Ranking Each NFL Team’s Future Outlook Through a Systematic Lens

As we get closer to the NFL season, there will be plenty of debate on how the top teams in the NFL are, and who will win Super Bowl LV. However, since we’re in a “dead period” of the NFL offseason, now would seem like a great time to look towards the future. Today, we’ll look at each team’s future, ranking them based on their long-term well-being.

In my rating scale of each team’s future outlook, there are three components in the final formula:

  • Young Talent takes up about 50% of the equation. Of that 50%, the quarterback accounts for 43%, while the other 57% goes to every other position. Most importantly, I’m looking at how stable their receiving corps, secondary, and offensive line are.
  • A team’s front office plays a major role in assessing their future prospects (35% to be exact), as you’ll trust the smart organizations to make the most of their assets, while the same cannot be said for less functional front offices.
  • The final 15% goes to the team’s future resources, which is their future financial flexibility and draft assets. In order to gauge each team’s long-term health with the salary cap, I used Over The Cap’s rankings.

Now that we’ve gone over the system implemented for this piece, it’s time to rank each team’s long-term outlook! We’ll go #32-#1, starting with the team in the worst state moving forward.

#32: Washington Redskins

ronriverasynde
Photo Cred: NBC Sports

Young Talent: D+

Front Office/Staff: D

Resources: A-

With the start of a new regime in Washington, led by new head coach Ron Rivera, the Redskins had a chance to significantly improve the state of their franchise by maximizing on the #2 pick. However, they stood pat and took edge rusher Chase Young, who will be a great player, yet certainly won’t move the needle for them. Second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins is entering a major season to prove his worth, but with a lackluster offensive line and only one impact wide receiver (Terry McLaurin), there isn’t any reason to project success for him. Meanwhile, although the team’s defensive line is strong, their secondary is greatly lacking in talent, and on paper, they may very well be the worst team in football next season. On the bright side, that could give them a very high pick to use on a quarterback, and they have the financial resources to improve their roster. At the same time, though, this is an organization that has generally been unstable, which makes it hard for me to believe that a) they’ll use their resources well and b) players will actually choose to play for them. In other words, I remain extremely skeptical about them this season, and in the future.

#31: Los Angeles Rams

NFC Championship - Los Angeles Rams v New Orleans Saints
Photo Cred: ocregister.com

Young Talent: C-

Front Office/Staff: D+

Resources: D+

At this time last season, the Rams were the reigning NFC champions who were hoping to continue to dominate the NFC West. Now, they may very well be the weak-link of the division. General manager Les Snead is witnessing the consequences of several ill-fated long-term contracts, and also traded two first-round picks for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who will also reset the market with a new extension. Consequently, the talent around quarterback Jared Goff, mainly the offensive line, has evaporated, which is very troubling: Goff is a mid-tier quarterback that needs a strong supporting cast around him. Heck, even head coach Sean McVay needs to prove that he can work with lesser talent, as he didn’t have any sort of counterpunch for defensive gameplans last season, and the team did not address the offensive line whatsoever this offseason. I’m expecting this to be a long season for the top-heavy Rams, and in the future, their outlook only looks worst. They’re a clear example of why you should never go “all-in” to win a Super Bowl- it rarely works.

#30: Chicago Bears

macknagypace
Photo Cred: NBC Sports

Young Talent: C-

Front Office/Staff: D+

Resources: C

When the Bears traded two first-round picks for star edge Khalil Mack, they did so under the premise that they had found their franchise quarterback in Mitch Trubisky. Obviously, that backfired, and in general, trading multiple first-round picks to play an edge rusher a premium amount is not the proper way to build your team. Chicago is lacking in young talent and in salary cap space due to that trade, and honestly, don’t really have a direction. They’re too competitive to get a top pick, but also not good enough to be a playoff contender, and, as a result, they’re in no man’s land right now. General manager Ryan Pace’s tenure with the Bears has been filled with several baffling decisions; I wouldn’t be surprised if ownership decides to go in a different direction after this season.

#29: New York Giants

judgegettleman
Photo Cred: http://www.si.com

Young Talent: C-

Front Office/Staff: D

Resources: B-

To be fair, the Giants actually had one of the best draft performances this offseason. Tackles Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart give them long-term stability on the offensive line, while Xavier McKinney and Darnay Holmes each improve their secondary. However, outside of that, there isn’t a lot to get excited about with the Giants. General manager Dave Gettleman has tried to build this team through the defensive trenches, and the team’s top players play non-valuable positions. Not only does the team like a true #1 receiver or an adequate pass defense, but Daniel Jones also has yet to prove himself as a franchise quarterback; even though he was the sixth overall pick, there was nothing to suggest he was worthy of that selection. Essentially, the team has a general manager on the hot seat, not a ton of future financial resources, and lacks star talent to build around. Add in the fact that they have one of the hardest schedules in the NFL this season, and it wouldn’t shock me if Gettleman is let go; now that he has hired new head coach Joe Judge, he is the one who will likely be held accountable if the team once again comes up short.

