We’ve nearly made it through the preseason and once again it’s time to put out my first power rankings of the year, before the Bills and Rams kick off the regular season.
To do so, not only did I rank all teams from numbers one to 32, but I also grouped them into six tiers. Each of those consists of four to six teams, other than what I labelled as the “second tier”, which is loaded with AFC teams in particular, who I believe all have the talent to make real noise this season.
As always, I know many people will hate how low their team is and sometimes the number in front of it may look worse than it actually is, which is why I’d like to consider the individual tiers, which is what I believe is more representative of how I look at the NFL landscape heading into 2022.
Let’s get into the list:
Super Bowl contenders:
Obviously there are more than four teams that can win the Super Bowl this year, but I thought these four teams kind of separated themselves from the rest. Number one to me is the most talented team, while the others have each won a Super Bowl over the last three years. Breaking down what they bring to the table, there are no legitimate concerns, other than maybe one or two individual players, who largely don’t play key roles.
1. Buffalo Bills
Buffalo has been the Super Bowl favorite for the majority of the offseason and they have all the pieces in place to go all the way. I’ve heard people saying that this team hasn’t proven it yet, but the last two years they have gone to the AFC Championship and then the Divisional Round, with the Chiefs being the only team to stop them. Yet, they did beat them decisively in the regular season and were 13 seconds away from getting back to the final four. Josh Allen had the greatest statistical playoff run (even if it only was two games), the weapons on that offense may actually be better with second-round running back James Cook as a perfect match and they addressed their biggest defensive need with their first-rounder Kaiir Elam at that second corner spot, along with paying up for veteran edge rusher Von Miller to push them over the top, after that unit already started number one in almost every meaningless statistic.
2. Los Angeles Rams
While I do believe the Bills are the most talented team in the NFC, I couldn’t put the reigning champs any lower than this. While they didn’t bring the whole band back together, with the retirement of Andrew Whitworth, Von Miller getting paid big money to help another contender bring home a trophy, Odell Beckham Jr. Still being on the open market after tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl. However, they do have young guys at all those spots poised to step up and they made two key additions in free agency with Allen Robinson, who by all reports has looked revitalized in training camp, and Bobby Wagner, replacing the biggest liability for that defense, which finished number one in yards and points allowed in 2020. There are some concerns about Matt Stafford’s throwing elbow right now, but with the way he has opened up the offense, now it’s up to a fully healthy Cam Akers to replenish that balance.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This makes for an easy transition, with the Bucs losing in heart-breaking fashion to the eventual champs in the Divisional Round on a walk-off field goal. That game really wasn’t as close as the final score may indicate, with the Rams allowing their opponents to get back into the game, but this group is so talented that you can’t give them that window. Now with Tom Brady un-retiring after leading the most explosive attack in the league (6.1 yards per play), he has once again attracted veteran free agents who are hungry for a ring, such as Akiem Hicks and recently Julio Jones. As of now, Gronk is still retired, but I wouldn’t totally rule out another return and they did address that position. We’ll see a change at the top, with Todd Bowles taking over head-coaching duties from Bruce Arians, but we won’t see a whole lot of change. The only real concern is the health of Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
Number four seems almost disrespectful to the Chiefs, looking at their dominance in the AFC pretty much ever since Patrick Mahomes took over for them four years ago. Yet, looking at how everybody pumps up the other teams in the West and mentions trading away Tyreek Hill as the biggest loss of the offseason, having them as that final team in the top tier actually seems higher than the consensus. The way we saw them collapse in the second half of the conference title game to the Bengals is unfamiliar, but Pat and his crew may be as hungry as ever. Their receiving corp is actually more complete this year and the O-line could be elite. Defensively, if Frank Clark is in the form he’s been described as in camp, veteran Carlos Dunlap being brought in, along with the influx of young talent, with five picks within the top-135 of the draft to play with for Steve Spagnuolo, they could be scary.
