2010 NFL Power Rankings Post-Draft Edition
The Super Bowl Contenders
1. Indianapolis Colts:
As long as they have Peyton Manning they will be a contender. That is how much a quarterback matters in this league, and Manning is unquestionably the best quarterback in the game as of now and a strong case could be made that he is the best quarterback of the Super Bowl era. While their running game was anemic at best, their defense was quietly one of the best units in the league last year and besides a week two disaster, their run defense was surprisingly excellent.
2. New Orleans Saints:
I strongly considered putting this team at number one, but losing Scott Fujita may be an issue for the linebacking corps. Regardless they boasted an elite balanced offense and a swarming defense. Their 2010 draft was not anything write home about though.
3. Baltimore Ravens
This team had a very solid run defense in 2009 that should only improve with the drafting of Terrence Cody and Sergio Kindle should be a strong pass rusher opposite of Terrell Suggs. Their secondary was a bit questionable last year but Frank Walker, who was utterly atrocious was released and should prove to be an addition by subtraction move. Ray Rice seemed to come into his own last year and had an outstanding season. In order for this team to win another Super Bowl, Joe Flacco must evolve into a very good quarterback and must utilize his wide receivers, including his new target, Anquan Boldin.
4. Green Bay Packers
As long as Tauscher and Clifton stay healthy, Green Bay’s offense should continue to be prolific as Aaron Rodgers had a great ‘sophomore’ season and Ryan Grant picked up his game when they returned from injury as well. The Packers also need to keep their defense as strong as it was last year, but I do have some serious doubts about that as Roethlisberger and especially Kurt Warner shredded their defense.
5. Minnesota Vikings
Provided that Brett Favre returns, the Vikings should have a very dangerous offense, even if their offensive line is subpar. Favre has myriad of talented weapons to work with in Rice, Shiancoe, Berrian and Harvin. Plus the Vikings have the very talented, though very fumble prone Adrian Peterson and a replacement for Chester Taylor and Toby Gerhart. The Vikings had a very stout run defense last year though their pass defense was suspect at times which can be very dangerous when they play Green Bay this year, though that is made up for with a pair of adept pass rushers in Jared Allen and Ray Edwards.
Borderline Super Bowl Teams
6. Dallas Cowboys
This seems like a Super Bowl bound squad in theory. Tony Romo has a plethora of talented wide outs to work with (Bryant, Austin and Williams) one of the pairs of tight ends in the league and a trio of very talented running backs. However, they have a gaping hole at left tackle which proved to be their undoing in Minnesota last January. Also, their defense is above average but not elite, led by Pro-Bowlers Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware. Malcolm Jenkins is also coming into his own. Jerry Jones did not do his team any favors by having Wade Philips on the sideline who is about as good of a coach as Dick Jauron or Lovie Smith, which definitely hinders Dallas. Still if they can play well in January, they can definitely have a real shot at making the Super Bowl.
Likely Playoff Teams
7. New England Patriots
The Patriots kick off a trio of nearly equivalent AFC East teams talent wise. However, when push comes to shove, I will pick the team with the better quarterback almost every time and Brady is undoubtedly better than Henne or Sanchez. While Brady will not have Welker for most of the year, Brady will have Randy Moss and Torry Holt at his disposal as well as some young guys in Julian Edelman manning the slot receiver position and they drafted two very talented tight ends. Their running game will be problematic as neither Fred Taylor or Lawrence Maroney is a decent running back at this point, though Kevin Faulk is still a great third down back. Defensively, their pass rush is negligible and their cornerbacks leave much to be desired. Their lines should be good.
8. Miami Dolphins
As stated above I am ranking the three AFC East clubs in terms of quarterbacks as the teams as a whole are roughly equivalent talent wise, and it is no secret that Henne had a better year than Sanchez. With a legitimate number one receiver and a healthy running back corps and a healthy line (all of which for maybe 4 games until Ronnie or Jake Grove gets hurt…again) the Dolphins should be able to field a decent offense. Defensively, it will come down to if Mike Nolan can work his magic a second year in a row with more talent than he had last year and if Karlos Dansby can be a better defensive acquisition than Gibril Wilson. Outside linebacker is still a concern here and this will be a general theme in the 3-4 dominated AFC East. The free safety position is a major mess and could be the factor that prevents this team from making the playoffs.
