Post-NFL Draft Power Rankings: 49ers Rise to No. 7, Saints Plummet

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Welcome back to the MMQB’s Power Rankings Poll! There is truly nothing more important than power rankings in May, and last year’s post-draft edition had the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers 11th, so you should definitely listen to us.

While our post–Super Bowl rankings were more of a reflection of how each team did in 2020, we are now looking fully ahead. With free agency and the draft behind us, we are more or less ready to project our expectations for each team in 2021.

The top is wide open right now, as five different teams received second-place votes. And that doesn’t even include the Bills or Ravens. There was more consensus at the bottom, where one team unsurprisingly took home every last-place vote and a second team was nearly unanimous at No. 31.

This week’s MMQB Power Rankings Poll voters:

Greg Bishop, Senior Writer
Albert Breer, Senior NFL Reporter
Andrew Brandt, Business of Football Columnist
Gary Gramling, Senior Editor
Mitch Goldich, Editor/Writer
Conor Orr, Staff Writer
Michael Rosenberg, Senior Writer
Jenny Vrentas, Senior Writer

Draft grades are courtesy of the incomparable Conor Orr’s writeup on Sunday.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

Points in poll: 251
Highest-place vote: 1 (4 votes)
Lowest-place vote: 3 (1 vote)
Post-SB rank: 2
Season result: 14–2, lost in Super Bowl
SI draft grade: C+

The Chiefs remade their injury-riddled offensive line that had Patrick Mahomes running for his life throughout the Super Bowl loss, enough to overtake that game’s victors and take back the No. 1 spot they’ve owned the last few years.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Points in poll: 243
Highest-place vote: 1 (4)
Lowest-place vote: 8 (1)
Season result: 11–5, won Super Bowl
Post-SB rank: 1
SI draft grade: B-

You can add “Demoted to the No. 2 spot in the MMQB’s post–2021 draft power rankings poll” to Tom Brady’s long list of slights he seeks to avenge. Half our voters put them in the No. 1 spot, but apparently the rest of our panel will force them to prove it on the field (again).

3. Buffalo Bills

Points in poll: 229
Highest-place vote: 3 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 6 (1)
Post-SB rank: 4
Season result: 13–3, lost in AFC championship
SI draft grade: B

The Bills are now in that familiar ticking-clock situation of trying to win a championship before their quarterback gets really expensive. They have the roster to do it but face plenty of stiff competition at the top of the AFC.

4. Los Angeles Rams

Points in poll: 227
Highest-place vote: 2 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 7 (2)
Post-SB rank: T-5
Season result: 10–6, lost in divisional round
SI draft grade: B

How much did the Rams’ upgrade to Matthew Stafford at QB help their 2021 prospects? Enough that two of our voters think they’re the second-best team in the whole league. But we’ll see if the philosophy that resulted in having just one pick in the draft’s first 100 comes back to bite them.

5. Baltimore Ravens

Points in poll: 221
Highest-place vote: 4 (3)
Lowest-place vote: 8 (1)
Post-SB rank: T-5
Season result: 11–5; lost in divisional round
SI draft grade: B+

This ranking means our voters think the Ravens are more likely to cruise into the playoffs as they did in 2019 than need a late charge as they did in 2020. We know they’re talented and creative on both sides of the ball.

6. Green Bay Packers

Points in poll: 210
Highest-place vote: 2 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 15 (1)
Post-SB rank: 3
Season result: 13–3, lost in NFC championship
SI draft grade: A-

It looks like at least one of our voters is concerned about who’ll be under center in Week 1. But assuming Aaron Rodgers is placated enough to be that guy, this is still one of the NFC’s best teams.

Trey Lance poses with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the 49ers in the 2021 NFL draft

7. San Francisco 49ers

Points in poll: 206
Highest-place vote: 2 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 11 (2)
Post-SB rank: 13
Season result: 6–10, fourth place in NFC West
SI draft grade: A-

No team improved its stock in our rankings more than the 49ers. Whether that’s due to an expected bounce back with better injury luck, or a raised ceiling if Trey Lance takes over for Jimmy Garoppolo in the second half of the season, there are reasons to be confident.

8. Cleveland Browns

Points in poll: 202
Highest-place vote: 3 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 15 (1)
Post-SB rank: 8
Season result: 11–5, lost in divisional round
SI draft grade: A

The Browns have had high expectations in the offseason before, but it’s been a very long time since they were in a position to follow up on a successful season. Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward remain in place, but most of their defensive teammates will be new. Those players could be the key to the Browns reaching an even higher level.

9. Indianapolis Colts

Points in poll: 187
Highest-place vote: 6 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 13 (2)
Post-SB rank: 12
Season result: 11–5; lost in wild-card round
SI draft grade: B

The Colts have been on a quest to find a long-term quarterback to go along with a roster that’s talented everywhere else. Now it’s Carson Wentz’s turn. This team appears to have a very high floor, but it’ll need a healthy and productive Wentz to reach its ceiling.

