Free Trial Ad
Why Subscribe?
  • Player/Prospect News
  • Exclusive Insider Info
  • Members-Only Forums
  • Exclusive Videos
  • Subscribe Now!
InboxChat RoomChat Room (0 fans in chatroom)

NFL Future Rankings

Posted: 7/11/2014 9:43 AM

NFL Future Rankings 


For this year's edition of the NFL Future Power Rankings, Insider's annual examination of the franchises best positioned to succeed going forward, we had our panel of NFL experts -- John Clayton, Mel Kiper, Louis Riddick and Mike Sando -- project how teams would fare over the course of the next three seasons: 2014, 2015 and 2016.

CATEGORIES (weighting)

ROSTER (30 percent): Quality of current roster excluding QB, emphasizing young players and devaluing players over 30
QUARTERBACK (20 percent): Team's QB situation, focusing on the future
DRAFT (15 percent): Evaluating each team's 2014 draft class, reputation in the draft and number of available draft picks in 2015 and '16
FRONT OFFICE (15 percent): Ability to manage team's roster and bring in new talent via free agency or trades, plus market's attraction to free agents
COACHING (20 percent): Capability and stability of coaching staff

The analysts rated every team in five categories -- Roster (excluding quarterback), QB, Draft, Front Office and Coaching -- and the results were then averaged and weighted to create our final 1-32 Future Power Ranking. For more detail on the categories and weighting, please refer to the chart at right.

The team checking in at the No. 1 spot wasn't a surprise, but there were several fascinating results, from a pair of veteran-laden teams earning spots in the top five to emerging powers in the NFC East and North climbing the rankings and a team with the second-best QB situation (according to our panel) sliding all the way to No. 20.

Worth noting: Our panel scored teams quite a bit higher overall this year than it did the past season, which caused the numbers to look a little inflated year to year and caused some very close scores among the teams in the middle of the pack.

Let's take a look at how the 32 NFL teams stack up in terms of how they'll fare over the next three seasons, through Insider's NFL Future Power Rankings. (Read through the file 1-32, or jump to your favorite team using the quick links below.)

  • 1
Seattle Seahawks
past season: 13-3 (1st) | nfc west future rank: 1

the bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

the overview: the seahawks were the only team with a top-10 ranking in all five categories, and they ranked first or second in four of them. san francisco was the only other team with more than one top-two ranking, an indication voters thought the seahawks were squared away in every area. new contracts for coach pete carroll, cornerback richard sherman, free safety earl thomas and defensive lineman michael bennett resolved some continuity questions, and the team is now in great position to re-sign qb russell wilson next offseason. seattle's no. 8 ranking at qb came in behind only green bay, indianapolis, new orleans, denver, new england, san diego and pittsburgh. willpeyton manning still be playing in three years? will philip riversben roethlisberger anddrew brees still be atop their games? wilson should be entering his prime years at that time, at which point we voters might regret not placing the seahawks even higher in the qb category. --mike sando

the dilemma: this team's biggest obstacle to sustained success for at least the next two years is going to be complacency. the seahawks have already secured many of the crucial core pieces that were of the highest priority to long-term contracts; they have the cap space in 2015 to redo wilson's contract; and they have drafted young players they will develop who will serve as leverage when it comes time to negotiate extensions with other pending ufas after the '14 and '15 seasons. simply put, barring injuries or the team being its own worst enemy, the future is bright in seattle. --louis riddick

the youth movement: only wilson's quick feet could hide the constant blocking issues the seahawks had in 2013, and although justin britt was a reach on my board in round 2 of the 2014 draft, he could provide much-needed help, potentially at right tackle. the seahawks always seem to have a plan. elsewhere, although paul richardson is the field-stretcher this offense needs, don't be surprised if fourth-round wr kevin norwood makes an earlier impact. he can make the contested catch and knows how to help an improviser at qb. --mel kiper

  • 2
green bay packers
past season: 8-7-1 (1st) | nfc north future rank: 1

the bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

the overview: green bay joined the 49ers and seahawks as the only teams with at least four top-five rankings. this is the third year in a row green bay has ranked among the top two overall. aaron rodgers' status as a great qb and his relative youth (30) gave green bay the top-ranked future at the position. the rest of the roster wasn't far behind at no. 6. the packers pride themselves on building through the draft instead of free agency, but the draft was their lowest ranked category, at no. 11, down eight spots from the past offseason, even after running back eddie lacy became the nfl offensive rookie of the year for his efforts in 2013. looking ahead, gm ted thompson picked up three receivers in the 2014 draft, which bought insurance at the position while randall cobb and jordy nelsonenter their contract years. --mike sando

the dilemma: getting the defense to play at a level that takes some of the pressure off of rodgers and the offense, by being able to deal with the explosive offensive perimeter players in the division, is the primary concern for this team going forward. this is particularly true as it relates to the play of the corners. the packers need to get a good return on the investment they made in re-signing cb sam shields ($14m total guaranteed), and they have key contracts expiring at the position after the 2014 (tramon williamsdavon house) and 2015 (casey hayward) seasons that they will need to decide on. --louis riddick

the youth movement: two 2014 rookies at opposite ends of the scouting spectrum could become favorites of rodgers and continue to help this offense soar. davante adams is a low-risk, sure-handed, if not overly explosive, wr who seems ready to play. tight end colt lyerla could be a star if the work matches the athletic credentials, or he could be out of the league if off-the-field issues linger, but oh, those athlete credentials. he could be a poor man's vernon davis (which isn't all that poor). given the qb, adams and lyerla could be stars. --mel kiper

  • 3
san francisco 49ers
past season: 12-4 (2nd) | nfc west future rank: 2

the bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

the overview: the 49ers trail the packers here only because green bay ranks so much higher at qb.  how did san francisco decline from tied for third to 16th at qb, anyway? that doesn't make much sense after  colin kaepernick  signed a contract extension, although clearly some of the excitement about kaepernick's future potential has been tempered in the minds of the voters. san francisco scored a top-five grade for its front office and coaching despite some questions about the long-term fit between gm trent baalke and coach jim harbaugh. both have downplayed what ownership has called a healthy working tension between the two. the 49ers' no. 1 ranking in the draft reflects the team's annual ability to stockpile choices for additional flexibility, on draft day and for acquiring veterans such as  anquan boldin  via trade. the previously heralded 2011 class appears a little shakier with  aldon smith  and  chris culliver  on unstable ground, but getting kaepernick in the second round that year counts for a lot.  --mike sando

the dilemma: the biggest obstacle for the niners in the coming years will be dealing with showing the door to the "old" and ushering in the "new." their cap situation is not going to allow them to pay all the key players who have contracts expiring over the next two years, but they have some very skilled young players waiting for the chance to shine. the pressure will be on the "program" to get these players (tank carradinebruce ellingtonbrandon thomasaaron lynch, et al.) ready to go. --louis riddick

the youth movement: the niners have a number of young players who could help soon (louis mentioned a bunch of them), but look for carlos hyde to become an early fixture in the running game, even with frank gore still around, and look for hybrid defensive backjimmie ward to provide versatility and big plays in the secondary. he could be for the 49ers something similar to what tyrann mathieu is for arizona, the key being health in both cases (ward had foot surgery this offseason). --mel kiper

