The NFL draft is typically about who’s next for each team. But while veteran players might receive more competition from the annual influx of rookies, the newbies can actually provide some help and positive clarity for the vets, too.
That’s where we went with this edition of the NFL Power Rankings, as several established NFL players got a boost from their teams’ drafts. Whether it’s quarterbacks getting new playmakers, defenders getting help with their jobs, or indirect votes of confidence, some vets really like the way the draft went down.
How we rank in our Power Rankings: Our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — evaluated how teams stack up throughout the season.
Player who benefited: QB Patrick Mahomes. Drafting RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire not only gives the team another threat, but is another sign that the Chiefs are committed to surrounding Mahomes with top offensive skill players. Kansas City won a Super Bowl with Damien Williams as the featured back, and other capable runners are on the roster, but the Chiefs weren’t satisfied. They felt like they had to take it up another notch, and Mahomes is the main beneficiary. — Adam Teicher
Player who benefited: OLB Jaylon Ferguson. The third-round pick had a quiet rookie season with 2.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits, but his grip on keeping a starting job strengthened after the Ravens surprisingly didn’t select an edge rusher with any of their 10 draft picks. Baltimore passed on AJ Epenesa and Yetur Gross-Matos in the first round and chose not to take Zack Baun or Josh Uche in the second. The Ravens could sign a veteran pass-rusher before the season, but the draft provided a vote of confidence in Ferguson. — Jamison Hensley
Player who benefited: QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Let’s not overcomplicate this. The 49ers lost an All-Decade left tackle when Joe Staley retired, and they replaced him with seven-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams in a Day 3 trade. Williams should help keep Garoppolo upright and give him more time to throw to receivers like Brandon Aiyuk, the No. 25 overall pick who will be charged with replacing much of Emmanuel Sanders‘ production. Staley and Sanders are big losses for the offense and, by extension, Garoppolo. But the Niners did well to add Williams and Aiyuk, both of whom have the ability to make Garoppolo’s life easier. — Nick Wagoner
Player who benefited: RB Alvin Kamara. We already knew how important Kamara is to the Saints as he heads into the final year of his contract. But he is even more vital now as both a runner and receiver after the Saints didn’t address either position in the draft. (ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported that they were considering RB Jonathan Taylor in Round 1, among other possibilities.) As a bonus for Kamara, the Saints used their first-round pick on center Cesar Ruiz, whose highlight package is filled with him blowing up huge running lanes. — Mike Triplett
Player who benefited: WR David Moore. And for that matter, Phillip Dorsett. Moore and Dorsett look like the most realistic candidates to be Seattle’s third receiver behind Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. They might have had competition if the Seahawks had drafted a receiver earlier than the last pick of the sixth round, where they took Florida’s Freddie Swain. Seventh-round pick Stephen Sullivan looks more like a tight end and a development prospect than someone who will have a significant role right away. That’s good news for Moore and Dorsett, who are scheduled to be free agents next offseason. — Brady Henderson
Player who benefited: WR Allen Lazard. The former undrafted free agent finished last season as WR2 behind Davante Adams, but just about everyone expected the Packers to make significant additions to the position group. Yet all they’ve done so far is sign Devin Funchess, who missed most of last season because of an injury. Lazard might lack speed and burst, but he stands above the rest of the Packers’ wideouts at 6-foot-5. Said coach Matt LaFleur after the Packers did not draft a single receiver: “Allen Lazard, the things he brought to us from a physicality standpoint, he made a bunch of big plays.” — Rob Demovsky
Stephen A. Smith breaks down why the Buccaneers have the best shot of getting past the 49ers in the NFC.
