NFL Mock Draft 2023: Rodgers to Las Vegas, Seahawks draft a QB and Giants trade up for a receiver

Time for a brand new mock draft! The NFL combine is officially in the books following a busy week in Indianapolis. There were a number of players who boosted their draft stocks with their work on the field. Several of them will show up in the first round of this mock. Reminder, the first round is only 31 picks this year because the Dolphins were penalized their first-round selection for tampering.

Before we get into the picks, I wanted to take a look at the quarterback that could be on the move in the NFL this offseason. For the purposes of this mock, I executed a blockbuster trade that sends Aaron Rodgers to Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Derek Carr is reportedly signing with the Saints and I’m predicting Jimmy Garoppolo heads to New York. Lamar Jackson on the other hand stays put in Baltimore, as does Daniel Jones in New York.

There were a few other trades that I decided made sense for this mock, including a massive move up by the Colts to No. 1. The following trades were made in this mock:

Las Vegas trades 1.7, 2.39, 2024 1st to Green Bay for Aaron Rodgers, 4.117, 2024 3rd

Indianapolis trades 1.4, 2.36, 7.224, 2024 1st to Chicago for 1.1, 4.103

Seattle trades 1.20, 2.38, 5.124 to Pittsburgh for 1.17, 2.50

New York Giants trade 1.26, 3.89, 5.160 to Tampa Bay for 1.19, 6.194

With all of that in mind, let’s dive into my latest mock!

1. Indianapolis Colts via Chicago Bears – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
He weighs enough and he is tall enough. Young did enough to quiet some critics, but there will still be those who question his ability to last in the NFL given his smaller frame. Put on the tape though and you will see a player who stood tough against the pass rushers of the SEC and delivered clutch performances. Indianapolis has had a revolving door at quarterback since Andrew Luck retired. Young gives them a potential franchise quarterback for the first time since they last made a selection at the top of the draft.

2. Houston Texans – C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
While Young stole headlines with his measurables and Anthony Richardson turned heads with his workout, C.J. Stroud is still the only quarterback I would consider taking at No. 1. He is technically sound and checks all the physical boxes. While he does not have the strongest arm in the class, it looks effortless when he releases the ball. He showcased his mobility against Georgia. It will be up to DeMeco Ryans and this coaching staff to get that version of Stroud as often as possible. He will contend with Davis Mills for the starting job from Day 1, eventually taking over as the long-term starter.

3. Arizona Cardinals – Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
I think I likely would have picked Anderson over Carter prior to Carter’s legal troubles. The off-the-field issues could cement Anderson as the top non-QB selected. He is one of the most productive pass rushers we have ever seen. He constantly wreaks havoc as a pass rusher and plays the run well. Anderson has all the physical tools to be a Hall-of-Fame pass rusher.

4. Chicago Bears via Indianapolis Colts – Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
The reason the Bears will favor sticking in the top four is because it all but guarantees they end up with either Anderson or Carter. Despite Carter being charged with reckless driving and racing in connection with a crash that killed his teammate Devon Willock and Georgia recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy. Carter returned to Georgia, was booked and released, and then returned to the combine to interview with teams. Off-the-field issues aside, he is my highest-rated player. His blend of size and athleticism makes him a nightmare for opposing offenses. The Bears are in desperate need of an upgrade on the defensive line. He will signal the start of a major rebuild on that side of the ball.

5. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos – Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
I actually have a higher grade on Will Levis than I do on Richardson, but I think this is such a good fit for the former Florida quarterback. He wowed at the combine, setting records in the vertical and broad jumps while posting a 4.40 40-time at 244 pounds. His mobility is elite, but he is raw and unrefined as a passer. He has major accuracy issues and was off the mark consistently. I believe Pete Carroll could get the best out of Richardson and the Seahawks would not need to start him assuming they bring back Geno Smith. His upside is incredible and I think this would be the perfect situation for him to be successful long term.

6. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams – Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
The Lions defense was much better down the stretch, but still needs an infusion of talent on the back end. Witherspoon is a dynamic playmaker at corner. He is strong in run support and looked very comfortable in coverage for Illinois this past season. He checked all the boxes from a size perspective measuring in at 5’11” with 31-inch arms. Detroit is in desperate need of a true No. 1 corner. Witherspoon should be that sooner rather than later in his NFL career.

7. Green Bay Packers via Las Vegas Raiders – Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
It’s all about Jordan Love in this scenario for the Packers. Green Bay needs to bolster its offensive line after injuries have turned this unit into an annual issue. I love what Johnson brings to the table. He is an athletic blocker who can thrive in both the run and pass game. He has great size and length, measuring in at 6’6″ with 36-inch arms. Johnson could start at right tackle before ultimately taking over from David Bakhtiari down the line.

8. Atlanta Falcons – Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Wilson is drawing a lot of buzz around the league. Daniel Jeremiah had him going ahead of Will Anderson Jr. in his most recent mock draft. I really like what Wilson brings to the table, but not enough to put him above Anderson. The former Texas Tech edge rusher is an elite run defender with great length and untapped potential as a pass rusher. Atlanta has been searching for improved play on the outside of their defensive front for years.

9. Carolina Panthers – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
I won’t rule out the possibility of the Panthers landing a veteran quarterback, but in this scenario, the Panthers are without a clear long-term answer at the position. Levis is a tough evaluation. He has great physical tools and put together a really strong 2021 campaign. However, dealing with injuries, a new offensive scheme and a worse supporting cast, he had a troubling 2022 season. I think Levis has the potential to be a solid NFL quarterback, but there is a lot of risk given his struggles with accuracy and propensity for turning the ball over.

10. Philadelphia Eagles via New Orleans Saints – Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Fresh off a Super Bowl appearance, the Eagles need to quickly retool their defense. With a number of veterans heading to free agency, including James Bradberry, Philly will need to turn to the draft to find replacements. Porter is not the most polished cornerback prospect, but he brings rare length to the position. Average arm length for corner prospects is around 31.5 inches. Porter’s arms measured at 34 inches at the combine. Couple that with good athleticism and strong hands in coverage and you have a player who could turn into a shutdown corner.

11. Tennessee Titans – Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Tennessee has some questions to answer regarding the futures of Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, but the offensive line remains the biggest concern for this team. Taylor Lewan is already out the door. More players could follow. Adding Skoronski would give them a player capable of starting at either tackle or guard at the next level. Skoronski has the athleticism and size to play tackle, the position he played in college, but his below average length (32.25-inch arms) will raise questions for some about his ability to excel on the outside. His technique is good enough that he should be able to compensate, but those questions will continue to pop up.

12. Houston Texans via Cleveland – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
I’m not saying it will yield the same results, but we have seen some success for teams pairing college quarterbacks and wide receivers together in the NFL. Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase are the prime example, but Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle as well as Jalen Hurts and DeVonta Smith all point to this being a reasonable strategy. After an injury-plagued season, Smith-Njigba answered a lot of questions by posting the best times of any player at the combine in the 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill. His film indicates he will be able to separate well at the next level and should be a reliable playmaker for the Texans to rebuild this offense around.

13. New York Jets – Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Jimmy Garoppolo is only going to be successful in New York if the Jets can protect him. There is still a chance Mekhi Becton could be one of the team’s long-term starters at tackle, but after three injury-plagued seasons, Joe Douglas cannot rely on that. Jones is fresh off a dominant season at Georgia. He has good size and length. His athleticism is impressive as well, underscored by him posting the best 40-time of any offensive lineman at the combine. He would be a plug-and-play option for the Jets at left tackle.

14. New England Patriots – Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
While receiver is certainly an option, the Patriots seem more likely to focus on the defensive side of the ball. Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams and Myles Bryant are all slated to be free agents this offseason. Cornerback is going to be a need for Bill Belichick. After a rocky start to the season, Gonzalez played well down the stretch for the Ducks. He had a really strong combine showing, checking every box from a measurement perspective and posting great numbers in the 40 and vertical jump. He has the physical tools to be a good player in the league for a long time.

15. Green Bay Packers – Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Aaron Rodgers might throw something at his TV if this pick were to roll in. Green Bay did not select a pass-catcher in the first round for Rodgers’ entire tenure with the team. If the Packers are serious about putting Jordan Love in a position to succeed, they will need to give him playmakers. Addison is a bit undersized, but he has been one of the most productive receivers in the country over the past two seasons. He would be a really great complement to the receiver the Packers already have on the roster.

