2023 NFL Mock Draft: How does the Panthers moving up to No. 1 impact the first round?

We have a new team picking first overall! The Bears and Panthers finalized a trade on Friday that sent the No. 1 pick to Carolina. Now the Panthers are on the clock. The move has massive implications for the rest of the league as well.

There were a few other trades that I decided to make for this mock, including some big-name quarterbacks changing teams. The following trades were made in this mock:

Las Vegas trades 1.7 to Green Bay for Aaron Rodgers, 4.117

Jets trade 1.13, 2024 1st to Baltimore for Lamar Jackson

Baltimore trades 1.13, 1.22 and 2024 2nd to Arizona for 1.3

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

So Aaron Rodgers is a Raider, Lamar Jackson is a Jet and Ravens now have a top 3 selection. Is all of this likely? No, not particularly. But there is a real possibility these teams are all facing the prospect of not having a plan at quarterback heading in 2023. That usually leads to some moves we might not have expected. Plus, it is fun to explore the domino effect of different offseason moves.

Reminder, the first round is only 31 picks this year because the Dolphins were penalized their first-round selection for tampering. With all of that in mind, let’s dive into my latest mock!

1. Carolina Panthers via Chicago Bears – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Carolina sold the farm to move up. You take the best quarterback on the board. That is Young for me. He has size limitations, but I love his game. I think he will translate very well to the NFL and benefit from playing under Frank Reich.

2. Houston Texans – C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Nothing really changes for the Texans. They are still in position to land one of the top two quarterbacks in this draft class. I think there is a clear gap between Stroud and the other two QBs still on the board. He is accurate, precise and polished. Houston’s rebuild has to start somewhere. Might as well be with a potential franchise passer.

3. Baltimore Ravens via Arizona Cardinals – Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Let’s get wild here. It is tough to figure out what the Ravens will do if Lamar Jackson does in fact leave. It feels unlikely, but in this mock, I have Jackson headed to the Jets. Baltimore has shown they can make it work with one project quarterback with elite running ability. Why not try that again? Richardson is very raw, but he could sit for a year behind Tyler Huntley before taking the reins in 2024.

4. Indianapolis Colts – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
The Colts get the short end of the stick in terms of quarterbacks available. Levis is my QB4, narrowly behind Richardson. I still maintain Indianapolis should have moved up to No. 1. I think Levis has the tools to be successful at the next level, but he is a project with a lower ceiling than Richardson. Indy would still be in a bit of a rebuild after adding him.

5. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos – Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
This would be a potential dream scenario for the Seahawks. Anderson would give them a bonafide franchise player to build around. Seattle can afford to spend more draft capital at the position as well with that second first-round selection.

6. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams – Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
Dan Campbell will be salivating if Carter is on the board at pick six. I think he could be the right type of coach to help Carter straighten out a bit following his legal troubles. On the football field, the former Georgia star would be an instant impact player for a team in desperate need of a defensive upgrade.

7. Green Bay Packers via Las Vegas Raiders – Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Green Bay is in an interesting spot here. I think they would wind up going best player available trying to retool a defense that disappointed a year ago. Wilson is long and disruptive off the edge. Pairing him with Devonte Wyatt and Kenny Clark would give the Packers a fearsome defensive line.

8. Atlanta Falcons – Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
Atlanta’s pursuit of a pass rusher should finally come to an end in the 2023 draft. With two already off the board, I have them choosing a local product coming off a serious injury. Smith was a dynamic team leader at Georgia prior to the torn pectoral muscle. He showed at the combine why he should be in Top 10 consideration.

9. Chicago Bears via Carolina Panthers – Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
The Bears clearly committed to Justin Fields. Now they need to build around him. Adding my top offensive tackle is a good place to start. Chicago’s offensive line has been bad for years. Johnson is a fluid mover with great size and length. He has starting experience at multiple spots on the offensive line. I like the idea of reuniting him with his former college teammate.

10. Philadelphia Eagles via New Orleans Saints – Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
The run on quarterbacks and edge rushers pushes the corners down the board, but the Eagles will not mind. Amidst reports of a Darius Slay trade demand and James Bradberry headed for free agency, Philadelphia needs help on the outside. Witherspoon is a downhill type of player capable of setting the tone for a defense.

11. Tennessee Titans – Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern
Rumors of a fire sale in Tennessee could shift the trajectory of this pick, but with no quarterback on the board worth taking, the front office has to go offensive line here. Skoronski is a talented player, but lacks the ideal length to start in the NFL. We have seen plenty of players overcome that issue before, but it could mean he winds up kicking inside. Not the best outcome, but the Titans could use help at pretty much every offensive line spot.

12. Houston Texans via Cleveland – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
If the Texans believe C.J. Stroud is their franchise quarterback, they will need to get him some receiver to target. Brandin Cooks is still seeking a trade and Houston does not have a whole lot that inspires confidence when it comes to the remaining receivers on the roster. Smith-Njigba was a nightmare for opposing defenses and showed just how explosive he could be at the combine. Don’t overthink the injuries. Go get a game-changing playmaker.

13. Arizona Cardinals via Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets – Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
This pick ultimately lands with the Cardinals after being sent to the Ravens by the Jets. I am cramming a lot into his mock draft. Arizona simply needs to start over on defense. Murphy is a quick-twitch athlete with tons of potential.

14. New England Patriots – Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
New England’s secondary is headed for a massive makeover. Porter would provide a nice base layer. He is uncommonly long for a cornerback and uses that length to frustrate opposing receivers. He needs a bit of refining, but I trust Bill Belichick will give him all the coaching he needs to be great.

15. Green Bay Packers – Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Green Bay cannot make the same mistake it did with Aaron Rodgers this time around with Jordan Love. Adding Addison, who tore up college football over the past two seasons, to a young receiver corps containing Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs would be a great way to set Love up for success.

