The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books, and while I won’t give pointless draft grades, the drafts did shift the power a bit throughout a crowded league. Let’s get right to the latest 2021 NFL power rankigns.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Previous: 1
The Buccaneers finalized bringing back almost the entirety of the band back together when re-signing Antonio Brown, and they’ll be the clear Super Bowl favorites for this season. Washington’s Joe Tryon brings even more depth to the edge/defensive line, and the selection of quarterback Kyle Trask in the second round gives Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich an accurate distributor to groom. Oh, and I completely agree with Tom Brady that the NFL’s jersey number expansion was a dumb idea.
2. Kansas City Chiefs | Previous: 3 (+1)
It’s very close between No. 2 and No. 3, but I’ll give the two-time defending AFC champions the nod after they beefed up the offensive line—headlined by monstrous new left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. In the draft, Day 3 pick Cornell Powell was one of the steals of the weekend, and he’s a pro-ready receiver that can immediately step into a sizable role as a very good route runner that’ll get open for Patrick Mahomes.
3. Buffalo Bills | Previous: 2 (-1)
The Bills were probably hoping to come away with running back Travis Etienne or Najee Harris in the first round, but they were able to instead give a boost to the edge with Gregory Rousseau and Boogie Basham with their first two selections before adding titanic offensive tackle Spencer Brown, who wasted no time getting acclimated to Buffalo and winning quick favor with Bills Mafia:
— Colton Hogan (@CHogansTheName) May 1, 2021
4. New England Patriots | Previous: 5 (+1)
The top three of the power rankings are clear in my opinion, but the order after them can certainly vary a great deal. I am a huge fan of what the Patriots did this offseason. I’ve discussed the free-agent acquisitions (as well as bringing back Trent Brown via trade) previously, and they then had Mac Jones (who I believed was worthy of a high pick) fall into their laps at No. 15. And Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore was a steal in the second round, as he easily could have been taken with that first-round selection. Both Jones and Barmore undoubtedly received strong recommendations from Nick Saban, otherwise Bill Belichick would not have drafted them.
5. Cleveland Browns | Previous: 14 (+9)
It’s been an eventful stretch for Cleveland, the hosts of a successful in-person draft event as this pandemic winds down. The Browns signed Jadeveon Clowney after targeting him for a couple of years now, and then added more to the defense by drafting cornerback Greg Newsome II and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the first two rounds. Owusu-Koramoah reportedly dropped because of health concerns, but that might have made him an absolute steal—talent wise, he could have gone in the top 15. This might be too high of a ranking (and I’m typically not high on this team), but the Browns should have a great running game and defense, which should make them contenders.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers | Previous: 6
I haven’t looked too much into it, but the Steelers are getting widely criticized for their draft from what I’ve seen. Najee Harris was one of the most obvious picks in the back part of a first round in history, and sure enough Pittsburgh took him when he was there. The concern is that the offensive line might be a bit area of weakness, potentially not leaving much room for Harris to navigate; but look for the Steelers to revamp their scheme under new offensive coordinator Matt Canada to get more production from the rushing attack—which is priority No. 1 this offseason. In a league of parity, the Steelers are always competitive under Mike Tomlin, so a No. 6 ranking makes sense.
7. Los Angeles Rams | Previous: 7
Wide receiver Tutu Atwell in the second round was one of the most surprising picks of the draft, but Sean McVay clearly must have a plan for the undersized but explosive Louisville product. Overall, Los Angeles’ current philosophy seems to be that they want to use the draft to simply complement the star players on their roster, so they’ll do well to get solid production from the bunch. The Rams are one of the toughest teams to gauge, but McVay is another guy to bet on when in doubt.
8. Miami Dolphins | Previous: 9 (+1)
Miami’s draft consisted of players I would think they expect to be big contributors and starters—headlined by lightning-fast receiver Jaylen Waddle and defensive end Jaelan Phillips as their first two picks. A step forward from last year’s class, paired with instant contributions by Waddle and Phillips, should help the Dolphins make another leap forward in the third year of Brian Flores’ promising program.
9. Baltimore Ravens | Previous: 8 (-1)
While I’m now concerned about his potential statistical output in a run-heavy offense, Ravens first-round receiver Rashad Bateman was one of my favorite players in this year’s draft; he and Sammy Watkins give Lamar Jackson the keys to open up the passing attack. And third-round guard Ben Cleveland brings more force to an offense that’s going to want to run the ball no matter how effective their passing attack becomes.
10. San Francisco 49ers | Previous: 11 (-1)
I thought it would be Mac Jones, but Trey Lance obviously makes complete sense for the Niners given the situation they are in. If Lance is too good to leave off the field as a rookie, he’ll play. If not, Jimmy Garoppolo is 22-8 as a starter and just went to the Super Bowl a couple of seasons ago. Kyle Shanahan is in an excellent spot at quarterback, and the Niners will look to stay healthier in 2021.
