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ESPN panel ranked NFL team future success and somehow Raiders still third in division

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The Raiders finished third in the AFC West last season and despite signs they will improve, an ESPN panel thinks that’s where they will stay the next few years.

To help pass the time in the most dead time of the offseason, ESPN came up with an interesting idea. They put together a panel of three NFL ‘experts’ to get an idea of what type of future success they expect from each of the 32 NFL teams over the next three years.

Overall, the panel, which consists of Louis Riddick, Field Yates, and Mike Sando, the Raiders 13th ranking is decent. But somehow, that still manages to be behind their AFC West rival Broncos (9) and Chiefs (11).

That also suggests the Raiders will be falling short of the playoffs in the next few seasons.

This is what their ranking graphic looked like:

These scores gave them an overall score of 74.0. Meanwhile the Broncos overall score was 76.4 and the Chiefs was 75.5.

Not that I am Nostradamus, but I don’t see how they can suggest the Raiders’ future isn’t as bright as the Broncos and Chiefs.

Let’s start with the Broncos who have an unproven rookie and a complete unknown quarterback sitting behind a mediocre journeyman placeholder in Mark Sanchez. Many will tell you that the Broncos won the Super Bowl despite their quarterback play last season, not because of it, and I would say that is an oversimplification.

The Broncos’ defense was without a doubt its best attribute and led them to that victory. But like when Peyton Manning returned late in the season and for the playoff run, he helped the team tremendously, not hurt them. Manning is a coach on the field, so his prowess showed up in how the offense ran as a whole, not just in how many passing yards he had.

As far as that defense, they already lost some key pieces to their Super Bowl run in Malik Jackson and Danny Tevathan. And with the money they will be giving to Von Miller, it only raises the likelihood that more stars will be leaving in the near future.

As for Chiefs, two of their best defenders are in their 30’s – Tamba Hali (32) and Derrick Johnson (33) – while their star running back Jamaal Charles will turn the big 3-0 during the season. Alex Smith is entering his 12th NFL season which means he isn’t going to start surprising anyone with his sudden elite play.

As for the Raiders, all of their stars are young and most of them have multiple years left on their contracts. Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, and Gabe Jackson are all entering their third year in the league, Amari Cooper and Mario Edwards Jr are coming off very promising rookie seasons.

Their big free agent acquisitions are still young and have all signed long term deals within the past couple years, including Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osemele, Dan Williams, and Sean Smith. They will also have a considerable amount of money to spend next offseason, allowing them to add more big time talent and re-sign their own.

I am not going the homer route here and predicting greatness from the Raiders. What I am suggesting is they are built to be a strong team in the next three years and continue to improve. That was the focus of the panel.

To the panel’s credit, they did give the Raiders QB situation with Derek Carr the highest marks of the three. But the Raiders didn’t outrank the Broncos and Chiefs in any other category including roster, coaching, draft, and front office.

The Broncos were given the highest marks in roster (78.3), draft (83.3), and front office (90). Field Yates points to great value deals given to guys like Chris Harris Jr and Derek Wolfe along with the ‘razor sharp’ GMing John Elway is doing. The others agree with the great job Elway has done as a major factor.

Meanwhile the Chiefs earned best coaching (86.3). The coaching of Andy Reid appears to be the only reason given for the Chiefs being ranked as high as they are.

If you are going by last season, yeah, of course the Raiders are third in the division. But most accounts outside of this one suggest the Raiders immediate future is much brighter.

Interestingly enough, I will be delving deeper into ranking each position group in the division starting this week, which will hopefully offer a bit more insight into where we can expect the Raiders to rank in their division this season.