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.
16.) Arizona Cardinals—Record: 8-8. Point Differential: +43 (13). DVOA: 3.6% (13). Cap Space $13,313,841. Previously 15th.
Additions: J.J. Watt (DE), Matt Prater (K), A.J. Green (WR), Brian Winters (OG), Rodney Hudson (C), Malcolm Butler (CB), James Conner (RB), Shawn Williams (S).
Departures: Haason Reddick (EDGE), Dan Arnold (TE), Angelo Blackson (DE), Kenyan Drake (RB), Patrick Peterson (CB), De’Vondre Campbell (EDGE), J.R. Sweezy (OG), Corey Peters (DT), Chris Banjo (S), Dre Kirkpatrick (CB), Domata Petko (DT).
On paper the Cardinals were electric. Air raid. Five wide receivers. Young sublime quarterback. High blitz defense. On the field they were entirely different. Their offense was built around Kyler Murray scrambles, until the Patriots showed the league how to stop it, and DeAndre Hopkins speed outs against off-man coverage. Kliff Kingsbury liked the run game too much, and too often his redzone offense faultred.
To fix this, they added a glue factory wide receiver, and replaced Drake with Conner. The interior of their offensive ilne is replaced and improved. Watt’s a dramatic improvement to their front four pressure, and will play along the recovered Chandler Jones—limiting their need to blitz. And Butler isn’t worse than Peterson.
I don’t buy their direction this offseason. It’s a little bit all over the place. This still looks like a team that’s better for pixels and polygons than flesh and bone.
15.) Miami Dolphins—Record: 10-6. Point Differential: +66 (11). DVOA: 4.6% (12). Cap Space $6,968,258. Previously 16th.
Additions: Will Fuller (WR), Cethan Carter (TE), Adam Butler (DT), Jacoby Brissett (QB), Justin Coleman (CB), Matt Skura (C), Malcolm Brown (RB), Michael Palardy (P), Brennan Scarlett (EDGE), Duke Riley (LB), Robert Foster (WR).
Departures: Matt Haack (P), Kamu Grugier-Hill (LB), Davon Godchaux (NT), Kyle Van Noy (LB), Ted Karras (C), Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB), Matt Breida (RB), DeAndre Washington (RB), Julie’n Davenport (OT).
I committed incest. The Patriots and Dolphins have an incestuous relationship. Tongues swapping during Easter. Smelling like trees. Two become one then two again. Kyle Van Noy leaves and returns. Adam Butler move down to south beach. Jacoby Brissett making a slight detour in Indy before going to his rightful home.
Miami continues to make Miami moves. Adding to their defense. Slightly improving their offensive line. Potentially finding gold with Will Fuller, if he stays healthy, even if he’s a terrible quarterback for Tu’a Tagovailoa. With four first round picks the Dolphins are far from complete. They’re the team of the future if Tu’a finds it. If he doesn’t, they become the Indianapolis Colts, and there are far worse things to be.
14.) New Orleans Saints—Record: 12-4. Point Differential: +145 (2). DVOA: 33.3% (1). Cap Space $359,354. Previously 14th.
Additions: Alex Armah (FB), Nick Vannett (TE), Tanoh Kpassagnon (EDGE).
Departures: Janoris Jenkins (CB), Sheldon Rankins (DT), Justin Hardee (CB), Jared Cook (TE), Josh Hill (TE), Trey Hendrickson (DE), Emmanuel Sanders (WR), Kwon Alexander (LB), Nick Easton (OG), Alex Anzalone (LB), Will Clapp (C), Lil’jordan Humphrey (WR).
The Saints had the best roster in the league the last three seasons. It turned into a NFC Championship loss to the Los Angeles Rams, a Wildcard Round loss to the Minnesota Vikings, and a Divisional Round loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Drew Brees was the one thing holding them back. Now he’s gone.
