Post-Draft Win-Loss Predictions for Every NFL Team
The future is now.
The 2017 NFL draft is over, and teams around the league are taking shape. The potential within each organization is obvious—so this is the perfect time to predict which direction each will take during the 2017 campaign.
Every year, the league experiences a certain amount of turnover. A few teams rise up and stake their claim as part of the NFL's elite, while others drop into obscurity. It's the nature of the beast. In 2016, six teams that made the playoffs in 2015 didn't repeat the act.
This year, franchises like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans are champing at the bit to earn their way into the postseason. Meanwhile, the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills appear to be trending in the other direction.
All of them are chasing Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Who needs a crystal ball? Next year's records are already at your fingertips, courtesy of Bleacher Report.
The Arizona Cardinals' window is closing. Quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald are on the verge of retirement. The team must take advantage now.
Every team loses great players to Father Time, but these two are integral. If either starts to fade near the end of their career, it could have a massive effect on the Cardinals' success. As of now, the assumption is they'll still play well for at least one more season.
Otherwise, the team should improve from last year's 7-8-1 campaign since 2015 Pro Bowl defensive back Tyrann Mathieu is expected to enter the season healthy and Arizona added two more exciting defensive pieces in Temple's Haason Reddick and Washington's Budda Baker via the draft. On top of that, running back David Johnson has proved he's one of the NFL's premier players, and last year's first-round pick, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, should find his way into the lineup.
Though an older team, the Cardinals have an opportunity to be better this fall, but the sense of urgency will increase.
It's Super Bowl or bust for the Atlanta Falcons. After the team's demoralizing 34-28 overtime loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, this year is less about the Falcons' talent and more about attacking the upcoming campaign with the right mental approach.
The organization can't let the brutal loss affect it.
There's a silver lining. Atlanta is stacked and only going to get better. The team even improved during the offseason by retaining the majority of its talent, signing two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe and adding defensive end Takkarist McKinley, linebacker Duke Riley and offensive lineman Sean Harlow via the draft. Plus, the Falcons' top cornerback, Desmond Trufant, will be back after he missed seven games with a season-ending pectoral injury in 2016.
A slight step back record-wise might occur because of a Super Bowl hangover, but Atlanta will remain one of the NFL's best.
Have the Baltimore Ravens done enough this offseason to escape mediocrity? No. The team is certainly better after two straight non-playoff campaigns but not significantly so.
The free-agent addition of Tony Jefferson will be a big piece of the puzzle to improve a suspect secondary. General manager Ozzie Newsome also provided a defense-heavy draft by selecting Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey, Houston linebacker Tyus Bowser, Michigan defensive lineman Chris Wormley and Alabama pass-rusher Tim Williams.
Clearly, the organization made it a priority to become more athletic and explosive on that side of the ball. It should be, too.
But the offense is still suspect.
Quarterback Joe Flacco is coming off one of his best seasons, and it wasn't enough to push the team beyond the .500 mark. Baltimore's top receiver during the last few seasons, Steve Smith Sr., retired. The unit lacks a No. 1 back. Meanwhile, a lot will be asked of pass-catchers Mike Wallace, Breshard Perriman, Crockett Gillmore, Dennis Pitta and Danny Woodhead.
When the Buffalo Bills fired former head coach Rex Ryan, the drama around the organization was expected to turn down a notch. Instead, it turned up.
A day after the NFL draft concluded, co-owner Terry Pegula fired general manager Doug Whaley and the majority of the scouting staff. This level of turmoil within an organization rarely points toward immediate success.
The Bills also experienced plenty of roster turnover, losing Stephon Gilmore, Zach Brown, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Nickell Robey-Coleman and adding Micah Hyde, Patrick DiMarco, Mike Tolbert and Jordan Poyer in free agency. New head coach Sean McDermott had a major hand in the team's draft, as Buffalo selected LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White, East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones, Temple offensive lineman Dion Dawkins and Pittsburgh quarterback Nathan Peterman.
The Bills may finally be building in the right direction, but positive results likely won't be seen for another year or two.
