves, and useful DLs John Hughes, Billy Winn, and Ishmaa'ily Kitchen. Cleveland comes in low in these pre-draft rankings in large part because they lack a quality long-term starting quarterback. It's really that simple. They'll move way up when/if they establish one.

26. New York Jets

QB: Michael Vick*
RB: Chris Johnson*
WR: Eric Decker*
WR: David Nelson
WR: Jeremy Kerley
TE: Jeff Cumberland
LT: D'Brickashaw Ferguson
LG: Brian Winters
C: Nick Mangold
RG: Willie Colon
RT: Breno Giacomini*

Offensive Overview: There seem to be two diametrically opposed viewpoints on how the Jets should build their team. One posits New York is better off conceding its shortcomings at quarterback, attempting to play run-first football featuring Johnson and Chris Ivory, and leaning on Rex Ryan's defense to stay competitive on a weekly basis. Vick would likely be the Jets' starter in this scenario, with the No. 18 overall pick devoted to tight end, offensive line, or defense. The other viewpoint hopes the Jets draft a first-round wide receiver to supplement playcaller Marty Mornhinweg's "weapons," and lets Geno Smith continue to take sophomore lumps. My guess is the Jets would be a better 2014 team employing the former strategy, though one could argue the latter is a superior long-term approach. Both viewpoints seemingly agree the Jets currently have one of the league's most limited offenses. They simply differ on how to build it up.

LE: Sheldon Richardson
RE: Muhammad Wilkerson
NT: Damon Harrison
ILB: David Harris
ILB: Demario Davis
OLB: Quinton Coples
OLB: Calvin Pace
RCB: Dimitri Patterson*
LCB: Dee Milliner
FS: Antonio Allen
SS: Dawan Landry

Defensive Overview: The Jets' defense is obviously much closer to being a unit on which GM John Idzik can hang his hat, when compared to Mornhinweg's offense, but it's also far from a finished product. The Jets need an edge rusher to push or even supplant 33-year-old Pace, a press corner on the perimeter to allow Patterson to focus on slot coverage, and a rangy center fielder to patrol the deep half for Ryan. Allen and Landry are both natural strong safeties. The Jets have up-front personnel to eliminate opposing run games, but are vulnerable to the pass. With a flawed, limited offense and holes in the defensive back eight, this is a bottom-seven NFL roster.

27. Buffalo Bills

QB: E.J. Manuel
RB: C.J. Spiller
WR: Stevie Johnson
WR: Mike Williams*
WR: Robert Woods
TE: Scott Chandler
LT: Cordy Glenn
LG: Chris Williams*
C: Eric Wood
RG: Kraig Urbik
RT: Erik Pears

Offensive Overview: If there seems to be a recurring theme toward the back end of these rankings, it's because there is: These low-rated teams either don't have a quarterback, are stuck in quarterback purgatory, or their quarterback in place has yet to establish himself as a quality starter. The Bills fall somewhere between the second and third categories. Buffalo returns an average to above-average line, and more than enough talent at receiver and running back, yet this side of the ball will remain a huge question mark until Manuel demonstrates durability and comfort in control of Buffalo's offense. I'm not particularly optimistic after Manuel's rookie season, but at least he showed flashes. He deserves 16 more games to prove whether or not he's the solution.

LE: Mario Williams
RE: Jerry Hughes
NT: Kyle Williams
DT: Marcell Dareus
MLB: Brandon Spikes*
WLB: Kiko Alonso
SLB: Keith Rivers*
RCB: Stephon Gilmore
LCB: Leodis McKelvin
FS: Corey Graham*
SS: Aaron Williams

Defensive Overview: The Bills are in a similar position to the Browns with regard to their QB dilemma, but intriguing rest of the roster. Buffalo lost top safety Jairus Byrd in free agency, but still returns an impressive unit equipped with multiple impact edge rushers, two outstanding defensive tackles, plus starting linebackers, and a secondary long on talent. I expect a 2014 breakout from Gilmore. Graham arguably gives the Bills more options than Byrd with an ability to cover slot receivers in sub-packages and man safety on early downs. Spikes won't play in nickel and dime packages, but will thump against the run. Buffalo can afford to add another outside rusher and defensive back, but ultimately new DC Jim Schwartz inherits a well-constructed group.

28. Minnesota Vikings

QB: Matt Cassel
RB: Adrian Peterson
FB: Jerome Felton
WR: Greg Jennings
WR: Cordarrelle Patterson
TE: Kyle Rudolph
LT: Matt Kalil
LG: Charlie Johnson
C: John Sullivan
RG: Brandon Fusco
RT: Phil Loadholt

Offensive Overview: The Vikings are yet another team that's "a quarterback away," but offensively can keep the chains moving with a solid line and first-ballot Hall of Fame tailback. The run game, as a unit, can carry this offense until OC Norv Turner gets his next signal caller ready. The reason Minnesota is especially low in these rankings is I'm not sold on the defense, which we'll get to shortly. As for a potential 2014 breakout player, I'm looking less at the popular Patterson and more at Rudolph, who seems like he's been in the NFL for a long time but is still only 24. Due to inevitable pass-game limitations, I can envision Rudolph being the go-to receiver in Turner's historically tight end-friendly scheme. I like his chances of flirting with double-digit TDs.

