2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week 3

Shock waves continued to roll over the NFL after the Chiefs came up short, the Raiders pulled off another stunner and the Seahawks collapsed. Week 2 delivered on all the hype and then some with a stellar slate of games. 7 of the 16 games played this weekend were decided by three points or less.

Unfortunately, much like 2020, injuries popped up across the league to key players. Tua Tagovailoa exited on a cart and did not return. Andy Dalton and Carson Wentz joined him among signal callers to exit their starts. Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey were in and out of the lineup. T.J. Watt left early with a groin injury, while the 49ers lost more running backs.

Predictably, the rankings see some massive changes again following another weekend of surprising results. Through two weeks, this is how I think the NFL stacks up.

Buccaneers logo

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-0 (Last Week: 2)
Won 48-25 vs. Atlanta
At the end of the day, the Falcons could not keep pace with the Buccaneers. Tom Brady was humming with five touchdown passes and the defense came up with a pair of pick-sixes. In fact, Mike Edwards actually returned back-to-back throws by Matt Ryan for touchdowns to really blow the game open. The defense still has not totally regained its 2020 form and Brady believes the offense can be even better. Tampa is far and away the best team in the league right now, but they face a tough test in Los Angeles against the Rams in Week 3.

Chiefs Logo

2. Kansas City Chiefs: 1-1 (Last Week: 1)
Lost 36-35 at Baltimore
Losing is never easy, but a fumble by Clyde Edwards-Helaire to take the ball out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands, costing him a chance to lead a potential game-winning drive really stings. Kansas City’s defense was really the issue though. After a great start, the Chiefs had no answer for Lamar Jackson. They could not get off the field when it mattered most. Andy Reid will need to figure out how to protect his defense, especially heading into a matchup with the Chargers, who nearly knocked off the Chiefs early in 2020. Let’s remember this was a one-point road loss to a good team. Don’t overreact.

3. Los Angeles Rams: 2-0 (Last Week: 3)
Won 27-24 at Indianapolis
This was much tighter than it should have been. Los Angeles needed a late field goal to beat the Colts. It helped quite a bit to face Jacob Eason in the closing minutes of the game. The second-year quarterback tossed an interception to end what could have been a game-winning drive Indianapolis. Matt Stafford continues to play well though as the offense scored points when it needed to in the second half. Credit to the Rams for completing the comeback, but they will need to be sharper, especially on defense heading into a showdown with the Buccaneers.

Browns logo

4. Cleveland Browns 1-1 (Last Week: 6)
Won 31-21 vs. Houston
Cleveland bounced back with a solid win over Houston to earn its first win of the season. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt lead the way, combining for 146 yards as the Browns punched in three touchdowns on the ground. It certainly wasn’t perfect, with a couple turnovers and a tight game prior to Tyrod Taylor’s hamstring injury. However, it feels like just about every team in the league has some question marks around them right now. Except maybe the Buccaneers.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)

5. Arizona Cardinals: 2-0 (Last Week: 7)
Won 34-33 vs. Minnesota
This one got a bit dicey. Minnesota should have probably beaten Arizona, but a win is a win, I guess. Still, the Cardinals showed some room for improvement defensively. Offensively, Kyler Murray showed out once again with 400 yards passing and four total touchdowns. This team has enough offensive talent to hang with anyone, but they need the defense to play a bit more like they did in Week 1. Luckily for them, that shouldn’t be a problem for them in Week 3 against the Jaguars.

49ers Logo

6. San Francisco 49ers: 2-0 (Last Week: 8)
Won 17-11 at Philadelphia
Defense won the day for San Francisco, which was a nice change of pace following a near collapse in Week 1. The special teams got involved as well with a blocked field goal. Jimmy Garoppolo is doing just enough to hang on to his starting job right now, but the offense struggled out of the gate. Heading into a big matchup with the Packers in Week 3, the 49ers are going to need to put together a much more complete game to hold out for a win.

Raiders logo

7. Las Vegas Raiders: 2-0 (Last Week: 15)
Won 26-17 at Pittsburgh
The Las Vegas Raiders request your attention and demand your respect. Knocking off a pair of playoff teams from the division most assumed would be the best in the AFC certainly turns some heads. Derek Carr is playing some of the best football of his career and the Raiders defense is good enough for the team to win games. Jon Gruden has this team beating some of the best teams in the league. Now, they get to face a Dolphins team facing uncertainty at quarterback and fresh off a 35-point shutout. Vegas should be positioned well to stay unbeaten.

Ravens logo

8. Baltimore Ravens: 1-1 (Last Week: 11)
Won 36-35 vs. Kansas City
Baltimore overcame a horrendous start to notch a massive win in primetime. Lamar Jackson threw a pick-six on his first possession of the game and threw another interception before the end of the first quarter. The 2019 MVP was resilient though, throwing for 239 yards and adding 107 on the ground. He made the big plays in the crucial moments of the game offensively. He got a bit of help from Odafe Oweh. The rookie from Penn State punched the ball out of Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s arms and recovered the fumble to set up the Ravens’ game-clinching drive. This was a big response from Baltimore following a disappointing Week 1 loss.

Bills logo

9. Buffalo Bills: 1-1 (Last Week: 10)
Won 35-0 at Miami
That is the way you bounce back from a disappointing season opener. Buffalo bullied Miami all afternoon and knocked Tua Tagovailoa out of the game with a relentless pass rush. That was the biggest concern for the Bills heading into the season, so it is definitely a positive sign to see them rack up six sacks of Tagovailoa and his replacement Jacoby Brissett. Offensively, Buffalo ran the ball well! Brian Daboll spread the touches around, but the team finished with an average of 4.8 yards per carry. If the Bills can consistently run the ball effectively and pressure opposing quarterbacks, this team has Super Bowl potential.

Seahawks logo

10. Seattle Seahawks: 1-1 (Last Week: 5)
Lost 33-30 vs. Tennessee
Tennessee came back but Seattle also collapsed. Missed tackles and a stalled out offense cost the Seahawks dearly down the stretch in regulation and in overtime. Fans can point to a missed extra point as the reason for the loss, but in truth, the kicker cannot be blamed for blowing a 15-point halftime lead. There were some bright spots early, but much like they did last season, the Seahawks faded. It is important not to overreact to just one loss. However, Seattle is the only team in the NFC West with a loss so far, so the margin for error seems to be slim.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo

11. Pittsburgh Steelers: 1-1 (Last Week: 9)
Lost 26-17 vs. Las Vegas
Unlike Week 1, the Steelers defense and special teams could not bail out their inept offensive line. Derek Carr lit up the secondary for 382 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Conversely, Pittsburgh just could not get into gear. The coaching staff abandoned the run with just 14 carries in this game. A lack of balance and efficiency is going to be an issue for the Steelers, especially heading into a divisional game with the Bengals.

Panthers logo

12. Carolina Panthers: 2-0 (Last Week: 22)
Won 26-7 vs. Carolina
Talk about a statement. New Orleans was riding high after their blowout victory in Week 1. Carolina brought the Saints back down to Earth and put them in the ground. The Panthers defense was nothing short of stifling. They only allowed 128 yards of offense, forced two turnovers and shut out the Saints through three quarters. Once again, Christian McCaffrey was great and seems to have escaped any major injury. Sam Darnold continues to look solid as well. The Panthers draw a Texans team breaking in a rookie quarterback on a short week. There is a good chance Carolina starts 3-0.

Titans logo

13. Tennessee Titans: 1-1 (Last Week: 16)
Won 33-30 at Seattle
Through the first six quarters of the season, Tennessee was outscored 52-22. It looked like the wheels were falling off for Mike Vrabel and company with Arthur Smith now calling plays in Atlanta. Then, King Henry reminded everyone why he is the most physically imposing running back in the league. He sliced up the Seahawks defense to the tune of 237 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. While the comeback win is great, it does not mask some major defensive concerns for the Titans. Russell Wilson torched their secondary on the deep ball time and time again. If this team wants to make a serious postseason run, Vrabel will need to get more from his defense.

Saints logo

14. New Orleans Saints: 1-1 (Last Week: 4)
Lost 26-7 at Carolina
If you are looking for a synopsis of Jameis Winston’s career up to this point, you can simply watch the past two Saints games. After tossing five touchdowns in Week 1, Winston threw a pair of interceptions, bad ones at that, and had an overall dismal afternoon. That is not totally unexpected given Winston’s inconsistent history. Alvin Kamara finishing with five yards on eight carries is much more alarming. New Orleans’ true form likely falls somewhere between these two performances. Getting a few injured players back should help right the ship a bit, but consistency might be hard to come by in the Bayou.

