Splash’s 2022 Pre-Free Agency NFL Power Rankings

NFL Power Rankings pre free agency 2022

Welcome back to the futile exercise of ranking NFL teams. This installment of power rankings is particularly pointless because football will not be played for another six months. Any free agent signing or trade in the coming weeks and months will alter this arrangement. Had this ranking been made even a week earlier, the likes of the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, and Washington Commanders would be in different spots. With that said, let’s see where all 32 teams land for the time being.

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32 Houston Texans (Last: 29)

Deshaun Watson has yet to be traded, but he will not be the starting quarterback for the Texans in 2022. Beyond Watson, Houston has few redeemable qualities. There is no single part of the team that can be called a strength compared to the rest of the NFL. The Texans also brought in a new head coach in Lovie Smith, so they even lost some continuity points.

31 Jacksonville Jaguars (Last: 30)

The Jaguars went more than two decades without possessing the No.1 pick, and now they have received it two years in a row. Trevor Lawrence was a relative disaster in his rookie season, but he did flash in Week 18. Now, head coach Doug Pederson is at the helm. The 2022 outlook is grim, but the Jaguars have young pieces and plenty of draft capital moving forward.

30 Carolina Panthers (Last: 31)

The issue with the Panthers is Sam Darnold. There are tiers of quarterbacks across the league, and Carolina is one of a handful that are forced to start a backup-caliber quarterback. The Panthers are in the Watson conversation, but it is far from a guarantee. The offensive line is also a disaster, and the weapons are nothing special in 2022. D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey are tremendous players, but they need a reasonable quarterback and health.

29 New York Giants (Last: 32)

The three-spot jump is due to the return of Daniel Jones (as opposed to Mike Glennon). Jones is nothing special, but he is a starter-quality quarterback in the NFL. Beyond Jones, the Giants have many trouble spots, and they might get worse before they get better. James Bradberry and Saquon Barkley could be on the move, further depleting a roster that is already among the worst in the NFL.

28 Detroit Lions (Last: 27)

Moving into 2022, the Lions will be at a crossroads in the draft. They have the opportunity to select a quarterback at No. 2, but that might not be the best decision. Instead, they could opt to build the roster around the eventual quarterback pick. They have picks at No. 2, No. 32, and No. 34 to get three immediate starters as opposed to drafting a project of a quarterback with inflated value.

27 New York Jets (Last: 28)

The Jets slip ahead of the Lions because they are a year ahead of the process. They have Zach Wilson parked behind a workable offensive line (when Mekhi Becton is on the field). The defense is a total disaster, but the Jets have plenty of cap space and draft capital to plug the holes. The offense might be halfway decent, and if the defense makes strides, New York could win seven games.

26 Seattle Seahawks (Last: 24)

With Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner gone, the Seahawks might be worse than No. 26, but it remains to be seen. The offense is unlikely to be the worst in the NFL, but Geno Smith or Drew Lock are not particularly inspiring options. The defense held up surprisingly well in 2021 despite missing Jamal Adams for a chunk of the year. There is a path for the Seahawks to win some games, but the playoffs will be an afterthought for the first time in a decade.

25 Atlanta Falcons (Last: 25)

Losing Calvin Ridley would have coincided with a drop in the rankings, but he was not included in the most recent inclusion of the Falcons. For starters, Atlanta needs to re-sign Cordarrelle Patterson to keep this spot. They will also need to attack the defensive front early and often in the draft. Replacing Ridley would be excellent, but the Falcons do have some options in the passing game if they retain Patterson. Matt Ryan provides a small range of outcomes so expect the Falcons to go 6-11.

24 Chicago Bears (Last: 26)

Matt Eberflus should be an upgrade over Matt Nagy, but the key with Chicago is the development of Justin Fields. They have actively gotten worse on defense by trading away Khalil Mack, but the offense could be solid if Fields has a pulse in 2022. The Bears will need to hit on the second-round picks, and they should grab a competent No. 2 receiver in free agency to pair with Darnell Mooney.

23 Indianapolis Colts (Last: 16)

With Carson Wentz, the Colts were likely going to be bound to mediocrity. Instead of mediocrity, the Colts have decided to embrace the 2016-2021 Broncos’ method of having a good roster with no quarterback, shipping him to Washington. Wentz may have barely qualified as a top-20 quarterback, but he was significantly better than any other option the Colts have on the roster. The Colts do not have a clear path forward until they acquire a competent signal-caller.

