The hay is in the barn as far as the 2022 Draft is concerned. And most team rosters have been filled to the 90-man limit. There will be a few more personnel moves between now and the opening of Training Camps. Just yesterday the GIANTS finally put CB/James Bradberry out of his misery and waived him and his big contract. He most likely shows up on another roster by the time Camps open at the end of July, but it will be at a very new price. There will be others let go once teams get a good look at their Rookie signees. And there are a few solid VFA’s who are just putting off the inevitable, that they are going to make less money this season than they did last. Some will realize that even starting at 5 years of NFL service, the player salary reaches the $1-million+ minimum.
Anyway, here are my Power Rankings, starting today with the likely non-Play-off teams around the League. I am sure this list will look a bit different by September, but not by very much. Let the countdown begin…
32) HOUSTON TEXANS I thought for awhile that GM Nick Cesario had the team headed up, ever so slightly. And then they conducted a lifeless/flat Draft. The team will carry on with the development of DAVIS MILLS at QB, which was wise given this Draft’s QB talent, or more specifically lack thereof. ‘Move The Sticks’ JEREMIAH noted that he felt if MILLS. had been in this year’s QB group, he Ould have been the first QB drafted. But overall this year’s draft selections were pretty sketchy to my eyes. STINGLEY/CB was a total shock to many (me included) at Pick 3, but he should help their secondary. METCHIE in Round 2 should help their receivers group with his solid possession-type receiving, but he might have still been available late in Round 3. If they took aim at bringing anyone significant in VFA, they clearly had blanks in their gun. And I think we have all seen LOVIE SMITH as an NFL Head Coach before and it was not pretty. But they pretty much fired blanks in VFA. They are still at least 2 years away from being respectable. I am sure CESARIO will keep plugging along hoping to use the continuing extra Picks acquired in the WATSON trade with Cleveland to bolster the roster thru the Draft.
31) CHICAGO BEARS I am not sure what the new leadership, headed by GM RYAN POLES, had in mind with what they did to their roster, but it looked like implosion time for a team with not enough money to compete in the NFL for talent. KHALIL MACK, BILAL NICHOLS, KENDALL FULLER, AKIEM HICKS, JAMES DANIELS, TARIK COHEN, ALLEN ROBINSON, RYAN NALL, PAT McAFEE, ETC… all gone, plus a dozen others. The saddest part of this saga is that they have a quality, gifted young QB in JUSTIN FIELDS, and he is now surrounded by mostly crap. I would give you the names of players they brought in to replace the guys above, but hey, I am not that big of a sadist to taunt you further. If you are a BEARS fan be sure to print up their roster, then tuck it away ’til Camps open. Maybe it won’t look too bad, until they start playing games anyway.
30) ATLANTA FALCONS I will give Arthur Blank, Rich McKay, and Terry Fontenot credit for recognizing last season that a total rebuild was going to be needed for this team. The first big step was cutting ties with MATT RYAN and his crippling contract at age 36. Not the guy you want to start a rebuild with, so they dispatched him with class to the COLTS. They brought in MARCUS MARIOTA to hold down the QB slot for a little while. Enter DESMOND RIDDER, selected in Round 3. They wisely drafted like a team rebuilding, not just patching up a few spots. They brought in some lower priced VFA’s to blend in with a solid draft group which included DRAKE LONDON, the Julio Jones-like WR from Southern Cal. Then they took some solid young athletes, especially on Defense. They may win a handful of games, and wait for RIDDER to be put under fire after mid-season. They have a plan, but will still be a double-digit Loss team for this coming season.
29) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS Sad to say the team of CARROLL/SCHNEIDER doesn’t look terribly awesome right now. Russell Wilson finally got aggressive enough about his lack of an OL for like, his whole career in Seattle, and forced his way out of town. And the answer to his exit is DREW LOCK and/or GENO SMITH. If Carroll is serious that this is the hand he’s been dealt and he’s OK with it, then get me some of his rose colored glasses… please. The only good part of the Wilson trade is that the Sea Hawks got 4 veteran starters and a bunch of Draft Picks to start the rebuild. The irony in this situation is that the team used some of their new found Draft capital to select two OT’s, both of whom they hope will jump into starting slots as Rookies; CHARLES CROSS & ABRAHAM LUCAS. If they had done this a few years ago for WILSON, he might not have been clamoring to leave the Sea Hawks the past few years. As if the roster shuffling wasn’t painful enough in general, they parted ways with BOBBY WAGNER/LB and he signed with the arch-rival RAMS.