Packers logo

15. Green Bay Packers: 0-1 (Last Week: 13)
Won 35-17 vs. Detroit
If you went to bed early on Monday, you might think the Packers still have a lot of issues to iron out. And you would be right. After trailing 17-14 at halftime, Green Bay finally showed signs of the team that has reached back-to-back NFC Championship games. Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones went off. Rodgers tossed four touchdowns, including three to Jones, who added another one on the ground. It was a great finish after a lackluster start. It is hard to tell what we really know about this team through two weeks.

Cowboys logo

16. Dallas Cowboys: 1-1 (Last Week: 17)
Won 20-17 at Los Angeles
Dallas was a bit fortunate that Los Angeles could not get out of its own way. However, the Cowboys managed to avoid mistakes and picked up a crucial victory to avoid an 0-2 start. Mike McCarthy established the run and then didn’t stop running it. Dallas had 31 rushes for 198 yards and two scores to take the pressure off Dak Prescott and the defense. Not that Prescott or the defense needed much help. Dak finished 23-of-27 throwing for 237 yards and an interception. Defensively, the Cowboys came up with critical turnovers that helped force overtime, where Greg Zuerlein erased many of the bad memories from Week 1 with a 56-yard game-winner.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: 1-1 (Last Week: 14)
Lost 20-17 vs. Dallas
There is no doubt that the Chargers beat themselves. Penalties, turnovers and an inability to stop the run made it impossible for Los Angeles to take control of this game. The front seven also struggled to generate much pressure on Dak Prescott. It serves as a good reminder that winning in the NFL is hard and this is a young team with a first-time head coach. On the bright side, Austin Ekeler was much more involved in the offense and Mike Williams showed up with a big statline. Those self-inflicted wounds won’t fly in Week 3 against the Chiefs.

Colts logo

18. Indianapolis Colts: 0-2 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 27-24 vs. Los Angeles
Considering the opponent and the circumstances, a three-point loss is a pretty respectable result. Carson Wentz looked solid and the special teams came up with a huge play off a Rams miscue to take a fourth-quarter lead. Unfortunately for the Colts, Wentz exited with an injury and Jacob Eason could not engineer a drive to win or tie the game. He threw an interception on his first attempt and then ran out of time after the defense forced a three-and-out. If Wentz misses time, Indianapolis might need to explore the veteran QB market.

Patriots Logo

19. New England Patriots: 1-1 (Last Week: 19)
Won 25-6 at New York
Mac Jones was introduced to the annual New England ritual of embarrassing the Jets. The Patriots rookie didn’t really do much, but he did take care of the football. The same cannot be said for his fellow 2021 draft mate Zach Wilson. Bill Belichick clearly confused the former BYU star as New England picked him off four times on Sunday. The one concern was that the Pats didn’t do much offensively except off turnovers. Just two other Patriots’ drives ended in points, and they were both field goals. The Saints come to town in Week 3.

Denver_Broncos

20. Denver Broncos: 2-0 (Last Week: 21)
Won 23-13 at Jacksonville
Denver is 2-0. However, the Broncos have not played anyone of note. With wins over the Giants and Jaguars, this team has not really been tested yet. However, Teddy Bridgewater seems to be settling in well to his new surroundings, with Courtland Sutton being the main beneficiary on Sunday. Defensively, Denver looked strong once again. You can only play the teams on your schedule. The schedule continues to be kind as well with the Jets up next.

Dolphins logo

21. Miami Dolphins: 1-1 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 35-0 vs. Buffalo
R-E-L … P-A-N-I-C? The Aaron Rodgers treatment likely won’t work here. A Bills team that could barely run the ball in Week 1 ripped off 146 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. That’s not why Miami should be panicking though. If Tua Tagovailoa is going to miss time after being carted off the field due to a rib injury, this Dolphins’ offense is in trouble. Jacoby Brissett struggled and the Fins were shutout for the second time in three years. The red-hot Raiders are next on the docket. Could this be a good fit for Cam Newton?

Washington made up logo

22. Washington: 1-1 (Last Week: 20)
Won 30-29 vs. New York
What happened to Washington’s defense? The front seven sacked Daniel Jones four times, but the unit gave up 29 points and it honestly should have been more. If not for a boneheaded mistake by the Giants, Washington would be 0-2 having surrendered 24.5 points per game and over 400 yards per game. With Taylor Heinicke at the helm, the defense is going to need to step up going forward, especially with the Bills on the horizon fresh off a shutout.

Bears logo

23. Chicago Bears: 1-1 (Last Week: 26)
Won 20-17 vs. Cincinnati
Bears fans got their first true glimpse of Justin Fields at quarterback. It was … underwhelming. He went 6-of-13 for 60 yards through the air, including a costly interception. He was also sacked twice and averaged just 3.1 yards per rush. He was thrown into the action, so maybe we should cut the kid some slack. However, this was a mediocre Bengals defense and this should not inspire a ton of confidence for Chicago’s playoff chances for this season. This shouldn’t impact the long-term outlook on Fields, it might just mean we should temper expectations for his rookie season.

Eagles Logo

24. Philadelphia Eagles: 1-1 (Last Week: 23)
Lost 17-11 vs. San Francisco
Jalen Hurts believers got a reality check against San Francisco. Hurts was not really the issue, but finishing 12-of-23 through the air is concerning. He made a bunch of plays with his legs, but this was definitely a disappointing showing from Philadelphia’s offense. On the flip side, the Eagles’ defense looks much improved from a year ago. Holding a Kyle Shanahan offense to just 3.1 yards per carry is impressive. Philly is putting some of the building blocks in place for future success. There might just be a few bumps on the road to getting there.

Bengals Logo

25. Cincinnati Bengals: 1-1 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 20-17 at Chicago
How to lose a football game in three plays, by Joe Burrow. Inspired by the true story of Matt Schaub. Burrow did his best impression of the former Texans and Falcons quarterback with three straight interceptions, including a pick-six. That was the difference in the game as the Bengals’ furious comeback came up short. The defense turned over Justin Fields, but could not get the ball back as Chicago ran out the clock. There are a few positives to take away from this, but overall this is a disappointing loss. Cincinnati’s offensive line issues have not gone away. Only Zach Wilson has been sacked more than Burrow so far this season. On top of that, Joe Mixon only managed 3.5 yards per carry. Penei Sewell is crushing it in Detroit. Just saying.

Vikings logo

26. Minnesota Vikings: 0-2 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 34-33 at Arizona
This one stings. Minnesota’s defense had no answer for Kyler Murray, but the Vikings should have won this game. Greg Joseph missed a game-winning field goal attempt in the closing second. He also missed an extra point earlier in the contest, which was ultimately the difference in the scoreline. Kirk Cousins was sharp with three touchdown throws. Danielle Hunter finally got back to his pre-injury form with three sacks in the game as well. Minnesota also picked off Murray twice. There is a lot to like about how the Vikings have played, but they are still 0-2 with the Seahawks set to visit in Week 3.

Texans logo

27. Houston Texans: 1-1 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 31-21 at Cleveland
How about those Texans? It was a loss, but Houston played Cleveland much tighter than I think anyone would’ve expected, especially after losing Tyrod Taylor midway through the game. Davis Mills was not great in relief. Heading into a short week, there is a chance Mills could be the team’s Week 3 starter on Thursday against Carolina. There is no question the Texans have a talent deficit against just about every team they will face this season, but David Culley and his coaching staff seems to be getting the most out of the players he has available to him.

Giants Logo

28. New York Giants: 0-2 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 30-29 at Washington
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory seems to be the Giants’ thing these days. Penalties doomed Big Blue, taking points off the board for them and putting points on the board for Washington. A Daniel Jones touchdown run came back after a hold downfield, while Dexter Lawrence jumped offsides on a missed field goal to set up Dustin Hopkins with a mulligan to win the game. These are issues that Joe Judge needs to iron out as quickly as possible in order to save the season.

Falcons logo

29. Atlanta Falcons: 0-2 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 48-25 at Tampa Bay
This just in: Atlanta’s defense is still trash. Tom Brady may be the GOAT, but the Falcons have surrendered 80 points across their first two games. Actually, the defense was only responsible for allowing 34 points against Tampa Bay. Matt Ryan threw a pair of pick-sixes that marred an otherwise decent performance. Perhaps the most troubling thing of all is that the Falcons cannot run the ball. Establishing the run was Arthur Smith’s calling card in Tennessee. 2.8 yards per carry is not going to get the job done. On the bright side, the hapless Giants are next.

