After watching the draft back in April and then extensively following free agency this past weekend, I’ve got my list.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
They have runner up for league-MVP Michael Vick, and if he goes down, they signed former Titans quarterback Vince Young. Young may develop into a star under head coach Andy Reid- it’s what Reid does, he develops talent at the quarterback position. They have former Titans defensive end Jason Babin (12.5 sacks in 2010). They have elite deep threat at wide receiver DeSean Jackson. They have an emerging running back in LeSean McCoy. They have Trent Cole, a star defensive end. They are developing defensive end Brandon Graham, who can be a star. They have star corner Asante Samuel. They just signed Nnamdi Asomugha from the Raiders in free agency. Asomugha might be the best or second-best corner in the league, the Jets Darrele Revis might be better…..maybe. I could go on, they’re in the best position.
The only thing that worries me is that they lost safety Quentin Mikell to the Rams. The loss of MLB Stewart Bradley hurts but doesn’t end their campaign.
The Eagles signed former Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn as well as former Colts offensive line coach Howard Mudd. Both are widely considered to be near the top in the league, if not at the top, for their respective coaching positions. The offensive and defensive lines are where games are won and lost. The Eagles possess great talent at both and have upgraded that talent with these coaches. Congrats to their front office for pulling that off.
2. New England Patriots
It’s the Patriots and they have Tom Brady so they get an entrance into the top 5, but their new moves get them even higher. HC Bill Belicheck remains at the top of anyone’s list as a candidate to reform older players. New England sits like a factory perched on a hill. You put an older and previously talented player in the factory and out comes a near Pro Bowl performance. Enter former Bengal Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco and former Titan Pro Bowler and Redskin failure, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Expect one of the most formidable opponents in the league.
3. New Orleans Saints
“Can the Saints get any better?”–Drew Brees and co. will try.
After turning the franchise around, GM Mickey Loomis and HC Sean Payton have once again place the team well within reach of a strong Super Bowl run. The big story seems to be the addition of Alabama runningback Mark Ingram, as well as the addition of Chargers runningback Darren Sproles–a seeming need after the trade that left Reggie Bush in Miami. However, while all those moves are great (including trading Bush), the biggest story is the development of former Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins. The Saints took him in the first round last season and now he is in position to be one of the better free safeties int he entire league. The defense may be almost as good as the offense… and that should make the rest of the NFL nervous.
4. Atlanta Falcons
They’re only getting better. Tight end Tony Gonzalez leads a stable of ready weapons for quarterback Matt Ryan. Really the only two questions I have for this team are at safety and at runningback. I know it sounds odd to bring up the runningback position for the Falcons after Michael Turner’s incredible run the last few years, I’m just left wondering how much he has left after being run so much. Safety remains a big problem for the falcons, we’ll see how much of a role development can play this year.
5. Green Bay Packers
I didn’t do the seemingly obligatory placement of number 1 on this list for the Champions. Last season was last season, 2011 exists on it’s own. Aaron Rodgers and that amazing defense could raise them up. I’m excited to see runningback Ryan Grant have a healthy season, but the biggest return from injury goes to tight end Jermichael Finley. This could be an exciting year for the Packers.
A quick observation should point out the elite level of play that all these teams get out of both their quarterback and their defense.