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2021 NFL Draft: Pre-Draft Power Rankings (Part One)

Teams 32-17 before the 2021 NFL Draft begins.

Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Traditional power rankings overreact to one HUGE WIN and one sad (!) loss. Rarely do they take in account the entire season. To give a more accurate representation of what’s going on, and where these teams currently stand, I will not equivocate or give into the yank of heartstrings the NFL season brings week to week.

Instead of living with such a short memory and being so myopic, here’s where all 32 teams rank entering the 2021 NFL Draft, along with available cap space, roster additions and departures with pending free agents mixed in.


32. Houston Texans—Record: 4-12. Point Differential: -80 (26). DVOA: -12.5% (24). Cap Space $10,434,561. Previously 32nd.

Additions: Tae Davis (LB), Ryan Izzo (TE), Desmond King (CB), Cole Toner (OL), Cameron Johnston (P), Ryan Finley (QB), Donte Moncreif (WR), Justin McCray (OL), Joe Thomas (LB), Andre Roberts (WR), Terrance Brooks (S), Chris Moore (WR), Alex Erickson (WR), Kamu Grugier-Hill (LB), Kevin Pierre-Louis (LB), Terrance Mitchell (CB), Mark Ingram (RB), Maliek Collins (DL), Marcus Cannon (OL), Shaq Lawson (EDGE), Phillip Lindsay (RB), Tyrod Taylor (QB), Derek Rivers (DE), Christian Kirksey (LB), Hardy Nickerson Jr. (LB), Tremon Smith (CB), Justin Britt (C), Tavierre Thomas (CB), Jordan Steckler (OL), Paul Quessenberry (TE), Vincent Taylor (DT), Jordan Jenkins (OLB), Chris Conley (WR), Jaleel Johnson (DT), Lane Taylor (OL), Demarcus Walker (DE).

Departures: J.J. Watt (DE), Carlos Watkins (DL), Will Fuller (WR), Benardrick McKinney (LB), Brennan Scarlett (EDGE), Cullen Gillaspia (FB), Darren Fells (TE), Zach Fulton (OL), Jon Weeks (LS), Brian Anger (P), chad Hansen (WR), P.J. Hall (DT).

For some, the internet is a place of electronic worship for Nick Caserio. Wow! Look at all these players he signed. Wow! None of them are good. Fine. That isn’t entirely true. There’s like five actual football players here. Cool. He could have signed tangible good players for similar contracts, who they could have flipped for draft picks before this year’s trade dealine, or during next year’s offseason, or chased after prospects and intriguing young players who could become something more, and stumble upon players who would be part of the next good Texans team, whenever that maybe, if that ever even happens again.

There’s some regression potential for the Texans. They went 2-8 in one score games last season. The problem is Deshaun Watson was the reason why a terrible roster played in as many close games as they did. The four wins were the result of his teammates not allowing him to throw touchdown passes with his eyeball dangling like bungee jumper. The snap was skidded before he could do so.

Without Watson, because of the trade request and holdout, without a Watson trade, because of the current allegations, and without J.J. Watt, the Texans are a husk. They are a team composed of non playable characters wrapped in a bubble of their own good feelings. They’re Patrick Bateman, flexing, staring at himself in the mirror while plowing ahead, except instead of tan skin and six pack, it’s sagging skin looking back at a blank telivision screen inbetween load screens. Houston went from a 57 to a 61 overall this offseason. Without top draft capital, they are what they are, and what they are is the worst team in the league from a talent standpoint.

31.) Detroit Lions—Record: 5-11. Point Differential: -142 (30). DVOA: -15.7% (27). Cap Space $22,229,715. Previously 31st.

Additions: Jared Goff (QB), Tyrell Williams (WR), Michael Brockers (DL), Breshad Perriman (WR), Josh Hill (TE), Charles Harris (EDGE), Randy Bullock (K), Jamaal Williams (RB), Shaun Dion-Hamilton (LB), Kalif Raymond (WR), Quinton Dunbar (CB), Corn Elder (CB), Tim Boyle (QB), Alex Anzalone (LB).