Lions Logo

30. Detroit Lions: 0-2 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 35-17 at Green Bay
Detroit seemed to carry over all the momentum it built in the second half against San Francisco to open this game. Unfortunately, the Lions were blanked in the second half and the team’s lack of talent started to show. Jared Goff played well, but had two costly turnovers that really put the game to bed. Once again though, Dan Campbell’s squad played with heart. There is no question the Lions are going to struggle this season, but it already feels like the team has made some progress in its rebuild.

Jets logo

31. New York Jets: 0-2 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 25-6 vs. New England
Jets fans are all too familiar with the script that played out on Sunday. Their young quarterback that was supposed to inspire hope and optimism went up against Bill Belichick and imploded. Zach Wilson threw four interceptions on his first 10 passes and New York struggled to accomplish much in their home opener. The defense actually fared decently well all things considered. While they didn’t force any turnovers, surrendering just two touchdowns when the offense is anemic is solid. Tough defensive matchups continue with a trip to Denver up next.

Jaguars logo

32. Jacksonville Jaguars: 0-2 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 23-13 vs. Denver
Another ugly day on both sides of the ball has many wondering if Urban Meyer is out of his depth. Trevor Lawrence finished 14-of-33 throwing with a touchdown and two interceptions. Lawrence didn’t get much help from his defense or special teams either. Teddy Bridgewater finished with 328 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns. Meanwhile, Josh Lambo missed two field goals. Jacksonville somehow feels even more directionless than it did a year ago and that was after winning the Lawrence Lottery.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Fantasy Football 2021 Waiver Wire Pickups: Mitchell, Shepard popular options heading into Week 2

Fantasy Football is finally back in full swing. If you are like me, you spent much of Sunday swiping through the scoreboard pages of your various teams and questioned why you didn’t start Jalen Hurts over Aaron Rodgers. Seriously, all the reigning MVP needed to do was not have the worst fantasy output of any starter in Week 1 and I would’ve won. I lost that matchup by 0.4 points.

But I digress, because whether you feel like you crushed your draft or really messed it up, you now have a second chance to build your fantasy team. Welcome to the waiver wire. Every year, there are a few great fantasy options that slip through the cracks and wind up going undrafted. Usually, the fantasy managers who scoop those handful of players up tend to be the ones that make deep playoff runs.

Don’t believe me? Alvin Kamara went undrafted in most formats back in 2017. He finished the year as RB3. Perhaps you rode James Robinson or Justin Jefferson to a championship last year after both started the year widely available on the waiver wire. The point is, your season is not over because you had a bad Week 1 or lost a couple players to injury.

A quick reminder of how I go about this column. I am looking at players who are available in at least 50 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues as a guide for who will be available. Of course you should pick up star players if they are somehow sitting on the waiver wire, but that won’t be the case for most people.

Going beyond simply looking for players to add to your roster, working the waiver wire requires a bit of strategy. Different leagues have different policies for how waiver claims are awarded. Some have the waiver order reset in reverse order of the standing after every week. Some move teams to the back of the queue after a successful waiver claim. Some have allotted budgets of real or fake money for managers to allocate on players throughout the season. It is important to check which set up your league has and know the best way to work within those parameters.

There is also no chance you will see me advocating for you to use a waiver claim on a defense or a kicker. That does not mean that you should not pick one up if let’s say you have the Panthers defense going up against the Saints this week, but don’t waste a valuable waiver claim on a position that likely will not offer you any long term value.

With all of that in mind, let’s dive into my top additions heading into Week 2. These are listed in no particular order, simply broken up by position.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, DEN
It didn’t take long for Bridgewater to settle in. The former Panthers quarterback carved up the Giants defense for 264 yards and a pair of scores on his way to a QB14 finish. Those aren’t gaudy numbers, but solid nonetheless. On top of that, Bridgewater will face a Jaguars defense that gave up 291 yards and two scores to Tyrod Taylor in Week 1. Even without Jerry Jeudy, the Broncos still have plenty of talented receivers and backs to work with. It doesn’t hurt that Bridgewater can add a bit more value with his legs as well. He rushed for 19 yards this past week and could be in line for more as the season rolls on. I think he is a solid spot starter this week if you are in the market for one.

Mac Jones, QB, NE
I am a lot less sure about this one. Mac Jones looked really good in his NFL debut, but he did not do much from a fantasy perspective. However, he plays a very young Jets defense in Week 2 on the heels of throwing the ball 39 times against the Dolphins. That bodes well for some increased fantasy success against a weaker opponent. Jones is going to be incredibly efficient and will likely avoid turnovers. If you are searching for a fantasy option with a decently high floor, he feels like someone worth a look this week.

Elijah Mitchell, RB, SF
I’m ready to get burned again! I targeted Trey Sermon in a lot of my fantasy drafts this year under the assumption he would start if anything happened to Raheem Mostert. The latter has a lengthy injury history, so it felt pretty likely he would miss some time. Low and behold, Mostert is out of the season, but it is Elijah Mitchell who seems poised to take over the majority of the work in the backfield. He ran the ball 19 times for 104 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut. The red flag? He did not have a single target in the passing game. Now, Sermon is likely to see some touches this week and Kyle Shanahan is notorious for rotating his running backs. JaMycal Hasty and eventually Jeff Wilson Jr. will definitely see some work. That being said, Mitchell absolutely should be rostered in every fantasy league. He will be my top waiver wire target this week.

Kenny Gainwell, RB, PHI
He didn’t light it up or see anywhere near the same volume as Mitchell, but Gainwell had a solid NFL debut. The rookie out of Memphis had 11 touches for 43 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons. He seems well positioned for about 10-15 touches per game. Normally, I wouldn’t feel great about him facing the 49ers in Week 2, but San Francisco gave up the most fantasy points to opposing running backs in Week 1. This definitely has some risk reward potential, but if you are looking for someone to stash with upside, Gainwell is a good pick.

Mark Ingram, RB, HOU
Dare I say it: Mark Ingram looks fantasy relevant again. The former Ravens running back ran the ball a staggering 26 times against the Jaguars. He only averaged 3.3 yards per carry, but if he is going to see that much volume this season, he will be worth tracking. The Texans travel to Cleveland in Week 2. That’s not a great fantasy matchup for Ingram, but he should have a relatively high floor if he is going to see that much usage. I wouldn’t drop anyone you really like for him, but Ingram could be a great injury replacement for Mostert, Rashaad Penny or others.

Sterling Shepard, WR, NYG
We talked all offseason about the big additions to the Giants offense. They signed Kenny Golladay, drafted Kadarius Toney and brought in Kyle Rudolph. That was in addition to Evan Engram and Darius Slayton with Saquon Barkley finally back from injury. Turns out we forgot about Sterling Shepard. After a frustrating and injury-riddled 2020 season, the former Oklahoma receiver reasserted himself in New York’s offense with a seven-catch, 113-yard performance capped off by a touchdown. He scored the ninth most points of any fantasy receiver in Week 1. He might not be a weekly starter, but Shepard will definitely be a matchup-specific flex option.

K.J. Osborn, WR, MIN
Not a name I was overly familiar with heading into Week 1, Osborn showed a lot of promise against Cincinnati. He caught seven of his nine targets for 76 yards. I’m not ready to call him a breakout player yet, but with Minnesota lacking depth at tight end and struggling to run the ball, Osborn could be involved a bit more in the offense than we expected. It is tough for me to start him at this point, especially facing a Cardinals defense that just shut down the Titans, but he might be worth stashing on your bench if you have room.

Tim Patrick, WR, DEN
Injuries are a part of football. Every year players go down and that opens up new opportunities in fantasy. Unfortunately, Jerry Jeudy will miss some time with a high-ankle sprain. That opens the door for Tim Patrick to be fantasy relevant again. He only saw four targets in Week 1, but he turned them into four catches for 39 yards and a touchdown. I think he will see a few more throws his way with Jeudy out. Plus, he faces an abysmal Jaguars secondary in Week 2. Patrick feels like a speculative flex play or WR3 option in PPR formats. If you are in non-PPR leagues, K.J. Hamler is definitely worth a look.

