NFL Power Rankings: Breaking Down Where Every Team Stands After Draft
There were some clear winners and losers in the 2013 NFL draft, and not surprisingly, some of the best teams in the league also had the best drafts.
The power structure of the NFL is an ever-changing thing. Each year, teams that made the playoffs the season before end up missing out, while other teams that nobody saw as contenders end up making it into the postseason tournament.
Here's a look at how the league stacks up in terms of roster talent after this year's draft, with certain teams highlighted with italics for more in-depth analysis.
1. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers were one play away from winning the Super Bowl last year, and somehow general manager Trent Baalke has made significant improvements to the team's roster.
Rookie Eric Reid will step in for Dashon Goldson, who left to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Tank Carradine and Corey Lemonier are outstanding pass-rushers who will help Aldon Smith's development.
Quinton Patton may supplant last year's first-round pick A.J. Jenkins on the depth chart, and with Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and rookie tight end Vance McDonald, the 49ers feature a tremendous array of offensive weapons for Colin Kaepernick.
Which NFC West team is the best?
The haul this team made in the draft was outrageous, and Baalke is set up to do the same thing again in next year's draft with a multitude of picks.
2. Seattle Seahawks
If you had told me three years ago that the top two teams in the NFL would hail from the NFC West, I'd have told you to put down the bottle. But Pete Carroll's squad is as dangerous as any team in the league, and like the 49ers, Seattle got better this year with a few key free-agent additions.
3. Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning really needed a player like Wes Welker, and now that he's got him, the Broncos offense will run much smoother. Montee Ball should step in as an immediate starter to give Manning some help in the running game, too, and Sylvester Williams will significantly improve the team's ability to stuff the run.
4. New England Patriots
Until Tom Brady is no longer the quarterback for Bill Belichick's Patriots, this is a team that will be a Super Bowl contender year in and year out. Pass-rushing specialist Jamie Collins will work his way into the lineup, and I predict he'll be a significant player for the Pats in 2013.
5. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers is truly the best quarterback in the NFL, and now that he's got two running backs—Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin—the Packers' offensive attack will be even tougher to stop.
6. Atlanta Falcons
Moving up in the first round to land Desmond Trufant was a savvy move by general manager Thomas Dimitroff. This is a team that is one or two pass-rushers away from winning a championship.
7. Houston Texans
Matt Schaub and the Texans will have no excuses in 2013.
The Texans drafted DeAndre Hopkins to play opposite Andre Johnson, and of all the outside receivers in this year's draft, he was my pick as the one most ready to step into a starting lineup and produce at a high level.
D.J. Swearinger and Trevardo Williams will both challenge for starting spots and will both likely see plenty of action toward the end of the year. Ed Reed will significantly improve the team's ability to cover the back end, and J.J. Watt will be healthy—a scary thought after we found out he played last year with torn ligaments in his elbow.
The pieces are in place for Houston to take a big step toward a championship in 2013, but this is a team that has been underwhelming in the playoffs under head coach Gary Kubiak.
8. Cincinnati Bengals
Drafting Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard with the team's first two picks will pay dividends this year for the Bengals. Andy Dalton now has plenty of targets in the passing game and a dynamic running back behind him. Combined with this team's dominant front seven on defense, the Bengals are poised to win the AFC North in 2013.
9. Baltimore Ravens
Ozzie Newsome did a masterful job of restocking his roster with veterans and rookies alike, and the Ravens will be a tough team for the Bengals to overtake in this brutal division. Matt Elam and Arthur Brown will both likely be starters in Week 1, and small-school stud Brandon Williams will work his way into the lineup before the year is out.
10. Chicago Bears
Jon Bostic was an absolute steal in the middle of the second round, and it shouldn't surprise anyone if he supplants D.J. Williams as the team's starting inside linebacker this year. The Bears will only go as far as Jay Cutler takes them, however, and it remains to be seen if new head coach Marc Trestman can get his quarterback playing at a high enough level to make noise in the playoffs.
11. Minnesota Vikings
I applaud general manager Rick Spielman for going all-in on this year's draft and landing three potential starters in the first round. Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson all have the ability to become superstars in this league, but questions remain about Christian Ponder's ability to become a franchise quarterback.
12. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck will be an NFL MVP candidate this year—mark it down.
The Colts signed offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus and offensive guard Donald Thomas in free agency and then drafted guard Hugh Thornton and center Khaled Holmes. Protecting Luck last year was always a lost cause, but this year's offensive line should be much improved.
Adding Darrius Heyward-Bey was a stroke of genius, and you can expect tight end Coby Fleener to become a bigger part of the team's offense this year.
Indy is loaded on offense, and the team also added some key players to help on the defensive side of the ball. Nobody should be surprised to see the Colts make the playoffs again in 2013.
13. Washington Redskins
The Redskins did a nice job picking up players in the draft who can step in and help the team immediately—especially on the defensive side of the ball. David Amerson, Phillip Thomas, Brandon Jenkins and Bacarri Rambo all have a chance to play this year.
The only thing that will set the Redskins back from last year's effort is if Robert Griffin III can't stay healthy or suffers a sophomore slump.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers
Jarvis Jones and Le'Veon Bell are instant starters for the Steelers, and both will have a significant, positive impact on this team. That said, there are still some huge question marks on the offensive line, and if Ben Roethlisberger doesn't get the protection he needs this year, the Steelers won't make the playoffs.
