Pre-Free Agency Power Rankings: The NFL’s Garbage Can

Free agency commences on March 13. With the eventual transition of some players to new teams, the power rankings will surely shift as a result of major signings. However, here at the very end of the 2018 league year, we will take one final look at the rankings.

Number 32: Arizona Cardinals (ELO: 1323)

The 2018 Cardinals bought new meaning to the word inept. With the Cardinals producing one of the worst offensive seasons in recent history, they stumbled to the No.  1 pick. While the Cardinals have been looking at taking the likes of Nick Bosa or quarterback Kyler Murray, the 2018 season should be quickly forgotten. The only notable thing in the 2018 season might be the lack of development for Josh Rosen. Rosen was so hapless that the Cardinals are meeting with Kyler Murray as a potential replacement to the former first-round pick, Rosen, in just his second season. The Cardinals replaced head coach Steve Wilks with former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury in an attempt to breathe life into a rather stagnant organization.

Number 31: Oakland Raiders (ELO: 1356)

The silver and black brigade produced a horrific season under Jon Gruden. Before the season, the Raiders traded their best player, Khalil Mack, to the Bears. In October, the Raiders traded their second best player to the Cowboys in Amari Cooper. Without any sort of talent, the Raiders floundered to finish a four-win campaign. Any new names in free agency are necessary as the Raiders are completely without any talent whatsoever. The Raiders have also worked their way into a quarterback controversy as incumbent Derek Carr could find his way out of Oakland before the Raiders move to Las Vegas.

Number 30: Denver Broncos (ELO: 1421)

The Broncos have an unclear direction at quarterback as they will soon acquire Joe Flacco from the Ravens, but with current starter Case Keenum likely on the move, the Broncos made a neutral move, not improving at quarterback and not looking to improve anywhere on the team. Despite an encouraging view of the season for the first 12 weeks in 2018, the Broncos faded late, including a terrible loss to the Raiders in Week 16. The Broncos should not be this low, but a combination of not having a quarterback and a poor finish to the season leaves them lower than most other bad teams. The Broncos also will field a new head coach in 2019, relying on defensive mastermind Vic Fangio to recreate the stalwart defensive nature of the 2015 season.

Number 29: New York Giants (ELO: 1421)

This time in May, the Giants should have their quarterback of the future. However, as of writing, the Giants are committed to Eli Manning as their starting quarterback with a potential fix come draft day. Despite an improvement over their 2017 season, the Giants stay glued near the bottom of the power rankings due to the lack of production at quarterback, the offensive line, and from internal chaos with stars Odell Beckham and Landon Collins. If either Collins or Beckham leaves the Giants, the Giants could slip lower on the power rankings. The Giants are sticking with Pat Shurmur into the 2019 season, but he could come under fire if the G-Men fail to show growth.

Number 28: New York Jets (ELO: 1325)

The Jets are in quite a strange scenario. They have their quarterback of the future in Sam Darnold, but after a poor 2018 season, they are positioned moderately low in the rankings. Darnold, who played particularly well down to the end of the season, carries this team from the bottom of the rankings and into relative respectability, and his continued development will guide the Jets to a high ceiling in future installations of the power rankings. The Jets must look to improve the offensive line and offensive weapons in order for Darnold and the Jets to fulfill this potential of moving out of the bottom of the power rankings. The Jets fall into the pit of having a first-year head coach, Adam Gase, but the negative effects are neutralized due to Gase’s history in the AFC East.

Number 27: San Francisco 49ers (ELO: 1381)

As shown by the end of the 2017 season, having a quarterback really helps the team in the power rankings. At the end of the 2017 season, Jimmy Garoppolo was the main reason for the team’s fiery five-game winning streak to finish the season, vaulting the 49ers from near the bottom of the power rankings to near playoff contention if the playoffs were based on power rankings. With the return of Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon at the beginning of the season, the 49ers will be poised to improve upon a season which saw them win the number two overall draft pick. The Niners are put at No. 27 because of the potential for McKinnon and Garoppolo to infuse talent into the otherwise mediocre talent base. The future is bright in Santa Clara.

Number 26: Cincinnati Bengals (ELO: 1390)

Marvin Lewis is gone. While the initial blow of having a new head coach leaves the Bengals lower in the ranking than normal, the Bengals do have some sort of a future to look forward to without Marvin Lewis and his mediocrity. Cincinnati lies in the bottom quadrant of the rankings due to uncertainty at the quarterback position after Andy Dalton’s season-ending injury cost him the last month of the 2018 season. Otherwise, the Bengals require a good draft and an effective free agency extraction in order to jump back into competition in the stacked AFC North.

Number 25: Jacksonville Jaguars (ELO: 1430)

The darlings of the 2017 season, the Jaguars disappointed heavily in 2018. The Jags find themselves at No. 25 as a result of Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler being incompetent at football. Despite inklings of bringing in Nick Foles when the league year begins, even the former Super Bowl MVP would not be able to drive the Jags above the 22nd position in the power rankings. The Jags had a poor offense for most of the season and even Leonard Fournette looks like he could be on his way out of Duval County. Jacksonville sports a plethora of talented players on the defensive side of the ball, but they need an offense to return to winning football games.

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