E$PN IN$IDER has another article out this week to keep our attention focused on football and not the
World Cup NHL Free Agency Lebron James Decision. This time it comes in the form of a Futures Power Ranking for every team in the NFL. ESPN's panel of experts that were gathered together to forecast the future of the NFL included John Clayton, Mel Kiper, Mike Sando, and Louis Riddick. The goal of the exercise is to predict how each team will fare over the next three seasons, 2014-2016.
The ratings used five different factors when determining a final score. They included Roster(30%), Quarterback(20%), Coaching(20%), Draft(15%), and Front Office(15%). The scores put an emphasis on youth and scored teams with older rosters(30+ years old) lower. For the draft the emphasis is on reputation in drafting, this year's current class, and the number of draft picks the team has for future drafts. Front office and Coaching are judged on capability, stability, and effectiveness. And of course the team's QB situation has a big influence on the score with one position accounting for 1/5 of the team's overall grade.
So where do the Redskins rank going forward? They are definitely not getting the amount of love that some people think they deserve, but to be fair, the Redskins were the most dysunctional team in the NFL last season. The amount of anonymously sourced stories, public infighting between coach/QB/owner/teammates, and the benching of your franchise QB do not bode well for the immediate future of a team. A lot of people believe the cancer on the team was removed in the form of Mike Shanahan and Co. A new Head Coach in Jay Gruden, and a few other new coaches were brought in and Bruce Allen was elevated to General Manager to take over for Shanahan's dual roles.
Is this change at the top enough for a drastic improvement this year? The team can't get much worse than 3-13, the 2nd worst record in the NFL last season. A new QB and offensive scheme were enough to take the Redskins from worst to first in 2012. RGIII was not the same QB last season following his ACL surgery, but he is expected to return closer to his 2012 form this season. Let's take a look at what the "experts" had to say about the Redskins future.
The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.
Coaching took the biggest hit from last season. They dropped 19 spots in the transition from Mike Shanahan to Jay Gruden, going from the 8th best coaching situation to the 27th best. Jay Gruden is a first year NFL head coach, while Shanahan was an established, Super Bowl winning coach who had just won the division. RGIII also saw a 12 place drop in the rankings due to a down year. The perception about his future in the league shifted significantly away from his Rookie of the Year image. These drops are huge and account for 40% of the ranking formula, and Sando states that they had the steepest drop in these areas from last season in the league.
The good news is, these are the only categories that the Redskins scored lower than last season. Depending on how you look at those two categories this is not the worst thing. Mike Shanahan's time had come, and if not for a 7 game winning streak to finish the 2012 season and a playoff berth, his time in Washington could have ended sooner. Three out of four of his seasons coaching the Redskins ended with 10+ losses, and no coach can survive that kind of failure for too long. RGIII was riding a great rookie season, so he was ranked high for a reason, but his injury robbed him of the chance to build on his early success. Most people expected a dropoff while he recovered, but the overall team failure made everyone's performance worse.
Now to the areas of improvement. The front office, draft, and overall roster(not including QB) scores all got better from last season. The front office has gone through some transition, and is hopefully now stabilized following Shanahan's departure. While many, myself included, wanted to see a fresh GM come in from outside of the organization, Bruce Allen was given the title. Another change came with the departure of longtime Director of Pro Personnel, Morocco Brown, who left for a better position with the Cleveland Browns. He was replaced in-house with Alex Santos, a longtime pro scout for the team. We've already gone from drafting two RBs per year to one!
This leads to the draft grade. The jury is still out on this year's draft, but some areas were addressed that were needed now, and needed long term. Pass Rush(Murphy), OLine(Moses and Long), and Special Teams(Pretty much everyone) were all hit this year. Another big factor is the fact that the Redskins have finished paying the devil their due for the RGIII trade, and now have their full slate of picks going forward. Having a 1st round pick for the first time in 3 years next year will be a welcome change for the team, and will give the team a cheap, top 40 talent that can be locked up for 5 years.
And finally, the overall roster has improved from last season according to this rating system. The team added some talent in free agency and through the draft, and didn't lose any players that will really hurt them going forward. Arguably the biggest loss for the Redskins last season was the retirement of London Fletcher, the leader of the defense. But Fletcher has been showing his age over the last few seasons, and needed to step away from the game, before the ugliness of the business showed him the door. The Redskins big FA acquisitions were Jason Hatcher and DeSean Jackson. Both of them improved the roster, but the additions that will really help the team are less publicized. The depth signings, the 3rd WRs, the special teams studs, etc.
The problems I see with this team going forward are problems that have been brought up about this team for a long time, defense, the offensive line, and special teams. The age of the team, especially along the defensive line, needs to be addressed. When one of your top FA signings is a 31 year old DE coming off of his best year ever in a contract year, you have to question the teams commitment to getting younger there. The secondary needs to find players long term, and the offensive line needs to be completely overhauled, hopefully with some of the young guys on the roster now.
The bright spots on the team are the WR corps, Alfred Morris's continued awesomeness, Jordan Reed's upside, Trent Williams evolution into the best LT in the game, and a resurgent Robert Griffin III. This offense has the potential to be explosive if the line can maintain a minimal amount of respectability. Orakpo and Kerrigan will hopefully excel this year with more opportunities to get after the QB. Special Teams can only go up from 2nd worst all time right? New Special Teams Coordinator Ben Kotwica has been saying all the right things, and the team put a heavy emphasis on fixing this part of the team during the offseason.
Wrapping this thing up, let's get back to IN$IDER's 24th overall ranking for the Redskins over the next 3 years. One of the biggest factors here is the relationship between Jay Gruden and Robert Griffin III, and Griff's development as a passer. If Griffin is back to form, the Redskins will follow suit and be able to run with almost any team in the league. If he struggles, the team's weak spots on defense and special teams will be exposed and they will struggle. The defense needs to get younger and find their long term starters. The patchwork secondary has been getting torched for a long time and they need to find young studs long term. And do I need to mention the O-Line again? Four of the five starters from last season are projected to start this year and only one of them should be considered for the future. The Skins gave Griffin more receiving options, but constant pressure in the pocket could be the thread you pull to unravel it all.
What is your future projection for the Redskins, and when does the season start again?