Departures: Desmond Trufant (CB), Everson Griffen (EDGE), Jesse James (TE), Chase Daniel (QB), Danny Shelton (DT), Matt Prater (K), Adrian Peterson (RB), Mohamed Sanu (WR), Oday Aboushi (OL), Justin Coleman (CB), Reggie Ragland (LB), Kenny Golladay (WR), Marvin Jones (WR), Jamal Agnew (CB), Jarrad Davis (LB), Matthew Stafford (QB), Duron Harmon (S), Darryl Roberts (CB).

There isn’t a funnier place for Jared Goff to play football. Dark skies. Crumbling architecture. Frozen and barren. There’s no avacados on hamburgers, there’s no Holister flip-flops, there’s no palm trees here. It’s a Californian nightmare. Between the gray sweat pants uniforms, the truck driving stepdad head coach, and his new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, a creator of a run heavy offensive attack, there isn’t quarterback-team combination with a higher contrast than Detroit.

It’s at least shift into something better. The Lions are bad, and they know this, while taking a chance on a former number one overall quarterback, instead of being bad while hiding under the veneer of Patriots imagined guile.

30.) Denver BroncosRecord: 5-11. Point Differential: -123 (29). DVOA: -22.1% (29). Cap Space $27,200,891. Previously 30th.

Additions: Ronald Darby (CB), Mike Boone (RB). Kyle Fuller (CB), Shamar Stephen (DT).

Departures: Jurrell Casey (DL), A.J. Bouye (CB), Phillip Lindsay (RB), Jeremiah Attaochu (EDGE), Elijah Wilkerson (OL), Austin Calitro (LB), Jake Butt (TE), Nick Vannett (TE), Demarcus Walker (DE).

Their isn’t a sadder football soul than the soul who pines for Drew Lock. I hate to break it to you if you are out there, but Lock sucks. He doesn’t have pocket prescence, accuracy, deep throw ability, or enough between his ears to play the position profesionally. He’s a star at a fourth grade talent show, wrapped in camo, singing Destiny’s Child solo, without an ensemble, he isn’t a passable quarterback.

Vic Fangio is still a defensive wizard. The defense will still lock teams down. Their power run game is a blast, filled with intracices, and worth your time. None if it matters until they find a quarterback.

Since 2017, Case Keenum, Trevor Siemian, Joe Flacco, [NAME REDACTED], Drew Lock, Brandon Allen, Jeff Driskel, Paxton Lynch, and Brett Rypien have thrown passes for them. With the ninth overall pick, and four teams who may take quarterbacks in front of them, they could still upgrade from Lock. And even if they go best player available, they could trade for a quarterback relegated down the depth chart after the draft occurs.

Whatever they do, they have to do something.

29.) Philadelphia Eagles—Record: 4-11-1. Point Differential: -84 (27). DVOA: -18.8% (28). Cap Space $4,828,123. Previously 28th.

Additions: Anthony Harris (S), Andrew Adams (S), Joe Flacco (QB), Eric Wilson (LB).

Departures: Jalen Mills (S), Duke Riley (LB), DeSean Jackson (WR), Jonathan Ford (S), Cameron Johnston (P), Malik Jackson (DL), Jason Peters (OL), Nickell Robey-Coleman (CB), Vinny Curry (DL), Nate Gerry (OLB), Carson Wentz (QB), Marquise Goodwin (WR).

The Eagles are paying $39.8 million in dead money this season. 2021 is a gap year. See what they have in Jalen Hurts. Pay the dead money. Move forward next season when they have two first round picks and cap space again to jolt them forward.

28.) Chicago Bears—Record: 8-8. Point Differential: +2 (15). DVOA: -0.5% (15). Cap Space $1,565,075. Previously 25th.

Additions: Andy Dalton (QB), Jeremiah Attaochu (EDGE), Angelo Blackson (DE), Deon Bush (S), Desmond Trufant (CB), Brent Urban (DL), Elijah Wilkerson (OT), Marquise Goodwin (WR), Damien Williams (RB).

