Touchdown Wire’s post-draft power rankings

·31 min read

Now that free agency is well in the books, and we’ve finally put a cap on the 2021 draft, it’s time to assess how NFL teams have improved their prospects for the upcoming season — or not. With all the player acquisition processes affected by COVID, especially the draft, methods changed. Teams may have been more reliant on area scouts than in previous years, the focus may have been more on on-field performance than off-field character due to a relative lack of face time (as opposed to FaceTime) with players, and everybody’s going to have to hope that the majority of players who opted out in 2020 don’t show any rust. Not that we’re questioning those personal and individual choices, but it is what it is, as Bill Belichick is fond of saying.

So, with most of the moves made — there are still a handful of potentially impactful free agents out there — it’s time to analyze how every team did. Here are Touchdown Wire’s post-draft power rankings.

32. Houston Texans

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Nick-Caserio-Houston-Texans

(AP Photo/Stew Milne)

This "Well, what the heck am I supposed to do about this mess?" look from new Texans general manager Nick Caserio kinda says it all. The former Patriots executive went from first to worst from an organizational perspective when he took this gig, and it's going to take a while for the Texans to dig themselves out of this, no matter how smart their GM is. A series of execrable trades left Caserio with no draft capital until the third round, where Houston took Stanford quarterback Davis Mills -- an obvious finger in the direction of Deshaun Watson's current situation. Even with Watson on the roster, this may be the worst team in the NFL from a talent perspective, and without him, this is a total, hellish, multi-year rebuild in its first phases.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars

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The 2017 Jaguars went 10-6 and came one half of football in the AFC Championship game against the Patriots from a trip to Super Bowl LII. Since then, the team has put up a 12-36 record (including a 1-15 mark in 2020), the worst over that time. So, the crest toward a rebuild in 2021 was decisive. Hiring Urban Meyer for his first NFL coaching job was step one. An active free agency period in which they upgraded their secondary with Shaquill Griffin and Rayshawn Jenkins and their receiver group with Marvin Jones was step two. Step three was a draft class featuring the most obvious pick in first-overall quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The Clemson alum may be the most high-floor/high-ceiling prospect at the position since Andrew Luck, so good job there. Then, with their second first-round pick, Meyer went back to Clemson with running back Travis Etienne. You can question the need there, but Etienne projects well as an Alvin Kamara type who can nuke defenses moving from the backfield to the slot. The Jaguars did a lot to advance their interests this offseason, but there's so much to fix, and we have absolutely no clue how Meyer will handle the rigors of the NFL on a day-to-day basis.

30. Las Vegas Raiders

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Welp. The Raiders, who have a radically different concept of player value than most organizations, traded away most of their offensive line in the offseason, and put line coach Tom Cable in charge of the front five rebuild. Those who call the Seahawks their team can tell you how that generally works out in a personnel sense. Cable was behind the selection of Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood with the 17th overall pick, which could be generously described as a bit of a reach. Jon Gruden discovered that it's better to be lucky than good when TCU safety Trevon Moehrig fell to the Raiders in the second round, and Moehrig fills desperate needs in the secondary as a multi-position defender with the potential to become a deep-third eraser. Given the blowup of the line and the reaches in this draft (EDGE Malcolm Koonce and safety/'backer Divine Deablo stand out in that regard), and it's tough to see the 8-8 Raiders avoiding some manner of regression.

29. Cincinnati Bengals

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In his 2020 rookie season, Joe Burrow took 341 dropbacks of 0-3 steps, and on those short dropbacks, he was sacked 26 times and faced 108 total pressures. That was more short drops and more pressures than any other NFL quarterback faced through Week 11, when Burrow suffered his season-ending ACL and MCL injuries, and only Carson Wentz had more sacks than Burrow through Week 11 with 27. This wasn't sustainable, which had a lot of people believing that the Bengals would take Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell with the fifth pick if Sewell was available. Sewell was, but the Bengals decided instead to reunite Burrow with Ja'Marr Chase, his primary target at LSU in 2019. All good, but asking Riley Reiff and Jonah Williams (if Jonah Williams can stay healthy) to protect Burrow might be a stretch, and if that's the case, very little else about Cincinnati's draft and free-agency processes will matter. Well, this matters: The Bengals lost their two best defenders (EDGE Carl Lawson and cornerback William Jackson III) in free agency and failed to replace them with equivalent talents. The 4-11-1 Bengals could be in for a tough go, though the passing game will be fun to watch.

