NFL DraftNFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand After the Draft?Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistApril 30, 2017
NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand After the Draft?
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The NFL draft is complete, giving us a nearly complete feel for how all 32 NFL rosters will look by the time September rolls around.
A lot can and will change between now and then, but with the bread and butter of the offseason in the books, we have a chance to step back and take a broad look at where every team stands.
Let's do exactly that with updated power rankings following free agency and the draft.
32. Chicago Bears
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Coming off a three-win season, are the Bears significantly better today than they were before they surrendered the No. 3 overall pick, third- and fourth-round picks in 2017 and a third-round pick in 2018 in order to add top quarterback prospect Mitchell Trubisky?
Is Trubisky clearly an upgrade over Mike Glennon, who just last month signed a three-year, $45 million contract to become Chicago's starting quarterback? Adding Trubisky gives the Bears options under center and potentially a long-term answer at that position, but he's relatively raw after spending just one year as a starter at UNC and will likely need time behind the expensive Glennon anyway.
The Bears did hold on to their second-round pick, adding promising tight end Adam Shaheen after trading down again. But they needed to bolster their defense, which ranked 24th in points allowed last season, and they didn't do that on either Thursday or Friday. That D is still a problem. And with Alshon Jeffery gone, Glennon or Trubisky will be throwing primarily to Cameron Meredith and Kevin White.
They surrendered a lot of assets in order to add a player at the top of the first round who probably won't improve the team immediately, and Shaheen alone can't save them in 2017.
31. New York Jets
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The rebuilding Jets entered the draft with a roster that had been gutted, so you can't blame them for taking the best players available with their prime selections. Safety Jamal Adams was arguably a steal in the No. 6 spot, and second-round safety Marcus Maye makes sense if Calvin Pryor is being shopped.
But Josh McCown remains the starting quarterback, Kelvin Beachum is still the starting left tackle and there isn't a lot of talent beyond Eric Decker at the skill positions.
A rebuilt secondary and a defense that in general is loaded with first-round talent—Adams, linebacker Darron Lee and defensive linemen Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson were all first-round picks—should allow the Jets to win a few games in 2017. However, an offense that scored the third-fewest points in football looks worse now than it did at the end of the 2016 campaign.
This was a constructive weekend for Gang Green, but we're still looking at one of the worst teams in football.
30. Los Angeles Rams
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The Rams went all-in on top pick Jared Goff last year and essentially doubled down by spending much of this offseason adding reinforcements for the second-year quarterback.
They didn't have a first-round pick because they traded it away last April in order to move up to take Goff, but they used their top two selections on guys Goff will throw to (South Alabama tight end Gerald Everett in Round 2 and Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp in Round 3). And earlier in the offseason, they invested in Pro Bowl offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth to protect Goff's blind side.
The young signal-caller should be better with a full offseason under his belt. He really can't be any worse than he was as a rookie. And there's some hope for new head coach Sean McVay. Young defensive tackle Aaron Donald is a star, and young running back Todd Gurley brings promise, too.
The key word is "young." Even the 31-year-old McVay is the youngest head coach in modern NFL history. That youthful talent—that potential—makes it hard to bury the Rams on this list, but this is still a team that made only small improvements after winning just four games and ranking 30th in the NFL in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) at Football Outsiders.
At the very least, they're a year away.
29. San Francisco 49ers
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How bad were the depleted 49ers last season? They woke up on Christmas Eve having not won a game since Sept. 12. And against everybody except the lowly Rams, they went 0-14.
You don't fix that overnight, which is why they remain in the bottom tier of these rankings. But with plenty of money to spend and a ton of draft currency, they've certainly taken a step in the right direction this offseason.
They added three offensive weapons in versatile Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk and wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin in free agency. And then new general manager John Lynch essentially stole three middle-round picks from the Bears early in the draft, moving down a spot and still landing arguably the second-best defensive player in the class, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.
Those newfound assets also enabled them to jump back into the bottom of Round 1 and grab Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, who, despite red flags, also has Pro Bowl potential.