22 Washington Commanders (Last: 23)

Speaking of Wentz, the newly-minted Commanders made a one-slot jump. One spot is not much, but the movement from playoff afterthought to dark horse No. 7 seed is valuable. The Commanders have holes across the roster, but they have now upgraded at quarterback and will have a solid cast of weapons. If they hit on the 11th pick, Washington might make a triumphant return to the playoffs.

21 Philadelphia Eagles (Last: 13)

Jason Kelce re-upped for the 2022 season, and Philly will have one of the best floors in the NFL with their rushing attack. They also have three first-round picks at their disposal for trades or draft-day shenanigans. The Eagles need to invest resources into their defensive front and secondary, but they do have some pieces to start with. Making the playoffs in 2021 was likely an overachievement, but they could put another season together and sneak back into the postseason.

20 Pittsburgh Steelers (Last: 14)

The Steelers have a much better roster than the Panthers, but the idea is the same in that they currently do not have a starting-caliber quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger might have been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL in 2021, but he played football with a brain. Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins have not currently shown sufficient know-how to be a top-30 NFL quarterback. Outside of the position, the Steelers also have a woeful offensive line dragging down a reasonable defense and set of offensive weapons.

19 Miami Dolphins (Last: 17)

The offensive line hurts the Dolphins’ ranking here, but they are a serious contender to make the playoffs, opening the next tier of teams. Tua Tagovailoa has his limitations, but he generally puts the Miami in a position to win games. The defense consistently forces turnovers, and the offense has a developing superstar in Jaylen Waddle. Still, the Dolphins are docked for the lack of continuity at head coach even after winning 19 games in the last two seasons.

18 Las Vegas Raiders (Last: 12)

Like the Dolphins, the Raiders are also losing ground because of a new head coach. There are glaring holes on both sides of the ball, but the core of players is solid enough. Derek Carr and the offense are good, not great, and the defense has a star in Maxx Crosby. The division has become more difficult in recent weeks, but the Raiders could weather the storm and make another playoff appearance.

17 New Orleans Saints (Last: 18)

Jameis Winston is the missing piece in this ranking. If he was a guarantee to be the Saints’ Week 1 starter, they would be multiple spots higher. New Orleans is also in the Watson sweepstakes. Acquiring Watson would likely put the Saints in the top 10. However, if the Saints do not have Winston or Watson under center to start 2022, they would plummet into the 20s. They have a new head coach, will likely lose both Terron Armstead and Marcus Williams, and sit in a division with Tom Brady returning.

16 Minnesota Vikings (Last: 20)

The Vikings are in a tier of their own. On one hand, they have a solid enough floor that they will not be awful. On the other, they do not have a high enough ceiling to be a lock for the playoffs. If a team is ranked higher than Minnesota, they should make the playoffs. If a team is ranked lower than the Vikings, they need some help to make the playoffs. They will sit in the middle, and they will almost certainly finish between 7-10 and 10-7.

15 New England Patriots (Last: 10)

The Patriots are an upgraded version of the Vikings with a top-tier head coach. Both sides of the ball have their flaws, but the Patriots have a solid floor in quarterback Mac Jones, as well as the rushing attack. Defensively, a Bill Belichick defense will rarely be awful, so the Patriots will be competitive most weeks. Limitations abound, but the Patriots were not a fluky playoff team in 2021.

14 Cleveland Browns (Last: 22)

The Browns are an enigma. They went 8-9 in 2021 which simultaneously was a massive overachievement and underachievement. They have one of the better rosters in the AFC, so they should have won more games. However, they had to deal with an injured Baker Mayfield for most of the season. With a fully healthy Mayfield, the Browns should improve from 8-9 and be a solid contender to make the playoffs.

13 Arizona Cardinals (Last: 11)

The Cardinals will be getting DeAndre Hopkins back into the mix, but they will likely be losing Chandler Jones. Quarterback Kyler Murray laid an egg the last time he played, but he has proven himself to be much better. Heading into 2022, Arizona should have a top-10 offense and a competent enough defense. However, they appear to be the third-best team in the NFC West, and they have a brutal schedule.

12 Dallas Cowboys (Last: 9)

While the NFC East curse is working against the Cowboys, they are primed to win back-to-back division titles. No team in the division has done so since the 2001-2004 Eagles, so perhaps divine intervention will strike again. The Cowboys have plenty of high-end talent with the likes of Zack Martin, Micah Parsons, and Trevon Diggs to warrant this ranking. They also have good quarterback play, good weapons, head coach continuity, and a first-round pick.

11 Los Angeles Chargers (Last: 15)

The Chargers acquired Mack to pair with Joey Bosa, forming one of the most devastating pass-rushing tandems in the league. However, LA’s issues are through the interior. Mack will help in run defense, but the interior and linebacker units are squishy. The secondary will need to play better, as well. The offense has the potential to be the best in the NFL, but it is currently untapped.