This nine-team cluster consists of squads with one legitimate question mark, which keeps them from receiving the “Super Bowl contender” label. This can either be not having a top-tier quarterback or a specific position group, that gave me reservations from grouping them with the elite, but generally they have all the pieces in place to make a deep run.
5. Los Angeles Chargers
Now that I have given the Chiefs their respects, as the reigning AFC West winners for six straight years, let’s talk about the team I believe has the best chance of unseating them. I put on the Chargers at +400 to win the division early in the offseason and feel very good about that now that the line has moved all the way to about +220. Justin Herbert is one of the elite quarterbacks in the game already, capable of plays only two or three other guys in the league can make, they re-signed Mike Williams after a breakout year and by drafting my top guard prospect Zion Johnson, right tackle is the only questionable spot for the offense. However, it’s the additions they’ve made on defense that really have me excited, adding a multitude of big bodies to complement what they want to do coverage-wise, with Khalil Mack on the opposite edge of Joey Bosa and J.C. Jackson as their boundary corner, who can be in quasi man-coverage on the backside.
6. Green Bay Packers
If you think this is low for the NFC’s number one seed from a year ago, just scroll down to where I have their AFC counterparts. Trading away what I believe has been the best receiver in the game over the last four seasons combined in Davante Adams is obviously a huge factor in why they aren’t in that top tier, because they’ll need multiple young players to step up in order to replace his production and I don’t see anybody creating those instant wins off the line or who Aaron Rodgers can build up that blind understanding with. The uncertainty around All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari also concerns me. Now, this is still a very good team and I believe we have to change the way we look at them. While they do have the back-to-back MVP, they want to be one the premiering rushing teams led by a two-headed backfield and their defense could be special this season, with Jaire Alexander returning and two first-round picks from Georgia added to the front-seven.
7. Cincinnati Bengals
And once again, there may be people saying the Bengals should be among the group labelled as “Super Bowl contenders”, since they literally held a fourth-quarter lead in the big game, but just because you were there doesn’t mean you’ll get back to that point. Let’s not forget that this was a 10-7 team, whose playoff opponents all had a chance to win on their final offensive drives respectively. With that being said, I don’t doubt that they can make another deep run, because they have a special quarterback in Joe Burrow, who refuses to go down, a dynamic group of skill-position players and a defense that adjusted exceptionally well to every team they faced in the postseason. The Jessie Bates holdout situation is nagging, but they did address what kept them from ultimately winning a Lombardi trophy, with at three new starters on the O-line, who should help protect their franchise diamond, after getting sacked a league-high 51 times.
8. Baltimore Ravens
Right on the heels of the AFC’s representatives in the Super Bowl are their biggest challengers for that division. Even though I did put some money on the Ravens to win the North in 2022 and believe with a fourth-place schedule, their road to getting there is less challenging, with those two dominant head-to-head matchups for Cincy (82 vs. 38 points combined), I couldn’t flip them here. However, let’s not forget that this team was 7-4 in the games Lamar Jackson actually played at least one quarter, despite being the most injury-rattled team over the last decade, according to Football Outsiders adjusted games lost metric (191.2). I won’t go into detail about all the pieces they lost, but let’s just say they had players starting multiple games who aren’t even on active rosters currently. With the growth Lamar showed early on as a passer, a backfield that doesn’t consist of washed veterans, improved O-line play, their starting secondary around Chuck Clark being improved in a major way and another tremendous draft class, this will be a group to be reckoned with.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Getting back to another member of the final four from a year ago, the 49ers are one of the toughest teams to place. There are several knowns in my opinion, such as one of the most electric group of yards after catching specialists, with Deebo resigned, Brandon Aiyuk poised for a post-hype breakout season and George Kittle back healthy, to go with Kyle Shanahan expertise as a run-game designer. Defensively, under DeMeco Ryans we’ve seen this team evolve into of the best zone coverage units, squeezing throwing windows and forcing quarterbacks to hold onto the ball, while their group of rushers is closing, where they once again feature great depth and are well-tought at running games. The big question mark is what Trey Lance can be in year two. I believe his vertical passing outside the hashes and dynamics as a part of the run-game could transform the offense, but can he give them enough stability?