Player who benefited: QB Tom Brady. The Bucs got the 42-year-old quarterback one of the top tackles in the draft, Tristan Wirfs; he can start at right tackle from Day 1. They also added Ke’Shawn Vaughn, a complete back and strong pass-blocker; dynamic receiver Tyler Johnson, who was a steal in the fifth round; and speedy running back Raymond Calais. And they did all this without neglecting their defense. Plus, they used their fourth-round pick to trade for Rob Gronkowski on the eve of the draft, so that counts, right? — Jenna Laine
Player who benefited: WR Kalif Raymond. The Titans were believed to be interested in adding speed at receiver, specifically a vertical threat on the outside. But they didn’t use any picks to add a wideout, so Raymond stands as their top vertical threat and has a good shot at being the fourth receiver. He showed that he’s a legitimate downfield option last season, when he hauled in two touchdown receptions that were over 40 yards — including one in the playoffs. Raymond was also in the mix for punt return duties last year, and the Titans didn’t draft a player with significant punt return experience. — Turron Davenport
Player who benefited: WR Adam Thielen. The Vikings drafted Stefon Diggs‘ heir apparent when they took Justin Jefferson No. 22 overall, and the LSU star immediately fills the No. 2 receiver opening. Jefferson had 100 receptions out of the slot last year and is primed to catch a lot of passes from Kirk Cousins in 2020, but it’s the attention he’ll draw from defenses that could help Thielen see less bracket man coverage. The Vikings also added K.J. Osborn and Quartney Davis in the draft. Minnesota might have defined roles for their top four receivers for the first time in years. — Courtney Cronin
Booger McFarland says the Cowboys are wasting time by not already having a deal done with Dak Prescott.
Player who benefited: QB Dak Prescott. We don’t know when or if Prescott will show up for the virtual offseason program as he awaits a long-term contract, but whenever he is back, how can he not benefit from the addition of CeeDee Lamb in the first round? With Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Lamb, the Cowboys might feature the best three-receiver group they have ever had. Add that to Ezekiel Elliott, a good offensive line (even without Travis Frederick) and new coach Mike McCarthy, and the offense should flourish, which means Prescott will flourish. Quarterbacks across the league should envy the position Prescott is in. — Todd Archer
Player who benefited: QB Josh Allen. Although A.J. Klein is a candidate, given that the Bills did not draft anyone to take snaps away from him at linebacker, GM Brandon Beane got Allen three new playmakers for Buffalo’s quietly ascending offense. Gabriel Davis and Isaiah Hodgins are high-point receivers with wide catch radiuses, and RB Zack Moss should be able to handle short-yardage situations so Allen doesn’t have to. The Bills are committing to Allen as their quarterback and have invested more in their offense this offseason than they have in the past decade. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Player who benefited: TE Zach Ertz. The Eagles invested heavy in speed receivers, using draft picks on Jalen Reagor, John Hightower and Quez Watkins and trading for Marquise Goodwin. Add them to DeSean Jackson, and you have a group that will stretch the field and open things up underneath for Dallas Goedert and Ertz, who was double- and triple-teamed last season with few dynamic playmakers around him. The influx of receiver talent will help Carson Wentz, too, though the Jalen Hurts selection in Round 2 makes it hard to select Wentz as the player who benefits most from this draft. — Tim McManus
Player who benefited: QB Philip Rivers. The Colts added to their skill positions to help Rivers out, using their first two draft picks on receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Jonathan Taylor, whom they traded up to get. They also selected receiver Dezmon Patmon later in the draft. Pittman and Taylor should make an immediate impact. Pittman has the size to go with the speed of T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell at receiver. Taylor will share the workload in the backfield with Marlon Mack, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season. — Mike Wells
Players who benefited: QBs Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph. The quarterbacks came away from the draft with new playmakers and more job security. Roethlisberger got Martavis Bryant 2.0 with WR Chase Claypool, and the team didn’t draft a quarterback, further solidifying Rudolph’s job as the backup and potential heir apparent whenever Roethlisberger retires. Rudolph had a rocky 2019 season, but the team believes in developing him with the help of new QB coach Matt Canada. All of the moves signal that they believe Roethlisberger will be at full strength whenever the season starts, and they want to make his job as easy as possible. — Brooke Pryor