Departures: Barkevious Mingo (LB), Mitchell Trubisky (QB), Buster Skrine (CB), Cordarelle Patterson (WR), Tashaun Gipson (S), Artie Burns (CB), Kyle Fuller (CB), Roy Robertson-Harris (DL), Brent Urban (DL), Rashaad Coward (OG).

The NFL’s decision to add two playoff teams was such a great idea. It added the Colts, who didn’t have to face the consequences for losing to the 1-15 Jaguars in week one, and the Bears, whose only source of offense was a dropped double throw in a whomping against the Saints. Four games is enough. Six is too much. There’s a such thing as too much football. Don’t listen to the lies the replicants force feed you.

Next year the Bears shouldn’t be so fortunate. They were completely average thanks to the balancing of their terrible offense, and great defense, who bounced back from horrendous 2019 turnover luck. This offseason they made their defense worse, and somehow, their offense is worse too. As bad as Mitch Trubisky was, Andy Dalton is still worse. Dalton doesn’t have the offensive line to play in Chicago, or the skill players. This is going to be an abomination. Get ready for more Nick Foles, who somehow has the eighth highest cap hit on this team.

27.) New York Jets—Record: 2-14. Point Differential: -214 (32). DVOA: -30.5% (32). Cap Space $24,967,069. Previously 29th.

Additions: Carl Lawson (EDGE), Corey Davis (WR), Sheldon Rankins (DL), Justin Hardee (CB), Keelan Cole (WR), Jarrad Davis (LB), Dan Feeney (C), LaMarcus Joyner (S), Tyler Kroft (TE), Tevin Coleman (RB), Vinny Curry (EDGE).

Departures: Jordan Jenkins (OLB), Breshad Perriman (WR), Tarell Basham (OLB), Pat Elflein (OL), Brian Poole (CB), Neville Hewitt (LB), Patrick Onwuasor (LB), Joe Flacco (QB), Frank Gore (RB), Frankie Luvu (LB), Sam Darnold (QB), Tarell Basham (EDGE).

I dig the Jets offseason. They had the cap space and added top talent at two positions of need. They lost some depth. Oh, no. With a new head coach and quarterback, and already feisty defense, the Jets may only S-U-C-K SUCK-SUCK-SUCK a little bit less. Which quarterback they take after Trevor Lawrence is the sarcophugus in the tomb.

26.) Cincinnati Bengals—Record: 4-11-1. Point Differential: -113 (28). DVOA: -24.7% (30). Cap Space $23,470,950. Previously 27th.

Additions: Trey Hendrickson (EDGE), Mike Hilton (CB), Chidobe Awuzie (CB), Riley Reiff (OT), Larry Ogunjobi (DL), Eli Apple (CB), Ricardo Allen (S).

Departures: A.J. Green (WR), Randy Bullock (K), Cethan Carter (TE), John Ross (WR), Carl Lawson (EDGE), B.J. Finney (C), William Jackson (CB), Geno Atkins (DL), Bobby Hart (OT), Alex Erickson (WR), Josh Bynes (LB), Leshaun Sims (CB), Christian Covington (DL), Mike Daniels (DT), Giovani Bernard (RB), Mackensie Alexander (CB), Shawn Williams (S).

The Bengals had a great free agency period. Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard have never been in the same room togeether. Ogunjobi is a flashy defensive tackle, who makes high impact plays, and can work off of D.J. Reader. Mike Hilton is slot cornerback hellion who can blitz, cover, and tackle, making the Nickle a 4-3. Awuzie and Allen are pefect buy-low secondary players. If one of their young linebackers makes a jump, this defense could be passable. Reiff is an improvement over Hart.

Joey Buckets is coming off an injury though, and he was more Alex Smith than anyone wants to admit last season. He played admirably considering his offensive line, but the deep ball was abhorrent, which isn’t the end of the world—see Josh Allen’s younger years. If Jonah Williams can get past his injury troubles, and play up to his colliegate ability finally, and Cincy can stave off drafting an offensive linemen early, it will go a long way to a 2021 improvement. A sunk cost at this position would limit their overall talent. This is a team everyone will feel better about if Burrow strings together a great month.