28. New York Jets

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It's hard not to love what the Jets did in both free agency and in the draft -- grabbing EDGE Carl Lawson and receiver Corey Davis pre-draft, and selecting BYU quarterback Zach Wilson with the second overall pick to run Mike LaFleur's offense. Wilson is a natural fit there with his second-reaction ability and predilection for explosive plays off play-action, and in second-round receiver Elijah Moore, Wilson will have a new threat both on simple screens and deep passes. Grabbing USC offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker was also a nice first-round pick, as Vera-Tucker has high-level experience at both tackle and guard. And I love the fourth-round pick of North Carolina running back Michael Carter, who had more runs of 15 or more yards than anybody in the NCAA in 2020. Carter immediately goes to the top of an iffy running back group. The Jets are starting over, and 2021 will be rough in some phases, but they're definitely on the way up. You may need to wait until 2022 to really see it, though.

27. Denver Broncos

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Trading for Teddy Bridgewater didn't take the Broncos out of the quarterback derby in the long run, but when it came to the ninth overall pick, Denver passed on Justin Fields and instead selected Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, perhaps the most NFL-ready player at his position in this class. Surtain is a perfect fit for Vic Fangio's man/match concepts, but if Bridgewater is struggling under pressure and Drew Lock is throwing helium balls all over the place, Surtain will have to play at Peak Darrelle Revis level to take the sting out of that. At least if that does happen, Fangio and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur can avail themselves of the best running back in the 2021 class in the person of North Carolina's Javonte Williams, who somehow slipped to the 35th overall pick and reminds me of an unholy combination of Marshawn Lynch and Nick Chubb. I also love the fifth-round steal of Indiana safety Jamar Johnson, who covers like a first-rounder and tackles like a UDFA, but that's where you're supposed to draft guys like that. Unless Aaron Rodgers is somehow coming to the Mile High City, though, Denver's 2021 season will be all about the decision to go conservative with their quarterbacks.

26. Detroit Lions

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2021-nfl-draft-10-facts-lions-no-7-overall-pick-penei-sewell

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Some in the NFL believe that you win in the trenches, and new Lions general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell are obviously believers. They took Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell with the seventh overall pick, and doubled down on the other side of the ball with their next two picks -- Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike in the second round, and North Carolina State defensive tackle Alim McNeill in the third. Both Onwuzurike and McNeill could be even better in the NFL than they were with their college teams if they're not put back in nose tackle purgatory; Onwuzurike has the look of Darnell Dockett as a multi-gap disruptor, and McNeill could be the next Grady Jarrett if he's used correctly. Third-round cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu from Syracuse is an ideal man cornerback for the team that played as much man coverage as any NFL team in 2020a, and were worse at it than any other. The problem? Trading Matthew Stafford to the Rams for Jared Goff and a ton of draft capital and putting Goff on the field without the kinds of receivers he needs to do anything of note. Adding USC's Amon-Ra St. Brown in the fourth round gives Goff a decent slot/outside target, but St. Brown is joining a group of WR3s, and that could make the Lions' passing game a rough watch in 2021.

25. Atlanta Falcons

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When they put two or more right ends on the field in 2020, the Tennessee Titans threw for 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions. So, when ex-Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith became the new Falcons' head coach, you'd assume Atlanta was going to improve its base at the position. The Falcons did so by making Florida's Kyle Pitts the highest-drafted tight end in pro football history with the fourth overall pick, and Pitts is worth the reach. He and Hayden Hurst (along with Julio Jones and the grievously underrated Calvin Ridley) give Matt Ryan perhaps the most impactful bunch of targets he's ever had. A defense in great need of help at just about every level should see some improvement with UCF safety Richie Grant, but that's the side of the ball that remains in question before the Falcons can contend again.

