ESPN is bored.
It's not really their fault, really. We're all bored. NFL offices are closed until training camp. Players are at home, hopefully working out eight hours per day while using the other 16 hours to study film. There are no more offseason dates to prepare for. No more draft, free agency, second free agency (because that doesn't exist), or minicamps.
So boredom cripples the active mind.
In the meantime, ESPN dusted off an intriguing future power rankings system. The idea is to catalog teams based on young players (weights as 32.5 percent of the ranking), strength of this year's draft (15 percent), reputation and performance of the front office (15 percent), stability of the coaching staff (20 percent), and the franchise quarterback as he projects in 2016 (17.5 percent). Organizations were then ranked based on those scores.
You're rubbing your hands together with a wicked awesome grin right now, knowing that based on these criteria, everything projects upward.
Mouse in hand, you scroll down (and down, and down, and down) until you find that the ESPN experts ranked the Bengals future power ranking at No. 13 -- which is two spots lower than last year's ranking. The two punishing rankings? Quarterback and front office.
Quarterback: The Bengals ranked fifth in non-QB roster and seventh in drafting, but only 20th in quarterback. Andy Dalton seems better than that, but he does have limitations. Dalton ranks 35th out of 37 qualifying quarterbacks in third-down completion percentage over the past two seasons (49.5). He ranks 29th in third-down Total QBR (26.4) over that period, including dead last (36th) with a 10.5 QBR on third down last season. That is a little concerning. It's hard not to wonder what the offense might look like if the Bengals had taken Kaepernick instead of Dalton. -- Mike Sando
Front office: Marvin Lewis, aided by Duke Tobin and a solid personnel effort, has built a Super Bowl contender. Mike Brown and Katie Blackburn have committed to Marvin's philosophy in the long term and it already has paid dividends. This is a team with a dominant defensive front and this year has added more offensive weapons through the draft. Dalton is ready to take the next step. In short, this team is a genuine big-game contender. -- Bill Polian