16. Washington Commanders – Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
I will be honest, I don’t really know what the path forward for the Commanders is right now. They picked up some huge wins over the Eagles and Cowboys this season, but have question marks all over the offense. Unfortunately, there is not much value at quarterback or offensive tackle at this spot. However, Banks has been flying up draft boards. He played well in his redshirt junior season after dealing with injury in 2021. He dominated the combine and could very easily find himself in the top 20 come draft day.

17. Seattle Seahawks via Pittsburgh Steelers – Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Seattle has a ton of draft capital, so John Schneider moves up a few spots to grab an athletic edge rusher in Murphy. The former Clemson defender is more projection than he is production at this stage. However, he displayed a unique blend of size and speed. He was more of a disruptor than his stats would indicate. For the Seahawks, they address a big need along their front seven as they look to build upon a surprise wild card run.

18. Detroit Lions – Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
I don’t know if there was a player who had a bigger impact on their draft stock than Smith. The former Georgia star suffered a season-ending pectoral injury at the end of October. In a deep edge rusher class, it seemed like Smith had gotten lost in the shuffle. He let everyone know that he is back to full strength at the combine, posting absolutely ridiculous numbers. He ran a 4.37-second 40 and jumped 41.5 inches in the vertical, both the best for his position. Detroit would just get deeper at edge rusher, adding Smith to a room that already includes Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston.

19. New York Giants via Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
The trades keep on coming. The Giants move up to get ahead of a few teams that could be interested in taking a receiver to grab the top one still on the board. Flowers eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving and scored 12 touchdowns despite playing for an abysmal Boston College offense. He put together a solid display at the combine as well to bolster his draft stock. He is a bit undersized, but Daniel Jones could use a go-to target on third down and in key situations. I think Flowers would be exactly that for him.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers via Seattle Seahawks – Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
The Steelers slide down a few spots and still add some help along the offensive line. Wright had a breakout season at Tennessee after he switched from left tackle to right tackle. He had a great week at the Senior Bowl and did what was asked of him at the combine. Pittsburgh needs to protect Kenny Pickett and maximize the investment they made in Najee Harris. Adding a road grading right tackle feels like a good place to start.

21. Los Angeles Chargers – Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Los Angeles needs to do whatever it can to put Justin Herbert in a position to succeed. It has two great receivers in Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, but adding a player like Mayer at tight end could add a whole new element to this offense. Mayer is a well-rounded prospect who produced well at Notre Dame and had a decent showing at the combine. He would be a plus in the run game as well, which is an area the Chargers struggled in throughout the 2022 season.

22. Baltimore Ravens – Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Give Lamar Jackson some receivers! In truth, the Ravens have actually tried to surround their franchise quarterback with more talent. Since 2019, Baltimore has drafted six receivers, including two in the first round. Unfortunately, they just haven’t hit on most of them. Johnston would hopefully make up for some past mistakes. He has rare long speed for a player his size and dominates in jump ball situations. He lacks elite quickness, but he would be a big target capable of stretching the defense. Johnston, Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay should give the Ravens a solid receiving corps.

23. Minnesota Vikings – Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State
I might be low on McDonald compared to the consensus at this point after he showed out at both the Senior Bowl and the combine. He racked up 34 sacks in his five seasons with the Cyclones, including double-digit sack seasons in 2020 and 2021. He has long arms and tested well in the vertical and broad jumps. In fact, his 11-foot broad jump was tied for the best of any player at the position. For Minnesota, McDonald would be a welcome addition to one of the worst units in the league. The Vikings are facing serious turnover on that side of the ball. McDonald, Andrew Booth Jr. and Lewis Cine would give Brian Flores a decent starting point as he aims to reshape this defense.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars – Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State
Jacksonville is shaping up to be one of the most interesting teams to watch in 2023. Trevor Lawrence took a huge jump in his development as the front office put more talent around him and found him a real head coach in Doug Pederson. There are still some gaps to fill in though. Corner is probably the most glaring. It feels like a good landing spot for Brents, who has turned a lot of heads over the past six weeks. He had a strong week in Mobile and even better one in Indianapolis. Brents has great size, 6’3″, and length, 34-inch arms, to pair with incredible physical gifts. He posted a solid time in the 40 and then proceeded to crush the rest of the combine. He had the best broad jump and second-best three-cone time of any player at the combine. Couple that with a stellar 41.5-inch vertical and you have a massive riser up draft boards everywhere.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers via New York Giants – Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
Tampa Bay’s path forward is a bit unclear. As of now, only Kyle Trask is under contract at quarterback and the Buccaneers are nowhere near a position where they could land one of the top passers in this class. Perhaps they could target Hendon Hooker on Day 2. With QB not an option at this point, the Bucs could aim to bolster their defensive line. Akiem Hicks and Rakeem Nunez-Roches are both set to be free agents. Bresee could be an easy replacement. He looked sharp at the combine and moved really well for a player his size. His injury history and general lack of production at Clemson will push him down the board a bit, but he is a really talented player with loads of upside.

26. Dallas Cowboys – Josh Downs, WR, UNC
Dallas could go a number of directions here, but receiver feels like the biggest need for the Cowboys. CeeDee Lamb had another good year, but there is a reason Jerry Jones was asked about Odell Beckham Jr. for most of the regular season. Dak Prescott needs more receiving options. Enter Downs, who is a silky smooth operator with great hands. He is on the smaller side, but he has the potential to be a dynamic playmaker for Dallas. He was Drake Maye’s go-to target with the ability to line up outside or in the slot.

27. Buffalo Bills – O’Cyrus Torrence, IOL, Florida
While I did consider going with a running back here, I think the Bills should opt to bolster the interior of their offensive line and trust that James Cook will be better in Year 2. Roger Saffold is slated to be a free agent and Torrence could be a much cheaper option at left guard. He isn’t the greatest athlete of all time, but he has good power and massive hands that allow him to control opposing players. With tons of experience playing at Louisiana and later Florida, I see him as a pro-ready option that could help the Bills finally get over the hump in the postseason.

28. Cincinnati Bengals – Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
The Bengals have a fairly well-rounded roster without a ton of clear needs. Offensive line is arguably a bigger need, but Hayden Hurst is a free agent, so I think tight end moves to the forefront. Washington is not the most polished receiver in this tight end group, but he is a rare prospect with his size and speed. Running a 4.64-second 40 at 264 pounds is remarkable. At 6’7″ with long arms and massive hands, Washington will also be an asset in both run and pass protection.

29. New Orleans Saints via San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos – Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
With Derek Carr under contract in this scenario, New Orleans shifts its focus to defense. Van Ness is an ascending talent coming out of Iowa. He did not start for the Hawkeyes, but his athleticism and intangibles have teams believing in his upside. He is long and quick off the edge. His college production was solid as well with 13 sacks and 19 tackles for loss over the past two seasons. With Marcus Davenport headed for free agency, Van Ness could be in line for meaningful snaps as a rookie.

30. Philadelphia Eagles – Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Finally, the first running back comes off the board. Robinson is a top-10 talent, but the lack of positional value and a strong free agent class means teams are more willing to wait at the position. It is also an incredible deep draft class at the position. Despite all of that, Robinson is worth the first-round pick. His contact balance is elite. He has a great ability to make players miss and get back up to full speed in a hurry. For an Eagles team that loves to run the football, this is a dream fit. He would take over the backfield role from Miles Sanders, who is a free agent.

31. Kansas City Chiefs – Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State
There are large human beings and then there is Dawand Jones. The former Ohio State tackle is a behemoth, standing 6’8″ and weighing 374 pounds. He also has 36-inch arms and a nearly 88-inch wingspan! In short, Jones is huge and moves well for a player that size. He has work to do with his footwork and is definitely in need of some refining from a technique standpoint, but his sheer size makes up for a lot of that immediately. For a Chiefs team that is heading into free agency with both of its starting tackles out of a contract, Jones could be a potential long-term answer on the right side.

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Draft Season Never Ends: What should the Chicago Bears do with the No. 1 pick?

No one expected the Bears to end up with the No. 1 pick, but suddenly Chicago holds the keys to the NFL draft. What should Ryan Poles do with the top selection: build around Justin Fields, trade it away or look to restart at quarterback?

