After a draft full of intrigue, surprising picks, and boatloads of defensive power, all the fan bases are left with some reasons to have hope for next season. In this time of year where everybody believes they have a chance, let’s take a look at where the teams stand heading into the 2019-2020 season.
1. New England Patriots
After a stellar draft, it would be hard to knock the defending champs from the top spot. Chase Winovich was an absolute steal in the third, as was Damien Harris. N’keal Harry provides a much needed big body in the WR core (pending the return of Josh Gordon). They didn’t get a TE, but Austin Seferian-Jenkins is serviceable at the position. Look for another playoff bye for the Pats this season
2. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams draft didn’t do much to help the team immediately (by trading out of the first round and taking a defensive back who will likely not get much playing time this year with their next pick), but they were able to keep much of the roster that led them to the Super Bowl last season. Cooper Kupp will be returning from his injury to make what was already a scary offense even more potent. For now, the Rams look like they are in a good position to return to the post season
3. Los Angeles Chargers
While many believed that the Chargers may spring for a QB early on to study under Rivers, they instead chose to focus on defense, which is certainly the decision that makes them more deadly next year. This whole team is oozing with talent. Assuming the Chargers can avoid the injury bug that tends to hit them every year and Rivers still has the juice, Los Angeles boasts a roster that is more than capable of carrying this team to the big dance.
4. New Orleans Saints
The Saints didn’t have many draft picks and subsequently may appear lower in this list than some expect them to be. Drew Brees seems to be getting more accurate with his passes every year, but it is worth asking if his arm strength is perhaps beginning to deteriorate. Not a death sentence if he can put up another season with a 70%+ completion late, but perhaps a problem if the Saints fall behind late. They also lost RB Mark Ingram to the Ravens, who was criminally underrated in making the Saints backfield as feared as it is. All that being said, they are still led by a top 5 all time QB with a top 5 receiver and top 5 running back. The Saints are more than capable of doing some damage.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
A whole lot depends on how the Tyreek Hill situation ends up. At the moment, it appears as if he may be out some time as the audio tapes were released. With Hill, the Chiefs are arguably the number one team in the league. Defensively, they lost Dee Ford and added Frank Clark. Their draft wasn’t overly impressive, but this roster is still talent laden and led by a QB who put up 50 TDs in his first year as a starter. The AFC West should certainly be a fun race next year.
6. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts made an incredible turnaround last season with one of the youngest rosters in the NFL. The Colts then had a sneakily good draft, taking speedster Parris Campbell and stud corner back Rock Ya-Sin. Indy should be rolling into next season with a deadly offensive line, solid WR core, and young and energetic defense. Andrew Luck put up a great season last year too, showing that the injury concerns of the past may stay in the past. Don’t overlook the Colts next season.
7. Chicago Bears
A doinked field goal away from potential glory. The Bears are largely rolling with the same roster as they had last season, which had a punishing defense and a surprisingly powerful offense. With the loss of criminally underutilized Jordan Howard, the Bears drafted David Montgomery, a back who should be a great complement to Tarik Cohen. The Bears ought to remain a powerful force in the NFC.
8. Cleveland Browns
Probably the hardest team to rank, the Browns are absolutely loaded with quality players. The offense could easily be the best in the league, with Mayfield throwing to OBJ, Jarvis Landry, and David Njoku and a backfield spearheaded by Nick Chubb and (after 8 weeks) Kareem Hunt. The defense is also loaded with play makers, with Myles Garret living up to all the hype and an absolute steal in Greedy Williams. They even drafted a kicker! Which, despite being against common protocol, was the difference maker in far too many games for Cleveland last year.
9. Philadelphia Eagles
Major concerns about whether or not Carson Wentz can stay healthy. Offseason acquisition of Jordan Howard and drafting back Miles Sanders should help what has been one of the Eagles biggest weaknesses over the past few seasons. Andre Dillard is also set to make an immediate differnce on the o-line, but this team’s success is intrinsically linked with Wentz now that Foles is gone. They needed a receiver, but I don’t believe J.J. Arecega-Whiteside was the best choice. Perhaps the cards will fall in the Eagles favor again, but they need to stay healthy.
