Another day, another list from the good people at ESPN.
This time, the worldwide leader in offseason lists tackled the highly subjective decision to determine what teams are set up to be in the best shape over the next three seasons with its version of Future Power Rankings.
A panel of ESPN types ranked all 32 teams based on five weighted categories to arrive at an overall score. Those five categories were roster (30 percent), quarterback (20 percent), coaching (20 percent), draft (15 percent) and front office (15 percent).
The Minnesota Vikings, coming off an 11-5 season and their first NFC North title since 2009, actually dropped in the rankings from seventh in 2015 to eighth this year, despite seeing their overall score increase.
The love for the old standbys remains, despite several of them (like Seattle and Green Bay) taking an actual step backward in 2015 that others seem to see as a portent that they have peaked and may be on a slight decline.
The 2016 rankings put Seattle as the No. 1 team with an overall score of 88.5, followed by New England (88.3), Carolina (84.7), Pittsburgh (83.5), Green Bay (83.2), Arizona (80.2), Cincinnati (79.0), Minnesota (77.1), Denver (76.4) and Baltimore (75.7) rounding out the top 10.
It should be noted that some teams take wild swings from one year to the next based on what they did the previous year – which those who actually play and coach will tell you means nothing heading into the coming season. It’s almost like projecting injuries – some guys are more likely to get injured than others, but you can’t accurately predict mass injuries based on previous seasons.
For the record, here were the top-10 2015 rankings: 1. Green Bay; 2. Seattle; 3. New England; 4. Baltimore; 5. Pittsburgh; 6. Dallas; 7. Minnesota; 8. Cincinnati; 9. Kansas City; 10. Carolina.
The lists didn’t change much. Only two teams moved into this year’s top 10 that weren’t in it last year – the defending champion Broncos (ranked 14th in 2015) and Arizona (ranked 11th in 2015). Only two teams fell out of the top 10 – Kansas City, which dropped from ninth to 11th, and Dallas, which fell from sixth to 26th – a monstrous drive off the cliff that is epic in its own right and will probably light up fans of the Artist Formerly Known As America’s Team to proclaim the methodology completely bogus – much to the delight of fans of any of the other 31 teams. ESPN's love of the Ravens remains a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
One of the interesting aspects of the Packers' ranking was that they suffered a drop from their 2015 ranking score in all five categories, apparently feeling that the coaching staff and front office took a step backward in 2015, aside from the entire roster, Aaron Rodgers and the 2016 draft.
As it pertains to the Vikings, here are the grades over the last three seasons, starting from 2014 until now.
Roster – 73, 77, 81
Quarterback – 59.3, 66.3, 65.0
Coaching – 69.0, 80.3, 81.7
Draft – 72.3, 77.7, 78.3
Front Office – 72.3, 77.7, 78.3
Total – 69.2, 75.7, 77.1
Seeing as the draft and front office grades are identical, it would seem that ESPN could simplify the process by combining them, reducing the factors down to four and making draft/front office count 30 percent of the total score. However, the Vikings seemed to be an anomaly, as no other team had an identical score between the two – a unique feature that seems curious.
When it came to the upside, the love for Mike Zimmer is akin to that of a baby Belichick, with predictions of sustained success for years to come under his leadership.
In the downside, if you want to call it a downside, analyst Louis Riddick called the Vikings a “trendy pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this season.” We're not sure who those trendsetters are because just about every projection that has been made to date has Green Bay reclaiming the NFC North title and even their own projected power rankings has the Packers higher than the Vikings.
The only category of the five that the Vikings took a backward step in was at quarterback. But, in his Low Point discussion of the Vikings QB situation, Riddick, who seemed miscast to highlight the problems of an organization, clearly wasn’t voting on the QB ranking, saying, “I’m on the bandwagon so long as Teddy Bridgewater is given the opportunity to make more plays in the passing game.” Not exactly an indictment on the downside of the franchise.
In the summary of what could change to determine Minnesota’s future, analyst Mike Sando said, “The Vikings appear to be on very solid footing, but changes are coming. It's unlikely running back Adrian Peterson will still be a dominant force – or even on the roster – three years from now. He will be 33 years old, after all. The Vikings presumably will have re-signed Bridgewater to an extension by then. That would solidify the position while taking away resources that are currently available to fill holes elsewhere on the roster. By then the Vikings should have a better feel for whether Bridgewater can carry a heavier load.”
If you’re a Vikings fan, the takeaway is that Minnesota is setting itself up for the potential of big things, but the general consensus remains that, despite draping the mythical divisional championship belt over their shoulder, the Vikings remain the little brother of the Packers in the opinion of those paid to make opinions on matters great and small in the NFL.
Perhaps Zimmer can use this potential sleight as motivation to keep the boys hungry.
- Vikings offensive lineman Joe Berger is back in his hometown of Newaygo, Mich. this week as part of a two-day football camp for kids in kindergarten through eighth grade. The camp is part of the NFL’s kids initiative and the cost of the camp is free to all participants. It was scheduled for Monday and today.
- Former Viking Antoine Winfield competed in the main event of the World Series of Poker but busted out early. Winfield claimed he got interested in playing Texas Hold ‘Em when accountant Chris Moneymaker (cool name for a poker guy, as opposed to Chris Badbeat) won the main event in 2003. Winfield opined that if that guy could do it, why couldn’t he? It wasn’t all rookie donations for Winfield. He cashed earlier in the WSOP in a $1,500 buy-in for a Texas Hold ‘Em event, finishing 231st and winning $2,391.