You can find every episode on Anchor, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube or wherever you find your podcasts. As always, I appreciate reviews, feedback and when you hit that subscribe button.

2023 NFL Mini Mock Draft: Bears trade down from No. 1

It has been a long time since I have done a mock draft. With the first 18 picks of the draft officially set, I figured this would be a perfect time to dive back in. I will go through and project all 31 first-round selections soon, (remember the Dolphins forfeited their first round pick for tampering), but I wanted to run through all the picks we already know first. Let’s kick this off with a big trade.

Indianapolis trades 1.4, 2.36, 2024 1st to Chicago for 1.1, 4.103

It seems like a lot, but that’s the price you have to pay to land a franchise quarterback. It’s the only deal I’ve made in this mini mock, so let’s see how the first 18 picks could turn out.

1. Indianapolis Colts via Chicago Bears (3-14) – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
The Bears earning the No. 1 pick opens the door for a really interesting offseason of wondering what they will do with the pick. Chicago could certainly stay put and take the top player on their board. However, this team is more than just one player away and this still puts them in a position to get a talented difference maker while adding more draft capital. For the Colts, they have had a revolving door at quarterback since Andrew Luck retired. Bryce Young would end that carousel. He is undersized, but there are few players who play with the poise the Alabama quarterback brings to the table. He is incredibly consistent and has a great arm. The Colts would finally get their franchise signal caller.

2. Houston Texans (3-13-1) – C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
It is hard to fault the Texans for playing for the win, but it could cost them the top quarterback on the board. C.J. Stroud is a hell of a consolation prize. The Ohio State quarterback dominated in 2021 and followed it up with another strong campaign in 2022. He answered a ton of questions scouts had with his performance against Georgia, even in a loss. The question will be how he handles playing without a world class receiving corps. Or will he? Remember the Texans have another first-round pick courtesy of the Deshaun Watson trade.

3. Arizona Cardinals (4-13) – Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
Exit J.J. Watt. Enter Will Anderson Jr. Make no mistake, Anderson will not replace the void left by the future Hall of Famer, if for no other reason than Watt outweighs him by roughly 40 pounds. Anderson would be an outside linebacker in that Cardinals defense. And he has the potential to be a game-changing player. He is one of the most productive edge rushers we have seen in recent memory, racking up sacks and tackles for loss like it was nobody’s business for the Tide. Adding an elite pass rusher like Anderson would go a long way to turning around this Cardinals defense that ranked 24th in sacks this season.

4. Chicago Bears via Indianapolis Colts (4-13) – Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
This is a great scenario for the Bears. Jalen Carter would fill a massive need for Chicago’s defense and is arguably the most talented player in this draft. He is my No. 1 prospect right now, but the gap between him and Anderson is tiny. Putting Carter into a 4-3 scheme would be a great way to maximize his skill set. He does a great job collapsing the pocket and shedding blocks. With that Bears defense in for a major rebuild, Carter would be a fantastic player for Matt Eberflus to build around.

5. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos (5-12) – Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
Through one year, Seattle seemingly crushed the 2022 NFL draft and won the Russell Wilson trade. The Seahawks rebuilt their offensive line and added a dynamic running back in Kenneth Walker III. However, Seattle still has some room for improvement on their defensive front seven. Bryan Bresee would be a great fit as a 3-tech defensive end for Pete Carroll and company. He has the size and strength to control the line of scrimmage and the speed to wreak havoc in opposing backfields. Putting him on a defensive line featuring Poona Ford and Shelby Harris, who could be a potential cap casualty, would create an exciting unit.

6. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams (5-12) – Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
It was a very successful season for the Lions, who wound up right on the cusp of their first playoff berth since 2016. With a pair of first-round picks this year, Detroit is in a real position to push themselves over the edge in 2023. Myles Murphy is a dynamic edge rusher who seems to just be scratching the surface of his potential as a pass rusher. His first step and power to battle with offensive tackles off the edge are impressive. He needs to improve his pass rush planning, but playing under Aaron Glenn and across from Aidan Hutchinson should help unlock his potential.

7. Las Vegas Raiders (6-11) – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
This is going to be a very interesting offseason for the Raiders. Derek Carr’s future is currently up in the air and whatever Las Vegas decides to do with their long-time quarterback will dictate every move they make after that. The likelihood is, Carr will be playing elsewhere next year, which opens up a clear need for a quarterback. There is a chance the Raiders would go after a veteran option, but being in a position to draft a young quarterback is not one I think this front office will pass up. Will Levis is a bit raw, but has some fantastic traits and tools for Josh McDaniels to work with. I think long term, he could be a really solid player for the Raiders and brings a ton of upside to the position.

8. Atlanta Falcons (7-10) – Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
The Falcons have been searching for pass rushing help for what feels like a decade. Atlanta finished the 2022 season ranked second to last in sacks, tallying just one more than Chicago. While the Falcons have invested in some young options like Arnold Ebeketie and DeAngelo Malone, they need to have someone lead the charge. That could be Tyree Wilson. He is a better run defender than pass rusher at this point, but he had solid production, posting seven sacks each of the past two seasons. I like him best as a 5-technique defensive end, but I think he has the range to be an outside linebacker, especially if he is allowed to play in a more attacking role.

9. Carolina Panthers (7-10) – Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Carolina finds itself out of a position to draft a quarterback and perhaps willing to give Sam Darnold one more year to bridge the gap to whoever the long-term answer winds up being for this franchise. While the Panthers have some intriguing young talent on the roster, most of it is on the defensive side of the ball. They need another playmaker on offense, particularly after trading away Christian McCaffrey at the deadline this year. Enter Quentin Johnston, who is bound to make any quarterback better with his catch radius and yards after the catch ability. His 6’4″ frame and breakaway speed make him a matchup nightmare for opposing teams and a unique chess piece for whoever winds up running this Panthers offense next season.

10. Philadelphia Eagles via New Orleans Saints (7-10) – Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
It is rare for a team to finish with the No. 1 seed in their conference and a top-10 pick, but that’s where the Eagles find themselves. I would consider selecting an offensive tackle here with Lane Johnson getting older, but Darius Slay is 32 and James Bradberry is a free agent after this season. Both could be back, but the Eagles need to address the position for the long term. Joey Porter Jr. has incredible length that allows him to disrupt passing lanes and break up throws all over the field. He had an impressive season for Penn State and is in the mix to be the first corner selected this year. I will be very interested to see how he runs at the combine, but I love his frame and length.

11. Tennessee Titans (7-10) – Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Seven straight losses saw the Titans go from a contender in the AFC to picking just outside the top 10. Tennessee fired Jon Robinson midseason and now will look to retool this roster for another run at winning the division. Adding Peter Skoronski feels like a good place to start. He turned a lot of heads with his play at Northwestern this season and will be right in the mix to be the first tackle selected come draft time. He would fill a major need for the Titans and hopefully allow the team to maximize whatever time they have left with Derrick Henry in his prime.

12. Houston Texans via Cleveland (7-10) – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
I teased this move during the first Texans pick, but pairing C.J. Stroud with one of his former targets in college feels like a really good way to get him acclimated to the NFL. Jaxon Smith-Njigba will have a number of injury questions to answer after missing pretty much the entire 2022 college season due to a hamstring issue. However, we saw him light it up a season ago when at full strength, leading a Buckeyes team that featured Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Marvin Harrison Jr. in receiving yards and touchdowns. He is a reliable playmaker who can line up in the slot or out wide. Houston desperately needs receiver help as well, so this feels like an obvious move.

13. New York Jets (7-10) – Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
The Jets feel like they are a quarterback away from competing with the best in the AFC. They knocked off the Bills this season and seemed poised to snap their league-leading 12-season playoff drought. Instead, the offense went from average to anemic down the stretch and New York failed to score a touchdown in its final three games. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s future is uncertain at the moment as is the outlook for the Jets at quarterback. I imagine the team will opt for a veteran rather than rolling the dice on Anthony Richardson or Will Levis. If that is the case, Joe Douglas needs to ensure whoever is throwing passes has time to do so. Paris Johnson Jr. could step in at either tackle or guard from Day 1 and provide some much-needed stability. He has the experience and versatility to be invaluable to this New York offense.