The maxed out salary cap finally caught up to them. They had to cut and snip and sniff to get under the cap, hurting their overall roster. No one was integral, but the top 52 has lost some of its luster.
New Orleans should improve at quarterback without hanging on to the ghost from the past. Quit stringing Jameis along. This sentiment writhing from my throat doesn’t matter. Taysom Hill is going to end up starting at quarterback.
13.) Los Angeles Rams—Record: 10-6. Point Differential: +76 (10). DVOA: 15.4% (9). Cap Space $7,595,498. Previously 11th.
Additions: DeSean Jackson (WR), Matthew Stafford (QB).
Departures: Jared Goff, Michael Brockers (DT), Morgan Fox (DT), John Johnson (S), Troy Hill (CB), Derek Rivers (DE), Malcolm Brown (RB), Gerald Everett (TE), Samson Ebakum (LB), Josh Reynolds (WR), Austin Blythe (OL), Blake Bortles (QB).
The Rams are built like Chiefs. They are top heavy, but they don’t have the all-time great top quarterback play. Their success will be dependent on their ability to find new players like Morgan Fox, like John Johnson, mid-late round selections who became key contributors thanks to the top talent and scheme built around them. If they find enough talent from unknown sources to replace those they lost, with Stafford instead of Goff, the Rams are better than where they are now.
12.) Cleveland Browns—Record: 11-5. Point Differential: -11 (16). DVOA: -5.6% (18). Cap Space $20,935,462 Previously 12th.
Additions: John Johnson (S), Troy Hill (CB), Takkarist McKinley (DE), Anthony Walker (LB), Malik Jackson (DT), Greg Senat (OT), Jadeveon Clowney (EDGE), Sheldon Day (DT).
Departures: Larry Ogunjobi (DT), Terrance Mitchell (CB), Kendall Lamm (OT), Kevin Johnson (CB), Olivier Vernon (DE), Adrian Clayborn (DE), Karl Joseph (S), B.J. Goodson (LB), Andrew Sendejo (S), Sheldon Richardson (DT), Vincent Taylor (DT).
I wanted to hate the Browns this offseason and beat the drums of regression. 7-2 one score record. +3.3 more wins than expected. Highest plexiglass principle. Below average DVOA. A quarterback who runs away from the first semblance of pressure. I really did. Then they smashed their offseason, upgrading a defense that was below average, and they will add Greedy Williams and Grant Delpit after losing them last season because of injuries. It’s impossible not to love where the Browns are at right now.
11.) Indianapolis Colts—Record: 11-5. Point Differential: +89 (8). DVOA: 14.3% (10). Cap Space $23,553,620. Previously 10th.
Additions: Isaac Rochell (DT), Sam Tevi (OT), Carson Wentz (QB), Chris Reed (OG).
Departures: Anthony Walker Jr. (LB), Tremon Smith (CB), Jacoby Brissett (QB), Tavon Wilson (S), Denico Autry (DL), Justin Houston (DE), Malik Hooker (S), Le’Raven Clark (OT), Trey Burton (TE), Chaz Green (OT), Joey Hunt (C), Al-Quadin Muhammad (DL).
It’s vital to live within one’s means. Savings and investment are important. Debt is usually a bad thing. This is all true to a certain extent, but money should also be enjoyed. There are things you have to have, like another pass rusher, or an offensive tackle, or a home in a decent school district.
Tell this to Chris Ballard. The Colts are still living in a shoebox because interest rates are .02% too high. That cheap bastards. He never spends money. He makes one purchase every few years, and that’s it.
It’s worked up to the precipice, but they need a little bit more, and most importantly, they need a quarterback. Brissett was a bust, although Colts fans thought he was a franchise quarterback. Philip Rivers was perfectly good for what he was. The road is demolished. And now it’s Carson Wentz, with his old coordinator, trying to return to MVP level play after being the worst quarterback and the least valuable player in the league last year. Please start Sam Tevi at offensive tackle. That’s good for at least 12 Wentz fumbles.
