If you’re looking to see my thoughts on why teams started where they did this offseason, you should check out my pre-draft power rankings. For reference I made a point to mention how teams have moved.
32. Miami Dolphins - Stick
Rosen’s career looks like it will be best remembered for helping two teams secure No. 1 overall picks. That isn’t an indictment of him as I believe he was the best QB option for most teams this offseason. It’s just reality. Miami’s roster is still so far away from real contention.
31. New York Giants - Stick
Since the Giants grabbed Daniel Jones, Dave Gettleman has told us all how smart he is because he was part of teams that have made it to seven Super Bowls. He forgot to mention that he’s never drafted a franchise QB. He became a GM to the Carolina Panthers in 2013 when Cam Newton was clearly “the guy.” Maybe Jones turns into the answer, but when you look at who Gettleman could have drafted at 2 and 6, the pressure is cranked up to 11.
30. Arizona Cardinals - Stick
Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury’s aerial circus could be really exciting. It could also get grounded really quickly by Steve Keim passing on offensive line help until Lamont Gaillard in the fifth round.
29. Cincinnati Bengals - Stick
It should help the Bengals that Jonah Williams has supplanted Billy Hart. Unfortunately they had a hundred other needs. There’s a reason all the 2020 mocks are favoring them for the No. 2 QB in next year’s class.
28. Oakland Raiders - Down 4
Currently hoping the Raiders turn into one of those good bad teams. This may seem strange to Broncos Country, but if the Raiders are bad enough to get Justin Herbert, they could stumble into relevancy.
27. Detroit Lions - Down 1
I was higher on the Lions free agency than many, yet they entered the draft with serious needs if they wanted to make any noise in a tough NFC North. I liked T.J. Hockenson, but they didn’t do enough to fix the pass rush, secondary and offensive line.
26. Buffalo Bills - Up 2
Ed Oliver goes to the perfect system to make a huge impact early and often. They’ll still be an entertaining bad team unless Josh Allen grows out of “big armed runner who can’t hit the broadside of the barn.”
25. Jacksonville Jaguars - Up 2
They got great value out of their draft, but they’re still starting Nick Foles in a division with two top 10 quarterbacks. Jags fans are about to watch the 2018 Broncos’ season with the added benefit of humidity.
24. New York Jets - Down 1
Quinnen Williams was the best player in the 2019 draft class. He and Leonard Williams could give Gregg Williams (lots of Williamses in New York) the best interior pair in football. Of course, there’s been rumors that Leo could get shipped out of town since January.
Beyond that, Sam Darnold’s sophomore jump is the huge wildcard here. He looked mostly bad during his rookie season, but did improve down the final stretch and could make a big jump. Usually year two is when franchise QBs’ promise starts to shine through. Adam Gase will give him a much stronger offensive system than he had with Jeremy Bates.
So you may wonder why I’m still so down on them. The offensive line is still a mess, and I don’t think Jachai Polite solves their edge rushing woes. If both coaching staffs can scheme around these issues, there’s a very real possibility that the Jets surprise people. I’ll believe it when I see it.
23. Washington - Up 2
Case Keenum cedes time to Dwayne Haskins before Halloween. Rookie mistakes continue, but at least it’s a 21-year-old making them.
Did you realize Adrian Peterson had one of the more surprising 1,000-yard seasons in NFL history last year? He’s 34 now and will concede significant snaps to Derrius Guice. The defense does enough to keep them in more games than you’d expect, leaving room for a surprise playoff contender if Haskins has an OROY worthy season and Gruden pulls the hook on Keenum early enough.
22. Houston Texans - Down 3
There are reasons to believe certain positions will improve (Rankin to G, instant impact from rookies I wouldn't count on)— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) April 27, 2019
But you can argue the Texans had $70 million in cap space and four top-100 picks and didn't get notably better for 2019 at a single position. pic.twitter.com/OWxtLjaVdk
21. Carolina Panthers - Down 4
After my pre-draft power rankings, a big part of me wanted to move Carolina farther down this list because of Newton’s health. Marty Hurney did enough to confirm those suspicions when he spent a third-round pick on Will Grier. If Newton stays healthy, they should hang around, but that’s basically a coin flip.