Nelson Agholor, WR, NE
I’m still a little skeptical of Agholor, but he had a solid debut for the Patriots. He caught five of his seven targets for 72 yards and a score. There is a good chance he finishes the year as New England’s top receiver. On top of that, he faces a Jets secondary that struggled to contain the big play and is overall very unproven. Agholor is worth a look as a flex option in Week 2.

Jared Cook, TE, LAC
A change of scenery seems to have worked well for the veteran Cook, at least through one week. He caught five passes for 56 yards in his debut with the Chargers. That was against a talented Washington defense as well. Cook will face a Cowboys defense that gave up eight catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski in Week 1. I don’t think you should expect that type of production out of Cook, but he is definitely a streaming option this week and has the potential to be a regular starter in your lineup if you need a tight end.

2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week 2

We got our first taste of NFL regular season football and it was everything we hoped for and more. Dak almost powered Dallas past Tampa. Kansas City and Cleveland played in an instant classic. New Orleans stunned the reigning MVP. Vegas capped the weekend with a wild overtime win over Baltimore. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Teams don’t win championships in September. These rankings will likely change a lot in the early weeks as teams find their identity and settle into a new season. Keep in mind that the Browns opened 2020 with a 38-6 loss only to reach the playoffs, the Jaguars stunned the Colts before losing 15 straight and the Buccaneers stumbled against the Saints before going on to win the Super Bowl.

After one week though, this is how I think the NFL stacks up.

Chiefs Logo

1. Kansas City Chiefs: 1-0 (Last Week: 1)
Won 33-29 vs. Cleveland
Seeing the Chiefs down 15-3 midway through the second quarter might have offered shades of their Super Bowl loss. Luckily for Kansas City, Baker Mayfield is not Tom Brady. Patrick Mahomes might just challenge the latter for being the greatest of all time when it is all said and done. It would be easy to say he engineered a fourth-quarter comeback, but he had plenty of help. Tyreek Hill adjusted to a classic Mahomes rocket and coasted to the end zone for a one-play scoring drive. Kansas City dragged down Cleveland’s punter after he dropped the snap to set up a short field for the go-ahead score. Then, the defense sealed it with an interception. Andy Reid will surely hope to avoid such a slow start next week, but this is a good reminder that a comeback is rarely out of the question when it comes to the Chiefs.

Buccaneers logo

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1-0 (Last Week: 2)
Won 31-29 vs. Dallas
Bucs fans almost had their Super Bowl celebrations spoiled by the Cowboys. Then again, was the game really ever in doubt when Tom Brady got the ball back with about 90 seconds on the clock? It was a lot less comfortable of a win than many expected, but a win nonetheless. The biggest concern for Tampa Bay has to be the defense, which struggled to slow down Dak Prescott all game long. There were a few moments of brilliance, but overall, it was a bit of a slow start. Definitely nothing to panic about, but there is clearly room for improvement.

3. Los Angeles Rams: 1-0 (Last Week: 7)
Won 34-14 vs. Chicago
Los Angeles passed its first test with flying colors and looks the part of a Super Bowl contender. Matt Stafford looked sharp in his new offense and his full complement of weapons showed up. He aired it out for 321 yards and three touchdowns while completing 20-of-26 passes. Defensively, the Rams didn’t generate as much pressure as you might have expected. The secondary more than made up for it though with some smothering coverage. This was a good start, but the pressure is still on. The entire NFC West won in Week 1, so the Rams still have plenty of work to do.

Saints logo

4. New Orleans Saints: 1-0 (Last Week: 14)
Won 38-3 vs. Green Bay
A lot will be made about Jameis Winston throwing five touchdowns on just 20 passes. I was more impressed by the Saints defense though. The Packers averaged a league-best 31.8 points per game in 2020 along with the fifth-most yards per contest. New Orleans held Green Bay out of the end zone and surrendered the fewest yards of any defense in Week 1. After losing Sheldon Rankins, Trey Hendrickson and Janoris Jenkins this was a much better showing than I would’ve expected. Newly-acquired Bradley Roby wasn’t even on the field yet. The Saints mean business and need to be taken seriously.

Seahawks logo

5. Seattle Seahawks: 1-0 (Last Week: 10)
Won 28-16 at Indianapolis
Russ is cooking once again and this time it seems like the defense decided to show up for the first half of the year, too. Seattle outplayed Indianapolis on both sides of the ball and picked up a solid road to win to open its season. Russell Wilson looked unstoppable, amassing 254 yards passing and four touchdowns on just 23 throws. The Seahawks controlled the line of scrimmage, running the ball effectively on offense and stymieing the Colts’ ground game on defense. Seattle gets another dose of the AFC South with a visit from Tennessee on the horizon.

Browns logo

6. Cleveland Browns 0-1 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 33-29 at Kansas City
It is hard to know which side of this loss to focus on. On one hand, the Browns led 22-10 at halftime and held a nine-point lead with 10:24 left in the fourth quarter. On the other, they collapsed in the final minutes and Baker Mayfield threw a bad interception to end Cleveland’s comeback bid. There is a lot to like about how they played, but the Browns are going to need to win these games in order to really earn contender status.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)

7. Arizona Cardinals: 1-0 (Last Week: 19)
Won 38-13 at Tennessee
Woah! If it weren’t for the Saints beating the brakes off the Packers, I think we would all be talking about how good the Cardinals looked in demolishing the Titans. Kyler Murray seems fully healthy and back to the MVP form he flashed before suffering an ankle injury in 2020. Chandler Jones seems back to his old self as well with a monster five-sack performance, tied for the most in a single game in franchise history. Keep in mind that he tallied 19 sacks and eight forced fumbles in 2019 before missing most of 2020 due to injury. This is a very impressive start for Arizona. Kliff Kingsbury needs to maintain that over a full season though. The Cards started 6-3 last year before limping to a 8-8 finish.

49ers Logo

8. San Francisco 49ers: 1-0 (Last Week: 9)
Won 41-33 at Detroit
This went from a convincing blowout to a questionable victory very quickly. A costly fumble by Deebo Samuel nearly cost the 49ers the lead in the fourth quarter, but the defense did just enough to preserve the victory. After going up 38-10, Detroit outscored San Francisco 23-3 the rest of the way. That is a red flag for Kyle Shanahan. On the bright side, Elijah Mitchell looked great in his debut. Samuel dazzled on a 79-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Dre Greenlaw got the defense involved in the scoring as well with a pick six. There was a lot to like, but San Francisco can not afford to take its foot off the gas like that in the future.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo

9. Pittsburgh Steelers: 1-0 (Last Week: 16)
Won 23-16 at Buffalo
Maybe the Steelers aren’t as overmatched as we all thought. Actually, this looked exactly like what I think we all expected Pittsburgh to be. The defense played lights out while the offensive line looked abysmal. It proved to be the special teams, which blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown, that won the game. Ben Roethlisberger posted an ugly 28.5 QBR and Najee Harris averaged 2.8 yards per carry. That is not usually a winning formula. Mike Tomlin needs to find a way to take at least some pressure off his defense as the season rolls on.

Bills logo

10. Buffalo Bills: 0-1 (Last Week: 3)
Lost 23-16 vs. Pittsburgh
It might be time to cool the Super Bowl hype in Buffalo. After lighting up the NFL in 2020, Josh Allen seemed to show some regression in his 2021 season opener. Perhaps that was just a product of playing a talented Steelers defense. He struggled against Pittsburgh in 2020 as well, but not quite as badly as he did on Sunday. Devin Singletary looked effective running the ball, but lost the handle twice. He was lucky neither resulted in a turnover. Zack Moss was a healthy scratch. Defensively, Buffalo looked really good, but it was not enough to carry the offense and special teams to a win. Miami is up next.

Ravens logo

11. Baltimore Ravens: 0-1 (Last Week: 5)
Lost 33-27 at Las Vegas
Blowing a 14-point lead is inexcusable, especially with an offense as capable of controlling the clock as the Ravens’ offense can. Lamar Jackson was phenomenal when he wasn’t fumbling the ball. Jackson coughed it up three times, with two of those times resulting in turnovers. The last one cost Baltimore the game in overtime. This also was not the greatest start for defensively as they allowed Las Vegas to climb back into the game. There are still some positives to take away from the performance, but Jim Harbaugh has to be disappointed in how his team closed the game.

