NFL Power Rankings: Where Do Teams Stack Up After the Draft?
As the shadows of the draft fade into the relative boredom of the rest of the offseason, it's a great time to take the temperature of the teams around the NFL and see how much they've helped themselves this offseason.
Honestly speaking, it's a little unfair to fans to throw any cold water on any of their respective teams right now. The draft is the peak of optimism. New coaches will all be geniuses. New quarterbacks will set all sorts of records. Everything is supposed to fall in line for this to be the season that it all comes together.
That said, only one team can be the best in the league, and one has to be the worst. In between, fans may not like it, but not every move will pay immediate dividends. Not every rebuilding plan will be the one that brings your favorite team from worst to first.
How is each team doing in its quest for dominance in 2013?
32. Oakland Raiders
Matt Flynn won't win this team very many football games.
At his best, Flynn is a facilitator. Stick him in a high-octane offense with a ton of great weapons, and he'll deliver.
This team isn't that. It isn't close. No, he'll struggle with so little help around him as Reggie McKenzie does his best to pull the team out of the muck and mire.
At this point next year, we should be talking about Teddy Bridgewater as the Raiders' quarterback of the future.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
I love what the Jaguars are doing, but they're not getting anywhere with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. They can sign every single cornerback over 6'1" in the entire world, but eventually, the offense will still be asked to take the field.
Gus Bradley and David Caldwell clearly have a great blueprint for success, but Rome wasn't built in a day, and it wasn't built on a foundation as shaky as Gabbert.
30. Buffalo Bills
Unlike many others, I think EJ Manuel will be a success in the NFL. The Bills also surrounded him with some speedy wideouts who should help press the field vertically while C.J. Spiller gets going underneath. Yet Manuel is a few years away from putting it all together, and patience will need to be the key here.
On this track, the Bills should be in contention for a wild-card spot. Keep that in mind when things look awfully rough this fall.
29. New York Jets
Like the Bills, the Jets will likely go with a new quarterback sooner rather than later. It's a good thing, because just like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mark Sanchez would never put the team on his back and lead it to the promised land all by himself.
If Geno Smith has as good of a defense as Sanchez used to work with, the Jets can be a Super Bowl contender.
This is a multi-year project, however, and the Jets may need to eat some dead money and get worse before they can get better.
28. Arizona Cardinals
Carson Palmer is not a franchise passer.
This team worries me. Both the quarterback and the head coach tried to retire before being pulled back in. That doesn't exactly scream confidence for when the going gets tough this season. Even after grabbing Jonathan Cooper, this offensive line is a mess, and Palmer won't have time to get the offense going vertically.
The saving grace could be a stout defense, but with Ray Horton gone, who knows?
27. Philadelphia Eagles
Chip Kelly is the right coach for this team, but the Eagles spent so many years thinking they were a couple of pieces away that they might need to blow this whole thing up to really start building a stable foundation.
Both sides of the ball need a lot of help, and one draft class or free-agency signing isn't going to get it done.
26. Cleveland Browns
Not a huge fan of the Barkevious Mingo pick, but honestly, I'm a fan of almost every position grouping on this team besides what's under center. Sadly for Browns fans, sometimes the quarterback is all that matters.
Look for this season to prove to the front-office guys that they need to make a big move for a quarterback in 2014.
25. Detroit Lions
The Lions had too many needs to address in the draft. Yes, they've shored up the defensive end position and the defensive backfield this offseason, but the offensive line is still a mess, and Matthew Stafford won't get any more mechanically sound behind constant interior pressure. Larry Warford will help, but he won't play left tackle anytime soon.
If Stafford gets things under control, this can be the team it was in 2011, but a top-15 pick again next April seems just as likely.
24. Tennessee Titans
I don't trust Jake Locker as the quarterback to get the Titans back to the playoffs, but they've given him so much help that he might be able to actually pull it off. The offensive line looks much better than it did in 2012, and Chris Johnson should be even better this season.
Over on defense, things should be a little more stable after a good free-agency period.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Like Locker, Josh Freeman may not be the quarterback to lead his team into the future, but the Buccaneers have put such a good team around him that they might drag him there kicking and screaming.
The additions on defense were amazing. If Darrelle Revis is healthy, the front seven should be able to get plenty of coverage sacks this season. If he takes a step back, Mark Dominik and Greg Schiano might end up having to update their resumes.