That handful of new arrivals could help reshape the team on both sides of the ball, and there's less of a sense of dread there now with Lynch and new head coach Kyle Shanahan in control.
There are still glaring holes, though, particularly at the quarterback position, where they essentially swapped out Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert for Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley in March. They also drafted Iowa signal-caller C.J. Beathard in Round 3, but it's safe to say he's a long shot to make an impact now or in the future.
The 49ers definitely are no longer the worst team in the NFC, but they're far from being ready to contend.
28. Cincinnati Bengals
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The Bengals won just six games last season and then got worse by losing their two best offensive linemen, Whitworth and guard Kevin Zeitler, on the free-agent market. It marked the second consecutive offseason in which they suffered major net losses in free agency despite having money to spend.
And they didn't do much in the draft to convince us they're suddenly on the right track.
They reached for speedy wide receiver John Ross in the top 10, despite the fact Ross is arguably a one-dimensional player who comes with medical red flags. Then they followed that up by drafting a walking red flag in running back Joe Mixon, who has first-round talent but could do more harm than good and, like Ross, doesn't really fill a major need.
They did get great value for Mixon and third-round front seven defender Jordan Willis, but that doesn't make up for all of the losing they've been doing on and off the field. The offensive line still lacks experience, and the secondary lacks young talent.
The way things are looking, the Bengals will be lucky to win more than a handful of games next season in the increasingly tough AFC North.
27. Detroit Lions
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The Lions spent most of the 2016 season putting together last-second comebacks in order to beat bad teams. In fact, quarterback Matthew Stafford set a new single-season record with eight fourth-quarter comebacks.
That's not sustainable, and there's plenty of evidence they overachieved by winning nine games. Based on Pro Football Focus grades, the Lions were actually the NFL's sixth-worst team last season, while Football Outsiders ranked them 27th based on DVOA.
They ranked dead last in the league with an opposing completion percentage of 72.7 and passer rating of 106.5, averaged just 3.7 yards per carry and their defensive sack rate of 4.5 was tied for the NFL's second-worst.
So in order to get back to the playoffs in 2017, the status quo wouldn't suffice.
In their defense, they upgraded the offensive line slightly by essentially swapping Larry Warford and Riley Reiff for T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner in free agency, and they did get good value while addressing needs with their top two picks, rising linebacker Jarrad Davis and cornerback Teez Tabor.
But both Florida products have red flags—injuries for Davis and an excruciatingly slow 40-yard dash time for Tabor (4.62 at the combine, 4.75 at his pro day).
The Lions entered 2017 primed to win fewer games than they did in 2016 without making any changes. The changes they've made aren't enough to convince us they'll be a winning team again.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars
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Is this finally the year the Jaguars become respectable? On paper, it sure looks like it.
The Jags underachieved dramatically with a three-win 2016 campaign. Football Outsiders assigns teams "Pythagorean wins," which, as the site explain it, "represent a projection of the team's expected wins based solely on points scored and allowed."
If that metric is any indication, Jacksonville should have won nearly twice as many games (5.8) as it did. So the law of averages was likely to help the Jaguars regardless of offseason improvements.
But they didn't sit on their hands. A defense already loaded with young talent added top-tier free agents A.J. Bouye at cornerback and Calais Campbell at defensive end, and then general manager David Caldwell went out in the draft and added arguably the best offensive player in this class, running back Leonard Fournette. One round later, they grabbed monster Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson, whom many expected to be a top-15 selection.
Those two should immediately toughen up the offense while making life easier for flawed young quarterback Blake Bortles, who continues to be a talented team's Achilles' heel.
With a better track record and a better quarterback, the Jaguars would be listed a lot higher. On paper, they're superior to a lot of teams yet to be ranked, but Bortles was a mess last season, and we've been fooled before.
For now, they're at least a few steps removed from the basement.
25. Cleveland Browns
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Already gaining steam coming off a run in free agency in which they revamped their offensive line and added an experienced and talented new No. 1 wide receiver in Kenny Britt, the Browns significantly upgraded their defense early on with top pick Myles Garrett and versatile first-round defensive back/linebacker Jabrill Peppers. But they weren't done there. They traded back into the first round and grabbed former Miami tight end David Njoku as well, giving them three of the best athletes in the draft.