Dolphins logo

12. Miami Dolphins: 1-0 (Last Week: 11)
Won 17-16 at New England
Miami picks up an all important road win in the division and leads the AFC East through one week. Tua Tagovailoa looked decent, showing some areas of growth, but was also clearly outplayed by Mac Jones. Brian Flores also made the curious decision to only give Myles Gaskin nine carries despite him averaging 5.4 yards per carry. The rest of the team averaged 1.8 yards per attempt on 14 rushes. Flores will also need to figure out what to do about his run defense. A pair of fumble recoveries shifted the focus away from the fact that Damien Harris ran the ball down the team’s throat. A win is great, but there are a few things the Dolphins need to work on heading into Week 2 against the Bills.

Packers logo

13. Green Bay Packers: 0-1 (Last Week: 4)
Lost 38-3 at New Orleans
What in the world just happened? The Packers entered Sunday with a 26-6 record in the regular season under Matt LaFleur and had the reigning MVP coming off back-to-back NFC Championship Games. The Saints cared about absolutely none of that. Aaron Rodgers played one of the worst games of his career and the defense got carved up by Jameis Winston, who threw five touchdowns on just 20 attempts. Worst still, the offensive line does not look great. The running game accounted for 2.9 yards per carry and gave up seven quarterback hits. LaFleur has a ton to figure out and it already seems like the tension between him and Rodgers is growing.

14. Los Angeles Chargers: 1-0 (Last Week: 15)
Won 20-16 at Washington
Brandon Staley got his head coaching career off to a winning start. This was not an easy opening matchup either, traveling across the country to play one of the best defenses in the league. It was far from perfect as L.A. managed just 3.1 yards per carry and committed a pair of turnovers. However, we finally got a glimpse of how good this defense could be with Derwin James and Kenneth Murray both healthy. This seems like an exciting team to watch this year. A big game versus Dallas awaits.

Raiders logo

15. Las Vegas Raiders: 1-0 (Last Week: 21)
Won 33-27 vs. Baltimore
What a comeback and what a finish! It was a roller coaster, but the Raiders pulled off a seemingly improbable win in overtime. Derek Carr looked incredible down the stretch after a rocky start against a solid Ravens defense. It was far from perfect and I still have some questions about the defense. Give them credit for forcing a pair of crucial turnovers to turn the tide, but the Ravens had no problem moving the ball against them. This definitely takes some heat off both Carr and Jon Gruden, but the road only gets tougher with a trip to face a stifling Steelers defense next week.

Titans logo

16. Tennessee Titans: 0-1 (Last Week: 8)
Lost 38-13 vs. Arizona
Maybe the Titans will still rebound to win the AFC South, but this was a very inauspicious start. Tennessee got blown out in its own building and looked overmatched on both sides of the ball. The defense had no answer for Kyler Murray, who accounted for five total touchdowns. Meanwhile, Ryan Tannehill will be having nightmares about Chandler Jones for a while after the Cardinals edge rusher sacked him five times on Sunday. What might be the most concerning part of all is that the Titans could not run the ball. Derrick Henry finished with just 58 yards on just 3.4 yards per carry. Mike Vrabel has a lot to figure out before his side heads to Seattle this week.

Cowboys logo

17. Dallas Cowboys: 0-1 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 31-29 at Tampa Bay
It was a loss, and that won’t help them at the end of the season, but it was a strong start by the Cowboys. Dak Prescott looked great in his return from injury. The defense wasn’t amazing, but looked much better than a year ago. If Dallas can establish the run a bit more in Week 2, we could see this team start to look like a true playoff contender. That won’t be the easiest task with the Cowboys headed to L.A. to face the Chargers. It’s not a must-win by any means, but it feels like a big litmus test for Mike McCarthy’s group.

Colts logo

18. Indianapolis Colts: 0-1 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 28-16 vs. Seattle
Carson Wentz was set for a fresh start in Indianapolis, reunited with his former offensive coordinator behind one of the better offensive lines in the league with a reliable running game. Through one week, it looks like he might have left most of that behind in Philadelphia. Wentz was sacked three times and hit 10 times. The running game only managed 3.8 yards per carry. There is cause for concern on the defense as well. Russell Wilson usually comes out cooking, but to surrender four touchdowns through the air is not a good sign for the secondary. Things don’t get much easier with the Rams coming to visit in Week 2.

Patriots Logo

19. New England Patriots: 0-1 (Last Week: 13
Lost 17-16 vs. Miami
The Patriots were unlucky not to beat the Dolphins, but they have no one to blame but themselves. New England fumbled the ball four times, losing two of them. That proved to be the difference in a defensive slugfest. Mac Jones looked pretty sharp though and the running game showed promise. There are clearly going to be some growing pains for Bill Belichick, but I can promise you he will not let fumbles continue to happen. There is a good chance we see some reduced roles for Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris after coughing it up. Jones will face off with fellow rookie Zach Wilson in Week 2.

Washington made up logo

20. Washington: 0-1 (Last Week: 17)
Lost 20-16 vs. Los Angeles
Losing to the Chargers stings, but losing Ryan Fitzpatrick for six to eight weeks hurts much worse. Much of the offseason optimism that Washington could repeat in the NFC East centered on the improved quarterback play that Fitzmagic could bring. Taylor Heinickie looked fine in relief, but this is a bit of a change up for Washington. Also, let’s not lose focus on this defense. Thought of as one of the best in the league, Washington sacked Justin Herbert just twice for a loss of three yards. Not quite as impactful as you would’ve expected from that uber talented front seven. Washington has a short week before playing a divisional game against the Giants.

Denver_Broncos

21. Denver Broncos: 1-0 (Last Week: 23)
Won 27-13 at New York
It was only one game, but the Broncos look very smart for trading for and subsequently starting Teddy Bridgewater. He looked sharp running the offense. Melvin Gordon flashed some big-play ability as well on a monster 75-yard touchdown run and Vic Fangio was aggressive in his decision making. Defensively, this was an awesome performance. Denver held New York to just seven points up until the final play of the game. The Broncos roll into Florida to face a hapless Jaguars team in Week 2. There is a very good chance they get off to a 2-0 start.

Panthers logo

22. Carolina Panthers: 1-0 (Last Week: 25)
Won 19-14 vs. New York
The Sam Darnold era in Carolina got off to a positive start. The former Jets quarterback beat his former team to open the season, showcasing some of the talent that made him the No. 3 overall pick in 2018. He missed a few throws as well, but this is a good sign for the future. That defensive front looked legit as well, hounding Zach Wilson all game long. We will see if the Panthers are ready to make some noise in the division when they host the Saints in Week 2.

Eagles Logo

23. Philadelphia Eagles: 1-0 (Last Week: 27)
Won 32-6 at Atlanta
Perhaps one of the most surprising results of the entire week, Philadelphia smacked Atlanta to open the season. Jalen Hurts looked like a franchise quarterback. A healthy offensive line and a revamped secondary definitely made a huge difference. The Eagles kept Hurts pretty clean and the defense got after Matt Ryan, sacking him three times and holding him to 4.7 yards per attempt. Philly will get a chance to prove themselves in a home matchup against the 49ers in Week 2. I have a feeling we will learn a lot about both teams.

Bengals Logo

24. Cincinnati Bengals: 1-0 (Last Week: 28)
Won 27-24 vs. Minnesota
The Bengals have a winning record! I am being somewhat sarcastic in my excitement, but it is the first time since November 2018 that the Bengals are above .500. It looked like Cincinnati was headed for a tie before Evan McPherson knocked through a game-winning field goal as time expired in overtime. Give Zac Taylor credit for riding Joe Mixon and the run game as a way to ease Joe Burrow back into action. However, the second-year quarterback was still sacked five times despite only attempting 27 passes in the game. That does not bode well, especially with the Bears and Steelers up in Week 2 and Week 3.

Vikings logo

25. Minnesota Vikings: 0-1 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 27-24 at Cincinnati
Mike Zimmer’s seat somehow got warmer after an ugly season-opening loss to the Bengals. The offensive line was atrocious, evidenced by Dalvin Cook’s 3.1 yards per carry average and the three sacks and eight hits Kirk Cousins took. The defense that many expected to improve after a dismal 2020 season didn’t look much better either. Next up? Chandler Jones and Cardinals in Arizona fresh off a beatdown of the Titans. Good luck Vikings fans.