22. San Diego Chargers
The Chargers' biggest issue last year was a lack of protection, and while the left tackle position may still be a mess, D.J. Fluker will clear up a lot of the issues on Philip Rivers' front side. Hopefully, they'll have a little more competent running game as well and Rivers won't experience shell shock by Week 5.
The defense was already pretty strong—especially against the rush—and I expect fewer turnovers from the offense. The AFC West won't be easy, but it's not crazy to think that the Chargers could be in the wild-card talk.
21. Miami Dolphins
Things have to go right for the Miami Dolphins this season. Jeff Ireland has spent too much money and made too many splashes for it not to. If it doesn't, he's out of a job—and rightfully so.
I like the pick of Dion Jordan. They gave up some selections to get him, but I firmly believe he would've been a Philadelphia Eagle had they not traded up. He will be a good linebacker (or defensive end) in the Dolphins' system, gives them a lot of versatility in coverage and will rack up tackles early on.
20. New Orleans Saints
Sean Payton coming back makes a big difference all on its own, but pairing him with Rob Ryan should be an interesting and successful combination. High-octane offense plus attacking defense could equal the playoffs for a Saints team that disappointed last season.
New Orleans will need to continue adding pieces to that defense but should have a shot at winning the NFC South as long as Drew Brees is around.
19. Carolina Panthers
I love what the Panthers did in the draft. Their defense had talent but was always underwhelming because the defensive interior couldn't hold up its end of the bargain. Now, with Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, the ends and linebackers will have even more impact.
It all starts and ends with Cam Newton, however. He has to step up and show that he's capable of leading a playoff team. In the end, he'll need more help than what they've given him.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
I've said it two years in a row: If the Chiefs have average quarterback play, this is a playoff contender. Now, with Alex Smith, they have just that.
Note that I didn't say he'll break all sorts of records (maybe completion percentage). He just has to be good—not great. He can be good. He was good last year and the year before. He arguably has some better offensive weapons this year than he did in San Francisco.
The defense should be solid as well—even more when one considers that it won't face nearly as many possessions because of the new offense.
17. Dallas Cowboys
I didn't like the Cowboys' draft at all. The lack of talent on the offensive line will doom the Cowboys until they realize that they can add all the skill position talent in the world and still suffer if their pretty little Ferrari doesn't have a suspension.
On defense, things will be interesting with the new Tampa-2. They have some pieces that fit (DeMarcus Ware), but also ones that may struggle (Anthony Spencer).
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
Didn't like the Steelers' draft very much either. They improved, but I don't believe Jarvis Jones will ever have the impact in the NFL that he had at Georgia. It would not surprise me to see him struggle to make the field in his rookie season.
It all rests on Ben Roethlisberger. He doesn't have a lot of help, but if he and Antonio Brown can keep up some of the magic, they are wild-card contenders in the AFC.
15. Chicago Bears
The Bears will likely take a step back from last season, simply because of the new coaching staff and the new systems they will install. I also worry that the top picks of the last two drafts—Shea McClellin and Kyle Long—may not contribute as much as fans hope.
Jay Cutler has enough firepower to get this team over the top, but playing in the NFC North doesn't do the Bears any favors.
14. St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams had a great draft, picking up Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey from West Virginia—two talented receivers who will make Sam Bradford a better player. If the running game can get by without Steven Jackson, this team has the capability to put up a bunch of points in 2013.
As for the defense, adding Alec Ogletree and T.J. McDonald to an already impressive unit should pay dividends.
13. New York Giants
As long as Eli Manning is around, this team will always have a chance, but I'm not super excited about adding Justin Pugh to the offensive line, nor am I sure that adding Ryan Nassib in the fourth round was a good move regardless of how highly they had him ranked. They had needs left to fill and could've added a quarterback with higher upside later in the draft.
On defense, Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore should help a front that has seen some losses and struggled last season.
12. Washington Redskins
If Robert Griffin III is healthy, this team has all the chance in the world to make a playoff run. He still needs more help on offense—both in the receiving corps and on the line in front of him—but he and Alfred Morris should be able to carry the load.
Defensively, this team is still a year away, but the Redskins added a lot of talent in this draft and should be better than last season.
11. Indianapolis Colts
I loved the Colts' draft. The pick of Bjoern Werner will look awfully nice in a few years, while the additions of Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes signal a move to the zone-blocking scheme, which should immediately improve the Colts' offensive front.
