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Horse Tracks: Broncos stock falls in future power rankings

In their annual future power rankings, ESPN expects the Denver Broncos to experience a sharp decline down the NFL totem pole.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Wednesday, Broncos Country!

Power rankings are often seen as a feeble, mindless endeavor.  Pure prognostication based on knee-jerk reactions and hasty opinions pertaining to the potentiality of free agent acquisitions and roster additions over the course of the spring time.  Many fans across the depths of the Internet feel the same way about mock drafts done a year in advance of the event taking place, but I still find some usefulness in both as they provide a good area of discussion especially during the tranquil lull of the NFL offseason.

ESPN analysts John Clayton, Louis Riddick and Mike Sando recently released their future power rankings for NFL franchises and their expected efficacy over the next three seasons.  Ranked on a scale of 0-100, teams were critiqued on avenues regarding their coaching staff, drafting abilities and front office, specifically the ability to re-sign and retain quality players.

In their analysis, the Broncos ranked 14th out of the 32 teams in the NFL, signifying a ten spot tumble from a similar analysis the year prior. This placement ranks them above their division rival the Oakland Raiders, but below the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers, who have added some firepower to their teams via free agency and the NFL Draft. The reasoning for such a fall from grace comes primarily from two points. First, the eventual (and likely soon) ending of the Peyton Manning era in Denver will be a source of consternation for the franchise. Second, that the team has allowed many of their best-drafted players over the past few seasons to walk in free agency.

The future forecast for the Broncos offered above differs starkly from the expectations of this season, but concerns about their ability to compete have also been echoed by NFL Insider Jason La Canfora, who believes that Denver's window to hoist a Lombardi ends whenever Manning calls it quits. There is little doubt that the team will endure some turbulent times the eventual changing of the guard at quarterback.

The question of who leads the Broncos into battle on the gridiron after Manning is still one that hasn't been answered, but my gut tells me that player currently is not on our roster.  It is a valid point of contention when discussing how formidable the franchise can be long-term and hopefully one that gets answered sooner than later.

Furthermore, I do share the concerns about the teams ability to find, develop and retain homegrown talent, which was a topic of discussion posed back in March.  Unquestionably, if the Broncos want to be successful down the road, they can't afford to lose Demaryius Thomas or have impact defenders like Von Miller and Malik Jackson walk away in free agency after the 2015. When John Elway took over for the Broncos, the roster wasn't in complete disarray and through a serious of quality maneuvers (mostly via free agency) he was able to put a competitive squad on the field that has soared to four straight division titles.

Alas, where there is a will, there is a way. I fully expect Elway to continue his reign as one of the league's best front office executives and do whatever is necessary for our beloved franchise amongst the tops in the NFL for years to come.

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