NFL Nation: 2013 post-draft NFL power rankings

The draft didn’t do much to change the views of the panel that votes on ESPN.com’s NFL Power Rankings.

Our four teams moved a grand total of two spots -- the Colts dipped to 10 from nine; the Jaguars rose from 32 to 31.


I don’t know that I would have moved anyone any distance, either. Everybody gets better in the draft and no one gets so much better than the rest as to make a large gain.

We don’t see another version of these until we have far more to go on. We will have seen a good share of training camp.

Here's how the voters voted from Mike Sando.
Here's a look at how the AFC West teams fared in our post-draft power rankings. I do not have a vote, but I do have an opinion:

Denver Broncos

Rank: 3. Comment: Denver had a good free agency period, and followed it up with a strong draft. The Broncos are a good team that is getting better.

Kansas City Chiefs

Rank: 22. Comment: It’s not often the team that had the No. 1 pick is ranked this high three days after the draft. It was a great offseason for the Chiefs.

San Diego Chargers

Rank: 23. Comment: The Chargers arguably had the best draft in the NFL. Yet, they did not move up in the rankings.

Oakland Raiders

Rank: 29. Comment: The Raiders had a storng draft as they work on reconstructing their roster.
ESPN.com's power ranking committee convened this week because, well, why not? NFL teams have made it to the other side of the bulk of player acquisition season. Let's take a look at how NFC North teams stack up:

5. Green Bay Packers
Trending: Up one since March
Comment: Everyone seems to approve of the Packers' draft, which brought a different kind of defensive disruptor in Datone Jones and the promise of a more balanced offense thanks to running backs Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin.

13. Chicago Bears
Trending: Down two since March
Comment: The Bears worked to address two of their biggest needs, offensive line and linebacker. I'm guessing the national perspective will largely be influenced by the surprise of guard Kyle Long at No. 20 overall. I love the way @madstatistician described post-draft fan and media analysis of a draft via Twitter. We tend to "set arbitrary rankings" of players "and then grade teams on deviations from those rankings."

17. Minnesota Vikings
Trending: No change since March
Comment: There continues to be an odd split on the Vikings from voters. Dan Graziano voted them at No. 8, while all other voters had them at No. 17. Consensus at the moment: The Vikings aren't a playoff team.

24. Detroit Lions
Trending: Down two since March
Comment: Has everyone forgotten the Lions' free-agency momentum? Worried that Ziggy Ansah won't be ready to help soon enough? Not sure from this vantage point.

Post-draft NFL Power Rankings

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the only NFC South team to move up in the latest edition of the ESPN.com Power Rankings.

The Bucs moved up two spots, from No. 21 to No. 19. You can attribute that movement to the trade for cornerback Darrelle Revis and the addition of second-round draft pick Johnthan Banks. The Bucs suddenly have turned their secondary from a weakness to a strength.

The other three NFC South teams either stood still are dropped a little bit in the eyes of the voters.

The Atlanta Falcons stayed put at No. 4, although they did get a No. 1 vote from Dan Graziano. Surprisingly, the New Orleans Saints dropped two spots, from No. 12 to No. 14. I guess the voters don’t think first-round draft pick Kenny Vaccaro is going to suddenly turn around the defense.

Although I thought the Carolina Panthers got a lot better by firming up the middle of their defensive line, the voters didn’t agree. The Panthers dropped from No. 20 to No. 21.
Despite a stellar free agency and a solid draft, the Miami Dolphins still cannot get any respect in ESPN.com’s Power Rankings. Miami is remains in the bottom half of the NFL at No. 18, according our panel. NFC West blogger Mike Sando ranked Miami the lowest at No. 21.

"I wouldn't differentiate much between teams in that middle-of-the-pack category. If you lined up 32 people from tallest to shortest, you'd have a bunch of people in the middle about the same height,” Sando explained. “That's what the rankings are like. The difference between being ranked 15th and 21st is not much in most cases. I moved up Arizona after the Cardinals acquired Carson Palmer. It's not that Palmer is great. He's probably just average. But average is so much better than what the Cardinals were getting from the position last season (when they defeated the Dolphins). I moved up Kansas City and Tampa Bay a little bit while Miami stayed the same on my ballot."

The AFC East division struggled overall. Here were the Power Rankings for the division after the NFL draft:
The Jets are the worst team in the NFL, according to the Power Rankings. New York is starting a long, hard rebuild and just traded its best player, star cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Jets also have a three-way quarterback controversy with Mark Sanchez, David Garrard and rookie Geno Smith. The Bills, who also have a quarterback competition, were not much better at No. 30.