14. New England Patriots (8-9) – Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Mac Jones took a clear step backward this season. The blame for that could belong to a number of factors ranging from questionable coaching to a lack of weapons. Don’t overlook the impact of poor protection either. New England finished the season 17th in pass block win rate as Jones had the 12th-highest sack rate in the league. For a quarterback that struggles with mobility, pass protection is crucial. Broderick Jones should help resolve some of the protection issues. He is slated to suit up for Georgia again in the National Championship Game. He has started every game at left tackle for the Dawgs this year after starting the final four games of the regular season in 2021. He has faced elite competition and more than held his own. He could start at right tackle next season for New England or even left tackle if Trent Brown is a cap casualty.

15. Green Bay Packers (8-9) – Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Aaron Rodgers needs more weapons. Plain and simple. They invested a good amount of draft capital at receiver this past year with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs and you could still argue for more. However, I think tight end is a clear spot to upgrade here, especially with the top one in this class on the board. Mayer is well-rounded and brings the prototypical size to the table at 6’4″, 250 lbs. His production was elite as far as college tight ends go. He topped 2,000 yards in his career and hauled in 18 touchdown catches. Adding him will improve the running game as well. I really like this move for Green Bay.

16. Washington Commanders (8-9) – Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
What should the Commanders do at quarterback? Carson Wentz is as good as gone. Taylor Heinicke has not been consistent enough to win the job. Sam Howell showed a little something against the Cowboys, but not enough to dissuade the Commanders from selecting someone else. Especially if that someone else has the upside of Anthony Richardson. The former Florida quarterback has absurd athleticism and one of the strongest arms we have seen recently. However, he is very raw and will need to improve his passing mechanics and footwork if he is going to succeed at the next level. Washington can rely on Heinicke to bridge the gap until Richardson is ready.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-8) – Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Mike Tomlin very nearly dragged this team into the playoffs. While he came up short, he showed that the Steelers are closer to competing than we originally thought. Pittsburgh has some clear holes though and with the top three tackles off the board, I think corner is a good move. Christian Gonzalez is a long, rangy corner who bounced back after a rough start to the year and impressed scouts with his play in the Pac-12. They won’t need him to cover for too long either, just long enough for T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith or Cam Heyward to get home.

18. Detroit Lions (9-8) – Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
The Lions defensive makeover continues, this time on the backend with a tall corner. Smith measures at 6’0″ and is coming off a 2nd-team All-SEC season with South Carolina. He has some solid numbers in his career with 6 interceptions and 18 pass breakups. I’m excited to watch more of him in this draft cycle. He could create a very fun tandem with Jeff Okudah in that Detroit secondary. The Lions defense played better down the stretch, but this team would have been in the postseason if it was not giving up 30 or more points per game to open the season.

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NFL Coaching Hot Seat Tracker: Preseason Preview

It’s almost time for football! Training camp is getting underway and the NFL rumor mill is in full effect. Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and even Chandler Jones could be on the move.

There will be plenty of time to get into all of the potential scenarios for the big names looking for a change of scenery. I wanted to take a look at where every coach in the NFL stands though as we approach the preseason. Every year, we see about seven or eight head coaching openings in the league. Those openings don’t happen without a coach losing his job. Here is an early look at which coaches could be sweating it out at the end of the season. My plan is to update this list at the midway point and again after the regular season.

New York Jets – Robert Saleh
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A rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback. It’s the first time the Jets have ever had both heading into the same season in franchise history. That takes the pressure off everyone here. While seeing a massive turnaround from a 2-14 season would be great, it is not expected. As long as Saleh can show signs that he is putting the pieces in place for future success, that’s all that matters. Besides, after dealing with Adam Gase for two years, Saleh will be a breath of fresh air.

New England Patriots – Bill Belichick
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Could the Patriots really fire Bill Belichick? It feels unlikely. At this point, I think it is more likely Belichick retires or leaves on his own accord than being fired. Still, after a very rocky 2020 season, the Patriots spent a ton of money in the offseason to retool their roster. They also spent a first round pick on Mac Jones. If New England takes a step backward though and the offense flops again, maybe the team could think about making a change. Again, it feels incredibly unlikely, but the expectations are certainly higher for the Patriots in 2021.

Buffalo Bills – Sean McDermott
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The Bills are entering a clear championship window in the final two years of Josh Allen’s rookie deal. Allen took a massive step in 2020 and put together an MVP-caliber campaign. If he can come close to replicating that performance, Buffalo will be very capable of winning its first Super Bowl in franchise history. In order to get to that point, Sean McDermott needs to get the defense back to its 2019 form. With higher expectations comes increased pressure. It would take a truly miserable season for McDermott to lose his job, but he has to deliver.

Miami Dolphins – Brian Flores
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Honestly, if the Dolphins went 0-17 and Tua Tagovailoa lost his starting job to Jacoby Brissett, I think Brian Flores might still keep his job. He is a ton setter and a great culture builder. Let’s be clear, I don’t expect the above scenario to come true. Miami came up one game short of reaching the playoffs in an incredibly competitive AFC. Even if Tagovailoa falters again, I think Flores would get a chance to pick another quarterback and continue building the framework of this team.

Indianapolis Colts – Frank Reich
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Which direction are the Colts headed? The team has a championship-caliber roster in a lot of areas. Their front seven is incredible. The secondary should be even better in 2021. The offensive line is definitely among the top five units in the league. They lack a true No. 1 receiver at this point, but they have depth at the skill positions. It now all falls on Frank Reich and Carson Wentz. Indianapolis acquired Wentz this offseason for a decent amount of draft capital, reuniting him with his offensive coordinator from his early days in Philadelphia. If the Colts struggle in what looks to be a fairly weak AFC South and miss the postseason, there could be some significant turnover in Indy.

Houston Texans – David Culley
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If there was ever a team that could be accused of tanking in the NFL, it has to be the Houston Texans. After releasing franchise icon J.J. Watt amid a massive quarterback controversy on the heels of a 4-12 season, it seems like the Texans are entering a long rebuild. With limited draft capital in recent years, this roster has a massive talent deficit compared to the rest of the league. The roster building is confusing as well, as the team continues to target veteran running backs. Deshaun Watson was likely not going to play this season before his pending legal situation unfolded. Now it seems certain he will not see the field in 2021. All of this is to say, there is absolutely no pressure on David Culley to succeed this season.

Tennessee Titans – Mike Vrabel
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Mike Vrabel has the Titans playing at an extremely high level. They are tough, determined and disciplined, which is usually a product of good coaching. After making a splashy move to land Julio Jones, the pressure is on for Tennessee to make a deep postseason run. With Arthur Smith heading to Atlanta, it is going to be interesting to see if the Titans can maintain their offensive success. A major step backward could see Vrabel come under scrutiny. I think his job is safe, but stranger things have happened.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Urban Meyer
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It is very bizarre to say a first-year head coach is on the hot seat, but Urban Meyer is unlike most rookie coaches. Meyer comes with a ton of clout from his days at Ohio State and Florida. He also just drafted arguably the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. The heat here mostly stems from Meyer’s checked history with team culture. The league fined the Jaguars $200,000 for OTA violations and slapped Meyer with a $100,000 fine of his own. The fines stemmed from breaking the non-contact rules of OTAs. This comes on the heels of Meyer hiring former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle. Doyle resigned one day after his hire following a chorus of former Hawkeyes saying he discriminated against them. The Jaguars have a chance to build something special around Trevor Lawrence. There have already been red flags. Jacksonville needs to be sure it has the best possible system in place for Lawrence to succeed.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Tomlin
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With Ben Roethlisberger’s tenure in Pittsburgh seemingly at its end, could the Steelers opt for a fresh start and move on from Mike Tomlin as well? It certainly feels possible. Despite winning the AFC North and reaching the playoffs, Pittsburgh struggled mightily down the stretch, including a dismal playoff loss against the rival Browns. With no clear succession plan in place and a roster coming up against the cap, the Steelers could look to rebuild with a new coach and a new quarterback.

Baltimore Ravens – John Harbaugh
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A few years ago ago, it felt very possible the Ravens were set to move on from John Harbaugh. Baltimore missed the playoffs from 2015-2017. Joe Flacco was struggling. The defense was far from its championship-winning dominance in 2012. Lamar Jackson likely saved Harbaugh’s job. Baltimore is now among the top title contenders heading into 2021. Harbaugh feels very safe, but there is always a scenario where he could not be back. There have been concerns around the Ravens offense being too one dimensional with Jackson at the helm. Finally winning a playoff game took the edge off, but if Baltimore somehow misses the postseason in 2021, the heat will be turned up on Harbaugh.

