NFL Power Rankings 2022: Offseason 1-32 poll, plus players who benefited most from the draft and ...

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Monday, May 16, 2022

While the long-term story of the 2022 NFL draft will be how the draftees pan out years from now, this version of the NFL Power Rankings is taking more of an immediate approach. Instead of breaking down the rookies (there will be plenty of time for that), we picked veterans from each team whose status was bolstered by the draft.

The bolstering takes several shapes. Some veteran players can breathe a sigh of relief after their respective teams didn't pick someone to immediately replace them (New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston and Seattle's two quarterbacks are feeling a bit better right now). Other veterans got help to make their jobs next year quite a bit easier, whether they're quarterbacks with new targets and blockers or pass-rushers with more help alongside them. Others got a chance to get a bit more of a break so they can stay fresh later in the season. No matter the motivation, there are several established NFL players who should be happy with their team's newcomers.

How we rank: Our power panel -- a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities -- evaluated how teams stack up throughout the season.

Jump to a team:




NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF


1. Buffalo Bills

Post-free agency ranking: 1

Player who benefited most from draft:G Cody Ford

After not addressing the interior offensive line in the draft, the area remains a need for the Bills, and it would not be a surprise to see them add a veteran or two before training camp. For now, however, the returning interior players benefit, including likely starting right guard Ryan Bates, who was brought back after the team matched an offer sheet he signed with the Chicago Bears. Without any new additions, Ford is the top reserve. The 2019 second-round pick is entering the final year of his rookie deal with plenty to prove and an opportunity to do it. -- Alaina Getzenberg

2. Los Angeles Rams

Post-free agency ranking: 2

Player who benefited most from draft:QB Matthew Stafford

The Rams didn't have a first-rounder for the sixth straight draft or a second-rounder due to the Von Miller trade, not drafting until the compensatory portion of the third round. But with that pick, the Rams took Wisconsin guard Logan Bruss, who gives them another player capable of competing for the open starting position at right guard -- which Austin Corbett vacated by leaving for the Panthers in free agency. The Rams have had success with Wisconsin linemen (right tackle Rob Havenstein and left guard David Edwards are former Badgers), so they are hoping to hit there again and continue to provide Stafford protection to get the ball to his talented receiving corps. -- ESPN staff

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Post-free agency ranking: 4

Player who benefited most from draft:QB Tom Brady

The Bucs invested a second-round draft pick at guard in Luke Goedeke, brought in a pass-catching running back in the third round in Rachaad White, and selected two tight ends in Cade Otton and blocking specialist Ko Kieft to possibly add to Rob Gronkowski. While the Bucs will always look to the future when they draft, their decisions very much reflect their current win-now mindset behind their soon-to-be 45-year-old, future Hall of Fame quarterback. -- Jenna Laine

4. Kansas City Chiefs

Post-free agency ranking: 3

Player who benefited most from draft:DE Frank Clark

The Chiefs selected edge defender George Karlaftis in the first round, but the depth chart at defensive end remains thin after the Chiefs declined to draft another player at the position. So Clark, even after accepting a pay cut to avoid being released, looms as a key figure for the Chiefs. Unless Karlaftis has a big rookie season or the Chiefs get unexpected help elsewhere, the Chiefs need a big season from Clark to help revive their pass rush. -- Adam Teicher

5. Green Bay Packers

Post-free agency ranking: 6

Player who benefited most from draft:DT Kenny Clark

If anyone on the Packers' interior defensive line was going to face double-teams, it was Clark. If the second of the Packers' two first-round picks, DT Devonte Wyatt (No. 28 overall), warrants some attention, it could free up Clark more often. The Packers are clearly trying to build a championship defense, and having more players around standouts like Clark can only help. -- Rob Demovsky