20. Chicago Bears - Stick
Everything went right for the Bears to surprise the NFC North in 2018. Aaron Rodgers got hurt early, and the locker room finally mutinied. The Vikings crashed back to earth after their magic carpet ride in 2017. Mitch Trubisky looked like a competent quarterback, and Vic Fangio coordinated a historically great defense.
In 2019 none of those things look likely to reoccur. The defense will still be strong, but will look more like the 2008 Bears than the ‘85 version. Nagy will have his work cut out for him unless his third-year signal caller makes a big jump from deeply flawed average quarterback.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers - Down 1
I’m a lot lower on the Steelers than most. Vegas expects them to contend for the playoffs, and it makes sense. They had a top 10 team by FootballOutsider’s DVOA stat last year and added Devin Bush, Steven Nelson, and Mark Barron to a defense with the best adjusted sack rate from a year ago. Losing Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown hurt, but they only played with one last year and many subscribe to the addition by subtraction. JuJu Smith-Schuster remains, and Kevin Colbert’s no slouch when it comes to finding receivers.
What I can’t get over is a toxic locker room that looted an ex-teammates locker. An organization caught up in the kind of drama and airing of dirty laundry that leaves you wondering how united they really are. I see a team that just lost the best offensive line coach in football and retained a defensive coordinator that many in the fanbase refuse to trust. I see a ship taking on water.
Ben Roethlisberger has agreed to an extension to remain the Pittsburgh Steelers’ father figure ‘til 2021. After purging the locker room of anyone who dare speak out against Ben, Mike Tomlin’s the only scape goat remaining if the Steelers disappoint again in 2019. He may want to get his house up on the market now.
18. Tennessee Titans - Up 4
Teams 24-18 are sort of their own tier. I expect one of these teams to look like a real playoff contender late. Most of them have a decent quarterback held back by crappy supporting casts or inept coaching staffs. Many of them will try to carry this weight until it breaks them in 2019, but one will still hang around come December.
This is my verbose way of telling you that I believe in Marcus Mariota. He was buried by the “exotic smashmouth” for years and tried to grind through an injury last year. Now he’s got Mike Vrabel’s “tough D and run” persona to deal with. Even still, I want to like the Titans. I really do. The more I look at this roster the more I want to drink the Kool-Aid.
Jeffery Simmons won’t do much for them in 2019 as he recovers from injury, but A.J. Brown, Nate Davis, and Amani Hooker all look like they could emerge as rookie contributors. D’Andre Walker is the kind of young pass rusher that should thrive under Vrabel’s tutelage.
Then I look at their 2019 schedule, and my Kool-Aid starts to make me pucker. They get the AFC West and NFC South this year. They also open with the Baker Mayfield’s Browns.
17. San Francisco 49ers - Down 4
This move looks bigger than it really is, as I have teams 18-14 in a pretty tight cluster. One of the things that hurts the 49ers is they did little to woo me in the draft, whereas the teams around them all got noticeably better. Considering the fact that San Fran had the second pick in the draft, that’s a bit of a disappointment.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Down 2
The Bucs did exactly what they needed to do considering they had the least cap space of any team going into the weekend. They didn’t screw up. You can argue they could have benefitted from Josh Allen more than Devin White, but I won’t as I believe Shaq Barrett will emerge as a stud for them, and like Anthony Nelson in the Todd Bowles scheme. After that, the biggest need was help in the secondary. Enter Sean Bunting, Jamel Dean, and Mike Edwards.
15. Denver Broncos - Up 1
Does this feel low? Vegas has Trevor Sikkema and others throwing Denver back into the top 10 pick range in their 2020 Mock Drafts.
If everything goes right I expect the Broncos to do a lot more than that. As it happened, I loved this rookie class even more than the 2018 draft. Now they have to prove us believers right. Some have lamented the Broncos tough 2019 schedule, but if I’m right, the Texans and Bears will take a big step back. Combine that with games against the Jaguars, Bills, Lions, and two against the Raiders and things start to look plenty rosy.