11. Seattle Seahawks | Previous: 10 (-1)
It sounds like the relationship is now OK between Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, and it’s going to have to be with five more teams drafting first-round quarterbacks this year, meaning trade destinations are tougher to come by. Grabbing receiver D’Wayne Eskridge in the second round gives Wilson and company even more speed to work with in an offense that already includes D.K. Metcalf (trying out for a spot in the Olympic Trials for the 100 meters this weekend) and Tyler Lockett.
12. Green Bay Packers 4 (-8)
I stated in the previous power rankings that I wouldn’t be completely shocked if Aaron Rodgers retired this offseason because of the potential of hosting Jeopardy! and some of the recent comments about his future. But I did not expect it to escalate like this to the point where it suddenly looks like he won’t play for the Packers again. So, Green Bay settles in at No. 12 for now—and they’ll rise or drop depending on Rodgers’ status. It was crazy to hear that the Packers have drafted just one offensive player in the first round since 2012… quarterback Jordan Love.
13. Tennessee Titans | Previous: 13
Fourth-round pick Rashad Weaver has been charged with assaulting a woman, and if the allegations are true, he might join 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Wilson as another wasted draft pick for Tennessee. The Titans opted against picking a receiver early, but they grabbed Louisville’s Dez Fitzpatrick in the fourth round—he’s set to compete with the underrated Josh Reynolds for No. 2 receiver duties opposite stud No. 1 A.J. Brown. In the first round, the Titans might have gotten a steal in Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley, who is very talented but dropped due to recent back issues.
14. Los Angeles Chargers | Previous: 18 (+4)
At the beginning of the offseason, I was concerned about the state of the offensive line in front of Justin Herbert. But the Chargers signed All-Pro center Corey Linsley, guard Matt Feiler, and then drafted left tackle Rashawn Slater in the first round, so they are a much-improved unit from a few months ago. Second-rounder Asante Samuel Jr. is an intriguing cornerback option in Brandon Staley’s defense, which will get a healthy Derwin James in the mix this fall.
15. New Orleans Saints | Previous: 12 (-3)
An easy case can be made for the Saints to be squarely in the top ten, and I liked their draft (particularly Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo in the third round). However, they drop slightly in the power rankings thanks in part to the increase in strength throughout the NFC South. The Bucs are clearly the top dogs right now, and the gap between New Orleans and Carolina/Atlanta might be small.
16. Dallas Cowboys | Previous: 19 (+3)
The Dallas offense should be in awesome shape with a healthy Dak Prescott returning this season, so Jerry Jones and company made a clear effort to boost the other side of the ball with a heavy defense draft. While longtime linebacker Sean Lee retired, the Cowboys will not be short on the position this season, and expect the players that are on the field—including first-rounder Micah Parsons—to be flying around.
17. New York Giants | Previous: 16 (-1)
The Giants probably wanted to grab DeVonta Smith at No. 11 overall before the Eagles leaped ahead of them for him, and then the Kadarius Toney selection was somewhat of a surprise at No. 20. But Toney is a total playmaker that can make a big impact if utilized correctly, and Dave Gettleman went strong on the trade backs after never doing so. The 2022 first-round pick acquired from the Bears can be very valuable. Also, Georgia pass rusher Azeez Ojulari easily could have been a first-round pick, and New York was able to get him in Round 2. Accounting for the draft capital the Giants secured for next year, they had a good week.
18. Indianapolis Colts | Previous: 15 (-3)
Like Buffalo, the Colts were another team to strengthen the edge during the first two days of the draft, getting Kwity Paye in Round 1 and Dayo Odeyingbo in Round 2. Justin Houston is still sitting out there in free agency, and I think he’d be a stellar player to bring back and help lead the group. Indianapolis somewhat surprisingly didn’t add an offensive tackle, and the board must not have fell the way they wanted it to make an addition there.
19. Washington Football Team | Previous: 17 (-2)
Washington contemplated a move up for a quarterback, but instead they stayed at No. 19 and took Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis to give another boost to Ron Rivera’s defense. I really like the third-round addition of North Carolina receiver Dyami Brown, a deep threat that feels like a natural complement to form an exciting trio with Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel.
20. Arizona Cardinals | Previous: 20
The Cardinals loaded up on defense in the draft—led by first-round pick Zaven Collins, who was heavily connected to Arizona throughout the draft process—but getting Purdue receiver Rondale Moore was a likely value pick in the second round. Arizona added notable veteran starters this offseason, but they are also a deep squad on both sides of the ball.
21. Minnesota Vikings | Previous: 23 (+2)
The Vikings always seem to quietly go about their business in the draft and typically have huge success—this year looks like it should be another hit for general manager Rick Spielman. Christian Darrisaw easily could have been a top-ten pick as a left tackle, and Wyatt Davis is an eventually starter on an offensive line that could eventually be made up of successful first- and second-round picks. Meanwhile, Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond is a talented quarterback that is in a good spot sitting behind Kirk Cousins—he should be a top backup at least, with the potential to develop into the team’s next starter.
