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Post-Draft NFL Power Rankings

With the draft in the books and free agency activity slowing, it’s finally time for the first edition of 2012 power rankings. In the parenthesis are my projected records for each time.

1. New York Giants (12-4)

The Giants have been relatively quiet in free agency this year. I wasn’t a huge fan of their first round selection of David Wilson, but it wasn’t a horrible pick by any stretch either. Wilson will be a good NFL running back and provide the Giants with insurance in case Ahmad Bradshaw were to get injured again next season. With the loss of Brandon Jacobs, the G Men needed a backup running back, I just think they should have drafted one later.

I really liked the Giants 2nd and 3rd round selections of wide receiver Reuben Randle and cornerback Jayron Hosley. Overall, the Giants haven’t done anything this offseason to warrant them losing their number one spot.

2. Green Bay Packers (14-2)

The Packers clearly made a concerted effort to improve defensively through the draft this year. They used all but one of their eight picks on that side of the ball, but they still failed to adequately address the hole left by Nick Collins who was released this offseason.

Charlie Peprah struggled filling in for Collins last year, and the only safety the Packers drafted was fourth rounder Jerron Mcmillian out of Maine. Still, the Packers were the best team in the regular season last year, and they haven’t lost a lot in free agency this offseason.

3. New England Patriots (13-3)

Like the Packers, the Patriots drafted exclusively defensive players with the exception of their very last pick. Unlike the Packers, I believe the Patriots had one of the better drafts this year.

Chandler Jones should replace what they lost with Andre Carter in free agency this year. The difference is while Carter was in the latter stage of his career, Jones should be a stud for the next ten years. Other than Carter, the Patriots didn’t really lose anyone else that notable this offseason.

Along with Jones, I expect Dont’a Hightower to be an instant difference maker on this defense. The Patriots defense was very young last season and I expect them to be much improved this year.

With the additions of Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney at receiver, the Patriots now have an embarrassment of riches at the position. Expect their offense to be dominant once again.

4. San Francisco 49ers (13-3)

The 49ers are shaping up to be a really scary team in 2012. Everyone knows they already had a great defense, but they have taken steps this offseason towards becoming an explosive offense as well. With the additions of Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, A.J. Jenkins, and LaMichael James, Alex Smith now has no excuse to not put up big time numbers next season.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

The Steelers just may have had the best draft of any team this year. With all the cuts they had to make to free up cap space for Mike Wallace, they sure needed one.

Look for Ben Roethlisberger to be far better protected this upcoming season than he was last year. If veteran linebacker Larry Foote can do an adequate job in replacing the huge void left by James Farrior, I expect the Steelers to be dominant defensively once again in 2012.

The big question mark I have is the running back situation. The Steelers didn’t draft any running backs, and seem to be content going forward with Isaac Redman as their starter. Redman played very well last season, but playing well in a limited role is far different than being a consistent starter. If Redman can build on his performance last season, watch out for the Steelers to reclaim the AFC North title.

6. Houston Texans (12-4)

I am firmly of the belief that had Matt Schaub not been injured last season, the Texans would have beaten the Ravens and made it to the AFC championship against the Patriots. They’ve become a fashionable Super Bowl pick for next season; odds makers have the Texans now sitting at 12:1. They have a great defense, a great running game, and should have a solid passing game with the return of Schaub.

The Texans didn’t lose a lot this offseason with the notable exception of Mario Williams. It’s important to remember, however, that Williams was on injured reserve for the majority of last season and the Texans made their playoff run without him. They were also without a healthy Andre Johnson in the playoffs.

Adding Whitney Mercilus in the draft should go a long way towards at least helping to replace the pass rushing void left by Williams. If they can stay healthy, this could be the Texans year.

7. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)

If the Steelers didn’t have the best draft, the Eagles probably did. They were also able to keep DeSean Jackson and lost no players of importance to free agency.

Between the Demeco Ryans acquisition and the pick of linebacker Mychal Kendricks in the second round, the Eagles are going to be much improved at linebacker next year. If first round pick Fletcher Cox can live up to expectations at defensive tackle, the Eagles run defense should go from being a relative weakness to a strength in 2012.

The Eagles will head into next season with extremely high expectations yet again, but only time will tell if the results on the field will be any different this time around.

