May 8, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Khalil Mack (Buffalo) poses for a photo with commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the number five overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft to the Oakland Raiders at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
20. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcon seemed to fall off an edge in 2013, with a disatrous 4-12 campaign. They did well to fill some needs by drafting Jake Matthews and Ra’Shede Hageman, but they will need at least another year to completely rebound from the effects of trading up to grab Julio Jones.
19. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs, despite starting off the season 10-0, were a mildly flawed team last season. They lost to almost every above .500 club and choked during the playoffs. Combine that with all the offseason losses to an offensive line that is necessary for their fantastic run game (and the management’s incompetence to replace the talent on it), and you get a team that won’t win many games in 2014. Especially considering that they have one of the NFL’s hardest schedules on the horizon.
18. The Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens drafted great talent in the first two rounds, unfortunately, they were in areas where they were already strong. They lost their top possession receiver Anquan Boldin and failed to anything to really fix one of the worst scoring offenses in the NFL. They are coming off a Super Bowl victory just two years ago in 2012 though, so they can not be completely discounted.
17. Oakland Raiders
I think I may be the only person in the world to have the Raiders ranked this high, but I really like the direction this team is heading. They were not that bad of a team last season, as they were in the playoff hunt before a barrage of injuries wrecked them. They added some nice pieces through free agency and had one of the best drafts in the league. James Jones, Rod Streater and Denarius Moore have fantastic potential as a receiving group and David Carr was my #2 ranked QB. The front seven is going to very good this season is they can get all the talent out of Khalil Mack, Sio Moore, Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith and Lamarr Woodley. Whenever you grab what could turn out to be the best defensive player in the draft, a possible future franchise QB, and impact players in every round, you just significantly increased your chances to win.
16. Carolina Panthers
Everyone seems to be counting out the Panthers because they failed to adequately address the wide receiver position. I don’t see that as a problem though, because I just watched the Seattle Seahawks become the best team in the NFL and win the Super Bowl with one of the worst receiving groups in the NFL. Sorry Golden Tate, you’re not that good. The only receivers worth anything are Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, and they were injured or ineffective almost the entire season. Don’t count the Panthers out — Cam Newton is better than Russell Wilson.
15. The New York Giants
Truth be told, they should be farther back on this list. But here they are at #15 because they had so much turnover and were so active in free agency that I have no idea how this team is going to play in 2014. Despite their recent struggles, the Giants did win a Super Bowl 27 months ago, and the NFC East is always wide open. If Eli Manning can rebound after a bad season and the free agents mesh well, this team could surprise many folks.
14. St. Louis Rams
The Rams have the unfortunate situation of playing in the NFC West, the most difficult division in football. Despite this, they are a good football team. They added elite talent in the first round of the NFL draft, as well as continued to hit on many of their remaining choices in days two and three. Sam Bradford will get another season to prove to the NFL universe that he was worthy of being the first overall selection in 2010.
13. The Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles were flying high after last season’s success, but they crash landed once the offseason began. They added dynamic running back Darren Sproles, but they also lost their #1 receiver, reached in the first round of the draft and lost their veteran QB. Can Chip Kelly handle all of this? Expectations will be high after last season’s breakthrough success.
12. New York Jets
The Jets, despite starting a rookie quarterback and having no weapons for him to throw to, managed to finish 8-8 last season. Somehow. This offseason they added talent onto an offense which had an overwhelming dearth of it. They signed Michael Vick, Eric Decker, Chris Johnson and drafted TE Jace Amaro. Talk about a glass cannon of an offense: it can either go really right…or terribly wrong. Let’s just wait and see.
11. San Diego Chargers
The Chargers are an enigmatic team, with their overall team success coming down to the play of Philip Rivers. He was one of the best QB’s in the league last year and they only finished 9-7, so they needed to continue adding talent to the roster, namely on the defensive side of the ball. In free agency, they did not add any impact players, but they drafted the uber-talented, but undersized corner Jason Verrett out of TCU in the first round that they hope can become a game-changer in their secondary.