These power rankings aren’t based on who should be the top teams heading into this year, but rather where I believe each team stands at the end of the season. The draft order for my first 2012 NFL Mock Draft that I post on Fansided will be based on these power rankings. The teams at ranked lower are the teams with the best chance of picking #1 overall while the teams that I rank at the top won’t be mentioned until the end of the article.
32. Washington Redskins Washington needs a franchise quarterback and made no effort to obtain one. After trading for McNabb you would think Washington would make an effort to draft a quarterback in 2011. Washington has to be the early favorite to draft Andrew Luck while playing in one of the tougher divisions in the NFC East.
31. Miami Dolphins I believe the 2012 NFL Draft has 2 franchise quarterbacks with Luck and Barkley probably going 1 and 2 overall if both quarterbacks declare. When it comes to franchise quarterbacks the Bills always end up on the short stick so I believe Miami finishes behind Buffalo and gets Barkley because Miami has a divided locker room with some teammates thinking Jake Long is the team leader while others think Brandon Marshall is the team leader. The offensive chemistry won’t click unless a quarterback like Luck or Barkley goes to Miami to ease the tension that may occur in Miami has this fall.
30. Arizona Cardinals The Cardinals have no quarterback or offensive line talent at the moment. Even if the Cardinals get Kolb I could still see them drafting in the top 5 due to a lack offensive line play. Arizona took a step in the right direction by adding Peterson and Sam Acho as a pass rusher in round 4. The Cardinals will need to address those positions in 2011.
29. Buffalo Bills Buffalo may not have the talent to win, but the Bills have team chemistry and I have to believe that will help them slightly improve this season. Plus were talking about Buffalo. There going to find a way to keep themselves from drafting a franchise quarterback.
28. Cincinnati Bengals The Bengals need a running back. Moch will compete with Michael Johnson for the strong side job so one could argue that the Bengals need more defensive line help at defensive end and defensive tackle. Finally, I don’t believe Dalton is a franchise quarterback.
27. Tennessee Titans I really liked Jake Locker in terms of long term potential because he had a great supporting cast entering Tennessee, but he may struggle as a rookie now. The reason I say that is because Kenny Britt got busted again. Plus Nate Washington is throwing Jake Locker under the bus because all the deep passes he threw during an organized team workout were incompletions. I still believe Jake Locker will be the best quarterback down the road, but now its harder to see Locker guiding Tennessee to the playoffs with an elite pass blocking offensive line until he gets that blue chip #1 wide receiver.
Nate Washington isn’t sold on Locker and he’s going to be the #1 wide receiver soon if Tennessee decides to part ways with Britt. Britt has averaged 42 receptions for 700 receiving yards in about 7 starts. Britt had 3 receiving touchdowns as a rookie and 9 as a sophomore. The sad thing with Britt is if he stayed healthy and played a full 16 game season he could possibly reach 1,500 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns.
Jake Locker played in a pro style offense for 2 years at Washington and had no supporting cast besides running back Chris Polk. I believe Locker is going to succeed in the long term, but may struggle in the short term.
Believe it or not, the Titans were originally my pick to win the AFC South. The Titans stated that the quarterback job is Jake Locker’s to lose. That’s why I believe Tennessee picks here.
26. Carolina Panthers I really don’t like the Panthers this season mainly because they drafted Cam Newton. Newton didn’t play in a pro style offense like Jake Locker or Christian Ponder. Ponder and Newton are the only players who got playbooks.
Carolina’s team chemistry was an issue last season with Jimmy Clausen. Steve Smith thought he had to do everything for the team and Jordan Gross allowed double digit sacks for the first time in his career and still got voted to the pro bowl by providing amazing run blocking ability along with the footwork of a zone blocker.
Cam Newton may bust, but he should have at least 2 games with top notch production and the team chemistry is strong enough for the Panthers to win enough games to avoid picking in the top 5.
Carolina has Newton and the NFL’s toughest schedule so there still going to be a bottom feeder unless Cam Newton evolves into Peyton Manning by playing like Manning and making decisions like him too.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars Jacksonville has major holes to address on secondary. They needed a 4-3 left end to compliment Kampman the last 2 years in the NFL Draft, but with Kampman aging plus his injury history they may need a right end moving Kampman over to left end.
