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NFL Power Rankings: Risers, fallers before 2021 NFL Draft

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A wild offseason has provided plenty of changes to our NFL power rankings. With the 2021 NFL Draft closing in, there will be even more teams sliding up and down based on how they fare over the three-day frenzy. Before Roger Goodell announces Trevor Lawrence as the No. 1 pick, we need to look at where things stand for every club.

There has been no shortage of movement this spring, especially on the quarterback front. Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold and Ryan Fitzpatrick all changed teams. Many of their respective clubs believe they upgrade with those moves and for those that kept their quarterback, other free-agent additions and re-signings bolstered their roster for next season. But, there’s still work to be done and needs will be addressed via the 2021 NFL Draft.

Let’s dive into our latest NFL power rankings, updated throughout the offseason.

READ: Predicting NFL playoff teams and Super Bowl 2022 winner

Updated: April 18, 12:30 PM EST

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1)

NFL power rankings: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the first reigning Super Bowl champion to bring back all 22 of their starters. Oh, they will also have a healthy O.J. Howard next season and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vita Vea likely won’t suffer a broken leg again. With all of that, plus the best coaching staff in the NFL returning, the Bucs enter the NFL Draft in a dream scenario.

Tampa Bay can go any direction it wants. If the Bucs want to trade down, that puts them in a position to make this roster even deeper. Drafting a quarterback early, someone to learn from Tom Brady, is even on the table. It will be fascinating to watch how this front office operates on draft night.

Related: Top takeaways from Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl LV victory over the Kansas City Chiefs

2. Kansas City Chiefs (2)

NFL power rankings: Kansas City Chiefs
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Credit to the Chiefs for getting aggressive this offseason. While they missed out on Trent Williams and JuJu Smith-Schuster, adding Joe Thuney and Kyle Long to the offensive line is huge. This is the mentality teams with elite quarterbacks must have, it puts them in positions to compete for the Super Bowl. An improved offensive line paired with Patrick Mahomes, that’s all this team needs to win another title.

Our Chiefs’ mock draft lays out one potential approach for Kansas City. The bottom line, they must find an offensive tackle to fill the final void. If they can accomplish that and find some help on the defensive side, there’s no reason to think the Chiefs can’t challenge the Bucs next season.

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3. Cleveland Browns (4)

NFL power rankings: Cleveland Browns
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Cleveland already boasted an offense capable of competing for a Super Bowl, depending on your level of confidence in Baker Mayfield. One way to ease some of the concerns would be strengthening the defense. Troy Hill and John Johnson III were huge additions for the Browns’ secondary. Then, needing an edge rusher to pair with Myles Garrett, Cleveland landed Jadeveon Clowney. If the Browns find a quality No. 2 corner via free agency (Richard Sherman) or the NFL Draft, they become a great sleeper bet to win the Super Bowl.

Cleveland Browns draft picks: Top 2021 NFL Draft selections, ideal prospects to target

4. Buffalo Bills (3)

NFL power rankings
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After witnessing Josh Allen become an MVP-caliber quarterback in 2020, the Bills are making sure to put a championship-caliber roster around him. Emmanuel Sanders replaces John Brown and quality depth additions have been made, all while the front office retained the offensive line. The big question is on the defensive side, cornerback specifically. Just keep an eye out for a trade down, because addressing multiple holes early on Day 2 could be better than just filling one void at No. 30 overall.

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5. Los Angeles Rams (5)

NFL power rankings
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Landing Matthew Stafford is huge for this offense. We’re finally going to see some of the more creative elements from Sean McVay’s scheme, helping the Rams become one of the NFL’s best offenses. If they kept the same defense from last season, this team would be right up there with the Buccaneers. After losing defensive coordinator Brandon Staley and safety John Johnson, though, this defense will regress.

Filling holes on both sides of the ball will be a little difficult. Los Angeles doesn’t have a first-round pick, that’s nothing new, and is set to make only two selections within the top-100 picks. Fans just have to hope linebacker, center and safety can be adequately addressed. Until we get answers at those spots, the Rams are in a tier below the top contenders.

6. Baltimore Ravens (7)

NFL power rankings: Baltimore Ravens
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Baltimore’s pass rush disappeared late in the season, so it’s not a huge surprise that the front office let Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue walk. But it turns a problem on defense into a glaring Achilles heel, one that is especially harmful in Don Martindale’s scheme.

The Ravens finally did their quarterback a solid, signing Sammy Watkins. It’s a nice move amid Lamar Jackson contract talks, but more can be done. We do expect Baltimore’s offense to be better in 2021, the Super Bowl hopes just depend on how this defense looks and what talent is brought in via the draft.

