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Power Rankings 1.0 – Part 1

Everyone loves to tell everyone else how good their team is, it’s why we do Power Rankings, to help. Well here at Undrafted we are no different. We spend a lot of time discussing who would beat who and who needs to improve where. It’s kind of our job here. I have touched on some players I think will break out this year coming here and they among others will be important to teams wishing to climb these rankings.

As such I thought I would pull together the first Power Rankings of the season as a base line for future comparison. I should say I have not consulted any of the others on this at all but will still claim this as the official Undrafted position on all things rankings. This is Part 1 of 2 articles covering this as to be honest I didn’t think anyone would want to read close to 9000 words in one go. Tune in through the week for Part 2.

Let’s start with a fairly easy one…

1. Kansas City Chiefs:

The top of this power ranking was only ever going to be between two teams. The main reason for the Chiefs still having the top spot is the masterclass of an O line rebuild. Anyone who watched the Super Bowl knows that the worst O Line performance in living memory was the difference in that game.

Bringing in Orlando Brown Jr is a move that is either a short term solution for this season or the answer long term. Brown has not received his contract extension yet and I expect the Chiefs to let him play out the final year of his rookie deal before they commit. Yes this risks him entering Free Agency next summer but the benefits outweighs that risk. I think had Joe Thuney not received huge money this offseason then Brown would have his long term deal. He will have the chance to earn it this year.

The rest of this team is as loaded as ever. The secondary became a strength down the run last year and this offense is still the one I’d want over the Bucs. There really aren’t any obvious weaknesses in this team anymore. It is still down to the rest of the AFC to catch the Chiefs and it likely isn’t happening this year.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It has been well publicised that the Bucs are the first team in living memory to bring back the top 35 guys following a Super Bowl win. 11 starters on Offense, the same on Defence and the HC, OC and DC. This feat deserves the plaudits it is going to get and means that the rest of the NFC has their work cut out. Brady shows no signs of slowing down and everyone around him has at least one year left in them. Gronk and Antonio Brown both showed the benefits of time out last year on their returns as their bodies didn’t fail them for once.

The young Defence is scary good. Players such as Winfield Jr and Murphy-Bunting look like future stars and Devin White is just fantastic. Talk about succession planning. Lavonte David is going nowhere yet but when he does White will ensure the LB spot is no weakness for this team.

When it clicked last year it really clicked for this team. With players such as O.J. Howard to come back they will have even more weapons at their disposal and another run to the big game would be no surprise. The reason they are not number 1 was explained above. Mahomes isn’t going to be so vulnerable this year.

3. Buffalo Bills

When Sean McDermott took over the HC job in Buffalo nobody expected such a quick improvement. The Bills and their young QB look like they’re here to stay and Steffon Diggs…well he must win trade of the year. If he remains the threat he was last year and Gabriel Davis continues to improve it is going to take a string team to stop the Bills reaching the AFC Championship game again.

That said regression is a real thing in the NFL. Josh Allen had a career year last year and it will be hard for him to repeat that level of play. The Bills need a run game to emerge to stop them being quite so predictable. As we saw last year when Allen’s flustered he still has a tendency to overthrow receivers. His head can go a little (see the Chiefs game). Passion in a young player is no bad thing. His reaction to falling at the last hurdle last year will serve him well this year.

If the Bills have found their future at Edge Rusher in Greg Rousseau and Carlos Basham then watch out. The Secondary is legit and the LB’s are solid. They will have to fight the Ravens and the Browns but there is no reason the Bills can’t be as good again this year. They are not sweeping their Division this year however.

4. San Francisco 49ers

Ask any 49ers fan what an injury can do to a season. Now ask them what 10 can do. The injury bug that settled in San Fran last year was ridiculous. Yes they’re in the strongest division in football at the moment but they’re good enough to win it. This Defence is good enough to get back to 2019 levels, even minus DeForrest Buckner. Letting him go was not the right call last summer however.