22. Carolina Panthers | Previous: 24 (+2)
With many anticipating that defense might not go until pick No. 10, Jaycee Horn might have been the biggest surprise pick in the top ten when the Panthers took him at No. 8. But he’s a confident, lengthy cornerback joining a young, versatile defense (and an extremely young team overall). Then, Carolina got LSU receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. in the second round, which is a perfect fit after Marshall played for Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady a couple of seasons ago in college. The Panthers had among the best first two picks this year in my opinion. Oh, and Sam Darnold must have more confidence than ever with the moves the Panthers made (while declining to draft another quarterback).
23. Atlanta Falcons | Previous: 25 (+2)
Nearly everyone is in agreement that Florida tight end Kyle Pitts is a serious difference-maker for an offense, and he’ll add another element for Matt Ryan and company to work with. There’s been a lot of smoke regarding a Julio Jones trade; and, while Jones is getting up there in age, I would not trade the all-time great weapon. If the offensive line holds up, Atlanta can light it up and contend in 2021—Julio should be a big part of that. The NFL is very deep, as the 20s in the power rankings indicate, but the Panthers and Falcons in particular could be much higher than this.
24. Denver Broncos | Previous: 26 (+2)
The Broncos are another team that could easily be several spots higher in the rankings, but it’s the quarterback situation that has them at No. 24. If Drew Lock can get back to his rookie form or if Teddy Bridgewater plays well and wins the job over the former second-rounder, Denver will be in good shape—or they could somehow acquire Aaron Rodgers, as has been speculated. Rodgers joining the Broncos and working in tandem with Vic Fangio’s defense would make them Super Bowl contenders.
25. Las Vegas Raiders | Previous: 21 (-4)
While the Raiders were initially higher in the power rankings, I ended up moving them down to No. 25. I’m not a huge fan of the moves they made this offseason, and they’ll be counting on a lot of guys to step up and make big leaps along with production from the rookie class including right tackle Alex Leatherwood and safety Trevon Moehrig.
26. Philadelphia Eagles | Previous: 27 (+1)
Howie Roseman has deservedly gotten a ton of criticism in Philadelphia, but he deserves credit for moving around the draft board to eventually land on the Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith (though many are arguing that the move was made to appease the fans, and the rest of Roseman’s draft has gotten some heat once again). The combo of Jalen Hurts and Smith (former teammates at Alabama) can create some magic with the Eagles. And durability is the only concern for second-round pick Landon Dickerson, who could be a stalwart on the interior if he can stay healthy. The defense appears to be a weak spot entering the summer.
27. Chicago Bears | Previous: 22 (-5)
Justin Fields to Chicago felt like a decent possibility, and the Bears became aggressive with a move up when the Ohio State quarterback fell out of the top ten. Something had to be done to bring more juice to the quarterback group for Matt Nagy, especially given the offensive line’s huge struggles during stretches last season (Nick Foles didn’t have much of a chance to do anything when he was in the lineup last year). If Fields can be the type of playmaker he was with the Buckeyes, the Bears can do some damage this year.
28. Detroit Lions | Previous: 28
Judging from the war room reaction, the Lions were truly ecstatic to get Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell at No. 7 overall, and they added some more tough guys on defense as they look to set a defined culture moving forward for Detroit football. Despite what you might hear from some in the media, Jared Goff might become the best quarterback in the division if Aaron Rodgers departs Green Bay.
29. Cincinnati Bengals | Previous: 29
The big debate was Penei Sewell versus Ja’Marr Chase at No. 5 overall, and it’s difficult to argue against reuniting Joe Burrow with one of the guys he lit it up with for LSU in 2019. Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd form a formidable receiving trio that’ll be tough to stop if Burrow gets protection. Also, it doesn’t sound like star running back Joe Mixon will be off the field much this year.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars | Previous: 31 (+1)
I like Travis Etienne as much as anyone and probably would have considered making the pick, too, but the Jags pulling the trigger on him at No. 25 overall was a shocker after the season undrafted running back James Robinson had last year. But this draft was about Trevor Lawrence and putting him in a spot to be successful, which his buddy Etienne will help with. Jacksonville is currently low in the power rankings, but they should be a franchise with a meteoric rise with Lawrence now in the mix.
31. New York Jets | Previous: 30 (-1)
No. 31 isn’t an exceptional position in the power rankings, but the Jets are in a spot where I kind of need to see it to believe it, even under the new regime that’s made promising moves under general manager Joe Douglas. Zach Wilson is a dynamic talent at quarterback, and the left side of New York’s offensive line should protect him and maul people after adding Alijah Vera-Tucker at guard next to Mekhi Becton. Also, the receiving corps is now set up nicely with Elijah Moore joining Denzel Mims, Corey Davis, and Jamison Crowder.
32. Houston Texans | Previous: 32
With limited draft capital to work with, the Texans continued their interesting approach this offseason, adding more talent to the skill positions during the draft. It’s difficult to see Deshaun Watson playing another snap in Houston, and third-round Stanford quarterback Davis Mills is someone to keep an eye on as a former top recruit out of high school. This rebuild in Houston is probably going to take some time.