Column: Baltimore Ravens will extend Lamar Jackson, but must get MVP more weapons

7. Green Bay Packers (6)

NFL power rankings: Green Bay Packers
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Read More: Why Aaron Rodgers must consider trade demand amid contract dispute

The drama surrounding Aaron Rodgers is back. Green Bay’s front office has received strong criticism for how it has approached the offseason and it’s understandable. As so many other championship-caliber teams have improved this spring, the Packers’ roster is worse. If Green Bay doesn’t knock it out of the park in the NFL Draft, they will move down even further in our NFL power rankings.

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8. Seattle Seahawks (9)

NFL power rankings: Seattle Seahawks
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It’s been a wild offseason in Seattle. Initial trade inquiries into the availability of Russell Wilson seemed laughable. Suddenly, his issues with the Seahawks’ organization went public and the front office didn’t like it. It even got to the point where Seattle seriously considered an offer. For now, Wilson remains in Seattle and it will likely stay that way this year. Given some of the additions made (Gabe Jackson, Gerald Everett), Wilson might even be happier in 2021.

Read: Blockbuster NFL trades that could happen in 2021

9. Indianapolis Colts (8)

NFL power rankings: Indianapolis Colts
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The Colts are taking a big gamble on Carson Wentz. It could work out nicely, a reunion with Frank Reich and a new environment turning back the clock on a quarterback who looked awful in 2020. The circumstances are certainly ideal and the Colts look like the best team in the division. But this passing attack and defense aren’t quite good enough to reach the AFC Championship Game and they’ll be even lower in our NFL power rankings if things go south for Wentz. As for the upcoming draft, adding a reliable left tackle and a cover corner would go a long way for this team’s evaluation.

10. Arizona Cardinals (10)

NFL Power Rankings: Arizona Cardinals
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Talk about a win-now mentality. Arizona overpaid J.J. Watt, but he is going to be better with Chandler Jones than we saw in his final year with the Houston Texans. A fearsome pass rush is great and Kyler Murray should be even better with Rodney Hudson at center and A.J. Green pairing with DeAndre Hopkins at wide receiver. But Arizona is incredibly weak at cornerback and in playoff battles against the likes of Wilson, Rodgers and Tom Brady, that spells trouble.

Read More: 20 biggest NFL draft busts of all time

Looking ahead to April 29, we’d recommend the Cardinals trade down. Lacking quality picks in a deep class, sliding down the board will help Arizona fill out this roster and depth will make a key difference next season.

11. San Francisco 49ers (11)

NFL power rankings: San Francisco 49ers
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Trey Lance makes a ton of sense, especially in this scheme. In terms of physical talent, Justin Fields would be a fantastic addition and he could even beat Jimmy Garoppolo for the starting job. If San Francisco gave up all that draft capital for Mac Jones, it should be viewed as the worst pick in the NFL Draft and the 49ers will fall down our NFL power rankings.

San Francisco 49ers draft picks: Top 2021 selections, ideal prospects to target

12. Miami Dolphins (12)

NFL power rankings: Miami Dolphins
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After being carried by its defense last season, Miami is improving on the other side of the ball. Will Fuller is exactly the kind of wide receiver Tua Tagovailoa needs and that likely won’t be the only addition this front office makes. If the Dolphins nail the 2021 NFL Draft, they could push for a higher spot in our post-draft NFL power rankings.

Miami Dolphins draft picks: Top 2021 selections, ideal prospects to target

13. Tennessee Titans (13)

NFL power rankings: Tennessee Titans
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Tennessee’s defense was its biggest problem last season, ultimately sinking this team. In desperate need of a pass rusher, the Titans probably overpaid Bud Dupree. He won’t be nearly as effective as we saw in Pittsburgh, which will likely be the same story for Janoris Jenkins. All that said, this defense is improved. Unfortunately, the offense might be worse.

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14. Los Angeles Chargers (15)

NFL power rankings: Los Angeles Chargers
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The Chargers had two problems last season. First, head coach Anthony Lynn just seemed to make all the wrong decisions in key moments. Second, injuries and some pedestrian play-calling held this defense back. With Brandon Staley now at the helm, we expect both issues to be taken care of. Pair that with Justin Herbert in his second season and the Chargers, with an improved offensive line, look like a contender.

Read More: Los Angeles Chargers mock draft: Full 7-round 2021 NFL Draft projections

15. Washington Football Team (16)

NFL power rankings: Washington Football Team
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FitzMagic is coming to Washington D.C. Admittedly, Fitzpatrick’s reputation exceeds his talents. He isn’t the caliber of quarterback who can go on a playoff run and he is prone to mistakes. But he is still an upgrade over Alex Smith. Pair that with the addition of Curtis Samuel and William Jackson III, Washington stands out as the best team in the NFC East.