10. Dallas Cowboys
Rounding out the top ten is America’s team, who has the potential to have one of the best defenses in the league next year. Trysten Hill was a great pick who can anchor this defense. Playmakers surround him (don’t be surprised if Dallas leads the league in sacks next year). The offensive line was dealing with some issues last year, but if they can figure that out we will likely see rookie Dak again, which will spell trouble for the rest of the league.
11. Minnesota Vikings
Nothing seemed to go right for the Vikes last season, but things are looking up for this year. The Vikings massively focused on finally fixing their o-line, which can allow for a big season from thus-far-underperforming Dalvin Cook. The receivers look as deadly as ever, and following a lackluster season from Rudolph Minnesota took Irv Smith early on. The offense should be potent and the defense above average. It will all come down to whether Cousins can make better decisions (and stop throwing it at his offensive line). With more protection, I believe he can.
12. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens took Marquise Brown in the first and made this offense terrifying if things go well. The Ravens lost a lot of their defensive pieces, but potentially made up for it with all the offensive juice they added. The Ravens can run the RPO all day and I really don’t know how this can be stopped. With the fall of the Steelers, why not Baltimore?
13. Jacksonville Jaguars
Which of the last two years was a fluke? Duval will be praying that the answer to that question was last season. Josh Allen fell into their laps and has the potential to bring back Sacksonville. The defense is still absolutely loaded, the question is just whether the egos can be kept under control. They also beefed up the offensive line and got a nice tight end. The team lacks a true WR1, but looks very deadly on paper otherwise. If your a gambler, a lot of money stands to be made on Jacksonville this season.
14. Seattle Seahawks
The loss of Frank Clark will have a bigger impact than most people realize. Losing a huge talent like that on the defensive end tends to not make many headlines but will show in on field production. The Hawks are a great fit for DK Metcalf, as his 50/50 ball ability pairs great with Wilson’s scrambling. Speaking of Wilson, his contract is going to seriously hurt his team for years to come. Without much money to buy talent around him, Wilson will have to shoulder the load. He is certainly capable of doing so, but can he do so enough to make the playoffs?
15. Houston Texans
The Texans may have had the worst draft of anyone, panicking in the first round after Dillard was taken and reaching on Tytus Howard. However, the Texans were still a playoff team last year that is loaded with dangerous weapons. Desean Watson showed true grit last season, playing through injuries that would keep most non-QBs out. Under his leadership, the Texans are more than capable of taking the division and try to get past the Wild Card round.
16. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons absolutely belong in the top-half of this league. Atlanta chose to focus on the offensive line this draft, which should help reestablish Freeman as an elite running back. It is worth remembering that the football gods smote the Falcons roster last season, particularly their defense. With most of these names coming back this year, along with the emergence of Calvin Ridley as perhaps the best WR2 in the league, the Falcons certainly should be able to make a run.
17. San Francisco 49ers
Like the Falcons, the niners were struck by the injury bug last season, namely in QB Jimmy G. He is still largely unproven in the league, but so far he has largely impressed. Perhaps not worth the massive contract he got, but still capable of leading a team to great things. Nick Bosa is obviously a huge acquisition that can be a gamechanger for this defense.
18. Tennessee Titans
The Titans are another difficult team to judge, largely due to the inconsistent play of Mariota (that is, when he is healthy). Derrick Henry was pretty incredible last year, but big free agency acquisitions of Malcolm Butler and Dion Lewis are yet to pan out. Tennessee will need to be better through the air to have a shot at the AFC South
19. Denver Broncos
JOE FLACCO IS ELITE!!! Well…maybe not, but the Broncos look like they may be trying to replicate their Super Bowl 50 winning strategy where a lackluster offense is carried by a deadly defense. Despite many rumors that he would be traded, Chris Harris remains a Bronco. It’s also important to remember that the Broncos were in shape to make the playoffs before an end-of-season collapse. And that was with Case Keenum at the helm (who is far worse than Flacco). The pick of Noah Fant also gives Flacco his TE, who will undoubtedly be utilized to the max.