Looking at the Browns depth chart now, it's hard not to be excited, especially if you place your finger over the quarterback slot.
That, of course, is the elephant in the room. Cleveland has a loaded offensive line featuring potential Hall of Famer Joe Thomas and newly acquired studs Kevin Zeitler and J.C. Tretter, and a loaded pass-catching corps led by Britt, top 2016 selection Corey Coleman and 2017 first-rounder Njoku.
The Browns have a promising young running back in Isaiah Crowell (4.8 yards per carry last season) and a defense that features Garrett, Peppers, veterans Jamie Collins and Joe Haden, and recent high draft picks Danny Shelton and Emmanuel Ogbah.
I kid you not, the Browns are—at least on paper—a good team, with a very bright future. But when you remove your finger from the quarterback slot on that depth chart and you see second-round project DeShone Kizer alongside Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and Brock Osweiler, you're reminded not to get carried away with predictions regarding the 2017 Cleveland Browns.
This team still needs a quarterback and is still at least a year away from contending, but almost every other key ingredient is there.
24. Buffalo Bills
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Kudos to the Bills for accepting a ransom from the Chiefs, moving down 17 spots in Round 1 in exchange for Kansas City's top pick next season and a third-rounder in 2017. That's good for their future, but it obviously doesn't do much for them right now.
And these power rankings are about right now.
Buffalo used Kansas City's No. 27 overall pick on LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White, a four-year SEC starter who fills a hole and offered good value in that spot. And they again addressed a need while getting decent value for an enticing prospect when they moved up in Round 2 to grab East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones, whose stock has skyrocketed this offseason.
Those are nice picks, and they make the Bills slightly better right now. But that comes after a seven-win team arguably got worse when it lost key players Stephon Gilmore, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Zach Brown in free agency.
The Bills had to make a leap this offseason to become a contender. Simply keeping good-not-great quarterback Tyrod Taylor, suffering a net loss in free agency and going conservative in the draft doesn't accomplish that.
23. Arizona Cardinals
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By adding two potential big-time defenders in linebacker Haason Reddick and safety Budda Baker with their first two picks in the draft, the Cardinals at least stopped the bleeding.
Just last month, they were gutted on that side of the ball in free agency, losing safeties Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger as well as key front seven cogs Calais Campbell and Kevin Minter. That was far from ideal for an aging team that appeared to regress by following up a 13-win 2015 season with a seven-win 2016 campaign.
Reddick and Baker should play large roles early, and they join a defense that still has plenty of talent with Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson and Chandler Jones. If all of those guys stay healthy and excel, and if Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald (combined age of 70) can have a bounce-back year together on offense, the Cards could be pretty good.
But that's a lot of "if."
22. Baltimore Ravens
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The Baltimore Ravens had the league's seventh-ranked defense last season. Only four teams recorded more takeaways, and only three surrendered fewer first downs. They lost two key offensive players—tackle Ricky Wagner and fullback Kyle Juszczyk—in free agency, but retained top defensive free agent Brandon Williams.
And yet in the first three rounds of the draft, a team in desperate need of reinforcements for quarterback Joe Flacco used all four of its draft picks on defensive players. And it's not even clear there are starting roles for cornerback Marlon Humphrey, linebacker Tyus Bowser, defensive end Chris Wormley or linebacker Tim Williams.
These were, generally, picks for the future, which is odd for a team that continues to lose important offensive players and has posted a winning record just once in the last four years.
Did the Ravens really have that luxury? They're putting a lot of eggs in questionable baskets on that side of the ball, which could end badly with guys like the unproven Breshad Perriman, the old and recently injured Danny Woodhead and whoever replaces Wagner.
This doesn't appear to be a team moving in the right direction.
21. New Orleans Saints
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The Saints actually scored more points than they allowed last season, primarily because quarterback Drew Brees is a magician.