25.) New York Giants—Record: 6-10. Point Differential: -77 (24). DVOA: -13.8% (25). Cap Space $5,040,201. Previously 26th.

Additions: Kenny Golladay (WR), Adoree’ Jackson (CB), Kyle Rudolph (TE), Devontae Booker (RB), Ifeadi Odenigbo (DL), John Ross (WR), Mike Glennon (QB), Ryan Anderson (OLB), Reggie Ragland (LB), Cullen Gillaspia (FB), Zach Fulton (OG), Danny Shelton (DT).

Departures: Kevin Zeitler (G), Dalvin Tomilson (DT), David Mayo (LB), Golden Tate (WR), Cameron Fleming (T), Colt McCoy (QB), Dion Lewis (RB), Jabaal Sheard (DL), Alfred Morris (RB), Wayne Gallman (RB).

This feels like the end of the road for Daniel Jones. NO FEAR. NO EXCUSES. With Saquon Barkley coming back, Kenny Golladay going off the top turnbuckle, combined with the little bit of offensive mojo they had down the stretch after finally finding some verticality and adding Evan Engram to the offense, and an offensive line that should be good next season, Jones needs to make the jump he didn’t make last season.


24.) Minnesota Vikings—Record: 7-9. Point Differential: -45 (22). DVOA: -6.4% (20). Cap Space $7,458,040. Previously 23rd.

Additions: Dalvin Tomilson (DT), Patrick Peterson (CB), Stephen Weatherly (DL), Nick Vigil (LB), Xavier Woods (S), Mackensie Alexander (CB).

Departures: Riley Reiff (OT), Mike Boone (RB), Kyle Rudolph (TE), Ifeadi Odenigbo (DL), Anthony Harris (S), Jaleel Johnson (DT), Shamar Stephen (DT), Eric Wilson, Hardy Nickerson Jr. (LB).

We know who the Vikings are. A fringe top ten offense that gets crushed if they fall behind, or play against a team who can create any pressure on Kirk Cousins. The defense bounced from league worst to below average because Mike Zimmer is a genius. Adding to it is Peterson, who was bad last season, Tomilson, constipation personified, Vigil, terrible, Woods and Weatherly, fine, Alexander, whatever.

Yet, without cap space, and picking in the middle of the pack again, the resources aren’t there to get them past where they are at. They’re a possible playoff contender if enough things break right. They’re a seven in team if enough things break wrong.

23.) Pittsburgh Steelers—Record: 12-4. Point Differential: +104 (7). DVOA: 16.8% (8). Cap Space $10,391,586. Previously 19th.

Additions: Joe Haeg (OT), Chris Wormley (DL), Miles Killebrew (S), Tyler Simmons (WR), B.J. Finney (C), Dwayne Haskins (QB), Rashaad Coward (OL), Kalen Ballage (RB).

Departures: Mike Hilton (CB), Matt Feiler (OL), Bud Dupree (EDGE), Steven Nelson (CB), Avery Williamson (LB), Alejandro Villanueva (OT), Tyson Alualu (DT), Cassius Marsh (DL), Cameron Sutton (CB), James Conner (RB).

Last season felt like a last ride for this iteration of the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger finally played an entire season, and was a quarterback, tossing horizontal crossing routes, and throwing 50+ passes a game, finishing third overall despite not starting week seventeen, because they had no run game whatsoever. It all came to an end thanks to a botched snap turned Cleveland touchdown, and the most COWARDly COWARD fourth down decision you’ll ever see.

Roethlisberger is 39. The offensive line is depleted. The run game may even be worse. They were led by their defense, and they lost five starters from it. Their offensive production is expected to drop along with their defense, which should fall from top five to top ten. The end is here.

22.) Dallas Cowboys—Record: 6-10. Point Differential: -78 (25). DVOA: -11.1% (23). Cap Space $7,530,393. Previously 24th.

Additions: Tarell Basham (EDGE), Keanu Neal (S), Carlos Watkins (DL), Brent Urban (DL), Ty Nsekhe (OT), Brian Anger (P), Jeremy Sprinkle (TE), Domantae Kazee (S).