  • 4
denver broncos
past season: 13-3 (1st) | afc west future rank: 1

the bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

the overview: how long is peyton manning going to keep this up? our analysts weren't willing to bet against him. denver's future ranking at qb improved from 13th the past offseason to fourth this offseason. there's nothing new to know about backup brock osweiler, so the thinking here is that manning's 55-touchdown season provided compelling evidence he'll play at least a couple of seasons more (two elite seasons plus one league-average season still computes to one of the league's best qb situations). overall, denver has improved from 18th (2012 offseason) to 11th (2013) to fourth in these annual offseason rankings. the 14-spot gain since 2012 is the nfl's second-largest behind seattle, which climbed from 21st two years ago to first this year. both franchises feel a lot better about their qb situations now than they did back then. as any gm will tell you, knowing you have the right qb changes everything for an organization. --mike sando

the dilemma: do they have enough defense and attitude to contend with the big-boys of the nfc when it comes time to play for the lombardi trophy? the investments in demarcus wareaqib talib, and t.j. ward this offseason indicate they didn't believe they had enough of the former heading into 2014, and both sides of the ball will need to show more resilience than the team that wilted under seattle's pressure in the super bowl. if these two things have been fixed, this team is positioned well to be a force the next two seasons -- and perhaps longer, depending on manning's longevity or the strength of denver's succession plan for him. --louis riddick

the youth movement: in 2013, the most consistently adequate broncos linebacker not named von miller was wesley woodyard, and he's now a member of the titans. given that miller is mainly a pass-rusher, the depth chart aside from him at linebacker is pretty weak. keep an eye on fifth-rounder lamin barrow, who could be as important as any other rookie for this team, aside from first-round cb pick bradley roby, who is needed for early impact. --mel kiper

  • 5
new england patriots
past season: 12-4 (1st) | afc east future rank: 1

the bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

the overview: this is another ranking that's a bit of a head-scratcher if you feel the team's veteran quarterback won't sustain an elite level for much longer, but remember, this ranking incorporates projected success over each of the next three years, and our voters are banking on tom brady being around a while longer. the no. 25 draft ranking for new england jumps off the page for a franchise that ranked no worse than seventh in any other category. rob gronkowski and devin mccourty are the only patriots draft choices over a five-year period (2009-2013) who achieved pro bowl status. thirteen gms and de facto gms can claim at least three over the same span. take a look at where new england ranks in every other category: first in coaching, fifth at qb, sixth in roster and seventh in front office. (note: the patriots tied the broncos in score when rounded off to two decimal points, but the broncos had a very slight advantage in the raw numbers.) --mike sando

the dilemma: the secondary might look like a strength in the short term, but consider these two points: there is a reason seattle did not value cb brandon browner as highly as the common opinion on him is, and there is no way the patriots will bring back darrelle revis in 2015 at a $25m cap number. so i could see the secondary, though strong now, being an issue for them after this season, and their performance (and that of the defense as a whole) is going to be a big key to getting back to the super bowl and winning it. --louis riddick

the names to know: the patriots placed one of the bigger bets of the nfl draft on the upside of good health when they took dominique easley, who's had two major knee operations, in round 1. vince wilfork is 32, and tommy kelly is 33, and easley could be asked to play a major role early on -- again, off a major knee injury suffered in the fall. the other young player they need to become a constant threat as a pass-rusher is chandler jones, who picked up 11.5 sacks in his second year in 2013. he appears to be on the way. --mel kiper

  • 6
new orleans saints
past season: 11-5 (2nd) | nfc south future rank: 1

the bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

the overview: the saints have held steady in these rankings the past few years, but this team is headed in the right direction from an overall roster standpoint. new orleans improved in that category from 17th this past offseason to eighth this time. that makes sense. receiver kenny stills, left tackle terron armstead and safety jairus byrd are three key players for the saints heading into the 2014 season. a year ago, stills and armstead were relatively unknown as rookies and byrd was on the bills' roster. new orleans' qb ranking improved seven spots to no. 3 after drew brees cut his interception total by nearly 50 percent from 2012 to 2013. has brees improved? not likely. but when qbs reach their mid-30s, there's a tendency to look for evidence that the end is near. that has arguably happened with tom brady, and it's possible brees was in that category before he posted the third-best td-int ratio of his career (3.25 to 1). --mike sando

the dilemma: when the saints are at their very best, they have an offense that is multiple, meaning they can line up and run with effectiveness when they need to, in addition to beating opponents with the pass. when they won the super bowl in 2009, they averaged 4.5 yards per rush and 131.6 yards per game. over the past two seasons, they haven't been able to run nearly as effectively. can the o-line as a whole do its part the next three seasons, and is former college free agent khiry robinson the answer going forward? --louis riddick

the youth movement: i expect brandin cooks to deliver major impact early in his career, even in an offense in which the ball is always going to be spread around. but a big developmental story to watch the next few years is recent second-rounder stanley jean-baptiste, a cb with the size to make people think of richard sherman but nothing close to the refinement or physical style. cornerback is a depth issue for the saints, with Champ Bailey expected to play a key role in 2014, at age 36. How soon can Jean-Baptiste make an impact? --Mel Kiper

Reply | Quote

Posted: 7/11/2014 9:44 AM

Re: NFL Future Rankings 


  • 7
Pittsburgh Steelers
past season: 8-8 (2nd) | afc north future rank: 1

the bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

the overview: pittsburgh moved up seven spots from the past offseason, thanks to gains in the team's outlook at qb (plus-10), on the rest of its roster (plus-7) and in its drafting (plus-6). there's evidence the steelers have made significant strides in adding youth and speed to their defense, led by first-round pick ryan shazier, and that those changes will help the team for years to come. only the chargers gained more than the steelers in the qb rankings. it's something of a surprise to see ben roethlisberger gaining ground at age 32, but he did start all 16 games this past season -- the second time he has played every game in a season. and, as kc joyner pointed out recently, roethlisberger seems to be making better decisions with the football in recent seasons. the offensive line should be improved in years to come, as well. --mike sando

the dilemma: dating back to when i played against them two times a year with the browns (1993-95), the steelers have always been known for a "lights-out" style of run defense with excellent outside linebacker play and a secondary that was opportunistic in creating turnovers. in 2013, the defense was nothing like this, which is why names such as dlStephon Tuitt, OLB Jarvis Jones and FS Mike Mitchell will either make this defense (and team overall) a force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future or turn out to be failed acquisitions that contributed to this franchise not being able to go where it is accustomed to going: Super Bowls. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: The Steelers should get immediate impact from 2014 first-rounder Shazier, who has the instincts to play early for Dick LeBeau, which is a pretty good compliment. For me, the player to watch the next two years, aside from Jones, whom Louis mentioned, is 2014 second-rounder Tuitt, who could become a disruptive force in this system, given his athletic credentials and very good production when he's 100 percent. Also, WR Martavis Bryant is an impressive pass-catcher and athlete. --Mel Kiper