#28: Atlanta Falcons

dimitroffblank
Photo Cred: CBS Sports

Young Talent: C

Front Office/Staff: D

Resources: C

In 2016, the Falcons reached the Super Bowl, while the rest of their division was stuck in mediocrity. Now, they’re the team consistently finishing with a 7-9 record, and that’s while spending as much money as any other team. With Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and other star players, it’s a very flashy roster, yet one that is aging- Ryan is 35 and Jones is 31. Plus, there is also no depth present, which not only could doom them this season, but should also continue to be problematic in the future. Atlanta’s inability to lookahead during general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s tenure has been extremely troubling. Over the past two drafts, for example, it appears that they are just trying to plug holes. They wanted to get tougher, so reached based on public perception for multiple offensive linemen, and then passed on an elite receiver prospect in CeeDee Lamb, as they felt that they had to draft cornerback AJ Terrell to fill a need. If they treated the draft for what it really is – a way to add talent for the future – then their future would be significantly better. However, that isn’t what they’ve done, and not only are they in jeopardy of wasting Ryan and Jones’ prime years, but head coach Dan Quinn and Dimitroff each appear to be on the hot seat.

#27: Houston Texans

watsonBOB
Photo Cred: Bleacher Report

Young Talent: B-

Front Office/Staff: D-

Resources: F

As long as the Texans have Deshaun Watson at quarterback, they’ll always be a major contender in the AFC South. Yet, if head coach Bill O’Brien continues to be in charge of the team’s personnel decisions, I don’t have much confidence they’ll ever maximize on Watson’s talent. After trading DeAndre Hopkins for practically nothing, their lack receiver talent around Watson, and their secondary is also in very poor shape. At the very least, they finally have built an offensive line around Watson, but as long as he’s forced to hold onto the ball too long, that probably won’t matter much. Then, there are the team’s long-term resources. They’re without a first-round pick and second-round pick in next year’s draft, and after paying tackle Laremy Tunsil $22 million per season and with Deshaun Watson primed to sign a massive extension, they won’t have much financial flexibility. Houston’s floor is extremely high, but I see them more as a consistent seven-win team moving forward.

#26: Jacksonville Jaguars

khancaldwell
Photo Cred: si.com

Young Talent: C-

Front Office/Staff: D

Resources: A+

By next year, the Jaguars could rank near the top of this list. Their outstanding trade of star cornerback Jalen Ramsey netted them two first-round picks from the Rams, and after using their two first-round picks on hopeful defensive cornerstones at expensive positions (CJ Henderson, K’Lavon Chaisson), they also have two first-round picks in next year’s draft. Assuming they finish with one of the worst records in the NFL next season, they’ll be in a great position to find their franchise quarterback, as well as take advantage of a deep wide receiver class. However, that’s easier said than done. For starters, Gardner Minshew showed enough flashes last season to prove to not be incompetent, which could hurt their “tanking” efforts. Meanwhile, the current regime’s track record has been suspect, to say the least, and I don’t believe they even optimized with their abundance of assets in this past draft. By next season, Jacksonville should have a new franchise quarterback, as well as a new head coach and general manager. That would make their outlook significantly better, but there are too many moving parts currently to rank them any higher on this list.

#25: Las Vegas Raiders

grudenmayock
Photo Cred: NBC Sports

Young Talent: C

Front Office/Staff: D+

Resources: C

For those wondering why the Jaguars can’t rank any higher despite having two first-round picks in next year’s draft, the Raiders are a clear reason why. They wisely part ways with edge rusher Khalil Mack for two first-round picks, but they definitely didn’t make the most of those extra picks. With five first-round picks over the past two seasons, here’s who they took:

  • Clelin Ferrell, an edge rusher known more for his run defense
  • Josh Jacobs, a running back
  • Jonathan Abram, a box safety
  • Henry Ruggs III, a good player, but a reach considering the other receivers that were on the board
  • Damon Arnette, a cornerback some saw as not even a top-ten prospect at his position

That’s what we like to call a blown opportunity, as Las Vegas still doesn’t have much talent on the perimeter, and haven’t supported quarterback Derek Carr enough. As a mid-tier quarterback, Carr needs all the help he can get, and has proven to be capable of leading a winning offense. He may never got his chance in Las Vegas, however, and it’s not as though the Raiders have the financial resources to sign a impact receiver in the future- they rank in the bottom tier in Over The Cap’s long-term financial health rankings. Although head coach Jon Gruden is an underrated play-caller and leader, his involvement in personnel decisions with general manager Mike Mayock has proven to be troublesome, and there isn’t much reason to believe in that duo moving forward. With the Chiefs appearing to be on the verge of becoming a potential dynasty, they’re at risk of becoming a true bottom-feeder of the AFC West.

