By: Maurice Moton via Bleacher Report
At times, you have to expect the unexpected in the NFL. Teams rise and fall with strong free-agent hauls and then use the draft to put the final touches on a revamped roster ready to compete for a playoff spot or even a Super Bowl.
This year, plenty of clubs made significant changes, and a handful will go into the draft with only one or two glaring holes. We could be talking about a new set of dark horses for 2020.
We've listed five squads with their Caesars Palace Super Bowl odds—all +2800 and higher—and broke down the rosters. What has each club done to improve its 2020 outlook? How could these teams take another step on draft day?
1 OF 5
Super Bowl odds: +2800 (Bet $100 to win $2,800)
The Buffalo Bills are 25-23 with two winning seasons under head coach Sean McDermott. He'll now coach several of his former defensive players from the Carolina Panthers in cornerback Josh Norman, edge-rusher Mario Addison, defensive tackle Vernon Butler and linebacker A.J. Klein.
Despite the club's playoff berth last season and quality acquisitions, Vegas isn't high on the Bills.
In 2019, Buffalo allowed the second-fewest points and ranked third in yards allowed. Now, with Addison and Butler capable of bolstering the pass rush, this unit could shut down offenses with pressure up front and a top-five pass defense from last season.
Offensively, the Bills should also improve. Josh Allen will go into his third season, and he'll have a new lead wide receiver in Stefon Diggs, who joins the team via trade from Minnesota.
Even though the Bills gave up their first-round pick for Diggs, they have their second- and third-round selections without any big holes to fill. Buffalo can add another running back to pair with Devin Singletary, though he did log at least 15 carries in six of the last nine games.
Nonetheless, the front office can consider a high-upside tailback, and J.K. Dobbins, Jonathan Taylor and Clyde Edwards-Helaire may be available in the second round.
Within the AFC East, the Bills have an easier path to the postseason. The New England Patriots won't have Tom Brady under center, the Miami Dolphins are still in rebuild mode without a franchise quarterback, and the New York Jets haven't finished with a winning record since 2015.
The Bills went one-and-done in the postseason last year, but they'll be back with an improved offense and an even stronger defense.
2 OF 5
Super Bowl odds: +3000
Vegas doesn't think much of Ryan Tannehill's strong performance through the second half of the 2019 season or his Comeback Player of the Year honor.
The Tennessee Titans signed him to a four-year, $118 million deal, which says the franchise definitely believes in him. He pulled a 2-4 team out of the mud into the AFC Championship Game, and he led the league in quarterback rating (117.5), forming a strong rapport with A.J. Brown, who led all rookies in receiving yards (1,051).
Of course, Tannehill had help, as Derrick Henry earned the rushing title with 1,540 yards.
Henry won't have one of his perimeter blockers next season, as right tackle Jack Conklin signed with the Cleveland Browns. Dennis Kelly and Ty Sambrailo may battle for the vacant spot, or the Titans could add someone with the No. 29 pick. The front office might consider Austin Jackson or Josh Jones if they're equipped to flip from the left to the right side.
Tannehill, Henry and Brown are the key components to an offense that ranked 10th in scoring last year, and with an offseason together, that trio will be hard to defend in 2020.
The Titans traded Jurrell Casey—an interior playmaker who has recorded at least five sacks in seven consecutive seasons—to the Denver Broncos. On the flip side, the defense will have Jeffery Simmons, who missed seven games while recovering from a torn ACL, for a full campaign. The 22-year-old has the pass-rushing ability to compensate for the loss of Casey and hold two gaps, allowing Harold Landry and Vic Beasley to make plays off the edge.
Beasley finished his final season with the Atlanta Falcons on a strong note, registering four sacks after Week 13. If he stays on that pace, his second chapter with a new team could include another Pro Bowl season.
In 2019, Tennessee ranked 17th in quarterback pressures (142). If Simmons and Beasley can bring more heat near the pocket, the pass defense should rank higher than 24th next season—even without cornerback Logan Ryan.
On Day 2 of the draft, the Titans could take a cornerback such as Amik Robertson to cover Ryan's old spot in the slot. With that addition, head coach Mike Vrabel would have a defense with talent spread evenly across all three levels.
Las Vegas Raiders
3 OF 5
Super Bowl odds: +3000
The Las Vegas Raiders had a strong free-agency haul, but outside of linebacker Cory Littleton, their moves didn't make a huge splash. That's OK because the Silver and Black spread their money to cover multiple areas of need.
The front office double-dipped at linebacker to shore up the position before the draft for the first time in recent memory. Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski will play the middle of the field and provide some athleticism and coverage ability on the second level.
The Raiders can match Littleton up with tight ends, and Kwiatkoski (6'2", 242 lbs) can play the shallow passing lanes and also lower the boom and tackle near the line of scrimmage.
Defensive tackle Maliek Collins joins a stout defensive line that ranked eighth in run defense last season, and he'll add interior pocket pressure, as the four-year veteran has 14.5 sacks for his career.
Defensive end Carl Nassib has 12.5 sacks over the past two seasons, and he'll bring pressure on the edge behind the team's 2019 sack leader, Maxx Crosby (10), and last year's No. 4 overall pick, Clelin Ferrell (4.5).
The Raiders' deal with cornerback Eli Apple fell apart, but they quickly flipped that money into a one-year contract with defensive back Damarious Randall, who is the perfect fit for what the defense needs on the back end.
Before a rough 2019 campaign with the Cleveland Browns, logging just six pass breakups, Randall recorded at least three interceptions in each of his first four seasons. He's a ball hawk capable of playing cornerback, in the slot or out wide, along with both safety positions.
