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Old 12-18-2012, 11:47 AM    (permalink
AcheTen (Thumper)
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Default NFL Futures

It's easy to talk about the NFL teams that are impressing now, or are going to impress shortly in the playoffs, but what if we were to just assess teams' rosters, future draft picks, QBs, coaching staff, and project their trajectory for the next 5 years?

All it takes is a quality coach to unleash the potential of a losing team's latent talent. Look at the 2011 49ers, who were a losing team under Singletary but spent years during that stretch accumulating talent (lots of first round draft picks) that eventually was "unlocked" by Harbaugh. If I had told you, in 2008, that the 49ers would be one of the league's "powerhouse" teams in three years, would you have believed it?

Which teams, right now, have the brightest future? Remember, this is all about looking at future potential, and latent talent, on current rosters. Teams with *young* players with great pedigrees (example: Robert Quinn, Von Miller, Patrick Peterson) should be given the nod over teams with *old* players who are great right now, but might not be great for much longer (example: Justin Tuck, Troy Polamalu, Justin Smith).


Teams that have future (next few years) powerhouse potential:

1. St. Louis Rams - Their defense is already stacked and just needs to be solidified in the secondary. Janoris Jenkins, Michael Brockers, Chris Long, and Robert Quinn will former the cornerstones of an elite defense in the near future. They need to improve the pieces around Sam Bradford, who is not an elite quarterback but could definitely be a Super Bowl winning quarterback on an great team with offensive playmakers and a shutdown defense... in the mold of Troy Aikman or Eli Manning. Their four first round picks in the next two years will enable them to become this team, as long as they draft well, which they have done so far.

2. Carolina Panthers - Despite facing a tough sophomore campaign, Cam Newton has the talent to be a star in the right offensive system. They've been extremely competitive this year despite a mediocre record. They already have several good cornerstone pieces on their defense in the most important postions: DE (Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson), MLB (Luke Kuechly). They need some more pieces, but they have the QB and the pass rush, and those are the two most important elements in football.

3. Cleveland Browns - Don't laugh. The Browns have some of the best young talent on defense in the NFL. Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard Joe Haden, TJ Ward, D'qwell Jackson. They have a young stud running back, some great young offensive linemen, and some talented young WRs who are inconsistent but developing. The *only* question mark on this team, in my opinion, is at QB, which is a big question, but nevertheless, they have the talent to be a top-10 team in the near future if Weeden somehow develops, or if they develop someone else.


Teams that are good now but face some tough times ahead as their aging roster declines:

1. Pittsburgh Steelers - This team was built around a core of elite defensive playmakers and a solid, top-10 QB who won games playing alongside the league's best defense. I think that Roethlisberger can continue to be a top-10 QB for a while longer, although the injuries will begin to pile up for him. The problem with this team, that will lead to many losing seasons in the near future, is the absolute and total absence of any young defensive stars (or even capable starters) under the age of 30. They have Lawrence Timmons, Lamarr Woodley, and maybe Cameron Heyward. That's basically it. All of the core players that formed the basis of their Super Bowl defenses - Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, Casey Hampton, Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel - are all old and slow and facing retirement or cuts in the near future. The Steelers GM hasn't done a great job of replacing them with talent in the draft, as recent picks such as Jason Worilds and Ziggy Hood have basically been busts.

2. Baltimore Ravens- The core of their once great defense is basically showing its age now and will continue to disintegrate in coming years. They don't have the elite QB to compensate for a mediocre defense. Like the Steelers, I don't see any recent defensive talent drafted recently to replace the core starters. Courtney Upshaw has been a solid run-stuffing OLB, but nothing more. Sergio Kindle has been a bust.

