Every year, ESPN takes a look at the state of NFL rosters, and projects out over the next three years who the best and worst teams will be. Their “future power rankings” involve a three-person panel of ESPN personalities -- Louis Riddick, Mike Sando and Field Yates -- rating each team on a scale of 0-100 in five categories: roster (excluding quarterback), quarterback, draft, front office and coaching. They then average the results and weight them to create the final score. The weighting is as follows: roster (30 percent), quarterback (20 percent), draft (15 percent), front office (15 percent) and coaching (20 percent). They then rank out the teams 1-32 like in a power ranking system.
It is not surprise the San Francisco 49ers rank poorly in the 2016 future power rankings. ESPN ranked them No. 31, with only the Cleveland Browns trailing. Their overall score is 54.3, with the Los Angeles Rams one spot ahead of them at 58.2. The top of the standings are as follows:
1. Seattle Seahawks - 88.5
2. New England Patriots - 88.3
3. Carolina Panthers - 84.7
4. Pittsburgh Steelers 83.5
5. Green Bay Packers - 83.2
Here’s how they broke down the 49ers score, with the black notch where they ranked a year ago:
Each of the three analysts broke down a different aspect of the team. Field Yates looked at the high point, Louis Riddick looked at the low point, and Mike Sando discussed what could change.
High point: While Chip Kelly was an easy target during his final year in Philadelphia, I'm among those who still believes in his ability to coach. It's essential that Kelly takes the lessons he learned -- many the hard way -- from his Eagles days into his first years on the job in San Francisco. While he is not responsible for final say on the 53-man roster, Kelly and the 49ers need to plug all sorts of holes leading into 2016. -- Field Yates
The coaching was clearly going to be the easiest upgrade. Jim Tomsula may have been a wonderful man, but he was an awful head coach. I think there are some folks on this site who could have done a better job, and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. Chip Kelly arrives not having to deal with personnel, and instead can focus on what he did well in Philadelphia. It remains to be seen what he can do with the 49ers quarterback situation, and the offense as a whole, but he’s a very clear upgrade.
Low point: There is no debating that the 49ers have the most athletic QB room in the NFL. But they also have the league's worst QB room at making plays on third down, winning close games, competing in the fourth quarter and thriving in two-minute situations. Call me crazy, but I continue to be intrigued by the developmental upside of 2016 sixth-round pick Jeff Driskel. I am told that he has the makeup, athleticism, work ethic and arm talent needed to be successful in Kelly's scheme. But can he develop it to the point where he can be a viable NFL starting QB? -- Louis Riddick
We can project all we want about the 49ers quarterback situation, but for now it is mostly just a lot of projection. Blaine Gabbert took over the starting job last year midway through the season, and was better than awful. Considering his time in Jacksonville, it was a big step forward for him. Colin Kaepernick struggled thanks in part to injuries, and in part to not taking a step forward in some critical areas. They both get a chance to work with Kelly, who did big things with Nick Foles. In light of that, I like the upside, but I get why people are down on the group for the time being.
What could change: The 49ers ranked No. 1 in our 2013 Future Power Rankings thanks to a roster that appeared stacked with talent for the long haul, including at quarterback. Injuries, retirements, Colin Kaepernick's demise and Jim Harbaugh's firing as head coach despite a 49-30-1 record sent the 49ers plummeting to the 31st spot this time around. Expectations for Kaepernick are at an all-time low. The 49ers' future will improve considerably if Kelly can salvage Kaepernick. -- Mike Sando
It comes down primarily to what Kelly can do with the quarterback position. Of course, Trent Baalke’s last three draft classes are in the spotlight as well. It will be fascinating to see where things look a year from now given how many moving parts there are to assess.