As long as Brees is there, they'll have a chance to make a playoff run. And although they gave up top wide receiver Brandin Cooks in a March trade with New England, they've actually given their 38-year-old quarterback more support this offseason.
Brees already had a good receiving corps, and he's proved he can succeed throwing to just about anybody. Meanwhile, the Saints used the first-round pick they got from the Pats on Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk, who is arguably the best offensive tackle prospect in this class. That comes about six weeks after they signed talented guard Larry Warford.
They also used their initial first-round pick on NFL-ready cornerback Marshon Lattimore and spent their second-rounder on safety Marcus Williams, immediately boosting a defense that quietly improved in general but still ranked dead-last against the pass last season.
If that D can be half-decent—and with Lattimore, Williams, top 2016 pick Sheldon Rankins and new arrivals Alex Okafor and A.J. Klein, that's entirely possible—Brees will have less on his plate and the Saints will have a chance in 2017.
20. Minnesota Vikings
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The Vikings lost eight of their last 11 games last season and entered the offseason requiring major fixes to a running game that averaged a league-low 3.2 yards per carry and 75.3 rushing yards per game, and an offensive line that was responsible for more sacks than all but two other units, according to Pro Football Focus.
But Minnesota quietly had a rather nice run in free agency, upgrading with Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers in both offensive tackle spots while adding veteran back Latavius Murray to a backfield in desperate need of talent. They didn't have a first-round pick but still landed an offensive weapon who has first-round potential in Dalvin Cook.
Cook slid because of "character concerns," but he rushed for 3,456 yards, averaged 6.7 yards per carry and scored 40 touchdowns from scrimmage during his two full seasons as a starter at Florida State. He has the ability to play a major role from the get-go, which, combined with Murray and a better line, could help the Vikings get back on track early in 2017.
We know they have the goods on defense, and they certainly have weapons on offense. They're better now than they were at the end of last season. But with questions at quarterback, will that be enough? We're not convinced just yet.
19. Kansas City Chiefs
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We can appreciate that the Chiefs fell in love with quarterback Patrick Mahomes and decided it was worth sacrificing two first-round picks and a third-rounder to get him. It could pay off in the long-term future, and it's become clear Alex "Checkdown" Smith isn't leading them to a Super Bowl anytime soon.
But, again, are the Chiefs better today with Mahomes learning from Smith than they were last week? Not really, and now a team that hardly participated in free agency due to cap constraints has come out of the draft with zero immediate impact players.
The Chiefs might win more games than several teams listed ahead of them here, but this is about Super Bowl potential as well. They've won at least 11 games in three of head coach Andy Reid's four seasons, but they lost immediately in the postseason in two of those years. They made it to the divisional round in 2015, but that's largely because they were in the right place at the right time against a broken Texans team in that year's AFC Wild Card Round.
This team can't win in January. Has anything changed to indicate this year will be any different?
18. Los Angeles Chargers
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The Chargers won just five games last season but ran into some bad luck early and couldn't recover in the league's strongest division. Based on Pythagorean wins, Football Outsiders concluded they played more like an 8-8 team, which makes sense when you consider that—per the same source—nobody in the AFC was hit as hard as the Chargers were by injuries.
The law of averages alone indicates they might have had a shot at nine or 10 wins without lifting a finger in the 2017 offseason. But instead, they've gone all-in on offense in support of veteran quarterback Philip Rivers.
They paid big bucks last month for veteran left tackle Russell Okung, and then they spent their first three draft picks on Mike Williams (the most complete receiver in the class), Forrest Lamp (quite possibly the best offensive lineman this year) and Dan Feeney (another guard with superb pass-protection skills).
The defense was already in pretty good shape with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram up front and Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett on the back end, but now look at how complete that offense is: Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry, Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, Okung, Lamp, Joe Barksdale and Orlando Franklin.
If the majority of those guys can stay healthy, the Chargers might make the playoffs in their first year in Los Angeles.
17. Philadelphia Eagles
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The Eagles are a massive wild card entering the 2017 season, mainly because quarterback Carson Wentz will either take the next step toward stardom or continue to regress after struggling during the second half of his rookie campaign.
