NFL Power Rankings: Which teams improved most after 2022 NFL Draft?
The 2022 NFL Draft is in the rearview, leaving football fans with their clearest picture yet of what their favorite team will look like come Week 1.
Enter the NFL Power Rankings, which return to survey each of the 32 teams after a bonkers offseason of coach and GM reboots, blockbuster trades, free agent acquisitions and draft lever pulls.
And yes … I get it. This is hope season — when many fans look at their roster and see a 20-0 juggernaut for the ages. It is likely the following rankings will disappoint many of you. They might even send you into a blind rage. I’d advise you to take that aggression and send it over to my Twitter handle @danhanzus. Your rage fuels me.
NOTE: Up/down arrows below reflect team movement from the post-free agency Power Rankings, published in March.
- 2022 NFL Draft: Final quick-snap grades for all 32 teams
- 2022 NFL Draft: Potentially transformational classes could set Giants, Jets on new course
- 2022 NFL Draft Debrief: A.J. Brown trade fallout; draft winners and losers; rookie WR projections
- The First Read: Winners and losers from Day 2 of the 2022 NFL Draft
- The First Read: Winners and losers from Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft
- 2022 NFL Draft: Bucky Brooks' pick-by-pick analysis for Round 1
Previous rank: No. 1
The Bills used the draft to put the finishing touches on a loaded roster that has balance on both sides of the ball. First-round pick Kaiir Elam fills the void across from standout cornerback Tre’Davious White, while second-round pick James Cook — brother of Vikings stud Dalvin — adds some needed juice to the running back room. Josh Allen wasn’t exactly hurting for weapons to begin with, but Cook’s versatility, along with the quiet signing of underrated slot man Jamison Crowder, will make Buffalo’s attack even more difficult to contend with. Good luck, AFC.
Previous rank: No. 2
As the Thursday night press conference featuring Sean McVay and Les Snead made clear, the party goes on for the defending champs. The Rams are one of just two teams (Dolphins) since 2009 to not make a selection in the first 100 choices of a draft, so, yes, the “Eff Them Picks” era of Rams football remains alive and well. I could share my trenchant thoughts about Logan Bruss, third-round pick out of Wisconsin, but I think we’re all more interested in whether Odell Beckham Jr. will return to Los Angeles in 2022. The veteran wide receiver remains a free agent while he recovers from his latest ACL reconstruction surgery.
Previous rank: No. 4
The Bucs traded out of the first round and used their first two picks to address holes in their starting lineup. Logan Hall, the 33rd overall selection, should line up next to Vita Vea as a potential replacement for free agent Ndamukong Suh, while 57th pick Luke Goedeke profiles as a replacement for Pro Bowl guard Ali Marpet, who retired in February. Speaking of retirement, Rob Gronkowski continues to fist pump away during his now obligatory offseason dance. While Gronk “decides” (c’mon, he’s coming back), Tampa Bay imported a tight end of the future with the fourth-round selection of Cade Otton. It’s unlikely Gronk is even aware this happened.
Previous rank: No. 3
Last year, the Bengals rolled the dice by passing on offensive line help at No. 5 overall in favor of Ja’Marr Chase, who made Duke Tobin and Co. look smart with a brilliant rookie season. Cincy used free agency to address — aggressively — its suspect offensive line, then used the draft to improve the back end of its defense, with the selections of defensive backs Daxton Hill and Cam Taylor-Britt. The Bengals are running their team with sound and direct logic — they identify and attack deficiencies in an efficient matter. The 2022 draft was the latest example.
Previous rank: No. 5
In our post-free agency Power Rankings — published on March 22– I led my Niners entry thusly: “Jimmy G is still hanging around.” Well, it’s now May 2– and Jimmy G, like a college dropout at a high school kegger in the woods, continues to linger. This isn’t Garoppolo’s fault, of course — shoulder surgery very clearly mucked up his market. Meanwhile, the Niners don’t seem at all eager to move superstar wide receiver Deebo Samuel, trade demand be damned. Kyle Shanahan said on Friday the 49ers have yet to receive an offer that was “even remotely close” to what they’d consider fair. One explanation for that, as a prominent NFL reporter recently said to me, is that San Francisco has been “really unreasonable” in trade conversations. This entire scenario boils down to the team having no interest in parting ways with its most explosive player.