If everything goes as I expect, this is pretty fair. Joe Flacco has a long enough injury history that it’s realistic to expect Drew Lock to see time in 2019, ready or not. Noah Fant and Dalton Risner address the biggest needs on offense, provided Ron Leary can stay healthy and McGovern takes a step forward at center. Emmanuel Sanders returns to the Z and if he can get back to 85 percent of who he was pre-Achilles, Courtland Sutton should pick up the missing 15.
On defense the Broncos look ready to make a jump forward with a better system. Bradley Chubb should improve upon his rookie season, even if his raw sack total declines. Todd Davis and Josey Jewell should hold up in coverage better in a scheme that doesn’t ask them to run around in man quite so often.
The biggest question remains the rebuilt secondary. If Chris Harris and Elway bury the hatchet. If they can’t, I doubt he makes it to camp as Denver pivots to gathering a 2020 pick instead of a 2021 compensatory selection. Minus Harris, I’d expect Kareem Jackson to slide back to corner and Will Parks to play the safety spot next to Justin Simmons.
Health is always the X-factor that can’t really be accounted for, mind you. It’s worth mentioning only because Flacco, Leary, Sanders, Lindsay, Freeman, Derek Wolfe, and Bryce Callahan have missed time in the past. That’s not a small list.
14. Baltimore Ravens - Up 7
This and the Titans rankings feels like a little bit of a correction on where I placed both of these teams previously. I can’t help but be a bit skeptical with Tennessee’s new OC Arthur Smith and the Ravens QB situation, though. If either prove better than I expect, these two teams could be poised to make serious noise.
Baltimore’s defense looks a lot like a bunch of names, unless you’re a diehard fan. The organizational philosophy is to let the free agents walk and reap the rewards through compensatory selections. So long as they hit on the selections it’s a great way to build up really solid depth up and down the roster. If the first draft post-Ozzie Newsome is any indication, they’re going to be just fine here.
I was scared off by Marquise “Hollywood” Brown’s injury and miniscule frame, but it’s hard to ignore how good he was when I watched Kyler Murray this spring. Because of Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, and Devontae Booker, I didn’t do much studying on backs this year. If I had, Justice Hill would have been near the top of my list, and he’ll give them a ton of explosiveness. I covered my thoughts on Trace McSorely for yesterday’s article.
Outside of those names, every single draft pick Eric DeCosta made was on my Broncos Big Board. Maybe it’s just the familiarity, or maybe they had one of the best draft classes of anyone. We’ll soon find out.
13. Dallas Cowboys - Down 2
Welcome to the next tight cluster. If I lived near Vegas I’d bet at least one of the next three teams make the dance this season. It will probably come down to injury luck, and the more I’ve looked at Big D, the less confident I am in their ability to withstand a bad break or two.
I mentioned this in my pick article yesterday, but generally speaking I hate this new philosophy where teams trade first-round picks for proven veterans. When it’s someone like Khalil Mack or OBJ (Hall-of-Famers), sure it’s great. Most of the time it’s a guy like Frank Clark or Amari Cooper. Both are good players. Neither are good enough to punt on a cheap, four-year deal so long as you don’t completely flub the pick.
Jerry Jones didn’t agree, because he’s smarter than everyone. Now Dallas enters 2019 with a ton of their big names coming up for extensions and limited cap space. There isn’t enough pie to feed everyone. Assuming they keep Dak Prescott, this looks like Jerry World’s last best chance at a deep playoff run with this core.
12. Minnesota Vikings - Up 2
The Vikings went into last weekend badly needing offensive line help and found it in the first and fourth rounds. It wouldn’t surprise me if both Garrett Bradbury and Dru Samia find themselves with starting jobs this year. I didn’t like Irv Smith much in the second, but he should give them a capable H-back.
This is a team built to win now. If the running game improves enough to keep the dogs off Kirk Cousins and the defense can stay healthy, they’re a serious playoff hopeful.
11. Atlanta Falcons - Up 1.
I’m ready to die on the Falcons hill this year. Matt Ryan is criminally underrated and they got decimated by injuries a year ago. So long as they keep their lucky rabbit furs close and the stars and stay bubble wrapped through training camp, they’ll contend for the NFC South title.