For the first time in a long time they have not addressed the D line in the Draft but I imagine this is due to the expected development of Javon Kinlaw. Last year’s 1st round pick failed to live up to expectations immediately but with a full offseason hopes are high. The big news is of course Trey Lance. Talk about walking in to the ideal position. If he can be all the 49ers want then the Super Bowl is a legitimate hope. I just hope he is given time to develop. Let Jimmy G play out this year if needed, Lance only has a handful of college starts to his name. Let him marinate a la Patrick Mahomes in his first year in Kansas and then watch him explode in year 2.

With players like Kittle, Deebo and a fully fit Running Back room to return on Offense this years 49ers will be a totally different beast to last year. Throw 2020 in the bin and move on, this is the real 49ers right here.

5. Baltimore Ravens

As it will be every year until it’s not, the receiving game is the big question in Baltimore. More dart throws this year in the form of Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace offer Lamar and Co the best chance to finally put this to bed. Bateman is a fantastic route runner and Wallace loves winning a contested catch. If the Ravens can put together a receiving game that just makes opposition teams respect it enough to leave empty boxes then it will be enough.

Dobbins looks like a potential RB1 in the league, the reason he won’t be is that the Ravens will spread the load between him and Gus Edwards with Lamar also having his carries. I fully expect another 3,000 yard team rushing season. Until the league works out how to stop this, if they can, nothing is changing here. Lamar will never be the best passer in the league but a lot of people underestimate him for whatever reason. Whilst they do that there will always be detractors.

The biggest issue at the end of last season was obviously the O Line. It was horrible in the Bills playoff game but moves have been made to solidify it. Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villenueva add veteran presence and Bradley Bozeman moving back to his college position at Centre will help control the errant snaps that plagued the Ravens last year. Rookie Ben Cleveland is a mountain who I expect to start from day 1 at Left Guard. A stronger O Line means even more rushing and I expect the Ravens to ease, relatively speaking, into the playoffs.

The Defence is a strong unit. The biggest addition is 1st round edge rusher Odafe Oweh. 0 sacks in his final year at college sounds poor but go watch his tape and see how much attention he drew. If there was an assist for sack metric he would have scored through the roof.

6. LA Rams

Well here we are, Matthew Stafford’s time. I for one cannot wait! Having toiled in Detroit for far too long he finally gets to show us all what he can do. I have very high hopes and honestly think that he’s such an upgrade over Goff that by the end of the season his detractors will be eating their words. He’s a better decision maker, he has a better arm, he’s a better leader. If Goff could get this team to the Super Bowl, Stafford can win it.

DeSean Jackson joins Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods in a scary good receiver trio and Cam Akers is primed to go off this year. This is going to be a high scoring team that doesn’t let the other team score much at all. Talking of holding other teams to low scores…

The Defence that was so strong last year is back minus John Johnson and Troy Hill in the secondary. As it goes they have both moved to the team below. It remains to be seen how big a loss these two are. Darious Williams looks set to step in opposite Jalen Ramsey having made 5 interceptions last year from a depth role. JuJu Hughes currently looks set to start alongside Taylor Rapp in the middle. The stars on this team at each level remain. Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd and Jalen Ramsey have one of the best supporting casts and this will take the Rams a long way.

7. Cleveland Browns

Ok, be honest, who ever thought they would see the Browns this high up the rankings? They went a combined 1-31 over 2016/2017 and yet 3 years later here we are. The main reason is that they are finally being managed well and they have hit the jackpot on a young, talented Head Coach in Kevin Stefanski. Hue Jackson he is not. It’s clear Baker Mayfield loves him and he ‘gets’ this team.

The Offense finally clicked last year with a run game that was very good. Nick Chubb is fantastic and having Kareem Hunt as backup just seems unfair. The receiving game was, at times, up and down, they need more from Austin Hooper this year. On the outside Landry, Higgins and company played well but I still feel they need another consistent contributor. Can that be Beckham this year? Who knows. On Defence Clowney coming in is a sideways step replacing Vernon who had 9 sacks last year. If Clowney can repeat that then I will be impressed. The secondary needs to stay healthy for the Browns to have a chance at passing the Divisional round this year.