10. Seattle Seahawks

Points in poll: 186
Highest-place vote: 6 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 13 (3)
Post-SB rank: 11
Season result: 12–4, lost in wild-card round
SI draft grade: B-

The Russell Wilson news cycle has thankfully slowed down, which means now the Seahawks can get back to doing what they always do: winning double-digit games, but doing it in a way that makes many pundits think they’re overrated.

11. New Orleans Saints

Points in poll: 168
Highest-place vote: 9 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 19 (1)
Post-SB rank: 7
Season result: 12–4, lost in divisional round
SI draft grade: C

We don’t know if it’ll be Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill to start the season. Sean Payton claims he doesn’t either, though you’ve got to think he at least has an idea. Either way, Drew Brees’s retirement might mean the Saints are talked about even more next year.

12. New England Patriots

Points in poll: 167
Highest-place vote: 9 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 16 (1)
Post-SB rank: 21
Season result: 7–9, third in AFC East
SI draft grade: B

The Patriots brought back Cam Newton, drafted Mac Jones and moved up nine spots in our rankings. Is this because their players who opted out of the 2020 season are back? Because of their free-agent splurge at tight end? Because of Belichick and some sort of Patriots Mystique? Some of our voters are going to be asked to defend themselves.

13. Tennessee Titans

Points in poll: 166
Highest-place vote: 8 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 15 (1)
Post-SB rank: 9
Season result: 11–5, lost in wild-card round
SI draft grade: B+

The Titans took a swing on Caleb Farley in the first round, which will pay huge dividends if his back is healthy and he’s the player he’s been before. OC Arthur Smith is gone, but Todd Downing has likely received the top-secret game plan that reads: “Give the ball to Derrick Henry.”

14. Los Angeles Chargers

Points in poll: 153
Highest-place vote: 6 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 17 (1)
Post-SB rank: 15
Season result: 7–9, third in AFC West
SI draft grade: A-

The Chargers are starting over with a new coach, and Brandon Staley has a lot of talent to work with on both sides of the ball. Some new vibes could be good for a snakebitten franchise that has spent years seemingly coming so close and finding almost comical ways to fall short.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers

Points in poll: 151
Highest-place vote: 10 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 20 (2)
Post-SB rank: 10
Season result: 12–4, lost in wild-card round
SI draft grade: C+

Once upon a time, six months ago, the Steelers were sitting pretty at 11–0. The Ben Roethlisberger transition plan was postponed another year, which means an awful lot of eggs in his basket for what most people expect is one last ride.

16. Minnesota Vikings

Points in poll: 137
Highest-place vote: 12 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 20 (1)
Post-SB rank: T-17
Season result: 7–9, third in NFC North
SI draft grade: B+

The Vikings have made the playoffs in every other year for Mike Zimmer’s entire tenure, a pattern that bodes well for 2021. If they start off as slowly as last year, the presence of Kellen Mond could make for an interesting subplot. But this is a perfectly average team we have right in the middle of our rankings.

17. Dallas Cowboys

Points in poll: 127
Highest-place vote: 15 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 19 (3)
Post-SB rank: 22
Season result: 6–10, third in NFC East
SI draft grade: B

Dak Prescott’s long-term future is finally taken care of, now the question is how his health will affect the Cowboys in 2021. Our panel has them as the top-ranked team in the NFC East, which can’t possibly be as bad a division as it was last year.

18. New York Giants

Points in poll: 120
Highest-place vote: 13 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 23 (1)
Post-SB rank: 23
Season result: 6–10, second in NFC East
SI draft grade: B+

We have seen plenty of teams make leaps in their coaches’ second year, and Joe Judge is in a division where that should be possible. Dave Gettleman’s trade-back will pay more dividends in 2022, which is smart for a team that should still be focused more on sustainability than a quick run right now.

19. Miami Dolphins

Points in poll: 116
Highest-place vote: 10 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 26 (1)
Post-SB rank: 14
Season result: 10–6, second in AFC East
SI draft grade: A-

The Dolphins took a bit of a tumble here, as perhaps recency bias gave them some inflation so soon after Brian Flores’s team went on a late-season charge. But now we’ve seen Miami start to use some of that draft capital, and the team looks to have done a responsible job with it. This team should be in the playoff hunt, and could be a popular preseason sleeper.

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20. Washington Football Team

Points in poll: 105
Highest-place vote: 18 (3)
Lowest-place vote: 22 (1)
Post-SB rank: 20
Season result: 7–9, lost in wild-card round
SI draft grade: B+

Washington is building the foundation of a strong team, particularly on defense, but a team can only rank so high when the quarterbacks on the roster are Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen.