This is a team that improved markedly in one season because of Andrew Luck's talent. Look for it to take another step forward in 2013. Winning the AFC South isn't out of the question.
10. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings' first round of the 2013 NFL draft was a shot across the bow of the Green Bay Packers.
This team was on the cusp last season. Adrian Peterson is the league MVP, while the defense played extremely well and often seemed like the whole was much better than the sum of its parts. Now, there are better pieces on defense, and Christian Ponder has a lot more help on offense.
This is a team that looks headed to the playoffs again in 2013 and for many years after.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals had a clear mandate to improve offensively in this draft, and I think they knocked that out of the park. Tyler Eifert will pair with (and supplant) Jermaine Gresham, who has made some plays but been an overall disappointment for the Bengals, while Gio Bernard (if healthy) will provide the offense with a home-run hitter in the backfield.
The defense drives this train, though, and it's so good that the next stop looks like another trip to the AFC Wild Card.
8. Houston Texans
I'm not positive the Texans win the AFC South next season—Luck and company will give them a run for their money—but they added an important piece to the offensive puzzle with DeAndre Hopkins as a No. 2 receiver, and Arian Foster will always keep them in games.
Defensively, they will need to stay healthy (another injury to Brian Cushing or one to J.J. Watt would doom this unit) and need some of their secondary playmakers to stand up. I'm not sold by the addition of Ed Reed and think they will end up missing Glover Quin.
7. Seattle Seahawks
Adding Percy Harvin was a win for Russell Wilson, who often had to make plays by himself when his receivers couldn't get open. Draft pick Chris Harper will play a similar role once he acclimates to NFL life.
The defense, however, is the Seahawks' biggest story, as they've added an incredible amount of defensive front talent to go with their already talented backfield. They'll hold a lot of teams to scores in the low teens next season.
6. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers just became the richest quarterback in football and got two outstanding weapons at the running back position. Some guys have all the luck.
If Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin can run the ball effectively, that will take some of the pass-rushing heat off Rodgers and keep him from getting sacked as often. A more balanced offense could help the defense as well.
There are still questions on the offensive and defensive fronts, but the Packers look like favorites in the NFC North once again.
5. New England Patriots
The additions of Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce are fantastic pieces for this offense. They'll be downfield targets for Tom Brady and should step in sooner rather than later thanks to their talented quarterback. With Rob Gronkowski back, this unit should do some serious damage—even without Wes Welker.
On defense, Jamie Collins is a fantastic addition as a multidimensional pass-rusher, and I wouldn't be surprised to see that entire unit take a big step forward this season.
4. Atlanta Falcons
I don't see how anyone defends the Atlanta Falcons this season. With the addition of Steven Jackson and the return of Tony Gonzalez, this offense will put up big numbers. The only question is if the offensive line can hold up its end of the bargain as well.
The additions to the defensive backfield won't have as immediate an impact as fans might like (cornerbacks are notoriously slow starters in the NFL), but the Falcons should be in the hunt for the NFC's top playoff seed once again.
3. Baltimore Ravens
It's asking too much of Arthur Brown and Matt Elam to say that they'll replace Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, respectively, but essentially, that's what they're doing.
Frankly, I think they'll do well. Maybe not "future Hall of Fame" well, but Brown and Elam will be better in 2013 than Lewis and Reed were in 2012. Those additions (among others like Elvis Dumervil) will make people forget about the early losses of free agency.
Of course, none of this matters if the offense doesn't take shape as well. I'm worried that Joe Flacco won't have the help he needs to make good on his monster contract. Don't be surprised if the Ravens add another veteran piece or two before the season starts.
2. Denver Broncos
As long as Peyton Manning is healthy, this team is a Super Bowl contender.
I love the Wes Welker addition, but the Louis Vasquez signing could make an even bigger impact. Passing wasn't a problem in 2012, so Welker just makes a strength even stronger. Vasquez, however, helps the interior blocking immensely.
They added beef on the defensive line as well, and I think Sylvester Williams will make a huge difference. The rest of their class was only so-so, but that won't matter as long as Manning takes this team to the AFC Championship Game.
1. San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers were already the most stacked roster in football. Then they had a great free-agency period. After that, they had the best draft.
Sometimes life just isn't fair for the other 31 teams in the NFL.
The NFC West won't be a cakewalk, and getting the top seed in the conference may be difficult, but there is little reason outside of injury that the 49ers shouldn't be heavy favorites for a Lombardi Trophy at the end of 2013.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.