16. Washington Commanders – Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Washington could go a number of directions here, but I think taking Gonzalez would be a perfect example of where value meets need. Washington’s secondary has been the only weak point on an otherwise impressive defense. Gonzalez’ size and improving ball skills make me believe he could be a No. 1 corner.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Pittsburgh needs to protect Kenny Pickett. Plain and simple. Finding someone to open holes for Najee Harris would be nice, too. Jones is coming off a fantastic season with Georgia in which he did not allow a sack. He is still a bit inexperienced, but has the traits and intangibles to grow into the role.

18. Detroit Lions – Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
After nabbing a defensive lineman at No. 6, Detroit double dips on that side of the ball with Banks. The Lions desperately need improved cornerback play. Banks is an athletic phenom with all the tools to turn into a shutdown corner. It might not be immediate, but there is a lot to like down the line.

19. New York Giants via Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
New York paid big money to keep Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. Now they need to make that investment worth it. Trading up a few picks to grab a potential crucial puzzle piece feels like a logical move. Flowers is a bit undersized, but could thrive playing in the slot. The Giants desperately need someone to turn to on third downs.

20. Seattle Seahawks – Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
Much like the Lions, the Seahawks also have the opportunity to double up on defense. Anderson is a stand up edge rusher in Seattle’s defensive scheme. Van Ness would likely be playing with his hand in the dirt. He has the play strength to kick inside and be effective. I think Pete Carroll and John Schneider would be happy to continue building in the trenches.

21. Los Angeles Chargers – Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Los Angeles needs to find more pass-catching options and improve their blocking ability. Mayer checks both boxes. He is a pro-ready prospect with good college production. Add in good size and above average athleticism and you have a player that should make Justin Herbert’s life much easier.

22. Arizona Cardinals via Baltimore Ravens – Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
I felt a bit conflicted about this one, but the Cardinals desperately need help along the offensive line. Four of their five starters from 2022 are free agents. Wright would give Arizona solid bookends to the unit opposite D.J. Humphries. The former Tennessee tackle broke out in his senior season following a shift to the right side of the line.

23. Minnesota Vikings – Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State
Turnover in Minnesota is coming. Adam Theilen is already gone. Dalvin Cook and Harrison Smith could potentially follow. There are a number of ways the Vikings could go, but improving a horrific defense should outweigh many other concerns. McDonald brings jobs of athleticism, good production and tons of experience to the table following five years with the Cyclones.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars – Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State
I know I am higher on Brents than the consensus, but I have been blown away by his performances over the past two months. After tearing up the Senior Bowl, he crushed the combine. Couple that with great measurables and you have a player who should go in the top 31 picks (that feels weird to write). For Jacksonville, finding a corner to pair with Tyson Campbell should be a priority this offseason.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers via New York Giants – Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
Tampa Bay’s draft approach will largely be shaped by what they do in free agency, with so many key starters set to test the open market. As of now, defensive tackle is a clear need. Bresee has yet to fully recapture the form he flashed as a true freshman at Clemson. However, he had a solid season and looked sharp at the combine. He could be a Day 1 starter for the Bucs.

26. Dallas Cowboys – Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
The Cowboys’ offense will look very different in 2023. Mike McCarthy is taking over as the playcaller. Zeke Elliott will likely be gone. And Dallas will almost definitely have a different receiver to pair with CeeDee Lamb. My vote at this stage would be Johnston, who is a jump ball threat with impressive long speed. I think Dak Prescott would benefit greatly from adding a player of Johnston’s caliber to his group of pass catchers.

27. Buffalo Bills – O’Cyrus Torrence, IOL, Florida
Buffalo’s interior of the offensive line has slowly decayed over the past few seasons. Without many reliable in-house solutions, the draft would be a logical spot to rebuild the unit. Torrence balled out in his lone year at Florida after following Billy Napier over from Louisiana. I like him as an immediate starter at the next level.

28. Cincinnati Bengals – Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
With Hayden Hurst headed for free agency, the Bengals could be in the market for a new tight end. Washington is a unique prospect given his combination of size and athleticism. Putting him in place to protect Joe Burrow, open up lanes for Joe Mixon and offer an additional target alongside Cincy’s outstanding trio feels like a slam dunk pick.

29. New Orleans Saints via San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos – Josh Downs, WR, UNC
Derek Carr is the new leader of the offense in New Orleans. As of now, it is not overly clear who he will be throwing to other than Chris Olave. Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry are free agents while Alvin Kamara is facing legal trouble. Downs is a silky smooth route runner with great hands. He looked fantastic at the combine and I think deserves to be in the Round 1 conversation.

30. Philadelphia Eagles – Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Prepare to see this pick mocked a lot. There will certainly be a chance Robinson goes sooner given his talent, but the league has clearly devalued the position in a big way. For Philadelphia, Robinson would be a much cheaper and more talented option than bringing back Miles Sanders. Putting him and Jalen Hurts in the same backfield might be bordering on unfair for the rest of the league.

31. Kansas City Chiefs – Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State
Kansas City is facing the possibility of needing to replace both offensive tackles this offseason. The Chiefs have learned from past mistakes and will certainly be spending draft capital and other resources to protect Patrick Mahomes. Jones could be part of that equation. He is a massive man with good functional athleticism for that size. I think he could be a quality starting right tackle down the line.

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. You can also check out our podcast Draft Season Never Ends, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.


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.

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. You can also check out our podcast Draft Season Never Ends, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

Draft Season Never Ends: 2022 NFL Draft Reaction

New episodes dropping every Friday! The draft is finally here! With 262 picks all finalized and undrafted free agents signing, Chris breaks down his favorite and least favorite drafts and some of this favorite Day 2 and Day 3 picks in a special Monday episode.

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.

2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week 18

Let’s get ready for Week 18! That still feels weird to type. Normally, the NFL regular season would be finished and the remaining 12 (now 14 teams) would be preparing for the playoffs. Instead, we have another full slate of action with some major playoff implications.