  • 8
Philadelphia Eagles
PAST SEASON: 10-6 (1st) | NFC EAST FUTURE RANK: 1

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: Is Nick Foles the answer at QB? Our analysts think so, to some extent. Philadelphia jumped eight spots to No. 12 at the position, which puts the Eagles ahead of teams with some of Foles' 2012 draft classmates, including Washington (Robert Griffin III) and Miami (Ryan Tannehill). Foles has 33 TD passes with only seven INTs to this point in his career. He has a 9-7 starting record and a passer rating in triple digits. The rest of Philly's roster ranked fifth, and it's fair to say coach Chip Kelly has won over some skeptics. The Eagles moved up eight spots to No. 9 in coaching, the third-highest gain in that category. The drafting outlook fell three spots to 17th, but that isn't a significant change. The Eagles improved in every other category. This looks like a team on the rise. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: Kelly is a program-builder, and he made a big decision this offseason in releasing DeSean Jackson. It's a move that could help define the team's success the next three years. Will there be addition by subtraction for this offensive unit? Also, did the Eagles do enough defensively to make them a more explosive team in regard to sacking the QB (31st in sacks per attempt in 2013) and defending the pass? First-round pick OLB Marcus Smith will be under the microscope from day one to see whether he is the right kind of piece for Kelly's program going forward. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: Kelly's offense was good enough in 2013 that many would believe he can get it done with just about anybody, but the draft proved that Kelly and GM Howie Roseman aren't similarly convinced. I believe 2014 second-rounder Jordan Matthews has the potential to overtake Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin as the top option in the passing game over the next season-plus, and 2014 third-rounder Josh Huff is a competitive, tough runner after the catch who could (again) thrive in Kelly's offense -- and soon. --Mel Kiper

  • 9
San Diego Chargers
PAST SEASON: 9-7 (2nd) | AFC WEST FUTURE RANK: 2

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: The Chargers enjoyed the largest year-over-year gains in the rankings in rising 16 spots. That included a 15-spot gain in drafting (thank you, Keenan Allen and D.J. Fluker) and a 15-spot gain in overall roster composition (Allen and Fluker had something to do with that, as well). San Diego gained 12 spots in the QB rankings, as Philip Rivers regained his footing after a troubling 2012 season. Voters weren't particularly concerned about the Chargers' ability to carry on offensively after losing coordinator Ken Whisenhunt to Tennessee. Frank Reich will take over for Whisenhunt, and coach Mike McCoy's offensive pedigree should provide protection. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: This team had some of the worst secondary play I have seen in quite some time in 2013, particularly at the corner position. The Chargers have to find a long-term solution, so they'd better have gotten it right with the drafting of undersized and somewhat injury-prone CB Jason Verrett in the first round of the 2014 draft and with the signing of free agent Brandon Flowers (who was released by the Chiefs, a team that isn't exactly loaded at the position). --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: The Chargers got just 173 snaps from Dwight Freeney in 2013, and, given that he's 34, they can't count on the Freeney of years past in 2014. Recent second-rounder Jeremiah Attaochu could play a big role in the next few years if he can develop his pass-rushing arsenal. The Chargers couldn't cover anybody in 2013, as Louis noted, and got immediate help in rookie Verrett, but coverage problems often start up front. Pressure wasn't consistent, and Attaochu could be a part of the solution. --Mel Kiper

  • 10
Baltimore Ravens
PAST SEASON: 8-8 (3rd) | AFC NORTH FUTURE RANK: 1

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: GM Ozzie Newsome maintains a sterling reputation although the Ravens plummet in the future rankings compared with where they've stood in recent seasons. Baltimore continued to rank first in the front-office category, but the Ravens dropped a combined 36 spots in the other four areas, the fifth-largest combined drop in the league. That includes falling 13 spots to No. 19 in overall roster (non-QB) and 10 spots to No. 17 at QB, even though Joe Flacco remains the starter. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: The big question is whether new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has the system and the players in place to produce an offense explosive enough to both take pressure off the defense and match the rest of the high-powered offenses in the AFC. Veteran WR Steve Smith is a short-term fix, and WR Torrey Smith is a quality outside threat, but the need remains for a quality No. 3 receiving option. Also, a running game that averages 3.14 yards per carry, as last year's did, is completely unacceptable. If Baltimore can't get the offense right, it'll be knocked further down these rankings. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: Last year, many assumed the Ravens had drafted the replacements for Ray Lewis and Ed Reed with Arthur Brown and Matt Elam. But Brown wasn't quite ready to help, and Elam is more of a force near the line of scrimmage than a playmaker in coverage like Reed. This year, the Ravens might have gotten closer by adding C.J. Mosleyfrom Alabama to help man the middle at linebacker and Terrence Brooks from Florida State to handle free safety. Both could be pressed into action quickly, and their success or failure will help dictate how good the D will be in Baltimore for the next few years. --Mel Kiper

  • 11
Chicago Bears
PAST SEASON: 8-8 (2nd) | NFC NORTH FUTURE RANK: 2

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: Only the Chargers climbed more than the Bears since the past offseason. The Bears were one of four teams to climb in all five categories, even though Josh McCown's departure to Tampa Bay in free agency robbed the Bears of a QB with a proven, successful track record in coach Marc Trestman's offense. There's a feeling starter Jay Cutler could make additional strides, provided he can stay healthy. The offensive lineup returns pretty much intact. The gains Chicago made in overall roster ranking reflect the moves GM Phil Emery has made to shore up the defense. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: Cutler's continued development under Trestman and the improvement of a Bears' defense that was historically bad right down the middle the past season will determine this team's future success. On offense, Brandon MarshallAlshon Jeffery and Matt Forte are all under contract for the next two seasons. Defensively, the issue is whether they've acquired enough talent (Jared AllenLamarr HoustonWillie Young and more) to slow down the Packers' and Lions' high-octane offenses the next three years. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: Although plenty got excited about Trestman's offense, are we overlooking the fact that last year was probably the worst defense in Bears history? That's no exaggeration. The team ranked No. 30 in yards and points allowed (both firsts). Kyle Fuller was brought in to help soon at CB, but a huge factor will be early returns from rookiesEgo Ferguson and Will Sutton at DT. Both have more talent than they showed in their final college seasons. It starts up front for Chicago, which was absurdly weak up the middle last season, and those two could be crucial for depth early, and more later in the season. --Mel Kiper

  • 12
St. Louis Rams
PAST SEASON: 7-9 (4th) | NFC WEST FUTURE RANK: 3

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: The Rams' rankings essentially remained flat from the past offseason, except at QB, where St. Louis fell 10 spots to No. 23 with Sam Bradford coming off ACL surgery. There's still a belief among analysts that St. Louis is in great position with its young talent, after leveraging so much from the Redskins in the 2012 trade that allowed Washington to select QB Robert Griffin III. Michael BrockersJanoris JenkinsAlec Ogletreeand Greg Robinson are the highest-profile players St. Louis drafted with picks from Washington, and the Rams also have added Isaiah PeadStedman BaileyZac StacyTavon Austin and Aaron Donald. The big question is whether the team will need to use another high choice for a QB next year. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: For this team, it is all about the QB. I don't want to hear that "they haven't given Sam Bradford the weapons he needs." They have invested enough, in terms of draft picks and free agents on the offensive side of the ball, that they "should" be able to protect the QB, throw the ball down the field and run the ball effectively. Defensively, they havefour first-round draft picks on the line and tremendous depth behind the starting group. They are fast at LB and talented (but still inconsistent) in the secondary, but this team can only go as far as Bradford takes it -- unless the Rams move on to a new solution in the next three years. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: There could be a domino effect if the Donald the Rams get is the version we saw at Pitt last year. The No. 13 pick in 2014 has the chance not just to be good but also to help other young players next to him (Brockers, Robert Quinn) and even behind him (Ogletree, Jenkins, T.J. McDonaldLamarcus Joyner). The Rams have the chance to create a ton of pressure up front with Donald, Quinn, Brockers and Chris Long. And so many recent picks could benefit, but Donald will be crucial. --Mel Kiper