Mike Sims Walker is talented, but he may be considered a #2 wide receiver at best. I thought Jacksonville would be good because other players would step up at wide receiver along with Marcedes Lewis. While those receivers may have made a few key plays here and there Mike Sims Walker and Marcedes Lewis were the only playmakers who provided major contributions for the Jaguars in 2010.
24. Seattle Seahawks Even if Seattle is picking this high I don’t think Seattle will fire Carroll. Whenever a first year head coach beats the defending Super Bowl Champion with a 7-9 team he has pretty much obtained the Get Out Of Jail free card by getting a mulligan season and a second chance to coach.
23. Oakland Raiders I’m torn between giving this pick to Oakland or Denver. Common sense would tell you to give Denver this spot in the power rankings based on how Oakland played against Denver last season. Nnamdi Asomugha is gone and some of the Raiders may be hiding the fact that they miss Tom Cable by keeping their opinions to themselves.
22. Denver Broncos Denver started adding some defensive players for the future like Von Miller as a weak side rush linebacker, Rahim Moore a nickel corner/free safety, Quinton Carter a free safety who could also play strong safety, and Jeremy Beal. The only downside with this is they released Jamal Williams and failed to shore up one of the most important positions in a 4-3 defense. Denver failed to add any defensive tackles in the draft.
I could see Tim Tebow panning out because Denver has a potent offense when healthy. Brandon Lloyd had #1 wide receiver numbers, DeMaryius Thomas could be a #2 target when healthy poor injuries have kept him sidelined, and Eddie Royal has been a #2 wide receiver his whole career so he may be better suited as a slot receiver. Plus Denver drafted a athletic tight end in Virgil Green and a blocking tight end in Julius Thomas a college basketball tight end who can play explosive at times. Denver has a back in Moreno when healthy along with a starting offensive line with Clady at left tackle, Zane Beadles at left guard, JD Walton at center, Chris Kuper at right guard, and Orlando Franklin probably starting at right tackle.
Denver has an offense that can compete when their at full health, but the quarterback competition between Orton, Tebow, and Quinn keeps this team from taking that next step along with the injury of Denaryius Thomas and the lack of defensive tackles on the roster.
Denver may be going through a rough transition with the new coaching change and the shift to a 4-3 scheme, but the team chemistry will get better due Josh McDaniels being fired. That’s going to have a positive effect on the players in Denver.
21. Philadelphia Eagles I really dislike Philadelphia in 2011 because they failed to get Michael Vick a blindside at right tackle. Both Jason Peters and Winston Justice allowed double digit sacks in Philadelphia. Peters plays left tackle the most important position on the offensive line after quarterback and he got voted to the pro bowl. Clay Matthews made Winston Justice look silly when the Eagles hosted the Packers.
I know Eagles fans will tell me Danny Watkins is the answer, but I believe Watkins is a left tackle with the size and footwork of a run blocking left guard that fits Andy Reid’s offensive line scheme plus he turns 27 this year. Plus I wasn’t too high on the Eagles taking Jarrett. Don’t accuse me of bashing the Eagles draft just because I strongly disliked their first two draft picks. I loved the Casey Matthews, Alex Henry, and Dion Lewis picks that Philadelphia made in the later rounds.
The Philadelphia Eagles managed to creep up on teams in 2010 when McNabb left the team. Everyone knows how dangerous this offense can be plus they may not play as well without quality pass blockers to give Vick more time.
Every team in the NFL knows what the Eagles are capable of so I could really see the Philadelphia Eagles taking a major step back this season.
20. Minnesota Vikings I believe the Vikings struggle early on due to a rough schedule and Ponder needing a period of 2 to 5 games to adapt from college to the NFL. I believe the Vikings go 7-9, the Lions go 8-8, Bears finish 9-7, and Green Bay goes 13-3. That’s how competitive the NFC North can be with a healthy Matthew Stafford along with Ponder getting hot near the end of the season.
Ponder has a simliar supporting cast in terms of talent on the Vikings that Ben Roethilsberger had in Pittsburgh when he first entered the league when you evaluate a quarterbacks quality supporting cast of game changing offensive players.
Ponder is the 1 of 2 quarterbacks along with Locker who played a pro style West Coast offense in college. Ponder also is only 1 of 2 quarterbacks with the teams playbook. The other quarterback with their team playbook is #1 overall pick Cam Newton who played in a Mouse Trap gimmick no huddle offense at Auburn.
