ESPN recently released an Insider article detailing their Future Power Rankings over the next three years. In order to come to these rankings, three NFL experts rated each team based on the following criteria: Roster (excluding QB), Quarterback, Draft, Front Office and Coaching. They averaged the results from the three experts then weighted the categories to create the overall score. As the title of this article makes clear, the Colts ranked 22nd with the following scores in each category with the corresponding NFL rank.
Overall, the analysts are giving the Colts average rankings across the board with a below average roster. If they are basing this off of what the team has done in the past, the rankings are totally justified. However, this is a projection of how the team will be over the next three years, which makes the rankings a bit more questionable.
Field Yates explains why the Colts are ranked 22nd.
Why they’re here: There really isn’t any mystery surrounding the two areas of concern for Indy in our rankings: the health of Andrew Luck and the need to beef up the roster around him. But we believe in the front office and coaching staff who are working in lockstep with an understanding of patience. This is going to take time. But the rebuild will be expedited by Luck’s health, plus a far better pipeline of talent elsewhere through improved drafting compared to that of former GM Ryan Grigson. -- Yates
This isn’t really up for debate. If Chris Ballard can improve the quality of talent on the roster and Andrew Luck returns to his pre-injury form, or better, they will be in a much better place. He accurately notes how the front office and coaching staff are working together. It will take time but it may not take as long as they believe.
The roster is ranked 29th with only the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills behind them. It’s difficult to believe teams like the Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals or Washington Redskins have better roster outlooks over the next three years.
Just within the AFC South, the Jacksonville Jaguars are ranked 4th, Houston Texans are ranked 14th and Tennessee Titans are ranked 13th. The Jaguars are legit. Ranking them fourth makes sense as QB isn’t considered in the roster analysis. However, ranking the Titans and Texans as 13th and 14th, respectively, is a stretch.
The Texans top players, aside from Deandre Hopkins, all have significant injury concerns. They didn’t have a first or second round pick this past year. Their offensive line looks eerily reminiscent of what the Colts offensive lines looked like under Ryan Grigson.
The Titans have several young, unproven players and middle of the road veterans. They have some legitimate players along the offensive line. They drafted well enough in snagging Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry. Although, there are concerns regarding Landry transitioning to a 3-4 defense. They have little to no proven talent with less than three years experience, which means their talent pipeline is less than ideal.
When it comes to the QB ranking, if Luck returns to pre-injury form, he’s easily a top 5 QB. The experts only ranked Deshaun Watson ahead of Luck. This is a little befuddling. They note how Luck needs to show he’s back from his injury but don’t hold that against Watson? Watson tore his ACL and had surgery in early November 2017. While Watson was certainly electric to start, there’s no telling whether he will be his same explosive self or whether his game will be the same. Additionally, as with any young QB, as teams get more film, they tailor their defense to exploit the QB’s weaknesses.
Louis Riddick sets out what he believes is the teams biggest worry.
Biggest worry: I am still a believer in GM Chris Ballard in terms of his philosophy as it relates to roster construction, but there need to be significant contributions on the horizon from his recent roster additions, specifically those added through the draft. Ballard has drafted 19 players in the past two seasons, and a significant number of them must become impact players if the Colts are to become a force in the AFC South once again. Add in the fact that there is a new head coach for 2018 in Frank Reich, and you have a significant amount of uncertainty with this organization. -- Riddick
Riddick appears to focus more on the front office, coaching and draft categories. He says there is uncertainty within the organization. This could not be further from the truth. The organization seems to be on the same page. As Field Yates noted earlier, they are in lockstep. Now, if Riddick is saying there is uncertainty due to the high number of drafts picks and significant roster turnover, that’s understandable.
Ballard is already widely considered one of the top GMs in the NFL. The trade he pulled with the Jets to get three second round picks was brilliant. His draft strategy has been consistent with few “reaches.” The team is flush with cap space and refuses to spend money just to spend money. He’s measured. He’s calculated. He’s everything you want in a GM.
The 53-man roster could include at least 40-42 new players that were not on the roster when Ballard took over more than two years ago. Almost the entire defense will be different. If they think the roster is below average now, it’d be interesting to see what they thought in the final years under Ryan Grigson.
Ranking Frank Reich, a Super Bowl champion as Offensive Coordinator but unproven as a head coach, behind new Titans head coach Mike Vrabel is laughable. If Reich implements a similar attacking style of offense as he had in Philadelphia and allows Matt Eberflus to implement his attacking 4-3 style defense, the Colts are going to surprise quite a few experts.
Regarding the draft, this comes down to projections, which is of course what these Future Power Rankings are supposed to be about. Ballard has drafted 19 players over the past two seasons. He basically stole two second round picks from the Jets in this year’s draft and still got arguably the best player in the entire draft. Additionally, Ballard got an extra second round pick in 2019 from the same Jets trade and likely an extra fourth round compensatory pick for Donte Moncrief. The players he’s drafted, especially on defense, fit perfectly into the new schemes. If this is based on how he’s done and how he’s projected to do, it’s hard not to grade Chris Ballard at least in the top 5 of the draft category.
Mike Sando states what could change for the better.
What could change for the better: The Colts simply need Luck to regain his health and past form. No one knows whether that will happen or how quickly it might happen, which is why Indy’s quarterback situation ranked only 18th in our analysis. But if Luck does bounce back, the Colts will rise quickly. -- Sando
The entirety of this whole ESPN article on the Colts can be summed up in five words:
It comes down to Luck.
If Luck returns to pre-injury form, the team will be competitive and likely near the top of the league. However, Ballard has said all along that this is a three year rebuild. This is year one. If the Colts improve each season over the next three years, they will be perennial Super Bowl contenders and this ranking is far too low. If these rankings are based on the expectation that Luck doesn’t play again, even though we all believe he will be back on the field, then ranking the team 22nd makes sense.
At this point, we can all agree these ESPN articles are played out and we can’t wait for training camp to start next week.