10 Baltimore Ravens (Last: 19)

The Ravens may have finished 8-9 and on a six-game losing streak, but they will be incorporating six huge pieces back into the lineup in 2022. By the end of the season, the Ravens were without Lamar Jackson, Ronnie Stanley, their two best cornerbacks, and their two best running backs. The infusion of talent will put the Ravens back in the contender tier, and oddsmakers have the Ravens around the 20-to-1 figure for Super Bowl futures.

9 Denver Broncos (Last: 21)

The Broncos are the wild card of the top 10. They had a good roster in years past, but now they appear to have an answer at quarterback. If former Seattle slinger Wilson is back to his Pro Bowl form, the Broncos could be a force in the AFC. However, they have some issues along the front seven, and they need a right tackle. If they shore up these holes, Denver is a genuine Super Bowl contender.

8 Tennessee Titans (Last: 8)

Similar to the Ravens, Tennessee’s season began to unravel as they lost piece after piece. However, they did just enough to squeeze out 12 wins and earn the AFC’s top seed. They quickly lost to the Cincinnati Bengals after Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions. Either way, the Titans will look to run it back. They are not the favorites in the AFC, but they are good enough to repeat as the No.1 seed, helping their prospects of making and winning a Super Bowl.

7 Cincinnati Bengals (Last: 2)

The Bengals and the No .6 team on the list have fatal flaws. Cincinnati has one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, but it could undergo a massive rehaul in the offseason. First, they cuold attack the unit en masse during free agency. Second, they could load up on offensive line picks in the draft. For the Bengals to have a successful line, they will be new starters at both right guard and right tackle at the minimum. Upgrading at left guard and center would be ideal, but they need two key moves first.

6 San Francisco 49ers (Last: 4)

Trey Lance is the “fatal flaw” of the 49ers. This is not to say he is a bad quarterback, but he is unproven. Every team ahead of San Francisco has a slam-dunk top-10 quarterback. Lance has minimal NFL experience, and he might be behind the curve relative to the expectation. However, the surrounding cast is spectacular. The 49ers have a good offensive line and defensive superstars to wreak havoc. Kyle Shanahan is one of the best head coaches in the NFL, and should put Lance in a position to succeed.

5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last: 7)

If Brady had not returned, the Buccaneers would have been in the middle of the teens, but Brady un-retired on March 13. “TB12” is still one of the five best quarterbacks in the NFL, and his aura will help the Buccaneers keep their stars. In the process of writing this article, they re-signed Ryan Jensen. In the coming days, they will likely re-sign their priority free agents and proceed into 2022 as huge favorites in the NFC South.

4 Green Bay Packers (Last: 5)

The gang is back again for 2022. Both Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams are returning for another 13-win season and a premature playoff exit. However, they might be without several pieces on the defensive front. Za’Darius Smith could be on his way out, and there could be other casualties on the interior. The offense is still Rodgers and Adams-centric, but the pair of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon is among the best in the league. David Bakhtiari should have a full season, as should Elgton Jenkins.

3 Los Angeles Rams (Last: 1)

The reigning Super Bowl champions slipped to No. 3 for the time being. There is uncertainty with the likes of Von Miller and Odell Beckham. While the Rams did win the Super Bowl, that is rarely desirable moving forward. No team has repeated as champions since the 2004 Patriots. Los Angeles does have a rock-solid core with Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald, and Jalen Ramsey, but it remains to be seen whether the lack of depth will hurt the Rams.

2 Buffalo Bills (Last: 6)

After being 13 seconds away from hosting the AFC Title Game, the Bills come into 2022 with massive expectations. They are widely viewed as the Super Bowl LVII favorite, and one look at Josh Allen is enough to justify those claims. However, the other 52 players are not quite as perfect. The offensive line is just average, and the weaponry around Allen is top-heavy. Stefon Diggs. Gabriel Davis ended the playoffs with a bang, but the latter needs to be more consistent. The defense faced a ridiculous number of awful offenses in 2021, so the defensive metrics are inflated. Tre’Davious White will return, but the Bills need a No. 2 corner across from him.

1 Kansas City Chiefs (Last: 3)

The Chiefs had every opportunity to knock off the Bengals, but it took a series of cataclysmic events to prevent the two-time reigning AFC champs from making it three in a row. However, that loss is in the past, and the present is now. The Chiefs are poised to have the NFL’s best offense with an elite quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, and offensive line. Defensively, the unit is far from perfect, but they do just enough to not lose games. 2022 is another Super Bowl or bust year for Kansas Citu.

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