Training Camps are opening and by week’s end all 32 teams will have begun molding and tuning up their rosters for the 2017 NFL season. So it’s the right time for a first stab at Power Rankings. So let’s start at the bottom and get the non-powerful out of the way. These are my bottom eight, meaning they don’t have a chance to even sniff a .500 record, never mind a Play-Off spot.
32) New York JETS. It seems clear from looking at roster moves made since the Draft that Owner WOODY JOHNSON and GM Mike McCAGNAN are in mutual agreement that their current roster is beyond retooling and needs to be built over, pretty much from scratch. So as a big part of that undertaking some solid players, all with pretty big price tags, have been sent packing to other teams or flat out cut loose. GENO SMITH/QB, ERIC DECKER/WR, BRANDON MARSHALL/WR, NICK MANGOLD/C, BRENO GIACOMINI/OT, CALVIN PRYOR/S, DAVID HARRIS/IB, MARCUS GILCHRIST, NICK FOLK/K, DEVIN SMITH/WR, KELLEN DAVIS/TE, RYAN FITZPATRICK/QB, RYAN CLADY/OT & DARRELLE REVIS/CB have all been jettisoned and pretty much replaced by URFA from 2016 & 2017. I’d also look for a couple of more big dollar vets (DL most likely) to be traded for 2018 Draft Picks in the next month if at all possible. This team is almost a lock to be very bad, to terrible, this season. Right now I would project them to be picking first in the 2018 NFL Draft. Could they go winless? Probably not, but depending on how good the odds are in Vegas for them doing so I might place $100 on that possibility. If I were a JETS fan I’d be asking for a refund on any tickets purchased for the upcoming season. Then again, JETS home games could be the perfect venue for frustrated fans to vent their anger and frustration. Better hire more game security employees Woody, to keep the stadium stands from looking like mauling soccer fans. Meanwhile, HC TODD BOWLES may become the most frustrated coach in the league since he has already stated that his job is to go into every game with a plan to win. Maybe impatient WOODY will put him out of his misery by dismissing him come December or so. Worst looking roster in the NFL and my clear choice as team #32!
31) San Francisco 49’ers The Niners are reasonably similar to the JETS. Clearly GM JOHN LYNCH & HC KYLE SHANAHAN realize they are seriously talent deficient, but since both are 2017 newbies they can posibly buy a little fan patience by winning a game in September. The biggest immediate hole on this team is at QB, where BRIAN HOYER looks to be the man right now. But HOYER has proven 2 things clearly during his 8 years in the NFL: he makes a really good back-up, and when forced to play he can’t stay healthy. GM LYNCH has certainly tried to infuse some new energy into the team with 10 Draftees as well as a dozen, or so, VFA. In reality this team wants to improve on their 2-14 record, but not by too much. They need to be in the running for a Top 5 Draft slot so they get a shot at their Franchise QB in next year’s promising QB group. If not they may be in a group of teams engaged in a bidding war for QB/KIRK COUSINS next off-season. I would project about 50% of their 2-deep depth chart to be new to the team. Their Rookie list looks promising, along with a handful of second year men. So it just may be that they are well into a calculated rebuild. If HOYER could stay healthy for at least a dozen games this crew might double their win total up to 4.
