|You won't believe this, but I actually didn't give the Raiders any credit for drafting Pryor!|
In the coming weeks, thousands upon thousands of sportswriters will descend on their computers to crank out the laziest, most played out gimmick ever conceived – NFL Power Rankings. There simply isn’t a more effective ‘gimme’ column out there than a power ranking. The topic is broad, the structure is pre-built…heck, the material pretty much writes itself!
Hey, wait a second – that sounds great! Let’s do a power ranking!
Eventually, I’ll fall in line and do a weekly power ranking just like everyone else. Right now, that seems like a dumb idea. With preseason results proving as meaningless and unsatisfying as ever, it’s way too early to make any judgments (though I pretty much do that anyways). Instead, let’s take a look in our crystal ball and see which teams are well-stocked for the long haul. Introducing, the NFL Future Power Rankings!
32. Washington Redskins
The Good – Umm, not a whole lot actually. They have a couple solid building blocks, but not nearly enough to field a competitive NFL team. Brian Orakpo has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons, but there’s little else defensively to get excited about. On offense, Trent Williams could be a great young cornerstone, but he needs to step up from a somewhat disappointing rookie campaign.
The Bad – Where shall I begin? Should I start with the fact that they’re going with John Beck and Rex Grossman at QB, or the fact that the vast majority of their starters are over 30? Any way you slice it, the franchise outlook is pretty bleak right now. They need an awful lot of talent to catch up in their division…more importantly, they need an answer at QB. Presiding over this disaster is Dan Snyder, perhaps the dumbest, most impatient owner in the game. Gives Redskins fans all kinds of hope, right?
Summary – A lot more bad than good. Washington has a shockingly low amount of young, impact players and management has consistently proven incapable of re-stocking the cupboards. I would have thought Mike Shanahan would bring some sanity to the situation, but even that is seriously in question. Sorry ‘Skins fans, lots of losing in your future!
31. Oakland Raiders
The Good – After nearly a decade of filth, the Raiders finally saw some return on all those high draft picks, finishing at a surprising 8-8. New coach Hue Jackson will have a strong running game at his disposal, led by break-out star Darren McFadden and the underrated Michael Bush. Both are young and should be capable of carrying the offensive load. Defensively, the Raiders have a pretty solid core of young(er) impact players, led by Rolando McClain.
The Bad – Al Davis is still running this team. There’s no way around it, he WILL screw everything up. His horrifying and bizarre cap management led to some devastating personnel losses this offseason, notably Nnamdi Asomugha and Zach Miller. In addition, his consistently poor draft selections have created major voids at QB, WR and on the OL. Not a great recipe for long-term success.
Summary – Unfortunately for Raiders fans, this is a perfect recipe for a frustrating stretch of futility. Thanks to the glaring weaknesses in the passing game, the offense will likely struggle for the foreseeable future. Even if a legitimate solution is found in the next year or two, it will take time to develop…at which point the defense, manned largely by players at the tail ends of their prime, will have collapsed. In reality, Raiders fans have no serious reason for optimism. After all, Al Davis is still around…somehow.
(Update – As I’m writing this, the Raiders just took Terrelle Pryor with a 3rd round pick. QB SITUATION SOLVED!!! Question: If I ran a 4.40 40, would Al Davis give me a million dollars? I’m thinking yes.)
30. Cincinnati Bengals
The Good – They actually have some talent on this roster, especially on the offensive side. A.J. Green, Jordan Shipley, Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell, and Jermaine Gresham make up an exceptionally strong stable of young pass catchers. I’m definitely not sold on Andy Dalton, but at least his surrounding cast gives him a fighting chance to not suck as badly as I expect. That’s something, right? In addition, the Bengals may have struck gold on last year’s 2nd round pick, Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap, 22, managed to keep his head on straight, unlike the rest of the team, and had a very promising rookie season.