10. Seattle Seahawks - Down 2
Russell Wilson covers a lot of sins. Like trading a top 10 pass rusher to avoid paying him. Like taking a Day 3 lineman in the first round. Like employing a coordinator that perpetually needs saving. We’ll look back on the Wilson era post Legion of Boom and shake our heads at Pete Carroll and John Schneider. They’re using a Corvette to pull a tugboat.
9. Kansas City Chiefs - Down 3
Clark Hunt wants you to know how disappointed he is. Clark Hunt also wants you to know he’s really serious about character. The Chiefs are doing everything they can to make sure Kansas City is proud of this team and they won’t let the Tyreek Hill situation consume them.
That’s why they’ve yet to release him.
In the days since the damning audio was released, Mecole Hardman was drafted and Hunt has given a number of statements about everything. Most expect the Chiefs to cut ties with Hill. I don’t. He’s the scariest deep threat and returner in football, the kind of lethal weapon Andy Reid can use to maximize the video game talents of Patrick Mahomes. KC is hoping it can weather the storm, survive Hill’s suspension, and ride his game-breaking ability to another deep playoff run. This team was six or seven single plays away from a Super Bowl last year. Winning > Everything else. They’ll make a deal with the devil if it gets them over the mountain top.
8. Los Angeles Chargers - Up 2
Outside of Denver, no team in the AFC West had a draft I liked as much as Tom Telesco. Naturally I hated it because they look like a dark horse Super Bowl contender now with their biggest needs addressed. They won’t get the publicity Mahomes will earn KC in the dead season, but barring health luck they look like the safer bet to hang around come January.
Tillery was perhaps the biggest steal in this draft if he can keep him motivated. He offers a tantalizing blend of length, size, and quickness with the kind of hand moves that Mr. Miyagi would be proud of. Nasir Adderley and Drue Tranquill will earn snaps on passing downs early on with their ability to cover. The coming chess match between Scangarello with Noah Fant and Gus Bradley makes this film nerd salivate.
7. New England Patriots - Down 2
In all reality this will probably look silly by next December, and I’m well aware of that. I just can’t love get on the train drooling over Belichick and the Pats right now. They had a good offseason, sure. They also lost some significant talent and Tom Brady has to lose his battle with Father Time at some point.
N’Keal Harry was my favorite receiver in this past class and gives Brady a YAC target and contested catch dynamo that should excel on third downs and in the red zone. Chase Winovich sliding to them was hardly fair. Hjalte Froholdt and Yodney Cajuste should both disappear for a year as they’re reformed by Dante Scarnecchia into next year’s stalwarts.
No tight end signifies that this year’s offense will look drastically different than the 2018 version, though. Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Matt Lacosse are currently slated as the top two tight ends on the roster. Joejuan Williams is the kind of prospect you love in Madden because he’s a decent athlete and really tall, but I’d be lying if I told you he’s any lock to develop into more than intriguing. Belichicks done it before, but there’s also a pretty long list of DBs who’ve failed under his watch.
I’m laughing at the analysts who are slobbering over Jarrett Stidham now.
6. New Orleans Saints - Up 1
It’s pretty amazing what Micky Loomis and Sean Payton accomplished this offseason considering how strapped for resources they were. After trading this year’s first-round pick for Marcus Davenport last year their first pick was a late selection on round two. So what does Loomis do? Trades up again to get my second-best center in this class and a guy that should start for them out of camp.
New Orleans also needed some help in the secondary and gambled on Chauncey Gardner-Johnson after he slide all the way to the 4th round. I had a first round grade on him, but didn’t realize his interviews had spooked teams. Regardless, he should help in the slot early on in his career.
I mentioned this in the pre-draft power rankings, but it’s worth repeating.
Drew Brees cap hit is already going to be north of $20 million in 2020. That’s all good and dandy until you realize his contract expires this year. If Brees retires next year, he gets to cash serious checks. If the Saints want to resign him, they’ll commit $30-40+ million of their for his services.
There is no tomorrow, and the Saints embraced that. They are all-in on 2019.
