It's a big day here at the newsletter and that's because after a three-month hiatus, Pete Prisco's power rankings are returning.
Since it's "Star Wars Day," I also asked Prisco to power rank all the Star Wars movies, but apparently, he has NEVER SEEN A SINGLE ONE OF THEM, which doesn't even seem believable. I mean, that's like going through life without ever using the letter "P," it just doesn't seem possible. In Prisco's defense though, he was born before movies had sound or color, so that probably has something to do with why he's been avoiding Star Wars.
Anyway, May the Fourth be with everyone, except for Prisco.
Alright, let's get to the rundown. As always, here's your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. To sign up, all you have to do is click here and then share the link.
1. Today's show: AFC draft grades
At some point, we'll stop talking about the 2021 NFL Draft, but today will not be that day. As a matter of fact, today is the opposite of that day because for our Tuesday episode of the podcast, Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson and I did a deep dive on how each AFC team did in the draft.
Did the Patriots make a smart move by landing Mac Jones? Did the Jets finally get a draft right? Did the Bengals and Steelers get the two biggest steals of the draft with a kicker and a punter? We answer all those questions and more.
Not to mention, we also spent a few minutes trying to figure out what in the name of Sam Houston were the Texans thinking during the draft. Does the selection of Davis Mills mean that Deshaun Watson is definitely out?
Speaking of the Texans, no one in the AFC South (except the Jaguars) really drafted that well, so we walked through each team's haul to figure out what they did wrong.
We ended the podcast by fawning over every draft class in the AFC West ... except for the Raiders.
To listen to the rest of today's show -- and to follow the podcast -- be sure to click here.
2. Prisco's post-draft NFL Power Rankings
It's been nearly three months since we saw Pete Prisco update his power rankings and although I was 90% sure that he had retired from doing them, it turns out that he was just waiting until the end of the 2021 NFL Draft.
With free agency and the draft now in the rear-view mirror, Prisco decided to unveil his newest set of power rankings today, so let's check it out, starting with the top five:
And no, that is not a typo, the Browns are actually in the top five. I'm not going to spoil the rest of the power rankings here, but I am going to give you a few nuggets:
- The biggest offense drop went to the Steelers, who fell THIRTEEN SPOTS, which might be a record. They were ranked seventh back in February, but now, they're all the way down to 20th. The Steelers were one of four teams that fell 10 spots or more along with the Saints, Titans and Bears.
- The 49ers made the biggest jump of any team and to be honest, I'm starting to think that Prisco might be a closet 49ers fan, because that's the only way to explain how they moved up EIGHTEEN SPOTS. They closed the season as the 24th-ranked team, but now they're up to sixth. The 49ers were one of four teams that moved up eight spots or more along with the Cowboys, Patriots and Cardinals.
- In news that won't surprise anyone, the Texans finished in dead last in Prisco's rankings. Kudos to the AFC South for dominating last place in Prisco's Power Rankings. The Jaguars held it for nearly all of last season, and now, they have passed the baton to the Texans.
If you want to know where your favorite team ended up in Prisco's rankings, be sure to click here. If you want to argue with Prisco over his rankings, you can do that on Twitter by clicking here. I argue with him all the time about everything.
3. Fifth-year option deadline
One of the most forgotten dates on the NFL calendar is the deadline for fifth-year options. This year, that deadline was May 3, which means teams had until then to decide if they wanted to pick up the fifth-year option on any player they drafted in the first round back in 2018. (Only first-rounders are eligible for a fifth-year option, all other drafted players are given a four-year deal.)
Of the 32 players taken in the first round back in 2018, a total of 10 of them didn't have their option picked up. Under the new CBA, the salary amount in the fifth-year option is now FULLY GUARANTEED, which means if a player's option got exercised, the team is on the hook for the entire salary. (Before this year, the option was an injury-only guarantee, which means a player could still be cut with no financial loss to the team as long as the player wasn't injured.)
With that in mind, here's a look at the players who had their option picked up, along with what their salary will be in 2022 when the fifth-year option kicks in (all salary numbers via Over the Cap) -- as well as a look at those who didn't. The only way the salary number can change is if the player agrees to an extension before the start of the 2022 season.
- Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns: Picked up ($18.86 million).
- Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants. Picked up ($7.22 million).
- Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets: Traded to Panthers and picked up ($18.86 million).
- Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland Browns: Picked up ($13.29 million).
