Yesterday, ESPN posted their NFL Future Power Rankings. This feature breaks down each team based upon five categories: 1) Roster, 2) QB, 3) Coaching, 4) Draft, and 5) Front Office. After assigning scores to each of these areas, each team was assigned ranks based upon those categories and the scores were given a weighted average. The weights given to each category are as follows: 1) 30%, 2) 20%, 3) 15%, 4) 15%, and 5) 20% respectively.
While some of the results were predictable, there are some things worth noting before we get into the Colts position in the rankings. First is that the weighted average score was designated a grade as follows: 100: A+ (Elite), 90: A (Great), 80: B (Very Good), 70: C (Average), 60: D (Very Bad), and 50: F (Disastrous).
One team was in the 90s (A), the Patriots. Nine teams were in the 80s (B). Fifteen teams were in the 70s (C). Six teams were in the 60s (D). Only one team was rated in the very high 50s (F), the Browns.
The weighted score separation between the Patriots and the second-ranked Seahawks was about 4 points. To put that into perspective, the score separation between the Seahawks and the seventh ranked Raiders is also about 4 points. Between the Raiders and the 13th ranked Panthers is about 4 points. Between the Panthers and the 22nd ranked Cardinals is about 4 points. This gives you an idea of how tight the scores are in the given areas — also how significant it is for the Patriots to be in a class all by themselves.
As for Indianapolis? The Colts were ranked 12th (78.97) in future power rank. They were notably behind the 9th place ranked Tennessee Titans. However, they were ranked well ahead of the 23rd Houston Texans (73.45) and 27th Jacksonville Jaguars (69.02).
The Colts were ranked 5th for the draft, tied for 5th at QB, tied for 8th at front office, with a paltry ranking of 23rd for roster, and tied for 26th for coaching.
As for reasons the Colts were pulled down in the rankings, Yates and Riddick explained that the team has missed two postseasons and has a new general manager, along with a need to improve protection for Luck and unanswered questions surrounding significant defensive turnover. As for what could change for the better, Mike Sando states:
There's a huge gap between Indy's outlook for drafting (No. 5 ranking) and for non-QB roster (No. 23). But if the Colts draft well under Ballard, their roster outlook is going to improve as well. Throw in the No. 9 ranking among front offices -- another reflection of confidence in Ballard -- and this looks even more like a situation where roster improvement should follow.
In all, it isn’t surprising that the Colts find themselves near the bottom of the top-third of the league. There has been a great deal of turnover, there are legitimate questions about the coaching staff, and the team has been a borderline playoff team two years in a row.
That said, there are some pretty ridiculous assumptions that are made that aid teams in some of the rankings and punish teams in others.
The Seattle Seahawks have had a very impressive run over the last few seasons, including two trips to the Super Bowl and a win over Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos to cap their 2013 season but the reality is that the team has been declining for the last couple of years. There is a very real likelihood that the Legion of Boom is dead — Earl Thomas has contemplated retirement and is about to join Kam Chancellor as a free agent, key cogs like Michael Bennett and Brandon Mebane are either gone from the defense or on the decline, and the coaching staff and front office has started to get vultured from other teams around the league. Throw in that Richard Sherman is also nearing the end of his current contract and is nearly 30 years old — faced with rumors that he could be traded — and that Marshawn Lynch has moved south to join the Raiders.
A more realistic expectation for the Seahawks is that in the next three years, they will take a step back in their division and have to rebuild and replace a nucleus on both sides of the ball in order to remain competitive and stay in playoff contention. There’s a good chance fans will get to see who Russell Wilson really is when he doesn’t have one of the most loaded rosters in the NFL surrounding him.
Another team that is gifted high rankings is the Green Bay Packers. Don’t misunderstand that with Aaron Rogers under center, this is a team to be reckoned with who is certainly going to have a chance to win on any given Sunday. But, giving them a roster score tied for 5th in the league? Based upon what?
The Packers have been inconsistent for years. The defense was butchered last season, finishing 22nd overall and 31st against the pass, and its biggest free agent to note had the first good year of his career. The running back position is so bad that they’ve had to start a wide receiver/running back hybrid to fill the spot — I like Ty Montgomery but facts are facts. Don’t get me wrong, the Packers are a very good team and worthy of a “B” rank but giving them the 5th best roster in the league seems like a real stretch.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have certainly had the Colts number in the past but their starting quarterback has been seriously contemplating retirement. Smart money says that Roethlisberger will not be in Pittsburgh in three years and without him — the team will have to scramble to find a replacement.
A team who likely should be higher on the list is the Dallas Cowboys, who are ranked at 6th and may have the most dynamic group of young players, particularly on offense, in the NFL. They have the best offensive line in the league, a dynamic superstar running back who gets to run behind that line, and a quarterback who took the league by storm in his rookie season. In a three-year projected power ranking, I’m not sure how the Cowboys aren’t listed above the Seahawks and Steelers at bare minimum -- and that likely goes for the 7th placed Raiders as well.
As for the AFC South, I think it is too early to claim that Marcus Mariota is the centerpiece of the franchise who is going to take the Titans to the promised land. Consider that the Titans haven’t beaten the Colts — even the Luck-less Colts of 2015 with Mariota — since 2011. They have lost 11 straight games to the Colts, including 4 in a row with Mariota. They’ve lost 16 of the last 17 games.
They have done all of this despite receiving a roster rank tied at 13th, a higher coaching rank, a higher draft ranking, and a higher front office ranking. For all intents and purposes, the Titans have supposedly been “the better team” -- but still can’t get it done.
The Houston Texans are unjustifiably low at 23rd. It is certainly clear that Deshaun Watson’s future will play a huge role in the team’s long-term success but that doesn’t stop ESPN from ignoring question-marks at quarterback for other teams. Honestly, if you give me two teams — the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans — and stripped the quarterback position entirely from the conversation, I’d have to give the the Texans the nod in terms of overall roster. Both teams have major question-marks long-term at QB and Watson will have 3 years of experience down the road while Mahomes — if he ever gets under center — will not have the same experience. The Chiefs are ranked 8th overall — because Alex Smith is amazing?
Honestly, I don’t even have the energy for the Jacksonville Jaguars. On paper, they could and should be one of the most loaded roster’s in the NFL AGAIN. ESPN’s gives their roster a rank tied for 16th. If it’s true, that the Jaguars roster is only tied for 16th in the league, I guess this is where they belong. They are certainly not going to be carried by their quarterback, coaching staff, or front office. Apparently drafting at near the top of each round every year doesn’t make much difference for their season outlook either.
I suspect the Colts will be much higher on this list over the next couple of seasons. I also suspect there are some highly rated teams who will fall significantly. I’m not sure this list is a three-year projection at all. To me, the writers may have had good intentions but their ratings and debates all led them back to something that more closely resembles where teams belong now.