The team itself is as close to Fantasy Football as you can get, a product of so many high draft picks whilst also being flush with salary cap. The Browns this year have the 3rd placed schedule and as such, I expect them to win the AFC North. There is a relatively small window for this Browns team to find success. Garrett has already has his extension and Mayfield, Chubb and others are starting to queue up for theirs. Enjoy it while you can Browns fans, this team will not look the same in 3 years time, that said you’re used to that.

8. Green Bay Packers

This ranking is purely based on Aaron Rodgers remaining in Green Bay. If he goes this team plummets. Aaron Jones and Davante Adams aside, Rodgers holds together a cast of average players, elevating them to the level of a playoff team. Players like Lazard, Valdes-Scantling and co are good but not great. Jordan Love with the same players would produce drastically different results.

That said, if Rodgers is around then there is reason to be excited. The Packers play in a weaker Division and possess their own dream of a young coach in Matt LeFleur. two 13-3 regular season records speak for themselves. The Defence showed how well it can play in the playoff game against the Bucs last year, even with Kevin King doing Kevin King things. Why he was resigned is beyond me!

The hard work will start, as always, in the Playoffs. The Packers need someone to step up opposite Davante Adams, if other teams know they can send double coverage his way because nobody else is a threat then it stifles the Packers. One player who may be the answer is Amari Rodgers, the Packers 3rd round selection out of Clemson. If he can step up and make enough big plays of his own, which he showed he is capable of at Clemson, then Adams may see slightly more freedom. Take into account Tight End Robert Tonyan, who was a nice surprise last year, and the Packers may finally end the wait to go back to the big game.

9. LA Chargers

Many of these rankings are dependant on certain things coming to fruition. This Chargers ranking is no different. Justin Herbert was a revelation last year and if his trajectory continues then he may be the next ‘big’ young QB. The biggest point with the Chargers offseason however is not Herbert himself. It is the rebuilt O Line that he has been gifted. Corey Linsley was the marquee signing this offseason coming over from Green Bay. Paired with first round selection RaShawn Slater at Left Tackle, Herbert has been given the gift of protection.

In a Division where the Chiefs are huge favourites the rest of the teams are realistically aiming for 2nd spot. That said, the Playoffs are within grasp for this team. Austin Ekeler should be back at Running Back, as one of the premier pass catching backs that’s huge. The receiving game is fine here, Allen and Williams were ably supported last year by Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson.

On Defence the secondary is a concern. The Chargers hope to have a fully fit Derwin James this year although history tells us thats a dangerous bet. Likewise with Nasir Adderley. On the outside they will be hoping that 2nd round selection Asante Samuel Jr is ready to go from day one. Even then, Cornerback in the NFL is possibly the toughest rookie role. Whether Samuel holds up is a wait and see matter. The Chargers will be hoping with all their heart that DeShaun Watson doesn’t decide Denver looks nice this time of year!

10. Miami Dolphins

It should never be succeed or bust in a Quarterback’s second year but it feels like Tua is on the hot seat already. This is no fault of his own but a reflection of how the league is today when you’re supposed to be the next big thing out of college. The Dolphins have done all they can to help him however. A re-tooled receiver room boasting 1st round burner Jaylen Waddle and former 1st rounder Will Fuller V brings a lot of speed and route running savvy. This team is going to be fun to watch. Liam Eichenberg at Tackle was a great 2nd round selection this year too, the Dolphins nailed the Draft, end of.

Myles Gaskin has somehow survived the offseason as RB1 and I am fine with that. He showed well last year and can do enough that the Dolphins’ opposition have to respect him. Just so you’re aware, the screams you heard over draft night were our guy Alex Buck every time the Dolphins passed on RB after RB in the first rounds of the Draft. Trust the process Alex, trust the process…….

