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ESPN's Power Rankings of the Future: New Orleans Saints Rank 10th Overall

Payton's return huge, offense should remain solid, defense is questionable. Are we done here?

Chris Graythen

If you thought regular NFL power rankings were stupid, then you're really going to think ESPN's 2016 NFL power rankings of the future are downright absurd. But what the hell else is the Worldwide Leader in Sports supposed to talk about in the dead of the NFL off-season, baseball? Pfft...

So how do you "measure the confidence" of "each franchise as it projects three seasons ahead?" ESPN had their "experts" -- Herm Edwards, Mel Kiper, Mike Sando, Gary Horton, Matt Williamson and Field Yates -- rank every NFL team on a scale of 1 to 10 across five categories: roster (excluding QB), quarterback, draft, front office, and coaching. Those raw numbers were then weighted by the importance of each category, added together and translated into a 100-point final rating.

You never know where the Saints are going to land in a project like this. Brees is getting old, they're not very good at drafting and the next bulls*** scandal is surely right around the corner. Which is why I surprised to see the Saints ranked 10th overall with a total overall score of 68.79.

That ain't bad at all. I think it's the perfect spot for the Saints actually, right in the meaty part of the rankings. High enough that it shows they're a respected franchise, but not too high to make it unrealistic or cause too much hype.

Let's get to the good stuff and see just how the experts arrived at their 10th overall power ranking for the Saints.

Roster (excluding QB)

Average Rating: 6

32.5% of total grade

This category covers each team's current roster players, emphasizing players selected in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 drafts -- players who will form the nucleus of the team in three seasons' time. Players 27 or older were heavily discounted, as history suggests a rapid decline for NFL players over 30 years of age. Quarterbacks were not included in this category. A rating of 10 represents a team with a number of stars/key contributors still on the upswing or entering their prime; a 1 represents a team that projects to have no significant contributors on its roster in 2016.

What they say about the Saints:

We know the offense will be explosive and well-coached, as Marques Colston remains effective and Jimmy Graham is among the best receiving weapons in all of football. How will the defense adjust to new coordinator Rob Ryan's 3-4 scheme? Moreover, will the additions of Keenan Lewis and Kenny Vaccaro lay the foundation for an improved secondary after 2012's woeful performance? -- Field Yates

Can't say I disagree with any of this. Pretty fair assessment. My concern actually, which isn't even mentioned, would be the team's financial situation and its affect on the roster. The Saints were pretty cash strapped this off-season and I think they can expect the same next year.



Average Rating: 7.5

17.5% of total grade

This category covers a team's QB situation, focusing on the future. Does a team have its 2016 starter on the roster and how does that player project in three seasons? A 10 represents a team that projects to have an All-Pro QB at the helm in 2016. A 1 represents a team with no projected 2016 starter in its system.

What they say about the Saints:

Drew Brees will be 37 and under contract in 2016. Brees resembles Kurt Warner in his ability to make quick decisions and anticipate with his throws. Warner was still a productive player when he retired at age 38 and Brees should enjoy similar longevity. He's got an iron will and the smarts to compensate as he ages. Brees has taken sacks on only 3.3 percent of drop-backs over the past five seasons. Only Peyton Manning has a lower rate (2.5 percent) among 28 qualifying quarterbacks. -- Mike Sando

I think Saints fans everywhere are hoping, praying even, things play out as smoothly as Sando predicts. That's got to be the ideal scenario for everyone involved. Assuming it does, a grade of 7.5 seems accurate.



Average Rating: 6.2

15% of total grade

This category evaluates a team's 2013 draft class, a team's reputation in mining talent from the draft and the number of available picks in 2014, '15 and '16. A 10 represents a team that secured a strong 2013 draft class and appears likely to bring in similarly strong classes in 2014, '15 and '16. A 1 represents a team that had a poor 2013 draft class and appears unlikely to bring in help through the draft due to its reputation or a lack of future draft picks.

What they say about the Saints:

Recent drafts have not delivered enough impact, and the combination of that and the painful draft penalties handed down by the league, which further gutted the 2012 draft, will have a lingering effect on the talent level of this roster. Thankfully, the Saints have their full arsenal of picks again in 2014. They have momentum after a 2013 draft that I think will end up netting them at least three starters. The future looks better than it did at the height of the bounty scandal, but the Saints could be tasked with drafting their next franchise QB in the next two seasons. -- Mel Kiper

Kiper is spot on with this analysis. The Saints have pretty much sucked balls at drafting in recent years. But the past is just that, the past. The Saints are at a transition point and things look brighter for the team in future drafts.


Front office

Average Rating: 6.8

15% of total grade

This category weighs each team's front office in terms of its ability to manage its roster and bring in new talent via free agency or trades. It also factors in a team's willingness to spend money and a market's attraction to free agents. A 10 represents a team that has the ability to spend freely and obtain top-choice talent on a regular basis. A 1 represents a team that has little ability to spend, has no track record of bringing in quality free-agent talent or, worse, has spent big on free agents who have made little-to-no impact.

What they say about the Saints:

No one should underplay the loss, for half a season, of Mickey Loomis and Joe Vitt. The loss for the entire season of head coach Sean Payton, the driving force behind this team, was fatal. His return provides direction, discipline and determination to everyone in the organization. Offensively, there is no reason to believe, despite the loss of Jermon Bushrod and Chris Ivory, that they will not remain potent. The combination of Payton and Brees is as explosive as there is in offensive football. The question for the Saints is how quickly new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan can install a system compatible with the talent available to him. -- Bill Polian

Payton's return huge, offense should remain solid, defense is questionable. That's pretty much the same analysis offered by Yates in the "Roster" category above. Anybody got anything original to say?



Average Rating: 8.3

20% of total grade

This category analyzes each team's coaching staff in terms of capability and stability. A 10 represents a team that has a consistently successful coaching staff with low turnover due to firings. A 1 represents an unsuccessful staff that has seen considerable turnover or has a high potential for such turnover between now and the start of the 2016 season.

What they say about the Saints:

The difference in coaching was clear when Payton wasn't on the sideline last season. Getting him back will be huge for New Orleans. The offense should be as potent as ever with Brees and Payton calling plays, but this defense needs to step up. The Saints hired Ryan for his aggressive defensive playcalling and ability to force turnovers. As long as Payton is on the sidelines and Brees is at QB, this team will be a threat in the NFC. -- Herm Edwards

Payton's return huge, offense should remain solid, defense is questionable. Holy $#!+, I get it already!!! Important to note: this was the Saints' strongest category.