#24: Green Bay Packers

packerslefleurgute
Photo Cred: WLUK

Young Talent: C

Front Office/Staff: D+

Resources: B-

Heading into the offseason, there was a lot of optimism for the Packers. Sure, their 13-3 record last season was aided by a lot of luck, but as long as they improved their perimeter talent, the second season with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and head coach Matt LeFleur had the makings of being special. So, naturally, Green Bay didn’t address their wide receiver corps or secondary, and used their first three picks in the draft on:

  • Jordan Love, a risky quarterback, even though Rodgers is under contract for four more seasons and has a contract that is hard to trade.
  • AJ Dillon, a bruising running back.
  • Josiah Deguara, a player they plan on utilizing as their fullback.

Apparently, LeFleur wants to tie the offense to the rushing attack and mimic Kyle Shanahan’s success with the 49ers, and that won’t work. This is an innovator’s league, and trying to copy another play-caller practically never pans out, and, in reality, the selection of Love may have been a way for him to assert his dominance over the offense. Regardless, though, this is a team without a lot of intriguing young perimeter talent, an unproven play-caller, and not a great track record of ideal decision-making in recent years. Add in the red flags with Love coming out of Utah State, and my lack of confidence that he’ll be developed properly, and it’s clear that the Packers had a disastrous offseason in terms of building for the future.

#23: Pittsburgh Steelers

tomlincolbert
Photo Cred: DK Pittsburgh Sports

Young Talent: C-

Front Office/Staff: B

Resources: C

No matter who is on their roster, the Steelers seem to always be extremely competitive, which makes me confident in them moving forward. At the same time, however, their future outlook looks murky at best. Ben Roethlisberger is 38-years-old and coming off of a serious elbow injury, and Pittsburgh hasn’t made any attempt to find his future successor, or at least add a competent backup. Meanwhile, the offensive line is getting older, their top defensive players will need new contracts soon, and there isn’t a surplus of young talent, especially at valuable positions. The stability of the organization is encouraging, but without a lot of salary cap space and not enough cost-controlled talent, I’m concerned about their ability to dig themselves out of the hole they’ve created for themselves.

#22: New York Jets

jetsjoedouglas
Photo Cred: New York Post

Young Talent: C-

Front Office/Staff: B-

Resources: B

When he took over as the Jets’ general manager, Joe Douglas knew he was going to be tasked with fixing a messy situation that previous general Mike Maccagnan put them in with his poor drafting and his inability to grasp positional value. So far, Douglas has gone about his job the right way, aiming to add as much depth to the organization as possible. Obviously, that means that this rebuilding process is going to be longer than Jets fans would hope for, which is an issue since Sam Darnold has yet to prove himself as the team’s long-term quarterback. Nevertheless, Douglas has set this organization up to have a lot of cap space soon, and added a lot of young talent in this draft by trading down often. Soon enough, his process should lead to New York being competitive in the AFC East.

#21: Carolina Panthers

rhule
Photo Cred: Charlotte Post

Young Talent: C-

Front Office/Staff: B

Resources: B-

After they decided to cut ties with long-time head coach Ron Rivera, the Panthers were looking for an identity change, and that’s exactly what they’ll get now that they’ve hired head coach Matt Rhule. Rhule is known to be an excellent culture-builder, and to bring even more optimism to their future, he hired Joe Brady, the “wiz-kid” of the dynamic LSU offense, to be the team’s offensive coordinator. With young defensive talent, a budding star receiver in DJ Moore, and some youth on the offensive line, the pieces are there for Carolina to avoid a long-term rebuild. The key for them will be to find their franchise quarterback, as Teddy Bridgewater is more likely just a stopgap option, but they’re likely to be picking high enough to select a premier quarterback prospect such as Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, or Trey Lance, which would obviously vault them up this list. They made some confusing decisions this offseason, including extending running back Christian McCaffrey and drafting defensive tackle Derrick Brown over versatile defensive playmaker Isaiah Simmons, but the Panthers are in a better spot than I expected them to be in heading into the offseason. If they are able to draft the right young quarterback, they could be a force in an NFC South that is definitely trending down.