8. Baltimore Ravens (10-6)

The Ravens seem to be the trendy pick right now to win the AFC North. After losing Terrell Suggs for at least half the season, however, I don’t seem them making it two years in a row winning the divison.

The Suggs injury will really cost their defense, but they recovered well in the draft with Courtney Upshaw. Upshaw will not step right in and replace Suggs though. No pass rusher in the draft would have been able to do that. The rest of the Ravens draft was somewhat hit-and-miss, with a couple bad reaches in the middle rounds.

One thing that’s been perhaps a little understated is how much the Ravens lost in free agency this offseason. They will be without Ben Grubbs, Bryant McKinney, Jarret Johnson, Cory Redding, and Tom Zbikowski next season. That’s a lot of quality players to lose in one free agency period. I think their defense is going to slip slightly, and I doubt the offense will be able to pick up the slack with Joe Flacco breaking the huddle.

9. Denver Broncos (10-6)

The Broncos have Peyton Manning, and are therefore legitimate contenders now. The success of the Broncos will depend mostly on how well Manning is able to hold up next season.

Last year the Broncos had the best rushing offense in football and one of the very worst passing offenses. I expect this script to be flipped with the addition of Manning and loss of Tim Tebow.

The defense is young, and should continue to improve. I think they’re going to win the AFC West, and with Peyton Manning in the playoffs anything is possible.

10. Chicago Bears (11-5)

The first order of business for the Bears should be getting Matt Forte in camp. In order to do that, they need to sign him to a long-term deal. He clearly is not satisfied about being franchise tagged, as he has thus far refused to sign his tender offer. Even if Forte’s asking price is above what the Bears want to pay him, they need to realize that they have no chance of winning without him next season. Michael Bush is not going to get it done. This is not the time to be cheap for the Bears.

Although he has been a solid quarterback statistically, Jay Cutler hasn’t really had much to throw to since going to Chicago. This all changes next season. Not only did the Bears trade to get Brandon Marshall, they also acquired Alshon Jeffery in the second round of the draft in what I think was an absolute steal.

One would think these additions would make the Bears offense more explosive. The only trouble is I suspect the offensive line still won’t be able to hold up adequately in pass protection. I expect Jay Cutler to take a lot of sacks once again.

The Bears also didn’t do a lot to address the fact that their secondary is getting a little long in the tooth. Their pass defense ranked 28th in the league last year. The most notable addition to their secondary was third round pick Brandon Hardin, but I don’t think that’s going to be even close to enough to slow down the Packers and the Lions.

The Bears will be a slightly improved team next season. Considering they were in the playoff picture last year before Cutler went down, I think they’ll be one of the NFC wild cards this season.

11. Atlanta Falcons (9-7)

Few teams were as disappointing last year as the Falcons, especially the way they ended the season. In what is now a four-year streak of winning seasons, the Falcons have still yet to win a single playoff game.

Before the playoff game against the Giants, I said that if Matt Ryan doesn’t come through people will start labeling him as a “good quarterback that can’t win the big one.” Right now, I think he deserves that label. Ryan didn’t have a great regular season last year, and he followed it up with an absolute dud in the wildcard round.

Without a first-round pick, the Falcons had a pretty quiet draft. Their biggest loss in free agency this offseason was middle linebacker Curtis Lofton to the Saints. Speaking of the Saints, if the Falcons ever had an opportunity to assume control of the NFC South this would be the year with all that’s going on in New Orleans.

12. Detroit Lions (9-7)

Everyone knows the Lions can put a lot of points up on the board. The question that will determine their fate in 2012 is if can they stop anybody. In light of their lack of offseason additions on defense, I think the answer to this question will once again be no.

They got three corners in the draft including Dwight Bentley in the third round, but they should have drafted a defensive back in the second round instead of wasting a pick on Ryan Broyles, whom they aren’t even sure will be ready to play next year coming off of a torn ACL.

The offense will only get better with Jahvid Best back from injury and another year under Matt Stafford’s belt, but the defense will once again struggle. Last season they made the playoffs basically as a result of Jay Cutler’s injury, I don’t expect them to be as lucky this time around.