24. Carolina Panthers

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The Panthers didn't play a lot of man coverage in 2020, and when they did, they were quite bad at it. Both of those truisms are now open to change with the selection of South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn, the first defensive back selected in the 2021 draft, and the ideal player for defensive coordinator Phil Snow to expand his coverage concepts. Second-round receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. was a highly impactful receiver for Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady back when Brady coached at LSU. And grabbing Iowa defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon in the fifth round could be classified as larceny. Nice improvements for the Panthers, but this was a 5-11 team in 2020, and unless Sam Darnold is a fairly major improvement over Teddy Bridgewater, a winning record for the first time since 2017 might be a stretch.

23. New York Giants

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Two things happened in the 2021 draft we're not at all used to: Giants general manager Dave Gettleman kept trading down, and the picks Gettleman and his staff made weren't really called into question. There were a lot of As and A-pluses for a guy whose transactions have generally been seen as... well, capricious. Gettleman has been saying since January that he wants to get as many weapons as possible for quarterback Daniel Jones, and Florida's Kadarius Toney certainly qualifies. Between Toney and former Lions receiver Kenny Golladay, acquired in free agency, Jones is going to be light on excuses in 2021. And to get Georgia pass-rusher Azeez Ojulari in the second round is a great value pick. Ojulari is more about athletic potential than dominant technique at this point, but defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has proven the ability to scheme up his lines as well as anybody in the league. The Giants finished 6-10 a season ago, and as much as they've improved, they'll struggle to move too far past that if Jones doesn't make the jump the team has set him up to achieve.

22. Minnesota Vikings

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Through the Mike Zimmer era, the Vikings have alternated between playoff seasons and seasons in which they fall to .500 or lower and make adjustments to get back in contention. Since they finished 7-9 in 2020 after going 10-6 in 2019, you can guess which kind of season 2021 is supposed to be. The first-round addition of Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw with the 23rd overall pick fills a desperate need for edge protection, as Darrisaw is as consistent and technically correct as any blocker in this class. Beyond that? Well, taking Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond in the third round was an interesting way to go. The Vikings are absolutely financially tied to Kirk Cousins through the end of the 2022 season, so perhaps this is a developmental pick... but for a team with needs all along the secondary (especially following the free-agency departure of safety Anthony Harris), there was precious little done in that regard. This presupposes breakout second seasons for cornerbacks Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler, and ex-Cowboys safety Xavier Woods filling Harris' old free safety slot. If that doesn't work out, Zimmer's on/off year-to-year streak could be broken.

21. Arizona Cardinals

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For the second straight season, the Cardinals selected a "positionless" linebacker in the first round. Isaiah Simmons was the eighth overall pick in 2020, and it took the team a while to figure out how to use him. At 6-foot-5 and 259 pounds (he weighed in at 270 in a recent physical), Tulsa's Zaven Collins is a bit more of a box player with coverage and pass-rush ability, but that's a lot of work for defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. And it will be be fascinating to see how Kliff KIngsbury utilizes Purdue's Rondale Moore as a receiver who can do everything from amassing yards after catch on screens to housing deeper routes. Moore is one of my favorite receivers in this class. However, the real question about the Cardinals as the 2020 season ended still hasn't been adequality answered -- how do they get their secondary to above-average? They added very little of note in free agency or the draft, and that could keep them out of the playoffs for the seventh straight season.

20. Philadelphia Eagles

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The only sure thing about the Eagles' offseason was that there would be no sure things. Carson Wentz? Offloaded, with the highest dead cap hit in NFL history. Doug Pederson? Unceremoniously dismissed just four seasons after he brought the franchise its first Lombardi Trophy. So, with new head coach Nick Sirianni and quarterback Jalen Hurts in tow, it was up to general manager Howie Roseman to pull off a major draft haul, or he could easily be the next on the block. Not that we'll know for a while, but on paper, Roseman had one of the best drafts in this particular cycle. Grabbing Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith with the 10th overall pick and Alabama center Landon Dickerson with the 37th was a nice Nick Saban two-fer that should provide predictably excellent results as long as Dickerson can overcome his rather frightening collegiate injury history. Third-round defensive lineman Milton Williams from Louisiana Tech has the multi-gap look of a future Michael Bennett, Texas Tech's Zech McPhearson was one of the more underrated cornerbacks in this class, and getting Memphis' Kenneth Gainwell -- perhaps the best pass-catching back in this class -- in the fifth round will make Hurts' life easier. The Eagles will have to hope that Hurts takes the proverbial next step if they're to contend, but they certainly look like a more focused and forward-looking organization now than they did even a few months ago.

