The NFL Draft has concluded and battle lines were drawn with many high end acquisitions that will change the complexion of the NFL in 2011. A little while back, I ranked how the teams stack up before draft day. Now that we have all the picks in place, the speculation will be reserved for the free agency period so until then, here are the post-draft power rankings.
32. Washington Redskins
So instead of trying to grab the bull by the horns and draft a franchise QB to replace McNabb, who is still a question mark, you trade down and don’t even grab a QB in the first round, let alone the entire draft? Sure, obtaining more picks was a good option on their part because of the lack of ability from previous draft picks, but at least make a stab at getting someone calling the plays on offense, because without him, where are you going to get your points and your wins? This could be an interesting free agency for the Skins, and I hope they know that they need to be on the forefront of the activity if they have hopes for the season.
31. Arizona Cardinals
They made some good strides, but what? No QB? Kurt Warner left a void in Arizona when he retired and they fell to the bottom five of the league. Hint hint, you need someone to get the ball to Fitzgerald so he can be effective. Patrick Peterson was a good pick for them, as it keeps the defense strong, but still, they addressed every position on offense in the draft except for the man who calls it all.
30. Buffalo Bills
The AFC East houses Tom Brady, Mark Sanchez, Chad Henne and Ryan Fitzpatrick and after the draft, it’s all the same. The Bills made some good picks at the draft, including Marcell Dareus. He is powerful and strong but mostly in the rushing game, something the Pats and Jets won’t throw at you often so in Fitzpatrick they trust but for how much longer? The Bills main need is an offensive weapon that can get them ahead in the AFC East and they grabbed one offensive player in the entire draft (5th round, 133rd overall: Johnny White). A good free-agency will help, but for Bills fans, I’m afraid it’s gone from bad to worse.
29. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals went for it and addressed their needs almost right away, grabbing a wide out (A.J. Green) that could keep around Carson Palmer for a year. Secondly, they snagged their future franchise QB in Andy Dalton. The Bengals addressed every need except at the linebacker position, but they can assess that and get an update on Palmer’s position with the club during free agency.
28. Minnesota Vikings
Don’t underestimate Christian Ponder, he has the makings of a franchise QB. You may just have to wait a couple years before he lights up the field. This will be a slow rebuild, but the draft was a step in the right direction and could lead to a decent 2011, just don’t expect any miracles; a lot of faith was put in during Brett Favre’s stay and it did not pan out so start fresh and play the waiting game. Good football is on its way to Minnesota, just don’t hold your breath.
27. Tennessee Titans
Replacing Vince Young was the first step; now the Titans can grow with the drafting of Jake Locker. The Titans essentially addressed all their needs at the draft, but will need to build some depth during free agency to make it all work and made great strides in the right direction.
26. Denver Broncos
Although most expected them to grab Dareus at second overall, the Broncos chose to go with Von Miller, a great pass rusher which I see as a good thing as the rest of the AFC West beefs up their offensive game.
25. Seattle Seahawks
The NFC West looks for brighter days and it starts with its previous champion. The Seahawks are going to rely on Matt Hasselbeck for another year and the draft allowed them to get some great protection on the offensive line in James Carpenter. They also drafted a corner in Richard Sherman, but as far as 2011 goes, the bright days may be another year away, even if they have another impromptu playoff appearance at 7-9.
24. Carolina Panthers
No surprise here as the Panthers took Cam Newton to lead their offense in 2011. The NFC South has been unpredictable for many years, considering all four teams have won the division at least twice since its inception in 2002. They drafted all their needs, but will need to be a little more consistent in 2011, but so far, it’s starting to look good for them (I hope I just didn’t jinx them).
23. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins had the chance to grab Mark Ingram and didn’t. Instead, they grabbed Mike Pouncey, a guy known for being an excellent interior blocker, and it should work out well for them. Even though Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown may leave, they grabbed Daniel Thomas with their second pick. Thomas may help with hard nose running, but if this is the layout, Chad Henne may throw a lot more than he hands off in 2011, and in the AFC East, it’s a crucial point in the game that Henne will need to withstand for the season if the Dolphins have any hope of a post-season berth.