13. New Orleans Saints (9-7)

I don’t think anyone really has any idea what to expect out of the Saints next year. As it currently stands, the Saints will have to go without linebacker Jonathan Vilma for an entire season and defensive end Will Smith for the first four games of the season. Make no mistake, this will really hurt their defense.

As if the loss of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams wasn’t enough, head coach Sean Payton will be suspended for the entire 2012 NFL season. Interim coach Joe Vitt is going to have his hands full getting his team prepared to play football.

With all the losses and distractions, I just can’t see the Saints being the same team they were last year. Drew Brees’ contract situation only makes matters worse. As crazy as it sounds, I think the Saints are actually going to miss the playoffs next season.

14. San Diego Chargers (9-7)

It will be really interesting to see how the Chargers rebound off of such a disappointing season. They were a lot better than their record last year, but with a clean slate none of that matters anymore.

I really think this has to be Norv Turner’s last shot in San Diego, but what do I know? I’ve literally been saying that for years now.

I loved the pick of Melvin Ingram at 18. The Chargers were really lucky that he was still available there. The rest of the draft was also solid for the Chargers; they came away as clear winners.

Their biggest loss in free agency was definitely Vincent Jackson, but I still think they have enough options in the passing game for Phillip Rivers to have a big year, especially with the return of a healthy Antonio Gates. I think the Chargers best move in free agency was signing former Raven Jarrett Johnson. The guy is a real difference maker on defense, even if it doesn’t always make itself completely apparent on the stat sheet.

Building off of his solid rookie campaign, look out for Ryan Matthews to have a huge year next season. With Mike Tolbert departed for Carolina, Matthews will get the bulk of the carries. He’ll also have Le’Ron McClain to pave the way as a lead blocker this year. I think Matthews has got a Pro Bowl year in him.

If it weren’t for the presence of Peyton Manning in Denver, I’d say this is the Chargers year to win the division. Instead I think they’ll claim one of the AFC wild cards.

15.Dallas Cowboys (9-7)

I don’t think 2012 will be a bad year for the Cowboys; I actually think they’ll improve slightly. I still don’t think they have enough to get into the playoffs however.

A lot of it will come down to how well Morris Claiborne plays next season. He will be Terrence Newman’s replacement, and if he can be a significant upgrade from what the aging Newman was last season, I believe the Cowboys will have a fighting chance to make it into the playoffs.

They didn’t have a lot of key free agents to lose this offseason. Much was made of their signing of cornerback Brandon Carr. Personally, I think the Cowboys way overpaid for a decent corner, but a lot of people liked the signing. Their secondary should be better, and if Dez Bryant can finally come into his own their passing game could be one of the best in the league.

If the Cowboys didn’t blow the rest of the draft after the first round with reaches, I might have even picked them to make the playoffs. Outside of the Claiborne pick however, I really thought the Cowboys failed at acquiring value through the draft. The Cowboys have the potential to be very good next season, but with so many question marks I believe they’ll ultimately fall short of the playoffs once again.

16.Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)

A lot of people are picking the Bengals to finish ahead of the Steelers in the AFC North. I think that’s crazy, but I do like the direction the franchise is headed. They followed up a surprisingly successful 2011 season with a solid offseason.

The Bengals resigned the majority of their important free agents. They also signed Terrence Newman, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, cornerback Jason Allen, and guard Travelle Wharton.

The draft was another success for the Bengals. I especially liked their first three picks of corner Dre Kirkpatrick, guard Kevin Zeitler, and defensive tackle Devon Still.

I think the Bengals will continue to improve next season, but I don’t think their offense is good enough yet to really compete with the elite teams of the AFC. I expect them to narrowly miss the playoffs this time around.

17.New York Jets (8-8)

The Jets offseason has been dominated by the Tim Tebow soap opera. On one hand, I liked the move because I believe Tebow is already a better NFL quarterback than Mark Sanchez ever will be. On the other hand, if any team needs to avoid unnecessary drama next season it’s the Jets. It will be interesting to see how long Sanchez lasts.

My prediction is that the Jets struggle early on and Tebow gets inserted in midway through the season. Then I think they’ll continue to struggle and the locker room will become somewhat divided over the quarterback controversy. The New York media will not help things either.

I like the addition of Tony Sparano as offensive coordinator, but I’m not sure it will be enough to turn the Jets offense around. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Jets draft. Quinton Coples is all potential, and I don’t think defensive end was really the position they needed in the first round. I did like the Stephen Hill pick in the second round though.