28) DETROIT LIONS This team looked a bit better last season under new Head Coach DAN CAMPBELL, but beyond AIDAN HUTCHINSON/ER & JAMESON WILLIAMS/WR, I don’t see much other new blood to excite me about their likely 2022 W/L record. Applause for not scuttling JARED GOFF for one of the 2022 Draft QB group. That might have been like deleting Goff, to add… well, another Goff. WILLIAMS was the ultimate big-play receiver weapon in they Draft, but his knee injury is likely to keep him under wraps for some of the season. Somehow I thought they might do a bit more to improve right now than what they did. GM BRAD HOLMES should not be deluded that Campbell is an elite leader who can turn average talent into super stardom. But he is better than PATRICIA at leading and motivating men. Sorry LIONS fans, you’re still looking at 10+ losses this coming season.
27) JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS This team is counting on addition by subtraction with the big subtraction being URBAN MEYER, who I told you at this time last year already, was a poor choice by SHAD KHAN to run his team for him. Because of spending last season under Meyer, the team came into the 2022 League year with a bottom-10 Salary Cap spending amount. Need I tell you they added very little to their roster in VFA, especially after giving CHRISTIAN KIRK the highest WR salary in the League… at that time. They may have solidified their OL enough to help TREVOR LAWRENCE by signing VFA BRANDON SCHERFF/G and inking CAM ROBINSON/LT to a new contract. Then they drafted LUKE FORTNER/OC to replace the oft-injured, retiring Brandon Linder. For some reason Meyer saw no reason to have a pass receiving weapon playing at the TE position when last season began. Mr. Lawrence paid dearly for that missing weapon for most of 2021. They added VFA EVAN ENGRAM, who can surely catch the ball, if not block real well, and will use LUKE FARRELL in a dual role as well. I think they had a chance to move up even more, but GM TRENT BAALKE made some strange Picks in the Draft to diminish their seeming progress. Maybe next year, 2023, to break .500.
26) WASHINGTON COMMANDERS God, I think that new team name sucks. I like RON RIVERA, I really do. I would play hard for him as my coach. But he and GM MAYHEW, or whatever his title is, sure made some strange personnel decisions, and let’s start at QB. Carson Wentz pulled the biggest QB choke job in recent memory in the last 2 games of the 2021 season, when the Colts seemed poised to capture a Play-Off slot. Somehow, Colts GM Chris Ballard talked the boys in D.C. into taking WENTZ and giving them a couple of decent Draft Picks for him. If Rivera is on his game, he will have Draftee SAM HOWELL starting for the second half of the 2023 season, with both eyes on the future. Overall, their Draft class is going to contribute some starters to their lineup. Though I do wonder how many Alabama DL this team is going to draft next year… again. But then again, I like MATHIS their 2nd Rounder. The NFC East is going to be up for grabs between the Eagles and Cowboys. This team and the G-Men will battle it out for Draft positioning for 2023.
25) NEW YORK GIANTS Hey, speaking of the G-Men, here they are just one slot above the WFT. This is the show me year for Daniel Jones, or the Giants will be looking to draft a QB next April. I think it is too much to expect KAYVON THIBODEAUX/Edge & EVAN NEAL/OT to create enough impact to carry this team out of the 10-Loss group. Heading into the off-season period, I was shocked that a team as bad as this one could be last in the League in Salary Cap available to spend. A 4-13 team in 2021 had less than $1-million to spend. This was reason enough to let GM Dave Gettleman retire before they had to fire him. I felt that after Round 1, their Draft Picks were erratic and not likely to excite on the field this coming season. New GM JOE SCHOEN is off to a mediocre start in my eyes. Sorry, but it’s gonna be a long season again Giants fans.