5. Indianapolis Colts - Up 3
Chris Ballard and the Colts brought home my favorite haul from the weekend when you consider fit. Ben Banogu, Parris Campbell, and Bobby Okereke could have all floundered if they went to a situation like Oakland or the Jets. With Frank Reich’s staff, they’ll be put into positions to maximize their current strengths and given every opportunity to reach their ceiling. It won’t surprise me if any or all contribute more this year than expected.
I didn’t watch much of Rock Ya-Sin in the pre-draft process as he was an odd fit for the Broncos. What I’ve read since he came down gives me every reason to believe he fits into the same situation as the other three. Down the road I could see the Colts’ defense shifting to more man coverage after leaning heavily on Cover 2 and Cover 4 shells last year.
It still comes down to Andrew Luck’s arm, but for the first time since he was drafted 1st overall in 2012, it doesn’t appear he’ll have to carry them like LeBron James during his Cleveland Cavalier years.
4. Los Angeles Rams - Stick
They still could have used an edge rusher, but most of the Day 1 impact guys went early. Outside of that they patched their biggest holes. I never considered Taylor Rapp for the Broncos as he was a poor fit in the Fangio defense, but he’s the kind of new age dimebacker hybrid that should flourish in the Wade Phillips’. After that most of the Rams moves were aimed at shoring up depth after all the trades they’ve made to accumulate talent left them with a pretty top heavy roster.
Darrell Henderson brings concerning implications for Todd Gurley’s long term status, but in the here and now he should be a dynamic reliever. He was one of the only backs I studied this Spring and had some breathtaking plays. He averaged 8.9 yards per carry his last two seasons at Memphis. Bobby Evans was a guy I ready to fight people over as a third round talent and he’s a hand-in-glove fit for the McVay offense. David Long is baby Chris Harris.
Even their later round picks made a lot of sense. With Ndamukong Suh departing the Rams needed some mass next to Aaron Donald. Greg Gaines won’t stand out in Hollywood, but he’s the kind of supporting actor that should eat double teams and help the stars do their best work. David Edwards is a developmental swing tackle that makes sense in the fifth.
3. Philadelphia Eagles - Stick
Most of these top teams did the same things the bottom dwellers did; exactly what you’d expect. In the case of Howie Roseman that meant grabbing the best developmental line prospect in this years class. On Day 2 he had J.J. Arcega-Whiteside fall into his lap after grabbing a running back that perfectly fits the Iggles offense.
I have zero confidence Nate Sudfield can Nick Foles this team in the case of a Carson Wentz injury, but barring yet another season ending injury Philly looks like a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
2. Green Bay Packers - Stick
I have my doubts that Gary will be a huge contributor in year one (if ever) but this ranking was never dependent on this class alone. Pairing one of the brighter offensive minds in football with Aaron Rodgers should easily give the Pack a shot in the arm. The McCarthy offense gave you the same feeling cheese does two weeks after it’s expiration date.
After Gary, the Packers draft had a lot to like. Darnell Savage should give them help in the secondary early on and fits that scheme so well everyone should have seen it coming. Jace Sternberger was the best seam stretching tight end this side of Noah Fant. Elgton Jenkins and Kinglsey Keke are the kind of savvy, boring moves that smart teams make. Dexter Williams could carve out a role as a bigger back that won’t embarrass himself on passing plays.
Now, there’s a better than average chance injury wrecks havoc on them again. Rodgers has suffered significant injuries in both 2017 and ‘18. All bets are off the table if Deshone Kizer does more than QB Kneel this season.
1. Cleveland Browns - Stick
If you go back and look at most draft analysts’ big boards, it’s beyond amazing what John Dorsey was able to come away with in this class. I had Greedy Williams as a Day 2 guy for Denver, but only based on scheme fit. He looked like a round 1 talent. Sione Takitaki, Sheldrick Redwine, and Mack Wilson could both blossom into starters in Steve Wilks defense. This is the same team that just traded for a Hall of Fame receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. and paired him with my favorite quarterback since Andrew Luck. Baker Mayfield is going to spit fire this season.
There’s no way they don’t Brown this up, right?