NFL Power Rankings: Post-Draft Edition

The reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers are keeping the band together in hopes of running it back

Free agency is (mostly) in the books, the draft classes are all settled into their new home and the release of the NFL schedule means the 2021 campaign feels like it's just around the corner. This year promises to be unlike any other, from the amount of talent coming back to some teams to the simple fact that we'll have one more game to figure out who will be playoff-bound and who will be left thinking about their draft position.

 

With all that in mind and factoring in everything from overall roster strength, to quarterback play, to the coaching staff, here is the latest edition of NFL power rankings prior to the draft and where every team stacks up from 1 to 32.

 

Post-Draft 2021 NFL Power Rankings

 

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Run it back? Bruce Arians promised it after hoisting the trophy and general manager Jason Licht delivered with a masterful offseason working the cap and the draft. Executing a repeat performance and nabbing another Super Bowl is easier said than done but at least ol' Tom Brady has some experience in knowing what to do on that front.

 

2. Kansas City Chiefs

You can count on one hand the number of losses the Chiefs have suffered with a healthy Patrick Mahomes and all they did this offseason was address his offensive line woes in a big way. Good luck to the rest of the AFC given that and all the motivation this group will take from the way things ended in Tampa.

 

3. Buffalo Bills

The Bills continue to make progress each year and capturing the division title and making it to the AFC Championship Game was just the latest step. Getting over that final hurdle remains the toughest though and will really come down to continued growth out of their MVP-contending quarterback.

 

4. Green Bay Packers

This is a ranking largely dependent on Aaron Rodgers and the front office putting their feelings aside and realizing that the best place either have to win a ring will be if the QB is under center in Green Bay this year.

 

5. Los Angeles Rams

Will the addition of Matthew Stafford under center make up for the fact that several key veterans had to exit the stage for less-heralded replacements? TBD but there's little question that this is a team that has the superstars that can follow in the footsteps of the Bucs and play the Super Bowl at home.

 

6. Cleveland Browns

Between the draft and free agency, it might be time to come to grips with the fact that this is… the most talented roster in the AFC? The case can certainly be made and now there's some playoff seasoning under the belts of most of this group too.

 

7. Baltimore Ravens

Ravens fans can get excited over the additions of guys like Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace but the simple fact is that nothing this team does in the regular season will mean much until it translates into the postseason run they're capable of. Everything is aligned for that to happen but it's on Lamar Jackson's shoulders to pull off.

 

8. San Francisco 49ers

Plenty of spilled ink about the Trey Lance selection and what it means for Jimmy G. but no matter who is taking snaps under center will benefit from a top-notch roster… if they can stay healthy. It wouldn't be shocking to see Trey Sermon have a bigger impact on the offense in 2021 if all really goes according to Kyle Shanahan's plan however.

 

9. Miami Dolphins

Tua Tagovailoa has a new No. 1 receiver in Jaylen Waddle and now the Dolphins' ability to reach the postseason will firmly be in the young QB's hands. The roster continues to be one of the more talented, young groups in the AFC but Miami still needs to have it all come together between the lines for the next step of this impressive turnaround under Brian Flores.

 

10. Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson did indeed get a little help this offseason but will it be enough to close the gap between them and some of the other Super Bowl contenders? You can't rule out another run at a Lombardi but Pete Carroll and Co. still need some youngsters to emerge if they're to lessen their reliance on Russ doing Russ things every single week.

 

11. Indianapolis Colts

After one blockbuster trade for an unknown at quarterback, GM Chris Ballard really only addressed a few needs around the periphery of the roster. That could put additional pressure on Carson Wentz to return to form despite the ability for the Colts to fall back on a fairly easy divisional schedule.

 

12. New England Patriots

Bill Belichick opened up the piggy bank and drafted in ways he's never shown before this offseason. Will it all be enough to reverse course after such an abnormal 2020 campaign? The jury is still out on that front but it's easy to see improvement across the board with this team no matter who winds up being the QB for most of the year.

 

13. Los Angeles Chargers

What can Justin Herbert do for an encore? Will the young QB be in for a sophomore regression with a new coaching staff or will he take the next step as a budding young superstar in LA? The improved offensive line is making many believe it's the latter.

 

14. Washington Football Team

Ron Rivera knows he's got a great defense to lean on but how much will he truly embrace the roller-coaster ride that is the FitzMagic experience this season? The veteran is a decent stopgap solution but will have to play consistently if he is to help the WFT win the division again.