Maybe he can help Mark Sanchez? I don’t really think anything can help Sanchez, which is the primary reason I’m calling another tumultuous season for the Jets.

18.Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)

I’ve never really liked Romeo Crennel as a head coach. I think he’s a good defensive coordinator and nothing more. Firing Todd Haley midseason was a huge mistake in my opinion. It wasn’t Haley’s fault that the Chiefs lost arguably their two best players in week 1 last season. It was Haley, not Romeo Crennel, that led the Chiefs to the playoffs in 2010.

The good news for the Chiefs is that they get to start fresh with Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry back. The impact the injuries of these two players had on the Chiefs season last year cannot be understated. The Chiefs also hope to get a full year out of Matt Cassel, who was placed on injured reserve after suffering an injury to his hand in week 10.

With Charles back, their running game should go back to being amongst the best in the NFL. The Chiefs also added Peyton Hillis in free agency. I think Hillis was probably just a one-year wonder in Cleveland, but he could contribute and they got him for a modest price.

Some have said that Dontari Poe has the skill set of Halto Ngata, but he doesn’t play like Ngata on film. That’s what’s important. It will be interesting to see if Poe can help perpetuate the Chiefs legendary track record for drafting defensive linemen. They need him to be good right away, because their defense was ranked 26th against the run last season.

Outside of the Poe pick, I thought the Chiefs had a pretty solid draft. I think fourth round pick Devon Wylie has a chance to be a really good slot receiver for them. Great value pick there.

If Peyton Manning gets hurt or has a disappointing season, then I think the AFC West is going to come down to a race between the Chiefs and the Chargers. I don’t see the Chiefs edging the Chargers out however. I expect them to finish right around 500.

19.Carolina Panthers (7-9)

I expect the Panthers to show a lot of improvement next season. Putting points up on the scoreboard wasn’t an issue for them last year, but their defense was absolutely atrocious. They couldn’t stop the run or the pass.

The problem was not addressed during the Panthers quiet free agency period. In the first round of the draft, they went with linebacker Luke Kuechly out of Boston College. While I don’t doubt that Kuechly will be a solid player in the NFL, I think the Panthers would have been wiser to draft a defensive tackle with the pick. Until their defense improves more, I don’t view the Panthers as playoff contenders.

20.Tennessee Titans (7-9)

The word out of Tennessee is that the Titans plan on taking their time with Jake Locker. Matt Hasselbeck could even start the whole year. I like the way they’re going about the situation. Locker has the potential to be a great quarterback, but with a solid guy like Hasselbeck on the roster there is no reason to rush his progress. This will also keep them competitive this year.

What they really need is Chris Johnson to be the player he was two years ago. If he can be, the Titans could make the playoffs. I’m just not confident he’ll be that guy again. It’s not that I don’t think he can be personally, but defenses just don’t respect the Titans passing game. This is why I like the Kendall Wright pick. The Titans need to scare defenses away from stacking the box with eight or nine defenders by beating them through the air. That way, Chris Johnson should be able to look more like Chris Johnson again.

Losing Cortland Finnegan will really hurt their secondary. They also didn’t do enough to address their below average run defense this offseason. The Titans just don’t have enough on their roster to be a playoff team in my opinion.

21.Arizona Cardinals (7-9)

I don’t think anyone really knows who will be the Cardinals starting quarterback at the start of the regular season. My gut feeling is that they want it to be Kevin Kolb. One thing is for certain, if the Cardinals quarterback play does not improve next season, then they stand no chance of making the playoffs.

The fact that the Cardinals won more games last year when Skelton was at the helm can be attributed more towards the overall play of the team than towards Skelton’s play. Kolb’s quarterback rating last year was a mediocre 81.1, whereas Skelton’s was an anemic 68.9.

Whether it’s Kolb or Skelton breaking the huddle, neither will have the excuse that they didn’t have enough weapons to throw to. I loved the Michael Floyd pick. I think he and Larry Fitzgerald have a chance to form one of the best wide receiving duos in the league. They also resigned Early Doucet who had a solid season last year.