#20: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

arianslight
Photo Cred: Arizona Sports

Young Talent: C+

Front Office/Staff: C

Resources: B

The addition of Tom Brady rightfully has made the Bucs one of the most hyped-up teams heading in the 2020 season, but since he’s 43-years-old, he doesn’t actually make an impact when it comes to future power rankings. What will help them, however, is their recent drafts, as they’ve revamped their secondary, and also solidified their offensive line with the selection of offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs. Add in the young receiver duo of Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, and there is a lot of reason to believe this team is geared for future success. Yet, since they’re going to be so competitive over the next two seasons, it’s going to be hard for them to find their next franchise quarterback, especially as their cap space goes towards extending their core players. Meanwhile, although general manager Jason Light has really had a nice offseason, his past track record is not strong, and I’m not expecting head coach Bruce Arians to stick around for long, considering he has already retired once. There is a lot of uncertainty with Tampa Bay moving forward, which is why they rank this low, but I will say that their “upside” is through the roof if they’re able to resolve their quarterback situation after Brady retires.

#19: Philadelphia Eagles

dougpedersonhowieroseman
Photo Cred: The Philadelphia Inquirer

Young Talent: C

Front Office/Staff: B

Resources: C

Am I underestimating general manager Howie Roseman? Potentially; he has done a great job managing the Eagles’ salary cap while building a contender through an analytical lens. Yet, this team is in a rough predicament, and it is partially due to his own faults. Due to their investments on the offensive and defensive trenches, the Eagles have a lot of aging, regressing players, which isn’t ideal for their long-term well-behind. First-round receiver Jalen Reagor is their only young building block on the perimeter to get excited about, and since they rank in the bottom tier of salary cap health, they’re going to have to maximize on their draft picks to improve their roster. Meanwhile, outside of a 2017 season in which they relied a lot on unsustainable third-down success, the combination of quarterback Carson Wentz and head coach Doug Pederson leaves a lot to be desired. Wentz’ inability to stay healthy and his inconsistency have kept him from taking the next step from being a mid-term quarterback. Pederson, on the other hand, has run an inefficient offensive system in which he utilities rushing plans too much on early downs, so he’s not exactly elevating Wentz’ production. I have a lot of faith in Roseman, but there isn’t enough youth present on the roster, and as a result, it’s hard to get too confident in them; it’s not like they have a quarterback on a rookie contract to help them get out of this tough situation.

#18: Cincinnati Bengals

zactaylorbengals
Photo Cred: WCPO.com

Young Talent: B-

Front Office/Staff: D+

Resources: A-

In my opinion, it’s better to be an awful team than a mediocre team, and the Bengals are a clear reason why. Their 2-14 record secured them the #1 pick in the 2020 draft, and, as a result, they landed one of the best quarterback prospects over the past decade in Joe Burrow. Burrow’s accuracy, poise, and pocket presence, paired with a solid receiving corps and young tackle Jonah Williams, gives this team some optimism for the future, especially with the amount of salary cap space they’ll have next year. Yet, it’s not that simple. There is a reason that this team has struggled to take the next step for so many years- they’re a traditionally conservative organization that struggles with team-building. Furthermore, it isn’t like Cincinnati has a flawless roster, as their offensive line and secondary needs a lot more talent, and head coach Zac Taylor needs to prove himself as the right coach for Burrow. This is certainly a team on the rise, but, at the end of the day, it’s hard to buy completely into their stock, considering their lackluster history as a franchise.

#17: Los Angeles Chargers

lynntelesco
Photo Cred: Orlando Sentinel

Young Talent: C

Front Office/Staff: B-

Resources: A-

The idea that the team that drafted Joe Burrow is behind the team that drafted Justin Herbert may seem insane on the surface, but it does make sense. Both the Bengals and Chargers have zero talent on their offensive line, but no one can doubt that Los Angeles has the far superior roster. Their defense is headlined by an elite versatile weapon in Derwin James, and overall, they have a lot of youth and overall depth to be encouraged about. In the end, though, it comes down to their offense. Herbert could certainly prove to be their long-term quarterback, yet I see that as unlikely, especially without a capable offensive line. Sure, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are quite the receiver duo, but most of the team’s veterans are due for a new contract soon, which will cause them to make tough decisions. That won’t matter if they have the luxury of having a franchise quarterback on a rookie contract, but until Herbert proves that he is the guy, he may be more of a liability than a reason for optimism moving forward. In total, the Chargers are pretty stable in terms of front office structure, but they have some serious question marks at some of the most important positions, which is why they rank right in the middle. If Herbert were to prove to be the answer, however, they’d have a case to be ranked in the top five.