19. Dallas Cowboys

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Getting Dak Prescott back healthy and throwing to perhaps the best trio of receivers in the NFL is the only thing that kept the Cowboys out of the bottom 20s, because the draft haul was nothing to write home about, and Dallas did little of note in free agency. Outside of first-rounder Micah Parsons and fourth-round pick Jabril Cox -- two athletic and versatile linebackers -- there's still a ton to address for a defense that did an absolute face-plant in 2020. It's a lot to ask of new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, though Quinn should be a massive improvement over Mike Nolan. And as you would expect from a Cowboys draft, character concerns abound... especially for fourth-round offensive tackle Josh Ball, who comes into the NFL with a reprehensible, long, and quite detailed history of dating violence.

18. New England Patriots

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

You could say that Cam Newton ran the first season of the Patriots' post-Tom Brady era, but between an abbreviated preseason and Newton's COVID issues, we never saw what Newton could really do on the field. That Newton had very little in the way of targets didn't help. New England solved that issue definitively this offseason with the acquisitions of tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, and receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. The question is, who will be throwing to those guys -- Newton, or first-round pick Mac Jones? Take Jones out of Alabama's highly-schemed offense and away from his brilliant receivers, and you may see a second- or third-round talent. Second-round defensive tackle Christian Barmore and third-round EDGE Ronnie Perkins should help a defense on the way to improvement with opt-out and injury issues in the past, but more than ever, the quarterback position is the primary question mark for the Patriots. It's been a very, very long time since that has been the case.

17. Indianapolis Colts

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Of course, the primary question for the Colts is whether Carson Wentz can use his previously successful relationship with Frank Reich to salvage a career that fell off a cliff in 2020. Wentz wasn't helped by iffy pass protection and sub-par receiver talent, so it may be disconcerting for the Colts' new quarterback that general manager Chris Ballard was unable to procure Anthony Castonzo's replacement at left tackle in free agency or the draft. Ballard said that he didn't see the obvious left tackle in the draft, so Wentz heads into the 2021 season with, ostensibly, Julie'n Davenport at left tackle. That problem must resolve itself if the Colts are to go anywhere in 2020. You have to love first-round pass-rusher Kwity Paye both on and off the field, and Ballard has created a great roster overall, but if the Colts are unable to salvage Wentz's blindside protection -- either via late free agency or by moving Quenton Nelson to left tackle -- you could be watching a lot of hide-your-eyes quarterback play from this franchise.

16. Los Angeles Rams

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Are the Rams, who went 10-6 in 2020 and advanced to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs before getting their clocks cleaned by the Packers, a middling team great talent in a few places, a sneaky Super Bowl contender, or a team with a rebuild just around the corner? If you look at the Matthew Stafford trade, in which the Rams upgraded massively at quarterback while giving away still more draft capital, you'd suspect that head coach and Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead think they're a couple guys away from a long playoff run. And if you look at the draft the Rams did have, which was rife with developmental guys and potential one-trick ponies like 5-foot-9, 155-pound receiver Tutu Atwell, you may think that they have enough talent to let their picks develop for a couple years. There's no question that Jared Goff held the Rams back in ways that Stafford will not, and that may be enough for a deeper playoff-run, but if not, Stafford could find the second half of his career as mixed with personal success and team failure as the first half with the Lions was.