9. New York Jets
As I said, there is little difference between the Pats, Dolphins and Jets, which is evidenced by the win totals I projected for each team. The Jets spent the offseason in an effort to collect every big name available and it may help them. This is a team that is being overhyped a lot but would have also been slept on had the Colts not thrown the game last year. The defense will likely regress to a point just from the law of averages, but it should still be a top 5 unit, albeit that outside linebacker and defensive end are still concerns. The offense is the major question mark, as the running back stable consists of Shonn Greene, who looked promising in the playoffs last year, but got injured after 100 carries (which is about 30% of what a number one running back can expect to carry in a year, Joe McKnight who is a poor man’s Leon Washington and a decrepit LaDanian Tomlinson. The offense will also hinge on Sanchez regularly displaying flashes of why the Jets took him at number five overall in 2009.
10. Philadelphia Eagles
Here is a really tough team to predict. The offense is relying on Kevin Kolb, who has a grand total of two career starts, to lead the team and a running back stable that is unimpressive at best behind a subpar offensive line (especially since Jamal Jackson is out for a while). Defensively they are also a question mark and need some of their recent draft picks such as Nate Allen and Brandon Graham to contribute immediately. Ultimately, despite what the fans in Philadelphia say about Andy Reid they should have faith in him that he would be able to piece together a playoff squad as he perennially does.
Playoff Teams By Default
11. San Diego Chargers
Yes, I know I have them winning thirteen or so games next year, but that win total has less to do with their talent and coaching and far more to do with the schedule that they are given. They get ten games against their own division and the NFC West, which are by far and away the two worst divisions in the NFL. They also get to play two easy games against the Jaguars and Bengals, neither of which are likely to finish over .500 this year, which equates to about twelve likely wins. Their final games are against Houston, Tennessee, Indianapolis and New England and I have a hard time seeing the Chargers do worse than 2-2 against those teams. However, outside of the passing game, the team has a questionable running game and the defense is subpar.
19. San Francisco 49ers
This is a team that is making the playoffs largely due to how bad the rest of their division is and their record will likely be a function of the easy schedule they play. Getting 6 games in the division and then having the luxury of playing the Buccaneers, Chiefs and Broncos should give them the division. However, this team lacks a starting caliber quarterback and the offensive line is relying on two rookies to step in and play at a high level. The defense is not bad against the run but the pass defense is atrocious, which is not too bad when the best quarterback in your division is Alex Smith.
Bubble Playoff Teams
12. Houston Texans
On paper this is a playoff team. They have a high powered passing attack and with the addition of Ben Tate, what should be a serviceable ground game. Their defense should be adequate. So why am I not considering them a playoff team, you ask? Simply put, this team perennially collapses when they get any sort of expectations heaped on them and then will win a bunch of games when they are out of the playoff picture. Until they can show some semblance of being clutch as well as not finding new ways of losing to the Colts, I cannot put them in the playoff picture.
13. Atlanta Falcons
This team’s success solely depends on how much their defense improves with getting Peria Jerry and Sean Weatherspoon as well as Dunta Robinson and how good of a quarterback Matt Ryan really is. Ryan had a brilliant rookie campaign in 2008, but was decidedly mediocre last year despite the acquisition of Tony Gonzalez and having an elite receiver in Roddy White. As evidenced of the Falcons placement, I expect both to be good but not great, as Jerry and Weatherspoon should make the defense decent and Robinson will be a welcome addition to the secondary, while he stays on the field as he is very injury prone. After watching Ryan last year, he seems like the quarterback who will be decent and a franchise player but not very good or elite.
