We have created a year-end team portfolio ranking for the NFL. The exercise is to evaluate every team as if they were a portfolio of assets to determine which is most valuable.
The only considerations are talent, age, cap flexibility, coaching/organizational strength and stability, and contract situations with the goal being to eventually compete for and win the Super Bowl. An older team already contending is more valued than a younger team with a ton of talent that may not get there, but the younger team with upside is a better bet than an older team that’s currently better but without the upside.
The NFL has a quickly changing landscape, but this creation of a hierarchical ranking gives a look to how we would choose their collective situations at the end of 2016. Last year's rankings are in parenthesis, which you can also read here as well as 2015 here.
32. Miami Dolphins (17): I feel the need to explain here. They have the AFC’s oldest roster, rank 28th in available 2018 cap room, and have questionable coaching and ownership. They were 32nd in 2015 before jumping up to 17th last year.
31. Arizona Cardinals (23): The 2017 season was lost with the early injury to David Johnson, who should bounce back once they rebuild out of the Larry Fitzgerald-Carson Palmer era. Patrick Peterson remains in his prime and Haason Reddick could have a breakout 2018. The need for a quarterback of the present and future is glaring.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (19): The quarterback position may look different in 2018. A.J. Green and Geno Atkins are both turning 30 this offseason. William Jackson has emerged this season as one of the best cover corners.
29. Indianapolis Colts (22): Things looked bleak for the Colts even when we assumed Andrew Luck would return healthy in 2017. There is serious doubt about whether he will make a full return and that will really set this franchise back that was already climbing out of Ryan Grigson's mistakes.
28. New York Giants (6): The 2017 season was a disaster in all ways but at least it was bad enough for them to do a purge of what remains a talented team in a lot of ways. They could jump back up quickly.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11): Jameis Winston and Mike Evans had a disappointing 2017 as they continue to be on the outside of the NFC South carousel.
26. Cleveland Browns (27): There’s more talent already here than the record indicates plus the Browns will own the first overall pick, a top-10 pick from Houston as well as multiple second rounders.
25. Denver Broncos (7): Denver’s defense has remained very good anchored by Von Miller, but the quarterback situation continues to limit this team.
24. New York Jets (32): We’ll see how this actually plays out but there are some young pieces headlined by Jamal Adams.
23. Chicago Bears (20): The jury is still out on Mitchell Trubisky but Jordan Howard and Adrian Amos are young blue chippers.
22. Buffalo Bills (29): The Bills performed better than expected with Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer comprising a young and talented secondary.
21. Washington Redskins (13): Another offseason of Kirk Cousins uncertainty that will go a long ways to determining which way they will trend.
20. Green Bay Packers (8): Aaron Rodgers has covered for a lot of roster deficiencies in the past but he’s now 34 and has battled injury issues. They may only have one more run left with him.
19. San Francisco 49ers (30): The acquisition of Jimmy Garoppolo has turned around the franchise and while they need a few more weapons on offense, they have the young pieces in the making on defense in Reuben Foster, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas.
18. Oakland Raiders (4): Derek Carr has either remained far more injured than we realized or we overrated his ability in 2016. Khalil Mack continues to be one of the best young defensive players in the NFL.
17. Tennessee Titans (10): Marcus Mariota has plateaued and they've been passed by the Jaguars and Texans in the AFC South in terms of talent and upside.
16. Dallas Cowboys (2): This was a weird season with the Ezekiel Elliott suspension uncertainty week to week. Elliott continues to be one of the most productive running backs in the NFL behind that awesome offensive line. The young talent they’ve added around Sean Lee on defense, particularly DeMarcus Lawrence, has also been encouraging even if they remain below average as a unit on that side of the ball.
15. Baltimore Ravens (16): Baltimore has been in transition these past few years but Ozzie Newsome remains one of the best evaluators of talent in the NFL and that has shown on the field.
14. Seattle Seahawks (1): The Seahawks were ranked first just a year ago but the combination of injuries and their lack of depth dropped them to the middle of the pack. There could be serious changes this offseason and the next very good Seahawks’ team around Russell Wilson will look very different.
13. Detroit Lions (12): A lot of solid players up and down the roster but they’ve lacked the consistency and elite talents to string together consecutive playoff appearances.
12. Los Angeles Chargers (25): Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and Casey Hayward lead the defense while Keenan Allen’s return from injury has been encouraging. Philip Rivers continues to play at a high level despite being near the end of his career.
11. Carolina Panthers (18): Cam Newton hasn’t been the same player since his MVP season but he makes enough plays to win games while they’ve rebuilt well around him. Luke Kuechly staying on the field makes all the difference on defense.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (28): It took a long time but the Jags finally built an elite defense and a passable offense. A free agent upgrade at quarterback could make this team particularly interesting.
9. New Orleans Saints (26): The Saints turned around what had been a fading Drew Brees team with their 2017 draft that featured instant contributors Alvin Kamara, Marshon Lattimore and Ryan Ramczyk. Michael Thomas has established himself as an elite wide receiver.
8. Houston Texans (14): Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins on offense plus J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney on defense should be a winning formula moving forward if they can manage to stay healthy at the same time.
7. Atlanta Falcons (15): This was a classic Super Bowl loser regression season after losing Kyle Shanahan but there’s still enough overall talent to resist a complete freefall.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (5): Kansas City has young dynamic talents at the skill positions in Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. We’ll see what happens with Patrick Mahomes eventually taking over for Alex Smith.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (9): If Ben Roethlisberger retires, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown will make any quarterback look good as will the very good offensive line. JuJu Smith-Schuster is yet another find at wide receiver by the Pittsburgh front office. The Ryan Shazier injury is franchise altering on defense if he’s unable to fully recover.
4. Los Angeles Rams (31): The trio of quarterback, running back and interior lineman in Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald anchor what the Rams do.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (21): Carson Wentz was looking like a Super Bowl winning quarterback until his ACL tear. Even beyond Wentz, there’s Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Malcolm Jenkins.
2. New England Patriots (3): Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Dion Lewis along with a very good offensive line and a passable defense keep the Patriots as Super Bowl contenders indefinitely.
1. Minnesota Vikings (24): The way the Vikings have won with Case Keenum at quarterback speaks to the depth of talent across their roster. Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith lead a truly elite defense.