Anyway, the Dolphins got some new toys on Defence too. If Jaelan Phillips can avoid concussion and produce like he did in college then Jesus, the league needs to watch out. Jevon Holland in the secondary is a swiss army knife who brings flair to the secondary alongside Xavien Howard. The Dolphins will push the Bills hard this year and anything but the playoffs should be seen as a disappointment.

11. Tennessee Titans

Julio Jones signing here separated the Titans from the Colts in my thinking. The Titans are a boom or bust team this year for sure. The Offense is legit. Jones, Brown and Henry will score a lot of points. The only teams with a hope of stopping them are those who can leave both their Corners on islands to handle the receivers one on one and still there will be mistakes made.

Stopping Henry alone is an issue although the Ravens gave a partial blueprint in the playoffs. Having two WR1’s does put a spanner in those plans to an extent. The Titans need to hope that this is the case as they have sold out for Jones. Their salary cap doesn’t look great and there are holes that need addressing.

The Defence is not in a good place. Corner was a weakness last year and now they’re relying on two rookies to come in and make an immediate impression. Farley out of Virginia Tech may well do that if he is over his surgery but on the other side they’re hoping Janoris Jenkins can find some sort of form for them. This team will have to score a lot of points as they will concede them. Their other marquee signing, Bud Dupree, is going to have to hit the ground running as well to justify his huge contract, $18m a year, and to try and provide some sort of sack threat. Something the Titans didn’t really have last year. Division winners by virtue of not much challenge is the expectation but a Divisional Round loss is coming for the Titans.

12. Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are a team who have not really made much movement personnel quality wise from last year. Eskridge, their 3rd round receiver this year is a nice addition and adds the third string to the receiver core that David Moore never really did. Metcalf and Lockett are stars, Lockett having been paid like one this offseason, and I see no reason for that to change. The O Line is still an issue. Russell Wilson said he doesn’t like getting hit but that isn’t changing this year. They still need to find a Left Guard and a Right Tackle who can properly protect him. Damien Lewis may develop into that this year at Guard, he showed flashes last year. At Tackle? Who knows.

On the other side of the ball, losing Shaquill Griffin to the Jags is going to affect the Hawks more than they realise. That is unless Akhello Witherspoon can produce to a level we rarely saw in San Francisco. Jamaal Adams and Marquise Blair are a strong secondary pairing and the Linebacking core is solid lead by Bobby Wagner.

The biggest challenge for the Seahawks is their own Division. It is loaded and whilst they could win it, they could also easily come last. That said, I think the Cardinals are still a year away from being as strong as the other three and that is reflected in my rankings. Having all 4 in the top half however, speaks to the strength of the NFC West. It is going to require some magic in some form from Russell Wilson for the Seahawks to win the Division. Maybe that magic can be sustaining MVP form all year instead of just for half?

13. Indianapolis Colts

The Colts ride or die with Carson Wentz. I could pretty much end my analysis there. I should probably explain why I think they will ride however. In West Philadelphia (born and raised)… enough of that. In Philly Wentz had a receiver room lead by no names as all of his receivers decided the injury table was where they wanted to be. Of those who did make it to the field nobody could get open, like, at all! What this meant was he held the ball for an eternity and took far too long to make a decision. Cue sacks and poor decision making.

The Colts are a different beast. With a top tier O Line and receivers who can actually do their job properly we should see Wentz back to his best. Remember this is the guy who took the Eagles to the Playoffs. I know Nick Foles won the Super Bowl but Wentz was the reason they had the chance to get there. Jonathan Taylor is going to be fantastic, no more needs to be said there. The Colts have a young Defence who will continue to improve, with players like Darius Leonard, Kenny Moore and Julian Blackmon there is plenty to be excited about in Indy.