Cleveland Browns – Kevin Stefanski
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After reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and winning the franchise’s first playoff game since 1994, Kevin Stefanski is among the safest coaches in the league. His run-heavy approach was incredibly successful, utilizing the two-headed attack of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to great effect. Stefanski also put Baker Mayfield’s career back on the right path. Now, there are still questions that persist around Mayfield, but after investing heavily in the defense, he might not need to do much for the Browns to be successful again.

Cincinnati Bengals – Zac Taylor
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Through two years on the job, Zac Taylor owns an ugly 6-25-1 record as a head coach. Some of that is a product of joining a team in the midst of a rebuild, but this is the year to start seeing some progress. Joe Burrow is undoubtedly the quarterback of the future in Cincinnati. Coming off a gruesome knee injury, expectations will be tamped down some for Burrow, but another double-digit loss season could cost Taylor his job. The team needs to take advantage of Burrow being on his rookie contract and can’t afford to waste another year of his development and that salary cap window waiting to see if Taylor can put together a winning formula.

Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid
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Unsurprisingly, the pressure seems to be fairly low on Andy Reid. He delivered the franchise its first Super Bowl victory since 1970 in 2019. He led the team back to the big game in 2020 despite having an offensive line decimated by injuries. It cost the Chiefs a chance at repeating, but Kansas City is expected to be among the top contenders to lift the Lombardi in 2021. As long as Reid and Patrick Mahomes are still clicking, the Chiefs are going to be among the best teams in the league.

Denver Broncos – Vic Fangio
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Maybe this is a bit warmer than Vic Fangio truly deserves, but the Broncos are heading into a pivotal season. The team put a lot of faith in Drew Lock by passing on Justin Fields and Mac Jones on draft night. Courtland Sutton is back after missing 2020 due to injury. So is Von Miller. Winning the division is an incredibly tall task at this point with the Chiefs leading the way, but it feels like the Broncos need to be in the playoff conversation for Fangio to keep his job. Another five-win season with suspect quarterback play and a subpar defense is going to trigger a rebuild.

Los Angeles Chargers – Brandon Staley
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Brandon Staley walks into a fantastic situation. He has a talented defense with a number of proven playmakers. He inherits one of the most exciting quarterback prospects in the league in Justin Herbert. Los Angeles is also stocked with some reliable playmakers on offense with Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler. The Chargers are simply looking to take a step in the right direction this year. Anthony Lynn was a good coach, but struggled with time management and maintaining leads. If Staley can show an ability to at least be average in those two areas, he will be a major improvement and the Chargers will be at least a league average team.

Las Vegas Raiders – Jon Gruden
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At what point are the Raiders going to put it all together? Heading into his fourth year of his second stint with the franchise, Jon Gruden has yet to post a winning record or reach the postseason. Las Vegas had its moments in 2020, but on the whole it was a disappointing campaign. If the Raiders don’t show signs of progress, expect a rebuild to follow. Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have had ample opportunity to shape this team how they want it to. Now it is time for the results to follow.

New York Giants – Joe Judge
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Only entering his second year, Joe Judge might be a victim of circumstance more than anything else if he were to lose his job after this season. New York had a rocky 2020 campaign, finishing 6-10 and struggling to figure out its direction offensively. The Giants are in for a much better season in 2021. Saquon Barkley should be healthy at some point early in the year. Dave Gettleman invested draft capital at wide receiver and edge rusher, two positions of need. However, if Daniel Jones struggles and New York suffers through another 6-10 season, Gettleman will almost definitely be gone and the Giants will be looking to find a new franchise quarterback. If there is already that much turnover, Judge could be gone as well.

Philadelphia Eagles – Nick Sirianni
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It is incredibly rare that coaches are fired after just one season. However, it has also happened twice in the past three years. Steve Wilks only got a single season in Arizona and was fired after 2018. Cleveland canned Freddie Kitchen after a disappointing 2019 campaign. It’s not out of the question for the 2021 season either. I already touched on Meyer. Nick Sirianni is not facing as much pressure as his Jacksonville counterpart, but Philadelphia has never been known for being patient. Sirianni inherits a team with more questions than answers at a number of key positions, namely quarterback. If Jalen Hurts flames out and Sirianni shows no signs of building a positive culture, I could see a scenario where ownership decides to clean house.

Dallas Cowboys – Mike McCarthy
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Speaking of coaches lasting one year with a team, there was some buzz that Mike McCarthy could be done after a single season in Dallas. Even before Dak Prescott went down for the season, the Cowboys looked outmatched. It got much worse after that. McCarthy did enough to somehow earn a second year, but now the pressure is on. Dallas needs to win the NFC East for McCarthy to keep his job. It is an incredibly weak division and the Cowboys have the most talented roster, at least on paper. McCarthy might even need to win a playoff game to truly secure his place in 2022.

Washington Football Team – Ron Rivera
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Ron Rivera seems to have endeared himself well to the fans and to the locker room in D.C. After scraping together a playoff appearance despite a losing record, Washington still has not addressed the quarterback position long term. If it takes a step back in 2021, I don’t think that will be enough to force Rivera out. It would take a truly terrible season to see him lose his job. However, there will be those who feel like Washington’s defense gives them a good chance to repeat as division champions. Expectations lead to increased pressure. Given what we’ve seen in recent years, nothing is out of the question.

Atlanta Falcons – Arthur Smith
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After impressing as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee, Arthur Smith has earned the chance to lead a team of his own. The Falcons are coming off a tough season full of late-game collapses and bad injury luck. Atlanta is caught in limbo as well. They have some veteran players that would make you believe they want to contend, mainly Matt Ryan. The front office gave Ryan a vote of confidence, or realized they could not afford to move him, when it passed on Justin Fields in the 2021 draft. Instead, they grabbed an elite pass-catcher in Kyle Pitts for Ryan to work with. That feels like a move towards contending in the short term. Then, the Falcons traded Julio Jones to Smith’s former team. Like I said, the team is in limbo. I think that bodes well for Smith’s job security while Atlanta attempts to figure out its direction moving forward.

New Orleans Saints – Sean Payton
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It is the end of an era in the Bayou. Drew Brees’ retirement leaves the Saints with uncertainty at quarterback for the first time in a decade and a half. New Orleans is also in salary cap hell after loading up to contend in the future Hall of Famers’ final few years. Now, the Saints seem set for a step backward. Where does that leave Sean Payton? He has shown he can win games without Brees in recent years with Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill stepping in to lead the team when Brees went down with injury. I think the pressure is likely off for Payton in 2021. It is a year for the Saints to retool their roster and identify their new franchise quarterback. If New Orleans tanks, Payton’s seat could get warmer, but I expect him to be back in 2022.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Bruce Arians
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The only way Bruce Arians is not the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022 is if he decides to retire after the season. Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, the Buccaneers brought back essentially their entire roster to make a run at a repeat. Even if Tampa suffers from a major Super Bowl hangover and misses the postseason, it would be a rash move to fire Arians. He has the trust of Tom Brady, which goes a really long way in securing his position on one of the best teams in the league.

Carolina Panthers – Matt Rhule
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2020 was a rebuilding year for the Panthers. Carolina rebuilt its defense in the 2020 NFL draft, gave Teddy Bridgewater a try at quarterback and lost their best player for most of the season due to injury as Christian McCaffrey played in just three games. Honestly, going 5-11 was a decent feat given how young Carolina’s starters were on both sides of the ball. Matt Rhule has earned the title of one of the best teachers in the game. His coaching skills were showcased during the Senior Bowl this past January. Given that the Panthers made a move to acquire Sam Darnold, I think the expectations will be slightly higher, but I still don’t think Rhule has anything to worry about heading into 2021.

Detroit Lions – Dan Campbell
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If Detroit goes 1-16 in 2021, that might just be mission accomplished for the Lions. Avoiding a winless season and setting the team up to find its quarterback of the future would be a solid start to what will likely be a long rebuild. Dan Campbell likely won’t let any of that happen. He is competitive as hell and I think we could see the Lions win a game or two that they probably shouldn’t simply by putting in a ton of effort. Campbell is going to have his team motivated to play every week. Unless his tough as nails persona rubs players the wrong way in the locker room, I think Campbell will be given a few more years to rebuild this team.