 

15. Dallas Cowboys

How ‘bout them Cowboys? Well, we'll see. Dak Prescott being back under center makes this team much more of a contender of course but it remains to be seen just how much of a boost Dan Quinn can bring to that woeful defense. The personnel has certainly been upgraded but converting progress into the wins needed to nab the division title will be a question mark for Jerry Jones and company.

 

16. Arizona Cardinals

J.J. Watt's addition might be a little overstated considering how tough a division the NFC West is and how much will ride on Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury finding the right groove over the course of the year. The pair ran out of steam after a number of close losses down the stretch and will have to correct those issues for the team to take the next step.

 

17. Pittsburgh Steelers

It feels like there's one final run left in this group as Big Ben ages into retirement, the defense turns over and the patchwork offensive line continues to be stitched together. Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth are a pair of quality rookies to lean on but after factoring in a difficult schedule, it could be a lot tougher to repeat last year's start again.

 

18. Atlanta Falcons

Trade rumors continue to swirl surrounding Julio Jones but at least there does feel like the franchise has experienced some rejuvenation after such a forgettable 2020 run. There's a new regime in charge, Matt Ryan is aiming to prove the doubters wrong and there remains a ton of talented pieces available to perhaps make a run.

 

19. Tennessee Titans

The Titans have been a consistent playoff threat and double-digit-win team for several years now but could such a run be coming to a close? Todd Downing taking over for Arthur Smith is one concern but so too is a questionable offensive line, the lack of weapons behind A.J. Brown/Derrick Henry and a defense counting on a lot of new names to live up to some high billing.

 

20. New York Giants

General Manager Dave Gettleman had a memorable offseason with some splash signings (Kenny Golladay, Adoree Jackson) and draft picks (Kadarius Toney among them). Will that unlock Daniel Jones and help this team take the next step as an NFC East contender? The bar isn't set super high but the G-Men are aiming to clear it.

 

21. Denver Broncos

There's been tons of high praise for the Broncos roster amid all the Aaron Rodgers chatter and rightfully so given some of the pieces under Vic Fangio's purview. But as those talks reinforced, this season is going to come down to Drew Lock answering the question as to if he's the long-term answer... or not.

 

22. Carolina Panthers

Hey (Sam) Darnold. This group punched a little above their weight last season and now if their new QB can come through down the stretch of close games, you can see a corner start to get turned in this Matt Rhule long-term project. Needs were certainly addressed in the offseason, now it comes down to execution.

 

23. Minnesota Vikings

Fans' patience with Kirk Cousins is starting to wear thin and this shapes up to be a critical season in the Twin Cities for the quarterback and the rest of the roster. What else needs to be said at this point despite the addition of a nice crop of rookies?

 

24. Chicago Bears

We're about to see if a good defense and Justin Fields is going to be enough for a team that figures to be a coin flip between being good or mediocre. Matt Nagy and the embattled front office certainly delighted the city with the draft haul but it remains to be seen if it can all come together for a quality run in '21.

 

25. New Orleans Saints

The retirement of a future Hall of Fame QB combined with a roster purge due to salary cap issues will make life tough in the Big Easy. Sean Payton can still help smooth out this team in transition but they might take a few early lumps before finding their footing.

 

26. Las Vegas Raiders

There was a point last season when it looked like the Raiders were turning the corner under Jon Gruden and in line for a playoff bid. That never materialized and now there are more question marks surrounding this group than ever.

 

27. Philadelphia Eagles

Staying healthy will be paramount for the Eagles after what they experienced in 2020 but even then, success will come down to how much Jalen Hurts can progress as a passer under Nick Sirianni and OC Shane Steichen.

 

28. New York Jets

Zach Wilson looks like the starter right away given the depth chart and the combination of a rookie QB and a new (inexperienced) coaching staff typically makes for a long season. The overall roster continues to improve but this is just the latest step in the Big Apple rebuild.

 

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

Despite the talent infusion from free agency and the draft, are the fans in Duval a little more hesitant about Urban Meyer in the NFL after the head coach's somewhat bizarre comments about a number of players — to say nothing of inviting the circus that is Tebowmania? Maybe it takes pressure of the chosen one in Trevor Lawrence but perhaps not the smoothest of beginnings to a new era.

 

30. Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Burrow seems like he'll be ready for Week 1 but you would still think the team will be conservative with their franchise QB. Regardless of the timetable, the pressure is on Zac Taylor to show progress between the lines and on the scoreboard in 2021.