10. Philadelphia Eagles
Closing out the top ten, as our final NFC team in this tier, is one of the biggest offseason winners we’ve seen. I understand that a lot of these “superteams” often fail to live up to the billing and Philadelphia sports fans should know best from the Michael Vick years, but I believe the core of this team was already strong and now they just completed the roster. Once they leaned into that aspect, they became the most dominant rushing team in football (led the NFL with 2715 total yards), bring back all 11 starters and now add A.J. Brown as a legit WR1, pushing everybody else down one spot in the pecking order. I didn’t love what their conservative DC Jonathan Gannon did schematically last season, but I believe with more multiplicity up front, with 13th overall pick Jordan Davis and free agent Haason Reddick, Nakobe Dean potentially being the best linebacker they’ve had in a long time, plus James Bradberry at that other corner I spot, they could be more aggressive and see better results.
11. Indianapolis Colts
If there was one team at the end of last season that nobody in the AFC wanted to face come playoff time, it was the Colts. After a 1-4 start, they won eight of their next ten games, but ultimately shrunk against the Raiders and at Jacksonville, when all they needed was to win one of those. The biggest factor in that was the poor play by Carson Wentz, who they moved on from just one year after giving up a first-round pick for him and now have moved on to a different veteran QB in Matt Ryan, who should bring a lot more stability to the offense. With Jonathan Taylor blowing the running back competition out of the water to go with a talented, young group receiving corp, headlined by Michael Pittman Jr., they’ll be challenging to prepare for. Coming up just one short of the lead-league with 33 takeaways defensively will be tough to recreate, but that deep rotation on the D-line combined with the speed on the second level and a re-grouped secondary will make plenty of plays as they play with the lead more regularly.
12. Denver Broncos
Back to the AFC West version of our program, we’ll close out this loaded second tier with the other half of that four-some. While the Broncos did have to give up plenty of resources in that trade, we finally get to answer one of the biggest ‘what if’s’ for people, who actually study rosters and understand what a talented team they’ve had, now with a real quarterback in Russell Wilson thrown into the mix. Top-to-bottom, that offense, despite the unfortunate loss of Tim Patrick to a torn ACL in training camp, has the potential to be as good as any other in the league, considering they rushed for at least 83 yards in all but two games last season, without one of my biggest breakout candidates in Javonte Williams being fully unleashed, along with somebody in house to actually take advantage of the receiving talent. The defense actually third in the NFL in points allowed last season (18.9), before paying Randy Gregory as the second edge rusher and putting together a strong draft class, to improve their depth.
13. Las Vegas Raiders
And finally for this group of very talented teams, the Raiders in reality were the other squad from that division – along with the Chiefs – to make the playoffs last season, and they were a goal-line stop in the Wildcard Round away from going to overtime with the eventual AFC champs (Bengals). That’s despite firing the head coach mid-season, having players arrested and multiple other off-field distractions. Now they’ve overcome those, added one of the premiere offensive play-callers in Josh McDaniels at head coach, somehow snatched up an underrated guy to do so on defense in Patrick Graham. That’s before reuniting Derek Carr with his best buddy and the top receiver in football named Davante Adams and putting Chandler Jones across from Maxx Crosby, to go after opposing quarterbacks. The two question marks why I don’t have them even higher are what this offensive line may look like in pass-pro and if that group of corners can hold up against the explosive weapons in that division.
Fringe playoff teams:
In this third group we have three teams that actually just missed out on the playoffs last season, but also two 12-5 squads, who I anticipate regression from due to the offseason they’ve had. All six teams present more than one concern, which I believe limit how far they can go once the playoffs arrive, but should be in the running for one of those seven spots for either conference, with three from either side.
