1: Kansas City Chiefs (Post-Draft: 1)
With Chris Jones officially remaining on the team there’s no reason to even consider ranking the Chiefs anywhere else. This is a team that has the potential to go down as the best ever. We have the best quarterback in the NFL, with the best weapons, with the best head coach, and the potential for a top 5 defense.
But let’s focus on that last point for a second.
When the Chiefs hired Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator last year there was a concern about how his teams tend to not have a very good defense his first year. Using points per game, Spagnuolo’s defenses have been ranked 17th, 31st, 31st, 30th, and now 7th in his first season with a team. But in his other 5 seasons as DC/HC his teams have been significantly better, ranking 5th, 12th, 26th, 2nd, and 27th.
So you can see why there’s a lot of reason to be excited for the defense. They were already decent last year, so if they manage to get a bump with Spagnuolo’s experience they could be a legit elite unit.
2: New Orleans Saints (Post-Draft: 2)
3: Pittsburgh Steelers (Post-Draft: 3)
This may be the Steelers’ last chance to contend in the Roethlisberger era, as not only is he getting old, but in 2021 his cap hit jumps to $41 million.
4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Post-Draft: 5)
5: Cleveland Browns (Post-Draft: 6)
6: Arizona Cardinals (Post-Draft: 8)
After doing the post-draft rankings I went back to take a closer look at Mayfield, and I was extremely impressed. If he can get his interceptions under control he will be the 2nd best quarterback in the NFL and the Browns will be real contenders.
But there’s that little hair in the soup, “if he can get his interceptions under control”. I didn’t watch every interception, but it seemed like a big problem was his offensive line making him throw it earlier than he wanted in combination with him being overly aggressive. Since they’ll be much better in that area I expect Mayfield to keep his interceptions under control.
7: Tennessee Titans (Post-Draft: 4)
When I made my post-draft rankings I didn’t realize just how many talented players the Titans lost. I think they’ll still be a good team, but I don’t think they’ll be quite as good as last year.
8: Philadelphia Eagles (Post-Draft: 14)
9: Dallas Cowboys (Post-Draft: 10)
10: Minnesota Vikings (Post-Draft: 11)
11: Indianapolis Colts (Post-Draft: 12)
12: Seattle Seahawks (Post-Draft: 13)
13: Baltimore Ravens (Post-Draft: 9)
Earl Thomas decided he wanted to be the next Antonio Brown, and now the Ravens are without arguably their most important player. Yes, even though QB is king in the NFL, I think you can make a very real argument that the Ravens would have been better off losing Lamar Jackson rather than Thomas.
The Ravens had a very good defense last year, ranking 5th in the NFL in expected points added. This performance was almost entirely on the back of the secondary, with their front having a very average 23.4% pressure rate (good for 15th) despite blitzing far more than anybody else (54.9%, only Tampa Bay was even above 40%). Blitzing always is a Sophie’s choice, if you blitz it can lead to easy quick passes, if you don’t the QB can have all day to find a receiver. But that choice is made easier when the secondary can hold during blitzes like the Ravens’ could. Without Thomas the secondary will have far less margin for error when asked to defend during blitzes.
But it gets worse, since a player like Thomas is uniquely beneficial for a player like Marcus Peters. As we well know, Peters loves to be aggressive to try and get interceptions, which on the flip side can lead to him getting burned when his gamble doesn’t pay off. A great safety like Thomas minimizes Peters’ weaknesses allowing his strengths to shine. Not only will losing Thomas impact the defense as you’d expect, his absence will be especially felt by Peters.
Overall the Ravens defense will likely see a sharp decline in the quality of their defense, and without much talent on their offense outside of their offensive line, there just isn’t enough there there for the Ravens to do much more than be a decent team who has a chance to make the playoffs without being a real contender.
14: Buffalo Bills (Post-Draft: 15)
15: Denver Broncos (Post-Draft: 16)
16: Atlanta Falcons (Post-Draft: 17)
17: Detroit Lions (Post-Draft: 18)
18: Green Bay Packers (Post-Draft: 19)
19: San Francisco 49ers (Post-Draft: 20)
20: Los Angeles Chargers (Post-Draft: 31)
A bit of a boost for the Chargers, even though they’ll still be a bad team because of their quarterback situation, but they weren’t as bad as their record last year. For one they had a horrible turnover differential, which tends not to repeat year over year. Secondly, their point differential (which is a better predictor of future games than record) was only -8. Normally they’d be a prime contender for a bounce back year, but they will be significantly worse in 2020.