That's why Philadelphia ranks in the middle of the pack following a 7-9 year, but the gap between the Eagles and teams listed eight or 10 spots ahead of them is actually quite small, and it helps that they've had a sensational offseason.
They needed to give Wentz more support at receiver. They signed two talented wideouts—Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith—with 1,000-yard seasons under their respective belts.
They needed to improve the pass rush, especially with Connor Barwin gone. They drafted Derek Barnett—a former SEC edge-rusher coming off a 32-sack college career—in Round 1.
They needed secondary help, especially considering that two of their top three cover guys, Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin, are gone. They used both of their Day 2 picks on corners Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas.
Executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman has checked all of the boxes. Now we wait to see if Wentz can take that step.
16. Houston Texans
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The Texans didn't have three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt for most of 2016, and the Brock Osweiler experiment backfired, with Houston posting the third-lowest team passer rating (75.3) in football. And yet that defense was still the top-rated unit in football, and the Texans won the AFC South with a 9-7 record.
With Watt back and top 2017 pick Deshaun Watson on board at quarterback, you'd have to think the Texans will be even better next season. And that's entirely possible.
But it's also possible Watson needs time and he, Tom Savage and/or Brandon Weeden fail to improve that offense right away. It's possible Watt doesn't return to his previous form after undergoing multiple procedures on his back. And it's possible Lady Luck won't be as friendly to a team that ranked 29th in the NFL in DVOA and went 8-2 in games decided by seven points or fewer last season.
A lot remains up in the air, but there's little doubt that Watt and Watson give them a chance to become stronger in the short-term future. And Day 2 picks Zach Cunningham and D'Onta Foreman could also help out quite a bit in 2017.
Like the Eagles, the Texans are a wild card. But they've done things right, and they look better now than they did four months ago.
15. Indianapolis Colts
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The Colts have one of the best young quarterbacks in the game, but Indy has gone 16-16 the last two years partially because the offense hasn't been able to protect Andrew Luck.
The defense has also been a problem, and to their credit, the Colts have gone all out in an attempt to fix that unit this offseason. They signed front seven defenders Jabaal Sheard, Johnathan Hankins, John Simon, Margus Hunt, Barkevious Mingo and Sean Spence in free agency before using their top three draft picks on defensive players (the top two, defensive backs Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson, should play major roles right away).
That's enough for us to rank the underachieving Colts above the league median, but that offensive line is still a concern. Right tackle Joe Haeg and right guard Denzelle Good are both liabilities, and yet it appears the Colts are going to risk entering the 2017 season with both as starters.
That's not good, because Luck was the most frequently pressured qualified quarterback in the NFL last season, according to Pro Football Focus. And if he can't stay upright in 2017, the Colts won't break from mediocrity.
14. Miami Dolphins
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The Miami Dolphins have a franchise quarterback coming off a career year, a stud running back coming off a breakout season, a deep and talented receiving corps and an offensive line that is loaded with former first-round picks yet has just enough experience to be a major asset.
On offense, they're set.
Which explains why the Dolphins used their first three draft picks on defensive players, including promising first-round pass-rusher Charles Harris. These rookies should provide more support for veteran leaders Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake.
Sledding is always tough when you're in a division with the Patriots, but Miami made the playoffs last year despite losing quarterback Ryan Tannehill for most of the final month. They got better on paper in the offseason, so they should contend again in 2017.
13. New York Giants
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The Giants won 11 games last season despite a lack of offensive balance and so-so pass protection. That revamped defense—which ranked tops in the NFC in terms of DVOA—was the key. It was the only defense in the league to allow touchdowns less than 43 percent of the time in the red zone, and the Giants had a league-high 22 takeaways during the final 10 games of the season.
With top pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul returning, that unit should be just as strong in 2017. And the offense looks better now that it's brought in veteran receiver Brandon Marshall and top pick Evan Engram to complement superstar Odell Beckham Jr. in the pass-catching corps.
The Giants could have upgraded the offensive line instead of making luxury picks like quarterback Davis Webb in Round 3. Ereck Flowers surrendered more quarterback pressures than any other left tackle in the NFL in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus.