Departures: Blake Bell (TE), Joe Thomas (LB), Greg Senat (OT), Chidobe Awuzie (CB), Andy Dalton (QB), Cameron Erving (OT), Tyrone Crawford (DL), Joe Looney (C), Aldon Smith (EDGE), Xavier Woods (S), Eli Ankou (DT), Antwuan Woods (DL).

Dallas was faced with one monumental decision. Extend, tag, or move on from Dak Prescott. They extended him. Everything else was fringe signings from there as Dallas tries to morph to a cover three defense, and a pass heavy offense, built around their pass catchers and the recently recovered Prescott. 2015 was a long time ago. This isn’t a run heavy team with a great offensive line. Those days have succumbed to the clock.

21.) Atlanta Falcons—Record: 4-12. Point Differential: -18 (18). DVOA: -4.2% (17). Cap Space $929,851. Previously 21st.

Additions: Mike Davis (RB), Erik Harris (S), Barkevious Mingo (LB), Brandon Copeland (OLB), Cordarelle Patterson (WR), Duron Harmon (S), Josh Andrews (C).

Departures: Keanu Neal (S), Charles Harris (EDGE), Justin McCray (OL), Alex Mack (C), Ricardo Allen (S), Todd Gurley (RB), James Carpenter (G), Allen Bailey (DE), Brian Hill (RB), Darqueze Dennard (CB), Laquon Treadwell (WR), Domantae Kazee (S).

The last time the Falcons played in Arthur Smith style offense they lost in the Super Bowl. Atlanta had an all-time great offense that season. 28-3 happened. It’s all very sad and unfortunate.

Since this occurred, Atlanta said all the right things, talking only about NOW, and never about the past, but those days were spent out in the wilderness. Terrible defenses that accidently became better in the second half of the season, never repeating the performance when next season begins. Losing close games in the dumbest of ways.

It isn’t a talent question for the Falcons. The talent is here. Matt Ryan has more football left. Stupidity and poor coaching had previoulsy let them down. With Smith, and the great coaching staff he brought in, plus a top five draft pick, next season is going to be better.

20.) New England Patriots—Record: 7-9. Point Differential: -27 (19). DVOA: -7.1% (22). Cap Space $16,114,568. Previously 22nd.

Additions: Matt Judon (EDGE), Jonnu Smith (TE), Hunter Henry (TE), Jalen Mills (S), Nelson Agholor (WR), Davon Godchaux (NT), Kendrick Bourne (WR), Kyle Van Noy (LB), Henry Anderson (DL), Ted Karras (C), Montravius Adams (DE), Raekwon McMillian (LB), Trent Brown (OT).

Departures: Adam Butler (DT), Joe Thuney (OG), Terrance Brooks (S), Brandon Copeland (OLB), Jason McCourty (S), Rex Burkhead (RB), Jermaine Eluemunor (OT), Brian Hoyer (RB), Damiere Byrd (WR), Julian Edelman (WR), Donte Moncrief (WR), Ryan Izzo (TE).

The Patriots are similar to the Broncos. None of it really matters until they find a quarterback. The difference is the Patriots have the greatest coach of all-time, and a better football team. The money spent was a pivot, but it provided the defensive jolt they needed, and created an easy place for a rookie quarterback to play, with the offensive line they have, and receivers who can attack the middle of the field. Bill Belichick paid for his previous draft sins. Now he just needs to find a quarterback. Get ready for a trade up next Thursday night.

19.) Jacksonville Jaguars—Record: 1-15. Point Differential: -186 (31). DVOA: -27.9% (31). Cap Space $39,357,045. Previously 20th.

Additions: Shaquill Griffin (CB), Rayshawn Jenkins (S), Roy Robertson-Harris (DL), Jamal Agnew (CB), Marvin Jones (WR), Chris Manhertz (TE), Carlos Hyde (RB), Jonathan Ford (S), Jihad Ward (S), James O’Shaughnessy (TE), Sidney Jones (CB), Phillip Dorsett (WR), Tyson Alualu (DT), C.J. Beathard (QB), Malcolm Brown (DT), Damien Wilson (LB).