15. San Francisco 49ers

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The 49ers went from a Super Bowl season in 2019 to a 6-10 mark in 2020 for one obvious reason -- they were absolutely decimated by injuries, especially on defense. 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa returns, and a secondary that really felt the injury burn is back, albeit without Richard Sherman. Also returning is Jimmy Garoppolo, who missed 10 games last season and was mostly unremarkable when he was on the field. Garoppolo has a $26.4 million cap hit if he's on the roster for Week 1 and a $1.4 post-June 1 dead cap hit if he isn't, which makes him a very expensive mentor for third-overall pick Trey Lance. Lance may not start the season on the field -- though our own Mark Schofield made a compelling case as to why he should -- but when he's up to speed, he'll offer attributes that Garoppolo couldn't possibly. Notre Dame guard Aaron Banks, selected in the second round, and third-round running back Trey Sermon should help San Francisco's ground game, but the real point of interest here is what happens when Lance is ready to run Kyle Shanahan's offense.

14. New Orleans Saints

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Sean Payton went into the draft insisting that the Saints needed upgrades at the cornerback position, but outside of Stanford's Paulson Adebo in the third round, not much was done there. Instead, New Orleans took Houston EDGE Payton Turner in the first round -- an interesting selection, as Turner was our eighth-ranked player at the position in this class. Of course, the key to the Saints' success in 2021 isn't the pass-rush; it's how well the combination of Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston (Taymeis?) holds down the quarterback position at the beginning of the franchise's post-Drew Brees era. If neither are able to... well, maybe Payton was on to something, because the NFL's second-best defense in 2020 will have to be even better to get the Saints back in the playoffs.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Through the first 11 weeks of the 2020 season, the NFL's best defense and a good-enough Ben Roethlisberger were able to hide a moving floor. Then, things got weird. The Steelers lost four of their last five games in the regular season, and were summarily dispatched by the Browns in the wild-card round in one of the weirder playoff games you'll ever see -- Pittsburgh spotted the Browns a 28-0 lead before coming back to make it competitive in a 48-37 loss. Now, questions about Roethlisberger's arm strength multiply, the defense could be in for regression with the free-agency losses of EDGE Bud Dupree and cornerback Mike Hilton, and an offensive line that needed a ton of help this offseason didn't really get it. First-round running back Najee Harris does everything well, which will help one of the NFL's worst rushing attacks, and the Steelers got interesting late-round sleepers in Miami EDGE Quincy Roche and Oklahoma defensive back Tre Norwood, but there's a sense that this Steelers team might not be as hard to topple as it was in the first half of last season. The randomness of the second half of that season could be here for a while.

12. Seattle Seahawks

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If there's such a thing as a typical Seahawks draft..; well, it was this one, in which there were no first-round pick (sold off to the Jets for Jamal Adams), just three picks in total (sold off in the Adams, Gabe Jackson, and Carlos Dunlap trades) and the first guy Seattle took off the board was someone you may not have known if your familiarity with draft prospects is cursory. Receiver D'Wayne Eskridge is a slot burner whose stock rose after an outstanding Senior Bowl, Oklahoma cornerback Tre Johnson is a smaller defender whose aggressive style led to a ton of penalties at the college level, and Florida offensive tackle Stone Forsythe is a potential sixth-round steal who projects well as a developmental blocker. The defending NFC West champs decided to rely more on free agency and trades than the draft in an uncertain year for prospects, and though Russell Wilson is still the face of the franchise, improvements on defense are crucial if Seattle is to advance beyond the divisional round for the first time since 2014.

11. Chicago Bears

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Chicago Bears have been looking for a legitimate franchise quarterback since World War II, and no franchise has been worse, generation to generation, at scouting, acquiring, and developing quarterbacks. Not even close. Which makes the decision to trade up in the 2021 draft and select Ohio State's Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick so fascinating. Fields has every athletic trait you would want in a modern quarterback, and he ran an offense that is about as NFL-ready as you could want. Fields inherits an underrated receiver group led by Allen Robinson, and a play-designer in head coach Matt Nagy who does well when he has, y'know, an actual quarterback. The scheme fit to talent looks like a home run, and while I have serious questions about the logic of moving second-rounder Teven Jenkins to left tackle, we may be seeing exciting and efficient quarterback play in the Windy City sooner than later. No, really!