- Bradley Chubb, DE, Denver Broncos: Picked up ($12.72 million).
- Quenton Nelson, G, Indianapolis Colts: Picked up ($13.73 million).
- Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills: Picked up ($23.11 million).
- Roquan Smith, LB, Chicago Bears: Picked up ($9.74 million).
- Mike McGlinchey, T, San Francisco 49ers: Picked up ($10.88 million).
- Josh Rosen, QB, Arizona Cardinals: Declined (traded and waived).
- Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Miami Dolphins: Traded to Steelers and picked up ($10.61 million).
- Vita Vea, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Picked up ($7.64 million).
- Da'Ron Payne, DT, Washington Football Team: Picked up (8.53 million).
- Marcus Davenport, DE, New Orleans Saints: Picked up ($9.55 million).
- Kolton Miller, T, Las Vegas Raiders: Signed extension. Miller signed to a three-year extension worth just over $54 million on March 31.
- Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Buffalo Bills: Picked up ($12.72 million).
- Derwin James, S, Los Angeles Chargers: Picked up (9.05 million).
- Jaire Alexander, CB, Green Bay Packers: Picked up ($13.29 million).
- Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Dallas Cowboys: Declined.
- Frank Ragnow, OL, Detroit Lions: Picked up ($12.66 million).
- Billy Price, C, Cincinnati Bengals: Declined.
- Rashaan Evans, LB, Tennessee Titans: Declined.
- Isaiah Wynn, T, New England Patriots: Picked up ($10.41 million).
- D.J. Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers: Picked up ($11.12 million).
- Hayden Hurst, TE, Baltimore Ravens: Traded to Falcons and declined.
- Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons: Picked up ($11.12 million).
- Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks: Declined.
- Terrell Edmunds, S, Pittsburgh Steelers: Declined.
- Taven Bryan, DT, Jacksonville Jaguars: Declined.
- Mike Hughes, CB, Minnesota Vikings: Declined.
- Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots: Declined.
- Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens: Picked up ($23.11 million).
As you can see, the backend of the draft got pretty ugly as six of the bottom eight players had their option declined.
By the way, how is the fifth-year option deadline not on May 5? The NFL is sitting on a gold mine. You move the deadline to May 5 and if a team wants to pick up a player's option, they have to hire a Star Wars character to go up to the player and say, "May the fifth-year option be with you."
Please get this done NFL.
4. 2022 NFL Mock Draft
As far as I can tell, there are only two people in the world who have a firm "no days off" policy in life: One of them is Bill Belichick and the other one is clearly Ryan Wilson.
Wilson is our draft guru here at CBSSports.com and although I assumed he was going to be hibernating for the next six months now that the draft is over, that's apparently not his plan. As soon as the 2021 draft ended, Wilson started putting together his first mock draft for 2022 and he officially released it on Monday.
As Wilson notes in his mock draft, there is no clearcut No. 1 pick in 2022 -- no Trevor Lawrence or Chase Young or Nick Bosa -- which makes things more intriguing. With no consensus top pick, it could mean we'll see someone explode onto the scene next year, like Joe Burrow and Zach Wilson did in their respective years.
With that in mind, let's check out the top 10 picks in Wilson's first 2022 mock:
- 1. Texans: DE Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon)
- 2. Lions: QB Sam Howell (North Carolina)
- 3. Jets: CB Derek Stingley Jr. (LSU)
- 4. Bengals: S Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame)
- 5. Eagles: OL Evan Neal (Alabama)
- 6. Giants: CB Derion Kendrick (Clemson)
- 7. Jaguars: OL Zion Nelson (Miami)
- 8. Washington: QB Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma)
- 9. Raiders: QB Kedon Slovis (USC)
- 10. Panthers: QB Malik Wallace (Liberty)
If you're like me and you're wondering how the draft order was made, it was determined using SportsLine's Super Bowl odds, but in reverse order. That's good to know, because I was about to yell at Ryan for giving the Bengals the fourth overall pick. They're going to the playoffs Ryan.
If you want to take a closer look at Wilson's projected top pick Kayvon Thibodeaux, be sure to click here.
Anyway, if you want to see how the rest of the first round plays out, and trust me, you do, then you're going to want to click here.