Before we get there though, let’s look back at Week 17. It was a stunner. Two teams reached 50 points, Antonio Brown left during the middle a game that the Buccaneers nearly lost to the Jets and the Titans somehow reclaimed the top spot in the AFC. Let’s get into everything that happened and how these teams stack up heading into this final week of the regular season.

Packers logo

1. Green Bay Packers: 13-3 (Last Week: 1)
Won 37-10 vs. Minnesota
Green Bay finally shut down Dalvin Cook. The Vikings running back managed a meager 13 yards on nine rushes. Things were so lopsided, Jordan Love got into the game. There are still small areas where the Packers can undoubtedly improve. They settled for field goals early in the game, with both coming from the red zone. Slow starts against quarterbacks other than Sean Mannion could prove to be the difference when the season is on the line in the postseason.

Buccaneers logo

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 12-4 (Last Week: 5)
Won 28-24 at New York
Did something happen to the Buccaneers this week? Antonio Brown’s stunning exit overshadowed a lackluster performance, rescued by Tom Brady’s last-minute heroics. For those pointing to this game and Brown’s departure as to why Tampa Bay is in trouble, I wouldn’t be so sure. Brady has won Super Bowls with less talent around him. This defense should get stronger as it gets healthier and there are still plenty of receiving options, highlighted by Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski. The Jets played really well. The Buccaneers didn’t. Tampa still won.

Bengals Logo

3. Cincinnati Bengals: 10-6 (Last Week: 8)
Won 34-31 vs. Kansas City
Cincinnati is hitting its stride in these final few weeks of the regular season. This was a massive statement victory for the Bengals. Joe Burrow looks incredible and his connection with Ja’Marr Chase is paying dividends. The defense had a rough start, but bounced back to hold the Chiefs to just three points in the second half. This does not make the Bengals a Super Bowl favorite, especially with them likely needing to go on the road to Kansas City or Tennessee in order to reach the big game. Far from impossible, but a tough task nonetheless.

Chiefs Logo

4. Kansas City Chiefs: 11-5 (Last Week: 2)
Lost 34-31 at Cincinnati
The streak is over and Kansas City got a wake-up call. Andy Reid pointed out the team’s inability to hold their first half lead. It is a bit concerning, with many of the early-season woes that plagued the defense popping up once again. Ja’Marr Chase ran rampant through the secondary, racking up 266 yards and three touchdowns. What’s more, the Chiefs lost their hold on the No. 1 seed in the AFC, meaning they could have to play an extra playoff game and travel to Tennessee in order to return to the Super Bowl. There is a lot on the line in Week 18.

5. Los Angeles Rams: 11-5 (Last Week: 3)
Won 20-19 at Baltimore
Goodness, it is really hard to trust this team right now. Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions, including a pick-six. Sure, he rebounded and led the team on a fourth-quarter game-winning drive. It should not have been needed though. Baltimore is incredibly banged up on both sides of the ball. Joe Burrow shredded this same secondary for 525 yards. This does not bode well for the Rams’ chances at making a deep playoff run. At the same time, L.A. is still in line to win the division in Week 18.


6. Arizona Cardinals: 11-5 (Last Week: 7)
Won 25-22 at Dallas
What second-half fade? Arizona bucked the trend it established last season and seemed to be headed again this year with a crucial win in Dallas. The Cardinals shut down the Cowboys’ run game, holding them to just 2.6 yards per carry. Arizona’s own offense was nothing special, but did enough to get the job done. Antoine Wesley stepped up with a pair of touchdown catches. He seems poised to bridge the gap until DeAndre Hopkins returns. If the Cardinals can get healthy, they are going to be tough to beat in the postseason.

Cowboys logo

7. Dallas Cowboys: 11-5 (Last Week: 4)
Lost 25-22 vs. Arizona
Seems like that 56-point outburst was just a fluke. The Cowboys continue to struggle offensively and will not have to forge on without Michael Gallup, who reportedly suffered a torn ACL in the loss on Sunday. Dak Prescott played really well, but he was asked to do too much in the absence of a reliable ground game. A costly fumble by Prescott was likely the difference in the game, as Dallas’ defense failed to generate any turnovers. All is not lost, but this is a significant blow.

Bills logo

8. Buffalo Bills: 10-6 (Last Week: 9)
Won 29-15 vs. Atlanta
Josh Allen turned in one of his worst performances in years, but the Bills finally found a successful ground game to lead the way. Devin Singletary’s 110 yards and two touchdowns helped take the sting out of Allen’s three interceptions. He added 81 yards and two rushing touchdowns of his own, but Buffalo will certainly need more for its passing game in the playoffs. Thankfully, the defense stepped up five sacks as well and clinched a third straight playoff berth.

Titans logo

9. Tennessee Titans: 11-5 (Last Week: 11)
Won 34-3 vs. Miami
The Titans have very quietly continued to win and reclaimed their No. 1 seed in the AFC following the Chiefs’ loss against the Bengals. This win was a dominant one as well. D’Onta Foreman rumbled for 132 yards and a score, while Dontrell Hilliard added 45 yards and a touchdown of his own. If Tennessee can hold off Houston to secure the top spot in the conference, it would secure home field advantage and a first-round bye. That would be crucial in letting Derrick Henry heal up for a potential postseason run. If he looks anything like his early-season form, look out.

Colts logo

10. Indianapolis Colts: 9-7 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 23-20 vs. Las Vegas
A costly loss for the Colts puts them in jeopardy of missing the playoffs. Carson Wentz had a fairly underwhelming performance as the offense sputtered down the stretch. The defense did its job for the most part, producing two interceptions. However, an inability to contain Hunter Renfrow and Zay Jones ultimately cost them the game. Thankfully, the Jaguars are all that stand between the Colts and a return to the postseason, but this takes a lot of wind out of Indianapolis’ sails.