10. Tennessee Titans

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

The extent to which you're bullish about the Titans' 2021 season likely has a great deal to do with how you think Ryan Tannehill will weather the loss of offensive coordinator Arthur Smith (now the Falcons' head coach, to the great benefit of Matt Ryan and Kyle Pitts), and how much you think the first-round pick of Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley and the third-round pick of Washington slot stud and occasional safety Elijah Molden will rehabilitate a secondary that played very badly most of the time. The free-agency additions of edge-rushers Bud Dupree and Denico Autry will help that secondary, but on the offensive side of the ball, new OC Todd Downing has his work cut out for him if the requirement is more than rolling heavy play-action and "12" personnel for Tannehill, and handing the ball to Derrick Henry as much as possible.

9. Miami Dolphins

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The Dolphins experienced the most remarkable positive transformation in the 2020 season, going from a 5-11 tankathon in 2019 to last year's 10-6 mark, leaving them a hair away from their first postseason berth since 2016. Based on the offseason put together by general manager Chris Grier and head coach Brian Flores and his staff, Dolphins fans might want to start thinking about playoff tickets. With their two first-round picks, Miami selected Alabama's Jaylen Waddle sixth overall and Miami EDGE Jaelan Phillips 18th overall. When you get perhaps the best receiver and definitely the best edge defender in a class with your first two picks, that's pretty decent. Second-round safety Jevon Holland from Oregon is an ideal versatile fit for Flores' defense, and as long as Tua Tagovailoa has a strong second-year developmental curve... well, they're probably not ready to wrest the AFC East away from the Bills (and Bill Belichick is always larger in your rear-view than he appears), but the Dolphins have the look of that proverbial Team No Other Team Wants To Face.

8. Washington Football Team

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The Football Team at eight? A 7-9 "division winner" at eight? What the bleep? All good questions, until you remember that Washington had a dumpster fire situation at quarterback in 2020, which tended to hide the fact that Ron Rivera's defense got legit. Only the Steelers and Saints ranked ahead of Washington in Defensive DVOA, and when you add former Bengals cornerback William Jackson III in free agency, that's a huge value-add. Another huge value-add was Washington's first-round pick --Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis, who reminds me a lot of Thomas Davis, the 'backer Rivera worked with when they were both with Carolina. Speaking of Carolina, North Carolina receiver Dyami Brown was one of the steals of this draft in the third round, and Brown adds his name and talent to an already stacked receiver class. If Ryan Fitzpatrick can dial up more good YOLO than bad YOLO, the Football Team will a lot more interesting than their name, and possibly good enough for a decent-sized playoff run.

7. Cleveland Browns

(Courtesy Northwestern Athletics)

Two straight drafts leaving analysts struggling for the right words to explain how much they liked them? Free agents actually wanting to become Browns? It is certainly a new day in Cleveland. General manager Andrew Berry, who might want to clear space on his mantlepiece for a few Executive of the Year awards, went after a below-average secondary -- Cleveland's one clear weakness in 2020 -- with an intelligent vengeance. Getting slot cornerback Troy Hill and shot-calling safety John Johnson III in free agency were a pair of masterstrokes, and the selections of Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome in the first round and Notre Dame moveable chess piece Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah give Cleveland a defense that could be as lockdown as its offense is explosive. If the Ravens blink at all, the Browns could take their division for the first time since... *checks notes...* 1989. Woof. Back when the Ravens didn't exist.

6. Kansas City Chiefs

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The Chiefs' injury-depleted offensive line was last seen exposing Patrick Mahomes to the best defensive game plan Buccaneers' defensive coordinator Todd Bowles ever put together. Tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz are off the roster in financial moves, but that may not have been just a couple of cap moves. Kansas City may be moving from a zone-based blocking system to more of a gap/counter/trap/pull set of concepts in which power is the order of the day. The 2020 signing of guard Kelechi Osemele may have presaged this transition, and the trade of their 2021 first-round pick for Ravens tackle Orlando Brown seems like the defining move. If that's the case, Kansas City's second-round selection of Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey makes all the sense in the world. Over three seasons with the Sooners, Humphrey blocked gap on 48% of his snaps, per Sports Info Solutions, and helped his running backs gain 6.9 yards per carry to his gap. That'll work. The Chiefs return the NFL's most explosive offense and an underrated defense, and the most fascinating part of it all in 2021 could be how the front five engages in a complete paradigm shift.