5. One thing each team got right in the draft and one thing each got wrong
Even though everyone seems to think that their team had a perfect draft, I have some bad news for you: Your favorite team didn't have a perfect draft. This week, we'll be running a series that covers one thing each team got right in the draft and one thing each team got wrong, so yes, this means every team got at least one thing wrong. It's really kind of depressing if you think about it.
Since the Cowboys are trying to rebound from a disaster of a year in 2020, we're going to focus on them today.
- One thing the Cowboys got right: Add depth at linebacker. "The Cowboys moved aggressively to secure replacements for both Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch before they even leave the roster. They moved down a couple spots in the first round to grab Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons at No. 12 overall. Parsons is a fantastic athlete who is at his best moving downhill against the run or rushing the passer, and seems like a probable replacement for Smith. In the fourth round, Dallas landed LSU linebacker Jabril Cox, a coverage specialist who seems likely to slide into Vander Esch's role, if all goes well."
- One thing the Cowboys got wrong: Didn't invest in a safety. "The Cowboys technically used one draft pick on a safety as they are planning to convert 6-foot-4 South Carolina cornerback Israel Mukuamu (their sixth-round pick) to safety, but they continued to pass on using premium assets to cover up what has been one of the team's biggest weaknesses for years now."
To check out a more in-depth explanation from Jared Dubin on how the Cowboys did in the draft, be sure to click here. If you want to read about one thing the Patriots did right in the draft, then you're definitely going to want to click here. You can also check out our takes on the Bengals (click here), Jets (click here) and Bills (click here).
6. Rapid-fire roundup
It's been a busy 24 hours in the NFL and since it's nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.
- Ravens add some serious depth on the offensive line. Former Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva is heading to Baltimore after the Ravens gave him a two-year deal worth up to $14 million on Tuesday. This is a huge addition for the Ravens, who recently traded away Orlando Brown to the Chiefs.
- Bears cut starting left tackle. In one of the most surprising moves of the week, the Bears cut their starting left tackle Charles Leno on Monday. Leno had started 80 straight games for the Bears dating back to the beginning of the 2016 season. The upside to cutting Leno is that it will save the Bears nearly $10 million. However, the downside is that the Bears are going to move forward with an unproven rookie (Teven Jenkins) at the position.
- Titans draft pick charged with assault. Rashad Weaver, a fourth-round pick who was just drafted by the Titans on Saturday, was charged with one count of simple assault over the weekend. The charge stems from an April 18 incident in Pittsburgh where he allegedly punched a woman. Weaver's lawyer is calling the charges "false and reckless."
- Amazon getting 'Thursday Night Football' one year early. If you want to watch "Thursday Night Football," you're going to need Amazon Prime starting in 2022. When the new NFL media deal was originally announced, Amazon was going to take over TNF in 2023, but that deal is now going to start one year early. Fox will air TNF in 2021 before it moves to Amazon in 2022. According to The Action Network, Amazon is paying $1.2 billion per year for exclusive rights to TNF.
- Raiders drafted zero skill players. If you're wondering what the most stunning news to come out of the draft was, it was this: For the first time in franchise history, the Raiders didn't draft a single skill player. Before this year, if you were a speedy receiver, there was basically a 90% chance the Raiders were going to draft you, but it seems that's all changing. The Raiders didn't select a single receiver, tight end, quarterback or running back.
7. The Kicker: Jets drafted two players named Michael Carter
If your name is Michael Carter, there's a 50% chance you got drafted by the Jets over the weekend and that's because they apparently decided to stockpile their team with players named Michael Carter.
The Jets actually selected two guys named Michael Carter on Saturday. The first one came in the fourth round when they selected North Carolina running back Michael Carter with the 107th overall pick. Later in the day, they grabbed Duke safety Michael Carter II in the fifth round with the 154th overall pick in the draft.
Did the Jets select the wrong Michael Carter in the fourth round and then have to make up for it by drafting another Michael Carter in the fifth round? That would be a totally believable theory because, I mean, this is the Jets we're talking about after all, but they did have another pick sandwiched in there at 146th overall and that player wasn't named Michael Carter, so I think they got everything right.
If the Jets want to get tricky this year, they should ask every player on the team to change their name to Michael Carter and that's mostly because I'm pretty sure that would confuse every opponent on their schedule.
Someone who will not be changing his name to Michael Carter is Cody Benjamin. However, he will be handling your hump day newsletter tomorrow, so please be nice. I would be here, but I don't work on Cinco De Mayo. My agent worked that into my contract. He's good at his job.