24) CAROLINA PANTHERS Word is that MATT RHULE is on the hot seat. Owner DAVID TEPPER thinks business economics somehow translates to football understanding. I think not. But despite a lot of windage from Tepper about wanting a new QB at Pick 6, the twosome in charge (at least for now) wisely selected OT ICKEY EKWONU of N.C. State to play LT and bring both talent and physicality to their OL, which needed that boost. They did snatch up MATT CORRAL/Ole Miss as their QB of the future in Round 3, and will hope SAM DARNOLD plays decently while they ride out his heavy contract, in it’s final year at just under $20-million. The Panthers had led the League with over $30-million in Cap space in early April. Their roster shows no indication that TEPPER is a loose spender with his football dollars.
23) NEW YORK JETS Before you JETS fans start forming the lynch mob to string me up for disrespecting your favorite team and putting them so low as 23, let me remind you they were down in the 30-range at this time last year. They just finished up a great Draft which should yield as many as 5 new starters, some for WILSON and some for their D. And ROBERT SALEH as Head Coach has added great “life” to the locker room and fan base. Their secondary looks to be upgraded about 100% with 3 possible new starters in D.J. REED/NB, SAUCE GARDNER/CB, JORDAN WHITEHEAD/S all moving into place. QB WILSON will go to war with a solid OL, especially if BECTON is back healthy. The additions of LAKEN TOMLINSON/OG & MAX MITCHELL/OT/R (once he beefs up a bit) can only improve the front line. And BREECE HALL should be their best full-time RB since Curtis Martin in his prime. G.M. JOE DOUGLAS was highly regarded as a scouting/talent evaluator of great renown when the JETS hired him, and it is starting to look like it on their roster. Movin’ on up folks.
22) MINNESOTA VIKINGS Big changes at the top of the organization with the firing of both GM Rick Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer. Welcome to the full blown world of analytics Vikings fans. The WILF Family decided to go full bore “modern” and hired KWESI ADOFO-MENSAH as GM, and KEVIN O’CONNELL as Head Coach. It would be unfair to imply that Spielman was old school in his ways, but there can be no doubt that ZIMMER was old school, and those days are disappearing quickly in the rear view mirror. Their Draft was basically sound, but nothing that infused much that was truly exceptional into their depth charts. It was their relative silence in VFA that caused some head scratching. Their biggest name signing was ZA’DARIUS SMITH from Green Bay. But even he is a bit questionable coming off back surgery that cost him most of last season. And he will turn 30 just before the start of the season. Help for an aging secondary was addressed with the solid Picks of CB/ANDREW BOOTH and S/LEWIS CINE, who both look like starters as soon as the team fazes out S/HARRISON SMITH (33) and PATRICK PETERSON (32 in Aug). Despite being fairly comfortable relative to Salary Cap space, they have not been very aggressive in bringing back their most athletic defender in ANTHONY BARR. It would seem to me that QB KIRK COUSINS will consider ex-QB O’Connell as more of an ally than Zimmer, which might help to invigorate the soon to be 34-year old current QB. This is not a declining team, yet. But clearly it must gain some zip if it is to continue to contend for a Play-Off spot. They are a .500 team to my eyes, meaning 9-8, or 8-9 in a League with an uneven number of games to play.
21) ARIZONA CARDINALS Things looked bright last season, at least until November rolled around. Then the team seemed to run out of gas despite a nice looking 11-6 record. They were quickly dispensed with by the RAMS. DeANDRE HOPKINS was hurt at the end of the season, and now he faces a 6-game suspension to start the 2022 campaign. Depth is NOT an asset in most places. And KYLER MURRAY and his agent want big bucks, sooner rather than later. MURRAY may have been soothed a bit with the Draft trade that acquired his former SOONERS mate MARQUISE BROWN, alias Hollywood. BROWN should certainly provide KYLER with the deep threat to stretch opposing secondaries. The team also looks to have a high quality TE group to work the field for MURRAY, headed by ZACH ERTZ, Rookie TREY McBRIDE, and MAXX WILLIAMS. The loss of Chandler Jones will hurt their ability to keep pocket pressure on opposing QB’s. MYJAI SANDERS, an Edge Rookie, will get a chance to help fill that hole, as will CAMERON THOMAS, who is a DE who flashes lots of pass-rush ability as well. DC VANCE JOSEPH has some nice tools to work with but must still find the optimum spots to place ISAIAH SIMMONS & ZAVEN COLLINS, freakish athletes who still have growth potential in the correct roles. They have too many holes to keep up with the RAMS or 49’ERS, and look like a 9-8 team to me.