5. Baltimore Ravens

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Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta was quite miffed in his pre-draft presser when it was presented to him by the media that his receiver group might be less than stellar. But the proof is in the picking, and Baltimore took two receivers with starting potential, which says it all. Minnesota's Rashod Bateman gives the Ravens a contested-catch machine they haven't had since Anquan Boldin (which is also the last time they won a Super Bowl), and fourth-round target Tylan Wallace from Oklahoma State is a speed slot receiver who could produce early. Both Bateman and Wallace can help Lamar Jackson in the middle of the field, which is where Jackson has struggled with his reads. First-round EDGE Odafe Oweh from Penn State could be a nice combination of Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, the two pass-rushers Baltimore lost in free agency, and if you have 6-foot-6, 343-pound guard Ben Cleveland blocking gap with free-agent acquisition Kevin Zeitler, defenses are going to make business decisions.

4. Green Bay Packers

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Of course, we're ranking the Packers fourth overall with the expectation that Aaron Rodgers is their starting quarterback... and that's looking less and less likely. Without Rodgers, this could be a team in the 20s with a defense under construction and a group of receivers outside of the peerless Davante Adams that make you think Rodgers had a point about that. Oh, and Corey Linsley, the NFL's best center, moved from Green Bay to L.A., signing a well-deserved mega-deal with the Chargers. On the other hand, Unhappy Aaron Rodgers is the best Aaron Rodgers, at least in a pure football sense, and he's even unhappier than he was in 2020, when he took home his third NFL MVP award. General manager Brian Gutekunst has been playing a dangerous game since the first round of the 2020 draft, when the Packers moved up to take Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, and letting Rodgers find out about it on television.

3. Los Angeles Chargers

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The last we saw of Chargers first-round offensive tackle Rashawn Slater, the Northwestern alum was kicking Chase Young's butt, and Young just won Defensive Rookie of the Year. Now, Slater will protect the blind side of 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert. Nice transition for either the best or the second-best tackle in this class, depending on your preference. Left tackle was the Chargers' one glaring need, and they nailed the fix with Slater. Second-round cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. is a perfect fit for new head coach Brandon Staley's complex coverage schemes, and if everything else breaks right, the Chargers might be ready to compete with the Chiefs for control of the AFC West. And if they're ready to do that, could control of the AFC be next?

2. Buffalo Bills

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Few teams went into the 2021 offseason with a more enviable overall roster than the Bills, and few teams with stacked rosters went into the 2021 offseason with more of a "Yeah, but..." caveat. Buffalo desperately needed edge pressure if they were to compete to get past the Chiefs in the AFC, and they addressed that issue with a vengeance with their first two picks. You have to be all-in on Miami's Gregory Rousseau as a multi-gap threat as opposed to an undefined pass-disruptor (which I am) to love him at 30th overall, and second-round pick Carlos "Boogie" Basham from Wake Forest looks like a great developmental player with outstanding speed for his size, and an already-developed array of hand moves. Add in the sneaky-good fourth-round pick of North Texas receiver Jaelon Darden, and the Bills are looking more and more like a comfortable AFC champion pick.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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The band is back together, and kudos to Bucs general manager Jason Licht and his staff for retaining potential high-caliber departures like EDGE Shaquil Barrett and receiver Chris Godwin, giving the team the kind of continuity you rarely see from a defending Super Bowl champion. With that in mind, the Bucs took Washington EDGE Joe Tryon with the 32nd overall pick, and Tryon figures in as a depth rusher in a group that is still in Patrick Mahomes' nightmares. The draft class doesn't have a ton of standouts beyond Tryon, and I have serious questions about taking Florida quarterback Kyle Trask with the last pick in the second round (Trask looks more like a mid-third-day guy to me) but it makes sense given Bruce Arians' love for pocket quarterbacks with big arms, and Arians' ability to coach said quarterbacks up. So, can the Buccaneers "run it back?" As long as everyone stays healthy and this isn't the year we have to look at Tom Brady's arm strength with a serious side-eye, you'd be hard-pressed to bet against them.

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