Ponder may have a losing record in 2011, but I could very see the Vikings reclaiming the NFC North in 2012.
19. San Francisco 49ers I could see Kaepernick getting this team to the playoffs, but the reality is Alex Smith will probably come back as a starter so you really cannot be optimistic with the San Francisco 49ers.
18. Detroit Lions While Detroit may have added another defensive tackle to pair up with Suh in Nick Fairley. Big whoop, the Lions failed to address their core key needs at cornerback, weak side linebacker at the right outside linebacker spot, middle linebacker, and a top notch left tackle.
Detroit was originally going to be one of my sleeper teams if they drafted by need in 2011, but I think the Lions maintain their record with a healthy Matthew Stafford thanks to the Bears drafting well, the Vikings getting Ponder, along with a brutal schedule.
17. Cleveland Browns At one point when I reexamined the 2011 NFL Regular Season Schedule after the 2011 NFL Draft there was a point where I was tempted to give the Browns a 9-7 record. I had Pittsburgh and Cleveland both 8-7 because I hated the Steelers draft picks at cornerback. Plus I loved what Cleveland did addressing all their key needs in the draft while obtaining a 2nd first round pick from Atlanta in 2012.
Cleveland has an easy cakewalk of a first 5 games to start the year while the Steelers have a brutal first half of games against teams who are pass first teams capable of torching their secondary. Plus there is no guarantee Pittsburgh gets double digit sacks with Harrison and Woodley again while maintaining the #1 run defense. Plus if both teams met in Week 17 with 8-7 records Cleveland may win because the game would be played in Cleveland.
There are two reasons why I’m not picking Cleveland to finish better than the Steelers. The first reason was I still believe Colt McCoy needs another year to develop. The second reason is because of the Madden Jinx with Peyton Hillis on the cover.
There are three things you need to know about me when I make predictions for the NFL. I never pick teams who have players to make the Madden Cover to get to the Super Bowl, I never pick teams who host the Super Bowl to make the playoffs, and if a team losses a Super Bowl they usually don’t get back for another 5 years.
In 2009 I said that the Bengals and Ravens would be the two best teams that would finish tops in the division hours after Fitzgerald and Polamalu were both selected for the Madden Cover. Plus I got a lot of hate mail for picking the Cowboys to miss the playoffs. I’m going to move on to the next team because I also thought the Eagles would finish in last place when McNabb left.
16. San Diego Chargers If you thought my prediction with the Cleveland Browns was crazy then your going to enjoy these next few predictions I’m making. The Chargers have brutal first 8 games on their schedule. I’m going to say they start the year 2-6. Norv Turner gets fired and San Diego really starts to come together as a team. The Chargers new interim coach helps the Chargers win 6 straight as San Diego goes from worst to first. After that, San Diego loses two road games to the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders before blowing the division lead to the Kansas City Chiefs.
15. Indianapolis Colts The Colts have a brutal schedule plus I never pick a Super Bowl host to reach the playoffs the year they host the Super Bowl. I was tempted to pick the Jaguars and Texans over the Colts in 2010, but decided that would be foolish given Peyton Manning’s track record. I’m going to pick Peyton and the Colts to finish 2nd to the Houston Texans.
14. Chicago Bears The Bears won’t get back to the NFC Championship Game. While the Bears have the talent to reach the playoffs again the NFC North is a three way race when Stafford is healthy and when the Vikings have a franchise quarterback. Chicago had luck fall its way with the Stafford injury in week 1 and Favre regressing along with some early season momentum like the incomplete Calvin Johnson catch and the week 3 win on Monday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers.
13. Dallas Cowboys I’m in a bit of a dilema here. For the final team that misses the playoffs I have a tiebreaker between the Cowboys and the Saints with both teams going 11-5. I think the Cowboys may win the tiebreaker and get in, but the Saints are clearly the better team so they get the benefit of the doubt for now since Dallas still has some secondary issues that they need to patch up. And yes the Cowboys will be picking 20th in the mock I post soon.
Here are the playoff matchups to determine the rest of the draft order.
In the AFC 6 seed Pittsburgh plays 3 seed Houston while the 5 seed New York Jets face the 4 seed Kansas City Chiefs with the Ravens getting a first round bye while the Patriots get homefield.
