Thursday morning, ESPN put together "future power rankings" for NFL teams. They run weekly power rankings during the season to assess where teams are at, but these were meant to consider which teams are best positioned for success over the next three years.
In assessing the future, ESPN considered five categories, weighting each differently. 30 percent of the grade was based on the current roster, emphasizing young players, and devaluing players over 30. 20 percent of the grade was based on the quarterback situation, focusing on the future. 15 percent looked at the team's 2014 draft class, and available draft picks in 2015 and 2016. 15 percent looked at the front office and their ability to manage the team's roster. The final 20 percent was based on the capability and stability of the coaching staff.
After all the math, the top of the rankings came out as follows (scores out of 100):
Here is a breakdown of the 49ers score:
A year ago, the 49ers overall score was 87.50, which was good enough for top of the list. What is most interesting is that last year they gave the 49ers QB situation an 8.7, and this year they lowered it to 7.8. On a similar note, they lowered the Seahawks QB situation from 8.7 to 8.5. Neither really makes a lot of sense. And considering the 49ers have locked up a young, talented quarterback for the foreseeable future, you'd think that would count for some more value.
Speaking of quarterbacks, this is supposed to be ratings over the next three years, and the Broncos get a 9.8 at quarterback. For 2014, I get that, but it seems like they're betting heavily that Peyton Manning will stay healthy over the next two or three years. That's probably not a horrible bet, but given the extent of his previous neck injury, I would have thought they might discount the QB grade just a little bit. A high grade is the safer play, but why not get a little aggressive?
Mike Sando provided the overview of the 49ers rating. He acknowledged the odd nature of the QB grade decline. Here's what he had to say:
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, though 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, both 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.
Louis Riddick discussed what major dilemma the team could be facing. He discussed the issue of showing out the "old", and ushering in the "new". He stated the pressure was on the coaches to get the young players up to speed. He specifically referenced guys like Tank Carradine, Bruce Ellington, Brandon Thomas, and Aaron Lynch, among others. In reality, that list is incredibly extensive, and growing with all the draft picks. The talent is potentially there to keep this train rolling, but we need to actually see the talent break through for any of this to matter. We need to see more 2011 drafts, and less 2012 drafts.