General manager Jerry Reese has already stated the team is considering moving him out of that spot. Bobby Hart and Marshall Newhouse were no better on the right side, so even if Flowers stays put, the Giants could have used at least one more starting-caliber tackle.
That, and concerns about the consistency of the offense keep them out of the top 10, but the G-Men will be playoff contenders again in 2017.
12. Dallas Cowboys
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Strapped for cash, the Cowboys lost four defensive backs in free agency—Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox—who played a combined 2,645 snaps in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus. And their only notable addition was veteran corner Nolan Carroll (the league's 106th-best cornerback last season, per PFF), which means a defense that lacked bite got worse.
They did address that depleted defense in the draft, particularly with the addition of first-round pass-rusher Taco Charlton and promising Day 2 corners Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. But don't expect that D to be a strength in the near future, which means even more pressure could fall on quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Those guys were phenomenal as rookies, but they'll have targets on their backs and won't be able to sneak up on the league in 2017. In a highly competitive division that hasn't had a repeat champion in over a decade, that's a bit concerning.
Still, they make the top 12 because it appears they've drafted well again, the offensive line remains the best in football and Prescott and Elliott are still Prescott and Elliott.
11. Washington Redskins
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Some might want to dock the Redskins points for losing veteran receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon as well as underrated defensive lineman Chris Baker on the free-agent market, but they compensated for those losses by adding younger wide receiver Terrelle Pryor in free agency and getting great mid-first-round value for Alabama defensive tackle Jonathan Allen on Thursday night.
The receiving corps, which also features talented youngsters Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson, might not miss Jackson or Garcon.
And that group has a pretty good quarterback throwing to it.
In fact, since becoming a full-time starter in 2015, Kirk Cousins has been the sixth-highest-rated qualified passer in the NFL. Only three quarterbacks have passed for more yards than his 9,083 during that stretch, yet 12 have thrown more interceptions. His 7.91 yards-per-attempt average ranks fifth. And it's not as though he's been babied, because nobody in football completed more 50-yard passes than Cousins did in 2016.
Throw in the addition of potential stud safety D.J. Swearinger in free agency and potential platoon back Samaje Perine in the fourth round of the draft, and a team that has posted winning records in back-to-back seasons could be on track to get into the playoffs in 2017.
10. Carolina Panthers
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It's important to remember that before the Panthers' 2016 season went up in flames, they were the defending NFC champions. And, yes, things change quickly in this league, but there's plenty of evidence that last season was an aberration for Carolina.
The defense missed the injured Luke Kuechly and the departed Josh Norman, and the secondary was in transition with Norman gone. Meanwhile, superstar quarterback Cam Newton took far too many hits behind a mediocre offensive line and within an offense that often lacked balance.
But they did make an effort to spruce up that line with the addition of high-priced left tackle Matt Kalil, and the running game—heck, the entire offense—will benefit greatly from the addition of versatile rookie backs (receivers?) Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel.
Those guys could enable Newton and the offense to get back on track immediately. And while the defense would benefit from fresh blood on the edges, Kuechly's return, the re-addition of Captain Munnerlyn and the maturation of corner James Bradberry should help.
Don't be surprised if the Panthers are back in the Super Bowl picture in 2017.
9. Tennessee Titans
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The Tennessee Titans are the epitome of a team that has rebuilt right. They got their franchise quarterback, built up the offensive line in order to protect said quarterback, brought in talented backs to take pressure off him, and now they're giving him his weapons.
Marcus Mariota had to be thrilled to see the Titans spend two of their top three picks on receivers Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor, both of whom have the ability to become stars. Davis, who had three 1,400-yard seasons in the MAC, should be ready to contribute right away. Taylor also had a monster career in a less-hyped conference (CUSA), and he has the speed to change games immediately.
With those two working with Mariota and fellow wideouts Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe, complemented by stud offensive linemen Jack Conklin and Taylor Lewan and backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, that offense should explode in 2017.