Departures: Rashaan Melvin (CB), Chris Conley (WR), Mike Glennon (QB), Keelan Cole (WR), D.J. Hayden (CB), Tyler Eifert (TE), Abry Jones (DT), Al Woods (DT), Kamalei Correa (EDGE), Chris Thompson (RB), Aaron Lynch (EDGE), Dede Westbrook (WR), Tre Herndon (CB), Dakota Allen (LB), Josh Oliver (TE).

Rather than go all-out and completely liquidate their cap space, the Jaguars instead made competent signings to improve their biggest needs. They picked up a starting safety and outside cornerback. They added run defense help, something they’ve needed the last two seasons. With a little bit of offensive line improvement, this is an easy place for Trevor Lawrence to play.

The Jaguars last season were not a 1-15 football team. Their young talent was injured, Garnder Minshew was hurt, and from there, they hit the red button and purposely squirmed their way into Lawrence. If Lawrence is as good as he’s supposed to be, the Jags are going to be playoff competitive this season.

18.) Carolina PanthersRecord: 5-11. Point Differential: -52 (23). DVOA: -6.7% (21). Cap Space $13,294,206. Previously 18th.

Additions: Pat Elflein (OG), Cameron Erving (OT), Morgan Fox (DT), Hasson Reddick (EDGE), Dan Arnold (TE), David Moore (WR), John Miller (OG), Rashaan Melvin (CB), Denzel Perryman (LB), Sam Darnold (QB), A.J. Bouye (CB), Zach Kerr (DT), Frankie Luvu (LB), Daquan Jones (DL).

Departures: Mike Davis (RB), Chris Manhertz (TE), Michael Palardy (P), Stephen Weatherly (DL), Alex Armah (FB), Zach Kerr (DE), Curtis Samuel (WR), Tyler Larsen (C), Kawaan Short (DL), Russell Okung (OT), Tre Boston (S), Tahir Whitehead (LB), Michael Schofield (OL), Pharoh Cooper (WR), Efe Odaba (DL), Corn Elder (CB), Chris Reed (OG).

The Panthers were dying for Deshaun Watson. Whether the allegations scared them off, or Houston wanted too much, we don’t know, but instead they settled for the consolation prize in Sam Darnold. If Darnold can meld the 5% spectacular with the 95% stupid, there is an actual quarterback here. And if worse comes to worst, they traded a second round pick for a backup quarterback who couldn’t beat out Teddy Bridewahter. I’ve always wanted Sam Darnold to throw to Dan Arnold and now we have it.

The defense could be great as early as this season, but if it doesn’t happen this year, it should happen by next year. They have the best collection of young defensive talent in the league. Sometimes these things take sometime.

17.) Las Vegas Raiders—Record: 8-8. Point Differential: -44 (21). DVOA: -6.3% (19). Cap Space $5,246,805. Previously 17th.

Additions: Yannick Ngakoue (DE), Kenyan Drake (RB), Solomon Thomas (EDGE), John Brown (WR), Quinton Jefferson (DT), Matt Dickerson (DE), Nick Martin (C), Karl Joseph (S), Rasul Douglas (DB), Willie Snead (WR).

Departures: Erik Harris (S), Takkarist McKinley (EDGE), Tyrell Williams (WR), Nelson Agholor (WR), Raekwon McMillan (LB), Devontae Booker (RB), Nicholas Morrow (LB), Vic Beasley (EDGE), Sam Young (OT), Gabe Jackson (OG), Rodney Hudson (C), Arden Key (DE), Maurice Hurst (DT), Trent Brown (OT).

They gutted their offensive line to build their defensive line. The idea is Jon Gruden’s gameplans can minimize the need for the offensive line, instead of how it was last year, when the offensive line carried them out, allowing Derek Carr forever to throw. The problem is Carr has always needed a great offensive line to be a successful quarterback. By fixing a need at the expense of a strength all the Raiders may have done is move horizontally.