The Cardinals hope that their defense can continue to improve next season. I’ll give them some credit, they did really come on at the end there. They’ve still got a long way to go though, particularly up front.

If the Cardinals win more than seven games next year I’ll be surprised. I just don’t think Kolb or Skelton will ever be quality NFL starters, and they don’t have a good enough defense or running game to overcome poor quarterback play.

22.Seattle Seahawks (7-9)

The Seahawks currently have a three-way quarterback competition under way between rookie Russell Wilson, Tarvaris Jackson, and Matt Flynn. I’d be very surprised if Flynn didn’t eventually come out on top, but I’m not confident he’ll succeed.

Flynn has such limited experience. You have to respect what he’s done when he’s gotten the chance, but he’s had so few chances. The other thing to remember about Flynn is all the weapons he had to distribute the football to in Green Bay. He will not have the same embarrassment of riches to throw to in Seattle.

I didn’t particularly like the Seahawks draft. The Bruce Irvin pick was clearly the biggest reach of the entire draft, and they failed to add another weapon to the outside. They did just pick up Kellen Winslow in a trade with the Buccaneers for an undisclosed conditional draft pick, and that’s a good move.

2012 will be year three for Pete Carrol. The guy can certainly coach defense, but I don’t know that he’s found himself his quarterback just yet. I know he’s really high on Russell Wilson, but his short stature concerns me. We’ll see if either Wilson or Matt Flynn proves me wrong.

23.Washington Redskins (6-10)

The Redskins will continue to struggle in 2012 with Robert Griffin III. Will they be a little better? I think so, but they’re still not a very good football team at this point. With that being said, the future is bright in Washington. Griffin is a perfect fit for Mike Shanahan’s offense. There’s no doubt in my mind that he will be a star in this league, it’s just a question of how soon.

Griffin will have some weapons to throw to. The Redskins added Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan in free agency this offseason. I think the Redskins also may have found their running back of the future in Roy Helu. He really came on strong towards the tail end of last season.

Outside of Griffin, the Redskins had a terrible draft. I literally disliked almost every single pick they made after the first round. With the lack of high draft picks the Redskins have the next few seasons, they really couldn’t afford to draft so poorly this year. There is no way that guard Josh LeRibeus was worth a third round pick. I also don’t understand why they drafted quarterback Kirk Cousins the same year they landed their future franchise quarterback in Griffin.

The Redskins will in all likelihood once again be the worst team in the NFC East. I think they’ll at least be more competitive next season however.

24.Buffalo Bills (6-10)

There’s one thing Bills fans can be sure of next season. The Bills pass defense is going to be a whole lot better. In a division with Tom Brady, this is of prime importance. The biggest reason for this is of course the addition of the best defensive free agent this offseason, Mario Williams. They also signed defensive end Mark Anderson, who should start at the other defensive end position in the Bills new 4-3 scheme under Dave Wanstedt. Together, Williams and Anderson should drastically improve the Bills pass rush. With their first round pick, the Bills selected cornerback Stephon Gilmore out of South Carolina. Gilmore should be able to step in and be a starter day one.

What’s concerning about the Bills is that they finished 28th in the league in stopping the run, yet they didn’t use a pick on their defensive front seven until the 5th round. Kirk Morrison could help, but he’s coming off a below-average season in Jacksonville, where he was traded by the Raiders for a 5th round pick. Unless Wanstedt can fix the run defense, the Bills won’t finish above 500.

The Bills offense has potential. Fred Jackson really emerged as one of the best running backs in the league last season before he went down to injury. Now they need C.J. Spiller to play like a first round pick and be a dependable change of pace for Jackson. Spiller showed flashes late last season after Jackson’s injury, but he’s been very inconsistent. For the sake of his job security, Chan Gailey had also better hope that Ryan Fitzpatrick plays like he did in the first half of the season last year and not the second half. They still haven’t given Fitzpatrick a viable weapon opposite Steve Johnson at receiver.

The Bills are going to have more talent on their roster in 2012 than they have had in a while. I still don’t think they’re going to be a very good football team. Their run defense should be among the NFL’s worst once again, and Fitzpatrick will never put up very good numbers with the receiving core they have.

25.Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

The Buccaneers had a pretty loud offseason. First, they put together an entirely new coaching staff. Considering how disappointing the Bucs were last season, I have no issues with this decisive move. Greg Schiano was very successful in turning around the program at Rutgers, and I think he was a decent hire as head coach.