30) CHICAGO BEARS The Monsters of the Midway look more like pussy-cats than Bears. JOHN FOX/HC might be commended for winning 3 games last season with his motley looking roster. To the delight of many BEARS fans the CUTLER-era is over in Chicago. But the signals sent up by GM RYAN PACE seem to indicate there are mixed feelings about who the answer is to replace CUTLER. Last years back-ups (HOYER/BARKLEY) are both with the 49’ers, so the team is clearly starting over at the QB position. But then PACE sent up conflicting signals on his QB plan. He spent big VFA bucks to bring in TAMPA back-up MIKE GLENNON, from a mediocre group of VFA QB. Then DA BEARS traded up (one spot) to select MITCHELL TRUBISKY/QB with only one full year as a starter at UNC. That’s a lot of cash, as well as the cost of multiple draft picks for a potential fix at QB. GLENNON/TRUBISKY will be throwing to a new group of receivers since the team allowed a handful of vets to move on like Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, Marquess Wilson. The main new hopefuls are VFA/WR/KENDALL WRIGHT, VFA/WR/MARKUS WHEATON & R/TE/ADAM SHAHEEN. If a decent group of OL can stay healthy the running game led by youngsters JORDAN HOWARD and JEREMY LANGFORD could carry the O most weekends this Fall. The Defense also has some some interesting young talent, but ends up with a half-dozen ER/OLB, many of whom, IMO, would be better sited as pass-rushing DE in a 4-3 base scheme. This should serve as a sorting out year for this roster with the purpose being to establish the top 30 players to build around for the near future. I see perhaps a 5-11 season on the horizon.
29) Los Angeles RAMS Owner STAN KROENKE, and his chief aids finally got a football related decision right, and let go of HC JEFF FISHER late last season. They then hired the youngest HC in the NFL in SEAN McVAY. Hopefully, McVay will bring new energy and thinking to the organization. With him came DC WADE PHILLIPS, recognized as one of the top Defensive minds in the NFL for the past couple of decades. The good news is that WADE will have some elite young athletes to work with ala AARON DONALD/DL, ALEX OGLETREE/IB, ROBET QUINN/DE/ER, MARK BARRON/SS/LB & TRUMAINE JOHNSON/CB. BUT WADE has already probably realized his D talent is seriously undersized for the NFL game. Last time I looked their Defensive depth chart show only 3 players over 300 lbs. Most college teams are bigger than the RAMS current roster on D. Offensively, it is time for the kid gloves to come off of JARED GOFF. As the top pick in the 2016 Draft (mistake IMO) GOFF needs to be the team’s starter and leader. Security blanket QB CASE KEENUM is now in Minnesota, so GOFF is clearly ‘the man’. The team added VFA/ROBERT WOODS/WR, R/COOPER KUPP/WR, R/JOSH REYNOLDS/WR, R/GERALD EVERETT/TE, VFA/LANCE DUNBAR/RB to give GOFF some new talent to work with in his receiving corps. The OL has been retooled a bit with the departure of disappointing former top pick GREG ROBINSON/T/G and the addition of ANDREW WHITWORTH/T and JOHN SULLIVAN/OC. For now they may be lucky to repeat last season’s 4-Win effort, but SNEAD/McVAY may prove to be a wining combo that can start the move upward, maybe in 2018.
28) Cleveland BROWNS. I am afraid a lot of BROWNS fans are still going to be angry with me for placing their team in the lower levels of team rankings. But for the team with the first Pick in the most recent Draft climbing up 4 slots should mean they are progressing. IF I had more faith in BROCK OSWEILER I might have them placed higher. I also have a few concerns about the top end of their solid 2017 Draft effort. We may be looking at a position adjustment time factor for both GARRETT and PEPPERS before we see their full talent on display each week. Look for all 10 of their Draft Picks to make their roster this season, if healthy. If you pile this Draft group on top of last years then you have more than 1/3 of their roster still learning how to play in the NFL. I like the fact that the team did not try to go out and buy a few wins with a boatload of VFA. ZEITLER and TRETTER should pretty much give them what they need to make the OL group a position of strength. KENNY BRITT gives them a full-sized vet receiver to balance out all their young guys from last year, and he’s still on the preferred side of 30. It may be very interesting to see what GREGG WILLIAMS cooks up for their Defense this season. I firmly believe the transition from a 3-4 base scheme to a 4-3 will better suit their overall talent. It should allow young guns like GARRETT, OGBAH and NASSIB to spend a lot of time on the field to rush off the edge rather than dropping into coverage much of the time. If HUE JACKSON can work some magic with a Rookie named KIZER (which KELLY could not in South Bend) then we might know by season’s end if their Franchise QB is in the house, or if the team should be hoping all those underclassmen QB declare for the 2018 Draft in which the Browns have 2 first rounders… again!
