Nate Christensen is back with his power rankings. These teams are closer to contending but still have issues to solve.
22. New York Jets
New York used its cap space this offseason. With over 85 million to spend, they went crazy. First, they hired Adam Gase, an offensive coach who was previously coach of the Miami Dolphins. Gase hopes to help Sam Darnold become an elite quarterback under his tutelage.
New York also splurged in free agency. After nearly signing Anthony Barr, they spent money on C.J. Mosley, a linebacker from Baltimore. Mosley will be the enforcer of the middle, who is a Pro Bowler and one of the best linebackers in the league. The Jets also traded for Kelechi Osemele, a Pro Bowl guard from Oakland, who will help protect Sam Darnold from the inside.
New York made the biggest splash of the offseason by landing Le’Veon Bell, a star running back from Pittsburgh. Bell took last year off because of a contract dispute but still is only 27, with the ability to be a top-flight receiver and a running back. Bell is great and will be a major asset in the development of Darnold. Finally, they signed Jamison Crowder, slot receiver from Washington, who projects to be a target for Darnold in the middle of the field.
The Jets drafted Quinnen Williams at No. 3 overall, who some consider the best player of this draft. With freakish athleticism and size, Williams is a three-down player who projects to be an instant Pro Bowl player. Williams can play nose tackle or three-technique and will be a force immediately. New York also took a flyer on Jachai Polite, who has his issues but is incredibly productive, with the ability to play well in the future.
Overall, the Jets added a lot of talent, and if Sam Darnold plays well next year, don’t be surprised for fans to be excited to be large in New York.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville had to shed salary and find their quarterback. They did both this offseason.
Jacksonville signed Nick Foles, a Super Bowl winner from Philadelphia. Foles has familiarity with John Defilippo, the new offensive coordinator of the Jaguars. Foles isn’t flashy, but is clutch, and can help them win games. Signing him didn’t come without a cost though. Jacksonville had to release Carlos Hyde, Malik Jackson, Jeremy Parnell, Blake Bortles, and Tashaun Gipson to open up cap space to get Foles.
Jacksonville selected defensive end Josh Allen out of Kentucky seventh overall. Allen is raw, but has amazing traits, and projects to be a future Pro Bowl pass rusher. He joins Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue along a fearsome defensive front for the opposing quarterbacks of the AFC South. Jacksonville also drafted Jawaan Taylor of Florida. Taylor should start immediately for the Jaguars, and projects to be a good NFL starter at the next level.
Overall, Jacksonville lost a lot of key names, but stabilized the quarterback position, and reloaded on their defensive line. These moves, alongside Andrew Norwell, Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye, Myles Jack, and others could mean Jacksonville has a bounce-back year from a disappointing 2018.
20. Tennessee Titans
Tennessee is possibly the most confusing situation of any team out there. While they were close to the playoffs last year, Marcus Mariota is inconsistent and always hurt. When he is healthy, they are good, but that is the issue; his health.
Tennessee was busy this offseason, signing S Kenny Vaccaro, OG Rodger Safford from the Rams, WR Adam Humphries from Tampa Bay, and DE Cameron Wake a veteran pass rusher from Miami. These moves signal a willingness to win now, with Mariota the last year of his rookie deal.
In the draft, Tennessee selected Jeffrey Simmons at No. 19. While Simmons has a torn ACL and issues off the field, he is potentially a top-five prospect in this class when healthy. He and Jurrell Casey will eventually form a formidable duo on that defensive line. They also selected A.J. Brown, a receiver from Ole Miss. Clearly, they are going to surround Mariota with weapons, and hope to have him pass more. Brown is an elite route runner and can get open easily. They also got potentially the steal of the draft in Amani Hooker. Hooker, a 20-year-old safety, can play anywhere and projects to be a great safety. He provides amazing versatility, which is something the Titans need.
Overall, Tennessee had a good offseason. They improved the roster significantly, but Mariota is what holds them back. I see Tennessee starting over at quarterback next offseason.
