ESPN released what may be the worst look at the NFL ever, disguising the effort as "Future Power Rankings." These power rankings are supposed to represent what the league will look like in 2015, three years from now. ESPN set up the process by having Bill Polian develop a scoring system looking at five areas of a team - the roster (minus the quarterback), the quarterback, the draft, the front office, and the coaching staff. After that, ESPN turned the development of the "future" power rankings over to a panel of "experts," Trent Dilfer, Mel Kiper, Gary Horton, and Matt Williamson.
These "experts" then proceeded to give a score to each of the five areas Polian established, then used those scores to rank the 32 NFL teams - again, focused on where the team will be in three years.
To give you an idea of the future of the league, here are the top and bottom five teams from the 2015 power rankings:
1. Green Bay Packers
2. New England Patriots
3. New York Giants
4. San Francisco 49ers
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
28. Miami Dolphins
29. Oakland Raiders
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
31. Minnesota Vikings
32. Cleveland Browns
That's right. The 2015 league will look an awful lot like the 2012 NFL. In fact, here are the most recent power rankings from ESPN for the 2012 season:
1. New York Giants
2. New England Patriots
3. Green Bay Packers
4. Baltimore Ravens
5. San Francisco 49ers
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
29. St. Louis Rams
30. Cleveland Browns
31. Minnesota Vikings
32. Indianapolis Colts
So, despite three years of drafts, development, retirements, etc., the NFL in three years will be exactly the NFL we have now. Why even play the games? Why not just cut the bottom half of the league, since apparently a team cannot hope to climb out of the cellar over three years. Even a team like the Colts, who were ranked 32 in the 2012 power rankings and drafted one of the most highly prized college prospects in 30 years with quarterback Andrew Luck, can see a rise as high as 27 in three years.
To be fair, not all of ESPN agrees with the way these "experts" grade the league in three years. ESPN's AFC East blogger James Walker, who last week we lambasted for his asertion that Miami owner Stephen Ross needs to shut his mouth because he is saying all the wrong things, points out one of the biggest flaws in the 2015 power rankings.
Brady will be 35 years old when this season starts. That means, when 2015 kicks off, Brady will be 38 years old. At 38, does Brady still warrant a "nine" on the rating scale? At 38, are we even sure Brady will still be playing the game? Walker also points out that the panel completely ignores the Patriots impending tight end problem. While the "experts" love the weapons that Brady has around him, the fact that after the 2014 season, both Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowsi are free agents means, as Walker writes, "unless the Patriots find a way to make 'Gronk' and Hernandez two of the highest-paid players at the same position. That's not likely."
And that's just one team in the "experts" view of an NFL three years from now.
As for the Dolphins, the panel is concerned that Ryan Tannehill might not be the future of the quarterback position for Miami, that Jake Long may not stay in Miami, and the fact that the Dolphins have a rookie coach in Joe Philbin. Apprently, all those question marks mean the Dolphins will remain mired in 28th position in 2015, after being ranked 27th this year.
Here is the full writeup for the Dolphins:
LAST SEASON: 6-10 (third place AFC East)
The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.
Roster: There are certainly some long-term pieces in place here, such as LT Jake Long and a solid group of defensive tackles, but overall this is a rebuilding team that needs much more. A few of Miam's defensive players, such as LB Karlos Dansby, could be past their prime three years from now and they currently are far from rich with WR talent. -- Williamson
Quarterback: The suspicion is Matt Moore will start for Miami in Week 1. Moore can win, but he's limited and options at wide receiver are scarce. Ryan Tannehill has talent, but the tape says he has a ton of development left. There's no reason to rush him, which lowers their three-year profile. -- Dilfer
Draft: It will be a major setback for Miami if Tannehill doesn't become a very good NFL quarterback. Offensive line picks have been the highlights, with Long (2008) and C Mike Pouncey (2011) both Pro Bowl-caliber players. -- Kiper
Front office: Everything about this organization revolves around the development and maturation of Tannehill because the Dolphins haven't done a very good job of attracting free-agent talent. As it stands right now, there can't be a ton of confidence in Miami's personnel people. -- Williamson
Coaching: Joe Philbin will bring the Packers' way of doing things to the Dolphins. But unfortunately he will not have Rodgers to pull it off in Miami. The Dolphins will also try to bring a very fast-paced offense that teams run in college to this level. It will certainly be interesting. -- Williamson
According to the "experts" at ESPN, the NFL seems to be a set in stone type of league, where the good teams will remain at the top forever, and the bottom teams don't stand a chance of ever competing against the elite. It's amazing that, for an institution such as ESPN, to put in an effort like ranking the 32 NFL teams into an order that looks surpisingly simliar to the ranknings they already have, depite the focus of 3-years in the future.