6. Cincinnati Bengals

Post-free agency ranking: 5

Player who benefited most from draft:LB Germaine Pratt

Pratt, a fourth-round pick in 2019, arguably had his best year in '21 and showed what he can do as an off-ball linebacker. He had the game-sealing interception in the AFC wild-card game over the Raiders, the team's first playoff win in 31 years. After hitting the linebacker class hard in 2020 with three draftees at the position, the Bengals didn't draft any this year. That's a great sign for Pratt, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. While Cincinnati put itself in position to replace current starters with players from the '22 draft class, the lack of new linebackers could be a silent vote of confidence for Pratt. -- Ben Baby

7. Los Angeles Chargers

Post-free agency ranking: 7

Player who benefited most from draft:QB Justin Herbert

The Chargers selected a guard in Zion Johnson, who figures to be a Day 1 starter, and running back Isaiah Spiller, who provides a much-needed alternative to Austin Ekeler, with two of their first three draft picks. That's more good news for Herbert, who saw the Chargers re-sign receiver Mike Williams and add tight end Gerald Everett in free agency. -- Adam Teicher

8. Dallas Cowboys

Post-free agency ranking: 9

Player who benefited most from draft:LB Micah Parsons

The Cowboys want to keep the versatility that helped Parsons win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Owner Jerry Jones has referred to Parsons' position as a "Micah player." He can be a linebacker. He can be a pass-rusher. Had the Cowboys not selected Sam Williams in the second round, they would have kept that plan in place, but Williams presents the Cowboys -- and Parsons -- with more options. Williams goes into a pass-rush pool with DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler Jr. Parsons can continue to move between positions with ease, especially with Leighton Vander Esch's return via free agency and Jabril Cox's return from injury. -- Todd Archer

9. San Francisco 49ers

Post-free agency ranking: 8

Player who benefited most from draft:WR Deebo Samuel

The Niners spent two of their first three picks on a running back and a receiver, which should be beneficial to quarterback Trey Lance. But, for as odd as it might sound, this draft could be equally beneficial to Samuel. Samuel accounted for 28% of the Niners' yards from scrimmage in 2021, which was the fourth most by a player in the NFL. Of course Samuel wants to keep getting the ball and playing a significant role, but if part of his dispute with the Niners is over his potential longevity, it stands to reason that adding help at the skill positions -- particularly running back -- could help lighten his load and settle his issues with the team. -- Nick Wagoner

10. Baltimore Ravens

Post-free agency ranking: 12

Player who benefited most from draft:WR Rashod Bateman

Bateman is the unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver for Lamar Jackson after the Ravens traded Marquise "Hollywood" Brown to the Cardinals and then didn't use any of their 11 draft picks on a wide receiver. Bateman, Baltimore's top pick from a year ago, showed flashes of becoming a go-to target as a rookie and has put the time in to build a connection with Jackson with their frequent throwing sessions this offseason. Now he will get plenty of opportunities with the departure of Brown, whose 146 targets ranked 10th in the NFL last season. -- Jamison Hensley

11. Tennessee Titans

Post-free agency ranking: 11

Player who benefited most from draft:WR Robert Woods

Woods hasn't set foot on the field as a Titans player, but he was catapulted into the No. 1 receiver spot after the team traded A.J. Brown to the Eagles. Brown takes 23% of the Titans' receiving yards last season to Philadelphia. Woods is now likely to get the lion's share of targets from quarterbackRyan Tannehill, who targeted Brown more than any other receiver since taking over as the starter in Week 7 of 2019. Although Woods will get a lot of targets in the passing game, he won't be a one-man show. Tennessee selected Treylon Burks with the pick it acquired in exchange for Brown. Burks should settle into a nice complementary role to Woods. -- Turron Davenport

12. Denver Broncos

Post-free agency ranking: 10

Player who benefited most from draft:RB Melvin Gordon III

When the Broncos concluded their pre-draft meetings, they weren't that excited about the class of running backs available, so they signed Gordon two days before the draft. Before then, Gordon had drawn some interest leaguewide in free agency, but not enough to induce him to accept a short-term, incentive-filled deal. But that is what he did with the Broncos on a one-year deal. Then the Broncos did not select a running back. Granted, Javonte Williams is expected to be the lead back this season, but the Broncos like what Gordon can give the offense, and with Russell Wilson at quarterback the offense should give Gordon some opportunities to put up numbers. -- Jeff Legwold