 

31. Detroit Lions

The Lions have enough talent on offense to put up a few points but the question for the Dan Campbell era is going to lie on whether the defense can do enough to turn it into wins. The inexperienced staff combined with a lack of depth is one good reason why Vegas has the team's win total set as one of the lowest in the league.

 

32. Houston Texans

New GM Nick Caserio has done his best to quickly remake the backend of the Texans roster but the ceiling for this team will continue to be defined by the quarterback situation. One of Tyrod Taylor, rookie Davis Mills or newly signed Jeff Driskel could be in line to start given how things stand with Deshaun Watson.

 

 

 

2021 NFL Power Rankings: Pre-Draft Edition

 

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The champs are the champs for a reason and they've brought pretty much every key piece back for a run at back-to-back titles. Yes, Tom Brady is another year older but after seeing how he worked his magic once again, everybody will claim to be one of the last to say father time has finally caught up to him.

 

2. Buffalo Bills

After reaching the AFC title game, the Bills bring pretty much everybody back for another run. Josh Allen had some MVP moments last season and you have to like how they've brought in a number of vets like Emmanuel Sanders to help get that one last push toward the Promised Land. Throw in a quality history in the draft to fill out the roster and Buffalo fans are excited about the season already.

 

3. Kansas City Chiefs

You can count on one hand the number of regular-season games this group has lost and they still have the most dazzling QB in the NFL in Patrick Mahomes. Yet as that Super Bowl dud showed, the offensive line is still a concern even if they signed Joe Thuney and hopefully get back Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

 

4. Green Bay Packers

It was good news (Aaron Jones)/bad news (Corey Linsley) for the Packers this offseason but Aaron Rodgers is aging like fine wine and Green Bay returns nearly every starter from a group that is 26-6 in the regular season under Matt LaFleur.

 

5. Los Angeles Rams

Losing John Johnson III and Troy Hill hurts but the Rams still have two of the best defensive players in the league on the roster and upgraded their QB situation in a big way. It's going to be super exciting to see what that Sean McVay/Matthew Stafford combination can do and why this is likely the NFC West favorite.

 

6. Cleveland Browns

It remains wild to think that the Browns have had a great offseason even before the draft hits and have one of the most talented rosters in the league at this point. The question remains how far Baker Mayfield will take them but all the pieces are there for a big run after getting that postseason taste in 2020.

 

7. Baltimore Ravens

Don't discount the addition of Kevin Zeitler to the interior of the line as a savvy free agency pickup since that was an issue in front of Lamar Jackson most of last season. They still don't have that true No. 1 wideout to make defenses pay but this remains a very good squad that has room to grow.

 

8. Miami Dolphins

It's fully the Tua Tagovailoa show in Miami and as the young QB goes, so too does this team. He should be much better and he'll get reinforcements with all that draft capital. This team really came along in 2020 and should be one to watch moving forward.

 

9. Seattle Seahawks

The Russell Wilson saga has dominated the headlines, which has helped gloss over the fact that they've lost key players like Shaquill Griffin. You'd like to think that Wilson's level of play and Pete Carroll's coaching staff can figure it all out but the roster isn't in as great a shape as it once was.

 

10. Indianapolis Colts

Everything revolving around the season for the Colts basically comes down to… can they revive Carson Wentz's career? If he gets back to being just an average QB, this team has a good enough roster to win the division and make plenty of noise. If not, well...

 

11. San Francisco 49ers

The franchise really turned heads with their aggressive move up in the first round but getting healthy for a full year might be the bigger key to the season for Kyle Shanahan and company. The two-deep remains solid but don't discount the possibility of there being some growing pains with two new coordinators.

 

12. Washington Football Team

Enter FitzMagic! While the NFC East was on the wrong end of a lot of jokes last year, there's been plenty of progress when it comes to upgrades for all four teams — especially in D.C. Cornerback William Jackson III was a sneaky-good pickup too and there's still the draft to come to keep stocking the roster for Ron Rivera.

 

13. Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott is back and hopefully healthy, which means the offense should be able to put up plenty of fireworks. That's good news because even the draft and the addition of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn won't be able to fully transform one of the worst defenses in the league last year.

 

14. New England Patriots

Bill Belichick's shopping list was a lengthy one and few teams went as wild in free agency as the Pats did. It still feels like there's a move or two left to be made but you have to like this team much more than you did at the end of the year even if QB remains a big question mark for another season.