21. Chicago Bears

Points in poll: 94
Highest-place vote: 18 (3)
Lowest-place vote: 25 (3)
Post-SB rank: 16
Season result: 8–8, lost in wild-card round
SI draft grade: A-

Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy may have bought themselves some extra job security with Justin Fields now in the fold. Of course, the obvious question is how long it’ll be before he takes over for Andy Dalton. Nagy has spoken of his time in Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes backing up Alex Smith, but of course that’s easier said than done if the losses pile up.

22. Denver Broncos

Points in poll: 89
Highest-place vote: 18 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 25 (1)
Post-SB rank: 24
Season result: 5–11, fourth in AFC West
SI draft grade: B+

An informal polling of some of our voters reveals that the Broncos would be a top-10 team if they traded future draft capital for Aaron Rodgers tomorrow. One voter has them as high as third. Sadly for Broncos fans, they rank 22nd with Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater. But it’s a talented roster in several spots.

23. Arizona Cardinals

Points in poll: 86
Highest-place vote: 23 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 28 (1)
Post-SB rank: T-17
Season result: 8–8, third in NFC West
SI draft grade: C

A disappointing ending in 2020 puts a little more pressure on the Cardinals in Kliff and Kyler’s third year together. Now they face a double-whammy of high expectations and the consensus toughest division in football.

24. Las Vegas Raiders

Points in poll: 68
Highest-place vote: 21 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 29 (1)
Post-SB rank: 19
Season result: 8–8, second in AFC West
SI draft grade: C

This will be a big and interesting year for the Raiders, their first playing in front of fans in Las Vegas. They responded by bringing back Derek Carr, despite some thought they’d engage in the Summer of QB Musical Chairs, and making one of the most widely-panned picks of the first round.

25. New York Jets

Points in poll: 58
Highest-place vote: 21 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 28 (3)
Post-SB rank: T-29
Season result: 2–14, fourth in AFC East
SI draft grade: B+

The chatter about the Jets missing out on Trevor Lawrence seems to have mostly subsided, but it’ll definitely pick back up if Zach Wilson isn’t who Jets fans seem to think he’ll be. Robert Saleh deserves time and patience as he undertakes this project, and there’s a reason for this fan base to have some cautious optimism.

26. Atlanta Falcons

Points in poll: 56
Highest-place vote: 23 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 28 (1)
Post-SB rank: 27
Season result: 4–12, fourth in NFC South
SI draft grade: B

Matt Ryan is back! With an exciting new tight end! Blowing up the roster and starting over was a legitimate option in Atlanta, but it’s hard to fault the team for trying to retool on the fly. The defense is holding them back in our rankings though.

27. Carolina Panthers

Points in poll: 52
Highest-place vote: 23 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 30 (1)
Post-SB rank: 25
Season result: 5–11, third in NFC South
SI draft grade: C

Teddy Bridgewater out; Sam Darnold in. The Panthers opted to buy low on a young QB, rather than take more of a blank slate with Justin Fields or Mac Jones. Time will tell if they made the right call. Matt Rhule has a very long contract, but ownership will still likely want to see more than five wins in Year 2.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars

Points in poll: 50
Highest-place vote: 23 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 31 (1)
Post-SB rank: 31
Season result: 1–15, fourth in AFC South
SI draft grade: C+

Trevor Lawrence won’t cure all that ails the Jaguars, but obviously he’ll be the most dissected part of the team in Urban Meyer’s season as an NFL head coach. His performance will probably be the most important thing to anyone in the Jags’ front office too.

29. Philadelphia Eagles

Points in poll: 40
Highest-place vote: 23 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 30 (1)
Post-SB rank: 26
Season result: 4–11–1, fourth in NFC East
SI draft grade: B-

The Eagles were probably the 2020 season’s most unexpected disaster. Now that they’re in unfamiliar territory down at No. 29, 2021 will likely go a long way in telling us how big of a project this will require to get them back toward the top of the NFC.

30. Cincinnati Bengals

Points in poll: 34
Highest-place vote: 24 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 30 (5)
Post-SB rank: 28
Season result: 4–11–1, fourth in AFC North
SI draft grade: C+

Joe Burrow lobbied for Ja’Marr Chase, and he got him. It’ll be fun to see how Burrow improves in his sophomore season, despite injury rehab hindering his first pro offseason.

31. Detroit Lions

Points in poll: 17
Highest-place vote: 30 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 31 (7)
Post-SB rank: T-29
Season result: 5–11, fourth in NFC North
SI draft grade: B-

It will definitely be strange to see Jared Goff under center instead of Matthew Stafford. But our panel doesn’t have very high hopes for the first season of a new era in Detroit.

32. Houston Texans

Points in poll: 8
Highest-place vote: 32 (8)
Lowest-place vote: 32 (8)
Post-SB rank: 32
Season result: 4–12, third in AFC South
SI draft grade: B-

On the plus side, the Texans own their own first-round draft pick in 2022.

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