14. Tennessee Titans
I have learned better than to count out Jeff Fisher’s squad. The Titans replaced Bullock with Witherspoon and Kyle Vanden Bosch with rookie Derrick Morgan. However, the offseason has been mired with arrests and contract disputes, so it will be interesting to see how this team performs, with the offense going through Chris Johnson and an elite offensive line and the defense looking shaky.
15. New York Giants
Well, the Giants fixed up the safety issue which should mean the end of the Aaron Rouse and CC Brown 1-2 knockout punch. Bill Sheridan was also mercifully removed. However, while the defensive line and secondary look very good, the linebacking corps is pretty bad. The offensive line got old quickly last year and David Diehl desperately needs to be upgraded. As long as Eli has another very good year, and the running game gets its act together, there is no reason why they cannot make a playoff push.
16. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have a surprisingly decent team and it has nothing to do with their draft. They have one of the better offensive lines and a competent quarterback (read: not Jake Delhomme but more on him later), and a very good running game. Steve Smith is one of the best wide receivers in the game though there is little else in the passing game. The Panthers had a surprisingly good pass defense last season which ranked in the top 5, but that will likely suffer with the departure of Julius Peppers. Their run defense can be an Achilles heel, especially in a division with Turner, and Thomas.
17. Cincinnati Bengals
This team has a decent defense but their offense sputtered as the season progressed and the team was bad in their last eight games (3-5 with the wins coming against teams with a combined 11-37 record). Is this team falling apart or did the tragedies that befell the Bengals emotionally drain this team? Or perhaps was their 7-2 start just a mirage like the Broncos’ 6-0 start? Provided the defense plays as well as they did last year the real wild card, assuming Cedric Benson does not get suspended, is how Palmer plays as he did not play well last year.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers
If this team can tread water (get two to three wins) until Roethlisberger comes back, then this team can be very dangerous. However, if they cannot, they will likely be in too deep of a hole to dig themselves out of, especially with a schedule that has few easy games (OAK, CLE (x2), BUF and TB). The real question here is how will the defense be as the defense that has been dominant for so long crumbled last year, but getting Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu back will hopefully bring the defense back to its glory years.
Teams that Will Likely Not Exceed Eight Wins
20. Oakland Raiders
This team seems to be on the rise and in theory looks like a possible playoff contender, but Campbell needs to show that he can be leader, which is something that he evidently was not in Washington (Clinton Portis had plenty to say on that topic). The defense looks decent, but with Al Davis perpetually meddling and Tom Cable being the lackluster coach that he is, I have a hard time seeing this team eclipse 8 wins. Not to mention that the offensive line is a complete disaster.
21. Washington Redskins
This team seemed to patch up some of its issues from last year. They brought in bookend tackles in Jamal Brown and Trent Silverback Williams to hopefully improve on the pathetic play of the 2009 tackles. McNabb is a major upgrade over Campbell. So why is this team so low if they had some major improvements? One, they do not have a legitimate starting running back who is healthy for more than five games a year on their roster. Two, they are switching to a 3-4 defense, without a decent nose tackle, which is always asking for trouble. Three, Dan Snyder WILL, at some point, start meddling with this team as he inevitably does.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars
A very underrated team, primarily because people hated the Alualu pick. However, Alualu should hopefully shore up the defensive line and the team still has an above average balanced offense and a decent QB. Their defense is still a question mark but Daryl Smith is a very underrated player, but they need someone to step up with the pass rush. Their coaching also hurts them as Del Rio is a subpar motivator and Dirk Koetter is an awful offensive coordinator.
23. Detroit Lions
This team still seems to be a year away, but there is a lot of young talent that shows a lot of promise. They have young stable of running backs who are very talented, and a quarterback in Stafford, who is showing a lot of promise with an elite wide out to throw to. The defense has two talented defensive tackles, and a decent safety and a possible breakout candidate in Cliff Avril. That being said a lot of these guys need one more year in the league to reach their potential, but this could be a very scary team in 2011.
