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2017 NFL power rankings: Titans, Panthers make big moves after the draft

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The Titans are pundits’ choice for most improved team, but things aren’t as optimistic for the Ravens.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2017 NFL draft in the rearview mirror, May has been a popular time to reassess the league’s power structure. While the usual suspects like the Patriots and Falcons dot the top of most power rankings, a few big movers and shakers are primed to upset the natural order.

The Tennessee Titans were pundits’ top choice to make a big jump this season, an improvement made possible by a solid draft that added playmakers on both sides of the ball. The Baltimore Ravens, despite loading up on defensive help in the draft that could rebuild their empire, inspired far less confidence.

A look at five major publications’ power rankings — SB Nation, ESPN, NFL.com, Sports Illustrated, and CBS Sports -- provides a clearer picture of which teams are pegged to improve in 2017 and which may be destined to sit out next January’s playoffs. While the majority of the league’s teams either stayed glued to their postseason rankings or moved less than one spot, on average, the offseason led to a few major changes.

Whose offseason put it in line to improve the most in 2017?

Tennessee was the offseason’s big winner after a series of notable moves has the franchise at the brink of its first playoff berth since 2008.

The Titans shored up their biggest holes — at wide receiver and in the secondary — by signing Logan Ryan and Jonathan Cyprien before drafting Corey Davis and Adoree’ Jackson in the first round. Their presence, combined with the continued development of quarterback Marcus Mariota, has the oft-mediocre club knocking on the door of the league’s top 10.

Tennessee improved by an average of nearly five spots in the first round of postdraft rankings, peaking as high as No. 9 in Sports Illustrated’s listing.

The Titans weren’t the only franchise to see big gains this spring. The Los Angeles Chargers aren’t expected to be a playoff contender, but adding a cache of offensive talent in the draft has Philip Rivers’ team flirting with the top 20. They moved up by an average of just under three spots in the latest rankings. The Carolina Panthers, one season removed from a Super Bowl appearance, are also expected to improve thanks, in part, to a strong draft and the potential that last year’s massive regression was an anomaly.

Which teams dropped the most in the postdraft power rankings?

These rises came at the expense of other teams — most notably, the Ravens.

Baltimore should have a stout defense next fall after adding a bevy of new faces in the draft and free agency, but major questions remain on the offensive side of the ball. The Ravens signed starters like safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Brandon Carr this offseason while adding college standouts like Marlon Humphrey, Tyus Bower, and Tim Williams as draft picks. While those players should give AFC North opponents plenty of headaches this fall, the biggest addition to an offense that ranked 21st in scoring last season was 32-year-old platoon tailback Danny Woodhead.

That lack of offensive playmakers made the club a popular pick as the league’s least improved. Baltimore was dropped an average of more than six spots in these rankings. The next closest team, the Lions, fell only three places after a lackluster start to 2017. The Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants, Washington, Chicago Bears, and Houston Texans were the only other teams to fall at least one spot in the average rankings.

Here are the full ranking moves from the five sites. A negative score means a team moved down the rankings — say, from 14th to 10th. A positive score suggests a team is projected to be worse in 2017 than it was in 2016.

NFL Post-Draft Power Rankings -- Biggest Movers

Rank Team Avg. Rank Previous Avg. Rank Average move
Rank Team Avg. Rank Previous Avg. Rank Average move
1 Tennessee Titans 12 16.8 -4.8
2 Los Angeles Chargers 23.6 26.4 -2.8
3 Carolina Panthers 19.2 21.4 -2.2
4 Indianapolis Colts 18.2 20 -1.8
5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10.4 12 -1.6
6 Oakland Raiders 5.2 6.8 -1.6
7 New Orleans Saints 19.2 20.6 -1.4
8 New York Jets 29.8 30.4 -0.6
9 Minnesota Vikings 21.8 22.4 -0.6
10 Green Bay Packers 4.2 4.8 -0.6
11 Los Angeles Rams 29 29.4 -0.4
12 Cleveland Browns 30.8 31.2 -0.4
13 Buffalo Bills 24.4 24.4 0
14 Cincinnati Bengals 22.2 22.2 0
15 Seattle Seahawks 8 8 0
16 Atlanta Falcons 2.2 2.2 0
17 New England Patriots 1 1 0
18 Miami Dolphins 11.8 11.6 0.2
19 Dallas Cowboys 5 4.8 0.2
20 San Francisco 49ers 30.2 29.8 0.4
21 Jacksonville Jaguars 26.8 26.2 0.6
22 Arizona Cardinals 16.6 16 0.6
23 Denver Broncos 14.8 14.2 0.6
24 Pittsburgh Steelers 5 4.4 0.6
25 Philadelphia Eagles 21.8 21 0.8
26 Houston Texans 16.6 15.6 1
27 Chicago Bears 30 28.6 1.4
28 Washington 17.8 16.4 1.4
29 New York Giants 9 7.2 1.8
30 Kansas City Chiefs 8.6 6.6 2
31 Detroit Lions 15 12 3
32 Baltimore Ravens 19.8 13.6 6.2