13. Las Vegas Raiders

Post-free agency ranking: 13

Player who benefited most from draft:QB Derek Carr

Well for one, the Raiders did not draft his replacement. But for another, the new regime did add some depth to protect him with a pair of versatile offensive linemen in Dylan Parham and Thayer Munford. Now, neither guy jumps off the page immediately, but they do make a suspect O-line better in terms of competition, right? And in May, that's all you can really hope for when you don't make your first selection until late in the third round of the draft. Plus, the Raiders did use those first two picks to get wide receiver Davante Adams for Carr in trade, yes? Yes. -- Paul Gutierrez

14. Indianapolis Colts

Post-free agency ranking: 14

Player who benefited most from draft:DE Kwity Paye

Unlike in 2021, when they used their first two draft picks on pass-rushers, the Colts went on the offensive side of the ball with their first three draft picks, which shows they have a lot of faith that Paye can be one of their two top pass-rushers next season. The Colts, in fact, didn't select a defensive end during the draft. Paye should have an opportunity to improve upon his four sacks during his rookie season with veteran Yannick Ngakoue, who has 55.5 career sacks, lined up at the other defensive end spot. -- Mike Wells

15. New England Patriots

Post-free agency ranking: 15

Player who benefited most from draft:LB Cameron McGrone

The Patriots didn't select a linebacker in what was viewed by many as a deep class, and the position was also considered a top team need. But Bill Belichick & Co. didn't seem to see it the same way. Director of player personnel Matt Groh said McGrone, a 2021 fifth-round pick who missed his rookie season recovering from a torn ACL sustained at Michigan, is like an "additional draft pick" this year. McGrone is a legitimate candidate to start as he vies for the role alongside Ja'Whaun Bentley, Mack Wilson and Raekwon McMillan, among others. -- Mike Reiss

16. Philadelphia Eagles

Post-free agency ranking: 19

Player who benefited most from draft:QB Jalen Hurts

The Eagles not only declined to draft a quarterback with either of their two first-round picks but traded a first-rounder to the Titans for receiver A.J. Brown, who is one of Hurts' best friends. He is also among the top receivers in the game. Hurts is entering a critical year in his career as he tries to prove he is the long-term answer at quarterback. With a solid offensive line and a group of playmakers that includes Brown, DeVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert, Hurts will be able to put his best foot forward. -- Tim McManus

17. Cleveland Browns

Post-free agency ranking: 16

Player who benefited most from draft:WR Donovan Peoples-Jones

The Browns entered the draft without a first-round pick, then traded out of the second round despite a need at wide receiver. Cleveland finally added one near the end of the third round, selecting David Bell from Purdue. Bell, who was ultra-productive in college, could play a big role in the Browns' offense. But he will likely be operating out of the slot and in underneath coverage. That should allow Peoples-Jones to remain a starter opposite Amari Cooper. And though the Browns could still add another receiver, they will be counting on DPJ to play significant snaps next season. -- Jake Trotter

18. Miami Dolphins

Post-free agency ranking: 17

Player who benefited most from draft:C Michael Deiter

There were cries, from fans and media alike, for the Dolphins to add competition at center through the draft. Instead, they didn't spend any of their picks on an offensive lineman -- which likely reflects positively on last year's starting center. Deiter will still have to earn his job this season, but at least he knows he's in the team's plans for the immediate future. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

19. Arizona Cardinals

Post-free agency ranking: 18

Player who benefited most from draft:DE J.J. Watt

With 33-year-old Watt getting more young help, he will be able to manage his snaps more. Which in turn means his legs will be fresher throughout the game and his production could improve even more. Arizona's pass rush will have to rely more on the interior of the front this season with the departure of Chandler Jones in free agency. Having waves of subs ready to come in will allow for fresh legs throughout a game, and Watt will be a major beneficiary of that. -- Josh Weinfuss