In the NFC the 6 seed New Orleans Saints play the 3 seed Packers while the 5 seed Atlanta Falcons head to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers. The Giants get a first round bye while the Rams get home field advantage due to a weak division and an easy schedule.
Now I will list teams 12-1 based on who wins these match ups.
12. New Orleans Saints The Saints may have issues at offensive tackle now that Jermon Bushrod is no longer the left tackle. Charles Brown a 2010 2nd round pick will be the starting left tackle with Jonathan Stinchomb at right tackle. Its not out of the question to say that Drew Brees will be sacked more in 2011.
Another thing to consider is the rookie players on defense who are supposed to have an immediate impact get held back from reaching their potential due to the NFL Lockout.
The Patriots own the Saints 2011 first round pick so they do pick at #21 in the 2012 NFL Mock Draft that I will post soon.
11. Houston Texans The Texans get to the playoffs, but their young rookie defense keeps them from winning a game.
10. New York Jets I think the Jets will get cocky and underestimate a team like the Kansas City Chiefs. The Jets have the better offensive line, the Chiefs have the better pass rushers, The secondary matchup works in the Chiefs favor despite Revis being the best individual secondary player.
9. Atlanta Falcons I just get this strange feeling that Tampa Bay wins a playoff game at home against a division rival. Raheem Morris used to be a defensive backs coach. Tampa Bay has shored up the defensive line so if their linebackers produce while Freeman leads Tampa Bay downfield the Buccaneers have a good chance of winning.
8. Kansas City Chiefs I have the Chiefs winning the AFC West with a 9-7 record. I think Haley is overrated as a coach and that Cassel may revert to his 2009 form without Weis. Besides Tom Brady every quarterback that went solo without Weis struggled. Just look at Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen. Cassel may go back to posting Clausen type numbers.
The defense and running game will help the Chiefs win a lot of close ball games. I’m predicting that the Chiefs repeat their 2010 success, but that 7 of their 9 wins are by less than one touchdown.
Kansas City drafted Baldwin who I believe helps the Chiefs out now. I think him and Bowe help Cassel get the Chiefs to the playoffs where they win a game. Mark Sanchez has won with talent around him you could say the same thing about Cassel because Cassel went 11-5 in New England with a great supporting cast when Weis was at Notre Dame.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers I was originally going to put the Steelers in the 17 to 16 range, but when I found out about Alex Smith starting for the 49ers rather than Kaepernick and Kenny Britt’s arrest today everything changed. Before today Patriots, Ravens, Titans, Chiefs, Jets, and Texans were my original projected playoff teams based on the schedule, but thanks to Britt’s arrest a slot opened up and the Steelers were my originally my 7th best team after Houston.
Now that the Britt is arrested and former Steeler Nate Washington is throwing Locker under the bus Pittsburgh gets this playoff spot and defeats the Houston Texans in the wild card round.
There is talk that Curtis Brown may replace Ike Taylor. Curtis was a nickel corner on the Longhorns depth chart behind Aaron Williams and Chykie Brown. Something just tells me Curtis flops in Pittsburgh while Chykie thrives in Baltimore.
6. New York Giants Eli’s interception numbers will drop this year because his receivers dropped a lot of easy passes. The Giants have a potent offensive line when their healthy and the defensive line is one of the best pass rushing units in the NFL. Plus the Prince Amukamara pick was such a steal at #19 you can make a Chuck Norris joke about Jerry Reese’s ability as a General Manager without receiving a fine from Roger Goodell.
The Giants get a first round bye and lose to the Packers in the playoffs.
5. St. Louis Rams I know I sound crazy putting the Rams in the top 5 of my power rankings, but Sam Bradford was offensive rookie of the year, left tackle Roger Saffold gave up the fewest sacks in the NFL at left tackle, Steven Jackson is still in his prime, plus the defense added another pass rushing element in Robert Quinn. The Rams should have no problem winning the NFC West and contending for home field now that Sam Bradford has an array of wide receivers with Greg Salas, Austin Pettis, Mardy Gilyard, Donnie Avery, Dannie Amendola, Danario Alexander, plus it never hurts to have tight end Lance Kendricks. Look out for the Rams in 2011.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tampa Bay has a team that can knock off the Rams if they get by Atlanta, but Rodgers will torch Tampa Bay’s secondary when Tampa arrives at a frozen Lambeau Field for the NFC Title.