14. Minnesota Vikings
How does a team that finished top-ten in offensive yards per play (5.7), second in sacks on defense (51) and fifth in turnover differential (+11) not make the playoffs? Answer – it’s the Minnesota Vikings. This has been one of the biggest underperformers in the NFL, looking at the talent they’ve had on the roster for an extended stretch. While a lot of the key pieces are still in play, we’ve seen them part ways with a few long-term stalwarts on defense and make a regime shift from Mike Zimmer to Kevin O’Connell. I expect Justin Jefferson to have a monster season, as he’ll be put on the move more regularly, and the run game to have more space, working out of more 11 personnel. Defensively, Ed Donatell should implement more odd fronts and split-safety looks built for the modern game, along with having added Za’Darius Smith as a chess piece on longer downs and an influx of young draftees in the secondary, with their top two picks Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth likely starting eventually.
15. New Orleans Saints
Mid-way through the NFL’s 32 teams, we’ve reached a group here that I don’t believe many people foresaw having the offseason they did. After Mickey Loomis rolled back money for so many years to keep the crew together for the Drew Brees-Sean Payton run, now with both of them retired, at least a slight rebuild should have been put in order. Instead, they did move on from a couple of big names, but brought in at least as many from outside the building and traded major draft capital to acquire two instant difference-makers in the first round at positions of need. While we can debate if that was the smart way to approach things, in terms of the team they’ll be rolling out there in 2022, we can’t overlook them. Other than swapping their safety tandem with an arguably better one, they basically bring back the same defense that finished around the top-five in basically all meaningful statistical categories, and now with Michael Thomas back in the fold and Alvin Kamara’s suspension pushed back, Jameis Winston is set to build on his 5-2 record as a starter from ‘21.
16. Miami Dolphins
Another team likely in the hunt for a chance to make it into the tournament is Miami. Looking at how they switched the flip last season from a 1-7 start to finishing the year on an 8-2 run, during which their defense nearly cut their points surrendered by half, is highly encouraging. Combining that with bringing in Mike McDaniel, who has been a mainstay on Kyle Shanahan’s staff, to diversify a run-scheme that finished bottom-three in total rushing yards and yards per attempt, and making a splash trade for one of the league’s most dangerous weapons in Tyreek Hill looks great on the surface. However, McDaniel is still a rookie head coach, Tua Tagovailoa has yet to prove he can threaten NFL defenses beyond the sticks, outside of left tacke Terron Armstead, the O-line is still a major question mark, and some regression might in store defensively, with teams having another year of finding solutions for their pressure looks.
17. Dallas Cowboys
I know this seems really low for a 12-win team from a year ago and the way I know overly optimistic Cowboys fans, they won’t like this at all. It’s not that I don’t believe that they have the individual stars to beat just about anybody, with Dak Prescott another year away from the foot injury, Ceedee Lamb poised to challenge for the receiver crown, Micah Parsons coming off a stupidly good rookie campaign and a duo of excellent play-callers on either side of the ball. However, tell me – where is this team from a year ago? They traded away Amari Cooper, couldn’t retain either La’el Collins and Randy Gregory at key positions and saw some underrated role players walk out the door. That’s on top of some of the head-scratching game management we saw from them last season and being the most penalized team in the league (66.2 yards per game), which both were on full display in their home Wildcard Round loss to the 49ers. Now you add in Tyron Smith potentially being lost for the entire season, that’s really rough.
18. Tennessee Titans
This obviously seems a bit extreme for last year’s number one seed in the AFC, especially considering the Titans beat all three of the four teams in my “Super Bowl contenders” tier. They will have a healthy Derrick Henry back to fear into opposing defenses, whilst bringing back all but one of the defensive starters themselves. With that being said, trading away one of your young stars in A.J. Brown and drafting my QB1 in the draft – even if a third-round investment in Malik Willis doesn’t really change who will be under center for them this year – does somewhat signal a shift, in terms of believing this iteration of the team can’t go all the way. To me not having Brown, who consistently bailed out the offense on third downs, combined with a paper-thin roster, where I basically trust no one beyond first string, has me thinking they’ll be fighting for one of the final Wildcard berths.
Challenging for .500 teams:
Looking at the range of teams from 2021 that landed in this tier, we have a couple of ten-win teams, but also one that finished the year with a 3-13-1 record, which I have a lot more faith in. Ultimately, they will all the fairly average or slightly below that in their 2022 results slightly below that, considering all circumstances, the coaching staffs and rosters.
19. New England Patriots
This almost seems like blasphemy, to have a Bill Belichick-coached team below a tier named “Playoff contenders”, but this has been one of the most head-scratching offseasons we’ve seen from the Patriots over the last two (plus) decades. After strangely spending a shocking amount of money on mostly mid-level free agents a year ago, they’ve parted ways with several long-time stalwarts on defense and without mentioning any specific names, put together one of least inspiring draft classes, based on consensus boards (which I mostly agreed with). For a team that scored on the second-highest percentages of drives (48%) under Josh McDaniels, they’re now relying on the offensive “wizardry” of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge to transition this to a wide-zone based rushing attack – which has been a disaster, according to all training camp reports – while rolling out three new starting corners on defense.
20. Arizona Cardinals
Looking back at this team winning their first seven games of 2021, this seems pretty crazy, considering that alone would put them nearly at that .500 mark already. But they’re not going to start off that hot again due to multiple factors. Arizona’s offense has not nearly been the same without DeAndre Hopkins in the lineup, as Kyler Murray’s go-to guy on the backside of the formation – he’s be suspended for the first six games. Defensively, without Chandler Jones they lack any legitimate threat rushing off the edge, are counting on last year’s first-rounder Zaven Collins to take a monster step after barely seeing the field over Jordan Hicks as a rookie, and outside of Byron Murphy, they’re corner room is the worst in the entire league to me. That along with notoriously having finished with 2-7, 3-6 and 3-6 in three years under Kliff Kingsbury is why I expect major regression.
21. Cleveland Browns
Before the news about Deshaun Watson’s suspension being increased from six to eleven games, I had the Browns a couple of spots higher and a tier higher, but really this appears to become somewhat of a lost season, with all the distraction off the field for Cleveland. Having the cap space to trade fifth-round pick for Amari Cooper should be a great move and I think their defense has a chance to be really good, with the investments they’ve made into the back-seven in recent years. However, with second-year center Nick Harris recently put on IR as the designated J.C. Tretter replacement, that position becomes a major question mark, and I still don’t see a true nose-tackle in the middle of the other side of the ball, to win those early downs. Now Jacoby Brissett is playing quarterback until week 13, who at best should be a wash with an injured Baker Mayfield, I just can’t put them any higher.
22. Detroit Lions
At the point this ranking is coming out, I’m guessing a lot of people have somewhat jumped on the Lions bandwagon or just become fans of how they run things there, having watched them on Hard Knocks. I actually have been a fan of the way they’ve put together the power structure and approached this rebuild for a while now and put some money on them winning 7+ games back in May already. Having Frank Ragnow back, I really believe they could be a top-five offensive line in the NFL, and they added the speed on the perimeter to keep defenses from deploying extra resources against the run. Defensively, they now have one of the deeper units up front as well and 2020 third overall pick Jeff Okudah has looked like a true shutdown corner, by all reports. Considering the upgrades they’ve made, that 1-6-1 record in one-score games should at least regress to the mean.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers
This was a tough team for me to slot, because on one hand, their quarterback play is a major unknown and I feel pretty secure about saying they’ll once again have one of the worst O-lines in football. However, it’s tough to imagine the passing attack being as limited as it was over the last couple of years, looking at the intended air yards per attempt with Big Ben under center (28th and 31st respectively). Yet, as long as that protection can’t hold up, we don’t know how much deeper they can design their dropback pass game. I really like their young group of skill-position players and now with Myles Jack looking like a significant upgrade at MIKE linebacker, they have individual star plays on defense. But once again, the depth at corner is non-existent and they were shockingly bad at stopping the run, finishing dead-last in yards per attempt (5.0) and explosive runs (24).
24. Washington Commanders
Another squad that should see an upgrade at the quarterback spot, but still isn’t inspiring a whole lot of confidence with their new solution, is the one that also has a new name as a franchise. The Commanders are another group I struggled with trying to find the right place for, because what they said this offseason was “we have much pretty everything in place and now we add in Carson Wentz”. They’re largely the same team, finding very similar players to what they already had on the roster, with first-rounder Jahan Dotson as the only different element they’ve really brought in. Considering they never made it above the .500 mark, finishing 23rd in points scored and 25th in points allowed, that may not be a recipe for success. I do like the fit of Wentz at least giving them average QB play in Scott Turner’s offense and with the talent coming back on the defensive front, regression is in store, but it’s tough for me to get overly excited.
Not proven yet:
Here we have four teams, who I believe have legitimate reasons for optimism, but simply haven’t show it on the field yet. There are just multiple areas and components, who have a chance to go either way. If everything goes right, they could potentially make a run at a Wildcard spot, but they could also end up picking in the top-five of next year’s draft (again).
25. New York Jets
It’s tough to make a case for a team that finished second-to-last in point and turnover differential last year now all of a sudden making a run at a playoff spot, but I truly believe this group at least has the ceiling to push for it. In no way does that mean I predict them to actually get there, because Zach Wilson could miss the first couple of weeks, they’ve got other guys coming back from more serious injuries and half the defense looks completely different. However, I’m a big fan of all the talent they’ve put together. After Wilson was under constant heat as a rookie, that O-line could be tremendously improved, with my top-ranked RB from the draft running behind it, and the weaponry at receiver to defeat man-coverage. Flipping things around, they not have the guys rushing off the edges and challenging receivers on the outside to make opposing passers uncomfortable, with two of my top-ten draft prospects.
26. New York Giants
Switching over to the other New York squad, I feel apprehensive about Big Blue once again, after they were so disappointing last season, but I do believe they have the pieces in place for their best season since drafting Daniel Jones, if everything goes right. Not having picked up the quarterback’s fifth-year option signals a make-or-break for his Giants tenure, but working under easily the most creative and competent offensive coaching staff with Brian Daboll, Mike Kafka, etc. and having a healthy group of skill-position players – most importantly a special talent in Saquon – along with a much-improved O-line should set him up for leading the offense out of the bottom-two in yards, points and turnovers. Defensively, they’re making a substantial transition from flooding zones under Patrick Graham to bringing extra rushers for Wink Martindale, where I still have to see those young DBs hold up in coverage, although they did draft my top-ranked prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux to play on the edge.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars
Remember me saying making a case for the Jets to be in the playoff hunt is tough, since only one team was below them in scoring and turnover margin? Well, I present to you the Jacksonville Jaguars. Considering they have another first-year coaching staff in the building and more turnaround on the roster, I have more faith in the Jets taking that step forward, but there’s no denying they have a lot of talent on the roster in Jacksonville. We saw signs from Trevor Lawrence being able to play the game like you want to see from an NFL quarterback and although he was tied for the lead-league in interceptions (17), all but one of those were when trailing – which they did a lot. We may disagree with the capital invested, but there’s no doubt that this group of skill-position players is much more dynamic. And I certainly like the versatile pieces they’ve accumulated on defense. The biggest change compared to 2021 however is a coaching staff with a track record of putting their players in position to succeed.
28. Carolina Panthers
This may feel like a different category of team, because the Panthers will now have their third different starting quarterback week one in as many years of the Matt Rhule regime, but if you look through the rest of the roster, there’s still plenty of home-grown talent that they’ve drafted recently. The big question is how much of Christian McCaffrey they’ll get back this season, after basically two lost season – he can still be one of the premiere offensive weapons in the game. They do have some good, young receivers around him and with sixth overall pick Ikem Ekwonu and some under-the-radar free agents, this could be the best O-lines we’ve seen for them in years. What really has me excited in terms of potential however is their defense, which started 2021 blazing hot and still finished inside the top-ten in yards per play (5.1), pressure rate (26.1%) and third-down percentage (37.1%).