LE: Brian Robison
RE: Everson Griffen
DT: Sharrif Floyd
NT: Linval Joseph*
MLB: Audie Cole
WLB: Gerald Hodges
SLB: Chad Greenway
LCB: Xavier Rhodes
RCB: Captain Munnerlyn*
FS: Harrison Smith
SS: Jamarca Sanford

Defensive Overview: Defensively, I think the best thing Minnesota has going for itself is the addition of Mike Zimmer, who has displayed a marvelous knack for maximizing player talent throughout his coaching career. As for whether he has personnel in place to fully execute his defense in year one, I'm skeptical. Floyd was a disappointment as a rookie, and the Vikings hinted at their concerns by pursuing Henry Melton in free agency. Griffen oozes ability, but is wholly unproven as a full-time player. The linebackers are weak, and so is strong safety. Munnerlyn is an impact slot defender, but you don't want him playing much outside. GM Rick Spielman has gotten an awfully long leash in Minnesota. He has five draft picks in the top 108, and needs them to hit.

29. Houston Texans

QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick*
RB: Arian Foster
WR: Andre Johnson
WR: DeAndre Hopkins
TE: Garrett Graham
TE: Ryan Griffin
LT: Duane Brown
LG: Ben Jones
C: Chris Myers
RG: Brandon Brooks
RT: Derek Newton

Offensive Overview: The Texans are a quarterback away from fielding an above-average to legitimately good NFL offense, though plenty of QB-less teams could make the same case. The top-two wideouts are excellent, the tight ends have potential -- particularly sophomore Griffin -- and Foster's overworked but still only 27-year-old body should be refreshed after sitting out the second half of last season. On the line, three plus starters return in Brown, Myers, and Brooks. Houston could use upgrades at left guard, right tackle, slot receiver, and obviously signal caller. As alluded to previously, teams that lack franchise quarterbacks get bumped down significantly in these rankings, regardless of how you might feel about the rest of the players on offense.

LE: J.J. Watt
RE: Jared Crick
NT: Jerrell Powe*
ILB: Brian Cushing
ILB: Jeff Tarpinian
OLB: Whitney Mercilus
OLB: Brooks Reed
LCB: Kareem Jackson
RCB: Johnathan Joseph
FS: Chris Clemons*
SS: D.J. Swearinger

Defensive Overview: Watt, Cushing, and Joseph are big-name players, giving this unit the appearance of being closer to a finished product than it is. Realistically, it has a long way to go to. New DC Romeo Crennel's defense won't function without a two-gap nose tackle, and he currently doesn't have one. Crennel's scheme has also historically relied on outside linebackers to generate pressure -- not down linemen like Watt -- and Mercilus has been a major disappointment through two seasons. Houston needs a franchise outside rusher, an interior anchor, a slot corner to play between Jackson and Joseph, and an inside linebacker to bookend Cushing. It's possible, if somewhat unlikely, that those latter two needs could be filled in-house by Brandon Harris and listed outside linebacker Reed, who’d likely kick inside if the Texans draft Jadeveon Clowney.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars

QB: Chad Henne
RB: Toby Gerhart*
FB: Will Ta'ufo'ou
WR: Cecil Shorts
WR: Ace Sanders
TE: Marcedes Lewis
LT: Luke Joeckel
LG: Zane Beadles*
C: Mike Brewster
RG: Will Rackley
RT: Austin Pasztor

Offensive Overview: I waffled between Jacksonville and Houston as the 29th-ranked roster, ultimately giving the Texans the nod because they have more high-end offensive talent. The Jaguars are closer to being a well-rounded team, and I expect them to have moderate 2014 success with a run-based offense as GM Dave Caldwell continues to build in the Seahawks' likeness. The Jags lack a franchise quarterback, need at least one new offensive line starter, and remain in limbo regarding Justin Blackmon's availability. Regardless of whether it's a rookie or Henne under center, I expect Jacksonville to be a high-volume rushing team that feeds Gerhart north of 250 carries. The Jags are at least a year away from fielding a formidable passing attack.