Player who benefited: QB Jarrett Stidham. When the Patriots passed on QB Jordan Love at No. 23, and then passed on every other quarterback for the rest of the draft, it further cleared the path for Stidham to elevate from QB2 to QB1. Bill Belichick isn’t just going to hand him the job, though. Stidham still has to beat out veteran Brian Hoyer. — Mike Reiss
Player who benefited: RG Zach Fulton. Because of his $7 million salary, Fulton was a candidate to be released before the season if Houston could find a cheaper option. But the Texans did not draft a guard — Charlie Heck is expected to play tackle — and Fulton’s spot could be safe, unless Houston finds a veteran free agent or feels comfortable giving the job to Greg Mancz or Senio Kelemete. O’Brien has called this a “veteran-type year” due to the restrictions of the virtual offseason program and unknowns about when the team will be able to return to the field, which would help Fulton’s case. — Sarah Barshop
Player who benefited: QB Jared Goff. The Rams moved on from two key players when they released running back Todd Gurley and traded receiver Brandin Cooks. Gurley was Goff’s every-down back, and Cooks was the speedy deep threat who stretched a defense. But with their first two picks in the draft, both in the second round, the Rams selected Florida State RB Cam Akers and Florida WR Van Jefferson. The team also picked up tight end Brycen Hopkins in the fourth round. They are expected to contribute as rookies, and their addition ensures that Goff will again have a full arsenal of playmakers. — Lindsey Thiry
Player who benefited: RB Todd Gurley. The Falcons didn’t draft a running back, although GM Thomas Dimitroff hinted that the team might look for another explosive threat out of the backfield. Maybe that indicates how confident the Falcons feel about Gurley’s left knee and his ability to contribute, despite being released by the Rams. Or maybe that means the Falcons are confident in Brian Hill, Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison, the group of backups behind Gurley. Whatever the case, the Falcons have to improve a running game that ranked 30th in the league last season (85.1 yards per game). — Vaughn McClure
Player who benefited: OLB Chandler Jones. The Cardinals set out to upgrade their defense and overhauled most of their front seven. No one will benefit more than Jones, who had 19 sacks last season with a fraction of the talent he’ll have around him in 2020. Arizona added LB Isaiah Simmons in the first round and signed DT Jordan Phillips, LB De’Vondre Campbell and LB Devon Kennard. DT Corey Peters and LB Jordan Hicks return. Jones will be surrounded by players who can get to the quarterback, which will force offensive lines to decide who to double-team and who to leave one-on-one. — Josh Weinfuss
Stephen A. Smith sees the Browns as the biggest threat to the Ravens in the AFC North.
Player who benefited: It has to be QB Baker Mayfield, right? In selecting OT Jedrick Wills Jr. with the No. 10 pick, the Browns believe they’ve solved their issues protecting Mayfield’s blind side. No AFC QB was sacked more often per pass attempt than Mayfield last season. In adding Wills and right tackle Jack Conklin in free agency, the Browns figure to be among the league’s most improved teams at protecting their QB. — Jake Trotter
Player who benefited: S Deon Bush. The Bears bypassed drafting a starting-caliber safety — Grant Delpit or Antoine Winfield Jr. — and instead took tight end Cole Kmet in the second round at No. 43. Bush — chosen in the fourth round by the Bears in 2016 — spent the past four seasons as a reserve defensive back/special-teamer but now appears the favorite to open on the first team, next to Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson. The Bears also signed veteran Jordan Lucas to a one-year deal in free agency, but Bush’s contract contains the second-most guaranteed money of any safety on Chicago’s roster, behind Jackson, in 2020. — Jeff Dickerson
Player who benefited: QB Derek Carr. Though that also means there are no more excuses to fall back on, should the Raiders quarterback falter this season. Carr, who averaged a league-low 6.2 air yards per attempt in 2019, and the Raiders never truly recovered from the Antonio Brown misadventure (even if RB Josh Jacobs, TE Darren Waller and slot receiver Hunter Renfrow were revelations). So by giving Carr the fastest player in the draft (WR Henry Ruggs III) and the most versatile (RB/WR/QB Lynn Bowden Jr.), as well as a big, physical, red zone threat (WR Bryan Edwards), the bar is raised. — Paul Gutierrez
Player who benefited: QB Drew Lock. It’s no contest. The Broncos drafted three receivers, including Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler with the team’s first two picks; a tight end, Albert Okwuegbunam, who ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash at the combine; and a starting center, Lloyd Cushenberry III. Denver then signed two more wide receivers after the draft concluded. That is in addition to signing guard Graham Glasgow and running back Melvin Gordon in free agency. If you needed proof the Broncos are giving their second-year quarterback every chance to succeed, just look at their offseason moves. — Jeff Legwold
