The landscape of the NFL changes year by year. New teams enter the playoffs and older teams fade away, until the rebuild and bounce back. Well most teams not the Browns. We look at the NFL five years from now, and who the best teams and the best team will be.
I did not consider ANY teams who did, or who wont have a presently proven quarterback. So teams like the Texans or the Jaguars were not considered because quarterback is their biggest question mark.
The case for the Seattle Seahawks
They would be the obvious choice. But by 2019 things will have changed. Marshawn Lynch will, in all likelihood, not be in the league. Christine Michael is a talented back. But this situation is similar to replacing Ray Lewis with C.J Mosley (albeit not in the same magnitude). Lynch has been their offensive identity. Ever since this. Beastmode.
Looking at the defense, they should have about the same personnel. I only see changes in the defensive line with Cliff Avril being 33 (he's 28 now) and perhaps not even being on the team as he is currently in the last year of his two-year, $13 million contract. However, even if Avril were to leave Bruce Irvin should start getting snaps at defensive end. I, believe he is better as a pass rusher anyway.
If they have to pick between Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright once they are free agents, Wagner should be the pick because he plays the more important position As for the secondary, they will not have a single problem as long as Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman are around. Even without Kam Chancellor the Seahawks have their defensive blueprint. Thomas' range enables them to play their "triangle" defense and I don't care if Sherman holds. He shuts down anybody in the league, Calvin Johnson included. As Byron Maxwell proved, pairing almost any draftee with those two, and the defense ends up fine.
So it comes down to the quarterback. If Russell Wilson has to carry the offense I don't think the results will be the same. There could be an identity crisis after Lynch's departure which, I think, will result in them not quite being the best team in the league.
The case for the San Francisco 49ers
They also most likely, will not be the best team. Looking at the roster right now, the biggest issue also has to do with age. Frank Gore is turning 31 and Patrick Willis is 29. Justin Smith also is 34. What makes the Niners interesting is that in the last few years, they have been able to draft a slew of "redshirt" players. Tank Carradine was a first round type pass-rusher, Brandon Thomas is a maybe first, second round guard. They find ways to make it work. Frank Gore and Ray McDonald (who by the way is a pretty awesome player) were both in similar injury situations. Justin Smith will have to be replaced sooner rather then later.
So if Willis, Gore, and Smith are all gone the team will need new leaders. It's a pretty serious change of culture, more so then Seattle. I trust Colin Kaepernick even less then I do Wilson if i had to pick a quarterback to carry a team. There's an even bigger issue on the horizon. Michael Crabtree is going to be a free agent. San Fransisco has an overload of wide receivers so if the negotiations go badly, I think Trent Baalke will have no issue letting him go. Especially if Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton perform well during the season.
The Jim Harbaugh situation has been swept under the rug but it may come back to the surface if San Francisco were to lose in the playoffs, or barring disaster miss them entirely. I think there are too many questions for me to think them as the best NFL team in five years.
The case for the Carolina Panthers
Perhaps the most interesting to study was the Panthers. Their franchise players, Luke Kuechly and Cam Newton, are 23 and 25. By the time Cam Newton is 30, I think he may well be the best quarterback in the league. The reasoning is that he is already good, Pro Bowl good, but has a long way to go. He still runs into sacks, throws the ball high on crossers, and doesn't have the fastest delivery, often times not being smooth enough and out of sink with his hips and feet. But that was the good part. He has a lot to work on and Carolina was 12-4 just last year. The defensive line of Greg Hardy (assuming his legal woes are over), Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei will be in there primes. Charles Johnson will free up cap space and Kony Ealy will replace him. Pairing a search and destroy linebacker, which are becoming more common, will be easy enough once they'll need to replace 31-year-old Thomas Davis.
The offensive line is currently being rebuilt. Trai Turner, even if a bit raw, will be an elite guard in five years. I do not doubt it. As for the scrutinized prospect, Kelvin Benjamin, I believe he will also be one of the best wide receivers. He was reportedly fantastic during OTA's. And looking at that depth chart, I don't think he will be lacking the reps. The best way to develop Benjamin was to throw him in the fire. Williams and Stewart will not be there. I think one of them should be cut, likely Stewart to free up cap space, but by 2019 and maybe as early as next year, Jonathan Stewart could be gone, and in a load RB draft class, we could see a new one pairing with Williams, until he retires or is cut
My only issue with Carolina is the secondary. Charles Godfrey is solid but beside him, there is no one of note. This may not be a bad thing since they technically have four years to get good corner backs. David Gettleman loves drafting size (Benjamin, Lotulelei) so his tendencies may coincide with the new way of playing defense, à la Seattle.
I would pick Carolina over Seattle and San Fransisco because they are a good team that is still building. Five years from now, the Panthers' core will be in their primes. Veterans with playoff experience that understand how it should be done. They are missing skill position players who are a lot ¨easier to find than elite quarterbacks or franchise signal callers, middle linebackers. Windows close. Seattle and San-Fransisco are good now. they could dominate the decade, but in all likeliness wont be as good five years from now as they are now. Especially Seattle who just won the super bowl. It is hard to repeat and again build dynasties.
Other NFC teams considered
Green Bay Packers
St Louis Rams
Let me start by saying that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will probably be retired.
The case for the Baltimore Ravens
Why not? The defensive core is made up of first and second-year core. I believe finding a pass-rusher in the first two rounds of next years draft would complete it. Joe Flacco would be 33, so QB is not an issue. The only holes are at wide receiver if Marlon Brown doesn't progress and running back because Ray Rice won't be with the team or only be a backup. I already mentioned the running back class is strong with as many as four running backs possible to go in the first round. Besides that, the team is ready. Arthur Brown, C.J. Mosley, Matt Elam, Timmy Jernigan, Brandon WIlliams and Jimmy Smith can all be cornerstones for the future of the defense. If Gary Kubiak decides to pull a Dick Lebeau, which is a possibility after his stroke, and coach as the OC for the rest of his career there is a serious chance that the Ravens will become mainstays of the AFC, post Brady-Manning.
It' a steady good bet. Compared the rest of the AFC, Baltimore could be one of the few teams that won't be a quarterback away from competing for championships year in and year out.
I didn't consider the Browns because I think Manziel is going to bust. Check this out if you haven't already seen it.
The case for the Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck. He is going to give them a chance to be a great franchise. if Trent Richardson starts playing like the third-overall pick then Luck may have a sidekick as well. Richardson hesitates before hitting holes. The Colts also don't have a good interior line, but then again they have five years to fix it. They have the receivers in T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and possibly Hakeem Nicks if his situation works out. Now looking at the defense, the only players of note that wont be too old are Arthur Jones, Bjoern Werner, Vontae Davis and Jerrell Freeman. The middle of the defense isn't too strong but Chuck Pagano knows how to call plays.
Other AFC teams considered
San Diego Chargers