#16: Miami Dolphins

grierfloresross
Photo Cred: The Undefeated

Young Talent: C+

Front Office/Staff: C

Resources: A+

Not enough teams in the NFL embrace a full teardown, but if the goal in the NFL is to win the Super Bowl, simply being mediocre isn’t going to cut it. For that reason, I applaud the Dolphins for embracing a long-term rebuild, as, after a series of trades, they came into 2020 with five first-round picks and four second-round picks for the next two drafts. With their own first-round pick, they were able to land Tua Tagovailoa, who has the accuracy and well-rounded skill set needed to be entrusted as a franchise quarterback. However, what they did the rest of the draft, combined with the front office’s past track record, makes me somewhat skeptical of this organization’s ability to maximize their abundance of resources. Despite being in desperate need of help on the offensive line, their main investments this offseason were a project tackle in Austin Jackson and a mediocre interior offensive lineman in Ereck Flowers, while they also didn’t look to add to the receiving corps. Sure, they definitely have revamped their secondary with Byron Jones and Noah Igbinoghene, but I feel that they felt too much money on decent pass rushers, and really neglected Tagovailoa’s future supporting cast. They still have chance to revamp their offense with tons of remaining draft capital, though that is easier said than done, which is what is really holding them back right now.

#15: Denver Broncos

Three new Broncos from the NFL Draft.
Photo Cred: The Denver Post

Young Talent: C+

Front Office/Staff: C+

Resources: B

Is Drew Lock the Broncos’ franchise quarterback. I’d highly bet against that, given some of his clear flaws and limitations, but he’ll get a legitimate chance to prove himself this season, and that’s due to a great draft by general manager John Elway. He brought in multiple talented playmakers, namely Jerry Jeudy, and, all of a sudden, Lock is in a really solid situation to succeed. That’s great for Denver, as they’ll be able to get a quick read on Lock’s future with the organization, though if Lock proves to indeed not be the answer, then they’ll once again be searching for a quarterback. That’s not ideal, considering Elway’s past track record, nor is the fact that most of their top defensive players are aging veterans at this point of their respective careers. This franchise is in a much better situation than they had been previously, thanks to a couple of very successful drafts, but until Lock proves he’s the answer, they’re essentially in the same boat as the Chargers.

#14: Seattle Seahawks

carrollschneider
Photo Cred: Peninsula Daily News

Young Talent: B

Front Office/Staff: C-

Resources: B

As long as the Seahawks have Russell Wilson, they’ll consistently be competitive, and they have one the highest floors of any team. However, their failure to maximize on Wilson’s talent is very frustrating. Whether it’s been their inability to revamp their draft process, their unwillingness to open up the offense, or their reluctance to support Wilson with a capable supporting cast, they’ve made their star quarterbacks job very difficult, and there isn’t anything to suggest that’ll change anytime soon. They have some talent on the perimeter, but until they change their philosophies and attempt to add meaningful depth to their roster, I have a hard time seeing them ever getting over the hump.

#13: Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions introduce new coach Matt Patricia - February 7, 2018
Photo Cred: MLive.com

Young Talent: B

Front Office/Staff: C

Resources: B-

There are reasons to be skeptical about general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia, who haven’t had much success in Detroit. However, I believe that the organization’s instability is causing people to exaggerate the flaws in their methods. Patricia, specifically, has been able to slightly elevate the team’s defense in each of his first two seasons, and it’s not like this is a roster barren with talent. At 32-years-old, Matthew Stafford is still in the midst of his prime, and if his new aggressive style of play last season was legitimate, then the Lions could be a top-ten offense with him throwing to Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., and young tight end TJ Hockenson. To top it off, they have some young talent in the secondary, which is very important for Patricia’s man-heavy defense. The organization’s overall limitations, coupled with their lackluster financial flexibility, is a little worrisome, but when judging this roster as a whole, there is legitimate talent at valuable positions to build around.

