Earlier today, ESPN released their future power rankings for the NFL teams. The ranking is based on the outlook for the next three years, and it was compiled based on the rankings of John Clayton, Louis Riddick, and Mike Sando. They rated each team on a scale of 0-100 in five areas: the roster (minus the quarterback position), the quarterback position, the draft, the front office, and the coaching. Those five areas are then weighted and averaged and the final ranking is figured out.
The Indianapolis Colts came in at number 16 on the list, right in the middle of the league. That's right, a team that many think might be able to reach the Super Bowl this year was ranked as the 16th-best team when looking at the outlook for the next three years with an overall score of 69 (though the best score in the AFC South). Here are the five areas, the scores they gave the Colts, and where that ranks among the rest of the league:
Roster: 59.7, 27th in NFL
Quarterback: 96.3, 2nd in NFL
Draft: 65.0, 21st in NFL
Front Office: 62.3, 28th in NFL
Coaching: 63.7, 25th in NFL
Though the ranking of number 16 overall seems low for a team that will be competing for a Super Bowl this year and likely for years to come, is it really that unfair? To get some perspective, we asked two Stampede Blue writers for their opinion of the Colts' ranking. Josh Wilson and Stephen Reed both give their take on the overall ranking, plus some of the five individual areas as well.
When I first read the list, I was surprised to just keep scrolling down to number 16, as when most people talk about "future power rankings," the Colts are normally near the top of the list. The reason is simple: they have Andrew Luck. And these writers absolutely don't underrate Luck, as he gave the Colts the second-best score at the quarterback position in the league, behind only Aaron Rodgers (who scored two points better than Luck's 96.3). In fact, behind Rodgers and Luck, the next closest quarterback score was the Patriots and Tom Brady, with a score of 87.7 - a full 8.6 points behind Luck. When it comes to the quarterback position, there's no doubt: the Packers and the Colts are set up better than anyone else for the future, and it's not close.
The rest of the rankings, however, have the Colts near the bottom of the league. Their roster is ranked 27th. Their front office is ranked 28th. Their coaching is ranked 25th. This doesn't sound anything like a team that is competing for a Super Bowl this year, but in reality, it's probably closer to being accurate than many might want to admit. There are plenty of questions about Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano, while the team's signing of veteran players this offseason certainly doesn't figure to set them up well for the future. These rankings might be a bit low, but overall they seem close to accurate.
What can we learn from this list? Well, it should make us realize even more how good Andrew Luck is. Remember, this is a team that is coming off of three playoff appearances, two division titles, and an AFC Championship game berth a year ago. And ESPN says that they have among the worst rosters, front offices, and coaching staffs in the entire league? It just adds to the (true) narrative that Andrew Luck has carried this team. Overall, I do think the overall score for the Colts is too low, because I would tend to weight the quarterback position more than ESPN seemed to (it represented 20% of the overall score, behind the roster and tied with the coaching). We've seen over and over again in today's NFL that having a quarterback is crucial to winning. The Colts have a great one, and so for as long as Andrew Luck is behind center for the Colts, they'll win football games and be a contender. For all the benefits of doing a ranking like this one that looks at the different areas, the quarterback position is the most important and the Colts are set up as well as anyone there. I think that should count for a little bit more than it did in ESPN's rankings.
Similar to Josh, I opened the ESPN article and assumed the Colts would be near the top, almost assuredly in the top 10. I mean this team is coming off a trip to the AFC Championship Game, has their core players returning and acquired some much needed veteran help at key positions. I scrolled and scrolled to see the likes of Minnesota, Cincinnati and Kansas City go by thinking the Colts have to be coming up soon. The wait was over at 16. SIXTEEN!?!? I immediately went back up to see which Patriots loving writer came up with these bogus rankings only to see it was three well respected, well connected and largely impartial NFL writers. After reading their analysis, it's hard to argue because it's the same thing many of us have been bringing up over the past year. This team is vastly overachieving given the roster construction and multiple misses in player acquisition.
Many of us have pointed out that GM Ryan Grigson basically got a Golden Ticket on his first time opening a Wonka Bar. He won the biggest lottery jackpot with a ticket he got as a Christmas present. Grigson got the luxury of picking the best prospect in this generation at the most difficult position to fill with his first pick in his first draft. I mean, come on. Any GM would beg for that chance. In the minds of most Colts fans, he's been living off that jackpot pick ever since. Realistically, three of these categories are directly related to Ryan Grigson, i.e., Roster, Draft and Front Office.
As Josh pointed out, the Colts were in the bottom 20 in four out of the five categories. So how significant is Andrew Luck to the Colts ranking? Well, if you take the QB out of the equation and simply calculate the rankings based on Roster, Draft, Front Office and Coaching, the Colts come out 27th. Yeah, 27th, with a score of 49.74. Only Tampa Bay (45), Oakland (43.44), Cleveland (48.9), Tennessee (42.3) and Jacksonville (44.26) were worse. Quite honestly, that's far too low in my opinion. However, it emphasizes just how much Andrew Luck means to this team and how much a great QB can change the fortunes of a franchise.
The roster in my mind is not the 27th ranked roster in the league. It's got several solid players littered throughout the roster that are Pro Bowl players or are solid starters. Yes, the lines have holes but your skill players are beyond stacked and the secondary isn't terrible. Now it's harder to argue that the front office and coaching has been more than below average. Grigson has consistently swung and missed on free agents. Yeah, people point to Mike Adams and Jerrell Freeman, but for every decent pick up there are three or four terrible ones. With regards to coaching, every year most informed Colts fans kind of expect to have a game or two where the team just gets straight up out coached by a team that does something we all predicted they'd do. It's a bit maddening as a fan but the Front Office and Coaching rankings sound about right.
As for the Draft grade, being ranked 21st, that seems about right as well. Grigson is being buoyed by his first draft and sunk by the next one. The past two drafts are still undecided but the Mewhort and Moncrief picks look great and the Newsome pick, who I admittedly got wrong, looks like it could be a steal as well. I'm actually very excited about this year's draft class as I think Grigson added a ton of talent that will help this team win in both the short and long term. In my opinion, if these last two classes pan out, Grigson again becomes a top 10 drafting GM because we're all allowed to swing and miss once.
All that being said, Josh is right, the QB position should be worth more to the ranking and quite honestly I think the Front Office should be ranked less. A lot of these categories overlap in the Roster and Draft or how either of those relate to the Front Office. If the QB position is ranked more and the other positions are ranked more accordingly, the Colts should probably be ranked closer to the 8 to 12 range but certainly not behind teams like Cincinnati, Carolina or Minnesota. So in my mind, the Colts should be ranked higher than 16th but probably not too much.
What are your thoughts on the Colts' ranking? Do you think 16th is too high, too low, or just right?