Chicago Bears – Matt Nagy
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Drafting Justin Fields likely takes a little bit of heat off Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. However, I don’t think it changes a tremendous amount for how this duo needs to approach the 2021 season. It needs to be clear at the end of the year that Fields is on track to be a franchise quarterback and that Nagy is the right person to help him reach his potential. Nagy was lucky to keep his job following a 2020 season where Chicago’s offense was nothing short of anemic. The combination of Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky was tough to watch. David Montgomery having a breakout season made up for some of those deficits, but the Bears need to show major progress offensive. It does not mean they will suddenly become the Chiefs or the Buccaneers, but fewer turnovers and sharper play will go a long way.

Green Bay Packers – Matt LaFleur
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Much of how Matt LaFleur will be judged stems from what happens with Aaron Rodgers. Will management blame him for the fractured relationship with the 2020 MVP? Unlikely, seeing as Rodgers’ issues seem to stem more from how the front office operates. There are two ways to spin LaFleur’s tenure in Green Bay. The Packers have reached back-to-back NFC Championship games and dominated the NFC North. For reference, Seattle was the last NFC team to reach back-to-back conference title games in 2012 and 2013. However, unlike the Seahawks, the Packers have been unable to get over the hump. Could another year where the team comes up short in the postseason raise enough questions about LaFleur’s ability to win the biggest games of the year to cost him his job? That seems bold, but don’t rule it out.

Minnesota Vikings – Mike Zimmer
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Mike Zimmer said after the 2020 season that Minnesota’s defense was the worst he ever coached. Enter Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander, Bashaud Breeland, Dalvin Tomlinson, Chazz Surratt and Patrick Jones II. Now, it falls on Zimmer to get the most out of this new talent. Kirk Cousins is locked in through 2022, but another lackluster season from the Vikings could get the wheels turning on a rebuild. Especially if Aaron Rodgers does not play this season, this is Minnesota’s division to lose. Failing to do so would be a major letdown that would likely cost Zimmer his job.

Seattle Seahawks – Pete Carroll
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An underperforming defense, inconsistent play and a disgruntled star quarterback are a recipe for losing your job as a head coach in the NFL. Pete Carroll has the Seahawks in the mix as a playoff regular, but they have not made it past the division round since their 2014 Super Bowl loss. With Russell Wilson complaining this offseason about his offensive line, it certainly will turn up the scrutiny on Seattle’s performance this season. Another early playoff exit highlighted by a team that can’t quite put it all together could spell the end of Carroll’s tenure.

Arizona Cardinals – Kliff Kingsbury
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Entering his third year in charge of the Cardinals, Kliff Kingsbury needs to start producing some results. Arizona came close to reaching the playoffs in 2020, losing the tiebreaker to Chicago for the final spot. However, after starting 5-2, the Cardinals limped to a 3-6 finish. I mean limped literally as well because the team started to struggle right around the time Kyler Murray suffered an ankle injury. Murray still has three years left on his rookie deal, which gives Arizona a fairly lengthy Super Bowl window, but this year feels like an important one to show some progress after signing veterans like J.J. Watt, Malcolm Butler and James Conner to an already talented roster.

Los Angeles Rams – Sean McVay
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While Cam Akers certainly strikes a blow to Los Angeles’ title hopes, it should not drastically change the team’s expectations for 2021. After making the bold move to acquire Matthew Stafford, the Rams are positioning themselves as championship contenders. Taking all of that into account, I still think Sean McVay is entrenched in the organization that he can weather an underwhelming season. Long praised as one of the great offensive minds in the sport, McVay has proven himself to be valuable to this franchise. After all, the team is only three years removed from a Super Bowl appearance. Not to mention, the Rams upset the Seahawks in Seattle with an injured Jared Goff at quarterback. I think McVay is likely safe, but expectations are high for this Rams team heading into 2021.

San Francisco 49ers – Kyle Shanahan
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After slogging through a ridiculous season of injuries, the 49ers seem poised to bounce back in a big way in 2021. However, the team is also facing a changing of the guard at quarterback after selecting Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick in April. I think that actually increases the likelihood Kyle Shanahan keeps his job. He is praised as an offensive guru who has developed several quarterbacks in his coaching career. On top of that, he and general manager John Lynch signed six-year extensions following a Super Bowl appearance. Shanahan will be around for a while in San Francisco.

Way-too-early 2021 NFL Power Rankings

Welcome to the NFL offseason. The Buccaneers put a bow on the 2020 season by steamrolling the Chiefs 31-9 in a lopsided Super Bowl. Now, all 32 teams shift their focus to 2021. After a year like none we have ever seen before, we are heading for an offseason like none before.

There are at least a dozen teams that could make a change at quarterback. The NFL combine will not be taking place as usual either due to COVID-19 restrictions. On top of all of that, the salary cap is set to decrease by close to $15 million. This sets up one of the most interesting and pivotal offseasons in recent memory.

With tons of key players potentially switching teams, there is bound to be a lot of movement in these rankings before we get anywhere close to the start of the 2021 season. As it stands though, this is how each team stacks up following Super Bowl LV, as well as a quick look at each team’s biggest free agents.

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1. Kansas City Chiefs
2020 record: 14-2
Key free agents: WR Sammy Watkins, CB Bashaud Breeland, CB Charvarius Ward, SS Daniel Sorenson, OLB Damien Wilson
Even coming off a drubbing in the Super Bowl, no team is better positioned to make another run at the Super Bowl than the Chiefs. The core of the team is signed through at least 2021 and Kansas City’s front office has done well in recent years to find solid contributors in the draft. As long as Patrick Mahomes is healthy, it is going to be hard to pick against him and Andy Reid.

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2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: WR Chris Godwin, OLB Shaquille Barrett, LB Lavonte David, TE Rob Gronkowski, DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches, RB Leonard Fournette, WR Antonio Brown, K Ryan Succop
Tampa Bay will not be going anywhere as long as they have Tom Brady. Yes, Brady will be 44 next season, but this team is built for success all across the roster. There are a number of critical free agents the team will need to lock up, but players like Gronk and AB are likely to stick around to keep chasing rings. There are probably a few other veterans around the league that would do the same thing. Call it the Brady effect, but this team is going to be a front runner to repeat.

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3. Buffalo Bills
2020 record: 12-4
Key free agents: G Jon Feliciano, OT Darryl Williams, LB Matt Milano, CB Josh Norman, DE Trent Murphy, TE Tyler Kroft
Make no mistake, the Bills are for real. Buffalo has the offensive firepower and defensive grit to be one of the best teams in the league in 2021. Without a ton of crucial free agents, the front office could get aggressive in pursuing another corner across from Tre’Davious White or a more reliable tight end. If Josh Allen can come anywhere close to repeating his performance next year, Buffalo will be back in the postseason.

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4. Green Bay Packers
2020 record: 13-3
Key free agents: RB Aaron Jones, C Corey Lindsley, CB Kevin King, RB Jamaal Williams, WR Allen Lazard, TE Robert Tonyan, DE Montravius Adams
Once again, the Packers found themselves on the doorstep of the Super Bowl, but could not break through. This team is still really close to putting it all together and finally getting Aaron Rodgers his second ring. Green Bay has some key offensive pieces to re-sign in Jones, Lazard, Lindsley and Tonyan, but this roster is pretty solid throughout. With the right additions at cornerback and along the offensive line, this team should be primed for another deep playoff run.

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5. Baltimore Ravens
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: OLB Matt Judon, DE Yannick Ngakoue, OLB Tyus Bowser, C Matt Skura, RB Gus Edwards, WR Willie Snead
It was a rocky start to the year, but what we saw from the Ravens in the second half of the season points to this team’s championship credentials. Baltimore has some clear holes to fill in the front seven on defense with Judon, Bowser and Ngakoue all out of a contract. The offensive line could use a boost and Baltimore is desperate for another receiver, but the foundation is still strong.

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6. Cleveland Browns
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: OLB Olivier Vernon, SS Karl Joseph, DT Larry Ogunjobi, WR Rashad Higgins
I am very bullish on the 2021 Browns. Cleveland has arguably the best offensive line in the league, a deep group of offensive playmakers and a solid front seven. The secondary should be a bit healthier this season, but the Browns also have enough cap space to make a signing or two to bolster the unit. Baker Mayfield does not need to be Superman for Cleveland to take the next step. If he can avoid turnovers, this team should be in the thick of the division title race.