  • 13
Cincinnati Bengals
PAST SEASON: 11-5 (1st) | AFC NORTH FUTURE RANK: 3

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: Cincinnati remained 13th in the overall rankings despite dropping eight spots in the coaching category after Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden took head-coaching jobs elsewhere. The Bengals were pretty much flat in the other categories and even rose one spot in the non-QB roster category, which was a bit of a surprise after defensive endMichael Johnson departed to Tampa Bay in free agency. Note that the Bengals rank fifth in drafting and 12th in the front office. Analysts have acknowledged the gains in roster-building made with owner Mike Brown and player personnel director Duke Tobin building a team that has reached the playoffs three successive years. They'll need more consistency from quarterback Andy Dalton to take the next step. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: Simply put, this team has the individual components necessary to challenge for the AFC crown when things are operating on all cylinders, but what will drive this train (or derail it), in '14 and possibly beyond, is where Dalton goes, from a developmental perspective. Much is riding on this season for some individual coaches on the staff (new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson in particular) and for Dalton's financial future. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: Last year, the Bengals handed the ball to BenJarvus Green-Ellis 220 times. What a waste. Green-Ellis might hold on to the ball, but he's not going anywhere with it. Not only did he average just 3.4 yards per carry but only two of 220 carries went for more than 15 yards. Jeremy Hill is a running back, yes. So he's not the future of the franchise. But he could make a major impact in the team's immediate future, as not merely a change of pace to Giovani Bernard, but a guy who could provide a lot of yardage behind good blocking if he gets all of the Law Firm's carries. It'll certainly make the QB better if he does. --Mel Kiper

  • 14
Kansas City Chiefs
PAST SEASON: 11-5 (2nd) | AFC WEST FUTURE RANK: 2

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: Kansas City dropped only two spots overall from the past offseason despite falling an average of 9.3 in non-QB roster, drafting and front office. If the Chiefs' decisions to let veteran free agents such as Branden Albert and Geoff Schwartz depart pan out, GM John Dorsey and the front office will appear to have been a disciplined bunch. If the Chiefs fall off precipitously, the team likely will be faulted for inaction. Has the Chiefs' outlook improved? QB Alex Smith remains without a contract extension for now, but an extension for him probably wouldn't move the needle much. Kansas City came in 19th at QB in these future rankings, not far off its No. 24 ranking one year ago. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: With QB Alex Smith and OLB Justin Houston having contracts set to expire in '15 and the team dealing with a relatively tight cap situation, the draft will play a major role in this team's success going forward. The Chiefs also need a serious long-term upgrade in the secondary if they are to survive in a division with the Broncos' passing attack. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: If you went purely on ability, it might be easy to call 2014 first-rounder Dee Ford a reach. But if you go on team need combined with a scarcity of pass-rushers in the draft, the Chiefs could have nailed it and gotten a player who will greatly enhance their ability to make sure 2013 wasn't just a one-year spike. Ford can help now in passing situations, and he could be the pass-rusher this team needs if an aging Tamba Halidips or if Houston becomes a really expensive player to keep around past 2014. --Mel Kiper

  • 15
Atlanta Falcons
PAST SEASON: 4-12 (3rd) | NFC SOUTH FUTURE RANK: 2

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: The Falcons lost ground in every category relative to where they stood in the most recent future rankings. The question is whether their slide to a 4-12 record this past season represented a one-year aberration or something more troubling. Atlanta could do much worse than Matt Ryan at QB, but the Falcons still dropped six spots to No. 9 at that position. The difference for Ryan last year was that he took 44 sacks -- 18 more than in any previous season. Adding Jake Matthews in the draft should improve Ryan's outlook, but Tony Gonzalez is gone, and Roddy White is winding down. Atlanta dropped 17 spots in its non-QB roster ranking, 14 in its front-office ranking and 15 in its coaching ranking. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: Other than Ryan in 2008 and WR Julio Jones in 2011, what impact players have the Falcons drafted? Specifically, they have not been able to acquire and develop an impact player along either the offensive or defensive lines, which has been a huge problem. They'd better hope their first two picks of the '14 draft, OT Matthews and DT Ra'Shede Hageman, end up being the caliber of players who can get things pointed in the right direction. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: Early in Ryan's career, the Falcons made a big commitment to his success when they moved aggressively to land Jones. This year, with the same No. 6 pick that once netted them Jones, they again took a player who should help Ryan, this time in keeping the franchise QB upright. Matthews is the future at left tackle, and the future can't come soon enough. If Matthews struggles, so will this offense. If fellow 2014 pick Ra'Shede Hageman reaches his full potential, he could be a Pro Bowl player. The physical ability is significant. --Mel Kiper

  • 16
Arizona Cardinals
PAST SEASON: 10-6 (3rd) | NFC WEST FUTURE RANK: 4

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: Every team in the NFC West ranks among the top 16, a claim no other division can make (the NFC South is next, with all four teams in the top 19). Every team in the NFC West ranks among the top 10 in overall roster (non-QB) and front office. That makes life tougher for Arizona. The Cardinals' QB ranking lags at No. 22, as Carson Palmerenters the second and final year of his contract at age 34. Despite the tough divisional company, Arizona was one of five teams to improve in every category. That includes a 15-spot gain in the non-QB roster category, which tied with San Diego for the largest gain in that category. The offensive line should improve with Jared Veldheer and 2013 first-round pick Jonathan Cooper shoring up the left side.--Mike Sando

The dilemma: The QB position will determine the fate of this franchise the next three seasons, with Palmer (who is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2014 season) and with his eventual successor (Logan ThomasRyan Lindley or a player not yet on the roster). Palmer turned the ball over in every one of the first nine games of the 2013 season, which will kill the fortunes of any team, no matter how good the defense (the Cardinals' defense was fourth in the NFL in yards allowed per play in 2013). Patrick Peterson will be due for a big contract extension soon, so figuring out the QB position is just a starting point. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: The Cardinals don't have a clear solution behind Palmer at QB, but if they can block for him, they have a pretty good 34-year-old QB. Where they really need development is with a healthy Tyrann Mathieu and in early impact from 2014 first-round safety Deone Bucannon. This could become not merely one of the best secondaries in the NFL but also one of the NFL's most versatile and effective in tackling -- a huge factor when you play Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson each two times a season. --Mel Kiper

  • 17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
PAST SEASON: 4-12 (4th) | NFC SOUTH FUTURE RANK: 3

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: Earlier in the offseason, Bill Polian said the Buccaneers' efforts in free agency this year ranked among the best he's ever seen. It was a little odd, then, to see Tampa Bay's overall ranking here improve by only one spot. That includes no change in the ranking for non-QB roster and a one-spot gain in the front office. A four-spot gain in coaching also seems underwhelming for a team that replaced Greg Schiano with Lovie Smith. The Bucs' only significant gain in the rankings shows up in a move from 16th to fifth in drafting. The team used every one of its 2014 selections for offense, led by receiver Mike Evans, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and running back Charles Sims, all in the first 70 picks of the draft. Kiper gave the Buccaneers a B-plus grade for their draft and noted that much will hinge on whether the team was correct in going with Josh McCown and Mike Glennon at QB instead of drafting one early. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: Despite what I believe to have been a sterling performance in free agency and a very good draft in 2014, what will determine this team's fate the next few years is the new management team's ability to build through the draft. The Bucs will need a number of successful picks -- quality starters you can win with -- in Rounds 1 and 2 in particular, to avoid relying on free agency. They have a tremendous cap situation going forward and need to put themselves in a position in which they are using the cap money to reward homegrown talent such as Gerald McCoy. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: Imagine the Bucs in 12 personnel, with one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers. If that group of pass-catchers featured rookies Evans and Seferian-Jenkins with veterans Vincent Jackson and Brandon Myers, the defense could be facing a group in which Myers is the shortest target -- and Myers is 6-foot-4. The length of Evans and ASJ could play a big role early in helping a QB tandem with promise but not much track record. If Tampa Bay's offense can match the caliber of its defense, big things could be in store soon. --Mel Kiper