20) PITTSBURGH STEELERS By the end of another long season, BIG BEN looked like a shadow of his former self, and showed the wisdom to understand it was indeed time to move on “to his life’s work”, as Chuck Noll used to say. So the team had to go out after his successor in a QB poor Draft. They signed MITCH TRUBISKY, who looked rejuvenated as a back-up in Buffalo, and away from the disaster in Chicago. Some would say he’s a short term fix, until the team is comfortable with 1st Round QB selection KENNY PICKETT. The biggest question for either, or both of them, is what is left of a once loaded receivers room, that lost JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER, JAMES WASHINGTON & ERIC EBRON/TE. And don’t forget WR/RS RAY-RAY McCLOUD who left for the Niners. So the team, in GM KEVIN COLBERT’s last Draft effort, went after some receivers, drafting GEORGE PICKENS & CALVIN AUSTIN, who is another in the new breed of mighty-mite weapons. They signed more VFA’s than usual and assuming Mike Tomlin can get past his normal pattern of trying to ‘red-shirt’ most of his Rookies, we might see more fresh faces than usual sharing playing time this season throughout the roster. But I think it will be a major struggle to get to double digit Wins this season, sharing a tough division with young buck QB BURROW in Cincinnati, and JACKSON in Baltimore.
And now for me comes the toughest part this year’s Power Rankings. I find myself facing a 7-team cluster of teams I think could go one way or the other into mediocrity or a Play-Off berth. So here is how I see them separating, as of now.
19) MIAMI DOLPHINS With the highly touted trade for TYREEK HILL the Dolphins have set in motion the final challenge for QB TUA to show he has the arm to make it big in the NFL, which many seem to doubt, or at least question. Much pressure will fall on a lot of last years returning young vets this season. Their Draft was diluted down to 4 Picks with all the trading GM CHRIS GRIER did in the past 18 months. They did try to bolster their OL with VFA TERRON ARMSTEAD/LT, who went to Pro Bowls as a SAINT, when not injured. New Head Coach MIKE McDANIEL looks like a CPA more than a pro football guy, but he may be a refreshing change from the intense BRIAN FLORES regime for many of the vets on the team. I would expect that McDANIEL is a believer in analytics, but that still doesn’t mean that TUA is suddenly going to evolve into the next Dan Marino. He just has to throw it accurately to TYREEK, streaking across the field and let HILL do the rest. However, HILL has cost them a bundle, both in traded Picks and Salary Cap space. Maybe a bit too much.
18) CLEVELAND BROWNS There’s a big “if” to be considered when trying to rate the BROWNS strength for 2022. And that “if” primarily revolves around how many games new QB Deshaun WATSON will actually start for his new team. And without WATSON this talented team will likely be screwed, since BAKER MAYFIELD feels betrayed and has no desire to play QB for the BROWNS ever again. Talks have just begun between the League and Watson regarding his legal issues in Texas. With Watson at the helm this team may have one of the best balanced Offenses in the NFL. The RB combo of CHUBB/HUNT is elite behind a solid, if not great OL. The receiving corps has some major work to do with the loss of both JARVIS LANDRY and RASHARD HIGGINS to VFA. But the additions of AMARI COOPER and Rookie DAVID BELL could offset those losses if WATSON is at the helm throwing them open. DAVID NJOKU/TE, made a quantum leap in his game last season, and at 25 should be primed for even more. It was another off-season of trying to beef up their D talent that may finally pay off for them. Between the Draft & VFA they added DE/ER ALEX WRIGHT(R), CHASE WINOVICH/ER (T), PERRION WINFREY/DL(R), ISAIAH THOMAS/DE/ER(R), ISAAC ROCHELL/DE(VFA), MARTIN EMERSON/CB(R), TAVEN BRYAN/DT(VFA). The team tried to boost the D last year thru theDraft, with mixed results. In an effort to stir up a more reliable kicking game the team drafted the only PK taken in this year’s Draft in CADE YORK/LSU. YORK relishes 50+-yard attempts. I still think the QB situation may bite them in the butt before it ever helps them. 9-7 at best.
17) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS The best news for the PATS may lie in the growth of their many second year players. But because the team spent so much money last year in the VFA frenzy, the bank account and NFL Salary Cap did not give them much wiggle room, and thus the most help they will get to move forward this year must come from their Draft. Though many feel like they reached big time, it was clear to me that they had guys ranked as “Patriot Guys” and took them before other teams did. But how many will emerge right away as Rookies? COLE STRAGE, the already much maligned first rounder, will likely start as a replacement for SHAQ MASON @ OG. Tyquan THORNTON the speedster from Baylor will also get an opportunity to play early, but only if he helps JONES by stretching the secondaries they face. Their perceived weakness in their LB group brings forth a young group who will be asked to step up now. CAMERON McGRONE, coming off a Rookie season on IR might be expected to start. MACK WILSON brought in from the Browns will also get lots of work in pre-season to see how much he can help. Their biggest question mark may be the CB positions, after the loss of J.C. Jackson to the CHARGERS. They drafted 2 CB, in the smaller, but also quick mold to help replace JACKSON. Potentially the biggest helpful addition could come from MARCUS JONES drafted in Round 3. The caveat with JONES is that he is coming off surgeries to both shoulders. But no doctor clearly expressed concern about that situation around Combine medical time. They are still rebuilding from the vet exodus started by Brady 3 years ago. I just can’t see them making a big leap into competition with the BILLS this year in the AFC East. They may now be fighting just to stay ahead of Miami & the JETS.
16) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS JAMEIS WINSTON returns to the team after a solid start to the 2021 season, which had the team sitting at 5-2 when he went down with a knee injury. After courting DESHAUN WATSON failed the team hooked back up with WINSTON. Then GM Mickey Loomis traded around and netted two key additions for his Offense with CHRIS OLAVE/WR & TREVOR PENNING/OT, both of whom are likely to be Rookie starters. Andy Dalton was brought in as Winston’s back-up and Sean Payton’s favorite chess piece,TAYSOM HILL, was declared to be considered in the TE group. Just last weekend the team inked JARVIS LANDRY/WR to the team, which followed the signing of TYRANN MATHIEU to bolster the S group. It might be valid to declare the new MATHIEU/MARCUS MAYE tandem as a better S combo than the former duo if JENKINS/Marcus WILLIAMS were last season. The SAINTS would clearly have been the NFC South favorite had MR. BRADY stayed retired. Now they have to climb the mountain, guarded by the GOAT. Then again they have beaten BRADY head-to-head multiple times since his arrival in Tampa. Mickey Loomis/GM, and his right hand man JEFF IRELAND have done some solid work with their roster, now it’s up to new Head Coach DENNIS ALLEN and his staff (mostly retained coaches) to get the most out of the talent base. These guys look like they are all-in on taking over the NFC South, and going to the Super Bowl in 2023. We’ll soon see.
15) TENNESSEE TITANS The Titans have had more roster reshuffling than anyone in the League under the ROBINSON/VRABEL leadership. Some has been due to injuries, but some has to be placed at the feet of the team’s failure to smoothly handle the Salary Cap challenges that all NFL teams must overcome. RYAN TANNEHILL was exposed during their short Play-Off progression, and they are reshuffling his receivers corps big time. Gone are Julio Jones, A.J. Brown, Anthony Firkser, who were their top receivers early last season. It was very telling last year when their power RB DERRICK HENRY went down to injury during his 6th year in the League. If he is starting to wear down entering season 7 then the team must count on Rookie HASSAN HASKINS for production. This team may have peaked, but then again… VRABEL seems to have the magic touch when it comes to relating to his players. His tenure on the Defense of the Patriots as a player makes him very relatable to his players, though he is clearly the man in charge. He can be very tough, but comes across as a tough-love father figure. They will be counting heavily on some of their younger add-ins if they are to better my projection of them here. Guys like CB/ROGER McCreary , TREYLON BURKS/WR, CHIGS OKONKWO/TE, NICHOLAS PETIT-FRERE/OT, KYLE PHILLIPS/WR need to push to the top of the depth charts early. MALIK WILLIS, will likely be another story, for another time. This could be the beginning of a slip for this team.
