The premise behind the NFL Future Power Rankings is a simple one: How do the league's 32 teams project in 2015?
To divine the most accurate projection possible, Insider solicited help from someone with first-hand experience. To determine which factors were most important in predicting future success, we consulted with former NFL GM Bill Polian, who regularly engaged in a very similar exercise during his lengthy tenure in multiple front offices. Together we determined five categories worthy of in-depth evaluation: The make-up of the current roster; the projected 2015 quarterback; draft track record and available future picks; front office track record; and coaching stability and acumen.
Immediately following the 2012 NFL draft, Insider asked four of our NFL analysts -- Trent Dilfer, Mel Kiper, Gary Horton and Matt Williamson -- to grade each team in those five categories on a scale of 1 to 10, using the following criteria:
Roster (excluding QB): This category covers each team's current roster players, emphasizing players selected in the 2009, 2010 and 2011 drafts -- players that 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 2015.
Quarterback: This category covers a team's QB situation, focusing on the future. Does a team have its 2015 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 2015. A 1 represents a team with no projected 2015 starter in its system.
Draft: This category evaluates a team's 2012 draft class, a team's reputation in mining talent from the draft and the number of available picks in 2013, '14 and '15. A 10 represents a team that secured a strong 2012 draft class and appears likely to bring in similarly strong classes in 2013, '14 and '15. A 1 represents a team with a poor 2012 draft class and appears unlikely to bring in help through the draft due to their reputation or a lack of future draft picks.
Front office: 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 that have made little-to-no impact.
Coaching: 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 2015 season.
The averages of the panelists' individual category scores can be seen for each team in a bar graph on the rankings page.
After collecting the ratings from the four analysts, we averaged them together and weighted each category based on its correlation to NFL success, again determined through consultation with Polian. The weightings were as follows:
Roster (excluding QBs): 32.5 percent
QB: 17.5 percent
Draft: 15 percent
Front office: 15 percent
Coaching staff: 20 percent
The weighted category averages were then totaled up and represented on a 100-point scale to provide the final team score, with each franchise ranked according to that number. The higher the number, the better that franchise is positioned to succeed in 2015.