Reply | Quote

Posted: 7/11/2014 9:45 AM

Re: NFL Future Rankings 



  • 18
New York Giants
past season: 7-9 (3rd) | nfc east future rank: 2

the bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

the overview: the giants fell 11 spots overall after a 2013 season that seemed to confirm in analysts' minds that the team has not drafted well, its roster has suffered dramatically and it could no longer overcome these shortcomings through coaching. new york suffered double-digit drops in non-qb roster, drafting and front office. the qb ranking fell only four spots, to no. 11, which suggests analysts do not think eli manning has suddenly become unviable as the long-term starter. the results were similar regarding manning when i polled 26 nfl insiders regarding every projected starting qb for the qb tiers project. manning held firm in tier 2, even after he tossed 27 interceptions this past season. the giants actually improved one spot in the rankings for coaching, with ben mcadoo's hire as offensive coordinator the major change. it's fair to wonder how long tom coughlin will continue in the role of head coach; he will turn 68 on aug. 31 and will be 71 in 2016, the final season these future rankings encompass. --mike sando

the dilemma: the foundation of this roster is weak, and that can be attributed entirely to the fact that, since 2007, the front office has been unable to draft and develop high-impact players on a consistent basis, particularly in rounds 1 and 2 (jason pierre-paul is the only all-pro/pro bowler selected with a first- or second-round pick in that time). coughlin will need to do his best leading and teaching of his career in 2014, as the giants signed 15 ufas this offseason because of the overall draft failures. manning also will need to get comfortable with a new offensive scheme engineered by mcadoo. --louis riddick

the youth movement: once seen as a top prospect thanks to his solid tape and productivity as a pass-rusher at texas a&m, damontre moore slipped down the draft on questions about his overall physical profile and upside. he played sparingly as a rookie, with production to match, but if the giants want a pass rush beyond pierre-paul, moore could be a guy on whom they depend. a once deep d-line now looks really thin, but major strides from moore could help. the other name to watch is center weston richburg, who seems destined to start early and improve the interior of the offensive line. --mel kiper

  • 19
carolina panthers
past season: 12-4 (1st) | nfc south future rank: 4th

the bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

the overview: it's looking as though on-field performance in the previous season is a strong driver of perceptions in these future rankings. on the surface, there is really no other way to explain how carolina moved up four spots to no. 19 in the rankings after enduring what seemed like a difficult offseason. the panthers lost left tackle jordan gross, cut receiver steve smith and could lose top defensive end greg hardy to suspension. why the improvement? the rankings are a projection covering the next three years, and there's a feeling carolina is on the right track overall despite taking some hits in the short term. carolina gained 12 spots in the drafting category after striking gold with the defensive tackles it selected in 2013. the ranking for coaching improved five spots to no. 22 after ron rivera earned praise for modernizing his approach to game management. cam newton's presence on the roster gave carolina a no. 10 rank at that position. --mike sando

the dilemma: carolina has many of the pieces in place to have a dominant defense for the foreseeable future, with the usual maintenance required to keep it in good shape. it is the offense -- and the ability to be multiple and explosive, particularly in the passing game -- that will determine whether this team can not only get into the playoffs but also be a real contender in january and february. in addition to the well-known issues at receiver, the panthers need to make sure they are going about developing the o-line correctly. --louis riddick

the youth movement: the panthers will soon need to write a massive check to retain newton as the face of the franchise. but they're saving money at wideout, and they have the lack of upside to prove it with jerricho cotchery and jason avant as the top two targets. that's why the near future of the offense in part depends on rapid returns from first-rounder kelvin benjamin, who is a matchup problem at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, but is not particularly fast or refined just yet. if benjamin isn't better than cotchery or avant -- and soon -- cam could be richly unhappy. --mel kiper

  • 20
indianapolis colts
past season: 11-5 (1st) | afc south future rank: 1

the bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

the overview: a great qb can cover a lot of weaknesses in an organization. our rankings suggest andrew luck will have to do just that in indianapolis. luck's presence on the roster equated to a no. 2 ranking at qb, but the colts averaged a no. 27 ranking across the other categories. the 25-spot gap between those figures was by far the largest in the nfl and well ahead of the 17-spot gap between dallas' no. 13 qb ranking and no. 30 average across the other categories. at least the colts know they can win with their qb, regardless of whether they have a strong defense or running game. that is a rare luxury in the nfl. indy's no. 32 ranking in the draft would seem to have its roots in the team's widely panned decision to send its 2014 first-round pick to cleveland for running back trent richardson. overall, the colts dropped 12 spots in the future rankings since a year ago. that tied with houston for the largest drop. --mike sando

the dilemma: keeping luck upright and healthy will go a long way toward determining the future of this franchise. can they keep him from getting hit, knocked down or sacked? luck has been taken down 75 times over his first two seasons, the seventh most in the nfl in that span. furthermore, will the running game (potentially led by richardson) be good enough to lessen the number of times luck has to drop back? the development of the young offensive line -- assuming 2014 second-round pick jack mewhort is a starter at lg, the average age is 24.8 -- will set the tone. --louis riddick

the youth movement: no team gave away more draft value in 2013 than the colts, which makes it crucial that mewhort is able to transition well -- and hopefully quickly -- to guard or center. no qb had to deal with more interior pressure in 2013 than luck, and the inside of the line was also a culprit for richardson's awful start as a colt. although mewhort is a must, donte moncrief could be the wild card; he's a potential home run hitter at wide receiver if he can improve as a route runner. --mel kiper

  • 21
detroit lions
past season: 7-9 (3rd) | nfc north future rank: 3

the bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category. category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

the overview: the lions were one of four teams to maintain the same ranking from one year ago (16 teams remain within five places of where they ranked the past offseason). detroit jumped 12 spots to no. 11 in drafting, even though quite a few analysts thought tight end eric ebron was a luxury pick in the first round that ignored more pressing needs in the defensive secondary. our panel ranked the lions and vikings much lower than the packers and bears. the gap largely reflects a lack of faith in the lower teams' front offices. green bay and chicago ranked among the top eight in that category; detroit was 26th, and minnesota was 23rd. --mike sando

the dilemma: another nfc north team that faces potential problems right down the middle of the defense, which will alter the big picture if not addressed. negotiating ndamukong suh's contract extension is priority no. 1; getting nick fairley to play to his potential is no. 2; and improving the play of the entire secondary -- starting at safety but especially on the corners -- is the step thereafter if the lions want to be serious contenders in the nfc and not perennial underachievers, as they have come to be known. --louis riddick

the youth movement: it seems tom brady's 2013 regular season will be a highlight reel of endless dropped throws, but it was actually matthew stafford who led the league in dropped passes, with a whopping 58. stafford can be erratic, but so were his pass-catchers. i know it's called by some a luxury pick, but ebron was brought in as a set of sure hands in an offense that was way too top-heavy at wr/te thanks to megatron. on defense, the development of darius slay and 2014 rookie nevin lawson of utah state will be absolutely crucial if the lions want to challenge the packers in the division, which i believe they can. --mel kiper