The 2017 Carolina Panthers will be closer to the 2015 version that reached the Super Bowl than the one that finished 6-10 last fall. This offseason, general manager Dave Gettleman made sure to fortify three specific areas of the roster.
The organization decided it had enough of an underachieving offensive line. Granted, the signing of Matt Kalil to start at left tackle doesn't change that perception, but it shows the franchise wanted to be aggressive along the offensive front. The team also added Western Michigan's Taylor Moton—the best pure right tackle in the class—in the draft's second round.
The Panthers pass-rush also required an infusion of talent. Carolina retained veteran Charles Johnson and brought home Julius Peppers to form a potent defensive end rotation with Mario Addison and Wes Horton.
Finally, quarterback Cam Newton needed help. Gettleman created the NFL's most intriguing backfield when he drafted Stanford's Christian McCaffrey and Ohio State's Curtis Samuel. With Jonathan Stewart in the mix, defenses won't know how to handle Carolina's running back stable.
In a loaded NFC South, the Panthers have a chance to return to the playoffs.
The Chicago Bears went all in on North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, trading up one spot in the first round of the draft to select the signal-caller with the second overall pick.
While many criticized the move, a team can't spend enough if it feels it can acquire a franchise quarterback. Where Trubisky lands on that scale can be questioned. He's talented but was only a one-year starter, and there are multiple issues with his skill set.
The Bears invested heavily in Trubisky, but Mike Glennon should be viewed as a one-year starting bridge. The 27-year-old signal-caller won't get much help, though. Outside of last year's rookie sensation, running back Jordan Howard, the Bears offense lacks explosive playmakers—unless Kevin White finally develops.
Major pieces weren't added to the defense, either.
Chicago continues to build its roster, but the Bears are still a few years away form competing. By that time, Trubisky will be leading the way.
The Cincinnati Bengals are about to enter a crucial season. After five straight playoffs appearances, the team stumbled to 6-9-1 in 2016 and experienced plenty of offseason turnover.
Multiple leaders in the locker room—including left tackle Andrew Whitworth, defensive tackle Domata Peko and linebackers Rey Maualuga and Karlos Dansby—are no longer with organization. One of the game's best guards, Kevin Zeitler, left in free agency, too.
Cincinnati didn't do much to replace any of those veterans other than sign linebacker Kevin Minter. The re-signing of cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick proved to be the team's most important offseason move.
In the draft, the Bengals seemed to want to get more explosive, particularly on offense. With the additions of speedy wide receiver John Ross and the controversial yet talented Joe Mixon, quarterback Andy Dalton has more weapons to exploit aside from perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Tyler Eifert.
Dalton, however, must remain upright to take advantage of those weapons, and that's the rub.
The Cleveland Browns will be better in 2017. This isn't much of a stretch since the team finished the 2016 campaign with a woeful 1-15 record.
But the organization deserves some credit for building its roster the right way. In just two drafts under the leadership of executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta and head coach Hue Jackson, the franchise selected 24 prospects and built an amazing amount of future draft capital.
Draft assets are only good if they're used to provide top talent, though. The Browns added the consensus No. 1 overall talent in Texas A&M's Myles Garrett and then found ways to acquire two premium athletes in Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers and Miami tight end David Njoku later in the first round. In a draft class that didn't feature a premier quarterback talent, Cleveland didn't force a pick. Instead, the front office waited and still landed Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer in the second round.
With massive investments along the offensive and defensive lines—including the free-agent acquisitions of JC Tretter and Kevin Zeitler—the Browns are finally establishing an identity.
The Dallas Cowboys experienced a magical 2016 campaign. It's only natural the team will take a slight step back in 2017 after everything went its way during the previous regular season.
This doesn't mean Dallas is a worse team. It isn't.
Sure, there are concerns about potential sophomore slumps for quarterback Dak Prescott and running Ezekiel Elliott. But the Cowboys will attempt to repeat as NFC East champions in a much-improved division. The New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins are all expected to be more competitive this fall after the Cowboys finished 3-3 in the division last season. And those three division wins came by an average of five points.
Plus, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will be asked to retool his unit. Defensive backs Barry Church, Brandon Carr, J.J. Wilcox and Morris Clairborne all played more than 400 snaps last season, per Pro Football Focus. Each moved on during free agency. Rookie cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis will almost certainly be asked to play plenty of snaps early in their careers.