In free agency, the Bucs signed cornerback Eric Wright, guard Carl Nicks, defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, Vincent Jackson, and more recently Dallas Clark. Clark should be able to replace Kellen Winslow, who was just traded away to the Seahawks. Carl Nicks is one of the very best guards in football. Jackson should fill the Bucs desperate need for a legitimate number one wide receiver. Wright will start opposite Ronde Barber and add some much needed experience to their secondary.

I like the Bucs pick of Mark Barron at number seven. He’s going to start immediately and be a really good player. He’s about as close to a sure thing as you’re going to see in the draft. I think Doug Martin’s going to replace LeGarrette Blount as the featured tailback, which will upgrade the Bucs anemic running game. Outside linebacker Lavonte David was an absolute steal at 58. I also expect him to start immediately.

The Bucs defense is still very young and will continue to struggle in 2012. The difference is they won’t be historically bad like they were last year. The new coaching staff needs to inject some life into this team. The Bucs had a great offseason, and they should be significantly better next year if Josh Freeman can improve rather than regress like he did last season. That’s a big if though.

26.Miami Dolphins (4-12)

Let me start off by saying that I love the Dolphins hiring of Joe Philbin. The guy can flat out coach offense. The Dolphins need to become more dangerous through the air, and Philbin has quite the track record with high-powered passing games.

It doesn’t appear as if the Dolphins are expecting first-round pick Ryan Tannehill to step in and start in his rookie year. With Tannehill most likely holding the clipboard, the quarterback competition will be between incumbent Matt Moore and veteran David Garrard.

Moore wasn’t terrible last year, although he did fumble the ball an alarming nine times. I expect that Garrard’s going to win the job though. I don’t think the Jaguars really appreciated what they had in Garrard until he was gone. He was a solid starting quarterback, and I think he still can be. Garrard should be a good guy for Tannehill to learn under.

I thought Tannehill was a bad reach by the Dolphins at number 8. They should have done whatever it took to trade down for him. They didn’t get adequate value in the first round, but the rest of the Dolphins draft went pretty well. Reggie Bush and Lamar Miller, who was a steal in the fourth round, should form an impressive running back tandem.

I hated the Brandon Marshall trade. It made no sense to me. They have so few weapons at receiver as is. Does Philbin really think he can go into next season with Brian Hartline as their number one receiver? The Dolphins also failed to address their poor pass defense. Defensive end Oliver Vernon was a nice pick in the third round, but their secondary is still below average.

The Dolphins were better than their record indicated last season, but I don’t think they’ve improved much as a football team. Joe Philbin’s going to need some time to turn this franchise around.

27.Oakland Raiders (3-13)

Another year, and another new head coach in Oakland in Dennis Allen. The Raiders may be the single most unstable organization in football. It’s no wonder they never even sniff the playoffs.

How’s that Carson Palmer trade looking? Not too good if you ask me. Palmer struggled last season and was outperformed by rookie Andy Dalton. I don’t expect things to be much different this time around. I just don’t see Palmer ever being the player he was early in his career in Cincinnati before his ankle injury.

Due to that Palmer trade, the Raiders didn’t have a draft pick until the third round. The only draft pick of Oakland’s that I actually liked was Juron Criner in the fifth round. He should contribute instantly out of the slot.

The Raiders couldn’t stop anybody last year and with the quiet free agency period and draft they head, I don’t expect their defense to be any better next season. With an old, ineffective quarterback, a horrible defense, and yet another year with a new coaching staff, the Oakland Raiders are going to be a bad football team yet again in 2012.

28.St. Louis Rams (3-13)

It’s going to be Sam Bradford’s third offensive system in three years. This is obviously not a smart way to develop a quarterback, and the whole Rams organization deserves blame. Bradford did have a good rookie season, and I still think he will be a good quarterback in the league, but he needs some stability around him in order to have any chance of being successful. I think Jeff Fisher can help provide that stability. Fisher is one of the best coaches in football.

The Rams have holes all over their roster. I liked the signing of former Eagles wideout Steve Smith. Things never worked out for Smith in Philly, but with the loss of Brandon Lloyd the Rams really needed to get a capable receiver in free agency.