#12: New England Patriots

billbcaserio
Photo Cred: The Boston Globe

Young Talent: D+

Front Office/Staff: A-

Resources: A

When assessing the Patriots’ roster, it’s hard to find a lot of building blocks for the future, especially on the offense- only tackle Isaiah Wynn will likely be a part of their next contending team. It’s slightly more optimistic defensively, but overall, New England is really going to have to go through a rebuild. Luckily for them, they are the perfect organization to conduct it. Bill Belichick is a master when it comes to elevating the performance of his team’s defensive players, and the organization’s floor is very high when it comes to defensive performance. As far as the offense is concerned, Josh McDaniels remains one of the better offensive play-callers in the NFL, and they’ll be in a great position to revamp that unit after the 2020 season. They have just as much future salary cap as any other team, and assuming the Jarrett Stidham experiment at quarterback turns out to be a failure, they should be picking near the top of the draft- a quarterback like Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields could be in the future plans. There is a lot of hypotheticals regarding the Patriots, who haven’t been great grasping positional value in the past. At the same time, Belichick’s presence gives them an extremely high floor, and their extensive amount of resources are extremely enticing. They may not want to admit it, but they appear to be committing to a quick reboot/rebuild, and if all goes well, they’ll be able to get back to the top of the AFC East in a couple of years.

#11: Dallas Cowboys

mccarthyjerryjones
Photo Cred: USA Today

Young Talent: B-

Front Office/Staff: B-

Resources: C

The Cowboys have a very difficult decision to make regarding quarterback Dak Prescott’s future, as he wants to be compensated like an elite quarterback, when in reality he’s probably more of a mid-tier quarterback. Regardless, I think he’s just reliable enough to give him a new contract extension, especially as the quarterback market continues to evolve. Now, it won’t be easy to build a team around Prescott, considering they’re also paying top dollar for running back Ezekial Elliot, wide receiver Amari Cooper, their offensive line, and edge rusher Demarcus Lawrence, but it’s certainly feasible. That said, I believe they have proven themselves enough in the draft to earn the benefit of the doubt. Receiver CeeDee Lamb, cornerback Trevon Diggs, center Tyler Biadasz, nose tackle Neville Gallimore, and edge rusher Bradlee Anae should all emerge as future starters down the road, and if that’s the case, the Cowboys will be saving a lot of money to maintain a deep roster. Plus, with a deep group of receivers, a stable offensive line, and a talented defensive backfield, it’s not like they have a lot of holes to fill, and it certainly helps matters than they’re in a pretty weak NFC East. We’ll have to see how new head coach Mike McCarthy fares in his second opportunity, but, for the most part, there is enough reason to be excited about this organization, even with some of the heavy monetary commitments they’ve made.

#10: New Orleans Saints

paytonloomis
Photo Cred: Yahoo! Sports

Young Talent: C+

Front Office/Staff: B+

Resources: C-

With their “all-in” mentality, Drew Brees’ advanced age, and some of their upcoming financial hardships, there’s a perception out there that the Saints will have to completely tear it down in a year or two, similarly to the Patriots. Yet, I don’t believe that’s the case. Sure, there are questions at quarterback moving forward, but it’s not like this is a talent-deficient roster. Unlike New England, the Saints have a young offensive line, an elite receiver in Michael Thomas, and enough young depth on their defense, in addition to having a high floor thanks to presence of head coach Sean Payton. Payton, in particular, is an interesting case, as his abilities as a play-caller could give New Orleans an inside track to getting quality quarterback production in the future, whether it’s from Jameis Winston or a someone in the draft. The front office doesn’t always think for the future, and tends to be way too open to trading future draft picks, but the Saints have an extremely high floor with Payton at the helm; they’re essentially the Patriots, but with legitimate talent to build around.

#9: Minnesota Vikings

zimmercousinspeilman
Photo Cred: Viking Territory

Young Talent: B

Front Office/Staff: C+

Resources: B-

With an aging roster and limited salary cap space, the Vikings had a decision to make; continue to go all-in for a Super Bowl championship, or take a slight step back in order to bring in more young talent. They wisely chose the latter option, but didn’t exactly go about their reboot the proper way- they traded star receiver Stefon Diggs and re-invested a lot of the money they gave him to players at less-valuable positions; extending Kirk Cousins also signaled their inability to pick a direction. Then, however, the draft came along, and they were able to make up for many of their mistakes. The team’s two first-round picks, receiver Justin Jefferson and cornerback Jeff Gladney, as well as some of their other selections, should play a major role for this team in the future, which will allow them to bring in talent to support Cousins. To that end, they’ve already accumulated more draft capital for next year’s draft, so if all goes well, they’ll have future replacements in place for almost all of their aging veterans. The future of head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Speilman remains in doubt, and they’ll need to extend safety Anthony Harris while not doing the same for running back Dalvin Cook. Nevertheless, the future health of this organization is far better now than it was a year ago.