7. Los Angeles Rams
2020 record: 10-6
Key free agents: C Austin Blythe, OLB Leonard Floyd, RB Malcolm Brown, CB Troy Hill, TE Gerald Everett, SS John Johnson, WR Josh Reynolds, LB Sam Ebukam
Los Angeles created themselves a two-year window to go win a championship by acquiring Matthew Stafford. The Rams’ biggest obstacle to accomplishing that goal will be finding a way to supplement the roster with limited draft capital. L.A. is projected to be $25 million over the cap as of right now. They are likely going to lose a lot of their key role players. Stafford is not a mobile quarterback, so if the Rams cannot find a way to protect him, this is going to be a really ugly collapse.

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8. Seattle Seahawks
2020 record: 12-4
Key free agents: LB K.J. Wright, RB Chris Carson, DE Bruce Irvin, G Mike Iupati, DT Poona Ford, LB Shaquem Griffin, CB Shaquill Griffin, G Ethan Pocic
Seattle played two halves of a great season. The offensive was unstoppable in the first half while the defense looked helpless. In the second half, the offense ground to a halt while the defense found its stride. It all culminated in a disheartening first-round playoff loss. The Seahawks have some critical free agents to re-sign and a number of holes left to fill. Russell Wilson will give them a chance to be great, but the supporting cast is not ideal. Mike Iupati’s retirement is just another sign that this front office needs to invest in the offensive line. If the Texans have taught us anything, it’s that you need to keep your franchise quarterback happy.

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9. Miami Dolphins
2020 record: 10-6
Key free agents: C Ted Karras, LB Elandon Roberts, DT Davon Godchaux, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
It all falls on Tua Tagovailoa now. With a solid amount of cap space, a few premium draft picks and a great coaching staff, Miami seems to have the foundation in place to be successful this year and beyond. The theme of this offseason will be finding Tagovailoa some help. Miami knows it needs to find a No. 1 receiver and to solidify the offensive line. Expect the team to be in the running back market as well. With a strong offseason, the Dolphins could definitely push themselves into the top five.

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10. Tennessee Titans
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: WR Corey Davis, TE Jonnu Smith, DT Da’Quon Jones, OLB Jadeveon Clowney, LB Jayon Brown, K Stephen Gostkowski
Tennessee could not take that next step forward after an AFC Championship run in 2019, but the Titans did well to avoid falling apart as well. It is clear the Titans have a formula that works. They just need to reinvest in the front seven on defense to get back on track. Jadeveon Clowney did not work out and you can bet the front office will be looking for some pass rushing help this offseason. Some really interesting free agent decisions exist too in Corey Davis and Jayon Brown.

49ers Logo

11. San Francisco 49ers
2020 record: 6-10
Key free agents: OT Trent Williams, CB Richard Sherman, FB Kyle Juszczyk, DE Solomon Thomas, CB K’Waun Williams, RB Jerick McKinnon, FS Jaquiski Tartt, RB Tevin Coleman
How does a 6-10 team that lost both its offensive and defensive coordinator end up 11th? Well when pretty much your entire roster is hurt and you still find ways to win football games, that inspires a lot of confidence for when you do get Nick Bosa and company back on the field. This is going to be a crucial offseason for the 49ers, who could be a player in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. Cutting Jimmy Garoppolo would get this team up to roughly $45 million in cap space, so big decisions lie ahead.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)

12. Arizona Cardinals
2020 record: 8-8
Key free agents: CB Patrick Peterson, WR Larry Fitzgerald, RB Kenyan Drake, G J.R. Sweezy, DT Corey Peters, OLB Markus Golden, OLB Hassan Reddick, OT Kelvin Beachum
The future still seems bright in Arizona, even after a rough finish to the season. Kyler Murray is clearly the team’s franchise quarterback. The defense had some bright spots. This team is still a few key pieces away from truly contending and the front office has some tough decisions to make regarding Patrick Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald. Finding a new running back will be on the to-do list as well. This offseason is critical for the Cardinals.

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13. Indianapolis Colts
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: DE Justin Houston, DE Denico Autry, WR T.Y. Hilton, S Malik Hooker, CB Xavier Rhodes, TE Trey Burton, RB Marlon Mack, WR Zach Pascal, QB Jacoby Brissett
Not included in that list of free agents are Philip Rivers and Anthony Castonzo, both of whom retired. For the third straight year since Andrew Luck retired, the Colts do not have a plan at quarterback. Perhaps Jacob Eason is the answer, but it is hard to feel too strongly about a player who has yet to attempt an NFL pass. Meanwhile, Indy has a bunch of free agents at key positions on defense and several players close to needing extensions. Thankfully, the Colts have nearly $80 million in cap space to reshape this roster.

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14. Pittsburgh Steelers
2020 record: 12-4
Key free agents: WR Juju Smith-Schuster, RB James Conner, OLB Bud Dupree, OT Alejandro Villanueva, DE Tyson Alualu, FS Sean Davis, LB Robert Spillane, CB Mike Hilton, OT Zach Banner
Pittsburgh’s offensive line is in shambles and Ben Roethlisberger is mulling retirement. Big Ben will probably be back, but the Steelers are going to need to rework his contract to avoid a $41 million cap hit. This offense has a number of critical needs and the Steelers have limited cap space to work with. Maurkice Pouncey is gone as well after announcing his retirement. All eyes will be on the draft for Pittsburgh. Don’t be surprised if a couple of big-name players walk away in free agency.

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15. New Orleans Saints
2020 record: 12-4
Key free agents: QB Jameis Winston, DT Sheldon Rankins, FS Marcus Williams, DE Trey Hendrickson, CB P.J. Williams, TE Jared Cook
When you are $70 million over the cap and your future Hall of Fame quarterback is about to retire, you are in for a pretty steep drop. There is still plenty of talent on the roster, but New Orleans has a number of major question marks. With key players on defense headed for free agency and no cap space to re-sign them, the Saints could be headed for a rebuild. I think they will be aggressive in trying to stay competitive, but it is hard to see the path forward right now.

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16. Dallas Cowboys
2020 record: 6-10
Key free agents: QB Dak Prescott, DE Tyrone Crawford, LB Sean Lee, C Joe Looney, OLB Aldon Smith, S Xavier Woods
This ranking mostly stems from the belief that the Cowboys will bring back Prescott. Before his injury, Dak Prescott was putting up MVP-type numbers. Dallas’ offensive line was decimated by injuries as well and the defense crumbled. Still, with the offensive firepower at Prescott’s disposal and a number of key players returning from injury, this Cowboys team should be in the mix to win the NFC East.

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17. Minnesota Vikings
2020 record: 7-9
Key free agents: FS Anthony Harris, DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, LB Eric Wilson, LB Todd Davis
The Vikings have very few free agents to tend to. Anthony Harris and Ifeadi Odenigbo are quality starters, but Eric Wilson and Todd Davis were rotational players this year and could easily be allowed to walk. Minnesota’s defense needs a huge turn around in 2021 after a very disappointing 2020 season. There is room for improvement on the offensive line as well. This is a make-or-break year for Kirk Cousins and potentially Mike Zimmer.

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18. Carolina Panthers
2020 record: 5-11
Key free agents: OT Russell Okung, G John Miller, RB Mike Davis, LB Tahir Whitehead, WR Curtis Samuel, OT Taylor Morton
Reports have placed the Panthers in the middle of conversations for Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson. It is clear the front office feels it needs to upgrade at quarterback. With a young defense, there is a lot to like in Carolina. One major area for concern is the offensive line. Three of the team’s starting linemen are headed for free agency. Don’t be surprised if the Panthers spend some draft capital to rebuild their offensive front.

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19. New England Patriots
2020 record: 7-9
Key free agents: QB Cam Newton, G Joe Thuney, CB Jason McCourty, RB James White, DT Lawrence Guy, C David Andrews, DE Adam Butler, RB Rex Burkhead, WR Damiere Byrd, CB J.C. Jackson, DE Deatrich Wise
New England is primed for a makeover this season with tons of cap space, several key free agents and, potentially, a new quarterback on the way. The Patriots will have a bit more talent, specifically on defense, with several players likely to return after opting out of the 2020 season. Bill Belichick has his work cut out for him to overhaul this roster.