The Denver Broncos will be as good as their quarterback. General manager John Elway appears content to go into the 2017 campaign with incumbent Trevor Siemian and 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch battling to become the starter.
Thus, his approach to the offseason made sense, because he built around the game's most important position. The Broncos spent heavily on the offensive line, signing guard Ron Leary and right tackle Menelik Watson in free agency. The team then grabbed its starting left tackle in Utah's Garett Bolles with the 20th overall pick. The additions of wide receiver Carlos Henderson and tight end Jake Butt later in the draft should help the offense down the road.
Elway improved the defense, too. Denver added some bulk along its interior with the free-agent additions of Domata Peko and Zach Kerr. Second-round pick DeMarcus Walker was also one of the best available interior pass-rushers in this year's draft class.
The Broncos can consistently win with good defense and an efficient offense. The latter will be a far more difficult bar to clear if neither Siemian nor Lynch plays better than they did a year ago. The AFC West won't be any easier to navigate this fall.
The Detroit Lions appear to be one of last season's playoff teams that will miss the postseason during the upcoming campaign. There are multiple reasons why the Lions won't take the next step to legitimate contender.
First, Matthew Stafford and Co. had a razor-thin margin of error in 2016. The team had to make a comeback in eight of its nine victories. It's unlikely those types of games will continue to fall in Detroit's favor. Some might, but not all will.
Also, there are two major problems with the roster.
Last season, the Lions finished 30th in rushing offense and tied for 30th in sacks. The team attacked its running game problems by signing guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Rick Wagner in free agency yet did nothing to upgrade the running back position. The organization also did little to improve its pass-rush. Two late-round draft picks didn't solve the problem.
Since the roster hasn't been significantly improved, it's hard to envision Detroit being anything more than a mediocre team this fall.
Green Bay Packers
Where there's Aaron Rodgers, there's always a way. The Green Bay Packers concluded the 2016 regular season with a six-game winning streak before working their way into the NFC Championship Game. The roster projects to be better than last year's 10-6 squad.
Rodgers makes everything go, but the offense established an identity late in the season after Ty Montgomery's conversion to running back. It made a talented group even more versatile and unpredictable. Montgomery will get a full offseason as a running back, plus the team added three runners in the draft—including BYU's bruising Jamaal Williams—to address its lack of backfield depth.
The team also upgraded at tight end. The Packers rarely dabble in free agency but signed a whale of a pass-catcher in Martellus Bennett. His abilities as both a receiver and blocker will provide upgrades over Jared Cook.
While Green Bay's identity is built around its offense, it needed to improve on the other side of the ball. The Packers pass defense finished 31st last season. As a result, the team drafted Washington cornerback Kevin King, North Carolina State safety Josh Jones, Auburn defensive lineman Montravius Adams and Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel. Each will help all three levels of the defense.
Can a rookie quarterback push the Houston Texans from a lower-tier playoff team to Super Bowl contender? It's too early to assume Clemson's Deshaun Watson can be the missing piece to the Texans' playoff puzzle.
Yes, the organization made a bold move in trading up to acquire the national championship-winning signal-caller, but there will be an adjustment period. Texans head coach Bill O'Brien may even decide to start Tom Savage during the early portion of the 2016 campaign if he feels the rookie isn't ready to orchestrate his offense.
Thus, quarterback remains a big question mark until Watson assimilates to the pro game and assumes a leadership role within the team.
There's no denying the talent Houston put on the field around the quarterback position. It featured the league's No. 1 defense, and J.J. Watt is expected to be healthy this fall. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back Lamar Miller are 1,000-yard producers. But the glaring hole behind center is concerning since the rest of the AFC South improved this offseason.
New general manager Chris Ballard put his stamp on the Indianapolis Colts in his first offseason. After the roster rotted around franchise quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts needed to become younger and more athletic, particularly on defense, as they finished 30th in the league in 2016, surrendering 382 yards per game.