3. New England Patriots This was a really tough decision. Baltimore was my Super Bowl pick to win it all last year and New England is my favorite team to watch. Even though Tom Brady is going to get the playoff monkey off his back this year it usually takes a Super Bowl loser 5 years to return to the Big Game due to the NFL getting more competitive.
Last time the Ravens and Patriots met at Gillette Stadium Baltimore torched Brady. I don’t expect them to torch Brady, but I’m giving Flacco a slight edge because he needs to get to a Super Bowl after 3 straight playoff appearances while reaching the AFC Championship as a rookie.
2. Baltimore Ravens Its just crazy to pick the same Super Bowl winner right after you were wrong about them the previous year. I know 5 of the last 6 quarterbacks who didn’t have a Super Bowl ring heading into the Super Bowl dating back to Super Bowl 40 ended up winning the big game, but I think that trend ends with Baltimore.
I loved the Ravens draft Baltimore got two quality corners in Jimmy Smith and Chykie Brown. Joe Flacco is in his 2nd year of running a west coast pass first offense after having 3 different left tackles during his first three years in the league with Odgen his rookie year, Gaither in 2009, and Michael Oher at left tackle in 2010.
Boldin will be better this year because players sometimes struggle learning a new teams playbook after being with one team for a while. Plus Baltimore may have found their own version of Mike Wallace in Torrey Smith.
Baltimore even drafted a quality #2 back. I liked Anthony Allen better than Jonathan Dwyer at Georgia Tech when Dwyer came out. Pittsburgh got Dwyer in round 6 while Baltimore obtained Allen in round 7 as a #2 back to their speedy elusive rusher in Ray Rice.
While Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are aging the Ravens have some under the radar draft picks in Sergio Kindle and Terrence Cody who teams will underestimate about since they had so much draft hype while not seeing much playing time as rookies. Plus Baltimore gets the Chargers and Jets while the Steelers get the Patriots and Chiefs which works to their advantage schedule wise.
The reason I Baltimore doesn’t win Super Bowl 46 is because Flacco is a superstar franchise quarterback, but he’s not a pro bowl talent or a hall of fame quarterback who is a top 5 NFL quarterback at this stage in his career. Plus John Harbaugh was a special teams coach without any offensive or defensive playcalling experience. Ravens have a former Florida coach at defensive coordinator while they may have the worst offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron.
1. Green Bay Packers When I made my Super Bowl 45 pick I picked the Packers because the NFL is a pass first league. You win with quarterbacks , pass blocking offensive tackles, pass rushers, pass defense shutdown corners, and pass catching wide receivers. Green Bay has 2 #1 corners in Woodson and Williams. They had two bookend tackles who could keep Harrison or Woodley from getting to Rodgers.
The other reason I like the Packers is because they dealt with more injuries and had more players on injured reserve than any team in the league and still won the Super Bowl. Green Bay didn’t lose anyone significant, they return players from injuries, and they had one of the top 5 drafts in terms of obtaining talent in 2011.
Teams who fail to repeat usually have a major problem in the offseason with a significant player retiring, coaching changes, coordinator leaving, or an athlete is on the madden cover. Taking all that into account the last two teams who had roster makeup like this were the New England Patriots team coming off Super Bowl 38 and the Denver Broncos coming off Super Bowl 33.
Not only do the Packers return nearly every significant player except Cullen Jenkins, they get a lot of talent back from injuries, and they drafted well.
Green Bay’s front office has a system that works with Ted Thompson drafting, Mike McCarthy calling offensive plays at head coach, Dom Capers defensive plays as a 3-4 defensive coordinator who can develop defensive backs, while quarterback coach Tom Clements can develop any quarterback into a starter. Clements made Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox two lackluster quarterbacks look like franchise quarterbacks when he was a quarterback coach in Pittsburgh. When Aaron Rodgers went down Matt Flynn nearly defeated the New England Patriots on the road with Green Bay. I believe Clement deserves a lot of credit for working with Rodgers when Favre started and its pretty obvious that he worked with Matt Flynn too. Clements and Dom Capers both used to coach the Steelers as positional coaches or a coordinator so that probably worked in Green Bay’s favor to a certain degree before Super Bowl 45.
Unless the loss of Cullen Jenkins inflates this defense into a hot air balloon there is a very good chance that the Packers repeat next season.