#8: Arizona Cardinals

Syndication: Phoenix
Photo Cred: Cards Wire- USAToday.com

Young Talent: B+

Front Office/Staff: C

Resources: B

Teams should never settle for average, especially at a critical areas such as quarterback and head coach- you have to take calculated risks as a general manager. That’s what Steve Keim did following the 2018 season, cutting ties with first-year head coach Steve Wilks and Josh Rosen, a quarterback he had just spent a top-ten pick on. The risks didn’t stop there; he replaced Wilks with Kliff Kingsbury, who had a losing record at Texas Tech, and drafted quarterback Kyler Murray, someone who had been committed to play baseball and played in the big 12, with the first overall pick. One year later, and it’s clear that Keim may have saved the franchise. Kingsbury is still unproven, but he should the ability to adapt and innovate last season, while Murray was able to limit turnovers. Sure, both will need to improve last season, though it’s a lot easier to do that when you’re able to acquire a star receiver in De’Andre Hopkins for practically nothing; they also dominated the draft with defensive playmaker Isaiah Simmons and tackle Josh Jones as their top two picks. Keim’s track record isn’t great, and Arizona will need to add more talent to their secondary, especially with cornerback Patrick Peterson regressing and in the last year of his contract. Nevertheless, this is a team that has the pieces to contend by 2021, especially if some of their young players (cornerback Byron Murphy, receiver Andy Isabella, Murray) are able to take the next step in their respective progressions.

#7: Tennessee Titans

vrabelrobinson
Photo Cred: tennesseetitans.com

Young Talent: B-

Front Office/Staff: B

Resources: B

If you want to know why having a capable backup quarterback is important, look no further than Titans. With a 2-4 record, their season was in jeopardy last season, which prompted them to bench Marcus Mariota for Ryan Tannehill. The rest is history; Tannehill was arguably the most productive quarterback in the NFL, and Tennessee reached the AFC Championship game. Unfortunately, they haven’t really been able to build off of that. Since they wanted to franchise tag running back Derrick Henry, they prematurely gave Tannehill a massive contract extension, and didn’t add much talent to the roster. Luckily for them, their receiving corps, led by AJ Brown, and their secondary, with cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and safety Kevin Byard, is in good hands moving forward; they have the talent in place to consistently remain competitive, as well as a reliable coaching staff/front office partnership. As long as they don’t give an extension to Henry, then I believe they’ll be able to be a perennial contender, even with Tannehill’s contract on the books. Extending Henry, however, could severely hamper any sort of excitement about their future well-being.

#6: San Francisco 49ers

shanahanlynch
Photo Cred: The Mercury News

Young Talent: B-

Front Office/Staff: A

Resources: C

With a 20-10 lead in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch were on the verge of achieving the ultimate goal in just a three-year window. Although that obviously did not end up working in their favor, they deserve so much credit; they took over an awful situation and turned into arguably the deepest roster in the NFL. Now, although edge rusher Nick Bosa and tight end George Kittle tremendous young players, the rest of their roster is lacking in foundational players, particularly in the defensive backfield. Still, Shanahan has established himself as one of the best head coaches, while Lynch has done the same as an executive. In other words, they’ll be able to maintain this team’s window of contention for a long time, especially if quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo continues to execute Shanahan’s system in a way that allows it to function properly.

#5: Buffalo Bills

1008483836 McCoy Sports Bills Lions
Photo Cred: The Buffalo News

Young Talent: B-

Front Office/Staff: A

Resources: B

Heading into the 2020 season, I do not believe that Josh Allen has proven to be a starting-caliber quarterback, which puts the Bills is a rough position. Regardless, though, it’s safe to say that they’ve done everything in their power to put him in the best position to succeed. After trading for receiver Stefon Diggs, they have a top-five receiver group, and will be able to protect him with a solid offensive line. Meanwhile, the cornerback duo of Tre’Davious White and Levi Wallace gives them quite the foundation defensively, while they have other ancillary pieces on both sides of the ball. To top it off, Sean McDermott is one of the best head coaches in the NFL, as he has consistently elevated the team’s defense, and general manager Brandon Beane has mostly done an admiral job building this roster. There are few organizations I trust more from a cultural standpoint than the Bills, and the fact that they can rate this high despite severe questions at quarterback speaks to how tremendous of a job Beane and McDermott have done executing an extremely quick rebuild in Buffalo.

