This is an insider article on ESPN about what the future power rankings will look like in the 2016 season.
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.
Top 5 are: 1. 49ers, 2: Packers, 3: Seahawks, 4: Ravens, 5: Patriots, I didn't want to post all the top 5 because each are too lengthy. Here is the Falcons part, at number 6, and since this is 2016, when Roddy will be at the end, Tony and SJax will be done, I believe this ranking is justifiable.
6. Atlanta Falcons
Roster: GM Thomas Dimitroff has shown himself to be one of the best talent evaluators in the NFL, and the defense has really rounded into form in recent offseasons. The secondary will be strong with William Moore and a pair of top draft choices in tow, and the list of receiving options on offense is one of the best in football. This is an explosive roster. -- Yates
Quarterback: Matt Ryan played like a top-five quarterback last season, carrying an offense that struggled to get much going on the ground (3.7 yards per carry, No. 27 ranking in expected points added by rushing). Ryan trailed only Peyton Manning, Brady and Kaepernick in Total QBR. He's in line for a contract extension and there's no way the Falcons will let him get away. They can win championships with him. -- Sando
Draft: Few GMs are as aggressive as Dimitroff when it comes to targeting the players he wants on draft day. He once again moved up in a draft this year to grab cornerback Desmond Trufant out of Washington, two years after a trade to net the Falcons Julio Jones turned into a major coup. Depth concerns, particularly in the defensive front seven, are present, but the Falcons haven't dealt away any future picks, so Dimitroff is in a good place to continue to be aggressive and maximize a window of elite quarterbacking that should keep his team a Super Bowl contender.
Front office: Dimitroff & Co. have built a Super Bowl contender. All of their focus is now (correctly in my opinion) on filling immediate needs, which will get them to the top as soon as possible. Ryan's contract will get done, which will limit their flexibility in the future. But Atlanta fans need not worry. The way to deal with those spending limitations is through the draft, at which Dimitroff and his team excel. -- Polian
Coaching: Going into his sixth season, Mike Smith has done a fantastic job in Atlanta. The team seems to get better each year, and finally took the next step by winning a playoff game last year. With Ryan at QB, along with Jones and Roddy White on offense, they have a potent unit. Smith trusts his players on game day, and while he keeps his composure on the sideline, he'll get after them behind closed doors. Atlanta has been one of the most consistent teams in the NFL the last couple seasons and there's no reason to think that won't continue. -- Edwards
The rest of the top 10 is 7: Giants, 8: Rams, 9: Colts, 10: Saints
"what if there were no hypothetical situations?"