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2013 NFL Power Rankings: Pre-draft edition

04.24.13 at 10:34 am ET
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It’s that rare time of year when the 32 NFL teams are graded by what they’ve done off the field just as much as what they’ve done on it. The last time we watched football, the Ravens were crowned Super Bowl champs. Since then, the champs have lost six starters on defense and their best pass-catching weapon. The Ray Lewis-less Ravens are at No. 7.

Once the joke of the NFL, the NFC West looks to be the preeminent division in the league. The Niners take the cake at No. 1, and the upgraded Seahawks, third in our rankings, will be a formidable opponent for the defending NFC champs.

The Patriots enter the draft in need of another receiver and a pass-rusher. The departure of Wes Welker has Tom Brady and company down to No. 4.

1. 49ers (11-4-1) — I’d like to hear an argument against the Niners being ranked the No. 1 team. They have a ferocious defense and an offense improved by the reliable Anquan Boldin. Right now San Francisco looks like the team to beat in 2013. (Pick 31 in Round 1 of the draft)

2. Broncos (13-3) — Barring injury to Peyton Manning, the Broncos have the AFC West wrapped up. The addition of Welker will make Denver’s offense even more unstoppable. Is there a better receiving tandem in the league than Demaryius Thomas and Welker? (28)

3. Seahawks (11-5) — After the year Seattle had followed by the offseason improvement, I’d expect nothing less than an NFC championship bid. Like many of the top teams in the NFL, Seattle is strong at defense. The D got even stronger with the addition of Cliff Avril. The Seahawks also strengthened one of their biggest weaknesses by adding Percy Harvin at receiver.

4. Patriots (12-4) — Danny Amendola replacing Welker is not an upgrade. The former Rams receiver may be younger and faster, but Welker offered consistency. He stayed on the field and worked well with Brady and the offense. There will be an adjustment period. The Patriots will go into the season with three talented receiving weapons (Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Amendola), but all three are injury-prone. (29)

5. Packers (11-5) — Injuries plagued the offensive line last season. More depth on the line is important, especially with the Packers in a division where they have to playing against pass-rushers like Ndamukong Suh, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers. (26)

6. Falcons (13-3) — Addressing the defense in the draft is key for the Falcons. It was the defense that prevented them from reaching the Super Bowl. If Atlanta wants to compete in the NFC, it has to be better at stopping the run, because two of the top teams in the conference run the ball extremely well. (30)

7. Ravens (10-6) — Never mind the loss of five key starters on defense, the trade of Boldin will hurt the Ravens the most. Boldin was targeted 36 times and caught 22 passes and four touchdowns for 380 yards in the postseason. I’m curious to see how general manager Ozzie Newsome plans to replace that production. (32)

8.  Texans (12-4) — They’re a strong team, but once the postseason hits I don’t see them being able to beat teams like the Broncos or Patriots. Matt Schaub got his first taste of the postseason and didn’t impress. (27)

9. Bears (10-6) — The Bears addressed their offensive line in a big way with the signing of Jermon Bushrod. Now the success of the franchise lies in the hands of new coach Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer.(20)

10. Giants (9-7) — This team desperately needs secondary help. The Giants had one of the worst pass defenses in the league. Look for the G-Men to target cover corners in the draft. (19)

11. Colts (11-5) — The Colts filled some holes in the secondary with LaRon Landry and Greg Toler. They still could use more depth on the offensive line and a pass-rusher to make up for the loss of Dwight Freeney. (24)

12. Bengals (10-6) — This could be one of the most important drafts in Bengals history. They are just a few players away from becoming a legitimate threat in the AFC North. If the Bengals can re-sign free agent Andre Smith, they can use their 21st overall draft pick on a running back or a safety. (21)

13. Redskins (10-6) — The Redskins are in salary cap hell, and that is one of the main reasons they’ve been quiet during free agency. Robert Griffin III‘s squad is a borderline playoff team with a secondary in need of a major overhaul. (no first-round pick)


14. Vikings (10-6) – Greg Jennings is a step in the right direction, but the Vikings need to do more offensively to help Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder. In last year’s draft, Minnesota spent a fourth-round pick on a receiver. The Vikings should address that position earlier this year. (23, 25)

15. Saints (7-9) — Sean Payton will concentrate on improving his team’s defense in 2013, and he’s started that process with the hiring of Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator. The former Cowboys DC has a difficult task ahead as he inherits a defense that allowed close to 30 points per game last season. (15)

