This ranking places a premium on youth. From ESPN Insider:
NFL Future Power Rankings - Projecting every franchise entering 2016 season - ESPN
ESPN Insider's NFL Future Power Rankings are an attempt by our expert analysts to measure the confidence they have in each franchise as it projects three seasons ahead. It is not a predicted order of finish for the 2016 season, but rather a barometer tracking where each franchise is heading. And from our first installment of the project last summer to now, we've already seen some organizations make great strides towards becoming a Super Bowl contender, while others have slipped back towards square one.
In evaluating each team, our analysts broke down five facets deemed critical to the long-term health of a franchise:
• The roster (minus the QB) as it projects in 2016, emphasizing players 27 and younger
• The franchise quarterback as he projects in 2016
• The strength of a team's 2013 draft picks and their available picks in future drafts
• The reputation and performance of the front office
• The stability and acumen of a team's coaching staff
Our experts -- Herm Edwards, Mel Kiper, Mike Sando, Gary Horton, Matt Williamson and Field Yates -- ranked each franchise from 1-10 across the five categories, then provided a breakdown for each team. Former NFL GM Bill Polian abstained from the ranking, but offered his insights for the front office analysis below. Using a weighted formula (explained briefly in the sidebar to the right, and in more detail here) we generated our final rankings.
So here is the evaluation behind the Panthers rankings. Brace yourself, Kiper provides the draft analysis section! Also, they don't think very highly of Ron Rivera at the moment.
The bar graphs reflect the average rating given by the voters for each category.
Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.
Roster: The defensive line has the makings of a force after adding two talented tackles in the draft to play between Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson, but the secondary is depleted of talent. A quality offensive line leads the way for a crowded backfield, but Carolina needs to find its feature back rather than loading up on backs to split carries. Quality over quantity should be the rule for this backfield. -- Yates
Somebody actually feels we have a quality offensive line.
Quarterback: Cam Newton was either brilliant or horrible in about half the Panthers' games last season. That was understandable for a young quarterback on a team that was picked first overall in 2011 for a reason. This coming season should be about reintroducing Newton as a passer first and less as a read-option player. That is how he must take the next step. Newton is signed through the 2014 season. He will most likely still be the starter in 2016, but it's a longer shot whether the current coaching staff will stick that long. Instability affects quarterbacks, a consideration with Newton. -- Sando
I can't disagree with this evaluation.
Draft: The previous administration was pushed out because of consistently poor drafting. Dave Gettleman smartly addressed the defensive line in the 2013 draft, and the Panthers' talent level is on the rise after a 2012 draft that was strong at the top. The key going forward will be finding value down the board. That simply hasn't happened in recent years. The Panthers have all their picks in 2014 and 2015, save for a 2014 seventh they dealt to the 49ers. -- Kiper
Hurney was good until he was bad. If it wasn't for most of the draft day trades he would have fared better but looking back now it's hard to go to bat for Hurney and his draft results.
Front office: New GM Gettleman is from the George Young/Ernie Accorsi school. That means solid players on both lines, coupled with a top-flight defense and led by a big-play QB. They are already most of the way there on defense. The offensive line still needs some work and will be a focus going forward, although the return from injury of center Ryan Kalil is huge. The question mark remains Newton. -- Polian
I tend to agree the offensive line still needs some work. The right side still has question marks.
Coaching: This is a big season for Ron Rivera, his third as head coach of the Panthers. Carolina finished strong last season, winning five of six, but this organization must show it can make the playoffs under Newton. Mike Shula takes over the offense this season and must make sure that Newton has success and is comfortable early on. If not, it could be a short leash for Rivera. -- Edwards
Short indeed. He has about 6 games in my estimation. If the Panthers don't start at least 3-3 Gettleman might make a move in an effort to salvage the season.
I should also mention #23 puts us last in the NFC South with the Bucs coming in #18, the Saints #10 (say what?) and the Falcons at #6.
So what do you think of this ranking Panther fans and the evaluation behind it?