For this week’s Power Rankings, I’m going to do something a little different. The haves and have-nots are pretty clear in 2019, so I won’t ramble too long over most of the teams. With the Broncos officially circling the drain, it seems like a good opportunity to take a longer look at their competition for the top of the draft order.
One of the things that makes the Broncos’ foray into the top five a little complicated is how they’ve essentially reached a glass ceiling. Because of Denver’s strength of schedule, they will need to flatline while the teams ahead of them win two games.
So this could be as high as they can get. With that in mind, I wanted to take a look at the team needs of the rosters ahead of them to give a little insight into what could be available at five.
Quick Disclaimer: As always, the Power Rankings are based upon how I see each team’s chances at winning the 2019 Lombardi. That means some teams will be lower than their record indicates and some teams will be lower than previous opponents they beat.
The Cellar Dwellers
There’s a legitimate possibility the Bengals will finish as the third 0-16 team in NFL history. That’d be enough for many owners to fire their first year head coach, but this is Mike Brown we’re talking about, and many of the issues come down to talent.
Looking their roster up and down, it becomes quite clear how many holes are littered across the board. The 31-year-old A.J. Green hasn’t played a snap this year and has an expiring contract, which leaves Tyler Boyd and mostly flotsam catching passes. Zac Taylor’s playing Ryan Finley at quarterback while John Jerry has played snaps at left tackle. The Bengals defense has been better by comparison, but Geno Atkins isn’t getting younger and the pass rush leans heavily on isn’t getting younger and the pass rush leans heavily on Sam Hubbard.
If they remain at one, the debate’s going to come down to Chase Young or Joe Burrow.
Thanks to Dave Gettleman, the Giants do not need a running back, and we can all be thankful for that. Daniel Jones means they could be a trade down candidate if they finish at two and someone wants to move up for Burrow in the case of a Chase Young pick at first overall.
The more likely scenario is Burrow at one, and Young or offensive help at two. The GMen could use a young cornerstone for the line as much or more than they could use a replacement for Odell Beckham Jr.
It turns out when you strip down a roster for picks, there’s a lot of needs. Such is the case for the Miami Dolphins. They represent a bit of a wildcard because quarterback makes the most sense, but their three first rounders mean they aren’t married to a passer at the top of the draft if Tua Tagovailoa’s injury scares them off.
29. Snyder’s Swamp
There was early speculation that Dwayne Haskins did not prohibit Washington from selecting a quarterback at the top of this coming draft class. That may still be the case depending on who winds up replacing Gruden.
With all that in mind, I expect Jerry Jeudy or Jeffrey Okudah to be picked here. Both are closer to the kind of “splash” moves Snyder tends to go for. Terry McLaurin makes receiver a lesser need, so I’d bet on that right now.
28. Denver Broncos
I’ve been speculating on the Broncos’ biggest 2020 needs since training camp, even as fans accused me of writing off the 2019 team. So what follows should come as no huge surprise:
1) Quarterback - Maybe Lock solves this, but it’s a need ‘til it ain’t.
2A) Left Tackle - This has looked like such an obvious need for so long that I’m starting to overthink it and worry Elway and the front office are content to roll Garett Bolles out there for the last season of his rookie deal.
2B) Boundary Cornerback - The big question with Davontae Harris’ play up until the bye was if he looked competent enough to push this down the board a little ways in case of a Chris Harris Jr resigning or a splash replacement like the Cowboys’ Byron Jones. The last two games have made it abundantly clear that it simply isn’t the case. If Fangio likes Jeffrey Okudah at the top of the draft, I like the Buckeye at the top of the draft.
3A) Wide Receiver - It’s hard to know for sure how big this need really is until the Broncos start a league average passer, but Diontae Spencer probably isn’t an ideal regular contributor to the offense. If Tim Patrick can settle in as a competent secondary option on the perimeter, a burner who can capture attention on motion and contribute from the slot would be ideal.
3B) Interior Offensive Line - Truth be told, Ron Leary has had a good couple of weeks. With his contract, it may not matter. Connor McGovern is going to be a free agent and may price himself out of Elway’s consideration.
3C) Defensive Line - I expect the All-22 of Sunday’s loss to make it painfully clear how valuable Shelby Harris has been this year. His injury in warm-ups led to a lot of Dre’Mont Jones, who’s best role in the NFL may be as a passing downs interior rusher.
4) Slot Corner - Even with as much vitriol as Bryce Callahan has received with his injury this year, he’d go a long way towards solving the nickel spot if he can return to his 2018 play next season. With that a question, this remains a position I’d personally like a little depth at. Maybe Duke Dawson can take a leap forward with time in the system and more seasoning under Fangio and Ed Donatell, but if someone like Alabama’s Xavier McKinney slipped into the second, I’d be tempted.
27. Detroit Lions
If Matthew Stafford returns and plays at his previous level, they’re probably better than this ranking. Right now it’s hard to believe that will occur in 2019.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Remember Minshew Mania? Good times.
24. New York Jets
Has anyone checked in on Sam Darnold since he started seeing ghosts in Foxboro? It took a beating by the Jaguars to exorcise them, but check out his statline since.