22. San Francisco 49ers
Grabbing a good pass rusher was a great start for Jim Harbaugh, and grabbing a QB of the future allows some growth with Alex Smith. However, the seasons are numbered, as Colin Kaepernick is projected to be a starter within the next two years. Love the draft for the Niners: they traded when they needed to and they drafted with an impact.
21. Oakland Raiders
For a team without a first rounder, they made due and have some good building blocks for the future. The Raiders got some protection for Jason Campbell and a player in Demarcus Van Dyke who could be a good corner in a couple years.
20. Cleveland Browns
The Browns are transitioning to a 4-3 defense and have a good couple of guys who are raw and ready to play in Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard. Then they got some weapons for McCoy and Delhomme with wideout Greg Little and tight end Jordan Cameron. They are moving on up the list and could make a run in 2011.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars
These Jaguars are trying to pull off what the Packers did when they selected Aaron Rodgers. Sure, David Gerrard hasn’t won a Super Bowl, and sure, speaking his name in the same breath as Brett Favre (in his prime) is blasphemy, but with a great talent like Blaine Gabbert waiting in the wings, the offense is good for at least a little while. However, the biggest need was on the defensive front. A team that gave up 88 points in the final three games really should have invested in a great pass rusher on the defensive line, but free agency is looming and there is still hope, but give it a couple years before they reach top-10 status.
18. Dallas Cowboys
Keeping Tony Romo in the lineup should be easier now that Tyron Smith is on the front line. The pickup allows Romo some more time to get the ball deep, and don’t forget these ‘Boys played some great football down the stretch in 2010 and are poised for a rise in the standings, but will have to sit back for now as they made no change to their defensive line.
17. NY Giants
I had mentioned that the offensive line is aging and the Giants didn’t choose to address it until the fourth round. Although they grabbed Prince Amukamara and have a solid defense, you can’t win ball games if your O-line is too busy trying to withhold the young blood coming in. They’ll do well in the division, but as for the rest of the season, it could be a long season for Eli Manning.
16. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were a great surprise last season and will look to turn heads again in 2011. Unfortunately, their greatest enemy is their schedule, especially a string of five games against elite competition (Week 11 in New England, 12 hosting the Steelers, 13 in Chicago, 14 in New York against the Jets and 15 against the Super Bowl Champion Packers). They drafted Jonathan Baldwin, but I think the pressure may get to him for his rookie campaign and the Chiefs will more than likely struggle.
15. Houston Texans
J.J. Watt could become Peyton Manning’s kryptonite in an ongoing battle that sees the Texans wanting to take over the AFC South. We all know the Colts will want to play harder with the Super Bowl in Indy this year, but the Texans made great strides. Even their second pick, Brooks Reid, could prove to be crucial and game changing. The Texans rise the rankings again.
Should John Elway have more faith in Tim Tebow?
14. St. Louis Rams
It was an impressive showing by the Rams as they are a step closer to being an elite team once again. Last year, it was Sam Bradford and now Robert Quinn gets into a system where he can learn and become an elite pass rusher. This team could be dangerous, even though they were 7-9 last season but all in all, I believe they can win the NFC West this season but it will require a full season’s work from Bradford, especially against a tough 2011 schedule.
13. Detroit Lions
The Lions have a lot of life and are spreading fear in the NFL. They boast a very dangerous defensive group and with the addition of Nick Fairley, they can make things miserable for the QB’s in the NFC North. They’re on an upswing but will have to fight for it, considering they also share a division with the Bears and Packers. On the offensive side, Titus Young will be a welcome addition to the squad and could even provide some deep ball opportunities for Matt Stafford. Speaking of Stafford, he will have to stay healthy, I know that’s a lot to ask, but if he wants to be a part of this growing team, he needs to be in the game, not watching from the side lines.
12. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons falling a spot has nothing to do with them, but everything to do with the growth of the teams coming up and the teams already ahead. They made an excellent trade to draft Julio Jones and will be better for it, but I still have two NFC South team ahead and may cost the Falcons a playoff position if they can’t keep up in the wild card race.
11. New Orleans Saints
The Saints have some work to do. They may have won a Super Bowl in 2009, but the Buccaneers may have the the team to make some magic happen. Solid choice in Cameron Jordan, and making the trade with New England to pick Mark Ingram makes their run game that much stronger. However, they need an improvement and the good news is the season is still a long ways away so things can change.
10. San Diego Chargers
The Chargers are a deep team that got deeper on the defensive side of the ball and it should prove to be beneficial as they grabbed Corey Liuget at 18th overall. I see a division champion here if the Chiefs can’t hold up in a first place schedule.
9. Chicago Bears
This ranking could change, depending on free agency. Jay Cutler still needs a No. 1 receiver and his recovery from a torn ACL could limit his confidence going into 2011. Gabe Carimi could offer some protection at the end or move to the middle, but we all saw what happened when Cutler couldn’t finish the NFC Title game, and if that is any sign on how this team plays, Chicago may not go far. It is more of a hit or miss with this club at this point and the only thing we can do is watch.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pirates are well known for stealing and pillaging. These pirates may have gotten away with the greatest steal in the draft after grabbing Da’Quan Bowers in the middle of the second round. On top of that, Adrian Clayborn is already a stud and has potential for double digit sack seasons down the road. The Bucs move up after a stellar draft.
7. Philadelphia Eagles
As much as I want to support fellow Canadian Danny Watkins and his rise in the Eagles’ system, I really think Andy Reid missed the boat in not selecting Jimmy Smith. Him and Asante Samuel in the backfield could have spelled game changers every game this season but I’m not here to speculate what could have been. Michael Vick is at the top of his game and his return to Atlanta couldn’t have come at a better time. This could provide a jolt of energy for the team going forward and get them back to NFC Championship status.
6. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts fall is only due to the monster defense that presents itself in Baltimore. As much as the Colts upgraded the protection on Peyton Manning, as massive as first round selection Anthony Castonzo is, I don’t see them getting further than they did last year.
5. Baltimore Ravens
Jimmy Smith and the Baltimore Ravens' defensive system will be stunning this season. There isn’t much more to say on that subject; the defense has always been of legend in Baltimore, and when you add the offense of Joe Flacco and a guy like Torrey Smith coming in at wideout, they have a great bunch of guys to work with here and possibly reach the AFC Title game this season.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Jets/Steelers AFC Title game allowed each team to get to know one another, as any major game does. However, this could be more good news for the Jets as the Steelers exposed the Jets in that game, and those same Jets are filling those holes. The Steelers improved on the defensive side of the ball, which should bode well for those Steeler/Raven clashes this year.
3. NY Jets
The Jets move up because I feel that they will push themselves and New England to be the elite teams they are known to be and could be the match up at the AFC Title game.
2. Green Bay Packers
Not to take away from their Super Bowl victory and all because they are very close to the No. 1 position in this ranking. It’s just a matter of being in a Super Bowl slump. It happens to the best of them and unfortunately, I don’t think Pittsburgh will feel it like Green Bay will, but looking at the team now, they don’t look like a slumping bunch, which is why I have them at No. 2 on the list. That and they didn’t do as much work at the draft to get better like New England did.
1. New England Patriots
They say you have to beat the best to be the best, and New England eclipsed Green Bay on this one with another spectacular draft. Bill Belichick maneuvered his way through it like a hot knife in butter, and in the end, he managed to use only one of his original picks in the fifth round. The others were via trades and he even got a first rounder for next year as well. Nate Solder was someone I had pegged for New England and I still believe he will provide the missing spark on the offensive line to give Brady more time with the ball and make the clutch passes.