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Old 12-18-2012, 12:47 PM    (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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