Bears logo

26. Chicago Bears: 0-1 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 34-14 at Los Angeles
The Andy Dalton experiment should probably come to an end, but Matt Nagy seems determined not to turn things over to Justin Fields. It remains to be seen if Chicago can actually win with Dalton under center. Facing the Rams in Los Angeles to open the season behind an incredibly banged up offensive line is not the easiest start. For Bears fans frustrated that Fields is not starting, go watch some highlights of Zach Wilson running for his life and getting sacked six times in his debut. That is exactly what Nagy is trying to avoid.

Giants Logo

27. New York Giants: 0-1 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 27-13 vs. Denver
As has been the case for all of his career, Daniel Jones showed the athleticism and playmaking that made him the No. 6 pick back in 2019. Unfortunately, he also continued to be maddeningly unreliable in big moments. A costly fumble when the Giants were driving made a comeback all but impossible. Jones scored a meaningless touchdown as the clock hit zero to make the scoreline seem a bit more respectable, but this team is heading nowhere fast. Even with Saquon Barkley back, New York cannot run the ball. The defense that inspired confidence a year ago gave up big plays and could not get off the field on key downs. Start scouting 2022 quarterbacks Giants fans.

Texans logo

28. Houston Texans: 1-0 (Last Week: 32)
Won 37-21 vs. Jacksonville
Just as we all expected, the Texans are atop the AFC South through one weekend of play. Tyrod Taylor accounted for over 300 yards of offense and a pair of touchdown passes. Perhaps even more surprising than Houston’s offensive showcase was the defensive effort. The Texans had a horrendous defense in 2020. That was before they lost J.J. Watt in free agency. Somehow, the unit tallied three interceptions and held Jacksonville to just 76 yards on the ground. Things will get a lot tougher in Week 2 with a visit to Cleveland, but this was a great debut for new head coach David Culley.

Falcons logo

29. Atlanta Falcons: 0-1 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 32-6 vs. Philadelphia
The Arthur Smith era opened with a resounding thud. Atlanta looked hopeless in its opener, getting shelled by a Philadelphia side that most people expected to be contending for the No. 1 overall pick. The Falcons managed two early field goals and then proceeded to be shut out for the remaining 45 minutes. Matt Ryan could not get the passing offense going. The defense did nothing to inspire confidence either, surrendering 32 points and 5.7 yards per carry while managing a single sack. It is looking like it might be a long season for the Falcons, who are likely wondering if they should have drafted a quarterback in May.

Lions Logo

30. Detroit Lions: 0-1 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 41-33 vs. San Francisco
For two and a half quarters, this looked a lot like the hapless Lions team we all expected to see this year. They trailed 38-10 and looked lost in all three phases. Detroit outscored San Francisco 23-3 the rest of the way and nearly pulled off an epic comeback. While the Lions fell short, that late-game surge has to count for something. We will have to see if maybe the defense can find a way to avoid getting blown out early so Jared Goff doesn’t have to throw the ball 57 times. Dan Campbell will have his team in primetime against the Packers next Monday night.

Jets logo

31. New York Jets: 0-1 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 19-14 at Carolina
Maybe this is a bit harsh, but the team that played in the first half against the Panthers looked like the second-worst team in the league. However, if you are a Jets fan like me, you saw the flashes of potential that made you excited about Zach Wilson. The offensive line is unquestionably a problem, especially with Mekhi Becton likely to miss some time due to a MCL sprain. This is an incredibly young team with a rookie coaching staff and rookie quarterback. There are going to be a lot of growing pains, but there were definitely some positives, even in a loss.

Jaguars logo

32. Jacksonville Jaguars: 0-1 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 37-21 at Houston
It is important not to overreact after just one game. This was Urban Meyer’s and Trevor Lawrence’s first game in the NFL. That being said, my goodness the Jaguars look bad. We spent all offseason talking about how the Texans were going to be one of the worst teams in NFL history. I still don’t think Houston is very good, I now know that Jacksonville is just that bad. If this is how this team is going to compete every week, we might see Meyer coaching USC next year.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

2021 NFL Award Predictions: Najee Harris, Patrick Mahomes in line for some hardware

The NFL is back! Before the season gets underway in full on Sunday, I wanted to go on record with my predictions for who will win the major awards handed out at the end of the regular season. I am so glad that football finally here again!

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Harris scored 30 touchdowns in his senior year at Alabama.

Winner: Najee Harris, RB, Steelers
I am incredibly way of the Steelers’ offensive line, but this is going to be about volume. No one else in Pittsburgh’s running back room has proven themselves in the NFL. Harris is going to be in line for a 350-touch season. The team seems committed to running the ball and relying on its defense to win games. That sets up a great situation for the former Alabama star to shine and take home the award.

Runner Up: Mac Jones, QB, Patriots
Some of this is about Jones’ situation and some of it is due to his talent. He might have been the most pro-ready quarterback in the 2021 draft class. Now, he will play with a revamped Patriots offense behind a good offensive line. He also feels like a great fit for Josh McDaniels’ offense. His ability to make plays from the pocket and take care of the football bodes well for him having an impressive 2021 season. I think there might be too many hiccups for him to win the award. Quarterbacks tend to be dissected more intensely than any other position. I think it is too much to expect him to match Justin Herbert’s numbers from a year ago. He will be in the conversation, but I believe he will ultimately come up short.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Winner: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Broncos
It only took one preseason game for Surtain to flash the potential that made him the No. 9 pick in the 2021 draft. He raced back a 30-yard pick-six against the Vikings in the Broncos’ preseason opener. Now, it was just the preseason, but that is the type of playmaking ability that will win Rookie of the Year. Without an elite edge rusher in this draft class, at least right out of the gate, there is a good chance we see either a corner or linebacker take home the award this year. I’m backing Surtain, who was my top corner prospect in 2021.

Runner Up: Jamin Davis, LB, Washington
Davis flew up draft boards with his speed and instinctive playmaking style. He has the intangibles to become a sideline-to-sideline linebacker at the next level. Washington also has arguably the best defensive line in the NFL, which means Davis should have plenty of clear sight lines to the quarterback and ballcarriers. That front four eating up blocks will free up Davis to diagnose and go make plays. There will be a decent amount of competition for the award this year with Jaelan Phillips and Zaven Collins poised for big roles early in their careers, but I like Davis to stand out.

Offensive Player of the Year

Jones ran for a career-high 1,104 yards in 14 games in 2020.

Winner: Aaron Jones, RB, Packers
Jamal Williams and his 70 receptions over the past two season are in Detroit. A.J. Dillon might still be there, but he is definitely a change of pace back. He will get carries, but I think Jones is in for a monster season. This offensive line will get better when David Bahktiari returns. Until then, Jones can run behind Elgton Jenkins. He will also continue to be involved in the passing game, where he has seen 131 targets over the past two years. This is going to be one of the best offenses in the league again and I expect Jones to be a huge part of that.

Runner Up: Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs
It helps to play with Patrick Mahomes, but Hill is a special talent. After a 1,400-yards-from-scrimmage, 17-total-touchdown season, Hill had a legitimate claim to win the award in 2020. Sammy Watkins is now in Baltimore, so there is potential for Hill’s target share to even increase in 2021. With an improved offensive line, Mahomes will have even more time to drop dimes to Hill deep downfield.

Defensive Player of the Year

Winner: T.J. Watt, LB, Steelers
Well part of this was an assumption that Watt would ball out in a contract year, but I still think he is in line for a special season. He has had at least 13 sacks in each of the past three seasons, including his league-leading 15 a season ago. He plays in a dynamic defense with tons of talent around him. Opposing teams will not be able to zero in on him in pass protection, at least not on every down. In addition to leading the league in sacks, Watt also tallied a league-high 23 tackles for loss. He is a disruptive force on a team that will be led by its defense.

Runner Up: Aaron Donald, DL, Rams
Six straight First-Team All-Pros, seven straight Pro Bowls, four straight seasons with at least 11 sacks. It would unwise to predict anything but another stellar season by Donald. He is the best interior pass rusher in the NFL and one of the best ever. He is going to have plenty of pass rushing opportunities as well with the Rams seemingly poised to score a decent number of points on offense. Opposing teams will definitely need to be playing catch up. I think he will come close to securing another Defensive Player of the Year award.

Coach of the Year

The Bills are 23-9 over the past two seasons.

Winner: Sean McDermott, Bills
Expectations are understandably high for the Bills. Following a return to the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 1993. Josh Allen led a high-powered Buffalo offense that won the AFC East, however, the defense took a major step back. The front office invested in some young defensive players over the past few drafts. If the Bills can become a more complete team and McDermott gets this defense back to its 2019 form en route to a 13- or 14-win season, I think he will be more than deserving of the award.

