Post-draft NFL power rankings: Which teams closed gap on Chiefs?
NFL power rankings following the 2023 draft (previous rank in parentheses):
1. Chiefs (1): Barring extenuating circumstances − and none here − when you’ve got the league’s best player in MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Lombardi Trophy, you’re in the top spot until events warrant otherwise. Make no mistake, this team has been appreciably altered since winning Super Bowl 57 … but it also seemed to be in concerning transition a year ago but was ultimately the better for it.
2. Eagles (3): Tempting to elevate a team that appears to have actually improved, largely due to a draft bonanza that included a trade for RB D’Andre Swift, since narrowly losing the Super Bowl − especially given a dearth of competition in the NFC relative to what K.C. faces. Also, QB Jalen Hurts only is motivated by his (already eclipsed) landmark contract.
3. Bengals (2): They still need to pay QB Joe Burrow but got him a new left tackle (Orlando Brown Jr.) and likely upgraded a defense needing a boost.
4. Bills (4): The D gets OLB Von Miller and S Micah Hyde back − plus the emotional lift from Damar Hamlin’s return − while QB Josh Allen has a new weapon in TE Dalton Kincaid. But the ability to run the ball remains in question at a time when Allen is signaling he’ll dial down his downfield forays.
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5. 49ers (5): At a time when other teams are seeking their version of Brock Purdy, how wild would it be if Sam Darnold or Trey Lance stakes a new claim on San Francisco’s QB1 job while Mr. Irrelevant’s elbow heals?
6. Cowboys (7): To the degree it’s possible, is ‘America’s Team’ under the radar a bit? Let’s not forget they scored the fourth-most points in the league in 2022 despite QB Dak Prescott missing five games while LT Tyron Smith and WR Michael Gallup were hurt and WR Brandin Cooks was in Houston. Dallas remains a legitimate threat to Philly.
7. Ravens (13): They won 10 games last year even with now-enriched QB Lamar Jackson missing five, RB J.K. Dobbins sputtering from his 2021 ACL injury and WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers elsewhere. Beware considering the blackbirds as dark horses.
8. Jets (12): Unlike (perhaps) Dallas and Baltimore, suddenly jet-fueled Gang Green won’t be sneaking up on anyone with Mr. Rodgers now at the stick. Expectations not experienced here for a dozen years will present a new challenge, but this team actually has the thrust to finally exceed them.
9. Jaguars (6): They’re likely to benefit from playing in what projects as the AFC’s weakest division, but they could progress into title contenders if 2022 first-round defenders Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd enjoy sophomore surges.
10. Lions (10): Love their draft or hate it, you probably have to like them as divisional favorites coming off a season when they had the best record (5-1) in NFC North games.
11. Chargers (8): Hopefully RB Austin Ekeler doesn’t join a lengthy line of Bolts whose financial situation wound up undercutting the team at large … because, yet again, the talent is here to do serious playoff damage.
12. Seahawks (11): What appears to be another watershed draft might overshadow the significant defensive investment during free agency, including the return of MLB Bobby Wagner and additions of DE Dre’Mont Jones and DB Julian Love.
13. Rams (9): Reminder that QB Matthew Stafford, WR Cooper Kupp and DL Aaron Donald missed a combined 22 games last season, and that hardly tells the full story of LA’s injury woes. However even with Donald, a diminished defense projects as a real concern, and Stafford may have to win a lot of shootouts.
14. Steelers (18): QB Kenny Pickett better be prepared to deliver in Year 2, because HC Mike Tomlin and GM Omar Khan have put a first-rate supporting cast around him.
15. Dolphins (16): QB Tua Tagovailoa better be prepared to deliver in Year 4, because HC Mike McDaniel and GM Chris Grier have put a first-rate supporting cast around him.
16. Vikings (15): Will RB Dalvin Cook remain? Is last season’s second-worst defense any better? Is QB Kirk Cousins a lame duck? Feels like a serious regression to the mean is coming.
17. Saints (27): QB Derek Carr should be at least an incremental upgrade. WR Michael Thomas should play more than three games … though decent chance RB Alvin Kamara won’t play 15 again (pending his legal issues). Yet Tom Brady has left the NFC South, and a third-place schedule is inbound. Feels like a slight progression to the mean is coming.
18. Giants (14): They basically kept the band intact − right, Saquon? − TE Darren Waller perhaps tantamount to an additional guitarist. But can HC Brian Daboll’s follow-up album really match the unexpected debut?
19. Panthers (21): Fun fact − Carolina’s single-season passing records for yards (4,436) and TDs (36) belong to … Steve Beuerlein, not Cam Newton. Until No. 1 pick Bryce Young claims both, that is.
20. Packers (23): As they employ an almost entirely new set of personnel for the passing game, maybe Green Bay will do what it should have done last season − run the ball extensively and play hard-nosed defense.
21. Patriots (17): When was the last time they had the worst quarterback situation in the AFC East? Maybe 1992? When was the last time they had the worst receiver situation in the AFC East? Definitely 2022.
22. Browns (19): After everything he cost from a financial, draft capital and public relations standpoint, Year 2 under, ahem, franchise QB Deshaun Watson has to go better. Right?
23. Broncos (20): After everything he cost from a financial, draft capital and public relations standpoint, Year 2 under, ahem, franchise QB Russell Wilson has to go better. Right?
24. Bears (25): TBD how well they can throw the ball or defend the pass, but this ought to be a gritty team that will come out swinging every week.
25. Falcons (22): Underestimate HC Arthur Smith and Atlanta at your peril … even if it feels like they overestimated what RB Bijan Robinson can provide in the long run while undervaluing what stability and quality under center can do for a franchise.
26. Titans (28): Apparently they’re running it back one more time with QB Ryan Tannehill and RB Derrick Henry … and running it forward and laterally, as it’s still not clear what kind of production they’ll get from this receiving corps.
27. Raiders (24): Seems like they won’t have much of a shot week to week if they don’t score at least 30 points.
28. Buccaneers (30): Seems like they won’t have much of a shot week to week if they don’t limit the opposition to 17 points.
29. Commanders (26): With organizational upheaval looming, they’ve surrendered on DE Chase Young and the quarterback position. Copious talent here in danger of being squandered.
30. Texans (32): Given the division they play in, reasonable shot they double their win total in 2023 despite having (promising) rookies at head coach and quarterback.
31. Colts (31): Given the division they play in, reasonable shot they double their win total in 2023 despite having (promising) rookies at head coach and quarterback.
32. Cardinals (29): Too many questions − starting with QB Kyler Murray’s reconstructed knee − to expect anything but a turbulent campaign. But with Houston’s 2024 Round 1 selection in hand, reasonable chance Arizona could be picking first and second atop next year’s draft.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.