The Bad – Continuing with our early theme…the ownership sucks. Mike Brown and Al Davis are locked in a mortal combat for Worst Owner supremacy. (I guess it’s not really a mortal combat…since Al Davis has been dead for years) At least you can say this about Al; he was an innovative genius prior to turning 100 in the early ‘90’s. Davis’ Raiders had all kinds of success several decades ago…Brown’s Bengals, not so much. Mike Brown is a bumbling, idiotic, cheapskate owner who has singlehandedly torpedoed a once successful franchise with a thriving fan base. Beat that, Al!
Summary – Amidst my crazed Mike Brown rant, I failed to mention the fact that Cincinnati doesn’t have anybody to throw to those talented pass catchers. Wait, I did? Oh well, let’s go ahead and rip on Dalton again. Five good receivers, no quarterback. Just a small oversight on Brown’s part. Enjoy the season, Carson!
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Good – While it seems like Maurice Jones-Drew has been in the league for 15 years, he’s actually only 26 years old. He certainly has some mileage on him, but if up-and-comer Rashad Jennings can take some of the load, Jacksonville can certainly expect to retain a strong running game for the foreseeable future. Going along with that, the Jags boast a fairly underrated group of young offensive linemen. In particular, former 1st rounder Eugene Monroe is exactly the type of dominant LT you need to anchor an offensive line.
The Bad – There is a massive disconnect between the team and its fan base, leading to constant blackouts and speculation of franchise relocation. Honestly, it’s hard to blame the fans for their disinterest. The team has been unable to successfully piece an offense together since the long ago glory days of the Mark Brunell-Keenan McCardell-Jimmy Smith trio. The hope is that Blaine Gabbart is the long-awaited answer at QB, but I’m just not seeing it. I said before the draft that I felt like Gabbart was perhaps a 3rd round talent at best, so I’m expecting the Jags to be dipping back into the QB pool not long from now. Add in a defense full of overpaid, non-playmaker types; the worst group of receivers in NFL history, potential salary cap problems down the line, and rampant uncertainty surrounding the coaching staff and the future of the entire franchise…well, let’s just say there’s not too much reason for optimism.
Summary – It really is an absolute shame to waste Mo-Jo’s prime, but that’s exactly what the Jaguars are doing. Even if they were able to patch up their other holes over the next couple of season, it would likely be after Jones-Drew’s best days were behind him. In the end, the entire future of the franchise will rest on Blaine Gabbart. If he’s good, then the Jags could be relevant and perhaps drum up fan interest. If not, then hello sunny Los Angeles, because things just aren’t working out in Jacksonville right now.
28. Buffalo Bills
The Good – C.J. Spiller and Steve Johnson are great building blocks for the offense. Quarterback is obviously a major long term issue, but two dynamic playmakers is approximately two more than Buffalo normally has. That’s a good start.
The Bad – This franchise is in a pretty similar situation as Jacksonville. Ralph Wilson is quickly nearing Al Davis territory, and the team’s lack of a long term plan has clearly eroded fan support. Can you really blame Bills fans? For a franchise wrought by strong QB play (Jack Kemp, Jim Kelly), they’ve been completely unable to get even a league average QB in place since the Doug Flutie days. When Ryan Fitzpatrick seems like a savior, you know you have a problem! This problem isn’t isolated to the QB position, however. Buffalo’s woeful draft history has been highlighted recently with the release of 2009 first rounder Aaron Maybin and the ho-hum loss of former high draft picks Donte Whitner and Ashton Youbouty. Basically, the Bills don’t have enough talent, and they’re too incompetent to acquire talent. Sounds great.
Summary -- Like Jacksonville, the Bills are constantly being bandied about as a relocation possibility, throwing a giant cumulonimbus cloud over the entire organization. I personally hope they stay put, as Buffalo fans don’t deserve to lose their team. In normal circumstances, their fan base is one of the most loyal and ravenous fan bases in the NFL. My guess is that Buffalo ends up staying put, and the fact that their fan base cares places them a notch above Jacksonville…but not much.
27. San Francisco 49ers
The Good – Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, a talented, young offensive line. Honestly, there’s a pretty major gap between Buffalo and San Francisco. As you can see, the 49ers have a decent amount of talent for ranking so low. In addition, they get credit for playing in the NFC West, where any 6 or 7 win team can secure a home playoff game!
The Bad – Patrick Willis is literally the ONLY decent young player on defense (we’ll see about Aldon Smith), Frank Gore is constantly banged up and has a huge amount of mileage, Michael Crabtree can’t seem to get his head screwed on right (or his foot for that matter), Vernon Davis is Vernon Davis, and that talented offensive line hasn’t quite lived up to its lofty potential yet. The entire organization is paper thin, from top to bottom…unfortunately, the top includes the QB position. Since Jeff Garcia’s untimely departure, the 49ers have proven totally inept in their QB search. Drafting Alex Smith #1 overall was supposed to solve that problem for 10+ years. Eh, they probably should have taken Aaron Rodgers instead. Now, they’re banking on 2nd rounder Colin Kaepernick…who sucks. Maybe next draft, guys.
Summary – I feel like a broken record here, but the problem starts with the ownership. The Yorks have totally run this once proud franchise into the ground. They’re cheap, they’re dumb, and they have no clue that they’re cheap and dumb. Sorry Casey, I hate to be so bleak on your team, but do you really expect things to improve with the Yorks around?
26. Miami Dolphins
The Good – Miami is sunny? Is that something? No state taxes in Florida! That’s good! OK, fine, I’m, struggling to find positives with the team, especially on offense. Jake Long, 26, is an absolute stud, coming off his third Pro Bowl in as many years, and his first All-Pro team. Unless you want to count crazy Brandon Marshall and his homicidal wife, that’s about it on offense. Defensively, Cameron Wake and Karlos Dansby form an excellent group of linebackers. Add in promising young prospects Vontae Davis and Koa Misi, and you have the foundation for an excellent defense.
The Bad – Chad Henne. It’s been over a decade since Dan Marino suited up for the ‘Fins, and they still haven’t been able to replace him. Even after a full season of torturing fans and coaches alike, the Dolphins opted to give Henne one last chance. Good luck with that. Honestly, after the disastrous A.J. Feeley and Daunte Culpepper trades, the Dolphins were probably just too scared to try again. Added into that is a porous offensive line and a lackluster run game.
Summary – I’m probably being too harsh on the Dolphins, but what indication is there that they’ll get this QB thing figured out? As we all know, you can’t win in the NFL without a QB, so that tells me there is little hope in Miami. If thing break right, this might not end up so bad, though. Reggie Bush is still young, and obviously very talented. A breakout season by him would give Miami infinitely more hope than I am currently projecting. If neither he nor Daniel Thomas can step up, however, the offense will again struggle to score points. By the time they get the offense figured out; Dansby, Wake, and others will have passed their primes, leaving them in the exact opposite predicament.
25. Carolina Panthers
The Good – Retaining Jon Beason, Charles Johnson, James Anderson, etc. wasn’t cheap, but it does ensure that Carolina will have a strong defense for the foreseeable future. That’ll be important since their offense sucks. Of course, a healthy trio of Ryan Kalil, Jeff Otah, and Jordan Gross should do wonders for last year’s disappointing running game. Jonathan Stewart, 24, in particular should keep the Panthers running game viable for years down the road.
The Bad – Oh Cam Newton! You suck! You suck! Look, I know it’s only preseason, but I really do enjoy seeing him fail. Yes, I know I’m a sick, sadistic person…but I don’t care! I love it! Carolina better hope Jimmy Clausen turns into something, because if not, they’re gonna need the #1 overall pick again. Also, is it really that hard to get Steve Smith some help? Really?
Summary – Until they figure out the passing game, Carolina is going to have to play old school football. Defense and running. Honestly, this team would probably be amazing in 1968. In 2011, not so much.
Please excuse the slowness on the site as of late. I spent the last week moving into my new house, and life is pretty hectic right now. At this point, I'm still trying to dig out of the rubble, and I don't yet have internet. I'll do my best to get through these power rankings by the end of the week, but I can't promise anything. Thanks for your patience.