21: New York Jets (Post-Draft: 7)
22: Houston Texans (Post-Draft: 21)
Not a whole lot of changes, but I’ve really soured on the Jets. It all started when Jamaal Adams demanded a trade. Non-quarterback star players are overrated, so losing him won’t hurt them that much, but it’s pretty unusual for a player to demand a trade when they’re not looking for a new contract. It usually means they don’t think the team is very good or that they clash with coaches, either way it’s an indication that the Jets aren’t a happy family behind closed doors.
This also caused me to take a closer look at Sam Darnold’s play and their win streak to end the season, which were the two main foundations for their high ranking. The good news is that Darnold looks good. Maybe not Mahomes level, but he looks like a guy who could have a very solid Matt Ryan or Philip Rivers type career. The problem is their win streak. I initially thought it was because Darnold had fully recovered from mono, but in reality it was just that they had an incredibly easy schedule.
Darnold will prevent them from being the worst team in the NFL, but the Jets made a huge mistake in keeping Adam Gase.
23: Miami Dolphins (Post-Draft: 23)
24: Los Angeles Rams (Post-Draft: 24)
25: New York Giants (Post-Draft: 25)
26: New England Patriots (Post-Draft: 22)
There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about the Patriots. People think that the Patriots didn’t try that hard to retain Brady because they were fine without him, but in reality they had no choice. It was an open secret that Brady wasn’t happy with the offensive talent around him in 2019, and there were rumors that he asked the patriots to upgrade at receiver for 2020 if they wanted him to stay. The Patriots obviously didn’t do that, not because they didn’t want to, but because they couldn’t. They had very little cap space even without Brady, if they resigned him they would have had even less space and even less ability to add talent.
They also don’t seem to realize how much of a mirage their 12-4 record was last year. They took advantage of a pillowy soft schedule to take a team that should have gone 8-8 or 9-7 to a fake 12-4, which is why they struggled against good teams in the regular season and were bounced from the playoffs in the wildcard round by the superior Titans. But they’ll be even worse in 2020.
While Brady is a bit overrated right now he was still a competent starter in 2019, but because of their lack of cap space the Patriots had little ability to sign an adequate replacement. They were forced to turn to 2019 4th round pick Jarrett Stidham who showed almost no promise in his brief playing time last year, then signed Cam Newton who the Panthers found disposable despite having no adequate replacement themselves and who nobody else wanted either, which is why the Patriots were able to sign him for less than what Chad Henne is making. But it gets worse, as losing right tackle Marcus Cannon puts a dent into one of their few strengths on offense, taking their line from one of the best to merely pretty good.
Altogether the Patriots look to have one of the worst offenses in the NFL this season, but it gets even worse as their defense also took a major hit with them losing all three of their starting linebackers from 2019. The leaned heavily on their defense to win games in 2019, and with the downgrades on offense that will be even more true in 2020, but with these exits and an already severe lack of talent on their defensive line means that they’ll have one of the worst front 7s in the NFL. Their secondary is still great, and they still have the greatest defensive coach in NFL history in Belichick, but given how much they’ll lean on them I just don’t think it will be enough to overcome all their other issues.
If this team was on the Cleveland Browns nobody in their right mind would have them making the playoffs. But because they’re the Patriots people have them as contenders.
27: Washington Football Team (Post-Draft: 26)
28: Carolina Panthers (Post-Draft: 27)
29: Jacksonville Jaguars (Post-Draft: 28)
30: Oakland Raiders (Post-Draft: 29)
31: Chicago Bears (Post-Draft: 30)
32: Cincinnati Bengals (Post-Draft: 32)
I took the time to watch some film on Minshew, and I feel terrible for him that he’s stuck on such an awful team. He should be one of the rising stars in the league, but is instead stuck on possibly the worst roster in the NFL. The good news is that the Jaguars will have tons of cap space in 2020, and with multiple 1st round picks in 2020 and 2021 they have a chance to build a strong team around Minshew very quickly.