10.) Tennessee Titans—Record: 11-5. Point Differential: +52 (12). DVOA: 2.9% (14). Cap Space $5,401,207 Previously 9th.
Additions: Bud Dupree (EDGE), Denico Autry (DL), Kendall Lamm (OT), Josh Reynolds (WR), Kevin Johnson (CB), Janoris Jenkins (CB).
Departures: Desmond King (CB), Matt Dickerson (DE), Jonnu Smith (TE), Adoree’ Jackson (CB), Corey Davis (WR), Jadeveon Clowney (EDGE), Malcolm Butler (CB), Adam Humphries (WR), DaQuan Jones (DL), Kenny Vaccaro (S), Dennis Kelly (OT), Stephen Gostowski (K), MyCole Pruitt (TE), Jack Crawford (DT), Will Compton (LB), Tye Smith (CB), Kalif Raymond (WR), D’Onta Foreman (RB).
Tennessee found what they thought they were getting from Jadeveon Clowney in Bud Dupree. Autry is one of the most underrated pass rushers, who can play on the interior and exterior, who was snagged for a modest amount. I don’t love Jenkins, but their secondary is more dependent on Kristian Fulton starting on the outside than anything else. Mike Vrabel also kind of sort of has a defensive coordinator this year, who is just a boil off his back, than a completely different brain.
Tennessee’s defense should improve. The offense has a time table. Derrick Henry can only keep this up for so long. I still think he has another year in him. The Titans know what works, they know their style of play. If the offense plays at a similar level, they’ll be the same Titans again next season.
9.) Washington Football Team—Record: 7-9. Point Differential: +6 (14). DVOA: -2.3% (16). Cap Space $18,179,237. Previously 13th.
Additions: William Jackson (CB), Curtis Samuel (WR), Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB), Lamar Miller (RB), Tyler Larsen (C), David Mayo (LB), Adam Humphries (WR), Darryl Roberts (CB).
Departures: Ronald Darby (CB), Kevin Pierre-Louis (LB), Robert Foster (WR), Ryan Anderson (OLB), Alex Smith (QB), Ryan Kerrigan (EDGE), Thomas Davis (LB), Jeremy Sprinkle (TE), Fabian Moreau (CB).
I love it, I Love it, I LOVE IT. Our FOOTBALL TEAM had a great offseason. Their one defensive hole was filled by adding William Jackson—since they found their starting linebacker group in Cole Holcomb and Jon Bostic last season. They have an electric range of pass catchers who are great after the catch.
This is the season for our FOOTBALL TEAM. It’s the last year they have their entire defensive line on their rookie contract. The defense should be a top five unit. The one problem was at quarterback. A Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke quarterback battle is enough for the postseason, but not enough for the Super Bowl caliber team this could be. Maybe they have something more up their sleeve. If not, this should be enough to win a bad division.
WE SHOULD BE CONTENDERS
8.) Seattle Seahawks—Record: 12-4. Point Differential: +88 (9). DVOA: 20.1% (5). Cap Space $7,695,693 Previously 6th.
Additions: Gerald Everett (TE), Ahkello Witherspoon (CB), Gabe Jackson (OG), Kerry Hyder (DT), Aldon Smith (DL), Damarious Randall (DB).
Departures: Shaquill Griffin (CB), Carlos Hyde (RB), Phillip Dorsett (WR), David Moore (WR), Jacob Hollister (TE), K.J. Wright (LB), Bruce Irvin (DL), Benson Mayowa (DL), Mike Iupati (OG), Cedric Ogbuhi (OT), Quinton Dunbar (CB), Geno Smith (QB), Chance Warmack (OG), Josh Gordon (WR), Shaquem Griffin (LB), Jarran Reed (DT).