19. San Francisco 49ers
This might be controversial, seeing how poorly they finished last season, but that was for many reasons. Jimmy Garoppolo got hurt in Week 3, and San Francisco generated little pressure on opposing signal-callers. They really couldn’t do anything to recover after Jimmy got hurt, but they still made incredible progress as a team, even though they lost a lot. Richard Sherman proved that he is still a good corner after his Achilles injury, George Kittle emerged as a top-three tight end with a monster year, and Nick Mullens showed serious potential as a backup quarterback. Not everything was terrible for San Francisco, and they had another good offseason.
To start, San Francisco signed former Buccaneers LB Kwon Alexander. Alexander may not be a good tackler, but he flashes elite speed at his position, allowing him to be an elite coverage linebacker. He also can blitz, so in order to help their pass rush. They also traded for Dee Ford, an outside linebacker from Kansas City, for a 2020 second-round pick. Ford was one of the best pass rushers this previous season, and projects to be an elite player in their 4-3 scheme. Ford’s contract is also a bargain relative to his contemporaries. Ford’s dead cap number is only 6 million after this year so they could cut him if he doesn’t produce. The 49ers also took a flyer on Jason Verrett, the former Chargers cornerback. Verrett has had trouble staying healthy but has the skills to be a really solid cornerback to compliment Richard Sherman.
The draft was pretty quiet for San Francisco, but they did select the No. 2 player on my board, Nick Bosa. Bosa, a defensive end from Ohio State, projects to be a day-one starter, with the potential to be a Pro Bowler for the next decade. Bosa does have concerns about staying healthy, but with elite athleticism and powerful hands, Bosa has little bust potential and will be a cornerstone for the 49ers the next decade. In the second round, they took Deebo Samuel, the speedy receiver from South Carolina. Samuel isn’t polished yet but has elite speed and traits to grow with Garoppolo. San Francisco desperately needed receivers to compliment Garoppolo and Kittle, and Samuel provides that speed to help stretch the field.
I think the 49ers are a sneaky team to make the playoffs. I really like Kyle Shanahan has a coach, and Jimmy Garoppolo coming back is huge. Those two combined with an elite front seven, and San Francisco can surprise some people.
18. Buffalo Bills
This is my sleeper team for the season. After a very rough start to the season, Sean McDermott started to see a turn in results at the end of the season. Josh Allen showed elite athletic traits running the ball, alongside an electric arm to throw vertically. The Bills defense also finished in the top-five in total defense, with the best pass defense in football. Frankly, Buffalo was really close to competing at the end of the year, but they desperately needed guys on offense.
Buffalo didn’t have many big free agent signings but they spent money wisely. They did get their center though, Mitch Morse from Kansas City. Morse has been one of the best centers in the league for years now, but health is a major concern. When healthy though, Morse solidifies the offensive line, making it significantly more stable.
Buffalo also signed Cole Beasley and John Brown as receivers, and Tyler Croft has their tight end. These three playmakers will all help Josh Allen progress, which is something they needed this year. They might not be flashy names, but all will help Allen make the simpler throws, while also being threats to catch the ball deep.
Buffalo had a good draft, with their top selection being Ed Oliver, a defensive tackle from Houston, Oliver, a five-star recruit, was a great player at Houston, showing elite pass rushing skills. Oliver has a leaner frame but flashes elite speed and power to disrupt from the interior. Oliver is one of my favorite players in this class, and he should make the easy transition to the NFL and be the next Kyle Williams for this team.
Buffalo also drafted Cody Ford, a tackle from Oklahoma, and Devin Singletary, a running back, to give Allen some more weapons to play with. Clearly, general manager Brandon Beane has made it a major priority to surround Josh Allen with weapons, and he did a great job this offseason addressing that.
Buffalo is close. Sean McDermott has revived the culture in Buffalo, finally establishing a winning one. I could see Buffalo competing for a playoff spot, but I feel they are another year away. Expect major progress from the team, and watch out for them next offseason.
Thanks for reading everyone, part four of the power rankings will be out soon. Follow @natech479 for more film content!