  • 22
new york jets
past season: 8-8 (2nd) | afc east future rank: 2

the bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

the overview: the jets' coaching outlook improved 20 spots, from last to 12th, which ties with the jaguars' drafting leap for largest year-over-year gain in any single category. it's not that rex ryan suddenly rediscovered how to coach; it's that his ability to go 8-8 with a struggling rookie qb led to a contract extension that could help him stay with the team for the longer term. the team's coaching outlook is better now that ryan is no longer considered a long shot to keep his job. the jets ranked between 20th and 28th in every category other than coaching. that isn't great, but the team did gain ground in every category since the past offseason. the lack of optimism over geno smith stands out, but the jets did rank ahead of minnesota, buffalo, houston and tennessee in qb voting. --mike sando

the dilemma: on the positive side, the jets are set up to have maximum cap and cash flexibility going forward, and they have the makings of a dominant defense with the future addition of an edge rusher and another corner. on the negative side, they are a work in progress on offense. the future really depends on smith's development, which will be affected by the ability of the front office to continue building around him and by the stability of the coaching staff going forward. nonetheless, they appear to be on the right track. --louis riddick

the youth movement: ryan has managed to maintain a consistently strong defense in new york, even with the talent level at safety a constant question. look for rookie calvin pryorto change that conversation quickly, as he's a potential defensive rookie of the year and will be the qb for the defense. on offense, jace amaro can help create different looks and put more pressure on defenses with his size out of the slot. the young talent on this team is looking better and better. --mel kiper
  • 23
jacksonville jaguars
past season: 4-12 (3rd) | afc south future rank: 2

the bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

the overview: jacksonville is changing perceptions under its current leadership. the team jumped seven spots from this past offseason, and it's clear analysts think the team has the right people in charge. the jaguars improved 20 spots in the drafting category and 16 spots in the ranking of front office. those were the largest gains for any team in either category. however, a no. 26 ranking at qb suggests there's not much optimism over blake bortles' future. the rest of the roster ranked 31st, ahead of only the raiders. the jaguars have a lot of work ahead of them. their one front-line talent, justin blackmon, might never play for the team again. they will have to make good on that no. 10 ranking for drafting and restock the roster over the next few seasons. that, and they'd better be right on bortles. --mike sando

the dilemma: coach gus bradley is building something special as it pertains to the atmosphere of closeness and valuing personal relationships between players and coaches, much as pete carroll has done in seattle. as a result, i have long since jumped on board the gus bus. the questions emerge relating to bortles' timeline in taking over from chad henne at qb and whether the young weapons -- such as wrs marqise leeallen robinson and ace sanders and explosive rb storm johnson -- will develop along with him and carry this team into the future. as these young players go, so goes this franchise, in terms of its success competing with division front-runner indianapolis. --louis riddick

the youth movement: although the focus will be on the "when" for bortles and how much of an early impact lee and robinson will make in the passing game, the biggest gains for the offense could come on the offensive line, where rookie brandon linder (rg) and now-healthy second-year man luke joeckel (lt) could provide a huge boost. if those two play well, the offense will be better, regardless of who is taking the snaps. --mel kiper

  • 24
washington redskins
past season: 3-13 (4th) | nfc east future rank: 3

the bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

the overview: the head coach and qb are generally the two most important people in an nfl organization. the future rankings for washington in those categories dropped by a combined 31 spots from one year ago, by far the worst figure in the league. that includes a league-worst, 19-spot drop to no. 27 in coaching. robert griffin iii, although healthy roughly 18 months after knee surgery, has only lost ground in terms of perception. could this be a case of addition by subtraction? the previous coaching situation had become untenable. the qb situation, however, could be seen as a strength, with kirk cousinsbacking up a healthy griffin. --mike sando

the dilemma: the skins have a new direction in the front office, with bruce allen actually being responsible for talent acquisition, and a rookie head coach who, depending whom you ask, is not going to be missed by the team he left. gruden needs to show he can get rg iii to be the passer from the pocket everyone claims he can become, which will mean getting washington's big offseason addition, desean jackson, on the same page as the qb quickly. defensively, i don't see the signings of ufas jason hatcher and ryan clark being enough to spearhead the necessary improvement. --louis riddick

the youth movement: the safety of rg iii is reliant upon trent williams and … not much else. there was simply no team in the nfl with such a talent discrepancy on the o-line last year. williams is all-world, but the skins are lacking talent across the board elsewhere, which is why 2014 picks morgan moses (ot) and spencer long (g) could be pivotal. it wouldn't surprise me if both started at some point as rookies. if washington can at least make the talent imbalance on the o-line not as striking, the franchise -- that means the qb, too -- will benefit greatly. --mel kiper

  • 25
tennessee titans
past season: 7-9 (2nd) | afc south future rank: 3

the bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

the overview: the titans ranked between 18th and 21st in every category but qb. virtually no one likes jake locker's prospects for the long term, as the titans ranked 32nd in the future rankings at qb, a drop of seven spots from one year ago. tennessee managed to gain three spots in the overall rankings, thanks to a 12-spot gain on the coaching front. ken whisenhunt's arrival would seem to justify the shift, although winning with what analysts consider one of the worst qb situations could be tough. at the very least, however, whisenhunt should provide stability for the next few years and vision for the future. he's an upgrade. --mike sando

the dilemma: the quarterback situation is a problem. whisenhunt needs to pull off in tennessee something similar to what he did in san diego in 2013 with the resurgence of philip rivers. by that, i mean he needs to find a way to both keep locker healthy and help locker mature as a pocket passer, which it looked as if he was doing after week 4 of the past season. the fact that the titans didn't pick up locker's option for 2015 isn't exactly a vote of confidence, but it also doesn't change the fact that his performance is critical for this franchise going forward. --louis riddick

the youth movement: the titans were clearly looking to upgrade the run game when they added taylor lewan and bishop sankey in the first two rounds in 2014. and both could pay early dividends. lewan is an experienced tackle who could start on the right side and end up taking over for michael roos at left tackle, and sankey will add explosiveness to the run game. the titans could have among the most physical o-lines in the nfl next season, as lewan brings a nasty style and Chance Warmack and Brian Schwenke look to take a step forward. --Mel Kiper

  • 26
Minnesota Vikings
PAST SEASON: 5-10-1 (4th) | NFC NORTH FUTURE RANK: 4

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: The Vikings declined in every category and suffered the largest losses in drafting and the front office. Here's the thing, though: From 2009 to 2013, GM Rick Spielman drafted five players who subsequently earned Pro Bowl honors. That is tied with Seattle's John Schneider for the most by any GM in that five-year run. Unfortunately for the Vikings, they've whiffed at the QB position, and one of those Pro Bowlers, Percy Harvin, is no longer part of the equation in Minnesota. The Vikings' outlook at QB seemingly improved withTeddy Bridgewater's addition, but that did not stop Minnesota from falling four spots to No. 29 in that category. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: Was Bridgewater the right pick for this team, this offense and offensive coordinator Norv Turner? The Vikings are betting on him being the player everyone was falling over in the 2013 college football season and not the one scaring teams away during the draft process. If they are correct in their assessment, they have some young offensive skill pieces who could make them very exciting the next three years and beyond. If not, there likely will be a new GM in charge of finding the next "face of the franchise." --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: Bridgewater is in a great situation to succeed in Minnesota, but how he deals with a lot of cold-weather football the next two seasons as the team awaits a new indoor stadium will dictate whether he's truly the answer. And on defense, where Minnesota was dead last in points allowed last year, Anthony Barr has to become a disruptive force for a team that no longer has Jared Allen to rely on for a steady stream of pressure. --Mel Kiper