3. New England Patriots - Once Brady loses his effectiveness sometime in the next five years (it happens to everyone), the Pats' dependence on Brady and Brady alone will expose their roster as being barren of talent. This team will come crashing down into the ranks of the bottom-feeders once this happens.
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Old 12-18-2012, 12:04 PM    (permalink
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2. Carolina Panthers - Despite facing a tough sophomore campaign, Cam Newton has the talent to be a star in the right offensive system. They've been extremely competitive this year despite a mediocre record. They already have several good cornerstone pieces on their defense in the most important postions: DE (Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson), MLB (Luke Kuechly). They need some more pieces, but they have the QB and the pass rush, and those are the two most important elements in football.
I think the Panthers are going to have a very interesting transitional time period between GM's. They don't have a ton of cap room, and they have very difficult contracts to shed. As of right now they are not a good team, and they have a very difficult task in front of them considering this may be they're last high draft pick for awhile, and they need a lot of help. I love Kuechly and Cam as much as anyone, but they can't get it done by themselves, and the Panthers need a ton of help to get to the level where they can compete for a SB.

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3. New England Patriots - Once Brady loses his effectiveness sometime in the next five years (it happens to everyone), the Pats' dependence on Brady and Brady alone will expose their roster as being barren of talent. This team will come crashing down into the ranks of the bottom-feeders once this happens.
The Pats roster isn't barren of talent at all. I'd actually contend that they're in that 2nd tier of rosters behind teams like the Texans, 49ers, and Packers. They have bookend tackles, a good stable of running backs, one of the top 5-7 skill position players in football, a reliable multiple Pro Bowl guard, and even though the defense isn't great there are some decent young pieces like Mayo, McCourty, Spikes, Jones, and Dennard. Nobody knows what the Pats have with Mallett yet, but nobody can deny his talent. I don't think he fits our offense great as it's constructed, but who knows what it will look like going by the time he takes over. What I do know is that we can pass protect well enough for him, and Gronk and him will be a match made in heaven.
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Old 12-18-2012, 12:05 PM    (permalink
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Teams that have future (next few years) powerhouse potential:

1. St. Louis Rams - Their defense is already stacked and just needs to be solidified in the secondary. Janoris Jenkins, Michael Brockers, Chris Long, and Robert Quinn will former the cornerstones of an elite defense in the near future. They need to improve the pieces around Sam Bradford, who is not an elite quarterback but could definitely be a Super Bowl winning quarterback on an great team with offensive playmakers and a shutdown defense... in the mold of Troy Aikman or Eli Manning. Their four first round picks in the next two years will enable them to become this team, as long as they draft well, which they have done so far.
I thought that too, potentially, until I saw them this week, at home, against Minnesota, with that younger-than-Bradford QB Ponder.
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Old 12-18-2012, 12:06 PM    (permalink
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Not that I disagree with the Rams having a very bright future, but I love Eli won two superbowls argument for a QB they don't think is going to be elite. Eli is/was an elite quarterback. You don't have to be MVP to be an elite QB as we're experiencing a historic wealth of QB talent, so use a real argument, like you think Sam Bradford will reach that Eli/Big Ben elite but not MVP-elite tier and be able to carry a good team to a ring. That's a legit argument if you think that, and hell I'd even agree with, but don't try and downgrade two elite QBs who didn't put up mindblowing numbers because of the teams they were on, just to prop up some guy you don't really believe in.

And the Browns are a bad pick because your last point about them undoes all of the good points. They don't have a franchise QB that can take them far, and Weeden doesn't have long to suddenly become one. So basically they're only contenders if they somehow finally luck into picking a franchise QB, the most important position to fill in the league.
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Old 12-18-2012, 01:15 PM    (permalink
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Not that I disagree with the Rams having a very bright future, but I love Eli won two superbowls argument for a QB they don't think is going to be elite. Eli is/was an elite quarterback. You don't have to be MVP to be an elite QB as we're experiencing a historic wealth of QB talent, so use a real argument, like you think Sam Bradford will reach that Eli/Big Ben elite but not MVP-elite tier and be able to carry a good team to a ring. That's a legit argument if you think that, and hell I'd even agree with, but don't try and downgrade two elite QBs who didn't put up mindblowing numbers because of the teams they were on, just to prop up some guy you don't really believe in.
I'm sorry, but you have to be a complete homer not to realize that Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning were good, but not great, QBs (right on the fringes of the top-10), *especially* earlier in their careers, who won two Super Bowls playing on teams who played lights-out defense, especially in the postseason. If the Steelers and Giants don't play elite defense (in both 2007 and 2011 Giants defense held ALL postseason opponents to 20 or fewer points, and in 2005 Steelers defense held all postseason opponents to 18 or fewer points, while 2008 Steelers defense held all postseason opponents to 24 or fewer points) in their postseason runs, neither Eli nor Ben have a single ring today.