14) LAS VEGAS RAIDERS The house cleaning of the GRUDEN/MAYOCK regime is pretty much over, and it has been bloody, both in the front office and on the roster. Of the 90 roster players on the Raiders Roster I printed up just last night, the team had 47 new players out of their 90 man roster. Turning over more than 50% of your roster, in one off-season, has been pretty much unheard of here-to-for in the NFL. Players may still be introducing themselves to their new teammates in the locker room right down to the final 53-man roster come September. And that is my biggest reason to put them just outside of the 12 Play-Off ranked teams. Several position groups have been almost totally revamped after being gutted. Their OL looks like their biggest question mark, unless R/DYLAN PARHAM wins a starting job in the IOL. It is also hoped that THAYER MUNFORD/Round 7 can bounce back to the form showed 2 seasons ago at Ohio State. The biggest, and best, addition was, of course, DAVANTE ADAMS from the Packers. If the OL can hold up in pass-pro better this season DEREL CARR may have a field day showing to TE/WALLER, SR HUNTER RENFRO, ADAMS & EX-CHIEFS DEMARCUS ROBINSON. More good news for CARR… his new Head Coach is the most creative offensive mind he’s ever been able to work with as a RAIDER. I count 7 potential new starters on the defensive side the ball led by Sack Master CHANDLER JONES, a VFA signing from the Cardinals. If the Broncos jell, see below, this team could bring up the rear in the AFC West.
13) DENVER BRONCOS It actually felt strange leaving this team out of a certain Play-Off spot now that they have RUSSELL WILSON at QB. But they do have some roster holes to fill. And to some degree we should find out early-on how much magic WILSON still has in his arm and legs. This team is already looking quite different than the one last season. As of their most recent roster that I printed up out of their 90-man roster , 39 are new faces to the team. Ex-Vikings front office guy, GEORGE PATON, has shown already that he has a keen eye for talent and knows his way around the League when it comes to dealing with other GM. WILSON should solve the team’s QB issues, which have been a struggle pretty much since John Elway retired, except for the brief stint for Peyton at the end of his illustrious career. And though the price of acquiring him seemed rather steep from a volume standpoint, in reality the only body they actually gave up that is still an ascending player was NOAH FANT/TE. And PATON has filled that void, or at least hopes he has, by drafting GREG DULCICH a smooth striding, sure-handed TE from UCLA. He and 3rd year man ALBERT “O” should be splitting the primary chores, with VFA ERIC TOMLINSON added for his blocking. WILSON had a solid WR group in Seattle and will have a good crew to throw to on this squad, especially if K.J. HAMLER is healthy and ready to fly as the quick “little” slot guy and Return Man. Their OL is adequate with versatile BILLY TURNER returning to the fold after a brief VFA stint with the Packers. The Broncos should be the strongest running team in the tough AFC West with JAVONTE WILLIAMS – MELVIN GORDON-MIKE BOONE splitting carries. It’s the Defense which parted ways with VON MILLER at mid-season last year, that has some questions especially regarding pressuring opposing QB with Edge Rushers. But PATON may have resolved that issue with VFA RANDY GREGORY, from the Cowboys; NIK BONITTO, in the Draft; CHRIS ALLEN, ex-Bama star, who missed all of last season with a broken foot, a RFA. Expectations are high, that these 3, along with BRADLEY CHUBB will keep opposing QB nervous the pocket. It looks mostly good for the Broncos, other than the fact that their division also contains the CHIEFS, CHARGERS & RAIDERS. That’s why I have them here, not higher.
That’s the pack fighting each other for a couple of Play-Off spots perhaps. Be back in a week or so with the Cream of the Crop Top 12.