Patriots Logo

11. New England Patriots: 10-6 (Last Week: 10)
Won 50-10 vs. Jacksonville
If this is not a testament to how much better the Patriots are as a franchise than the Jaguars, then I don’t know what is. Mac Jones was nothing shy of spectacular, which stood out in stark juxtaposition to his fellow rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Jones had plenty of help, whereas Lawrence essentially had none. New England racked up 181 yards and four rushing touchdowns, while the defense came up with three interceptions. The Pats bounced back in a big way following a deflating loss to the Bills, but now they need to continue to build that momentum heading into the postseason, especially with a chance to win the AFC East.

49ers Logo

12. San Francisco 49ers: 9-7 (Last Week: 13)
Won 23-7 vs. Houston
Trey Lance flashed his immense potential, but it is clear that this team’s best chance to win is with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. At least for now. Lance struggled for much of the first half, but finally came alive in the second half with a pair of touchdowns. Elijah Mitchell led the way on the ground with 119 yards while the defense clamped down on Davis Mills. Despite the positive result, the path to the playoffs is still far from clear. San Francisco controls its own fate, but needs to beat Los Angeles, who needs a win to secure the NFC West title, in order to lock up a postseason spot. A loss opens the door for the Saints to keep the 49ers out.

13. Los Angeles Chargers: 9-7 (Last Week: 14)
Won 34-13 vs. Denver
Los Angeles turned it around after falling flat on its face in Week 16. It wasn’t the prettiest game ever from the offense. The Chargers managed just three yards per carry, but Justin Herbert took care of the football and the offensive line kept him clean. On defense, L.A. bent but rarely broke. They kept Denver out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter. This sets up a huge showdown with the Raiders in Week 18. The winner earns a playoff berth.

Raiders logo

14. Las Vegas Raiders: 9-7 (Last Week: 17)
Won 23-20 at Indianapolis
Drama continues to follow this team, on and off the field. The Raiders pulled off a dramatic victory over the Colts, kicking a last-second field goal. Unfortunately, rookie cornerback Nate Hobbs was arrested on a misdemeanor DUI charge early Monday morning. Considering everything Las Vegas has already dealt with this season, this might not phase the locker room at all, but it comes just two months after Henry Ruggs’ deadly DUI crash. Needless to say, it is another distraction for a team that is in the mix to reach the playoffs.

Eagles Logo

15. Philadelphia Eagles: 9-7 (Last Week: 16)
Won 20-16 at Washington
Philly continued its expectation-defying season by earning a playoff spot. It was far from the most convincing victory for the Eagles, but they made just enough plays to squeeze past Washington. Jalen Hurts is winning over many of his critics in the midst of this late-season surge. Philadelphia is clearly playing with house money. However, it might be best to keep expectations low. The Eagles are 0-6 against teams with a winning record this season.

Ravens logo

16. Baltimore Ravens: 8-8 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 20-19 vs. Los Angeles
Baltimore nearly pulled off a huge upset that would have put them in the driver seat to earn a playoff spot. Chuck Clark sparked a banged up secondary with an early pick-six, but the Ravens never managed to get into a groove offensively, never finding the end zone. Four field goals gave them a lead, but the decimated defense could not hold it in the closing minutes. Somehow, the Ravens still have a chance to make the playoffs, but they need a ton of help.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo

17. Pittsburgh Steelers: 8-7-1 (Last Week: 18)
Won 26-14 vs. Cleveland
Big Ben closed out his time at Heinz Field with an incredibly ugly win. The future Hall of Fame quarterback enjoyed a nice send off and leaves behind a legendary legacy on the field and a checkered past off it. What the Steelers do from here is very much unknown. Pittsburgh still has a chance at the postseason, but the path to getting there feels very unlikely. The Colts would need to lose to the Jaguars and the Raiders and Chargers cannot end in a tie. Stranger things have happened, but the Steelers also need to beat the Ravens. After such an emotional win, they feel primed for a let down.

Dolphins logo

18. Miami Dolphins: 8-8 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 34-3 at Tennessee
Put a fork in them. Miami rode a seven-game win streak to the cusp of the postseason, but Ryan Tannehill and Tennessee put a stop to all of that. Tua Tagovailoa was awful behind a porous offensive line that gave up four sacks. The Dolphins’ run defense was also horrendous, giving up 198 yards on five yards per carry. Brian Flores has had Miami in the mix twice now, but he needs to find a way to get this team over the hump. It starts with protecting Tagovailoa and shoring up that front seven.

Saints logo

19. New Orleans Saints: 8-8 (Last Week: 22)
Won 18-10 vs. Carolina
The Saints aren’t done yet. In fact, New Orleans has a pretty reasonable path to that final wildcard spot. If the 49ers lose to the Rams, the Saints can claim the seventh playoff position with a win over the Falcons. Considering all the injuries this team has dealt with this season, most notably at quarterback, this would be an impressive feat. Before we get ahead of ourselves though, Atlanta won the first game between these two teams this season. New Orleans still has a job to do.

Browns logo

20. Cleveland Browns 7-9 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 26-14 at Pittsburgh
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a worse performance by an offensive line. Considering that many viewed Cleveland’s front five as one of the best units in the league heading into the season, this was a really surprising collapse. Baker Mayfield was sacked nine times, taking a total of 11 hits. Those would be impressive numbers for a defense over a three game stretch. The Browns have a lot of soul searching to do this offseason. There is a ton of buzz that Baker could be on his way out. Consider this a pivotal few months for this franchise.

Vikings logo

21. Minnesota Vikings: 7-9 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 37-10 at Green Bay
Sean Mannion had no chance. The Packers finally tamed Dalvin Cook, holding him to 13 yards on nine carries. The only way the Vikings were going to win this game was with a big performance from Cook. When that didn’t come, Minnesota’s hopes looked bleak. One meaningless game at the end of the season should not dictate what comes next for this team, but a loss to the divisional-rival Bears could cost Mike Zimmer his job. Questions will certainly be asked about Kirk Cousins’ future as well. There is no way he returns on his current contract. Cutting him before June 1 will save $45 million in cap space. This could be the start of a rebuild for Minnesota.