20. Los Angeles Chargers
2020 record: 7-9
Key free agents: OLB Melvin Ingram, TE Hunter Henry, C Mike Pouncey, LB Denzel Perryman, G Dan Feeney
Los Angeles is headed in the right direction, but this team still has a long way to go before it is ready to compete for a title. The Chargers are breaking in a first-time head coach in Brandon Staley and have a patchwork offensive line. Mike Pouncey definitely won’t be back either after announcing his retirement. Justin Herbert gives this team a bright future, but there is still a ton of work ahead.

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21. New York Giants
2020 record: 6-10
Key free agents: DT Leonard Williams, OT Cameron Fleming, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, WR Austin Mack, RB Dion Lewis, RB Wayne Gallman
New York had some significant highs in 2020, taking the Bucs to the brink and beating the Seahawks in Seattle. Unfortunately, those were few and far between. Getting Saquon Barkley back will help this offense, but the team is still lacking playmakers. It seems like Joe Judge has reset the culture though and given the team a much brighter outlook. This defense is underrated and is capable of keeping New York in games.

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22. Chicago Bears
2020 record: 8-8
Key free agents: WR Allen Robinson, QB Mitchell Trubisky, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, FS Tashaun Gipson, G Germain Ifedi, DE Mario Edwards
Chicago has a big decision to make this offseason. Consensus seems to be that Trubisky is not the answer at quarterback, but the Bears are not well positioned to find his successor. With Robinson unlikely to return, and an uninspiring offensive line, this is not exactly a prime spot for free agents quarterbacks either. How the Bears answer their quarterback question is going to determine their outlook for 2021.

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23. Washington
2020 record: 7-9
Key free agents: G Brandon Scherff, DE Ryan Kerrigan, CB Ronald Darby, QB Kyle Allen
Washington’s defense is one of the best in the league. Now it needs to invest its resources in building an offense to match. Alex Smith is one of the league’s best comeback stories ever, but he is not the long-term answer at quarterback. He might not even be the short-term solution. With a sizable amount of cap space, Washington could get aggressive in finding some free agent additions, but everything hinges on the quarterback.

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24. Las Vegas Raiders
2020 record: 8-8
Key free agents: DE Jonathan Hankins, DE Takkarist McKinley, WR Nelson Agholor, LB Raekwon McMillan, OLB Vic Beasley
This franchise has been stuck in neutral for the past five years. Since a short-lived playoff run in 2016, the Raiders have been toiling away in obscurity and mediocrity. Derek Carr likely isn’t the answer at quarterback. Las Vegas’ defense is still one of the worst in the league. This team had it’s moment in the sun after stunning the division rival Chiefs, but it feels 8-8 is the ceiling given who the Raiders currently have on their roster.

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25. Denver Broncos
2020 record: 5-11
Key free agents: OLB Von Miller, FS Justin Simmons, SS Kareem Jackson, DT Shelby Harris, WR Tim Patrick, A.J. Johnson, RB Phillip Lindsay
Denver’ s offseason is going to be dictated largely by the decision the franchise makes at quarterback. There is some buzz about Deshaun Watson being interested in the Broncos. Drew Lock is still developing, but if the club is going to make a move like that, it would accelerate this team’s timeline significantly. They still have some key pieces on defense to lock up and a major decision looming regarding Von Miller. There is plenty of room for upward mobility.

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26. Atlanta Falcons
2020 record: 4-12
Key free agents: C Alex Mack, RB Todd Gurley, SS Keanu Neal, S Damontae Kazee, DE Charles Harris, K Younghoe Koo
Where in the world is this team headed? They still have Matt Ryan under contract through 2023 with a pretty easy out after 2021. The future of the club is going to be determined with what the Falcons decide to do with the fourth overall pick. Atlanta has a ton of options. They could find a successor to Ryan, pick their favorite non-QB prospect, or trade down and restock the roster. It is a tough call for new general manager Terry Fontenot.

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27. Philadelphia Eagles
2020 record: 4-11-1
Key free agents: OT Jason Peters, WR DeSean Jackson, DE Vinny Curry, S Jalen Mills, RB Corey Clement, WR Greg Ward
Carson Wentz is in Indianapolis. Zach Ertz is likely to follow. The Eagles are in salary cap hell and headed for something of a rebuild. Philly has an intriguing young quarterback to work with in Jalen Hurts, but there are question marks all over this roster. Not to mention, the Eagles have a first-time head coach who is a relative unknown. This team does not have the cap space to replenish this depleted roster right away. It is going to be two years before we see the Eagles competing in the NFC East again?

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28. Cincinnati Bengals
2020 record: 4-11-1
Key free agents: CB William Jackson, WR A.J. Green, WR John Ross, DE Carl Lawson, DT Mike Daniels, K Randy Bullock, P Kevin Huber
The key to this offseason will be protecting Joe Burrow. After the former Heisman winner spent much of 2020 running for his life, rebuilding the offensive line is the focal point. Expect the Bengals to be aggressive in the draft and free agency looking for ways to upgrade its current unit. Cincinnati has a few key free agents as well with William Jackson and Carl Lawson. There is a good chance that one of them departs, opening up another need on that Bengals defense. Cincy will need to stay patient, finding long-term solutions instead of short-team patches.

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29. Houston Texans
2020 record: 4-12
Key free agents: DE J.J. Watt, WR Will Fuller, CB Gareon Conley, CB Vernon Hargreaves, DT P.J. Hall, DE Carlos Watkins
Things look bleak in Houston. Franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson wants out. J.J. Watt is gone. The roster has holes at cornerback, edge rusher, running back and wide receiver, just to name a few. Under normal circumstances, the Texans could be well-positioned to land a top prospect to accelerate this rebuild. Instead, Houston does not have a pick in the first or second round. The organization maintains that it wants to keep Watson and rebuild his trust, but it is looking like this team might be headed for a long rebuild.

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30. Jacksonville Jaguars
2020 record: 1-15
Key free agents: OT Cam Robinson, CB Tre Herndon, WR Dede Westbrook, WR Keelan Cole, WR Chris Conley, CB D.J. Hayden, TE Tyler Eifert, P Dustin Colquitt
A new era is coming in Jacksonville. Urban Meyer takes over as head coach and presumptive No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence will be the team’s new franchise quarterback. Things are definitely looking up, but the Jaguars have a lot of work to do still. Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson offer exciting building blocks on defense, but the cupboard is pretty bare in the defensive playmaking department. Jacksonville’s secondary was one of the worst in the league in 2020. With a number of receivers headed for free agency, there is a clear need there as well. Lucky for the Jaguars, no one has more cap space this offseason, so Meyer and new general manager Trent Baalke will have every opportunity to reshape the roster.

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31. New York Jets
2020 record: 2-14
Key free agents: FS Marcus Maye, WR Breshad Perriman, CB Brian Poole, LB Jordan Jenkins, S Bradley McDougald, CB Arthur Maulet, LB Tarell Basham
The Adam Gase experiment ended with a resounding thud as the Jets played their way out of contention for the No. 1 pick. New York now has a huge decision to make about Sam Darnold’s future. It is very possible he is traded this offseason to make way for a new rookie quarterback selected with the second overall pick. The Jets are also still in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, but it is seeming less and less likely they are the winners. At least the organization landed Robert Saleh to be the team’s next coach. His arrival should bring some much needed leadership to the locker room, but also means a scheme change and a likely massive roster turnover. New York is going to be busy this offseason.

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32. Detroit Lions
2020 record: 5-11
Key free agents: WR Kenny Golladay, DE Romeo Okwara, WR Marvin Jones, DE Everson Griffin, WR Danny Amendola, LB Jarrad Davis, S Durron Harmon, K Matt Prater
Welcome to the bottom of the pile, Detroit. With Kenny Golladay headed for free agency and Matt Stafford now in SoCal, the outlook for the Lions is not very inspiring. It is hard to get excited about anyone on this roster at the moment. Jared Goff gives new coach Dan Campbell a reclamation project, albeit an expensive one. The defense needs an overhaul after some poor roster building in recent years. With a ton of future draft capital now available, the future is a bit brighter in Detroit, but 2021 is going to be a year where this team bottoms out, sheds veteran contracts and looks to rebuild the foundation of the franchise.

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