20. Green Bay Packers
Feels weird putting an Aaron Rodgers led team this low, but that is the current reality for Green Bay. Good ridance to McCarthy, who had the creativity of a carrot in calling plays for the Pack, but I’m not sure if youngster Lafleur is the man to turn things around. I think Gary was a reach in the draft, although props to Green Bay for finally drafting non-CB defense. Without many offensive weapons though, the Packers may be in for another rough season.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers
Another franchise where it feels weird to put them this low, but the loses of Brown and Bell will loom large. While locker room problems may be reduced, so is the talent on this roster. Big Ben was contemplating retirement a few years ago and now signed a two year extension, which I don’t believe was a good move on Pittsburgh’s part. Nice pick with Bush though.
22. New York Jets
Quinnen Williams was a great pick at 3. The pick up of Bell also infuses a much needed playmaker onto this offense. Darnold looked like one of the better rookies last season and now has more pieces to do even more. They’ll have a tough time dethroning the Pats for the division crown, but the Jets are sneakily good.
23. Detroit Lions
Man do the Lions want to be the Patriots! Trey Flowers was a great pick up, but drafting a TE in the first…not the best move. Look for another year of sub mediocrity for Detroit.
24. Carolina Panthers
If only they had taken a receiver! Carolina’s offense will once again be extremely reliant on the talents of McCaffrey. Will Grier was a fascinating pick with Newton seemingly having plenty of years left in the league. The Panthers could certainly move up this list, but the offense has to reveal a hidden difference maker.
25. Oakland Raiders
Brown was the big move this offseason for Oakland. The draft didn’t go how many Raider fans expected, but it is likely not going to be a disaster in 5 years. Carr, in my eyes, showed himself to be a leader last year. If the Raiders can control a locker room with the likes of Burfict and Brown, they may be able to approach .500.
26. Buffalo Bills
Just like the Panthers, the Bills could have really benefited from a talented wideout. However, Oliver is a great pick and Dawson Knox in the 4th is a snag. Again like Carolina, the Bills will need a hidden playmaker to emerge to be a contender.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs made a great selection with their first pick Devin White. The rest of the draft? Not as great. Winston is in a year where he needs to prove his worth, but in a brutal division, Tampa Bay will be hard pressed to get many wins.
28. Washington Redskins
I loved the Redskins draft, particularly Dwayne Haskins. Unfortunately for Washington fans desperate to win now, I think they’re going to roll with Keenum all year. If that changes, they shoot up these rankings, but Keenum inspires little confidence. The big year in Minnesota appears to be a fluke, as the rest of his career has been mediocre at best.
29. New York Giants
Ignoring the Daniel Jones pick, not a bad draft for New York. Dexter Lawrence and Deandre Baker are both immediate difference makers on the defensive side of the ball. Saquon remains a transcendental talent, but with one of the weakest QBs in the league and no great WRs, the Giants are in for a long year.
30. Miami Dolphins
Love the attitude I’ve seen from Rosen so far. He was my top QB in last year’s draft and I’m not ready to give up on him in a year where he had turnstiles “protecting” him. The Dolphins don’t have much surrounding talent for Rosen to work with, but Christian Wilkins was a nice pick and a great leader. The Phins shouldn’t be competing for a playoff spot, but can squeeze out some wins here and there.
31. Arizona Cardinals
If you read the Dolphins blurb, you probably can guess how I felt about the Kyler Murray pick. Nothing against him, but to draft a player in the first round and immediately give up on him is unjustifiable in my mind. They drafted some nice receivers for Murray to throw to, but didn’t do much to make sure he will have time to throw it.
32. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengal’s defense last year was atrocious, and they did very little to fix it this offseason. They have talented here and there, with Green and Mixon, but overall this is a roster that lacks excitement.