Veterans Mike Adams, D'Qwell Jackson and Erik Walden left, and Jabaal Sheard, John Simon and Johnathan Hankins arrived in free agency. Ballard then overhauled the secondary with the first- and second-round draft selections of Ohio State safety Malik Hooker and Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson. He added Ohio defensive end Tarell Basham in the third round for good measure.
After just one offseason, far more playmaking ability can be found in the Indianapolis defense.
On offense, there are still concerns about the line and running game. Those two areas weren't addressed to the same level and could prove to be team's biggest problems this fall.
The Colts are better yet still suspect. Either way, this is Ballard's show.
Two days after the NFL draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars picked up the fifth-year option on Blake Bortles' rookie contract, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. The organization appears committed to making the 2014 third overall pick its franchise quarterback.
In order to put him in position to succeed, however, the rest of the roster needed to be addressed during free agency and the draft.
The Jaguars impressed in free agency for a second straight year, with the the majority of their signings coming on the defensive side of the ball. Jacksonville not only acquired a dominant front-line defender in Calais Campbell but the top cornerback available in A.J. Bouye as well. Those two added to a defense that already featured Malik Jackson, Jalen Ramsey and Telvin Smith.
During the draft, the Jags became a bigger and more physical offense with the first- and second-round selections of LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson. The offense has been soft in recent years. They will help provide a new direction, which should open up things for Bortles and a talented wide receiver corps.
Can it all come together quickly? That remains to be seen. Jacksonville has taken similar steps in the past without realizing its full potential.
Kansas City Chiefs
Last year's Kansas City Chiefs will be this season's, too. After a 12-4 campaign, there was little turnover. This approach can be viewed as both a positive and a negative.
Kansas City's biggest offseason decisions came when it chose to re-sign three-time All-Pro safety Eric Berry over two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe, release the organization's all-time leading rusher in Jamaal Charles—who played in only eight games over the last two seasons because of injuries—and trade up in the first round of the draft to acquire Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is expected to sit this season.
If anything, the Chiefs may take a step back after providing little to no impactful offseason moves. The team is still very good, but so is the rest of the AFC West.
Alex Smith is no longer the long-term solution at quarterback. The team lacks a wide receiver who produced more than 593 receiving yards last year. And as opportunistic as the Kansas City defense was last season, it finished just 24th in yards allowed.
Los Angeles Chargers
The San Diego Chargers were the NFL's hard-luck team last season, with multiple excruciating fourth-quarter losses. Will their fortunes change in Los Angeles?
This squad is better than its record indicated. Plenty of talent can be found throughout the roster, starting with veteran quarterback Philip Rivers. The 35-year-old gunslinger continues to play at a high level, even when everyone around him doesn't.
General manager Tom Telesco made sure he maximized the six-time Pro Bowler's final seasons.
The team's biggest free-agent signing came when it inked veteran left tackle Russell Okung. The price might have been exorbitant at four years and $53 million, but he will provide accountability as Rivers' blindside protector. The team continued to rebuild the offensive front during the draft with the second- and third-round additions of Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp and Indiana's Dan Feeney. An offensive line featuring Okung, Lamp, Feeney, Orlando Franklin and Joe Barksdale could develop into a good group.
Add this year's seventh overall pick—Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams—to the mix, and the Chargers have the makings of an improved team.
Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams are going to need a little more time. The organization made the right move with the hire of wunderkind Sean McVay as its new head coach, but the roster has yet to be built to fit his vision.
After years of poor drafting and a backward offensive approach, the Rams may struggle to get on track until all the pieces are in place. First and foremost, last year's No. 1 overall pick, quarterback Jared Goff, must show signs of life in McVay's system. It's far too early to write him off, but his performance last season didn't provide much hope.
Second, Los Angeles lacked skilled position players, particularly at wide receiver and tight end, who could create chunk plays. That issue was addressed this offseason with the additions of free agent Robert Woods and draftees Gerald Everett, Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds.
If McVay can get Goff and running back Todd Gurley going, the Rams are going to be a tough team to handle, but we'll have to wait a while before they reach that point.
Adam Gase set a high bar during his first season as the Miami Dolphins head coach.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was playing well before he suffered a sprained ACL and MCL in his left knee during a Week 14 contest against the Arizona Cardinals, and running Jay Ajayi became a superstar in Gase's offense, amassing 1,272 rushing yards. As a result, the Dolphins made the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 campaign.