20. New Orleans Saints

Post-free agency ranking: 22

Player who benefited most from draft:QB Jameis Winston

Instead of drafting a potential future replacement at quarterback, the Saints made aggressive trades to support Winston with two first-round picks in receiver Chris Olave and left tackle Trevor Penning. Throw in the healthy return of No. 1 receiver Michael Thomas, and we should get a much better idea of how well Winston fits in New Orleans this season. The offense was decimated by injuries in 2021 when Thomas missed all 17 games, Winston missed 10 games and the top four offensive linemen missed a combined 32 games. -- Mike Triplett

21. Pittsburgh Steelers

Post-free agency ranking: 20

Player who benefited most from draft:OT Chukwuma Okorafor

Okorafor gets his name in bold, but Dan Moore Jr. also qualifies as a player who benefitted from the Steelers' draft. The team didn't address the tackle spot through an external signing in free agency or via the draft, all but solidifying its confidence in Okorafor and Moore. As a rookie, Moore started every single game and showed signs of being the left tackle of the future, while Okorafor had an average season. Either position could've benefitted from an upgrade this offseason, but that didn't happen, so Okorafor and Moore won't have their spots threatened. -- Brooke Pryor

22. Washington Commanders

Post-free agency ranking: 23

Player who benefited most from draft:QB Carson Wentz

Ron Rivera said consistently this offseason that you need to protect your quarterback and surround him with targets. Washington drafted receiver Jahan Dotson in the first round, giving Wentz a quick target across the middle, and added tight end Cole Turner in the fifth round. Those two bolster the talent in the passing game. In the third round, Washington drafted running back Brian Robinson Jr., who will play behind Antonio Gibson but provides depth and insurance should anything happen to his running mate. This allows the Commanders to maintain a run game, which reduces pressure on the pass game. -- John Keim

23. Minnesota Vikings

Post-free agency ranking: 21

Player who benefited most from draft:FB C.J. Ham

Follow along here for a moment. The Vikings didn't draft a tight end until the seventh round (South Carolina's Nick Muse), despite a relative lack of depth behind presumptive starter Irv Smith Jr., who missed all of 2021 because of a knee injury. Why the lack of urgency? As it turns out, new coach Kevin O'Connell has plans to use the versatile Ham in two-back sets, and he can then be motioned into spots where a tight end would traditionally be used. The draft, in other words, proved the Vikings will remain among the few teams that will incorporate a fullback in their schemes. -- Kevin Seifert

24. Chicago Bears

Post-free agency ranking: 24

Player who benefited most from draft:S Eddie Jackson

The Bears came away from the second round with two starting-caliber defensive backs and hope to revive their secondary off the play of rookies, includingJaquan Brisker. Jackson hasn't recorded an interception since the 2019 season and might stand to benefit from playing farther away from the box, with Brisker starting opposite him at strong safety. Brisker is a physical, versatile defender who played 400 snaps at safety, 100 snaps at inside linebacker and 100 snaps at slot corner in 2021 at Penn State. With this season being dubbed a "clean slate" for Jackson, aligning him with a DB whose skill set complements his could lead him to rediscover the level of play that made him one of the league's best safeties three years ago. -- Courtney Cronin

25. New York Giants

Post-free agency ranking: 25

Player who benefited most from draft:QB Daniel Jones

The Giants got Jones two offensive linemen (Evan Neal, Joshua Ezeudu) and a wide receiver (Wan'Dale Robinson) with three of their first four picks in the draft. Even more telling was that they passed on some of the perceived top quarterbacks over and over. This only improves the chances that Jones has a future with the franchise, with or without that fifth-year option. The Giants are trying to make sure they get a real chance to see if Jones can be their long-term quarterback. -- Jordan Raanan