Players who benefited: OTs Sam Tevi and Trey Pipkins. It was widely predicted that the Chargers would look for their future left tackle in the draft. However, they did not select an offensive lineman, despite trading up to make a second first-round pick (linebacker Kenneth Murray). Their decision not to draft an offensive lineman must point to their confidence that an internal candidate is ready to take over. Tevi’s and Pipkins’ names have been the two most often mentioned by Chargers coach Anthony Lynn and general manager Tom Telesco. — Lindsey Thiry
Player who benefited: WR Albert Wilson. Penciled in as the Dolphins’ slot and No. 3 receiver, Wilson seemed to jump off the roster bubble after the draft. Miami didn’t draft a single pure receiver among its 11 picks; Navy’s versatile Malcolm Perry was selected in the seventh room, but it might be a year or two before he can develop into a reliable option. Wilson, coming off two injury-stricken seasons, showed enough explosiveness and yards-after-catch ability in December to prompt the Dolphins to bring him back for Year 3. — Cameron Wolfe
Player who benefited: QB Sam Darnold. The Jets’ first two picks, LT Mekhi Becton and WR Denzel Mims, were made with Darnold in mind. In Becton, Darnold should have his blindside protector for the next decade. The move caps an offensive line overhaul that likely will result in four new starters. Becton will have growing pains, but his upside is tremendous. Mims can be Darnold’s new Robby Anderson, perhaps better — a long, lean receiver with deep speed. GM Joe Douglas said he wanted to deliver protection and playmakers for Darnold. Looks like he delivered. — Rich Cimini
Trey Wingo speaks with new Carolina coach Matt Rhule, who explains why the Panthers chose to pick only defensive players in the 2020 draft.
Player who benefited: DE-OLB Brian Burns. Adding first-round pick Derrick Brown at defensive tackle next to Pro Bowler Kawann Short is going to create a lot of inside push and demand a lot of double-teams. That leaves Burns, last year’s first-round pick, with more room to get to the quarterback. Look for a lot more Spider-Man celebrations out of Burns, who impersonates his superhero with “Spidey” poses after each sack. He had 7.5 last season as a rookie, despite dealing with a wrist injury that forced him to wear a cast or a brace for much of the season. Quarterbacks beware. — David Newton
Player who benefited: OT Taylor Decker. The Lions didn’t draft an offensive tackle; that could signal the team’s future plans for Decker, who is entering a contract year. Depending how things play out, it could mean a long-term extension for the former first-round pick. Detroit focused more on the interior of the offensive line by drafting guards Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenberg, giving Decker some potential long-term help. Add in speedy running backs D’Andre Swift and Jason Huntley, and it ended up being a good draft for Decker. — Michael Rothstein
Player who benefited: QB Daniel Jones. The Giants committed to protecting Jones well into the future. And not just with tackle Andrew Thomas at No. 4 overall. They drafted three offensive linemen in the first five rounds for the first time in the modern draft era. Thomas, tackle Matt Peart and guard/center Shane Lemieux are now part of the draft class that will forever known as GM Dave Gettleman’s last stab at fixing this offensive line “once and for all.” The idea is for an improved line to protect Jones and Saquon Barkley. Hard to argue with the logic. — Jordan Raanan
Player who benefited: RT Bobby Hart. When the Bengals passed on an offensive tackle early in the draft, it cemented the notion that Hart had great odds of holding on to his starting spot. Hart has been subjected to a lot of criticism from the fan base, but he battled through it to impress the coaching staff and earn a vote of confidence this offseason. — Ben Baby
Player who benefited: DE Montez Sweat. The Redskins, and Sweat, believed the switch to a 4-3 defense was going to be a big boost for him. But the arrival of end Chase Young will provide significant help as well. Teams will slide the protection more often than not in Young’s direction, freeing up the opposite side for more one-on-ones. Both Sweat and Young also have the ability to factor on inside rushes, too, because of their power and length. Sweat finished with seven sacks as a rookie, but Young’s addition will increase his ability to make a bigger impact in his second season. — John Keim
Player who benefited: DE Josh Allen. With the team trading Calais Campbell and the uncertainty about Yannick Ngakoue‘s status, Allen was all alone in the pass-rush, a daunting task for a second-year player. But the Jaguars drafted K’Lavon Chaisson with the No. 20 pick, so teams can’t just game plan around stopping Allen. Chaisson is still raw, but he has the ability to create problems for opposing offenses. Plus, the addition of Chaisson means the Jaguars are going to use more 3-4 concepts, which also will help Allen, who more than held his own dropping into coverage in college. — Mike DiRocco