15. New York Giants
I wasn't a fan of the Justin Pugh pick by Jerry Reese in the first round. That said, Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore will both play a big role on the team's defense, and Eli Manning is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
16. Miami Dolphins
General manager Jeff Ireland put all his chips into the pile this year. From his bold moves in free agency to moving up to the No. 3 spot in this year's draft to land Dion Jordan, Ireland expects the Dolphins to win now.
Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be the key. If he continues to progress like he did last year, Miami has a chance to make it into the playoffs as a Wild Card. If not, Ireland will likely be gone after the season is up (my own speculation).
17. St. Louis Rams
If the Rams played in another division, it would be easy to envision this team making the playoffs. Even in the NFC West, there's enough talent on both sides of the ball for St. Louis to sneak in as the third NFC West team in the postseason as a Wild Card.
Will the Rams earn a playoff spot in the NFC in 2013?
Tavon Austin was a brilliant pickup for quarterback Sam Bradford, and when general manager Les Snead picked up Austin's college teammate Stedman Bailey it became clear that Bradford will be a much improved player this year.
Adding Alec Ogletree late in the first round was also a stroke of genius. He won't be playing inside for St. Louis, as James Laurinaitis has that position on lockdown, but his speed and athleticism will be better served on the outside, anyway.
Safety T.J. McDonald will also be an impact player for the Rams this year, and Jeff Fisher's club will be a tough nut to crack week in and week out.
18. New Orleans Saints
Just having Sean Payton back on the sidelines should account for a few wins this year. He's the best offensive playcaller in the game, and Drew Brees is the yin to his yang. It will be fascinating to watch Rob Ryan transform the team's defense into a 3-4 unit, and safety Kenny Vaccaro should be a big help on the back end.
19. Dallas Cowboys
For the sake of Cowboys fans everywhere, I hope I'm wrong about how bad Jerry Jones' draft was. Tony Romo still doesn't have any protection, and even though he has plenty of weapons to throw to, he can't do that when he's getting pummeled on a regular basis.
Travis Frederick had better turn into an All-Pro, and quickly.
20. Detroit Lions
Until the Lions start playing up to their potential, this team will not get out of the bottom half of my rankings. Ezekiel Ansah, Darius Slay and Larry Warford—the team's first three picks in the draft—are all boom/bust candidates. If they boom, and if Matthew Stafford can stop throwing silly interceptions, the Lions could be the most improved team in the NFL this year.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
You have to take your hat off to general manager Mark Dominik for the bold moves he's made in the past two years to fill big holes on his roster with top free agents. That said, most good teams build through the draft, and it remains to be seen if his imports can learn how to play together.
22. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have enough talent for Andy Reid to forge a playoff team, but until it happens, many fans will be skeptical. Alex Smith was phenomenal for the 49ers the past two years, but nobody knows if he'll be able to be as efficient for Reid as he was for Jim Harbaugh.
23. Carolina Panthers
Drafting Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short in the first two rounds should put to rest any issues the Panthers had on the defensive front last year. Both players are disruptive inside, which should lead to more one-on-one opportunities for Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson on the edge.
The biggest key for Carolina this year is Cam Newton. If he struggles this year like he did in 2012, the Panthers won't win many games regardless of how good their defense plays.
24. San Diego Chargers
D.J. Fluker and Manti Te'o could both end up being excellent players for the Chargers, and Keenan Allen in the third round was a steal of epic proportions. That said, the Chargers still have gaping holes on the offensive line and in the secondary, and if Philip Rivers continues to get hammered like he did last year the Chargers won't win many games.
25. Philadelphia Eagles
A few weeks into the regular season might change this team's fortunes as it pertains to these power rankings. Chip Kelly's influence has yet to be determined, and it remains to be seen if any of the quarterbacks on his roster have what it takes to play winning football in his system.
26. Buffalo Bills
Did the Bills make a mistake drafting EJ Manuel?
If EJ Manuel proves to be worthy of the first-round pick the Bills spent on him, Buffalo could be a surprise playoff team. Drafting Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin should have a positive impact on the team's ability to move the chains on offense, and if C.J. Spiller is given enough opportunities, he'll explode with a monster season.
There are too many "ifs" going on with this team right now, however.
27. Tennessee Titans
Tennessee's offensive line is significantly better this year on paper, which should bode well for Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene and the team's running game. Drafting Chance Warmack and adding Andy Levitre via free agency were both solid moves that should improve the team's offense.
The team's defense, however, is still a work in progress, and it also remains to be see if Jake Locker is a franchise quarterback.
28. Cleveland Browns
If Norv Turner can somehow get Brandon Weeden to play at a high level, the Browns have a chance to win a lot of games. The team's defense will be formidable—especially if Barkevious Mingo breaks out with a big season.
29. Arizona Cardinals
General manager Steve Keim seems to have Arizona pointed in the right direction. That said, Carson Palmer may not be the answer many fans think he is, and the team's defense will likely take a step backward without Ray Horton at the helm.
30. New York Jets
Will Geno Smith prove to be a savior or another disaster?
Three quarterbacks equals zero quarterbacks. David Garrard, Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith will battle it out for the starting quarterback position, and that doesn't bode well for the Jets in 2013.
At least Tebowmania isn't a factor this year. Instead, it'll be Genomania—not an improvement, by any measure.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
Picking Luke Joeckel and Jonathan Cyprien were both really solid moves by new general manager David Caldwell, but not selecting a quarterback will doom the Jaguars to another miserable season.
32. Oakland Raiders
General manager Reggie McKenzie is in the midst of the NFL's most laborious overhaul in years, and he's not close to being finished. That said, his personnel savvy has shined through already, and Raiders fans will have something to cheer about in another couple of years.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78
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