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther could use him as a floater between positions like Marcus Gilchrist in 2018 or Daryl Worley at the end of last season, but he's best at center field, reading the quarterback.
In 2019, the Raiders only recorded nine interceptions (29th), so they needed someone with ball skills next to unproven safety Johnathan Abram, who went down with a season-ending shoulder injury in his first regular-season outing.
Without Apple, the Raiders have a big hole at cornerback. They'll likely address that position in the first or third round. Keep an eye on Trevon Diggs (Alabama) and A.J. Terrell, who could reunite with his former Clemson teammate, Trayvon Mullen.
On Day 1 of the draft, general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden should have a shot at one of the top three wide receivers in CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs III.
That rookie wideout would start opposite of Tyrell Williams, who battled plantar fasciitis for most of the 2019 season. In case of another injury, quarterback Derek Carr wouldn't have to rely so heavily on tight end Darren Waller, who racked up 90 receptions for 1,145 yards and three touchdowns last season.
Lamb's ability to exploit open areas all over the field, Jeudy's exceptional route running or Ruggs' game-breaking speed would provide a big spark to the Raiders' 11th-ranked offense. This team may double-dip at the position later in the draft as well.
With running back Josh Jacobs likely healed from a shoulder injury and a new wideout or two, the Silver and Black should have a top-10 offense to lead the way while the defense jells next season.
The Raiders started the 2019 campaign 6-4 but finished 7-9. They'll have a better record in 2020.
4 OF 5
Super Bowl odds: +5000
Within a year, head coach Vic Fangio turned an underachieving defense into a top-10 scoring unit that also ranked 12th in yards allowed. As a defensive coordinator, he's fielded top-notch groups at his last two stops in Chicago and San Francisco, and don't expect anything less with the talent in Denver.
In 2019, Bradley Chubb tore his ACL and missed 12 contests. Assuming he's back opposite Von Miller, the Broncos will have their dynamic edge-rushing duo in full gear. Denver lost Derek Wolfe in free agency but added five-time Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey to maintain the interior pocket pressure and clear lanes for the edge-rushers.
Fangio has familiarity with Bryce Callahan from their time in Chicago between the 2015 and 2018 seasons, and the cornerback will likely man the slot with Chris Harris Jr.'s departure.
On the boundary, Denver welcomes A.J. Bouye via trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Perhaps Fangio can help him rediscover his 2017 Pro Bowl form—a year in which he logged six interceptions and 18 pass breakups.
Offensively, the Broncos added two quality components to the ground attack. According to NFL Network's James Palmer, Melvin Gordon will become the bell-cow running back, and Phillip Lindsay should remain in the change-of-pace role. Graham Glasgow, meanwhile, will replace Connor McGovern at center.
Gordon has 224 receptions for 1,873 yards and 11 touchdowns for his career, and he's going to become a quarterback-friendly target for Drew Lock in the short passing game.
Over the last four seasons with the Detroit Lions, Glasgow has shown consistency, suiting up for all but two games and allowing 3.5 sacks or fewer in each term, per STATS (via the Washington Post).
The Broncos need another wide receiver and a boundary cornerback. Going into his third year, cover man Isaac Yiadom remains an unproven option from the previous regime. Equipped with a top-15 pick, Denver can address either of those needs with a high-end prospect.
If the Broncos land a top wideout (Henry Ruggs III) and a high-upside cornerback (Cameron Dantzler) with two of their five picks in the top 95, they could have a roster that's talented enough to compete for a playoff spot and make the Kansas City Chiefs work harder for the division crown.
5 OF 5
Super Bowl odds: +5500
The Atlanta Falcons added two former first-round picks to an offense that ranked fifth in total yards last season. The unit needed help in the red zone (51.7 percent conversion rate), which explains the club's 13th-ranked scoring attack.
Tight end Hayden Hurst didn't play up to his first-round billing through two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, logging 43 receptions for 512 yards and three touchdowns through 28 outings. As a rookie, he suffered a stress fracture in his foot and fell behind Mark Andrews (98 receptions, 1,404 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns) at the position.
Still, with a first-round pedigree and a 6'4", 260-pound frame, Hurst has the potential to fill Austin Hooper's role in the passing offense as a reliable target. He recorded a 76.9 percent catch rate in 2019.
The Falcons cut running back Devonta Freeman and signed two-time All-Pro Todd Gurley, who is coming off career lows in rushing yards (857) and yards from scrimmage (1,064).
With a problematic knee, Gurley finished the 2019 term with 12 rushing touchdowns—11 of those from inside the 10-yard line. Although he saw a decreased workload (a season-low 14.9 rush attempts per game), the 25-year-old is still a finisher.
Defensively, the Falcons made an upgrade on the edge, allowing Vic Beasley to walk and signing Dante Fowler. The latter had a breakout 2019 campaign, logging 11.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss—both career highs.
At the end of the 2019 term, Beasley came on strong, registering four sacks after Week 13, but he never came close to his 15.5-sack All-Pro campaign in 2016. The Falcons can use the No. 16 overall pick to fill a hole on the boundary opposite cornerback Isaiah Oliver, and Kristian Fulton and CJ Henderson should draw consideration.
Keep in mind, the Falcons rallied late last season, winning six of their last eight games. Although Gurley and Hayden flamed out with their previous clubs, they can help generate more points in the red zone. Fowler, meanwhile, should be the team's sack leader.
With wideouts Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley on the perimeter, the Falcons have enough firepower to compete with the new-look Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints offensively.