Previous rank: No. 6
Packers melodrama is a renewable resource. Green Bay traded superstar wide receiver Davante Adams to the Raiders in March, then chose to pass on drafting a wide receiver on Day 1 despite owning two first-round picks. Cue the inevitable Aaron Rodgers appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, where the mercurial quarterback said Adams’ departure was “a little surprising” and that he had hoped by returning he’d influence Adams to stay in Green Bay, as well. Anyway, GM Brian Gutekunst did trade up to land North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson with the 34th overall pick on Friday. Watson, Sammy Watkins, Allen Lazard and Amari Rodgers headline a decidedly meh receiver room in Green Bay. Odell Beckham, show yourself.
Previous rank: No. 9
We thought the Chiefs would get aggressive in pursuit of one of the more hyped wide receivers in this year’s class, but Kansas City instead hung back as six wideouts came off the board in the first 18 overall picks. Brett Veach used the team’s two first-round picks to fill obvious needs on defense (CB Trent McDuffie, Edge George Karlaftis), before addressing wideout in Round 2 with Western Michigan speedster Skyy Moore. Moore joins Marques Valdes-Scantling and Juju Smith-Schuster as the new faces in the receiver room, but will they be enough for Patrick Mahomes after Tyreek Hill took his magic act to Miami? K.C. still has work to at that position.
Previous rank: No. 8
The blockbuster trade for Russell Wilson was a massive lift for the franchise, and it’s hard to quibble with any deal that ends with the arrival of a potential Hall of Fame passer in his prime. One minor drawback of the deal was the departure of tight end Noah Fant, who was sent to Seattle in the trade. Denver addressed this hole in its attack through the draft, selecting UCLA’s Greg Dulcich in the third round. Dulcich was a downfield playmaker in college, and he should have a clear path to an immediate role in Nathaniel Hackett’s offense.
Previous rank: No. 7
The Chargers used free agency to improve a defense that cost them a playoff spot last season. The draft found Los Angeles targeting improvements to its exciting offense. First-round pick Zion Johnson is a plug-and-play starter at guard who meshes well with the franchise’s unofficial edict: Protect Justin Herbert At All Costs. After adding secondary help in the third round with Baylor safety JT Woods, the Chargers used their fourth-round selection on running back Isaiah Spiller, an intriguing complement to touchdown machine Austin Ekeler. The AFC West is as rugged as any division in football, but the Bolts will be ready for the fight.
Previous rank: No. 11
Anybody else hyper impressed with Derek Carr’s new haircut? Carr’s gone on quite the lettuce journey during his NFL career, but the modified faux-hawk debuted at the start of the draft is an ace look that will only endear him further with the beautiful lunatics of the Black Hole. Meanwhile, the Raiders’ draft class was significantly downsized by the Davante Adams trade, something Silver & Black fans can surely live with. The biggest news before the draft revolved around the announcement that the team would not be picking up the fifth-year option on any of its three first-round picks from 2019. It’s actually impressive the Raiders are in such a solid position despite that hat trick of personnel misses.
Previous rank: No. 15
The Ravens are just good at this. Disappointments connected to an injury-ravaged 2021 season aside, Baltimore has remained an AFC power player for the better part of two decades thanks in large part to an uncanny knack for knowing who to pick and when. The team’s two first-round selections this year – safety Kyle Hamilton and center Tyler Linderbaum – profile as Day 1 starters and instant difference-makers, while the move to select highly skilled outside linebacker David Ojabo – who tore his Achilles tendon in March – could pay big dividends in 2023. Meanwhile, the trade of Marquise Brown to Arizona for a first-round pick was more ace maneuvering by GM Eric DeCosta. Brown wanted out and never lived up to his own first-round status. Comeback szn approaches in Charm City.
Previous rank: No. 16
Quarterback has been a revolving door in Indianapolis since the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck nearly three years ago, but the Colts appear confident that Matt Ryan — who turns 37 later this month — will finally bring stability under center. Jim Irsay said last week he believed Ryan could play another four seasons with the Colts. The owner’s rosy viewpoint was echoed in Indy’s 2022 draft class, which included eight picks but nary a quarterback among them. GM Chris Ballard lost his first-rounder in the doomed Carson Wentz acquisition in 2021, but still came out of Vegas with a solid haul that included offensive players with each of the team’s first three picks. The Colts know they must become more explosive on that side of the ball to compete in the loaded AFC.
Previous rank: No. 12
Drafting an offensive lineman in the first round doesn’t usually titillate a fan base, but the move to grab Tulsa mauler Tyler Smith at 24th overall made sense for a Dallas team that has seen age and turnover gradually diminish the blockers in front of Dak Prescott. Jerry Jones and friends also probably hoped they’d come out of this draft with one of the buzzy wide receivers, but the six biggest names were already history by the time the Cowboys were on the clock in the first. There’s no doubt the Eagles made themselves a more competitive team this offseason … Can you honestly say the same about America’s Team? The NFC East is about to tighten up.
Previous rank: No. 14
The Browns remain an impossible team to rank in this exercise given what we don’t know about Deshaun Watson. The quarterback remains in limbo on account of the 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault and misconduct, as well as the ongoing league investigation. Will he even play in the 2022 season? And if he doesn’t, how much can we realistically expect from a team — 8-9 a year ago — being led by Jacoby Brissett? Well, they do have Baker Mayfield, but the team will throw an anniversary halftime celebration for the 2000 Super Bowl champion Ravens before the former No. 1 overall pick plays another snap in Cleveland. The Browns have the chance to be an AFC superpower in the years to come, but they remain a messy proposition in the here and now.
Previous rank: No. 19
Howie Roseman is on a heater. Last month, the veteran GM pulled off an excellent draft capital swap with the Saints that set up the Eagles well in the years to come. In Vegas, Philly fortified its defensive front with first-round pick Jordan Davis, then pulled off what might be remembered as the Ocean’s 11 heist of the draft by landing Georgia middle linebacker Naboke Dean in the third round. A day earlier, Roseman pulled off another heist by landing star wide receiver A.J. Brown in a trade with the Titans. Given all the factors at play — Brown’s age (24), his All-Pro ability, and the team’s struggles to identify wideout talent in the draft (outside DeVonta Smith) — yep, just call the Iggles GM Danny Ocean.
Previous rank: No. 10
A.J. Brown told ESPN that the stunning draft-night trade to the Eagles “wasn’t my fault” and that he wanted to stay in Tennessee. While GM Jon Robinson said contract discussions got to a point “where it was going to be hard to get a deal done,” Brown, who signed a four-year, $100 million deal with the Eagles, said to ESPN he would’ve remained a Titan if he had been offered $22 million per year. Regardless of how the negotiations played out, this much we know: Brown, with 24 receiving touchdowns at 24 years old, wanted to be paid like a star. The Titans weren’t interested in paying the gonzo wideout money that has defined this offseason, so they sent one of their most important players to the NFC and started over at the position with first-round pick Treylon Burks. Maybe this was ultimately the right play for Tennessee – financially, at least – but it’s also hard to say the Titans are a better team now than they were in January. In a loaded AFC, that would be very bad news.
Previous rank: No. 13
The Patriots’ first-round selection of Chattanooga guard Cole Strange was deemed a significant reach by the draft community, but let’s not act surprised when Strange is anchoring the interior of the New England line in 2030. Yes, we still respect the football acumen of The Hooded One. That said, the Pats still feel shorthanded in the AFC’s arms race. Trade acquisition DeVante Parker was a nice weapon to add to an underwhelming wide receiver room, but we would’ve liked to see the Pats get aggressive and land one of the Big Six wideouts that came off the board in the first round in Vegas.
Previous rank: No. 18
The Cardinals are trying to appease their guy. That was the first thought when we learned Arizona was sending a first-round pick(!) to the Ravens to acquire wide receiver Marquise Brown, Kyler Murray’s former teammate at Oklahoma, and a third-rounder. Brown never quite lived up to his own first-round pick hype in Baltimore, so this was clearly a move that comes with the built-in projection that “Hollywood” will do big box office with an old buddy. It’s also the biggest piece of evidence yet that the Cardinals have zero intentions of trading Murray any time soon. Yes, things seem copasetic for the time being between team and QB1 — but the central business (Murray’s contract situation) remains unsettled. Stay tuned.
Previous rank: No. 22
The Saints did strong work in the first round on Thursday night, landing an explosive complement to Michael Thomas in Chris Olave and a replacement for the departed Terron Armstead at left tackle in Trevor Penning. These were both necessary moves if New Orleans hopes to see sustained improvement from Jameis Winston — currently rehabbing after reconstructive knee surgery. The team is on track to fill another pressing need, with All-Pro safety, and Louisianan native, Tyrann Mathieu expected to sign with New Orleans. The Bucs remain the favorite in the NFC South, but the Saints should not be discounted.
Previous rank: No. 17
For all intents and purposes, the Dolphins’ first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft was Tyreek Hill. This is certainly something Miami fans can live with, even if it took much of the team’s juice from the NFL’s mega-event in Vegas. Looking at the roster, it’s hard not to see how the team has set the table for Tua Tagovailoa in what will be a make-or-break third year in Miami. The team hired an offensive-minded head coach in Mike McDaniel and added a superstar wideout in Hill and an All-Pro left tackle in Terron Armstead. If Tua can’t make the offense sing with that amount of support, the Dolphins will find someone who can in 2023.
Previous rank: No. 21
Kevin Colbert’s final draft as Steelers GM went the way many expected. The man responsible for bringing Ben Roethlisberger to Pittsburgh targeted Big Ben’s successor with the first-round selection of Kenny Pickett. The Steelers know Pickett better than anyone — Pitt and the Steelers share the same practice facility — and it was telling how Mike Tomlin chose to answer a question about Pickett’s immediate viability as a potential Week 1 starter. “He certainly has a chance,” the coach said. “… We felt he came ready-made in those ways. Hopefully that’s an asset to him in terms of being able to compete and being ready, if his performance dictates.” The Mitch Trubisky era could be over before it even started.
Previous rank: No. 20
Do the Vikings have regrets about how their first draft went with new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah at the controls? It’s fair to wonder. Minnesota traded out of the No. 12 overall pick, passing on a potential generational talent at safety in Kyle Hamilton in order to land … a different safety (Georgia standout Lewis Cine) with the 32nd pick. The team they did business with — the division-rival Lions — used that 12th selection to add a hugely promising wide receiver talent in Jameson Williams. The Vikings did add an extra third-round pick in the swap with Detroit, but second-guessing is easy with this one. Do the Vikings feel better now than they did at the end of a disappointing 2021 season?
Previous rank: No. 24
There’s a plausible scenario in which Baker Mayfield still eventually lands with the Seahawks, but it’s far from a sure thing following Ian Rapoport’s report that Seattle’s interest in the Browns QB is “lukewarm at best.” And if that’s true, it might be time to recognize the very real possibility that Pete Carroll and John Schneider are preparing for a post-Russell Wilson world with Drew Lock and Geno Smith as the options under center. Perhaps this makes sense. It feels like Carroll has been dying to lean back into his ground-and-pound preference for years, a theory propped up by a draft class that saw the Seahawks add two tackles and a running back in the first three rounds.
Previous rank: No. 28
Jets fans felt like they were in a parallel dimension on draft weekend, a bizarro world in which the organization was universally praised for its sterling draft acumen. The Jets have been the source of belly laughs for decades this time of year, but no one was laughing at Joe Douglas’ haul in Vegas. The team added three potential stars – and filled three major areas of need in the process — in the first round: cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, wide receiver Garrett Wilson and defensive end Jermaine Johnson II. On Day 2, Douglas landed another player atop many positional draft boards in running back Breece Hall. After an excellent offseason of personnel moves, the Jets suddenly have a compelling roster on both sides of the ball. There will be immense pressure on second-year QB Zach Wilson to make it work.
Previous rank: No. 23
Good for the Panthers. As the results of the draft confirmed, talent evaluators had no affection for this class of quarterbacks, so credit Carolina brass for resisting the temptation to fit a square peg into a round hole with the sixth overall pick. The Panthers instead focused on another glaring weakness at that spot, selecting Ikem Ekwonu, a tackle with All-Pro potential. With one sensible move in the can, the Panthers made another by stopping Matt Corral’s slide late in the third round. Barring a move that brings a veteran to town (Baker Mayfield? Jimmy Garoppolo?), Carolina could be ready to bite down hard and give Sam Darnold one more chance. If he flops, the team has the window to give the intriguing rookie from Ole Miss an early look.
Previous rank: No. 26
The Commanders dropped down in the first round (via a trade with the Saints) and still landed an impact wide receiver in Jahan Dotson, the Penn State playmaker who gives the team a desperately needed complement to Terry McLaurin on offense. The move gives Carson Wentz a much better chance at finding success at his newest home, though it’s fair to wonder if the supposedly sensitive quarterback has any concerns about the arrival of Sam Howell, the intriguing UNC bomber who fell to the fifth round. Wentz will enter the season as the unquestioned starter in Washington, but the Commanders shouldn’t hesitate to experiment at the position if the offense is stuck in mud.
Previous rank: No. 29
The Lions are starting to feel like what the Browns were a few years back: a likable underdog on the come-up. The draft provided more reason to believe Detroit is on the right track. Aidan Hutchinson, the second overall pick, is a hometown kid who will provide an instant jolt to the team’s moribund pass rush. Detroit then made a surprise trade up the board to grab Alabama stud Jameson Williams, currently recovering from ACL surgery but gifted — like Hutchinson — with All-Pro potential. Jared Goff will remain the bridge at quarterback for another year, but the Lions are building something here. Hard Knocks is going to be fun.
Previous rank: No. 30
The Giants desperately needed some good vibes, and they got them in a first round that ended with two potential star additions in defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and offensive tackle Evan Neal at Nos. 5 and No. 7 overall, respectively. Thibodeaux’s talent and overflowing charisma — prominently on display in consecutive appearances on the Around The NFL Podcast last week — could make him a Michael Strahan-like star in the Big Apple. New York also made news with the decision to decline the fifth-year option of quarterback Daniel Jones’ rookie contract. It’s an unorthodox move, but one rooted in welcome logic. If Jones finally balls out in Year 4, Big Blue will live with the financial fallout.
Previous rank: No. 27
With Matt Ryan in Indianapolis, Calvin Ridley suspended and Julio Jones in Graybeards purgatory, the Falcons are starting over on offense. They began excavation last year by drafting tight end Kyle Pitts fourth overall, and they continued pouring foundation with the selection of USC wideout Drake London eighth overall on Thursday night. The 6-foot-4 London is a red-zone terror — he called himself and the 6-6 Pitts the “twin towers” during a draft night appearance on the Around The NFL Podcast — and the pair will give new quarterback Marcus Mariota a real opportunity to make plays. Speaking of Mariota, he’ll have competition in the quarterback room in rookie Desmond Ridder, an intriguing Round 3 dart throw.
Previous rank: No. 25
How confident should we be about Justin Fields and the opportunity he is getting in Chicago? The Bears saddled the quarterback with a lame-duck head coach as a rookie, then took away his No. 1 wide receiver by allowing Allen Robinson to leave for the Rams this offseason. Absent a first-round pick (that went to the Giants in the Fields draft trade last year), Chicago opted to wait until the third round in Vegas to address the offense. Perhaps Tennessee wideout Velus Jones Jr. carves out a role as a rookie, but it’s more likely Fields will be staring down a lot of blanketed receivers when he drops back to pass this fall. Give the kid a chance!
Previous rank: No. 31
When you own the No. 1 overall pick in the draft — the Jags’ place in the NFL firmament for two years running — you want to land a potential superstar. Trevor Lawrence was a no-brainer for Jacksonville brass in 2021, but the decision to tab Travon Walker this season is one of the biggest first-pick dice rolls in recent league history. In the end, the Jaguars banked on Walker’s promise over the proven performance that Aidan Hutchinson put on tape for Michigan. It’s a move that can make GM Trent Baalke and Jaguars brass look smart … or get everybody fired. The stakes explain why the Jags reportedly hoped to hear from a team that wanted to trade into the first pick — a phone call that never came.
Previous rank: No. 32
Deshaun Watson is mercifully someone else’s responsibility, and the draft represented the official reboot of a new era in Houston. The team laid the foundation with nine draft picks in Vegas, starting with cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. with the third overall pick. More instant starters were added next: offensive lineman Kenyon Green (No. 15 overall), defensive back Jalen Pitre (No. 37) and wide receiver John Metchie III (No. 44). Metchie will be catching passes from second-year man Davis Mills, who notably found no new competition entering the quarterback room from this draft class. Mills was a pleasant surprise as a rookie, and the Texans appear committed to giving him a real chance to cement his status as Watson’s successor.
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