Looking ahead to the 2021 NFL Draft for the WFT, trading up for a quarterback is on the table. We’d recommend adding to this defense or helping Fitzpatrick out with some additional help. No matter what happens, though, this is currently the team to beat in the division.

16. New York Giants (17)

NFL power rankings: New York Giants
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It all rests on Daniel Jones. The Giants have an outstanding defense, will get Saquon Barkley back in 2021 and just added Kenny Golladay. Everything is in place for New York to become a playoff contender, especially in a weak division. As of now, though, we’re not betting on a quarterback with an 84.1 passer rating and an alarming penchant for turnovers to get the job done. If Jones takes an unexpected leap in 2021 or this defense plays at the level we saw from Washington in 2020, then an NFC East crown is possible.

New York Giants draft picks: Top options in a strong class, ideal 2021 NFL Draft targets

17. New Orleans Saints (14)

NFL power rankings: New Orleans Saints
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It’s a new era in New Orleans. Drew Brees is gone, Jameis Winston is the projected starter and Taysom Hill will have an even bigger role in 2021. Believe it or not, the Saints’ passing attack might be better with a quarterback who the coaching staff believes offers more upside than Stafford. So, yes, this offense can still be elite. The same can’t be said about the defense, which has huge holes to fill after cap casualties. There’s a chance a strong draft can change our perception of the Saints, but it will take a lot to go right.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers (16)

NFL power rankings: Pittsburgh Steelers
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Pittsburgh rode its defense to an undefeated start and the NFL Playoffs in 2020, all while Ben Roethlisberger aged rapidly. Big Ben will be back in 2021, a year older, playing behind a worse offensive line. There’s little reason to like the Steelers’ offense as of now, but that isn’t the real problem. Pittsburgh’s defense, due to multiple losses, is going to take a step back and that leads to this team plummeting in the NFL power rankings. Barring a draft-day miracle, we’ll remain low on this roster.

19. Dallas Cowboys (19)

NFL power rankings: Dallas Cowboys
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Read More: Dallas Cowboys mock draft: Latest 7-round 2021 NFL Draft projection

Dak Prescott finally got paid the contract he earned. With his return in 2021, the Cowboys immediately return as a threat to win the NFC East. There’s little question about this offense, which should be one of the highest-scoring units in the NFL. However, Dallas’ defense remains a glaring problem. While the division is winnable, the defensive edge held by the Giants and WFT puts them ahead of the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys draft picks: Top options in a strong class, ideal 2021 NFL Draft targets

20. New England Patriots (26)

NFL power rankings: New England Patriots
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Cam Newton is back and this roster looks so much better than it did last season. The foundation of New England’s offense will be the rushing attack, which should be strong thanks to Newton, Sony Michel and a great offensive line. The best news, the additions of Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.

Read More: New England Patriots mock draft – Seven-round predictions with trades

New England’s draft will be one to keep a close eye on. There is growing speculation that Bill Belichick trades up for a quarterback. Even if he doesn’t, instead grabbing the best skill player available at No. 15, this roster gets even stronger. We expect New England and Cam to rebound in 2021.

21. Denver Broncos (22)

NFL power rankings: Denver Broncos
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Drew Lock is in the same boat as Daniel Jones. Heading into the 2021 season, the Broncos’ offense will have Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Noah Fant. That’s an exciting core, one with the talent to be one of the highest-scoring offenses in the AFC. Let’s pair that with a defense that added Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby, with Von Miller also returning.

So, all the pressure is on Lock’s shoulders and the Broncos’ front office is scouting the 2021 quarterback class. Whether Denver trades up or gets lucky at No. 9 overall, we’d suggest finding an alternative to Lock. Even a slight upgrade, either a player with more talent or who makes better decisions, can make this a playoff team.

22. Minnesota Vikings (21)

NFL power rankings: Minnesota Vikings
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The Minnesota Vikings are a perfectly adequate team. Getting Danielle Hunter back next season would be huge, but he might want a trade. The Vikings beefed up the defensive line with Dalvin Tomlinson, but there are bigger needs in the secondary and on the edge. On the other side of the ball, the offensive line is a question mark and Kirk Cousins isn’t exactly Mr. Consistent. The NFC North shouldn’t be close in 2021 and we would advise the Vikings to draft with a post Rodgers future in mind.

Related: NFL Rookie of the Year Award final update

23. Carolina Panthers (23)

NFL power rankings: Carolina Panthers
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The Carolina Panthers are certainly confident the Sam Darnold trade will pay off. Consider us skeptical. Quarterbacks with a sub-60% completion rate after three seasons don’t suddenly get better in most cases. The supporting cast and play-calling in Carolina are significantly better than what Darnold had in New York, that is undeniable. But, it’s hard to imagine the Panthers wouldn’t have been better off just trading up for Fields.