  • 27
Houston Texans
PAST SEASON: 2-14 (4th) | AFC SOUTH FUTURE RANK: 4

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category. Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: The Texans dropped 12 spots overall and at least seven in every category -- a major adjustment after a disastrous 2013 season. They were 31st at QB this time, and it's easy to see why. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't seen as the long-term answer, and Houston did not address the position seriously in free agency, the draft or the veteran trade market. Houston ranked 21st or worse in every category. New coach Bill O'Brien was widely seen as one of the most appealing candidates in the market this past offseason, but that wasn't enough to move him past more proven coaches in the rankings. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: This franchise is in trouble as long as Fitzpatrick is under center. He is a turnover machine, which makes it not surprising at all that franchise star WR Andre Johnsonquestions the future direction of the team. I am right there with him. The only possible in-house solution is if fifth-round rookie Tom Savage can deliver on what I consider to be tremendous upside in the next two to three years. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: If he's healthy, No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney is going to produce. Same deal with fellow rookie Xavier Su'a-Filo, a potentially dominant guard. The mystery is whether O'Brien can turn Savage into something more than a strong-armed backup. Given what's ahead of Savage on the depth chart, a cameo in 2014 could give us a good sense of whether he's the future or Houston will be drafting (or shopping for) the real future in 2015. The question is whether you should really have patience with a player taken so late. --Mel Kiper

  • 28
Dallas Cowboys
PAST SEASON: 8-8 (3rd) | NFC EAST FUTURE RANK: 4

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: Dallas and Oakland are the only teams ranking among the NFL's five worst in four of the five categories. The Cowboys were 13th at QB. Tony Romo ranked tied for eighth in our recent "QB Tiers" project, but that was for the present. The future rankings project forward through 2016, when Romo will be 37 years old. How will his surgically repaired back hold up? Subtracting DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee from a defense that's already shaky appears devastating. That helps explain why the Dallas roster (beyond QB) ranked 29th. There aren't enough front-line players on defense. Salary-cap challenges persist. Only the Raiders and Dolphins ranked lower than the Cowboys in the front-office category, which is a strong statement of disapproval for how Jerry Jones runs the franchise. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: For Dallas, the real issue going forward is how successful it is at developing its draft picks on the defensive side of the ball, primarily 2012 draftees Morris Claiborne andTyrone Crawford and '14 draft picks DeMarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens. The offense is set, regardless of how easy it is to pile on Romo. Defense is where championships are won. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: The Cowboys are betting on two rookies from the 2014 class to be exactly what they hope they can be. If Zack Martin performs well at guard after transitioning from playing mostly tackle at Notre Dame, the offensive line could be the best in the NFL -- no exaggeration. And second-rounder Lawrence needs to provide pressure for a defensive line that is really light on ceiling elsewhere. --Mel Kiper

  • 29
Cleveland Browns
PAST SEASON: 4-12 (4th) | AFC NORTH FUTURE RANK: 4

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: The Browns actually dropped two spots overall from the past offseason, even though drafting QB Johnny Manziel in the first round upgraded their ranking in that category by seven spots, to No. 24. GM Ray Farmer drew high marks for his handling of the draft, but the Browns lost nine spots in the draft ranking. Overall, it's tough to trust the Browns for the long term after owner Jimmy Haslam flushed out the previous leadership regime after such a short time. Will Haslam show sufficient patience with Farmer and new coach Mike Pettine? Can the team count on top playmaker Josh Gordon? Is Manziel the answer? The long list of unanswered questions explains why the Browns remain near the bottom overall. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: Have the Browns finally found the quarterback who will pull them out of their pit of mediocrity, or is Manziel not even the best QB on the roster (which looks entirely possible if you study incumbent QB Brian Hoyer's game closely). A QB's development and success require that everyone be pulling in the same direction within an organization in terms of who should be the face of the franchise, and, depending whom you want to believe, that is not necessarily the case in Cleveland. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: While everyone focuses on Manziel, the front office is clearly focused on making sure any quarterback can succeed in Cleveland by simply handing the ball off. If rookie second-rounder (and potential steal) Joel Bitonio becomes a killer at guard next toJoe Thomas (and solid center Alex Mack), the Browns will be running when they want to. Yes, they need receivers, but this is the makings of one of the NFL's top offensive lines, mitigating that issue and taking some heat off whoever takes the snaps. --Mel Kiper

  • 30
Buffalo Bills
PAST SEASON: 6-10 (4th) | AFC EAST FUTURE RANK: 3

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: The Bills, like the Dolphins and Raiders below them, enter the 2014 season with coaches and GMs in potentially tenuous situations. The pending ownership change in Buffalo calls into question whether the team's current leadership will endure beyond the coming season. That makes it tough to feel great about the Bills' prospects the next few seasons, particularly without an established QB. Buffalo ranked 16th in the non-QB roster category and 17th in drafting. Those were the Bills' highest rankings. The outlook for everyone will improve considerably if QB EJ Manuel makes strides this season. If the No. 30 ranking at QB seems harsh, remember Buffalo has done almost nothing to reinforce the position behind Manuel. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: The loss of arguably their best player in LB Kiko Alonso to a major knee injury is a huge blow to the team in the short term, with the long-term effect yet to be determined, but the fact is Manuel's development will be the determining factor as to whether this team can challenge New England in the AFC East. The Bills have perimeter weapons, a young, solid O-line and cap space going forward. All eyes will be on Manuel. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: Last year, Manuel completed just 12 passes that traveled more than 20 yards down the field in the air. That's not a huge surprise -- I had concerns about Manuel's deep passing going into the draft -- but don't just assume Sammy Watkins is now a deep fix for Buffalo. No, Watkins is particularly good at turning short throws into big gains. The problem is short throws will expose him to more contact. Buffalo's offense will be helped by Watkins, but it really needs him to stay healthy. --Mel Kiper

  • 31
Miami Dolphins
PAST SEASON: 8-8 (3rd) | AFC EAST FUTURE RANK: 4

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: It's been a rough year for the Dolphins, and their outlook has taken a hit. They were one of four teams to lose ground in every future rankings category since the past offseason. Prospects along the offensive line have improved, however. The switch at offensive coordinator could help QB Ryan Tannehill. But the odds seem high that Miami could experience a regime change sooner rather than later. Miami's ranking for coaching fell 12 spots to No. 31 despite what generally has been seen as a positive switch at offensive coordinator. That suggests faith in Joe Philbin has declined after a year marred by the Richie Incognito fiasco and subsequent investigation. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: It's hard to pick out a single dilemma for this team, but, as I see it, the Dolphins have a long road ahead of them before they're ready to make a legitimate run at the AFC East crown. They have a young QB in Tannehill, who is going to have to make a jump with an entirely new offensive system and offensive line, and in the bigger picture the organization has some players with bloated 2015 cap numbers that will contribute to a tight overall cap situation. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: Tannehill was sacked an NFL-high 58 times this past season, and Miami as a team allowed QB sacks on a pretty brutal 8.9 percent of passing plays. Adding a downfield threat such as Mike Wallace doesn't mean as much if you can't protect past "two Mississippi." Rookies Ja'Wuan James (first round) and Billy Turner (third) could play crucial roles now and for the next three seasons -- and help determine whether Tannehill really is the long-term fix at QB. --Mel Kiper