22. Denver Broncos: 7-9 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 34-13 at Los Angeles
Denver’s midseason surge appeared to take a lot of pressure off Vic Fangio as the Broncos flirted with playoff contention. Three straight losses knocked them down a peg and ended hopes of reaching the postseason for the first time since their 2015 Super Bowl run. It is clear the team needs to figure out its future at quarterback. As good as Patrick Surtain II has looked, it is hard to wonder what Denver’s outlook would be like had it taken Justin Fields or Mac Jones instead.

Bears logo

23. Chicago Bears: 6-10 (Last Week: 25)
Won 29-3 vs. New York
This won’t save Matt Nagy’s job, but it certainly points to a brighter future in Chicago. At the very least, it shows the importance of the Bears’ depth at quarterback. Both teams were without their starters due to injury. Andy Dalton is clearly a step up from Mike Glennon. It helped that the defense put together a dominant performance, holding New York to -6 passing yards to go along with four forced turnovers and a safety. Glennon had a QBR of zero. The Bears can overtake the Vikings in the standings with a win on Sunday.

Washington made up logo

24. Washington: 6-10 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 20-16 vs. Washington
This was a much more competitive showing than the drubbing Washington took a week ago. However, it is clear that this team is already focused on its future with the front office announcing it will unveil a new team name on February 2. It is fair to wonder about the future though without a clear plan at quarterback and some massive regression on the defensive side of the ball. Ron Rivera is going to be facing a lot more pressure to fix things in 2022.

Falcons logo

25. Atlanta Falcons: 7-9 (Last Week: 23)
Lost 29-15 at Buffalo
On one hand, the Falcons intercepted Josh Allen three times and held him without a passing touchdown. That feels like a formula to beat the Bills, especially given their well-documented struggles to run the ball. Well, Buffalo racked up 233 yards rushing and four scores. So much for that narrative. Matt Ryan had another lackluster game, failing to top 200 yards passing while taking five sacks and losing a fumble. It is unclear the direction this team is headed right now.

Seahawks logo

26. Seattle Seahawks: 5-11 (Last Week: 27)
Won 51-29 vs. Detroit
Russ is finally cooking again. It is way too little too late for Seattle, but it was a good sign that Wilson is finally nearing full strength again. He completed 21-of-29 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns. Three went to D.K. Metcalf en route to a 50-point performance. Rashaad Penny’s emergence has been significant as well, 170 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The Lions are far from a good benchmark to measure yourself against, but executing at a high level is never a bad thing.

Texans logo

27. Houston Texans: 4-12 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 23-7 at San Francisco
The win streak is over and the optimism for the Davis Mills-led offense is clearly dampened. Houston stood strong early, holding San Francisco to just three points in the first half. Unfortunately, the Texans only managed seven points themselves. If we are being honest though, this team has been playing with house money all year long. There were no expectations for this team with a massive hole at quarterback given Deshaun Watson’s legal issues and trade demands. Not to mention a first-time head coach. At least the Texans can finally start to rebuild after paying the price for the ill-advised Laremy Tunsil trade.

Jets logo

28. New York Jets: 4-12 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 28-24 vs. Tampa Bay
What a brutal way to lose a game. It was all too familiar for Jets fans, knowing all too well that Tom Brady was going to engineer a game-winning drive as soon as that head-scratching fourth-down attempt failed. Still, there are a lot of positives to take away, even in a loss. Zach Wilson played the best game of his young career. The combination of Austin Walter, Michael Carter and Ty Johnson moved the ball well against a stout Buccaneers run defense. Plus, it seems like the Jets might have their No. 2 and No. 3 corners on the roster in Bryce Hall and Michael Carter II. This might have honestly been the best-case scenario, as the Jets still preserve their high draft pick with the confidence-inspiring loss.

Panthers logo

29. Carolina Panthers: 5-11 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 18-10 at New Orleans
How did this offense fall apart so quickly? Sure, injuries played a significant role, but Sam Darnold looked like a capable starting quarterback to open the season. Now he looks like a deer in the headlights behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league. The Panthers are also incredibly undisciplined, tallying the eighth-most penalties and second most drops in the NFL. It raises some questions about Matt Rhule’s future. He should get another year to try to turn this around, but this is a critical offseason for Carolina.

Lions Logo

30. Detroit Lions: 2-13-1 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 51-29 at Seattle
Just in case anyone needed reminding, the Lions need a lot of help on defense. Russell Wilson carved up their secondary and the front seven were bowled over by Rashaad Penny. Starting Tim Boyle likely didn’t help matters much. He did toss two touchdowns, but he also had three interceptions. On the bright side, Amon-Ra St. Brown looks fantastic!

Giants Logo

31. New York Giants: 4-12 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 29-3 at Chicago
It is getting harder and harder to understand how Joe Judge is still the head coach of the Giants. He seems to have lost the locker room, he is constantly clashing with the media and the team’s play on the field does nothing to inspire confidence in his leadership. This was one of the worst offensive showings I can remember, at least from a passing perspective. Saquon Barkley did account for 100 yards on the ground, but that was rendered meaningless by the negative passing yards posted by the offense. It feels like this team desperately needs to clean house.

Jaguars logo

32. Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-14 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 50-10 at New England
Seriously, how did this team beat the Bills? At least Trevor Lawrence finally threw a touchdown pass. Unfortunately, he also threw three more interceptions, bringing his season total to 17. This team desperately needs to get this coaching hire right this offseason and find a way to surround its franchise quarterback with more talent, fast.

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 Power Rankings: Week 17

I’m back! I traveled to California to cover the USA Ultimate College National Championships. It was a really fun weekend and fantastic to see some old friends and teammates I had not seen in years. Unfortunately, I came home with COVID-19 and was in no condition to write last week.