Miami may struggle to maintain that level of play. Defenses will start to key on Ajayi, and Tannehill must continue to grow.
During the offseason, Miami didn't make the splashy moves many have come to expect under Stephen Ross' leadership. Instead, the front office supplemented the roster with solid albeit unspectacular moves. In free agency, the team re-signed Kenny Stills, Andre Branch and Reshad Jones and added veteran linebacker Lawrence Timmons. The draft brought Missouri defensive end Charles Harris, Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan and Clemson cornerback Cordrea Tankersley.
The Dolphins are much improved since Gase took over, but they need more dynamic pieces to be considered one of the AFC's elite.
It's so easy to forget the Minnesota Vikings started 5-0 last season before everything came crashing down. They held Super Bowl aspirations going into the 2016 campaign—thus the urgency to trade for quarterback Sam Bradford when Teddy Bridgewater injured his knee.
Bradford provided the best season of his career, yet he received no help from the offensive line or running game. He shouldn't suffer from the same problems this fall, because the front office significantly invested in both.
First, it signed left tackle Riley Reiff and right tackle Mike Remmers to massive contracts. General manager Rick Spielman also pulled the trigger on the draft's top-rated center, Ohio State's Pat Elflein, in the third round.
The running back group also received a major boost in free agency and the draft. Latavius Murray signed a three-year contract, and Minnesota traded up in the second round to acquire Florida State's all-time leading rusher, Dalvin Cook.
An 8-8 campaign could have been so much better, and the Vikings will enter the 2017 campaign with that in mind.
New England Patriots
It's good to be the king.
Even so, the New England Patriots weren't content with their roster after they won Super Bowl LI. As the rest of the league prepared for free agency and the draft, they took a different avenue to improve their talent.
In separate trades, the Patriots acquired wide receiver Brandin Cooks, defensive end Kony Ealy and tight end Dwayne Allen. All three are 27 years old or younger, and Ealy and Allen filled voids left by departed free agents Jabaal Sheard and Martellus Bennett.
New England also spent big in free agency to acquire cornerback Stephon Gilmore while supplementing its running back rotation with Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee.
Since the organization traded away most of its draft picks, it attacked two positions—edge-defender and offensive tackle—during the three-day event with the additions of Youngstown State's Derek Rivers, Troy's Antonio Garcia, Arkansas' Deatrich Wise and UCLA's Conor McDermott.
If everyone is playing checkers, the Patriots have been kinged and started to double jump their opponents.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints are stuck in limbo, while the rest of the NFC South is ready to flourish. After three straight 7-9 campaigns, one of two things will happen: Either the team will return to the playoffs, or it will perform poorly enough to finally accept a rebuild.
The latter is the more likely scenario, because the organization still hasn't adequately addressed its biggest problem: a woeful defense. A year ago, the Saints fielded the NFL's 27th-ranked unit. New Orleans hasn't owned a defense that finished among the top 20 since the 2013 campaign.
General manager Mickey Loomis signed linebackers Manti Te'o, A.J. Klein and Alex Okafor in free agency, but they're not difference-makers. The team drafted a pair of talented defensive backs in Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore and Utah's Marcus Williams in the first and second rounds, respectively. While all of these moves should help, how much they actually improve the unit can be questioned.
New York Giants
For all the attention the Dallas Cowboys received last season, the New York Giants claimed a playoff appearance out of the NFC East as well. In fact, the Giants beat the Cowboys twice in 2016.
The Giants greatly improved under the direction of head coach Ben McAdoo and his staff. The defense's turnaround was the primary reason. New York surrendered 80.6 fewer yards per game in 2016 than it did in 2015.
After the organization invested heavily in the defense, the offense got its turn this year.
In free agency, the Giants landed a big piece in veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The 6'4", 230-pound target brings size and a level of physicality the corps previously lacked. General manager Jerry Reese doubled down by taking 6'3", 234-pound tight end Evan Engram of Mississippi with the 23rd overall pick in the draft.