RE: Chris Clemons*
LE: Red Bryant*
DT: Sen'Derrick Marks
NT: Roy Miller
MLB: Paul Posluszny
WLB: Geno Hayes
SLB: Dekoda Watson*
RCB: Alan Ball
LCB: Dwayne Gratz
FS: Josh Evans
SS: Johnathan Cyprien

Defensive Overview: I like what the Jags have cooking on defense. Add Andre Branch, Jason Babin, Tyson Alualu, Ziggy Hood, and Abry Jones to the first-team line listed here, and Jacksonville boasts a deep rotation that won't ask any one individual to play too many snaps. It's another Seahawkian approach. And I think they'll draft Buffalo's Khalil Mack to fill the "Leo" pass-rush role. The linebackers are fairly weak, but the secondary offers a ton of promise with Gratz, Evans, and Cyprien all entering their second years. Ball quietly graded out as a top-20 corner in Pro Football Focus' 2013 ratings. This group is far from complete, but I think Jacksonville could field a sneaky top 12-15 defense in 2014. Again, I expect the Jaguars to be a team that leans on a voluminous running game, plays stingy defense, and competes every week.

31. Oakland Raiders

QB: Matt Schaub*
RB: Maurice Jones-Drew*
FB: Marcel Reece
WR: James Jones*
WR: Rod Streater
TE: Mychal Rivera
LT: Donald Penn*
LG: Khalif Barnes
C: Stefen Wisniewski
RG: Austin Howard*
RT: Menelik Watson

Offensive Overview: Oakland's weakness will continue to be its offense, where headline acquisition Schaub has a 13:19 TD-to-INT ratio with five pick-sixes over his last 16 games. "Top" tailbacks Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden combined to rush 348 times for 1,182 yards (3.40 YPC) last season. I didn't list Denarius Moore because he's fallen out of favor and will likely be traded during the draft. Jones is best suited to a No. 2 receiver role, and Streater to No. 3. I do think there is room for optimism on the line, where position coach Tony Sparano has a knack for coaching up players. At age 31, Penn should still have a season of above-average starts left in him. Howard has the potential to be a mauling right guard. Wisniewski is one of Oakland's few quality young starters. 2013 second-rounder Watson offers upside if he can stay off the shelf.

LE: Justin Tuck*
RE: LaMarr Woodley*
DT: Antonio Smith*
NT: Pat Sims
MLB: Nick Roach
WLB: Kevin Burnett
SLB: Sio Moore
LCB: Carlos Rogers*
RCB: Tarell Brown*
FS: Charles Woodson
SS: Tyvon Branch

Defensive Overview: I'd call the Raiders a sneaky bet to flirt with 8-8 if they didn't face a brutal schedule, consisting of 12 dates with teams that finished last year .500 or better. Although Oakland has little to no depth throughout its defense, first-teamers Woodley, Tuck, Smith, and Moore should be able to generate pass rush, and Branch's healthy return will give the back end a boost. I don't have 2013 first-rounder D.J. Hayden penciled in as a starter after his disappointing rookie season, but the Raiders are certainly hoping for a year-two leap. The linebacker corps is solid and should supply competitive run defense. Ultimately, I think whether this can be a quiet top-15 defense will come down to unpredictable injury luck, based on the Raiders' lack of depth.

32. Tennessee Titans

QB: Jake Locker
RB: Shonn Greene
WR: Kendall Wright
WR: Justin Hunter
WR: Nate Washington
TE: Delanie Walker
LT: Michael Roos
LG: Andy Levitre
C: Brian Schwenke
RG: Chance Warmack
RT: Michael Oher*

Offensive Overview: The Titans lack both a franchise quarterback and franchise tailback. They are changing defensive schemes with several questionable 3-4 fits. Their best player on offense is a 5-foot-10, 196-pound slot receiver who managed two touchdowns among 94 catches last year. GM Ruston Webster's roster is not completely devoid of talent, but it is most certainly among the league's bottom five, and in the basement for me when you consider a rookie tailback will likely be the centerpiece of new coach Ken Whisenhunt's offense. Why did Whiz choose the Titans over the Lions' job again? It's also worth noting Webster has only six draft picks, and just two in the top 110. I expect Tennessee to bring up the rear in the NFL's worst division this year.

RE: Jurrell Casey
LE: Ropati Pitoitua
NT: Al Woods*
ILB: Zach Brown
ILB: Wesley Woodyard*
OLB: Derrick Morgan
OLB: Akeem Ayers
LCB: Jason McCourty
RCB: Blidi Wreh-Wilson
FS: Michael Griffin
SS: Bernard Pollard

Defensive Overview: Defense is this roster's theoretical strength -- the Titans ranked a respectable 14th in yards allowed last year, and 16th in points against -- but they lost top corner Alterraun Verner in free agency without a replacement, and the defense currently lacks a two-gap nose tackle. It's a critical position in new DC Ray Horton's 3-4, and especially so for a team with undersized inside linebackers who will get engulfed by guards with no space eater to protect them. Casey and Morgan were great 4-3 linemen, but will be forced out of position under Horton. Converted Sam 'backer Ayers, 33-year-old Shaun Phillips, and Kamerion Wimbley, whose sack totals have dropped in three straight seasons, will be counted on to supply pass rush. The Titans will try to compete in 2014, but I think they will have to undergo a full-on rebuild by next offseason.

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