NFL Power Rankings: Pre-Draft Edition

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

The ink is still drying on a few free-agent contracts and we're still weeks away from the 2021 NFL Draft taking place in Cleveland but at this moment in time, how do the Super Bowl contenders stack up as we hit the next phase of the offseason? Looking at every team around the league, it's clear a few general managers were busy this spring filling holes on the two-deep while others were busy trimming a little too much fat to get under the reduced salary cap.

 

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.

 

Pre-Draft 2021 NFL Power Rankings

 

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)

Include in Acu Data Feed: 
Exclude from Acu-data Feed

More Stories: