The 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, so most teams will look about the same as they do now when the regular season starts. However, these teams are nowhere close to hitting the field for real games in September, and no one really knows how good a team will be until they play the games. As of now, I can’t remember the league being as deep as it seems, so these power rankings could vary a lot. A team being really low, or even at the bottom, doesn’t mean I don’t think they can make the postseason.
1. New England Patriots | Previous: 1
Bill Belichick and the Patriots continue to make great moves to help keep the franchise at the top of the NFL. New England added three potential plug-in starters (offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn, running back Sony Michel, and cornerback/nickel Duke Dawson) with their first three picks, and they navigated the draft to now have two firsts, two seconds, and two thirds in the 2019 draft. The Patriots didn’t draft a quarterback like many expected, but Tom Brady still seems likely to play a few more years. They’ll be competing for another championship this season.
2. Philadelphia Eagles | Previous: 2
After winning their first Super Bowl in franchise history, the Eagles will also be looking for another title in 2018. The big storyline throughout the spring and summer will be the recovery of Carson Wentz, and I believe it is clearly the right decision to keep Nick Foles on the roster instead of trading him for a non-premium draft pick. Tight end was a strength of the team last season, and the Eagles picked up South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert with their first pick (second round) to help fill the void left by Trey Burton and Brent Celek, who the team released.
3. Atlanta Falcons | Previous: 5 (+2)
Most people don’t consider the Falcons up there with the elite teams in the NFL for some reason, but I like the defending NFC champions from a couple seasons ago. The draft haul for Atlanta really looks outstanding, as they first got Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley to slide right in as a starter with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu; and then they got Colorado cornerback Isaiah Oliver, who easily could have been a first-round selection, in the second round. There might not be a better first- and second-round combo than those two. Offensively, the thought of the pro-ready Ridley as yet another weapon for Matty Ice is scary.
4. Los Angeles Rams | Previous: 4
The Rams used their premium draft capital to improve the team with established players like Brandin Cooks and Marcus Peters, but they still had 11 picks in this draft from Rounds 3-7. They mostly added depth to an already-talented team, but I really like the selection of Oklahoma edge Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, who was probably a steal in the fifth round and might wreak havoc as an outside linebacker for LA. Now head coach Sean McVay, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, and the staff will need to get all these personalities and egos to come together.
5. Minnesota Vikings | Previous: 3 (-2)
The Vikings also did a lot of their team improvement earlier in the offseason, adding Kirk Cousins at quarterback and Sheldon Richardson on defense; but they still had their early-round picks to play with. UCF cornerback Mike Hughes in the first round is the guy that might most be able to help immediately, as he’ll at least add competition to an excellent cornerback group that already has Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander behind All-Pro Xavier Rhodes. It’ll be interesting to see how the Vikings look with a new quarterback and more talent on what already was the best defense in the NFC.
6. New Orleans Saints | Previous: 6
Almost everyone got on the Saints for their trade-up and selection of raw defensive end Marcus Davenport with the 14th pick in the draft. Most expected the Saints to draft former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson after trading up, but head coach Sean Payton indicated he wasn’t a big fan of this year’s quarterback class. New Orleans is looking for Davenport to start unlocking his potential early in his career, as they are competing for a championship this season.
7. Carolina Panthers | Previous: 12 (+5)
They could always sign a veteran like DeMarco Murray, but right now it looks like Christian McCaffrey will be the clear lead ball-carrier for the Panthers this season—and I like it. McCaffrey has the ability to carry the load in addition to being a huge weapon as a nearly uncoverable receiver out of the backfield. The Panthers also added Maryland receiver D.J. Moore in the first round as another guy that can do damage with the ball in his hands, which Cam Newton is very happy about. If Newton is on his game and the defense plays the way they are capable, Carolina might be really tough to beat in 2018.
8. Green Bay Packers | Previous: 13 (+5)
As you may have noticed, there are a lot of NFC teams high in the rankings, and the Packers might end up being the best of them all. Aaron Rodgers is healthy, and no-doubt motivated, after what was basically a lost season in 2017, and the offense might be clicking with Joe Philbin back as the offensive coordinator, which no one is talking about. I love the selections of cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson in the first and second rounds, as they were both arguably top-20 players. Those two could instantly make it difficult for opposing offenses to throw on Green Bay.
9. Tennessee Titans | Previous: 7 (-2)
The Titans were aggressive in the draft, moving up for two guys they really wanted in the first and second rounds—both on defense. Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans might have been the top player on the board when the Titans moved up to No. 22 to select him, and he happens to fill perhaps their biggest need at inside linebacker. Then, they added more depth in the second round when they traded up for pass rusher Harold Landry. If you look at Tennessee’s roster, there are not really any holes there.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers | Previous: 8 (-2)
The Steelers have obvious star power in Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, among others, and a strong roster in general, but there are some positions with questions. It might have been just one bad afternoon, but the Steelers gave up 45 points in their playoff loss to Jacksonville. Rookie safeties Terrell Edmunds (the team’s first-round pick) and Marcus Allen could become big-time contributors soon, but the team needs their linebackers and cornerbacks to step up. And they had already signed former Packers safety Morgan Burnett, which I think was an undervalued move, so safety should be a strong spot this year.
11. Kansas City Chiefs | Previous: 9 (-2)
The Chiefs were quiet throughout the draft, as they used capital from this year to move up for franchise quarterback Patrick Mahomes II in last year’s draft. Still, it’s hard not to like where they are heading into 2018. Mahomes has plenty of weapons around him on offense, including free-agent acquisition Sammy Watkins. With All-Pro safety Eric Berry returning from his Achilles injury, Kansas City has a lot of upside. The Chiefs will be one of the more intriguing teams to watch throughout the preseason, especially as Mahomes gets ready to start Week 1.
12. Oakland Raiders | Previous: 10 (-2)
After Derek Carr was injured the last two seasons, the Raiders are clearly putting a priority on keeping him upright—particularly with the selection of UCLA offensive tackle Kolton Miler in the first round. But Oakland has also given their franchise quarterback all the weapons he needs on the outside, adding Martavis Bryant (in a trade with Pittsburgh) to a receiving corps that already added Jordy Nelson in free agency. The Raiders appear to be looking to find value however they can, which includes high-upside picks Arden Key and Maurice Hurst in the third and fifth rounds.
13. Los Angeles Chargers | Previous: 14 (+1)
Derwin James was considered a top-five player by many people heading into the season, but he dropped in the draft and could end up being a steal for the Chargers at No. 17 overall. Add him and cornerback Jason Verrett, who is returning from injury, to an already-good secondary and it’s going to be difficult for teams to throw on the Chargers. NC State defensive tackle Justin Jones, who was selected in the third round, adds depth to a defensive line that includes Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram as bookends.
14. San Francisco 49ers | Previous: 11 (-3)
Clearly, the 49ers have placed an emphasis on protecting Jimmy Garoppolo, as GM John Lynch said they pretty much knew they were going to draft Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey if he was available at No. 9 overall. McGlinchey is likely to be an immediate starter at right tackle, and he’ll eventually take over for Joe Staley on the left side. Now, the Niners need to wait and see what happens with second-year linebacker Reuben Foster and his off-field legal issue.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars | Previous: 15
The defensive line of the Jaguars has an embarrassment of riches, and they added to that with Florida defensive lineman Taven Bryan in the first round on Thursday night. Then, they added another receiver, LSU’s D.J. Chark, to a receiving corps that has a ton of players—Jacksonville probably hopes three or four guys emerge as big-time contributors. And Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison, who was arguably worth an early second-round pick, late in the third round is huge.
16. Houston Texans | Previous: 16
Like the Chiefs, the Texans moved up in last year’s draft to select their franchise quarterback, so they didn’t have a first- or second-round selection this year. It’s safe to say the move for Deshaun Watson was worth it, though, and the Texans have him, J.J. Watt, and Whitney Mercilus all coming back. Houston being at the mid-point in the power rankings indicates how deep the NFL is right now.
17. New York Giants | Previous: 24 (+7)
Of all the teams in the NFL, I believe the Giants improved the most during the draft. Not only did they select the best player in the draft in Saquon Barkley at No. 2 overall, but they added guard Will Hernandez to beef up the offensive line; Lorenzo Carter, who is basically a freak athlete that also produced in college, was selected in the third round as a potential steal; defensive tackles B.J. Hill (third round) and R.J. McIntosh (fifth round) could both have an immediate impact; and they liked Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta enough to throw him into the quarterback room.
18. Washington Redskins | Previous: 19 (+1)
The Redskins said they wanted to improve in run defense, and Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne should be a big help in that department. Then Washington went with LSU running back Derrius Guice, who some thought was a potential selection in the first-round where Payne was drafted, in the second round to end his draft slide. I like the selection of Penn State safety Troy Apke in the fourth round, as he’s an athletic freak with a lot of potential on the back end of the defense.
19. Seattle Seahawks | Previous: 17 (-2)
As always, there were some great stories from the draft this year, but it’s hard to top UCF’s Shaquem Griffin getting drafted by the Seahawks. Griffin will now join his twin brother Shaquill, who was picked in the third round by Seattle last year. After the draft, All-Pro safety Earl Thomas remains on the team, but we’ll see if he’s dealt before the season during what is an obvious culture shift for the Seahawks.
20. Arizona Cardinals | Previous: 18 (-2)
The selection of UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen was a bit of a surprise to me, as perhaps they could have gotten players that would help them win this season in what could be Larry Fitzgerald’s last year. Arizona must have identified Rosen as a franchise quarterback, though, so you can’t blame them for making the move if they feel that way. But it does help that they were able to get Texas A&M receiver Christian Kirk in the second round, as he was a potential first-rounder that could help the team immediately.
21. Detroit Lions | Previous: 21
The first draft with new head coach Matt Patricia looks to have went very well for the Lions, as the operation with GM Bob Quinn and company seems to be a great operation where the entire organization knows what they are looking for to improve the football team. Second-round pick Kerryon Johnson has a ton of potential at running back, and first-round pick Frank Ragnow could be an anchor on the offensive line for a team that’s probably going to run the ball more moving forward. Also, Alabama defensive end Da’Shawn Hand, who was a top recruit coming out of high school, was taken in the fourth round.
22. Dallas Cowboys | Previous: 20 (-2)
Boise State linebacker Vander Esch Leighton going to Dallas just felt like a lock if he was there at pick 19, which he was. The linebacking trio of Vander Esch, Sean Lee, and Jaylon Smith is among the best in the NFL, and they’ll make it tough for offenses to make plays in the middle of the field. The Cowboys selected Colorado State wide receiver Michael Gallup in the third round, but receiver is still a bit of a question mark for the team. However, Dallas just might not be putting an emphasis on receiver, as they could be ready to run the ball as much as possible with Ezekiel Elliott.
23. Chicago Bears | Previous: 22 (-1)
I believe the Bears are right up there with the Giants and a couple other teams for the best draft, as they appeared to go best player available and happened to fill needs with the selections. 8thoverall pick, Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, is simply a beast of a player and was probably an easy top-five player in the entire draft. Then Iowa center James Daniels strengthens the offensive line for new head coach Matt Nagy; and Memphis receiver Anthony Miller was one of my favorite players in the draft and could make an immediate impact as a rookie. The Bears are on the rise.
24. Buffalo Bills | Previous: 25 (+1)
GM Brandon Beane and the Bills deserve a lot of credit for remaining patient yet aggressive in their two trade-ups in the first round. They got their guy in Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, who seems like the perfect fit in Buffalo. Then they got high-upside, high-character Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who is only 19 years old. Buffalo might have overperformed last season to make the playoffs, but they could quickly become an elite AFC team if they hit on Allen, which I think they did. I would explore adding a veteran receiver like Jeremy Maclin if I was the Bills.
25. Denver Broncos | Previous: 29 (+4)
Again, a lot of these teams could be much higher than they are ranked, and Denver is certainly one of them. The thought of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb coming off the edge probably isn’t fun for quarterbacks and offensive coordinators, and it’s a bit shocking the NC State star dropped to the fifth pick in the draft. The Broncos added other highly-productive players in the draft, including running back Royce Freeman, wide receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, and linebacker Josey Jewell.
26. Indianapolis Colts | Previous: 23 (-3)
The restoration of the Colts roster began over the weekend, starting with one of the safest picks in the draft in Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson. Then the Colts had a whopping four second-round picks: linebacker Darius Leonard, guard Braden Smith, edge Kemoko Turray, and defensive end Tyquan Lewis. They also added NC State running back Nyheim Hines and receivers Daurice Fountain and Deon Cain later in the draft. The success of Indianapolis this season will come down to Andrew Luck, though, so hopefully he’s healthy and ready to go.
27. Baltimore Ravens | Previous: 27
I like Lamar Jackson a lot, so I believe he can be their quarterback of the future, but his selection doesn’t help them a ton this season. And it’s a bit concerning Jackson doesn’t want to play any position except quarterback—ideally, he would be used to get the ball in his hands a few times per game given his electric ability as a runner. Maybe the selection will light a fire under Joe Flacco, who has a revamped receiving corps on offense.
28. Miami Dolphins | Previous: 28
The Dolphins are clearly trying to get a better culture than they’ve had in the past, and adding Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick—commonly referred to as “Coach Saban’s son”—is a great player to help make that happen. I also like second-round pick Mike Gesicki, who is a potential matchup nightmare as a tight end in Adam Gase’s offense. Now the team just needs to hope quarterback Ryan Tannehill can stay healthy.
29. New York Jets | Previous: 26 (-3)
The Jets seem genuinely ecstatic that they were able to get USC quarterback Sam Darnold, who was considered by most people as the top quarterback in this year’s draft. If Darnold is a hit, the Jets should become consistent playoff contenders in no time; and the 20-year-old is in an ideal situation to succeed with veterans Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater guiding him. If Darnold doesn’t turn into the franchise player many expect, then the Jets will be in a major hole.
30. Cincinnati Bengals | Previous: 30
Offensive line has been a priority this offseason, as the Bengals added tackle Cordy Glenn from the Bills in their trade to move back in the first round, and then they added Ohio State center Billy Price with that selection. As offensive coordinator Bill Lazor gets a full offseason implementing his attack, execution up front will be key. Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson in the third round might be a major steal, and he’ll help fill the void left by Vontze Burfict during the veteran linebacker’s four-game suspension.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Previous: 32 (+1)
Clearly, the Buccaneers wanted to improve up front on defense after that side of the ball did not play well last season. They continued that with the selection of defensive tackle Vita Vea in the first round on Thursday night. Vea and Gerald McCoy leading a rotation in the middle that also includes Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein, paired with Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Vernon Gholston, and Noah Spence on the outside could be a group that remains fresh throughout games this season.
32. Cleveland Browns | Previous: 31 (-1)
A lot of people would have went in a totally different direction with their draft, but the Browns deserve credit for having conviction and going with Baker Mayfield first overall before selecting Denzel Ward over Bradley Chubb with the fourth pick. Obviously, they love Mayfield and wanted to pick him, but I wonder if they could have gotten him at No. 4 if they selected Saquon Barkley first. Regardless, the Browns were in a position to turn around what is already a talented team, and now we’ll have to wait and see if these moves work out.