Super Bowl 50 was last night, so why not already start building the 2016 NFL Power Rankings. Well, probably because free agency, the draft, coaching scheme changes, and training camp all still have to happen before we really start looking at the 2016 season, and how we rank the 32 NFL teams. That, however, would take away from the fun of debating the power rankings. ESPN released their "2016 Way-Too-Early Power Rankings" Monday morning.
The ESPN voters - 21 of them - ranked the Carolina Panthers, who lost Super Bowl 50, as the number one team heading into 2016. Behind them, they had the New England Patriots second, the Seattle Seahawks third, the Arizona Cardinals fourth, and the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos fifth.
Not surprisingly, you have to scroll deep into the list to find the Dolphins. ESPN ranks the Dolphins 24th in their way-too-early rankings list, which actually seems about right. The Dolphins finished 6-10 in the 2015 season, but they could turn around if new head coach Adam Gase can get the talent on the team playing together as a team, rather than as a series of individuals. ESPN writes about the Dolphins' ranking:
Why they're here: The fact that Miami already needs to consider a major restructuring of Ndamukong Suh's contract this offseason after making him the big free agency buy of 2015 is a microcosm for how bad things went over the past year. Everyone is hopeful that Adam Gase can get Ryan Tannehill's career back on track after a two-steps-back 2015, but don't expect any splashy additions this offseason.
What could change: Hopefully Tannehill, and for the better. Gase will take a shot after getting the job largely based on getting Jay Cutler to play well, if not smile. A personnel problem could arise if the team can't perform the cap acrobatics required to keep Olivier Vernon around.
I really want to talk about how bad these rankings are, and how the voters at ESPN clearly are underestimating the Dolphins this year, but it actually seems like a pretty fair assessment. Things did good badly for the Dolphins in 2015, and now they will look to shake that off in 2016 under Gase. The team will be looking for Tannehill to resume his upward growth, something Gase should be able to assist, rather than the plateaued quarterback we all saw in 2015. Gase should allow Tannehill to have more responsibility in the offense this season, and Tannehill will, hopefully, respond to it. Otherwise, another season floating around the bottom of power rankings could be ahead for the Dolphins.