  • 32
Oakland Raiders
PAST SEASON: 4-12 (4th) | AFC WEST FUTURE RANK: 4

The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

The overview: Oakland was a tough team to evaluate positively for the long term amid expectations that coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie might not be around beyond this season. The Raiders will have to demonstrate stability and vision under owner Mark Davis before earning the benefit of the doubt. They were the only team to rank among the bottom 10 in all five categories. They were in the bottom five in every category but QB, in which the team ranked 26th with Matt Schaub and Derek Carr. The Raiders added older players in free agency. Some of those veterans will upgrade the roster in 2014, but how many of them will be factors in 2016? --Mike Sando

The dilemma: Saying that the QB position is critical to this team's future success is easy, and it is just a matter of time before Carr has the keys to the offense instead of Schaub (the sooner the better). What will really determine how this all turns out for the Raiders is the drafting and developing ability of the personnel and coaching programs individually and collectively, which makes McKenzie and Allen the men in the spotlight. Cap space and draft picks are no longer convenient excuses; it is time to produce results. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: Rookie Khalil Mack will get a lot of the spotlight and could provide not only pass rushing but also underrated versatility. However, the defense will make great strides if second-year starters D.J. Hayden (CB) and Sio Moore (OLB) live up to their talent. Hayden was inconsistent in fewer than 400 total snaps in 2013 but has great physical talent and upside. Moore could become the best pass-rusher on the team in 2014, as Mack gets comfortable. --Mel Kiper

Reply | Quote

Posted: 7/11/2014 9:56 AM

Re: NFL Future Rankings 


At least the Jets weren't last again. I'm sure that upset some people.

Where did the Jets rank in terms of draft, I wonder? I know it was a major step up from last year's ranking, and having a lot of cap space is huge.

Reply | Quote

Posted: 7/11/2014 11:22 AM

Re: NFL Future Rankings 


If Geno shows that he is the future, the team will take a huge step into top ten with all of the other young talent and cap space.
Reply | Quote

Posted: 7/11/2014 11:33 AM

Re: NFL Future Rankings 



jgrote wrote: If Geno shows that he is the future, the team will take a huge step into top ten with all of the other young talent and cap space.
I'd be surprised if the Jets cracked the top ten for next year, no matter how good Geno and the offense are.

Reply | Quote
Avatar

Posted: 7/12/2014 8:32 AM

Re: NFL Future Rankings 


Seems a really low ranking for the Jets at 22. OTOH, they have nice things to say and there's been a big jump in the rankings.
Reply | Quote
Avatar

Posted: 7/12/2014 10:54 AM

Re: NFL Future Rankings 


I think Pryor, McDougle and Dowling will solidify the JETS secondary and they will again be in the Top 3 of all NFL Defensive catagories,.... and maybe the youngest.  As for offensive talent and ratings. ...  if all are healthy and play up to their capabilities ...  and more notably if Geno Smith shows signs of growth & maturity ... we could go 11-5 or 12-4  with a run in our last seven games on the schedule being on the easy side.
Reply | Quote
Avatar

Posted: 7/15/2014 9:11 AM

Re: NFL Future Rankings 





---------------------------------------------
--- jgrote wrote:

If Geno shows that he is the future, the team will take a huge step into top ten with all of the other young talent and cap space.

---------------------------------------------


I think the Jets and Rams are very similar. Great defensive lines and QB stability away from making some serious noise in the NFL.
Reply | Quote

Posted: 7/15/2014 9:44 AM

Re: NFL Future Rankings 



danfran wrote: Seems a really low ranking for the Jets at 22. OTOH, they have nice things to say and there's been a big jump in the rankings.
After being dead last in last year's rankings? I'm shocked they gave the Jets this much credit!

Reply | Quote

Posted: 7/15/2014 12:49 PM

Re: NFL Future Rankings 



SackExchange wrote:
danfran wrote: Seems a really low ranking for the Jets at 22. OTOH, they have nice things to say and there's been a big jump in the rankings.
After being dead last in last year's rankings? I'm shocked they gave the Jets this much credit!
I think it is a testament to job Idzik has done: cutting dead roster wood and going from cap hell to having a lot of space; changing the entire culture from top to bottom in the organization; hanging in there with Rex and coaching staff; and deftly rebuilding the roster through draft and FA.  I'm cautiously very optimistic about the long term prospects for this team.
Reply | Quote

Posted: 7/15/2014 5:36 PM

Re: NFL Future Rankings 



jgrote wrote:
SackExchange wrote:
danfran wrote: Seems a really low ranking for the Jets at 22. OTOH, they have nice things to say and there's been a big jump in the rankings.
After being dead last in last year's rankings? I'm shocked they gave the Jets this much credit!
I think it is a testament to job Idzik has done: cutting dead roster wood and going from cap hell to having a lot of space; changing the entire culture from top to bottom in the organization; hanging in there with Rex and coaching staff; and deftly rebuilding the roster through draft and FA.  I'm cautiously very optimistic about the long term prospects for this team.
I agree with you jgrote and get the gist of your post but it seems as Jet fans we live in a state of cautious optimism!
Reply | Quote

Posted: 7/15/2014 6:42 PM

Re: NFL Future Rankings 


Tannenbaum was a bean counter GM. Financial genius with a splurge approach to FA. Fans loved him for spending big money and taking chances on players like Favre, Law, Scott, ect. Idzik is a more level headed GM who takes the time necessary to build a winner. Now, nothing's for certain regarding Idzik, but his approach is the right way at building long term success.
Reply | Quote

Posted: 7/16/2014 6:54 AM

Re: NFL Future Rankings 



BlindsideBrick wrote: Tannenbaum was a bean counter GM. Financial genius with a splurge approach to FA. Fans loved him for spending big money and taking chances on players like Favre, Law, Scott, ect. Idzik is a more level headed GM who takes the time necessary to build a winner. Now, nothing's for certain regarding Idzik, but his approach is the right way at building long term success.
It is painfully frustrating, but he has a plan and he sticks to it.  In all honesty, Idzik has a very old school approach, but on the other hand, he is required by the NFL to spend a ton of money over the next 3 years or the Jets will be fined for s=not spending enough free agent money.  We one of 3 teams on track to be fined by the NFL for not spending enough cap space.

Now, I think Idzik is saving it for Richardson, Wilkerson, Snacks, Coples, Milliner, Kerley, Geno, and more picks like Decker.  Idzik is a very calculated man, and he might not have loved last year's FA class for all we know and preferred next year when guys like Fitzgerald, Haden, Petterson, Rolle, Revis, Iupati, Crabtree, Orakpo (coming off tag), Worilds (coming off tag), and likely even Andre Johnson hit the free agent market.  The Jets are going to be forced to spend money and I always see Idzik looking ahead and making decisions both on the now and the future.

One thing is for sure, the Jets are building themselves in a well calculated way.  It doesn't mean success, but if you had to choose to build your house from the foundation up or via patch work free agents, I think we can all agree even if it doesn't work, we'd rather rebuild our house from the bottom up than through the constant quick fixes we saw under Mike T.
Reply | Quote

Posted: 7/16/2014 8:38 AM

Re: NFL Future Rankings 


a big +1
Reply | Quote