- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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The NFL draft is critical, pivotal -- franchise-altering.
The moves teams make generate strong reactions. Analysts quickly decide which teams filled needs, which teams got great value, which teams helped themselves the most and which teams could have used a different approach.
Despite generating so much reaction, the 2012 draft failed to immediately move voters for ESPN's NFL Power Rankings.
Seventeen teams emerged from this draft with the same overall ranking they held in our polling from March. Another seven teams moved only one spot from last time. Overall, 31 teams moved three or fewer spots from the previous rankings.
The Super Bowl champion New York Giants remained No. 1 despite another No. 5 vote from John Clayton. The Indianapolis Colts remained 32nd despite adding Andrew Luck (of course, we knew heading into the previous rankings that Luck would be headed to Indy).
The Philadelphia Eagles were the big movers, jumping five spots to No. 7. The Eagles improved on every ballot but one. Ashley Fox, who lives in Philadelphia and has covered the Eagles for years, kept them at No. 11 on her ballot.
"I wasn't slighting the Eagles by leaving them at 12. I didn't move many teams up or down as a result of the draft. Philadelphia had a solid draft, filling some needs along the defensive line and continuing to rebuild the linebackers, and they unloaded Asante Samuel to Atlanta," Fox said.
"Philadelphia certainly should be among the top teams in the NFC this season if -- a big if here -- Michael Vick can stay healthy. I just wasn't ready to vault them into the top 10 yet."
And now, a closer look at the ranking, beginning with a look at how teams changed (or did not change) in the rankings from before the draft:
Unchanged (17): Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Bucs, Washington Redskins.
Deadlocked: We broke three ties this time. Chicago edged Atlanta at No. 11 based on the first tiebreaker, head-to-head results (the teams played last season). Tennessee prevailed over Arizona at No. 18 based on the second tiebreaker, overall record (from last season, in this case). The Jets edged Carolina at No. 20, also on the second tiebreaker.
Like minds: Every voter had the Packers second or third and the Vikings 30th or 31st. Those were the only teams separated by no more than one spot across all five ballots.
Agree to disagree: Four panelists had the Bills ranked between 22nd and 25th. AFC East blogger James Walker had them 16th.
"I like that expectations are low for the Bills, because they are my sleeper pick for 2012," Walker said. "It's not just defensive end Mario Williams. Buffalo made some solid acquisitions in the draft and free agency that are under the radar. I think the Bills are going to surprise people this year."
The Bills surprised us last year, only to fade into oblivion and squander the benefit of the doubt among most voters.
A look at the teams generating high-low disparities of at least seven spots in the rankings:
Bills (9): Walker had them 16th, higher than any other voter had them. Fox had them 25th, lower than any voter had them.
Bucs (8): Clayton 19th, Kuharsky 27th.
Seahawks (8): Sando 17th, Kuharsky 25th.
Cardinals (8): Fox 16th, Clayton 24th.
Panthers (7): Kuharsky 16th, Clayton 23rd.
Power Rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.
Ranking the divisions: Teams from the NFC East ranked 12.8 on average, highest for any division. That was a change from Week 18 last season, when the AFC North and NFC North were 1-2 in highest overall ranking average.
A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least four spots since before the draft:
Sando: Panthers (-4), Eagles (+6), Bengals (+6).
Walker: Jaguars (-4), Cardinals (+5), Cowboys (+5).
Note: No Excel file this time. The file sheds light on potential voting inconsistencies during the season, when on-field results can be used as a reference.
56mEric D. Williams