Welcome back to edition three of NFL Pre Draft power rankings! Last week, we looked at the middle of the league, teams ranked 23rd to 17th. Today, we get a little better, teams that have a moderate to high chance of competing for their divisions, and playoff spots. Over the past few weeks, teams have cut, traded, and signed numerous big name free agents and players and rosters are being reshaped in order to prepare for training camp and the NFL Draft. The following are power rankings based on teams’ moves and rosters up until this point in free agency. After the NFL Draft in late April, we’ll come back and take a look at where these teams stand. Enjoy!
16) Kansas City Chiefs
It looks to be a reloading season for the Chiefs in 2018. The team dealt veteran quarterback Alex Smith to the Redskins, and also lost star corner Marcus Peters and linebacker Derrick Johnson to free agency. Second year quarterback Patrick Mahomes will look to guide the offense next season, which is still loaded with playmakers. Speedster Tyreek Hill and newly acquired Sammy Watkins highlight the receiving core for the Chiefs next season, along with running backs Kareem Hunt and Spencer Ware. The team signed Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens, their only big defensive signing of the offseason thus far. Andy Reid is placing a lot of stock in Mahomes, and whether or not he plays well next season may define the team for years moving forward.
15) Tennessee Titans
Tennessee is coming off of a season where they won a playoff game, and still fired their head coach. For one, the team signed former Patriot and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler to add to secondary with a bunch of playmakers already. They also resigned defensive end DaQuan Jones, who played a huge role in the team’s success last season. Another Patriot made their way to the Titans, this one being utility back Dion Lewis, who should fill the void of Demarco Murray. The Titans are in a tricky spot, as the Jaguars are the dominant force in the division and the Texans look to be similar to the Titans, but with better personnel.
14) Carolina Panthers
The Panthers, like many teams in the NFC, suffer from a tough division and conference. Last year, the Panthers made the playoffs alongside two other teams in their division, the Falcons and Saints. The Panthers lost elite offensive linemen Andrew Norwell, defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, and released veteran back Jonathan Stewart. Coming to the squad this season is defensive tackle Dontari Poe, who will provide solid run blocking and support inside. They also resigned the ageless wonder Julius Peppers who will be 38 this season. Cam Newton will need to perform at a more consistent level, similar to last season, if the Panthers want any hope of winning the NFC South next year.
13) San Francisco 49ers
It was a tale of two seasons last year for the 49ers. There was the “Non-Garoppolo” set of games, and the “Garoppolo” set of games. The first set was not pretty. The second set looked like a team that is the future of the NFC. San Francisco signed Garoppolo to a long term deal earlier this year, and also made a splash signing of Richard Sherman. They lost running back Carlos Hyde to the Browns, but added a solid replacement in Jerick McKinnon. They also added offensive linemen Weston Richburg from the Giants and edge rusher Jeremiah Attaochu from Los Angeles. Although the defense is young and the offense is void of any superior, elite playmakers, we all know how a quarterback can make or break a team. This may be too high for the Niners, but I could see them competing sooner than later.
12) Detroit Lions
The Lions look to build on a 9-7 season a year ago, although they missed the playoffs and fired their coach, Jim Caldwell. Matt Patricia takes the reigns as head coach, and brings in a slew of new faces to the team, including former players and assistants. The team lost a few players to free agency, including defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and linebacker Tahir Whitehead, but added a bunch of complimentary pieces that should improve the team next season. They added several linebackers, including Devon Kennard and Christian Jones, as well as veteran running back Legarrette Blount. Detroit also signed a couple of defensive tackles to fill the hole Haloti Ngata left after he signed with Philadelphia. The Lions franchise tagged edge rusher Ezekiel Ansah, and should get another back next season in Kerry Hyder. With Matthew Stafford and a slew of weapons in their prime, the Lions look poised for a run at the playoffs once again.
11) Dallas Cowboys
After losing stud running back Ezekiel Elliott for parts of last season, the Cowboys missed the playoffs, although finishing at 9-7. Dak Prescott regressed, and the Cowboys struggled to score the ball at times during 2017’s campaign. Linebacker Sean Lee, the captain of the defense, was injured for most of the season and that undoubtedly led to a somewhat subpar defense. The Cowboys have been mostly stagnant this offseason, besides franchise tagging elite pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence and signing wide receiver Allen Hurns to a two year contract. The team will look to find some receivers and defensive playmakers in the upcoming draft, but look to return to playoff form from two season ago.
10) Green Bay Packers
One of the more disappointing teams last year, the Packers enter 2018 with high hopes after their elite quarterback comes back after a season shortening season in 2017. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have had a busier offseason than usual, partially due to changes in ownership. The team’s biggest move involved signing tight end Jimmy Graham to replace the quasi bust in Martellus Bennett last season. Although they lost corner Damarious Randall and safety Morgan Burnett to free agency, they resigned corner Tramon Williams and brought in defensive tackle Muhammed Wilkerson, who should have a big impact right away on a front that was very poor in 2017. In arguably the best division in football, making the playoffs will be tougher than before, but with Rodgers at the helm, nothing is out of the question.
9) Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons, Super Bowl runner up two seasons ago, are heading into next season with the same high hopes as the last. Atlanta has been relatively quiet this offseason, besides losing defensive linemen Adrian Clayborn to the Patriots and adding Cardinals corner Justin Bethel. They have all the weapons on offense, a franchise quarterback, a solid tandem of backs, and an elite wide receiver in Julio Jones. Their defensive front took a hit losing Clayborn, but the secondary got a boost adding the speedy Bethel. The Falcons will again rely on their potent offense to outscore teams next season to have success.
Find out Thursday on draft day!