24. New York Jets (24)

NFL Power Rankings: New York Jets
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New York is starting to turn a corner. The Jets hit a home run with Robert Saleh, a coach who will revitalize the locker room and help turn this defense around. Adding Carl Lawson and Lamarcus Joyner is a nice boost to help New York start shutting down the pass. As for the Jets’ offense, Denzel Mims, Corey Davis and Chris Herndon can be a quality trio, with the right quarterback. Will Zach Wilson be the guy who finally does it? Only time will tell, but he certainly won’t have the excuses Darnold was given.

25. Atlanta Falcons (25)

NFL power rankings: Atlanta Falcons
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Matt Ryan is getting another year and that’s the right decision. He can still perform well, especially in Arthur Smith’s offense. Assuming Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley stay healthy, Atlanta can put up more than enough points to stay competitive in games. Those positives out of the way, this defense will be one of the worst in the NFL. If we’re advising the Falcons, now is the time to draft Ryan’s heir and there is a perfect target.

Atlanta Falcons draft picks: Best 2021 NFL Draft targets, potential draft selections

26. Las Vegas Raiders (21)

NFL power rankings: Las Vegas Raiders
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It’s fair to say Jon Gruden should no longer have roster control. Tearing apart a strong offensive line, failing to address clear needs on defense and overpaying a change-of-pace running back. The Raiders’ offense is going to be worse in 2021 and it seems like the blame for that will wrongly be placed on Derek Carr. Fans are already counting down the minutes, literally, until Gruden is gone. Looking ahead to the 2021 NFL Draft, with Gruden running the show, this offensive line must be rebuilt.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (27)

NFL power rankings: Jacksonville Jaguars
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Jacksonville is excitedly waiting for the 2021 NFL Draft to arrive. Trevor Lawrence is going to change this franchise, turning an offense with underutilized talent into a future AFC contender. On top of that, the Jaguars are using their cap space to strengthen this defense.

With so much draft capital, it will be difficult for the Jaguars to not walk out of the 2021 NFL Draft as winners. But that also doesn’t mean things will be great right away. Football will be more entertaining this fall in Jacksonville, but this remains one of the worst teams in the NFL.

28. Chicago Bears (24)

NFL power rankings: Chicago Bears
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Chicago’s confidence in Andy Dalton is laughable. He doesn’t move the needle at all for this offense and while there are worse options, it’s hard to fathom how the Bears settle for this. Chicago’s defense will take a step back next season and we already know its offense can’t do any heavy lifting. Desperation might lead to overpaying in a quarterback trade and even that could have serious consequences.

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29. Philadelphia Eagles (30)

NFL power rankings: Philadelphia Eagles
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The Eagles might be the biggest wild card of the 2021 NFL Draft. They already traded down once, could now be eyeing a move back into the top 10 and they might also want another first-round pick. If we’ve learned one thing this offseason, largely based on leaks, it’s hard to imagine this organization making the right move.

Read More: Philadelphia Eagles general manager reportedly ‘berated’ star player, got into heated dispute in 2018

30. Cincinnati Bengals (29)

NFL power rankings: Cincinnati Bengals
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The Bengals remain a mess. Joe Burrow’s recovery from multiple ligament tears will take time and there’s no guarantee he plays at 100% when he hits the field. Riley Reiff is a short-term fix at right tackle, but the interior of the offensive line is still a mess. Oh, the Bengals’ secondary also looks awful outside of Jessie Bates III. A top-five pick in the 2022 NFL Draft feels like a safe bet.

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31. Detroit Lions (31)

NFL power rankings: Detroit Lions
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The rebuild is underway. Jared Goff is a bandaid, likely a one-year bridge at quarterback. The only real core pieces presently on this offense are D’Andre Swift, T.J. Hockenson and Frank Ragnow. On the other side of the ball, this defense is going to tread water in the best-case scenario next season. Thanks to a war chest of 2022 and 2023 draft picks and a bright general manager, the future looks bright for Detroit. We’re betting on the Lions being very active on the trade front during the NFL Draft.

32. Houston Texans (32)

NFL power rankings: Houston Texans
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Quantity doesn’t mean quality. Nick Caserio has been the most active general manager this offseason, swinging trades or signing free-agent talent every other day. The overall depth on this team will be better than what fans witnessed in 2021, but the starting lineup will be worse. If all of this wasn’t enough, now the Deshaun Watson trade saga has turned into alarming off-field accusations that threaten his future and the Texans’ hopes of rebuilding anytime soon.

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