Here's another way to look at it. Here are Sam Bradford and Eli Manning through their first three seasons:

Bradford: 58.4% completion, 8930 yards, 42 TDs, 32 INTs, 6.2 YPA, 77.3 QB rating (in 40 games so far)

Manning: 52.9% completion, 8049 yards, 54 TDs, 44 INTs, 6.1 YPA, 69.4 QB rating (in 39 games through first three seasons)


I don't see any reason to believe that Sam Bradford can't become another Eli Manning, and even win a Super Bowl, as long as Jeff Fisher fills out the team (especially defense) around him.

Based on their first three seasons in the league, Sam Bradford and Eli Manning are nearly identical, and both fit the profile of game manager. Of course, it took Eli six years, but in 2009 he finally became more of a real top-10 caliber QB and not just a game manager. But that was six years into his career. I don't see why Bradford can't follow that same pattern.


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And the Browns are a bad pick because your last point about them undoes all of the good points. They don't have a franchise QB that can take them far, and Weeden doesn't have long to suddenly become one. So basically they're only contenders if they somehow finally luck into picking a franchise QB, the most important position to fill in the league.
Weeden can still turn into one of those advanced game-manager franchise QBs. And because the rest of their roster is pretty stacked, he could follow the same blueprint laid forth by the Eli Mannings and Ben Roethlisbergers of the world.
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Old 12-18-2012, 01:19 PM    (permalink
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[homer]The Chiefs, if they get a GM, HC and a new QB.[/homer]
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Old 12-18-2012, 01:31 PM    (permalink
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Is this the thing now? Any QB who struggles his first few seasons is suddenly going to flourish into Eli Manning. I mean it has worked out so well for Alex Smith and Mark Sanchez so far.
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Old 12-18-2012, 02:14 PM    (permalink
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Is this the thing now? Any QB who struggles his first few seasons is suddenly going to flourish into Eli Manning. I mean it has worked out so well for Alex Smith and Mark Sanchez so far.
What this means is that a QB who is merely average in his first few years is *not* excluded from being a potential Super Bowl QB in the future, especially if he is on a team with a talented young core of players.

From Terry Bradshaw to Troy Aikman to Tom Brady (the early years from 2001-2004) to Eli Manning to Ben Roethlisberger, the NFL history is replete with above-average game manager type QBs who won multiple Super Bowls playing on teams with stacked (both on offense and defense) rosters that won their championships as a *team*, playing exceptional football both on offense and defense (especially defense), despite the QB putting up only slightly above-average numbers.

Obviously, there is a chance that Bradford's team never develops into that kind of team, but I feel that the opportunity for the Rams to develop into a multiple Super Bowl winning superpower is defintely there, given their existing talent already on the roster and the fact that they have four first round draft picks over the next two years with which to build up their roster.
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Old 12-18-2012, 02:28 PM    (permalink
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Not that I disagree with the Rams having a very bright future, but I love Eli won two superbowls argument for a QB they don't think is going to be elite. Eli is/was an elite quarterback. You don't have to be MVP to be an elite QB as we're experiencing a historic wealth of QB talent, so use a real argument, like you think Sam Bradford will reach that Eli/Big Ben elite but not MVP-elite tier and be able to carry a good team to a ring. That's a legit argument if you think that, and hell I'd even agree with, but don't try and downgrade two elite QBs who didn't put up mindblowing numbers because of the teams they were on, just to prop up some guy you don't really believe in.

And the Browns are a bad pick because your last point about them undoes all of the good points. They don't have a franchise QB that can take them far, and Weeden doesn't have long to suddenly become one. So basically they're only contenders if they somehow finally luck into picking a franchise QB, the most important position to fill in the league.
I'm with you on Eli, Aikman too for me. HOF players who made players around them better.
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