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Colts rank 1st in ESPN’s 3-year future power rankings

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Wild Card Round - Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

ESPN recently published their NFL Future Power Rankings projections, which attempts to rank each NFL team based on how they are set up for the next 3 years. Their methods are as follows:

To project which NFL franchises are in the best shape for the next three seasons, we asked our panel of experts to rate each team’s roster non-QB, quarterback, draft, front office and coaching using this scale:

100: A+ (Elite)

90: A (Great)

80: B (Very good)

70: C (Average)

60: D (Very bad)

50 and below: F (Disastrous)

After averaging the results from the panelists, each of the five categories was weighted to create the overall score -- roster (30 percent), quarterback (20 percent), draft (15 percent), front office (15 percent) and coaching (20 percent). The result is a comprehensive ranking based on how well each team is positioned for the future.

In what might have come as a surprise to many, the Colts find themselves atop the list in the number 1 spot with a total score of 87.8 points. While many have begun to recognize that the Colts are an organization on the rise, such lofty aspirations for them are still a bit unexpected. To see how we arrived there, let’s look at where they ranked in each category.

Roster

NFL: JUN 11 Indianapolis Colts Minicamp Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Colts have come a long way in just a year, with the panel awarding them a 84.7 grade for their roster which is good for 4th in the league. Unsurprisingly, the Eagles topped the list with a 87.7, followed by the Bears with 86.0 in 2nd, and the Saints were 3rd with 85.7.

Just a year ago this was a team few credited with having much (if any) talent. Through some major draft success and limited but successful endeavors in free agency, the Colts, under Chris Ballard, managed to turn things around fairly quickly. The roster is now one of the youngest in the league and should be competitive from top to bottom for many years to come.

QB

NFL: AUG 12 Preseason - Rams at Colts Photo by MSA/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images

Most everyone can agree that Andrew Luck is a special player. His ability to elevate the play of those around him and make clutch throws has been on display since he came into the league. Luck’s return from injury last season after a year away saw him raise his game even further, and the pairing with an offensive minded head coach let him flourish. With a second year in the same offense, Luck should continue to thrive.

Perhaps that is why the team of ESPN’s experts gave him a score of 94, good for 3rd in the league. Patrick Mahomes took 1st with a 97.7 and Aaron Rodgers came in 2nd with a 94.3, which puts Luck in very good company. Personally, I think the Patrick Mahomes hype-train is off the rails a bit after what was admittedly a superlative first season. Regardless of where you come down on Mahomes’ ranking, being considered as a top 3 quarterback is a big deal for Luck, and goes a long way toward setting up the Colts as a long term contender.

Draft

Indianapolos Colts v Houston Colts Photo by Rob Leiter via Getty Images

When you draft two All-Pros in one draft, in addition to a ton of other valuable role players, you get the reigning champion of this category. That’s exactly how it fell for the panel, here. The Colts took 1st with an 87.3 ahead of the Browns in 2nd with an 84.3 and New England at 3rd with an 83.3.

This has been the Colts biggest strength and comes largely on the back of a fantastic 2018 draft class. It helps that several contributors from the 2017 class have continued to improve and play a role. If the 2019 class can at least provide depth and competition for the starters, the team should be set up to be deep and a tough roster to make.

Coaching

NFL Combine - Day 1

The Colts came in at their lowest spot on this list at the coaching position, which seems a bit counter intuitive, but they still received an 84.7 rating there, good for 8th. The Eagles ranked 6th with an 86.0 and Matt Nagy and the Bears were 7th with 85.0. The Ravens slotted in right behind the Colts at 9th with an 81.7. Unsurprisingly, the Patriots topped this category with a 95.0, and it is tough to argue that isn’t correct.

This is an area that is likely to see improvement in year two. The Colts took a huge leap in play in large part due to good coaching. If their success continues to trend upward, Frank Reich and Matt Eberflus will get even more credit for the work they are doing with this young team. If they struggle in year two, that will be a different story.

Front Office

NFL: FEB 27 Scouting Combine Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In a big win for Chris Ballard, he lands himself the number 2 spot for building a great front office with a 90.7 score only trailing the Patriots’ front office who was 1st with a 91.3. This isn’t a huge surprise. Ballard was already a league favorite in terms of his talent and presence before he even took the Colts job. His calm and intentional style of management and his ability to weather some rough patches with complete aplomb have only served to bolster that trust.

Most of all, he has found success in both his draft picks and his free agent moves. While teams have spent like crazy on big ticket free agents, Ballard has waited patiently and snapped up good scheme fits after the dust settles on the bidding wars. He has re-signed guys who earned new deals rather than overpaying for talent that is on the back stretch of their usefulness.

Additionally, and just as importantly, Ballard has put his staff front and center in a lot of their media coverage. It is clear that he wants to build an atmosphere that rewards talent, and that extends to his front office employees. The culture that Ballard pitched to Jim Irsay when he interviewed for the job is now starting to show all the signs of flourishing, and that front office is all the better as a result.


Conclusions

All these ratings ultimately don’t mean much. They do, however, indicate how the Colts as a whole are viewed by the league at large. This is a team on the rise, and given that coaching was considered their weakest area, it seems like the Colts should expect to be on top for a long time to come.