26. Jacksonville Jaguars

Post-free agency ranking: 27

Player who benefited most from draft:DE/LB Josh Allen

Allen had his best season as a rookie (10.5 sacks) in 2019 when he had Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue on the field with him at the same time. Campbell and Ngakoue were traded before the 2020 season began, and Allen has had 10 sacks in the 24 games since without any meaningful help on the other side. Drafting DE Travon Walker with the first overall pick and adding LB Devin Lloyd with the 27th beefs up the pass rush and will keep opponents from focusing on Allen. -- Michael DiRocco

27. Seattle Seahawks

Post-free agency ranking: 26

Players who benefited most from draft:QBs Drew Lock and Geno Smith

Not selecting a quarterback with any of their nine draft picks wasn't a vote of long-term confidence in the Seahawks' current options. It was instead a reflection of how the Seahawks simply weren't sold on any of the options in what was a lousy draft for quarterbacks. But that still means Lock and Smith won't have to compete with a highly drafted rookie as they battle to replace Russell Wilson. Baker Mayfield is still out there and could potentially be signed on the cheap if he's released by Cleveland, but for now it remains Lock and Smith. -- Brady Henderson

28. Houston Texans

Post-free agency ranking: 32

Player who benefited most from draft:QB Davis Mills

Yes, the Texans used their top draft pick on a defensive player, but they certainly upgraded around Mills on the offensive side of the ball as well. Houston's second second-round pick was guard Kenyon Green, who should slide right into the Texans' starting lineup. The Texans also added wide receiver John Metchie III on Day 2 and running back Dameon Pierce on Day 3. Houston is slowly improving an offense that ranked 30th in Football Outsiders' DVOA. Mills might not be the Texans' long-term answer at quarterback, but general manager Nick Caserio is certainly setting him up for more success in 2022. -- Sarah Barshop

29. New York Jets

Post-free agency ranking: 30

Player who benefited most from draft:LT Mekhi Becton

The 2020 first-round pick remains large in the Jets' plans after weeks of speculation about the possibility of drafting a tackle in the first round. They didn't address tackle until the fourth round (Max Mitchell), solidifying Becton's starting job at left or right tackle. Now it's on Becton, previously hampered by injuries and weight issues, to prove to the organization that he can be a fixture on the offensive line. The talent is there, but he has played only eight complete games out of 33. -- Rich Cimini

30. Detroit Lions

Post-free agency ranking: 31

Player who benefited most from draft:QB Jared Goff

Although there was much speculation about what the Lions would do with two first-round picks, they didn't go in the direction of a younger quarterback. Not only has Goff benefited from the draft, he has benefited from free agency. The Lions' front office has shown its commitment to adding game-changing offensive threats around him this season, which was a big problem during last season's 3-13-1 finish. Detroit also traded up to get rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams at No. 12 and many believe he was arguably the most talented at his position prior to his ACL injury. When he returns, Goff will have plenty of playmakers to help him succeed. -- Eric Woodyard

31. Atlanta Falcons

Post-free agency ranking: 29

Player who benefited most from draft:DT Grady Jarrett

Jarrett, the Falcons' top front-seven defender, had little to no help last season. He saw double-teams regularly and sometimes even triple-teams. Atlanta's approach to the draft -- taking Day 2 rushers Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone -- should help the pass rush. And, in turn, it should help Jarrett not face quite as much attention. Plus, Jarrett signed a $51 million, three-year extension days after the draft and celebrated a birthday, so that was a good week for him. -- Michael Rothstein

32. Carolina Panthers

Post-free agency ranking: 28

Player who benefited most from draft:QB Sam Darnold

This could go either way. Darnold benefited in that Carolina made left tackle Ikem Ekwonu the sixth pick, strengthening an already rebuilt line that gave up 52 sacks a year ago. Darnold is best when not under pressure. At the same time, the Panthers traded back into the third round for Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, who will become the fan favorite to start if Darnold falls back into habits that have haunted him through his first four NFL seasons. This is Darnold's job, but only as long as he produces. -- David Newton

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