New York didn't address left tackle or add a major piece to its running back stable, but the Giants offense overcame those issues last year. With a more explosive passing attack, the team should challenge for the NFC East title.
New York Jets
Prepare for a long season, New York Jets faithful.
The J-E-T-S Jets claim one of the NFL's worst rosters and little optimism at the game's most important position. The soon-to-be 38-year-old Josh McCown has never played a full 16-game campaign. Last year's second-round pick, Christian Hackenberg, didn't even dress until Week 17 last season. And Bryce Petty struggled when moved into the lineup.
New York let veterans like Nick Mangold, Darrelle Revis, Ryan Clady and Brandon Marshall go because of its poor salary-cap standing. General manager Mike Maccagnan tried to replace Clady and Revis with Kelvin Beachum and Morris Claiborne.
Defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson and safety Calvin Pryor could be the next to go.
During the draft, the Jets acquired a pair of tone-setters in safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Both play with a certain level of passion that was lacking on the Jets roster last season. Their inclusion doesn't just point to a rebuild; a culture change is forthcoming, too.
Beast Mode is back, and Marshawn Lynch now resides in Oaktown. The Oakland Raiders didn't need to try too hard to coax Lynch out of retirement to play for his hometown team. How he plays this fall is the key to their 2017 campaign.
The Raiders can remain balanced on offense after losing Latavius Murray in free agency, and an in-shape and fully motivated Lynch is an upgrade. He will set the table for the Oakland offense and make Derek Carr's life much easier.
Carr's late-season injury derailed last season's postseason hopes. Even if he hadn't been injured, however, it's still hard to imagine the Raiders would have overcome the New England Patriots with how well the latter played on its way to winning Super Bowl LI.
Along with Lynch, general manager Reggie McKenzie addressed the tight end position with the signing of free agent Jared Cook and the secondary with the draft additions of cornerback Gareon Conley and safety Obi Melifonwu.
Oakland already features some of the league's best young talent in Carr, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. Their continued growth along with those latest additions can jump-start the team's push to become a Super Bowl contender.
The Philadelphia Eagles are in a difficult position. This is a team pointed in the right direction, yet it also faces an uphill climb against the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and even Washington Redskins.
A year ago, the organization felt it had landed its franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz. His play as a rookie can be best described as up and down. That wasn't entirely his fault, as he received little to no help from his targets. His plight should change this fall.
The organization signed proven receivers in free agents Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. The two veterans have three 1,100-plus-yard seasons between them. Jeffery is a physical target at 6'3" and 218 pounds, while Smith is a vertical threat with the speed to take the top off any defense.
Philadelphia then turned its attention to its defense in the draft. First-round pick Derek Barnett is a natural pass-rusher who's expected to replace Connor Barwin. Cornerbacks Sidney Jones, who is injured, and Rasul Douglas will help bolster a talent-deficient secondary.
These moves make the Eagles better. The problems will stem from potential inconsistencies from a young quarterback and a division in which the other teams are more established.
Martavis Bryant rejoined the Pittsburgh Steelers after being reinstated by the league. With him in the fold, the Steelers are one of the AFC's top contenders.
A year ago, Pittsburgh finished seventh in total offense. Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell are brilliant. Each finished among the most productive players at their respective position last season. Bryant makes this group unstoppable.
For years, the Steelers were built on a stingy defense. The offense now propels this squad. Yet the organization made strides with multiple assets to improve a unit that finished 12th in total defense.
First, general manager Kevin Colbert helped build line depth by acquiring Tyson Alualu in free agency. The team lost some momentum last year because its front suffered multiple injuries. Also, it added Wisconsin outside linebacker T.J. Watt and Tennessee cornerback Cameron Sutton in the first and third round, respectively.
A healthy Steelers squad with all of its key components on the field can be the team it wasn't a year ago. Instead of being laughed off the field by the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh can challenge for AFC supremacy.
San Francisco 49ers
No one should expect a miraculous turnaround in San Francisco, but the 49ers finally appear to be on solid footing after three years of turmoil. With the hires of general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan, the organization has the right people in place.
The draft proved exactly how promising the future is under the new leadership.