 

15. Arizona Cardinals

J.J. Watt and A.J. Green are some of the splashiest additions this offseason but trading for center Rodney Hudson might wind up being the most impactful. Kyler Murray must continue to show further development but the real key for the Cards is if Kliff Kingsbury can take the next step as an NFL head coach (especially in close fourth quarters).

 

16. Los Angeles Chargers

Well Justin Herbert, whatcha got for an encore? The already talented team has made a few solid upgrades and has the draft capital to add a few more. We'll see what it means with a rookie head coach and new staff learning on the job however.

 

17. Pittsburgh Steelers

That hot start last year was a bit of a mirage that everybody eventually saw right through as the weeks passed. It does seem like Big Ben will have one last hurrah but the salary cap issues necessitated a ton of cuts and will put added pressure on youngsters to step up.

 

18. Atlanta Falcons

A new regime is in place and that might be cause for optimism in Atlanta more than anything. The offense still looks loaded for new head coach Arthur Smith but it's the defense that should determine whether this team gets back to playoff contention or finds themselves drafting in the top 10 once again.

 

19. New York Giants

Despite a few injuries, the defense under coordinator Patrick Graham wasn't bad last season and they kept Leonard Williams at a pretty high price tag as a result. Kenny Golladay's addition will be a big help for Daniel Jones, who continues to limit the ceiling of the G-Men until proven otherwise.

 

20. Tennessee Titans

You kind of wonder if maybe the window is starting to close for the Titans in 2021 after losing a number of key players and coaches. Yes, they did bring in Bud Dupree but he's coming off of a serious injury and at some point all those Derrick Henry carries will add up.

 

21. New Orleans Saints

Sean Payton still has some talent to work with but you can't lose a Hall of Famer under center and just go about your business. Especially when the lower cap necessitated a ton of cuts to key spots. The Saints will still be entertaining and competitive but not at the level they once were.

 

22. Denver Broncos

Their division doesn't help them one bit but the Denver roster at full health is still pretty good, which means the onus is on Drew Lock to either prove he's the franchise guy or that it's time to move on in Mile High.

 

23. Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings occupy that strange "no man's land" of not being terrible but not being actually good either. Dalvin Tomlinson's addition should help the defense but Mike Zimmer really needs another top-notch draft class to help contribute moving forward.

 

24. Carolina Panthers

It's been seemingly every other week that you hear the Panthers are in the mix for making a blockbuster move yet they've still had a fairly quiet offseason in terms of adding true impact playmakers. The roster is slightly better than a year ago but Carolina's growth will come down largely to hitting on this next crop of rookies.

 

25. Las Vegas Raiders

Jon Gruden must think Gus Bradley is going to be a mastermind defensive wiz because even the additions like Yannick Ngakoue will only go so far in addressing those issues on that side of the ball. The roster, and especially the OL, have regressed and there are plenty more questions about the high-priced head coach as a result.

 

26. Philadelphia Eagles

A young quarterback plus a first-time head coach typically is not a winning combination, even in the lackluster NFC East. There's still a ton of talent on the team but getting it to gel in the right spots will be a huge challenge.

 

27. New York Jets

We're still TBD on the quarterback situation but there's no doubt Gang Green has improved with all that money to spend in free agency and a ton of draft capital still to play with. This is still a rebuild with a window a few years down the road however.

 

28. Chicago Bears

Who is excited for the Andy Dalton era to begin? Judging by the reactions in the Windy City, nobody. There are just a ton of question marks about the entire offense as a whole to outweigh whatever good the defense can do.

 

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Urban Meyer experience is going to be one of the most fascinating parts of the 2021 season even if you separate that from the arrival of the golden-haired chosen one in Trevor Lawrence. Whether it all coalesces into a team that can actually win some games remains to be seen but there's seemingly a much more solid foundation in Duval right now.

 

30. Cincinnati Bengals

Nobody nibbled around the edges of free agency like the Bengals, which naturally are going to focus heavily on the draft. Joe Burrow's health is the biggest key to the year however and while you think he'll come back better than ever, you won't know until he steps out onto the field.

 

31. Detroit Lions

A turnover-prone QB behind an iffy line with fewer weapons and a relatively inexperienced coaching staff trying to make do with a mediocre roster... what could go wrong?

 

32. Houston Texans

This team was bad a year ago and now has massive question marks at QB, with the coaching staff and a roster that has seemingly seen half of it turned over in free agency. Not the best of combinations for a team that will be just two years removed from a playoff appearance.

 

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.

 

(Top photo courtesy of buccaneers.com)

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