The offseason is all but over – not in terms of duration, unfortunately, but based on the moves teams are going to make in order to improve their roster. They’ve made cuts. They’ve signed free agents. And now, they’ve drafted their class of 2014. Other than a few minor tweaks and cutting down rosters, each NFL franchise has what it is going to have heading into the upcoming season.
Thus, it’s a good time to take a look at each roster, evaluate the talent base and determine how teams stack up. For the first time since the Super Bowl, it’s an evaluation that isn’t based on incomplete data; the cards have essentially been dealt.
With that in mind, the editors at cover32 gathered to assemble this week’s Power Rankings, rating each NFL team from one to 32 based on their drafts. An important distinction to keep in mind is these are not traditional Power Rankings, as we did those last week. Here are today’s results based solely on the draft:
1. Houston Texans – While there are certainly reasons to be worried about Jadeveon Clowney, he was the best player available in the draft; that immediately helps a team’s draft grade. But adding Xavier Su’a-Filo, the guard out of UCLA, and Louis Nix III, the defensive tackle out of Notre Dame, gave the Texans two other players with first-round abilities. Plus, Tom Savage is a very intriguing quarterback prospect for a team in need of a signal caller.
2. Miami Dolphins – People contend that Ja’Wuan James went too high at No. 19. But if he’s an immediate starter at right tackle, who cares? That filled a big-time need for the Dolphins. Jarvis Landry gives Ryan Tannehill a sure-handed target, which is never a bad thing for a young quarterback. And Jordan Tripp, the linebacker from Montana, has a chance to be the steal of the draft. Miami got much better in three days time.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers – With their first two picks, the Steelers grabbed two players with first-round talent, adding pieces to Dick LeBeau’s defense that will surely be put to good use. Ryan Shazier is an athletic linebacker, which will make him very versatile in Pittsburgh. And Stephon Tuitt has the potential to be a terrific player in the middle of the defensive line, a place where the Steelers know how to get the most out of guys.
4. Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals needed to add a cornerback, given the fact that they are getting longer and longer in the tooth at that position, and they did just that, adding perhaps the best one in the draft when they grabbed Darqueze Dennard at No. 24. That’s a great value at that spot. Plus, Cincinnati was able to grab A.J. McCarron in the fifth round, a quarterback who can provide some much-needed competition for Andy Dalton.
5. Atlanta Falcons – Jake Matthews is going to be the best offensive lineman from a draft that was stocked at that position, especially tackles. He will anchor Atlanta in the trenches for years to come, giving Matt Ryan plenty of protection. This was a smart pick for a team drafting higher than their talent level warrants. Ra’Shede Hageman was a solid choice in the second round, as well, given that a lot of people had him going on day one.
6. Green Bay Packers – In recent years, it’s been proven that the addition of a big-time safety can transform a defense. Look what Earl Thomas did in Seattle, as well as Eric Berry in Kansas City. So drafting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at No. 21 was a no-brainer for the Packers. And in the later rounds, they did a nice job of restocking the shelves at wideout; Fresno State’s Davante Adams is a sleeper to have a nice rookie season.
7. San Francisco 49ers – If the 49ers group of draft picks was a college recruiting class, they’d earn high marks simply because of volume. San Francisco finished the three days with 12 new players, giving them plenty of competition heading into camp. Jimmie Ward is a solid No. 1 pick, as a hard-hitting safety is a good fit with the Niners. Carlos Hyde is the perfect heir apparent to Frank Gore. And Chris Borland is intriguing in the middle of the defense.
8. Cleveland Browns – This could become an A+, depending on what Buffalo’s first-round pick in 2015 turns out to be. If the Browns luck out like the Rams did, seeing Washington’s future No. 1 turn into the second-overall pick in the draft, that’d be a huge coup. In the meantime, Cleveland will have to judge this year’s crop of talent, which includes a great cornerback (Justin Gilbert) and the team’s new savior (quarterback Johnny Manziel). It’s gonna be fun to watch.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jaguars transformed their offense with their first three picks. On Thursday night, Jacksonville shocked everyone by taking Blake Bortles with the third-overall selection; he’s their quarterback of the future. And he’ll be throwing to a pair of talented receivers, as the Jags added USC’s Marqise Lee and Penn State’s Allen Robinson with two picks in the second round; that’s a trio that will determine J-Ville’s future.
10. Oakland Raiders – They were hoping that Khalil Mack would slip to the fifth pick, so the Raiders were thrilled when their turn came in the first round. But the outside linebacker from Buffalo still has to prove that he can make the leap. Derek Carr was a good pick early in the second round, giving Oakland a quarterback to groom under Matt Schaub. Ultimately, those two players – the cornerstones for the future on offense and defense – will define the 2014 draft for Oakland.
11. Chicago Bears – Few “experts” considered Kyle Fuller to be the best cornerback available in the draft, but that’s mainly because they can’t measure attributes like heart and work ethic with a stopwatch. Chicago did very well adding him to their defense, as Fuller will be a very good player for a decade. Going for defensive tackles in both the second and third rounds – adding Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton – shows that Marc Trestman knew he needed to fix his defense.
12. St. Louis Rams – Everybody is singing the praises of the Rams, talking about how they landed the best haul in the draft. Given that they had two of the top-13 picks, that shouldn’t have been that hard. But in a lot of ways, they blew it. Jake Matthews is a better tackle that Greg Robinson, who St. Louis took second overall. And Aaron Donald simply adds to a position of strength for Jeff Fisher’s teams. They didn’t help themselves become instant contenders in a tough division.
13. Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals are quickly assembling one of the best defensive backfields in the NFL, at least outside of Seattle. Trading down in the first round and then adding safety Deone Bucannon at No. 27 was a good move, as it adds a hitter to a group that already includes three very good cover guys. And Logan Thomas, the quarterback from Virginia Tech, was a good fourth-round choice, as he can learn behind Carson Palmer for a couple of years.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – If there was any question about what side of the ball Lovie Smith felt he needed to improve, after spending a lot of time during free agency retooling the Buccaneers defense, it was evident during the draft; every selection Tampa Bay made was on the offensive side of the ball. This includes two pass catchers – wideout Mike Evans and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins – who both should really help out new quarterback Josh McCown.
15. New York Jets – The Jets landed a big-time safety in the first round, as Calvin Pryor will fit nicely into Rex Ryan’s defense, which is already the strength of the team. Then, they went out and picked two players who can be security blankets for Geno Smith. Jace Amaro should be the tight end of the future, while Jalen Saunders figures to be the slot receiver that every young quarterback likes to have as a safety valve.
16. Denver Broncos – The Broncos needed to add another cornerback, having lost two to free agency, so Bradley Roby was a good addition at No. 31. Cody Latimer seems like an odd second-round choice for a team with so much offense, but Wes Welker’s days in Denver are numbered; so the Indiana wide receiver figures to be the long-term replacement for Eric Decker. The Broncos inability to add an elite middle linebacker was a major head-scratcher.