#4: Indianapolis Colts

ballardreichnelson
Photo Cred: AP News

Young Talent: B-

Front Office/Staff: A

Resources: A-

When general manager Chris Ballard was hired by the Colts, he took over a roster that had no talent outside of Andrew Luck. Well, after rebuilding the rest of the roster, Luck retired, and even then, Indianapolis is in a tremendous position moving forward. Now, their future at quarterback is a major question mark, as Phillip Rivers is just a stopgap at 38-years-old, but that’s about the only concern moving forward. The Colts have an elite, young offensive line, have drafted impact players on the perimeter, possess a strong front seven, and also has the services of one of the top head coaches in the league in Frank Reich. Yet, they still have an extreme amount of future financial flexibility; whenever they have to find a new quarterback, he is going to be surrounded by an elite roster. Ballard made some questionable decisions this offseason, namely trading a first-round pick to pay interior defender DeForrest Buckner and drafting running back Jonathan Taylor in the second round, but even with average quarterback play, Indianapolis appears poised to dominate the AFC South.

#3: Cleveland Browns

stefanskiberry
Photo Cred: brownstone.com

Young Talent: B+

Front Office/Staff: B+

Resources: A

Having a strong head coach-general manager duo is critical, and finally, the Browns appear to have that in the Kevin Stefanski-Andrew Berry pairing. Obviously, each of them in unproven at the moment, but there is plenty of reason to believe in both of them as long-term answers for an organization that has had zero stability whatsoever. With the Vikings, Stefanski led a very efficient offense due heavily to his reliance on play-action passing, and Berry is seen as one of the bright young minds in the game. The rookie general manager’s success structuring team-friendly contracts in his first free agency period was impressive, as was his ability to consistently trade down and accumulate more assets in the draft. Then, you add in a stable offensive line with a lot of perimeter talent, and you have a team that could be a potential powerhouse in the future. It’ll all come down to quarterback Baker Mayfield, however; he’s coming off a very disappointing second season, and some have dismissed him altogether. In reality, though, he still was productive last season despite being in an awful situation, and now that he has a capable play-caller in Stefanski, I expect him to produce like a top-ten quarterback next season. Now, that’s not something I can say with complete certainty, which is why Cleveland doesn’t rank #1 on this list. However, the talent and flexibility this organization has moving forward is incredible, and I’m hopping onto the hype train before it’s too late.

#2: Kansas City Chiefs

reidmahomes
Photo Cred: inquirer.com

Young Talent: B+

Front Office/Staff: A

Resources: C-

How can the defending champion Chiefs not rank #1? After all, they’re pretty much guaranteed to have the best quarterback in the NFL for the next 10-15 seasons, and when that’s the case, they’re consistently going to be one of the top teams in the NFL. However, as they look to build around Patrick Mahomes and his upcoming monstrous contract extension, Kansas City is going to have to be more disciplined than they’ve been previously. Their long-term financial health is not ideal, as they’re paying a mediocre edge rusher in Frank Clark $20 million per season, and have other financial commitments to several other players. Meanwhile, most of the talent around Mahomes, namely their offensive line and tight end Travis Kelce are nearing the age of inevitable regression, and their past few drafts (limited capital, drafting a running back in the first round) haven’t helped address those concerns. As long as Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid are paired together, Kansas City will continue to run through the AFC West, and definitely have the makings of a potential dynasty. To reach their full potential, however, it’ll take very successful drafting and finding value at the bottom of the free agent pool, which is far easier said than done.

#1: Baltimore Ravens

lamarharbaugh
Photo Cred: Baltimore Sun

Young Talent: A-

Front Office/Staff: A+

Resources: B

Lamar Jackson is a great young quarterback, but he certainly isn’t on Mahomes’ level, especially with his ability to elevate the talent around. At the same time, the 2019 MVP’s rare talent has allowed the Ravens to create a unique offense that is very difficult to stop, and although offensive coordinator Greg Roman struggled to adapt with the 49ers, that was with Collin Kaepernick, who was far worse going through his progressions than Jackson is. Nevertheless, Jackson won’t have to do it all on his own. Baltimore has a tackle duo to build around with multiple emerging playmakers, and top it all off, the young talent they possess in the secondary cannot be matched by any organization. That’s due to the brilliance of general manager Eric DeCosta, who leads what is the best front office in the NFL, in my opinion, and has built quite the relationship with head coach John Harbaugh, who is willing to trust analytics in his decision-making. Plus, unlike Kansas City, the Ravens also have much more financial flexibility moving forward, and even when they are paying Jackson, they have a lot of youth around him to consistently contend. I don’t believe Jackson will come close to replicating his production last season, but even if he doesn’t, Baltimore appears poised to maintain a top-five offense and top-five defense, and the foundation around the quarterback gives them the edge over the Chiefs.

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