Whilst they need to get through the Titans for the Division, no mean feat, the playoffs are a reasonable expectation for this team. This year we see Carson Wentz back to his best and a team that nearly upset the Bills last year will be aiming to go further this year. They could do it too.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers

This feels a little high but I just cannot count out the Steelers. Whilst Big Ben has the clutch of receivers that he has and an upgraded Running Back there is always the chance this team does well. That said they haven’t sorted out an ageing O line which lost multiple members this offseason. That is what will limit this team. Opposition teams will know they can leave empty boxes as it is unlikely that there will be huge holes for Najee Harris to exploit. This team will go as Big Ben does and if it’s akin to the end of last year then the Steelers will be falling fast in these rankings.

The Defence has lost pieces in the form of Steven Nelson, Bud Dupree and Mike Hilton amongst others. Whether they have recruited well enough to withstand this remains to be seen. The Defence at times last year was shaky to say the least. This is another team who is going to have to score high to win games as I have no faith in them holding teams to low scores.

The Steelers are going to be lucky to make the Playoffs. As I said at the outset, if Big Ben stays healthy and the team catches fire again then yes, they will push the Browns and the Ravens, but if not then it’s a year in the doldrums for these guys. Until I see the drop off I won’t assume it hence their position here. Tune in early into the season to see whether they even remain in the teens.

15. Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals have gone for a team that would surely have won the NFC 3 years ago. A.J Green, J.J Watt, James Connor and Rodney Hudson are solid signings if they pan out. Hudson has the best shot at topping the list for me, followed by Watt. I just feel that Connor and Green are, at some level, just busted. Connor, although featuring in most games last year just was never 100% and Green is just not the player he once was. I think if he can get 400-500 yards this year that represents a good return.

Kyler will do Kyler things this year and DeAndre Hopkins is probably the best receiver in the league. They need to make that a connection that is even better this year than last. Getting out of their Division is going to be very hard. The Defence is going to have to play well as the in Division teams will all hold scores down. That means no giving up big plays as that is the fastest way to an 0-6 Division record and that means no post-season for these guys.

The Cardinals are an exciting team full of household names and if Kyler Murray takes the next step then they also have the potential to win this Division. Whether that happens depends on a lot of things, another of those being the play calling of Kliff Kingsbury which has at times be questionable. I think an around .500 ranking spot at this time just seems right here.

16. Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are the first team on the list who I think could really surprise people this year. They had an awful Defence last year and an O Line which made Kirk Cousins look poor. I will continue to stand on my hill for Cousins, he gets far too much of a hard time. Yes he throws interceptions and wayward balls at times but so would you if your line gave you no help, or time to think. The emergence of Ezra Cleveland and the Drafting of Christian Darrisaw should go a long way to solving much of the line issues.

The skill players are fantastic. Thielen, Cook and Jefferson would start on any team in the league and to have them all in one place is a dream. Improved Line protection means Cousins will be better, more like the player he really is. I don’t buy in to the narrative that Justin Jefferson has a problem with Cousins. He was taken out of context from an interview and I think that will be water under the bridge by Training Camp.

The Defence is where the major work needs to be done. Cameron Dantzler was a nice find last year but the legal issues surrounding Jeff Gladney mean it is likely that he will have to move from his slot position outside, opposite new singing Patrick Peterson. What a mentor hey! Holding onto Danielle Hunter is going to be huge. If he stays then the Edges look set, if not then well…free agent market here they come. If draftee Patrick Jones can get up to speed quickly this would help. Anthony Barr, Erik Kendricks and Harrison Smith will bear the weight of the Defence and will need to help those around them. If Mike Zimmer can work his magic with this Defence then the Playoffs would be easily in reach. If Aaron Rodgers is gone, the Division is there for the taking as well!

Well that’s it, the first 16. Part 2 of this article will drop through the week so make sure to check that out. As always, I’m interested to hear what you all think so let me know.

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Power Rankings - Part 2 - Undrafted - The Network 29th June 2021 at 6:28 pm

[…] on from Part 1 which you can find here we look at the second 16 teams and where they land on our far to early power […]

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