The Patriots, as expected, finished significantly higher than the rest of the division at No. 6. It’s debatable whether this year’s New England team is better than the 2012 group that lost in the AFC title game. However, the Patriots remain one of the top teams in the conference, despite some roster turnover.

Will the Dolphins, Jets or Bills challenge the Patriots in the AFC East this upcoming season? According to our Power Rankings panel, a significant gap still remains after the draft and free agency.

Post-draft Power Rankings: NFC East

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You know it was coming. Yes, the draft is a seismic enough offseason event that it's worth shuffling the Power Rankings after it's done, and here they are. Let's see how the NFC East fared.

11. Washington Redskins (Pre-draft: 13). Not bad. A two-spot hop for a team that didn't have a first-round pick? The Redskins addressed needs, took some home run swings and got good value on the safeties they picked. They're a 2012 playoff team that's returning almost its entire roster intact -- assuming Robert Griffin III makes it back from his knee surgery okay. So they hang in a playoff spot in the rankings. I had them at 11. Jamison Hensley had them at 10. Mike Sando and John Clayton ranked them 15th.

12. New York Giants (14). A little bump for the G-men as well, after a standard Giants draft that saw them add pieces to the line that are as likely to help down the road as they are in the coming season. The Giants' offseason has gone well, though they do seem thin at linebacker and a secondary that didn't add much is going to have to play better than it did in 2012. I put the Giants 14th in my rankings, as did Jamison and Ashley Fox. Sando is the highest on Big Blue, ranking them 10th.

20. Dallas Cowboys (18). The near-universal overreaction to the Cowboys' draft continues, as they drop two spots. By now you know that I thought they did well, especially after the first round, and that I'm not as down on the first-round pick as everyone else is. So I have Dallas at 17, which is the highest of any of our voters. Jamison put them at 24, which is the lowest.

25. Philadelphia Eagles (26). We still don't know what to make of the Chip Kelly Eagles, and we likely won't until we see them on the field in real games come September. Their draft appears to have been a good one, and in general they've added some interesting pieces this offseason, not the least interesting of which is Kelly himself. Jamison and I put the Eagles at 23. Clayton has them all the way down at 27, and he is done with his segment.

Thoughts?
Free agency has winded down, the schedule is out and the draft is over. Sounds like it's time to see where all of the teams measure up against one another. Here's an AFC North recap of the April edition of the NFL post-draft Power Rankings, where the Seahawks remain at No. 1:

BALTIMORE RAVENS

ESPN Power Ranking: No. 8

My ranking: No. 5

2012 record: 10-6

Comment: In my rankings right after the first wave of free agency, I had the Ravens at No. 11 because they had lost seven starters from their Super Bowl team. Since that time, the Ravens added pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil, Michael Huff as well as two potential starters in the draft (safety Matt Elam and inside linebacker Arthur Brown). There's still a major question mark at the No. 2 wide receiver spot, but the Ravens have been impressive in rebuilding their defense. That's why I moved them to No. 5, which is higher than any other voter. NFC East blogger Dan Graziano has the Ravens at No. 10, their lowest ranking.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

ESPN Power Ranking: No. 9

My ranking: No. 9

2012 record: 10-6

Comment: The Bengals really solidified themselves as a top-10 team this month. Cincinnati added linebacker James Harrison, re-signed offensive tackle Andre Smith and put together one of the best drafts in the league. Tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard bring big-play ability to the offense. Everyone has the Bengals in the top 10 except for the NFC West's Mike Sando (No. 11) and NFL columnist Ashley Fox (No. 12).

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

ESPN Power Ranking: No. 16

My ranking: No. 15

2012 record: 8-8

Comment: The Steelers couldn't do much in free agency because of their salary-cap limitations. Pittsburgh was able to retain restricted free-agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and extend RFA nose tackle Steve McLendon's contract. The Steelers also addressed needs with their first four picks in the draft with outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, running back Le'Veon Bell, wide receiver Markus Wheaton and safety Shamarko Thomas. Fox had the Steelers ranked the lowest at No. 18, while John Clayton had them the highest at No. 10.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

ESPN Power Ranking: No. 28

My ranking: No. 29

2012 record: 5-11

Comment: The Browns had the biggest fall in the rankings, dropping three spots since the one last month. This is what happens when a last-place team like the Browns only draft two players in the first five rounds of the draft. The perception of the Browns would be different if they had used their fourth-round pick on a wide receiver and their fifth-rounder on a free safety. The only teams ranked lower than the Browns are the Raiders, Bills, Jaguars and Jets.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

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Teams have added 254 players in the draft since ESPN's NFL Power Rankings last appeared six weeks ago. We've seen Carson Palmer join the Arizona Cardinals and Darrelle Revis join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, among other changes involving veteran players.

