Pre-Draft NFL Power Rankings: Kansas City Chiefs top stacked AFC crowd

The Kansas City Chiefs top these power rankings, but where do the remaining 31 teams stand ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft?
AFC Divisional Playoffs - Kansas City Chiefs v Buffalo Bills
AFC Divisional Playoffs - Kansas City Chiefs v Buffalo Bills / Timothy T Ludwig/GettyImages
1 of 8

The NFL Draft is finally here, but let's look at where teams around the National Football League stack up ahead of this weekend's festivities in Detroit.

Which teams need a great draft class to shake things up, and which are relying on strong free-agent approaches to win in 2024?

1. Kansas City Chiefs

Was there any doubt about where the Super Bowl champions would rank?

Patrick Mahomes continues to make magic happen on the field, and general manager Brett Veach's restructuring of his contract allowed for some magic this offseason. It provided $21.6 million in cap relief and was critical in several Kansas City moves. The team added Marquise Brown on a one-year deal while retaining veteran Drue Tranquil on a three-year deal, two of the most impactful moves this offseason.

Chris Jones is staying with the team on a five-year extension, with $95 million guaranteed in the first three years. He is undoubtedly the league's top defensive tackle following Donald's retirement, so Kansas City keeping him only bolsters their three-peat quest. The Chiefs' defensive line leader is just one of many they retained this offseason.

The team trading away L'Jarius Sneed is their biggest loss, along with safety Mike Edwards and linebacker Willie Gay Jr. Expecting Kansas City to not miss a beat isn't fair, especially considering how Edwards stepped up down the stretch. But Kansas City already has in-house replacements for those three or more of the newly departed free agents.

Kansas City does still need a strong draft to stay atop these rankings. They do have seven selections, much fewer than some of the league's other competitors. Veach still has a great track record of selecting contributors in the later rounds while allowing higher selections more time to grow at the NFL level. Running back, wide receiver, and offensive tackle are certain targets during this week's draft.

2. Baltimore Ravens

Football fans in the DMV will undoubtedly say the Baltimore Ravens are the NFL's team to beat heading into 2024. The AFC North favorite has made several calculated moves this offseason, retaining the right players but losing several key contributors. But, like the Bills, it is not smart to count out any team with quarterback Lamar Jackson leading the charge. Unlike the Bills, Baltimore has a much more complete roster, and it will compete with Kansas City this year.

Baltimore's biggest offseason move was extending defensive tackle Justin Madubuike to a four-year, $98 million deal. The Ravens expect more from the interior terrorizer, now one of the highest-paid defensive tackles in the league. Adding veteran running back Derrick Henry has unquestionably been the Ravens' headline free-agent acquisition this offseason. The former Tennessee Titans star is not in his prime but should fit nicely in Baltimore's offense and replace the production of Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins. 

This team needs the wide receiver corps, or anyone not named Zay Flowers, to step up in 2024. Odell Beckham Jr. and Devin Duvernay are not returning, so the Ravens will certainly use some draft capital on the position. Also, adding more defensive line, offensive line, and running back depth should be a priority.

The underrated question is how defensive coordinator Zach Orr does in his first year as a playcaller. The former NFL linebacker is now the league's second-youngest coordinator and does not have nearly the same defensive firepower his predecessor had in 2023. If Orr holds up his end of the bargain, Baltimore's defense shouldn't miss a beat. 

3. San Francisco 49ers

History is not kind to Super Bowl losers, but the San Francisco 49ers look to defy history this year. They are by far the NFC's best team on paper, and they may get better this offseason. They moved on from veteran defensive tackle and team captain Arik Armstead, generating more than $18 million in cap space this offseason. That was their biggest loss and several other depth players found new homes.

Quarterback Brock Purdy will once again be a focal point, but running back and NFL Offensive Player of the Year Christian McCaffrey should make his job easier. Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk continue to dominate the wide receiver room. Tight end George Kittle showed what he can do when healthy last season, posting a career-high 16 starts and 15.7 yards per reception.

Their defensive secondary is somewhat thin at safety, but several cornerback additions and an elite defensive front make the defensive backfield's job easy. Safety and linebacker should be a draft target for the reigning NFC champions, but this team would be a winner even if the season started today.

San Francisco could move on from Aiyuk before the season starts, as he is in the final year of his rookie deal. But if they hold him and hope for an extension, then this team should not miss a beat in 2024. Kyle Shanahan's team also has six picks within the top 135 selections in the NFL Draft, so their rookie class could be one of the NFL's most impactful. 

4. Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills are still the top AFC East team, even after trading away Stefon Diggs. They entered this offseason in dire financial straits, forcing them to move on from center Mitch Morse, cornerback Tre'Davious White, and several other players. It is hard to count out any team captained by quarterback Josh Allen, though.

Buffalo retained defensive tackle DaQuan Jones and defensive end A.J. Epenesa but failed to do the same with Leonard Floyd and Dan Jackson. The wide receiver room is also wide open after trading away Diggs and Davis signing with the Jaguars. Curtis Samuel and Khalil Shakir will factor highly into the Bills' passing offense, but they need more bodies and talent for Allen to target.

The defensive losses hit hardest, especially both safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer looking for new homes. Taylor Rapp remains in Buffalo, but that is a huge position that this team needs. They are loaded with draft capital, though, holding 11 total picks and seven in the first five rounds. If desired, they will have ammunition to move up, but this team has holes at safety, wide receiver, linebacker, and pass rusher to address.

This team has not cap space ahead of the NFL Draft, but White's post-June 1 status will open up funds later this summer. They could look for reinforcements still on the free agent market or possibly make an impactful trade following that additional cap space. Even without a splashy move, counting out Buffalo in 2024 feels unwise.

5. Cincinnati Bengals

I don't like the Cincinnati Bengals as much as the next Chiefs fan, but you have to respect them with a healthy Joe Burrow under center. Cincinnati never had the former Heisman Trophy winner at full strength between dealing with a preseason calf injury before a wrist ligament tear in Week 11 prematurely ending his season. Despite still being competitive, they couldn't hang on against a quality late-season slate.

Following the season, the Bengals retained Tee Higgins, a once popular trade target for Chiefs Kingdom, on the franchise tag as well. With Tyler Boyd hitting free agency, Higgins offers a quality secondary target behind Ja'Marr Chase. Boyd remains available, so I wonder if Cincinnati will strike up negotiations depending on how the draft goes.

Their defense took some big hits, namely losing Reader and cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. They responded by adding Sheldon Rankings and Geno Stone on two-year deals, but the defensive backfield still needs help. Also, the interior offensive line is dreadful, and it only got worse when Jonah Williams departed in free agency. They have two picks in the top 50, so plenty of quality talent will be available in the draft.

Higgin's status in 2024 could hinder their player acquisition plans this summer, but they still have $24,332,332 in cap space, according to Spotrac. The Bengals will have no easy task navigating the AFC North this year, but they made two AFC Championships and a Super Bowl appearance for a reason. Burrow's return should put the Bengals back on the map in 2024.