Runner Up: Brandon Staley, Chargers
A rookie head coach winning Coach of the Year? I think it could happen. The Chargers retooled their offensive line, get back some major contributors from injury on defense and have a talented, young quarterback to lead the way. Los Angeles likely won’t win the AFC West, that’s the downside to playing in the same division as the Chiefs, but the Chargers are definitely in contention for a wild card spot. I think if L.A. gets to 11 wins this season, which feels attainable given their talent and schedule, Staley should be in consideration for the award.

Comeback Player of the Year

Winner: Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
I had Prescott picked well before I saw his season-opening performance against the Buccaneers. He plays in an offense loaded with weapons and was on a legitimate MVP pace in 2020 prior to his injury. I expect we will see a 5,000-yard season from him, especially with the extra regular season game. After coming off a serious ankle injury, it will be great to see Prescott get back to full strength.

Runner Up: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers|
If his brief appearances in 2020 were any indication, McCaffrey is still the best running back in the NFL. He is such a difference-maker in Carolina’s offense with his ability as a runner and as a pass catcher. It will be interesting to see how he gels with new Panthers quarterback, but I think his usage and productivity sets him up well to be in the mix for Comeback Player of the Year.

MVP

Mahomes has thrown 114 touchdowns since taking over the starting job in 2018.

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs
What if I told you the most talented quarterback in the NFL is going to play behind the best offensive line he has ever had in 2021? Well that is exactly what is going to happen in Kansas City. Mahomes was in the mix for MVP in 2020, but his production slowed a little bit down the stretch. With more time to pick apart opposing defenses a bevy of talented weapons to throw to, I think 50 touchdowns is within reach for Mahomes again. If he plays in all 17 games, I could definitely see him averaging three scores per game.

Runner Up: Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
I’m not totally sold on the Seahawks in 2021, but I still believe in Wilson. He has two reliable receivers on the outside in D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. I think new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron will help this offense avoid the second-half fallout it had in 2020. Through the first half of the year, no one could touch Wilson. He was tearing apart secondaries and toss touchdowns like it was no one’s business. Despite a major slowdown in his final eight games, Wilson still tossed 40 touchdowns. I think he can match that total while cutting down on the 13 interceptions he threw to truly challenge for MVP.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

All photos are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

2021 NFL Pro Potential Power Rankings

College football is back! With the season getting underway in earnest, this is a great time to look at the top programs for sending players to the NFL. This is my sixth year running these rankings, and while there has been a lot that has changed, some things stay the same. Alabama is still on top and has a monster lead over Ohio State. Nick Saban is running a NFL factory down in Tuscaloosa.

I love doing these rankings every year because it shows you which schools are the best at preparing players for the NFL draft. Obviously, it should be taken into account that usually these schools are also the ones that excel in recruiting, but there is a lot more to it than that. Receiving the right exposure, playing in a specific system or especially competing against the best talent all play a role in shaping a prospects’ draft stock as well. This is not a predictive measurement of how well players from these schools will do in the pros. For high school prospects with dreams of playing on Sundays, these are the best programs to get you there.

Previous rankings: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016

For those wondering how these rankings are created, I look at all the players drafted over the past five years and then score their draft spot using the scoring system below. The draft classes included in this year’s rankings span from 2017 to 2021.

The scoring system is as follows:
1st round -10 points
2nd round – 7 points
3rd round – 5 points
4th round – 4 points
5th round – 3 points
6th round – 2 points
7th round – 1 points

Alabama Logo

1. Alabama Crimson Tide – 343 points
Previous: 1 (315 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Quinnen Williams, 3rd Overall, 2019
Alabama continues to raise the bar. After claiming his sixth national championship since taking over for the Tide in 2009, Nick Saban tied the 2004 Miami Hurricanes when six of his players were drafted in the first round of 2021. Somehow, the Tide keep increasing their point total. After Ohio State pulled within 30 points a year ago, Alabama has stretched their lead to nearly 100 points again. No one is touching them for a while.

Ohio State Logo

2. Ohio State Buckeyes – 248 points
Previous: 2 (285 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Nick Bosa/Chase Young, 2nd Overall, 2019/2020
At first glance, it might seem like the Buckeyes had a rough 2021 draft. It was solid if unspectacular, but their massive drop in points is mostly due to losing out on a 2016 draft class that featured 12 players, including five first-rounders. Ohio State is not going anywhere, but after seeming like they were primed to challenge Alabama for the top spot a year ago, this was a disappointing follow up.

Louisiana State University logo

3. LSU Tigers – 215 points
Previous: 3 (202 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Joe Burrow, 1st Overall, 2020
The championship hangover hit the Bayou hard as LSU struggled to a 5-5 finish. Still, the Tigers had seven players drafted, highlighted by Ja’Marr Chase going in the top 5. There is already buzz about another potential top-five prospect in Derek Stingley Jr., so I think LSU is here to stay. They will need to pick it up in the first few rounders though if they want to stay in the top three.

MichiganWolverines

4. Michigan Wolverines – 170 points
Previous: 6 (144 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Devin Bush, 10th Overall, 2019
I said it last year and I will say it again, Jim Harbaugh, despite all his flaws running this program, knows how to get players to the NFL. Michigan saw eight of its football alumni have their names called across the three days of the 2021 draft in April. Kwity Paye led the way going 21st overall. There are already a few players in the top 50 conversation heading into this season, so the Wolverines could climb even higher.

Florida logo.jpg

5. Florida Gators – 167 points
Previous: 5 (161 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Kyle Pitts, 4th Overall, 2021
Florida’s draft success took another step forward as Kyle Pitts became the Gators’ first top-five pick since Dante Fowler back in 2015. Pitts kicked off a good-sized draft class, with eight former Florida players coming off the board on draft day. With tons of NFL-caliber talent still on this roster and Dan Mullen still running the show, Florida is going to stick among college football elites in this category.

Clemson Logo

6. Clemson Tigers – 165 points
Previous: 4 (171 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Trevor Lawrence, 1st Overall, 2021
It feels weird that Clemson would have the No. 1 overall pick and somehow move down two spots after dropping a few points. The Tigers had a solid draft class of five players. Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne were both first-round selections. This is not a huge blow for Clemson, but I think it underlines just how hard it is to produce top-end NFL prospects.

Georgia Logo

7. Georgia Bulldogs – 153 points
Previous: 9 (131 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Roquon Smith, 8th Overall, 2018
Kirby Smart feels like he is just getting started. Georgia had nine players drafted in 2021, including three in the top 50. With a loaded roster heading into 2021 with some big-name prospects already drawing national attention, the Bulldogs are primed for future success. J.T. Daniels, Adam Anderson, Nakobe Dean and Jordan Davis could all come off the board in the top 50 in 2022.

Oklahoma Logo

8. Oklahoma Sooners – 138 points
Previous: 8 (133 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Baker Mayfield/Kyler Murray, 1st Overall, 2018/2019
This was a quiet draft by Oklahoma standards. 2021 snapped a three-year streak of having a player selected in the first round and only two players went in the top 100. That should change in 2022, with Spencer Rattler in the Heisman conversation and some other prospects receiving first-round buzz. As long as Lincoln Riley is in Norman, the Sooners are going to be in the top 10.

Washington Huskies logo.jpg

9. Washington Huskies – 132 points
Previous: 10 (110 points)
Highest Drafted Player – John Ross, 9th Overall, 2017
If you are a high school prospect with NFL aspirations looking to play on the West Coast, Washington should probably be at the top of your wish list. It remains to be seen if Jimmy Lake can sustain the success Chris Pederson built. If 2021 was any indication, the program should be fine. Joe Tryon snuck into the first round and Levi Onwuzurike was not far behind him. Four former Huskies heard their names called and there should be a few more to follow in 2022.

Notre Dame Logo

10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish – 130 points
Previous: 7 (136 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Quenton Nelson, 6th Overall, 2018
Hate on the Irish all you want, Brian Kelly is producing NFL prospects at a high level. It was the second year in a row that Notre Dame did not have a first-round pick, but they somewhat made up for that with three second-rounders. Kyle Hamilton will almost definitely snap that streak next year. With a very small draft class in 2017, the Irish should be in a good spot to add more points in 2022.