The Seahawks are Russell Wilson. There was never a trade package that would be enough for an older quarterback with his contract for Seattle, who is built entirely around Wilson’s ability to scramble, break tackles, and make up for a neglected offensive line. Wilson made up for his ineffective offensive line, allowing Seattle to invest elsewhere. He’s the reason why their all-time great defense stayed together for three seasons. He’s the reason why they haven’t needed to use draft picks on the offensive line, and instead, have been able to sort through other team’s scraps.
Now in his 30s, that style of play won’t be around forever, even if it will in the immediate future. Gabe Jackson is a start. But after this season, Seattle will have to do more to ensure Wilson can play from the pocket, instead of leaping off the cliff.
The Seahawks are the Seahawks. Absurd. Ridiculous. Strange. Mentally ill. Far from normal. The last seasons played out similarly, and this season should be no different.
7.) Baltimore Ravens—Record: 11-5. Point Differential: +165 (1). DVOA: 18.6% (7). Cap Space $12,583,475. Previously 5th.
Additions: Kevin Zeitler (OG), Geno Stone (S), Sammy Watkins (WR), Josh Oliver (TE). Greg Mancz (OL).
Departures: Matt Judon (EDGE), Matt Skura (C), Yannick Ngakoue (DE), Jihad Ward (DE), Mark Ingram (RB), Chris Moore (WR), Willie Snead (WR), L.J. Fort (LB), Robert Griffin III (QB), D.J. Fluker (OL), Dez Bryant (WR), Jihad Ward (DL).
The Ravens are stuck. Until Lamar Jackson starts hitting the deep sideline, the Ravens are predictable, confined to their current dimension, and there’s nothing they can do about it. With worse offensive line play, and a defense seeping talent, this next step needs to cover up these downgrades.
6.) San Francisco 49ers—Record: 6-10. Point Differential: -14 (17). DVOA: 5.4% (11). Cap Space $18,689,597. Previously 8th.
Additions: Alex Mack (C), Samson Ebukam (LB), Zach Kerr (DE), Tavon Wilson (S), Nate Sudfield (QB), Nate Gerry (LB), Mohamed Sanu (WR).
Departures: Ahkello Witherspoon (CB), Kendrick Bourne (WR), Solomon Thomas (EDGE), Richard Sherman (CB), Tevin Coleman (RB), K’Wuan Williams (CB), Ben Garland (C), Kerry Hyder (DE), Ezekiel Ansas (DE), Jerrick McKinnon (RB), Jordan Reed (TE), Tony Bergstrom (C), Dion Jordan (DE), C.J. Beathard (QB), Nick Mullens (QB), Emmanuel Moseley (CB).
The 49ers have recovered from their hungover. The sun is full and yellow and chicken. The core is still here. Their injured players are back on the roster. And most importantly, they traded up to select a quarterback, so they can get a quarterback they can win because of, not with. Jimmy Garoppolo is a man of his environment, with a cap hit of $26.4 million, that can be extinguished through a trade of outright release. This quarterback improvement, additional space, injury recovery, and existing offensive scheme is all here. The 49ers are going to be back in 2021.
5.) Los Angeles Chargers—Record: 7-9. Point Differential: -42 (20). DVOA: -23.4% (26). Cap Space $20,522,474. Previously 7th.
Additions: Corey Linsley (C), Matt Feiler (OL), Jared Cook (TE), Oday Aboushi (OL), Chase Daniel (QB), Ryan Smith (CB).
Departures: Cole Toner (OL), Denzel Perryman (LB), Tyrod Taylor (QB), Isaac Rochell (DT), Sam Tevi (OT), Rayshawn Jenkins (S), Nick Vigil (LB), Hunter Henry (TE), Dan Feeney (C), Melvin Ingram (EDGE), Trai Turner (OG), Casey Hayward (CB), Mike Pouncey (C), Virgil Green (TE), Forrest Lamp (OG), Jahleel Addae (S).