Our voters mostly shrugged when asked to update their ballots.

No team moved more than three spots higher (Cardinals) or three spots lower (Cleveland Browns) in the rankings when John Clayton, Dan Graziano, Jamison Hensley and Ashley Fox joined me in casting ballots.

Teams made larger moves up and down individual ballots.

Clayton and I moved up the Cardinals at least seven spots to reflect the change from Ryan Lindley and John Skelton to Palmer, plus continued improvements to the offensive line. The Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets fell several spots on some ballots.

Overall, however, there wasn't a great deal of movement. We did have our disagreements. None stood out more to me than a couple involving Graziano, our blogging brother from the NFC East. He had the Saints significantly lower and the Vikings significantly higher than our other voters ranked those teams.

Dan isn't exactly buying playoff tickets in New Orleans simply because Sean Payton is returning to the Saints' sideline.

"The Saints gave up the most yards in league history in 2012," he explained. "I just think it's a much longer way back for that defense than people give it credit for. Not sure how Payton's return turns them from one of the worst defenses in the history of the sport into a playoff-caliber one in one offseason."

Fair enough. But what about that No. 8 ranking for the Christian Ponder-led Vikings? Everyone else ranked them 17th.

"I don't understand the rush to drop a 2012 playoff team that replaced Percy Harvin with Greg Jennings and just crushed the draft," Graziano said. "Why won't they be good again?"

Harvin would be the more dynamic receiver of the two, in my view. The Vikings arguably gave up too much for the 29th pick in the draft, acquired from New England. And it's debatable, at least in my mind, whether Adrian Peterson can carry the team every week the way he did down the stretch last season.

All things to discuss as the offseason continues. First, we take a closer look at the rankings with May fast approaching:

Falling (10): Cleveland Browns (-3), Buffalo Bills (-2), Chicago Bears (-2), Dallas Cowboys (-2), Detroit Lions (-2), New Orleans Saints (-2), Carolina Panthers (-1), Indianapolis Colts (-1), New England Patriots (-1), New York Jets (-1).

Rising (11): Arizona Cardinals (+3), Kansas City Chiefs (+2), New York Giants (+2), Tampa Bay Bucs (+2), Washington Redskins (+2), Cincinnati Bengals (+1), Green Bay Packers (+1), Jacksonville Jaguars (+1), Miami Dolphins (+1), Oakland Raiders (+1), Philadelphia Eagles (+1).

Unchanged (11): Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans.

Deadlocked: We broke one tie. The Bears prevailed over the Saints at No. 13 based on previous ranking.

Like minds: One spot separated the highest and lowest votes for the Texans. Two votes separated highest and lowest votes for the Seahawks, 49ers, Packers, Patriots, Titans, Browns and Jets.

Agree to disagree: Ten spots separated highest and lowest votes for the Saints, the largest gap for any team. At least seven spots separated highest and lowest votes for five other teams. A look at the teams generating the largest high-low disparities:
  • Saints (10): Fox ranked the Saints 10th, higher than any other voter ranked them. Graziano ranked them 20th, lower than any other voter ranked them.
  • Cardinals (9): Sando and Clayton 20th, Fox 29th.
  • Vikings (9): Graziano eighth, every other voter 17th.
  • Steelers (8): Clayton 10th, Fox 18th.
  • Panthers (7): Hensley 18th, Clayton 25th.
  • Cowboys 7: Graziano 17th, Hensley 24th.
Power Rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.

Ranking the divisions: The NFC West remained the highest-ranked division with an 11.0 average ranking for its teams, up from 12.3 last time. Teams from the NFC North were second at 14.2, followed by the NFC South (14.6), AFC North (15.3), NFC East (17.8), AFC South (18.7), AFC West (19.4) and AFC East (21.3).

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last season:
  • Sando: Panthers (-6), Cowboys (-6), Browns (-6), Cardinals (+8).
  • Clayton: Browns (-6), Cowboys (-6), Chiefs (+5), Cardinals (+7).
  • Graziano: Bills (-9), Panthers (-6), Jets (-6), Eagles (+6), Chiefs (+8).
  • Hensley: Vikings (+5), Ravens (+6).
  • Fox: Jets (-5).

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