27) Buffalo BILLS. Sorry BILLS fans but that elusive Play-Off birth isn’t coming this season. This team has to pick up the pieces of the ill-fated REX RYAN era. REX’s poor personnel influence on the roster has left the team thin in quality and quantity. SEAN McDERMOTT, and his positive attitude (ala Pete Carroll) may be just what the doctor ordered. But to foster competition you have to have some talent depth to work with, and this does not in way too many instances. His OC’s, DENNISON/FRAZIER, are of high NFL pedigree as Coordinators. The team has one of the best running attacks in the League with a solid OL, and LeSeam McCoy and TYROD TAYLOR to run the ball. The receiving corps is average, even if SAMMY WATKINS can stay healthy and play 16 productive game, which has not been his modus operandi as a pro. The D could be good if youngsters like RAGLAND and LAWSON can stay on the field in what will pretty much be their redshirt Rookie seasons. The switch back to a 4-3 base D should also fit the talent base better, especially up front, although quality depth is lacking even there. Lack of depth and questions about pro level ability regarding a lot of young players are the main factors that lead me to believe that a 10-loss season may be on the way. The RYAN/WHALEY regime left the team with only 6 Draft Picks last April and that’s just not enough new blood to push this team upward. They will need to be very active at the pre-season cutdown date in adding players off waivers.
26) Jacksonville JAGUARS. For those of you who think firing GUS BRADLEY, and promoting DOUG MARRONE, makes this a winning team I have bad news. Until we see BLAKE BORTLES produce more points and reduce his turnovers their best hope may be just escaping a 10-Loss season this year. Marse TOM COUGHLIN has talked tough discipline and that will help somewhat, but the coaching staff has got to get more out of the talent available this season. Their OL needs to be much better, and by adding ALBERT/Trade, CAM ROBINSON/R and WATFORD/VFA they may have done that. If so, run blocking for LEONARD FOURNETTE/R could provide the biggest boost for BLAKE BORTLES and the passing attack. The are also counting on CALAIS CAMPBELL/VFA to provide veteran leadership for the defense as the best all-around play they have seen at DE this decade. There is still a lot of young talent on this roster, but the newly added vets and a somewhat revised coaching staff must pull things together, and quickly. The team must somehow also evict the injury bug from the locker room.
25) Los Angeles CHARGERS A leopard does not change its spots just by moving, and the same will likely apply to this team/organization. New HC ANTHONY LYNN, doesn’t appear to be generating a whole lot of buzz that there will be vast improvement on a team that may be too old to turn the corner this year. Can GUS BRADLEY work the magic he did in Seattle as DC as opposed to a HC in Jax? How much does PHILLIP RIVERS have in the tank (and arm) at the age of 34, after 13 seasons of some pretty heavy pounding from NFL defenses and poor Chargers OL play? Can anyone stay healthy to lead the receiving corps? Keenan Allen must come back from an ACL tear last year and touted Rookie MIKE WILLIAMS must overcome some seemingly serious back issues. The OL is being rebuilt around OT/RUSSELL OKUNG/VFA and Rookies FORREST LAMP and DAN FEENEY. The base D should be switching to a 4-3 scheme, which should only help star Rookie JOEY BOSA be even more of a pass-rushing threat. But can MELVIN INGRAM, at under 250 lbs., stay on the field playing with his hand down most of the time on the side opposite BOSA? The secondary looks good if somehow CB/JASON VERRETT can stay healthy and play 16 games, which he has not done in his first 3 seasons in the League. This team could surprise if everything goes right, but that’s likely too much to ask. The end result could very well mean another 7-9 record, or even worse. Competing in the very tough AFC West does not help!