Penn_State_text_logo

11. Penn State Nittany Lions – 109 points
Previous: 13 (100 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Saquon Barkley, 2nd Overall, 2018
The gap between the top 10 and everyone else is apparent. Penn State has steadily made progress in these rankings in recent years. When I first started recording this, the Nittany Lions were 23rd and had not had a first-round pick in the previous five years. Fast forward to 2021 and Penn State had multiple players taken in the first round for the first time since 2003. Yes, it certainly seems like Happy Valley is back to being a hot spot for NFL prospects.

USC logo

12. USC Trojans – 108 points
Previous: 11 (104 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Sam Darnold, 3rd Overall, 2018
15 years ago, USC likely would have led these rankings. After a long lull, it seems like the Trojans are headed in the right direction. Alijah Vera-Tucker was the highest drafted player of a group of five former USC players. With Kedon Slovis and Drake London drawing first-round hype already, the Trojans could be in for an even bigger draft class in 2022.

iowa_wordmark

13. Iowa Hawkeyes – 98 points
Previous: 19 (86 points)
Highest Drafted Player – T.J. Hockenson, 8th Overall, 2019
This was definitely a down year for the Hawkeyes, yet they take a big step forward in the rankings. That is primarily because Austin Blythe was the only former Iowa player drafted in 2016 and he went in the seventh round. Hard to do much worse than that from a draft perspective. Iowa has dominated the middle rounds and have hit some highs with first-round selections in 2019 and 2020. If they are serious about staying in the top 15, the Hawkeyes will likely need to start producing first-rounders more regularly.

Miami logo

14. Miami Hurricanes – 97 points
Previous: 19 (86 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Jaelan Phillips, 18th Overall, 2021
Miami is really close to rejoining the elite schools in the country when it comes to sending players to the NFL. No one came close to matching the Hurricanes in the early 2000s, but they have fallen on hard times. Jaelan Phillips and Gregory Rousseau were the first players from Miami drafted before the third round since 2017. That is a problem. There is more talent on the horizon, but as we have seen, it is far from a guarantee that those players will crack those first two rounds.

Auburn_Tigers_logo

15. Auburn Tigers – 96 points
Previous: 12 (101 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Derrick Brown, 7th Overall, 2020
The Gus Malzahn era is officially over and the on-field results correspond with a dip in the pro potential power rankings. The Tigers dominated the 2020 draft, highlighted by two selections in the first 30 picks, but those were their only first round draftees since 2014. Anthony Schwartz was the first Auburn player off the board this year and he went 91st. It will be interesting to see if Bryan Harsin can turn things around and how long it will take before the program is back among the nation’s elite, if it ever returns.

Texas A&M logo

16. Texas A&M Aggies – 90 points
Previous: 17 (90 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Myles Garrett, 1st Overall, 2017
Despite a great season on the field, narrowly missing the College Football Playoff, Texas A&M had a really quiet draft. Only four players came off the board. Kellen Mond was the first and he went in the third round. That was a bit underwhelming, but oh boy, the 2022 Aggies draft class will likely change all of that. DeMarvin Leal, Jaylen Wydermyer, Kenyon Green and Isaiah Spiller will all be in the first-round conversation. There is plenty of depth after that. Jimbo Fisher has a good track record with sending players to the league. There is a reason Florida State has fallen off a cliff in NFL prospect production since he left.

Stanford Cardinal

17. Stanford Cardinal – 88 points
Previous: 21 (85 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Solomon Thomas, 3rd Overall, 2017
Stanford continues to produce NFL talent every year. Five players heard their names called in 2021, with all of them coming between the second and fifth rounds. Unfortunately, the quality of play on the field continues to slide and there is a chance the number of Cardinal players heading to the NFL could follow. David Shaw is a fantastic coach, but he needs to do something to revive this program.

Utah_Utes_logo

18. Utah Utes – 86 points
Previous: 20 (90 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Garrett Bolles, 20th Overall, 2017
It is not time to panic in Salt Lake City. Not having a single player drafted in 2021 is startling, but that comes on the heels of a strong seven-man draft class in 2020. There is hope on the horizon with Devin Lloyd likely to generate some first-round buzz. This past draft class is still incredibly disappointing, but I wouldn’t expect Utah to completely drop out of the rankings right away.

Florida State Logo

19. Florida State Seminoles – 78 points
Previous: 23 (80 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Brian Burns, 16th Overall, 2019
Florida State has struggled to keep up their NFL factory tag in the post Jimbo Fisher era. The Seminoles drop a couple points but move up because of other teams struggling around them. If the season opener against Notre Dame was any indication though, there is a chance there is some more NFL talent on the roster than initially thought. 2022 could be a huge inflection point one way or the other in determining which direction FSU is headed in these rankings.

1000px-mississippi_state_bulldogs_logo.svg_

20. Mississippi State Bulldogs – 77 points
Previous: 16 (91 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Jeffery Simmons, 19th Overall, 2019
This was not ideal. Only two Mississippi State players were drafted in 2021. Both were seventh rounders. That is not going to get it done in these rankings, at least not long term. The Bulldogs should hang around bolstered by a 2019 draft class that featured three first-round picks, but this is a red flag. There is a chance their days in the top 20 are coming to an end.

UCLA logo.jpg

21. UCLA Bruins – 76 points
Previous: 14 (98 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Josh Rosen, 10th Overall, 2018
Another small draft class sees the Bruins take a major tumble down the rankings. Osa Odighizuwa and Demetric Felton were the only players drafted from UCLA this past year. Early signs point to Chip Kelly having this team headed in the right direction. In his fourth season in L.A., Kelly finally has his own recruits running the show. Zach Charbonnet is off to a hot start and there are a few other prospects already earning top 100 buzz. Perhaps the Bruins are primed for a bounce back and better days ahead now that Kelly is settling in.

Wisconsin logo

22. Wisconsin Badgers – 74 points
Previous: 25 (73 points)
Highest Drafted Player – T.J. Watt, 30th Overall, 2017
It was another ho-hum draft class for the Badgers. Three former Wisconsin players were drafted, but none of them were selected prior to the fifth round. Another year like that could see Paul Chryst’s program slide out of the rankings. There are a number of teams all within 15 points of Wisconsin at this stage. Its 2017 draft class was also a strong one, so they will need to have a better 2022 to help replace it when next year rolls around.

1000px-north_carolina_state_university_athletic_logo.svg_

23. North Carolina State Wolfpack – 72 points
Previous: 22 (83 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Bradley Chubb, 5th Overall, 2018
Alim McNeil was the lone North Carolina State player taken in 2021. He was a third-round pick, but one-man draft classes don’t really do much in these rankings. Considering the Wolfpack’s on-field success, it was a bit of surprise no one else joined McNeil. NC State has a good history of producing NFL talent, so they could be in line for a turnaround, but it will need to happen quickly.

1280px-TCU_Horned_Frogs_logo

24. TCU Horned Frogs – 70 points
Previous: 24 (79 points)
Highest Draft Player – Jalen Reagor, 21st Overall, 2020
TCU is lucky to stay in these rankings. The Horned Frogs only had two players taken in 2021. However, they could be in line for a resurgence in 2022. Their 2017 draft class consisted of just one seventh-round selection, so it will be hard for them to really drop more points in next year’s rankings. There are a few players on the 2021 roster that should come off the board in the top 100, so the top 20 is definitely within reach.

Ole_Miss_Rebels_logo

25. Ole Miss Rebels – 69 points
Previous: 15 (93 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Evan Engram, 23rd Overall, 2021
The biggest drop of any program in the 2021 rankings, Ole Miss is hanging on for dear life. Their two players selected were in the second and fourth rounds, which is solid. However, that was replacing a 2016 draft class that produced three first-rounders. Now Evan Engram is the only former Rebel taken in the first round in the past five years. Maybe Matt Corral could change that, but it would take a big season for him to break into the top 32 prospects come draft day.

25. North Carolina – 69 points
Previous: NR (46 points)
Highest Drafted Player – Mitchell Trubisky, QB, UNC
2021 was a solid year for UNC both on the field and in terms of draft production. Their five players selected replaced a 2016 draft class featuring zero NFL prospects. That is a big part of the reason for the Tar Heels’ surge. It also helps that Mack Brown is attracting big-time talent to Chapel Hill. Sam Howell will have to prove himself in 2021 to solidify his first-round draft stock. There could be a few other players that work their way into the top 100 when all is said and done.

Others Receiving Votes: Virginia Tech (64 points), South Carolina (60 points), Kentucky (60 points)

Note: All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons