NFL power rankings as teams shift focus from free agency to upcoming 2022 draft (post-Super Bowl 56 rank in parentheses):
1. Rams (1): They’ve lost a few key cogs from the Super Bowl 56 lineup – OLB Von Miller (Bills), LT Andrew Whitworth (retired), WR Odell Beckham Jr. (unsigned and injured) – but it just happens just about annually to defending champs, the Brady Bucs notwithstanding. But LA also effectively made a noteworthy wideout swap, signing Allen Robinson before trading Robert Woods, while reloading the O-line. And more important? Many of the NFC’s prominent would-be contenders have taken more concerning broadsides than the Rams have.
2. Bengals (2): They’ve done such a good job upgrading QB Joe Burrow’s protection during free agency – La’el Collins, Alex Cappa, Ted Karras – that they’ve opened up their draft options … and Cincinnati has quietly been one of the league’s better talent assessors in recent years.
3. Bills (4): The shocking coup to land former Super Bowl MVP Miller was their offseason headline grabber. However several nice pickups with G Rodger Saffold and slot WR Jamison Crowder plus the return of CB Tre’Davious White from his ACL tear. This lineup looks decidedly superior to the one that barely came up short at Arrowhead Stadium two months ago.
4. Buccaneers (20): Why the huge jump? Don’t forget, Tom Brady was retired at the conclusion of Super Bowl 56. Tampa Bay wasn’t able to bring back the entire band this time, but when the frontman decides he actually does want to cut another album or two, you can replace a bass player and keyboardist without losing a beat. And shouldn’t be overly difficult adapting to new stage manager Todd Bowles.
5. Packers (6): Aaron Rodgers, Matt LaFleur and Co. look well positioned to win 13 games and the NFC North for the fourth consecutive year … and probably not much beyond that.
6. Chargers (13): Read the warning label prior to drinking powder blue Kool-Aid. But a team that fell one bad decision shy of the playoffs last season has added OLB Khalil Mack, CB JC Jackson and interior D-line beef while retaining WR Mike Williams and the 17th pick of Round 1. Plenty of upward mobility for QB Justin Herbert , coach Brandon Staley, et al. – a group that’s proven it can compete with and beat Kansas City – after enduring valuable experiences in an ultimately disappointing 2021 campaign.
7.Chiefs (3): The stunning trade of WR Tyreek Hill could mean a step back in 2022 before two or three subsequent steps forward – given the draft capital and cap space his departure created.
8. Colts (21): They could once again reside on the playoff bubble. They could also run away and hide with the AFC South crown given the stability Matt Ryan should finally provide under center. He’s definitely not losing to the Jags with money on the table in Week 18.
9. Raiders (9): Given what this organization endured in 2021 – to say nothing of their average margin of defeat of 17 points in the regular season – it’s amazing Silver and Black reached postseason. There are gaps to fill, especially in the trenches, but the arrivals of WR Davante Adams, DE Chandler Jones and coach Josh McDaniels should make these Raiders higher rollers.
10. Patriots (8): They’ve been as quiet in free agency this year as they were audacious in 2021. But oh to be a fly on the wall in the offensive meeting room as Matt Patricia and Joe Judge – neither with much coaching experience on that side of the ball – try to fill McDaniels’void.
11. Titans (5): Division winners the past two years, they’ve also been one-and-done in the playoffs both times and don’t appear to be getting appreciably better in a conference absorbing so much high-priced talent.
12. Ravens (12): Don’t forget, they were the AFC’s projected No. 1 playoff seed at one point last December before the injuries and gut-wrenching losses finally overtook them. The only time newly extended coach John Harbaugh has missed successive postseasons was 2015-17.
13. Browns (17): Dropping QB Deshaun Watson into this roster – from a football perspective – should make this a Super Bowl-caliber group. It remains to be seen how Watson’s off-field luggage and the suspension he’s likely facing alter matters – and the locker room – in a division with little margin for error.
14. 49ers (7): Tough to downgrade a team that barely lost the NFC title game this much. But a hazy quarterback situation and lack of a first-round pick are reasons to wonder if the Niners, who haven’t reached postseason in back-to-back seasons under coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch, might regress.
15. Cowboys (11): Plenty of headlines this offseason … though talent depletion due to salary cap issues is well down the list, much to owner Jerry Jones’ grief. But maybe they’ll get a guy with that 24th pick who ends a 27-year title drought, saves Mike McCarthy’s job and puts a smile on beleaguered Jones’ face.
16. Vikings (15): With offensive-minded head coach Kevin O’Connell on board – he was QB Kirk Cousins’ position coach in Washington in 2017 – Minnesota is a team that could take a quantum leap. (And how much worse can the defense be than it was under Mike Zimmer the past two years?)
17. Saints (19): They’re probably a playoff team in 2021 if QB Jameis Winston doesn’t get hurt in Week 8. Given their (regular-season) dominance of the Brady Bucs and playmakers on both sides of the ball, Winston should get them over the hump in 2022 if – big if – this organization adapts post-Payton.
18. Broncos (23): QB Russell Wilson has justifiably restored a Rocky Mountain high in Colorado. But he still has to jell with his new teammates and rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett – to say nothing of some defensive issues that need ironing out in what shapes up as an ultra-competitive AFC West.
19. Eagles (14): A team coming off a surprise playoff appearance in 2021 is scheduled to pick 15th, 16th and 19th in the 2022 draft. Don’t bet on GM Howie Roseman standing pat in Round 1 but bank on this roster getting even better with Roseman potentially creating further options for next year’s draft.
20. Cardinals (10): They lost seven of their final 11 games, including an embarrassing playoff loss to the Rams, have an unhappy quarterback and hemorrhaged talent in free agency. Otherwise, no issues.
21. Dolphins (22): Eventful offseason with Hill and LT Terron Armstead, among several others, coming aboard. But Tua Tagovailoa better take a big step in 2022 because Miami has two first-round picks at the ready for a 2023 draft that should have better quarterback options.
22. Steelers (16): Draft night should be fascinating given how Pittsburgh is perpetually linked to Liberty’s Malik Willis. No denying Steelers are well behind rest of AFC North when it comes to the quarterback position.
23. Commanders (24): Carson Wentz better play his butt off, otherwise this brain trust will be constantly skewered with second guessers invoking the names of Matty Ice, Jimmy G. and maybe even Baker Mayfield, whose 2022 base salary is more than $3 million shy of Wentz’s.
24. Seahawks (18): They’re coming off a last-place finish in what’s still the NFC’s toughest division and won’t have Wilson, MLB Bobby Wagner or (apparently) either of last year’s starting tackles this time around. One of the NFL’s loudest stadiums could get pretty quiet in 2022.
25. Jets (27): Despite the spending power at their disposal, not much to get excited about after free agency. Barring a blockbuster for a wide receiver – Hill passed – QB Zach Wilson will have to hope GM Joe Douglas makes excellent use of those four selections among the draft’s first 38 picks.
26. Leos (29): Another squad poised to make a draft splash with three of the top 34 picks, including No. 2 overall. Detroit finished 3-3 last season after going winless in its first 11 games – momentum that could carry relevance in a playoff chase amid a seemingly weakened conference.
27. Jaguars (28): Their fiscal habits in 2022 appear nearly as dubious as those of 2021. But even with QB Trevor Lawrence positioned to progress significantly under new coach Doug Pederson, you have to overpay to bring teal chip-caliber talent to Duval County.
28. Bears (25): No first-round pick and no apparent strategy – in terms of coaching hires or free agent signings – to foster an environment conducive to developing QB Justin Fields.
29. Giants (30): With two top-10 selections (and five of the first 81), new GM Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll can put the extra pieces around QB Daniel Jones that they couldn’t afford in free agency.
30. Panthers (31): Is this the team that went 4-3 with RB Christian McCaffrey – he’s missed 23 games the past two seasons – or the one that went 1-9 without him, including a seven-game skid to end 2021? Carolina’s O-line looks better, but its outlook with QB Sam Darnold remains dour.
31. Falcons (26): Cap-strapped GM Terry Fontenot admitted after trading Ryan, “We’re taking it on the chin this year.” Love the candor. Atlanta also desperately needs receivers, safeties, linebackers and pass rushers.
32. Texas (32): Enriched, from a player acquisition perspective, now that it’s finally moved Watson, Houston can finally move forward with the business of attempting to revive its on-field product.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.