But what about the defense? They took care of that side of the ball in free agency, giving the secondary an injection of talent by adding cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Johnathan Cyprien without losing anybody important. And they used their other first-round pick on versatile USC corner Adoree' Jackson.
It is hard to find a weak spot now. The Titans are the Jaguars plus a great young quarterback. They increased their win total from three in 2015 to nine in 2016 and are poised to keep climbing in 2017.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The Buccaneers are on a similar path to Tennessee's, except with a little more experience. And they aren't skimping on weapons for young franchise quarterback Jameis Winston.
The Bucs, who increased their win total from two in 2014, six in 2015 and nine in 2016, have given Winston veteran home run threat DeSean Jackson, stud rookie tight end O.J. Howard and rookie deep threat Chris Godwin just this offseason.
Keep in mind, he already had Mike freakin' Evans.
If the line can hold and running back Doug Martin can stay healthy, the Bucs will have one of the best offenses in football. And the D was already solid before adding underrated veteran defensive end Chris Baker in free agency and potential starting safety Justin Evans in the second round of the draft. They had an NFC-high 29 takeaways last year, and only three teams in the league gave up fewer points in the second half of the season.
The Bucs went 6-2 during that stretch. Look for them to pick up where they left off.
7. Seattle Seahawks
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The Seahawks have the talent that is required of a Super Bowl team at quarterback, running back (especially with the addition of Eddie Lacy in free agency), wide receiver, tight end and across the board on defense. If not for their neglected, rotting offensive line, they'd be listed in the top three in these rankings.
But they continue to refuse to address that line in a substantial way, which is why they're no longer a top-tier contender.
Will they still win a bad division? Likely. Could they still get hot at the right time and go on a Super Bowl run? Sure. But in pass-blocking efficiency, Pro Football Focus ranked Seattle's offensive line third-last in football last season. And among 20 quarterbacks who dropped back at least 180 times, Russell Wilson was ranked second in pressure percentage. He was sacked 41 times, tied for the second-highest mark in football.
That might explain why he had the worst year of his career while plagued by injuries in 2016.
What did the Seahawks do to fix that this offseason? They signed former No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel, who was one of the worst left tackles in football in 2014 and 2015, was moved to guard in 2016 and then almost immediately shredded his left knee. And then they drafted center Ethan Pocic in Round 2, even though center Justin Britt was their best offensive lineman last season.
George Fant and Oday Aboushi are not acceptable solutions at either tackle position, and Joeckel isn't the answer, either. The Seahawks entered the offseason needing a talented offensive tackle more than anything else, and they came away with next to nothing.
6. Denver Broncos
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The Broncos still face questions at the quarterback position, but that didn't stop them from winning the Super Bowl two years ago. As long as that defense—which ranked first last season in DVOA—continues to dominate, they'll contend.
That unit downgraded slightly from nose tackle Sylvester Williams to Domata Peko in free agency, but they made up for that by drafting Demarcus Walker—who had 16 sacks as a senior at Florida State—in the second round.
Arguably more importantly, they might have made life just a little bit easier on whoever serves as the starting quarterback by drafting Utah's Garett Bolles—who dominated the combine and has every physical trait you look for in a cornerstone left tackle—in Round 1.
Both players make a great team just a little bit better, and fifth-round tight end Jake Butt could do the same if he can get healthy in time.
If either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch can hang in and perform at an average level, the Broncos will have a chance to make another Super Bowl run in 2017.
5. Oakland Raiders
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- David J. Phillip/Associated Press
Each of Oakland's first two draft picks were risky. First-round cornerback Gareon Conley has obvious red flags, and second-round safety Obi Melifonwu could be a combine sensation who never delivers. But that doesn't change the fact both players make a secondary that was a liability last season a heck of a lot better.
When you're a team with as much talent on both sides of the ball as the Raiders, those are risks you can afford to take.
The Raiders, of course, took a massive step forward with a sudden 12-win 2016 campaign. Young quarterback Derek Carr emerged as a star and an MVP candidate behind one of the best offensive lines in football, and defensive leaders Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin delivered as one of the best one-two defensive punches in the league.