First, San Francisco bamboozled the Chicago Bears into trading up one spot in exchange for three draft picks. After moving down to the third overall selection, the 49ers still landed who they wanted with the second pick: Stanford's Solomon Thomas. Lynch then saw an opportunity late in the first round to select his favorite player, Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. So, San Francisco jumped ahead of the New Orleans Saints and into the 31st overall pick to choose the reigning Butkus Award winner.
These were stellar moves, but they just highlighted other smart steps the franchise has taken since Lynch and Shanahan took the reins. The free-agent additions of Brian Hoyer, Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Malcolm Smith and Kyle Juszczyk improved the roster.
Niners faithful should be ecstatic with its new leadership group even if it only results in a few games of improvement from last year's win-loss record.
Until the Seattle Seahawks find a way to field a much better offensive line, they're not going to get the benefit of the doubt. Russell Wilson and an always-stingy defense keep Seattle above .500, but the Seahawks won't return to Super Bowl contention until their offensive front is adequately addressed.
The addition of Luke Joeckel in free agency wasn't enough. He's a failed second overall pick the team hopes is a winning lottery ticket.
The draft brought more front-line reinforcements.
LSU's Ethan Pocic was Seattle's second selection in the second round. Where he will play has yet to be determined. Pocic was considered the draft's second-best center, yet he's played multiple positions. He may be best suited as the Seahawks right tackle. General manager John Schneider didn't address the offensive line again until the sixth round, when he picked Justin Senior.
Once it establishes a stable front five, Seattle can realize its full potential.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the team most likely to develop into a chic pick as a rags-to-riches story. Last season, the Buccaneers finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the ninth straight year.
With the additions of free agent DeSean Jackson and first-round pick O.J. Howard, quarterback Jameis Winston is likely a very happy man. Mike Evans finished fourth in the league last year with 1,321 receiving yards and tied for second with 12 touchdowns. Jackson will add a vertical element, while Howard has the tools to dominate over the middle of the field.
General manager Jason Licht also drafted Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin, who excels at coming down with 50-50 balls, in the third round.
The Buccaneers should feature an explosive offense, but the defense could steer the ship. The unit came together during the second half of the 2016 campaign, surrendering only 17.1 points per game. Tampa Bay went 6-2 during that stretch.
An improved offense coupled with a surging defense equals a long sought-after playoff appearance.
The Tennessee Titans developed into one of the league's surprise teams during the 2016 campaign. After finishing the previous season 3-13, the Titans jumped to 9-7 under head coach Mike Mularkey.
Expectations are now high, and Tennessee is capable of exceeding them.
Entering the offseason, the team lacked explosive players outside the numbers on both offense and defense, but those issues have since been taken care of.
First, the organization signed cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Johnathan Cyprien in free agency. General manager Jon Robinson used the team's two first-round picks to select wide receiver Corey Davis and cornerback Adoree' Jackson. Davis is a legitimate No. 1 target for quarterback Marcus Mariota because of his uncanny ability to separate and create yards after the catch. Jackson is an unpolished yet superathletic defensive back who can also create big plays on special teams.
Robinson built this roster from the inside out. Now that he's addressed the skill positions, the Titans are ready to explode with their young and exciting roster.
As long as Kirk Cousins is playing quarterback, the Washington Redskins have a chance. That was in question just a few short months ago. The organization placed the franchise tag on Cousins for a second straight season, as he eschewed the idea of a long-term agreement. This appears to be a relationship headed for an inevitable divorce.
Yet Cousins' play is what makes Washington a potential playoff contender instead of a league doormat. A team can't consistently win without good quarterback play, and Cousins has posted consecutive 4,000-yard campaigns. He nearly topped 5,000 yards with his 4,917-yard effort in 2016. His 54 touchdowns over the last two years rank among the top 12 of the league's quarterbacks.
We'll learn how the Cousins-Washington imbroglio will end next offseason. For now, the team can look forward to a productive campaign with the additions of wide receiver Terrelle Pryor and linebacker Zach Brown in free agency and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and edge-defender Ryan Anderson via the draft.
Washington still has plenty of issues to figure out. Internal turmoil could propel it down the wrong path, but it's good enough to push the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East.