And finally, I thought after that previous tier, there was a cut-off, because these final four teams may have individual players or position groups of note, but simply don’t have the comprehensive ingredients to be competitive teams in the win-loss column. I don’t see any of them getting to eight wins, due to a combination of underwhelming roster build-up, coaching staff, quarterback play, etc. With the offseason moves (or lack thereof) they’ve made, they acknowledge which phase of their life cycle they’re currently in.
29. Atlanta Falcons
I still don’t quite understand how the Falcons won seven games last season. They finished 26th in offensive points and 29th in yards, with those rankings flipped for their defense. They could not run the ball effectively, outside of a couple of explosives delivered by Cordarelle Patterson per week, had maybe two legitimate targets in the pass game and defensively they were tough to watch, unless you zeroed in on A.J. Terrell shutting down his receiver at an All-Pro level. Now, they go from Matt Ryan to Marcus Mariota/rookie Desmond Ridder at quarterback, lose arguably their top play-maker on defense in Foyesade Oluokun and should expect regression from their 7-2 record in one-score games last season. I do like their ’22 draft class a lot and think they’re starting to put some pieces together for a new iteration of the team, but realistic expectations this year would be challenging for a top-five pick.
30. Houston Texans
I’m actually on board with what the Texans have done this offseason, especially putting together one of the best all-around classes of the entire league, I thought. I’d say they retained some key pieces and trimmed a lot of fat, in terms of clearing their books from replaceable veterans, and added some needed pieces on defense particularly, before really attacking their weaknesses through the draft. After finishing dead-last in rushing yards (1422) and yards per attempt (3.4), they selected the biggest road-grader at guard in Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green and most violent running back in Florida’s Dameon Pierce. The motto on defense is versatility, as they targeted LSU’s uber-talented corner Derek Stingley Jr. to orchestrate their coverages around and other names from big programs. I like the idea of Davis Mills coming into the offseason knowing he’s playing for a long-term job rather than being a backup third-rounder, I’m just still not quite sure if they have the firepower or will gel quickly enough to put together extended winning stretches.
31. Seattle Seahawks
Talking about teams letting their long-term quarterback walk out of the building this offseason, this definitely hurts more for Seattle, because Russell Wilson is still a top-ten guy at his position with potentially another decade in him. That wasn’t the only major loss by any means, with the forced retirement of Chris Carson, just straight-up cutting Bobby Wagner and watching another seven starters go. Now, was this roster build somewhat flawed and they needed to regroup somehow? – Yes, and I don’t blame Russ for not wanting to waste some of his best years in that situation, but man, the drop-off to Geno Smith or Drew Lock is massive. I actually loved their draft, potentially getting up to five quality starters out of it by this year, but those aren’t the only young guys they’d need to really step up to make much noise in 2022. I just believe they’ll be in contention for drafting number one overall next year and finding the new kid under center there.
32. Chicago Bears
While the reconstruction of the team may not appear as massive to casual NFL fans, because they can identify with a star QB like Russell Wilson more easily, new Bears general manager Ryan Poles completely tore this thing down to the ground. Just looking at their projected salary cap for 2023 at just over 100 million dollars – which is nearly double of the next-closest team – the organization rid themselves of nearly all future financial obligations. They even went out of their way to pay out players the rest of their contracts to not be in the building anymore, leading to a whopping 60 million in dead money this year. Those things reflect in their lineup, where outside of two guys I’ve hyped up these last two years – Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet – they basically have no reliable pass targets, their O-line is thrown together with veteran fill-ins, their interior D-line has seen basically the same changes and now Roquan Smith wants to re-set the linebacker market. The two things they can really hang their hats on are a secondary with several promising youngsters and whatever Justin Fields can show in year two – if he doesn’t get killed because of the protection.