They followed that up by bringing in athletic tight end Jared Cook in free agency, where their only major loss—overrated platoon back Latavius Murray—was at the very least equalized last week when they brought five-time Pro Bowler Marshawn Lynch out of retirement.
The young Raiders were primed to get better without getting out of bed this offseason. The moves above could put them over the top.
4. Green Bay Packers
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- Michael Conroy/Associated Press
This is about momentum as much as anything. With quarterback Aaron Rodgers hotter than he's ever been during the last six weeks of the 2016 season, the Packers went 6-0 and outscored their opponents by 12 points per game.
There's little reason to think they can't perform that way from the get-go in 2017, especially if the law of averages is kinder to them when it comes to injuries (the defense was ravaged while they were stuck in an early-season rut).
But what about all of the players they let walk in free agency?
They lost Cook but replaced him at tight end with the more accomplished Martellus Bennett.
They lost defensive back Micah Hyde, but he was a jack of all trades, master of none, and No. 33 overall pick Kevin King should step in at corner and help them forget about that departure.
They lost interior offensive linemen T.J. Lang and JC Tretter, but they have quality replacements in Don Barclay and Corey Linsley.
They lost Julius Peppers, but it might be Nick Perry's turn anyway, and let's not forget about top 2016 pick Kenny Clark up front.
They lost running back Eddie Lacy, but he wasn't a factor last season.
Free agency is overrated, and the Packers survived before loading up with 10 draft picks this weekend. They're healthy and coming off a hot finish, and they're led by the highest-rated passer in NFL history.
They'll be OK.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
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- Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
The Steelers are another team that entered the offseason riding a wave of momentum after a hot finish to the 2016 campaign. They stumbled early with key players dealing with injuries and/or suspensions last year, but when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown finally became healthy and hot together, they went on a seven-game winning streak to wrap up the regular season.
Since then, they've had a typically quiet Pittsburgh offseason.
Lawrence Timmons and Jarvis Jones are gone (meh), and Justin Hunter and Tyson Alualu have arrived (double meh). They did add a strong defender while filling a need with first-round linebacker T.J. Watt, but all that matters right now is Roethlisberger isn't retiring, Bell is returning on the franchise tag and Brown is healthy with a brand-new contract in tow.
If those three keep it together for the entirety of the 2017 season, Pittsburgh will be New England's biggest challenger in the AFC.
2. Atlanta Falcons
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- Elsa/Getty Images
There's a valid concern that the Falcons could be victimized by a Super Bowl hangover after blowing a 25-point lead to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI. This is, after all, a young Atlanta team, and that had to be a traumatic experience.
But until or unless that happens, the Falcons are the cream of the NFC crop. They have too much going for them.
Quarterback Matt Ryan is coming off an MVP season, and he still has perhaps the NFL's best receiver in Julio Jones. Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman should only get better, as should that underrated offensive line and a young defense that is quickly improving at all three levels.
That unit, in particular, is worth getting excited about, especially after they signed two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Dontari Poe in free agency and added relentless pass-rusher Takkarist McKinley in the first round of the draft.
That defensive front was probably their weakest spot coming off the 2016 season. But now it's hard to find a hole, especially with top corner Desmond Trufant returning from injury. The Falcons are the most complete team in the NFC, and it's not even close.
1. New England Patriots
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- Bob Levey/Getty Images
The gap between the Patriots and the rest of the NFL is smaller now than it was 72 hours ago, but that was to be expected.
New England already arguably won the offseason by adding potential key cogs in cornerback Stephon Gilmore, wide receiver Brandin Cooks, running back Rex Burkhead and defensive end Kony Ealy in the early stages of free agency. But the trade for Cooks cost them their first-round pick, and the trade for Ealy cost them their second-round pick.
They came away with just four picks, and none before Round 3.
This is still a team that went 17-2 and won the Super Bowl last season, got much better on paper in March and will get superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski back from injury in 2017. Even if top pick Derek Rivers doesn't play a big role and the Pats don't get much from this draft class, they're still the cream of the NFL crop entering the month of May.