23. Chicago Bears
Did you know Jameis Winston is on pace to throw for almost 5,000 yards this year? He’s also in line for almost 30 interceptions.
20. London Chargers
18. Los Angeles Rams
If you’re struggling so badly you get benched against the Bungles, you’re probably not it.
Mason Rudolph’s journey through the AFC North:— NFL Memes (@NFL_Memes) November 25, 2019
Ravens: Knocked him unconcious
Browns: Knocked him on his head
Bengals: Knocked him out of a job pic.twitter.com/mDpCxA5obj
16. Oakland Raiders
15. Cleveland Browns
Cleveland’s missing pass rusher would loom really large if Mason Rudolph or Devlin Hodges find success this week.
14. Tennessee Titans
It was never going to happen, but what if John Elway had traded for Ryan Tannehill instead of Joe Flacco?
With the Colts in the rearview, I’m not about to dive into the tape to really speculate on this, but why did Frank Reich suddenly put handcuffs on his quarterback?
Over the course of Indy’s first match up with Houston, Jacoby Brissett threw the ball 39 times and notched more than 300 yards and four touchdowns in a 30-23 victory. Since that game, he hasn’t attempted more than 25 passes in a single game.
I suspect part of it is due to the issues in the Colts’ receiving corps as well as faith in their offensive line and bully ball approach, but the loss to Houston could wind up spoiling a pretty encouraging second season for Frank Reich.
The Iggles are a weird team to place. They have four games coming up that they should win. If they lose any of them, they’ll probably take a big tumble, and even then the showdown with Dallas in week 16 probably determines their fate.
11. Buffalo Bills
Let’s take a minute to deconstruct the asinine Josh Allen over Bradley Chubb takes that are floating around.
If you watched Allen destroy the Broncos yesterday and now believe Denver could have improved upon their current QB situation by selecting him, that’s one thing. I’m not sold on Allen as a quarterback by any stretch of the imagination, but I can understand where you’re coming from.
If you can look back at Josh Allen, the prospect from Wyoming, and believe he made more sense than Bradley Chubb? Now I have questions. A lot of them.
10. Houston Texans
That should have been a fumble.
One of the most amazing things about Jerry World is how the drama and Jason Garrett can drown out how good this roster is.
If I believed in Cousins, they’d be ranked above the Packers. ‘Til he does it, they won’t be.
I’ve got a ton of friends who root for the Packers, and I spent the tail end of last week telling them how I believe they have a decent shot in the postseason. That remains, but things outside their control may need to flip their way. Watching Aaron Rodgers turtle against the Niners’ pressure definitely sours things in a big way, while Mike Pettine’s defense did nothing to slow down Jimmy Garopolo.
Matt LaFleur is basically confirming here the George Kittle TD was not Kevin King‘s fault. King turned the way he turned because #Packers were in quarters coverage, and that’s doing his job. Should’ve had help in middle of the field. But don’t let facts get in the way. pic.twitter.com/9hhK7W13fC— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) November 25, 2019
Considering how things have gone lately, are we suddenly sleeping on the Chiefs? Patrick Mahomes is returning to health and the defense is rounding into something less than embarrassing.
Don’t judge me too harshly, but I’m blindly optimistic that someday the Broncos offense can look like something resembling this year’s Niners.
I will never understand how Elway went with Vance Joseph. https://t.co/7f8dSI5HY2— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) November 25, 2019
Let’s put on our tinfoil hats for just a minute: what if the NFL’s decision to allow pass interference to be reviewable was all a sham to quiet the masses after a clearly blown call cost Drew Brees a second championship, and the plan was always to turn public sentiment against it this year?
The biggest argument against this before last week was that New Orleans has so little faith in the officials, they surely prefer reviews of DPI and OPIs. Even if the league never overturns good calls, at least they take another look at them. Right?
The refs played the long con ... don't overturn PI calls all season then when the situation comes up in New Orleans, they strike. pic.twitter.com/ptPHAxNOMH— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) November 24, 2019
More and more, it looks like Bill Belichick is writing his own “Zombie-Manning and the No Fly Zone” Super Bowl tale. It’s probably nitpicking to linger on Tom Brady too long because he’s still capable of doing just enough when needed, but it’s impossible to ignore the biggest question anymore, even with the stupidly good defense and special teams.
3rd Down Passing...— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) November 25, 2019
CLE - 52.5%
DEN - 51.5%
WAS - 51.1%
NE - 50.8%
MIA - 48.9%
Weird to see Tom Brady and the Patriots mixed in the bottom of the league...
The MVP race is a two horse marathon with Russell Wilson chasing Lamar Jackson. At the same time, I’ve flip flopped Baltimore with New England twice now and still don’t know if this won’t be different halfway through today.
And then there’s Baltimore’s defense. Early in the season there were plenty of questions, but look at what they’ve done lately. With the way Tom Brady looked in the rain against the Cowboys, it’s easy to imagine him having a rough go in the snow in a rematch with the Ravens. Meanwhile, Greg Roman’s offense is built to win in weather.
Bill Belichick surely loves the attention John Harbaugh’s team has earned. This pick could look really stupid in two months. Right now I can’t help but think the Ravens are the best team in football, and I hope we get to see them deep into the postseason.