The Chargers had plenty of cap space to build around Justin Herbert’s rookie contract. They opted for the offensive line. They added three new starters. Linsley is one of the league’s best centers. Feiler is a good pulling offensive guard. Abouishi is completely fine. If Brian Baluga is healthy enough to play right tackle, they are just a first round left tackle selection away from being all set.
4.) Green Bay Packers—Record: 13-3. Point Differential: +140 (3). DVOA: 25.9% (3). Cap Space $2,612,321. Previously 3rd.
Departures: Christian Kirksey (LB), Montravius Adams (DE), Corey Linsley (C), Jamaal Williams (RB), Tim Boyle (QB), Ricky Wagner (OT), Marcedes Lewis (TE), Damon Harrison (DT), Tyler Ervin (RB), Allen Lazard (QB), Lane Taylor (OL).
If the Packers actually drafted a player usable for the 2020 Packers, they could have won a Super Bowl. Instead of releasing Preston Smith, or letting Aaron Jones walk in free agency, to have the cap space to improve the roster, they decided to remain the same. The Packers have the most balanced offense in the league. They’re still the same team as last year. Nothing has really changed.
3.) Buffalo Bills—Record: 13-3. Point Differential: +126 (5). DVOA: 23.8% (4). Cap Space $5,620,179. Previously 4th.
Additions: Emmanuel Sanders (WR), Matt Haack (P), Mitchell Trubisky (QB), Jacob Hollister (TE), Efe Obada (DL), Matt Breida (RB), Forrest Lamp (OG), Tyrell Adams (LB), Jamil Douglas (OG).
Departures: Brian Winters (OG), Ty Nsekhe (OT), Andre Roberts (WR), John Brown (WR), Quinton Jefferson (DL), Tyler Kroft (TE), Trent Murphy (DE), Josh Norman (CB), Matt Barkley (QB), T.J. Yeldon (RB).
Buffalo filled the little holes they had. Tight end, wide receiver number two, and they added depth.
I had a dream the other night Josh Allen was crappy in 2021. It was very distressing and upsetting. If Allen is still Allen next year, the Bills are a slamdunk top five team, and Super Bowl contender.
2.) Kansas City Chiefs—Record: 14-2. Point Differential: +111 (6). DVOA: 19.5% (6). Cap Space $11,687,365. Previously 2nd.
Additions: Joe Thuney (OG), Blake Bell (TE), Jarran Reed (DT), Kyle Long (OG), Austin Blythe (C).
Departures: Eric Fisher (OT), Mitchell Schwartz (OT), Sammy Watkins (WR), Alex Okafor (DE), Bashaud Breeland (CB), Damien Wilson (LB), Austin Reiter (C), Kelechi Osemele (OG), Anthony Sherman (FB), Tanoh Kpassagnon (DL), Mike Pennel (DT), Le’Veon Bell (RB), Damien Williams (RB).
Offensive linemen are important. Tackles are integral. The loser screams on the internet. The Chiefs recently cut their offensive tackles, who they may bring back on a cheaper contract anyways, and upgraded the interior of their offensive line even after always being able to find good play from strange sources. The offensive structure. The quarterback. These things are more important than the offensive line.
The Chiefs are still top heavy. They still have the best quarterback in the game. They are also a surprising regression team. This just means they’ll win eleven games instead of thirteen.
1.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Record: 11-5. Point Differential: +137 (4). DVOA: 31.5% (2). Cap Space $1,079,811. Previously 1st.
Additions: Giovani Bernard (RB).
Departures: Joe Haeg (OT), Andrew Adams (S), Antonio Brown (WR), Blaine Gabbert (QB), Kevin Minter (LB), LeSean McCoy (RB), Ryan Smith (CB).
The gang is back together. They kept everyone here. It’s reasonable to expect Brown to resign late in the summer, as long as he’s a good man, instead of a joker. Bernard gives them the pass catching they were missing in the backfield. It’s running it back in its purest form.