24. Arizona Cardinals
This team went through a severe amount of downgrades this offseason. Pro-Bowl quarterback Kurt Warner is being replaced by Matt Leinart most well known for providing alcohol to underage girls. Their linebacking corps lost Karlos Dansby to the Dolphins and got Joey Porter in return. They lost Antrel Rolle and got a disinterested Kerry Rhodes in exchange. That seems to be a good way to downgrade your team, wouldn’t you say so? At least they fortified their defensive line with Dan Williams.
25. Chicago Bears
In theory this team should not be this low, but the offense looks like a train wreck with Cutler who is behind a terrible line and has no wide receivers (save for possibly Devin Aromashodu) and a negligible running game. The defense is aging but still should be decent and they should possibly have a pass rush with the acquisition of Julius Peppers. That is about the 15-20 range talent wise. However, they have the awful combination of a probably lame duck coach and a lot of ‘malcontents’ with Urlacher, Peppers, Harris and Cutler all capable of wreaking havoc in the locker room if they are not pleased.
26. Buffalo Bills
This is a team similar to Arizona. They lack a decent quarterback and offensive line and have a stacked position, but while Arizona has a ton of talent at the wide receiver position, Buffalo has a lot of talent at the running back position. Arizona has what should be a stout run defense but a questionable pass defense, while Buffalo has the reverse. Buffalo did add some pieces to help them transition to a 3-4 defense with ILB Andra Davis and DE Dwan Edwards who are both very good against the run. They need Schobel to come back to give them a bona fide pass rusher.
Teams that would be wise to start scouting for the top picks in the 2011 draft now:
27. Seattle Seahawks
While a lot has been made of their good draft, the fact still remains that they lack a decent quarterback, offensive line (save for possibly Okung), defensive line, linebackers (save for Tatupu) and defensive backs (save for possibly Earl Thomas). That sounds like a winning formula, right?
28. Denver Broncos
I think someone one once said, that Josh McDaniels managed to turn Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler into Tim Tebow, Demarius Thomas and Dick Quinn. Not to mention that he is keeping Royal when he does not fit his system. The defensive line is in shambles and the defensive backs just got their AARP cards, save for Alphonso Smith who is nowhere to be found. At least they buoyed the offensive line in the draft.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Well they addressed the defensive line with back to back picks there and took Arrelious Benn to help bolster their awful wide receiver corps. However, they made very few moves in free agency and Freeman is behind a terrible offensive line (Penn and Trueblood were HORRIFIC last year) which could be disastrous and their running game still looks terrible. Their defense, provided they stay in a Tampa Two scheme should be much improved assuming that Price and McCoy make a smooth transition to tackle.
30. Cleveland Browns
So let’s see… The Browns ran two terrible quarterbacks out of town to sign…Jake Delhomme? Really? Did Holmgren watch any Panthers games last year? They managed to upgrade their secondary, but they went to take a running back in the second round as well as a developmental safety when they had a very good running back in Jerome Harrison last year. What is it with idiotic coaches not giving the ball to their best running back (see also: Haley, Todd)? Lets just say that Holmgren seems to be picking up where he left off in Seattle, though the Browns defense does have some promise next year.
31. Saint Louis Rams
They finally have a possible franchise quarterback in Bradford and bookend tackles. James Laurintas looks like he will be a very good linebacker and Steven Jackson is very effective when healthy. Other than that there is not much to look forward to, but at least they may be the better Missouri team.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
What a disaster. Their passing offense looks as stagnant as ever with the noodle armed Matt Cassel behind a turnstile, I mean the Chiefs’ offensive line. Jamaal Charles should be able to do some damage though. On defense, there are two high draft picks who are not panning out on the defensive line. The linebacking corps has Tamba Hali who can rush the passer and Derrick Johnson who is effective when Haley decides to play him. Their defensive backs look decent with a good cornerback pair in Flowers and Carr and adding Berry seems to be a good move. However, teams can easily run all over the Chiefs (just ask Jerome Harrison) and their offense will be facing 9 in the box. Did I mention that Haley routinely sits his more talented players?