The Rams had one of the best picks of the first round in Michael Brockers. Brockers was a good value pick at 14, and the Rams had a desperate need for a defensive tackle. I expect him to step in and immediately improve their awful run defense.

The Rams don’t have the pieces yet to be anywhere close to competing with the 49ers in the NFC West. Give them a few years though. With Fisher at the helm and Bradford at quarterback, the Rams could have a bright future.

29.Indianapolis Colts (2-14)

Everything is new in Indianapolis. They have a new general manager in Ryan Grigson, and a new head coach in Chuck Pagano. They are switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 on defense. The offensive scheme will also be different with Bruce Arians coming over from Pittsburgh as the new offensive coordinator.

The Colts had an outstanding draft. Everyone knows about Andrew Luck, but the Colts also selected Lucks college tight end in Coby Fleener in the second round. In the third round they went with another tight end, Dwayne Allen. Both have the potential to be vertical threats for Luck in the passing game, but neither can block. That’s why they were still available for the Colts in the second and third rounds.

All of the changes in Indy mean 2012 will be nothing more than a transition year for the Colts. It may sound crazy, but they could be even worse in 2012 than they were last year. The only thing that really matters for the Colts next season is the development of Luck. Everything else is secondary.

30.Cleveland Browns (2-14)

It’s going to be another rough year in Cleveland. Trent Richardson will help, there’s no doubt about that. But is he going to make the Browns much better next year? I doubt it.

I didn’t like the rest of the Browns draft at all. Brandon Weeden isn’t going to succeed in my opinion, and Brady Quinn deserved one more opportunity. The fact that they didn’t address their terrible run defense this offseason is absolutely inexcusable in my opinion.

The Browns are going to have trouble putting up points next season. Defenses will stack up to stop Trent Richardson, and I think most good defenses will be successful in doing so. The Browns will get behind early in games and will not be able to stop the run in the second half.

The best case scenario for the Browns would be for Weeden to have a really good rookie season. If that were to happen, then the Browns could be a decent team. They were a top-five scoring defense last season. I just don’t have much confidence in Weeden’s success, especially considering the receivers he has to throw to.

31.Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)

It’s about time the Jaguars head into a new season without Jack Del Rio as their head coach. How Del Rio wasn’t fired sooner is beyond me. While I’m not sold on Mike Mularkey as a head coach either, the change really can’t hurt.

The Jaguars passing offense ranked dead last in the NFL last season. Despite the additions of Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon, it wouldn’t surprise me if the passing offense finished near the bottom of the league again in 2012.

Blaine Gabbart had a horrible rookie season. Maybe Mike Mularkey can turn him around. Gabbart is a talented quarterback, and to his credit, he really had no one to throw to last season. If Gabbart doesn’t show some signs of improvement, expect Mularkey to turn to Chad Henne. Anyone that watched Henne play in Miami knows that he’s not exactly a solid second option however.

The success of the Jaguars season really is riding on Gabbart’s improvement. Their defense is decent, and if Gabbart can get the ball out to Blackmon and Robinson on a consistent basis, then the Jaguars could win some games next year. Don’t count on it though.

32.Minnesota Vikings (2-14)

And finally we get to the Vikings. Just two years removed from an NFC Championship appearance, the Vikings are now among the NFL’s worst teams.

Matt Kalil was a smart pick at number three. It’s critical that young quarterback Christian Ponder has his blind side protected. Harrison Smith should be a playmaker for a secondary in desperate need of one.

Adrian Peterson’s recovery from rehab is going remarkably well. He looks to be ready for training camp. It’s a shame a truly special player like Peterson is stuck in Minnesota right now at the prime of his career. Unfortunately for Peterson, I don’t think Christian Ponder is ever going to be the franchise quarterback the Vikings are hoping he can be.

In reality, the chances of the Vikings winning more than five or six games next season are about the same as the chances of Brett Favre making another triumphant comeback to the NFL. It’s just not going to happen.




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Ethan Demers attends Syracuse University and majors in Political Science. His favorite player to play with in Madden was Jerome Bettis when the truck stick was first implemented (Madden 2006). Demers also writes for Football Nation (http://www.footballnation.com/author/ethan-demers/)

Number of Entries : 51

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