So this is a chance for me to play catch up after the past two weeks of action. A ton has happened. The Lions beat the Cardinals. The Cowboys dropped 56 on Washington. Davis Mills outdueled Justin Herbert as the Texans dealt a major blow to the Chargers’ playoff chances. In short, it was a wild two weeks.

With just two weeks left in the regular season, here is where every team stands.

Packers logo

1. Green Bay Packers: 12-3 (Last Week: 1)
Won 24-22 vs. Cleveland
Green Bay keeps on rolling. The Packers have won four straight. However, the past two have come by a combined three points. They squeaked past an incredibly banged up Baltimore side and then held on against Cleveland despite four interceptions from Baker Mayfield. Forcing the turnovers is a really good sign, but it feels like the Packers should have done better than a two-point win with that level of production from its defense.

Chiefs Logo

2. Kansas City Chiefs: 11-4 (Last Week: 2)
Won 36-10 vs. Pittsburgh
They are back. The Chiefs are cruising, winning eight straight. Five of those past six wins have been by double digits as well. Kansas City is taking care of the football, finding balance between the run and pass and dominating on defense. Only the Chargers have scored more than 14 points against the Chiefs since October. That is outrageous. No one wants to face this team right now, and for good reason. They have found a grove and unearthed more playmakers as the season has rolled on.

3. Los Angeles Rams: 11-4 (Last Week: 3)
Won 30-23 at Minnesota
Do I fully trust this team? Not exactly, but it is hard to argue with an 11-4 record and four straight wins. The point of contention is Matt Stafford’s continued inability to protect the football. He now has 13 interceptions in 15 games, throwing three more against Minnesota on Sunday. Thankfully, Sony Michel had a monster game, racking up 131 yards rushing and a touchdown. A 61-yard punt return also helped bail out Stafford. He will need to avoid turnovers if Los Angeles plans have a long stay in the postseason.

Cowboys logo

4. Dallas Cowboys: 11-4 (Last Week: 4)
Won 56-14 vs. Washington
Dallas made a statement. After weeks of inconsistent and underwhelming offensive play, the Cowboys exploded for 56 points and nearly 500 yards of offense. It was so lopsided that Cooper Rush got in the game and threw a touchdown pass. Three different linemen scored in this game as well for Dallas. In short, everything was working. If they can carry this momentum into the postseason, the Cowboys are going to be a dangerous team with an opportunistic defense and an uber-talented offense.

Buccaneers logo

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 11-4 (Last Week: 5)
Won 32-6 at Carolina
Tampa Bay got back on track after laying an egg against the Saints a week ago. Beating the hapless Panthers is nothing all that impressive on its own, but this was a decisive win. The Buccaneers controlled the line of scrimmage, racking up 5.1 yards per carry. On the other side, Carolina managed just 65 yards rushing. The win also officially gave the Buccaneers the NFC South title. Thankfully, it seems like the Saints will not be in the postseason to potentially derail things.

Colts logo

6. Indianapolis Colts: 9-6 (Last Week: 7)
Won 22-16 at Arizona
The Colts’ 1-4 start feels like a lifetime ago. Wins over the Patriots and Cardinals firmly push them into the playoff picture and maybe even the Super Bowl conversation. Jonathan Taylor continues to look nearly unstoppable and the defense is playing at a high level. However, the passing game is still a little bit suspect and now Carson Wentz will miss at least Week 17’s game against the Raiders after landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list as an unvaccinated player. That likely ends Indianapolis’ already slim hopes of winning the AFC South.


7. Arizona Cardinals: 10-5 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 22-16 at Indianapolis
Arizona is fading down the stretch once again. Three straight losses, including a blowout against the Lions, is a huge red flag. Cardinals fans have to be worried about another second-half meltdown. The Cards lost five of their final seven games in 2020 to miss the postseason. This time, they have already secured a spot, but finishing 12-5 will feel very different than 10-7. If Arizona cannot stop the skid, there are going to be a lot of uncomfortable questions asked of Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray.

Bengals Logo

8. Cincinnati Bengals: 9-6 (Last Week: 9)
Won 41-21 vs. Baltimore
In case anyone was wondering, the Bengals are loving their franchise quarterback. Joe Burrow aired it out for 525 yards and four touchdowns. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins both went over 100 yards receiving, with Higgins coming close to 200. It helped to face a decimated Ravens secondary, but this was one of the most impressive offensive performances of the season. Now, Cincinnati will get a litmus test against Kansas City with a chance to put itself in the contender conversation.

Bills logo

9. Buffalo Bills: 9-6 (Last Week: 10)
Won 33-21 at New England
Buffalo exacted revenge and vaulted atop the AFC East with a convincing victory over New England. There are still clear areas for improvement as the Patriots rushed for 149 yards and three touchdowns on 5.5 yards per carry. Damien Harris was responsible for most of the damage done. As we’ve seen already this year, the Bills cannot stop elite rushing attacks. Jonathan Taylor destroyed them earlier this season. Josh Allen is playing at a high enough level to make up for many of those deficiencies, but it is a lot of pressure to put on him.

Patriots Logo

10. New England Patriots: 9-6 (Last Week: 8)
Lost 33-21 vs. Buffalo
Not all losses are created equal. This one stings a bit more as it means the Patriots lose their lead in the AFC East. Mac Jones’ shortcomings as a passer were on full display as well. He finished 14-of-32 passing with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Damien Harris put together another Herculean effort, but the damage had been done and the defense could not quiet Josh Allen. New England is a good team, but there are clear weaknesses that teams are more than capable of exploiting.

Titans logo

11. Tennessee Titans: 10-5 (Last Week: 15)
Won 20-17 vs. San Francisco
Mike Vrabel unquestionably deserves to be in the Coach of the Year conversation. Tennessee has reached double-digit victories and is in great position to win the AFC South despite a clear lack of offensive playmakers. With Derrick Henry and Julio Jones sidelined, A.J. Brown stepped up huge on Thursday night and Ryan Tannehill deserves credit for taking care of the football. It doesn’t really make sense how this team keeps on winning, but the Titans won the turnover battle and made a few key plays to edge the 49ers.

Ravens logo

12. Baltimore Ravens: 8-7 (Last Week: 11)
Lost 41-21 at Cincinnati
I want to crush the Ravens after another loss and with this injury-riddled roster, but they have shown a lot of fight despite starting their third-string quarterback. If Baltimore can get even a few of those injured players back, and a few off the reserve/COVID-19 list, hopes of reaching the postseason are still alive. Unfortunately, there might not be anything the Ravens can do to bolster their secondary. Surrendering 525 yards to Joe Burrow is an abysmal showing.

49ers Logo

13. San Francisco 49ers: 8-7 (Last Week: 13)
Lost 20-17 at Tennessee
San Francisco has spent this entire season stuck in neutral. Jimmy Garoppolo fell well short of expectations again, with two costly interceptions. It turns out he also suffered a broken thumb in the game, which will thrust Trey Lance back into action. Perhaps the rookie can jumpstart this offense, because it is lacking right now. Deebo Samuel has been sensational, but San Francisco needs someone, pretty much anyone else to step up. The playoffs are still within reach, but it is hard to feel good about the 49ers’ chances.

14. Los Angeles Chargers: 8-7 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 41-29 at Houston
Well that was a dud. This is a clear learning experience for this young team. Los Angeles should have rolled over this overmatched Houston squad. Instead, the defense got carved up by a rookie quarterback, run over by a journeyman running back and outworked by a less talented defense. Justin Herbert threw two interceptions in a disappointing performance, but the blame has to lie with the defense for surrendering 41 points. This puts the Chargers’ playoff hopes in serious jeopardy with a pair of divisional games left on the schedule.

Dolphins logo

15. Miami Dolphins: 8-7 (Last Week: 16)
Won 20-3 at New Orleans
Make it seven straight for Miami. It wasn’t the prettiest performance for the Dolphins, with only one offensive touchdown. Thankfully, the defense dominated rookie quarterback Ian Book in his first NFL start. Eight sacks and two interceptions, including a pick six highlighted an impressive showing that took all the pressure off Tua Tagovailoa. The second-year quarterback had an up and down night, but Miami is finding a way to win without Tua needing to carry them.

Eagles Logo

16. Philadelphia Eagles: 8-7 (Last Week: 18)
Won 34-10 vs. New York
Are the Eagles good? Are any of these 8-7 teams good? Honestly, I have no idea. Philadelphia has won five of its past six games, including that second-half domination against New York. It helped to be playing against the combination of Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm, but you have to perform in those spots. It was something the Eagles didn’t do a month ago against the Giants. Philly suddenly finds itself in the race for the postseason. A win against Washington would put them in a really good spot to earn a spot.

Raiders logo

17. Las Vegas Raiders: 8-7 (Last Week: 19)
Won 17-13 vs. Denver
It is amazing that the Raiders are in the playoff conversation. Between Jon Gruden’s “resignation” over racist and misogynistic emails and Henry Ruggs’ fatal DUI crash, Las Vegas has had more distractions this season than most teams do in a decade. The mental toll these events must have had on the players is hard to imagine. And yet, they are grinding out wins to stay in the hunt. It was a huge performance from Josh Jacobs and the defense to lead the way. Denver finished with 18 yards on 16 carries, which is just ridiculous. Jacobs had more than that on a single carry, finishing with 129 yards on 27 attempts. The path to the postseason is still a tough one, but the Raiders refuse to go away.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo

18. Pittsburgh Steelers: 7-7-1 (Last Week: 14)
Lost 36-10 at Kansas City
Mike Tomlin’s streak of never posting a losing season as the head coach of the Steelers is hanging in the balance. We’ve seen Pittsburgh grind out some tough wins, but they have fallen well short against the NFL’s elite teams. Sunday was no exception. Kansas City jumped all over Pittsburgh, taking a 30-0 midway through the third quarter. On the bright side, Najee Harris had one of his most efficient games of the season, picking up 93 yards on the ground on 19 carries. One more win clinches another non-losing season. The Browns and Ravens stand in the way.

Browns logo

19. Cleveland Browns 7-8 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 24-22 at Green Bay
Which side of this loss do you want to focus on? Baker Mayfield threw four interceptions in a crushing performance. He was a bit unlucky to toss a couple of them, but there is no question those mistakes cost Cleveland the game. On the other hand, the Browns only lost this game by two points. They rumbled for 219 yards on 8.8 yards per carry, which is a winning formula for just about every team in the league. If Mayfield can take care of the ball, Cleveland likely wins this game easily.

Vikings logo

20. Minnesota Vikings: 7-8 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 30-23 vs. Los Angeles
Minnesota has to be kicking itself for losing this game. Mike Zimmer’s defense came up with three interceptions, but could not capitalize, trailing 13-10 after all three of those turnovers. Surrendering a special teams touchdown and failing to come up with stops the rest of the game sunk the Vikings. Minnesota’s playoff chances are hanging by a thread and Zimmer’s hot seat is only getting warmer.


21. Denver Broncos: 7-8 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 17-13 at Las Vegas
This was a tough blow for the Broncos. Denver had a chance to really assert itself in the playoff race, but fell flat in a must-win in Las Vegas. It was one of the worst rushing performances we’ve seen this season, as the Broncos managed just 18 yards on 16 attempts. That did not set Drew Lock up for success. He did well not to turn the ball over, but he also did not do much to win this game when the opportunities were there. Denver now needs a ton of help to reach the playoffs.

Saints logo

22. New Orleans Saints: 7-8 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 20-3 vs. Miami
Well, the Ian Book era will likely be a short-lived one in New Orleans. In his defense, he was thrown to the wolves. The Saints offensive line struggled all night long against the blitz-happy Dolphins defense. Book took eight sacks and threw a pick-six on his second career pass attempt. It was about as ugly as you can imagine for your first NFL start. The Saints can still make the playoffs, but they are going to need either Taysom Hill or Trevor Seimian under center to have any chance.

Falcons logo

23. Atlanta Falcons: 7-8 (Last Week: 24)
Won 20-16 vs. Detroit
Atlanta might be the worst 7-8 team in NFL history. The Falcons have the fifth-worst point differential in the league. They have one win this season over a team with a winning record. That came against the Dolphins in the midst of their early-season free fall. Miami is also 8-7. They were tied with the lowly Lions heading into the fourth quarter. Yes, Detroit has been playing better of late, but that was with Jared Goff at quarterback. Tim Boyle was the starter on Sunday. If the Falcons somehow make the playoffs, Arthur Smith should be a lock for coach of the year.

Washington made up logo

24. Washington: 6-9 (Last Week: 23)
Lost 56-14 at Dallas
What in the world happened to the Washington defense? This was an elite unit a year ago, carrying a lifeless offense to an NFC East title. Now, they are one of the worst in the NFL. Washington ranks in the bottom five for total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, passing yards per attempt allowed and points allowed per game. Injuries have certainly played a part, but this is a massive step backward. We saw it on full display with the Cowboys dropping 56 points on them, including 42 in the first half. Ron Rivera has a lot of work to do to turn this around.

Bears logo

25. Chicago Bears: 5-10 (Last Week: 29)
Won 25-24 at Seattle
With all the chaos around the NFL, it is nice to see something familiar. Nick Foles frustrated Giants fans everywhere while leading the Bears to an unlikely road win, hurting the value of Chicago’s first-round draft pick, which New York owns in 2022. Foles played well, taking care of the ball and throwing a touchdown pass and the go-ahead two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. For Chicago, it might be a meaningless win, but for Foles, it likely puts him back on the radar as a potential veteran fill-in for teams in need of a quarterback.

Panthers logo

26. Carolina Panthers: 5-10 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 32-6 vs. Tampa Bay
Goodness the bottom has fallen out for Carolina. The Panthers are in the midst of their second losing streak of at least four games this season, having lost their fifth in a row on Sunday. It wasn’t even close. Carolina’s offensive line gave up seven sacks and the running backs accounted for just 14 yards. It was Cam Newton who did much of the heavy lifting in the run game. On the flip side, the defense got gashed by KeShawn Vaughn and the Buccaneers run game. Matt Rhule probably deserves another year, but it is getting harder to make that argument following another lopsided loss.

Seahawks logo

27. Seattle Seahawks: 5-10 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 25-24 vs. Chicago
Two weeks ago, Seattle was talking about running the table and making a playoff push. Instead, the Seahawks lost to the Rams and Bears, increasing speculation that Russell Wilson will force his way out this offseason and that the team could move on Pete Carroll. The loss to Chicago in particular is hard to swallow with the Bears relying on their third-string quarterback. It wasted good performances from Russell Wilson and Rashaad Penny. Seattle might be headed for a major rebuild.

Texans logo

28. Houston Texans: 4-11 (Last Week: 31)
Won 41-29 vs. Los Angeles
The Texans are on a win streak! Houston shocked the Chargers with a huge upset led by rookie quarterback Davis Mills. The former Stanford man outplayed Justin Herbert with an inferior supporting cast, making it clear the Texans might just have a quarterback to build around going forward. On top of his sterling showing, Rex Burkhead turned the clocks back to his Patriots days with a 149-yard, two-touchdown performance. Houston is showing some solid signs of progress, which bodes well for the future under David Culley.

Jets logo

29. New York Jets: 4-11 (Last Week: 30)
Won 26-21 vs. Jacksonville
It almost didn’t happen, but the Jets hung on to win their fourth game of the year. It wasn’t Zach Wilson’s best game as a passer, but he more than made up for it with his legs. He picked up 91 yards rushing, including a 52-yard touchdown scramble. New York’s defense was not perfect, but came up with a clutch stop in the final seconds on the goal line to seal the win. It was a gutsy performance as the Jets were decimated by COVID this week, missing a number of key starters and head coach Robert Saleh. Plus, the Seahawks lost, which is good for the Jets draft pick situation.

Lions Logo

30. Detroit Lions: 2-12-1 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 20-16 at Atlanta
Dan Campbell has this team competing with everyone right now. It was not as impressive a performance as a monster win over the Cardinals, but a gritty loss to the Falcons with Tim Boyle at quarterback continues to solidify the locker room’s belief in Campbell. The defense played well, holding the Falcons to 254 yards of offense, but struggled to contain Kyle Pitts. Losing close games is the best case scenario with a chance to secure a great draft pick and build some momentum heading into 2022.

Giants Logo

31. New York Giants: 4-11 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 34-10 at Philadelphia
The Giants announced plans to run it back with Joe Judge and Daniel Jones. It is hard to understand why. I get keeping Jones. New York has done a terrible job of protecting him and he has one more season guaranteed on his rookie contract, pending his fifth year option. However, keeping Judge feels like an odd choice. He has not done much to indicate he is the right coach to lead the franchise. Plus, the Giants seem likely to move on from Dave Gettleman. Not allowing the new general manager to pick his own head coach will make the opening less desirable.

Jaguars logo

32. Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-13 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 26-21 at New York
The outlook for the Jaguars has changed quite a bit since the last time I put these power rankings together. Urban Meyer is gone and the team is searching for a replacement coach with interviews set with Doug Pederson and Jim Caldwell. Unfortunately, the one thing that has not changed is the losing streak. Jacksonville lost its seventh straight game and owns a 3-28 record since the start of last season. Trevor Lawrence still has not thrown a touchdown pass since October. Some positive momentum feels much needed before the season ends.

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.