ESPN has conducted their yearly future power rankings, the rankings that only care about the future greatness of your franchise and have little to do with how good you are right now. Last year the Ravens were a relatively low 10th ranked. For a franchise so consistantly great, being ranked 10th was pretty surprising. Much of the low score was thanks to having a relatively old team, specifically on the defensive side of the ball where Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Kemouatu, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata were all either 30, or would be 30 by 2015(the end of the future ranking).
This year however, they have made a big jump up to 4th trailing only the 49ers, Packers and Seahawks. The big reason for that is the huge youth movement by the Ravens to get younger on both sides of the ball. They now only have 2 players over the age of 30 on the roster(Chris Johnson and Bryant McKinnie) and only one of them is set to start. They also have over half of their roster, including most of their starters, at or under the age of 27. Matt Elam, Arthur Brown, Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb, Torrey Smith, Micheal Oher, Jameel McClain, Albert McClellin, Tandon Doss, Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, Courtney Upshaw, Ray Rice, Justin Tucker, Pernell McPhee, Bernard Pierce Brandon Williams, Kelechi Osemele, Gino Gradkowski and Arthur Jones are all either starters or expected to be heavy role players over the next three years and all are 27 or younger. all in all the Ravens currently have 76 players 27 or younger. In fairness, many of those players are undrafted rookies or young players trying to make a name and that number should shrink to around 37-43 in the final roster. still 40 players under 27 would be very impressive for a winning team and the defending champions.
other things were considered as well. Here is a list
The rankings take five factors into account with weights in parentheses:
* The youth of the roster not including the quarterback, emphasizing players age 27 or younger (32.5 percent)
* The franchise quarterback as he projects in 2016 (17.5 percent)
* The strength of a team’s 2013 draft and their number of picks in future drafts (15 percent)
* The reputation and performance of the front office (15 percent)
* The stability and acumen of the coaching staff (20 percent)
Youth of roster, the Ravens should receive a perfect 10 there, cant get much younger than they are. strangely they received just a 7.0.
Franchise QB as he projects in 2016, again, should be a very high ranking, 8.5 or higher right? nope, how about a 7.7. lower than Colin Kaepernick.
Strength of draft and number of picks moving forward. this one is subjective and tricky, but the Ravens could potentially have 3 starters in their current class with their first three picks and they havent traded away any future picks so should be pretty darn high again. this time they were and received a 9.0.
front office, how can anyone argue anything but a 10 for Ozzie Newsome? Can you live with a 9.8? thats what they got so i guess it will do.
Coaching is pretty subjective as well, but for a coaching staff that has never missed the playoffs and has 3 championship games and a Superbowl win on the books, i would think they deserve a bit higher than the 9.0 they received.
Im not saying the Ravens should be number one, or even necessarily higher than they are right now. but some of those scores seemed off to me(particularly a 7.7 for Flacco. Brady got a better score and he will be just short of his 39th birthday in 2016. Thats if he is still playing, he his great now but three years for a guy already well over 35 is a long time, geez, in 3 years Belichick could be gone too, he seems to flirt with retirement ever few years. Im also not so sure why they only got a 7.0 for a roster with 76 players under 27 and only 2 over 30.
Either way, 4th place is pretty respectable and they were the top rated team in the AFC so thats pretty good. I would imagine that in Harbaugh and Flaccos 8th year together, the Ravens will still be a pretty darn good team. ESPN seems to agree.