16. Buccaneers (7-9) – Tampa Bay fans have to be excited with the direction their team is headed. Last offseason the Bucs needed to greatly improve at the receiver position, so they added Vincent Jackson. This year, cornerback was a top priority. So they acquired Darrelle Revis. (no first-round pick)

17. Steelers (8-8) — The Steelers suffered key losses in free agency on both sides of the ball with James Harrison and Mike Wallace both moving on. The relentless pass-rushing defense we’re used to seeing in Pittsburgh is in transition. (17)

18. Dolphins (7-9) — Acquiring Mike Wallace was exactly what the Dolphins needed. Jeff Ireland has spent an enormous amount of money in free agency and Miami seems to be headed in the right direction. However, fellow AFC East also-ran Buffalo “won” free agency in 2012 and we all saw how that worked out for the Bills once the season started. (12)

19. Cowboys (8-8) — Dallas can’t be a serious contender in the NFC unless it improves its offensive line. Salary cap restrictions have prevented Jerry Jones from making any quality upgrades on the line. Expect the Cowboys to focus on protecting Tony Romo during the draft. (18)

20. Rams (7-8-1) — For the first time in his career, Sam Bradford will have decent protection on his blind side. The signing of Jake Long was a no-brainer for the Rams. (16, 22)

21. Titans (6-10) – This is the year Jake Locker needs to prove to the organization that he’s the quarterback of the future. Entering his third year, the youngster has a completion percentage under 60 and has been mediocre at best. His offensive line has been solidified in the offseason with the addition of Andy Levitre. (10)

22. Panthers (7-9) — Carolina seems like a team stuck in neutral. The Panthers have a talented young QB but need to improve in many areas. Steve Smith is not getting any younger, and Cam Newton needs another weapon in the receiving game. The defense desperately needs a defensive tackle. (14)

23. Chargers (7-9) — San Diego’s fortunes lie with Philip Rivers. If new coach Mike McCoy can get the old Philip Rivers back, then San Diego has a shot at the playoffs. This team needs a lot of help offensively. Ryan Matthews hasn’t proven to be reliable, the vertical passing game is non-existent, and the offensive line is a turnstile. (11)

24. Lions (4-12) — Detroit was arguably the most underachieving team in 2012, mainly due to penalties and a general lack of discipline. A strong draft focused on the offensive line and secondary should help, but unless Jim Schwartz can find a way to prevent his players from continually making silly mistakes, the Lions will miss the playoffs again. (5)

25. Browns (5-11) — The Browns upgraded on defense in a big way by signing Paul Kruger from the Ravens. With the sixth pick in the draft, Cleveland should look to add a top-notch receiving weapon. Brandon Weeden might not be the long-term solution, but now is not the time for the Browns to waste another draft pick on an average quarterback. (6)

26. Eagles (4-12) — It looks like the Eagles are going to stand pat with Michael Vick at quarterback. If that’s the case, Chip Kelly and the organization must focus on upgrading the offensive line in the draft and having the right personnel to perform in the new coach’s uptempo offense. (4)

27. Chiefs (2-14) — Kansas City was last in the NFL in turnover ratio with a minus-24. In the past two years, Chiefs quarterbacks have been intercepted a combined 38 times. New quarterback Alex Smith protects the football and limits interceptions. That will make a huge difference. (1)

28. Jets (6-10) — Not even Bill Walsh could turn around this Jets offense with Mark Sanchez behind center. (9, 13)

29. Bills (6-10) — Buffalo is one of many teams across the NFL that are in desperate need of a quarterback heading into a draft in which the talent at that position is scarce. (8)

30. Cardinals (5-11) — Is there a quarterback in the league that needs protection more than Carson Palmer? You could argue Ben Roethlisberger, but that’s a totally different type of protection. Palmer is prone to make bad decisions on the field, and that won’t help with the pitiful offensive line he’ll have in Arizona. (7)

31. Raiders (4-12) — You can’t win in this league without a quarterback. It’s going to continue to be a long time since the Raiders had a commitment to excellence. (3)

32. Jaguars (2-14) — You can’t help but feel bad for Jaguars fans. They’re like that hopeless kid in high school who will never find a date to the prom. Jacksonville has won a total of seven games in the last two years. (2)

Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or e-mail them to powerrankings@weei.com. You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.

Read More: Anquan Boldin, Mark Sanchez, NFL Power Rankings, Peyton Manning
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