Uncertainty at quarterback and a lack of roster depth led a three-person panel of ESPN football experts to have a rather pessimistic outlook on the Buffalo Bills over the next three years.
In their future power rankings, ESPN's Field Yates, Louis Riddick and Mike Sando ranked the Bills No. 26 out of 32 teams.
The panelists ranked teams on the following five different weighted categories: Roster (30 percent), quarterback (20 percent), draft (15 percent), front office (15 percent) and coaching (20 percent).
Here is how Yates explained the team's positioning: "The Bills' organizational structure underwent arguably the most extreme overhaul of any in the NFL this past offseason, with GM Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott now in charge. Whether or not Tyrod Taylor is the quarterback beyond 2017, a primary task of the Bills' front-office duo is to upgrade at wide receiver. Sammy Watkins has just one year left on his rookie contract, and health issues have plagued his career thus far."
The Bills' biggest worry, according to Riddick, is at quarterback.
"McDermott opted to keep Taylor around this offseason, restructuring his deal into a two-year, $30.5 million contract. That's a reasonable salary to pay a quarterback like Taylor. But the only thing that matters for the Bills is finding a way to challenge New England for AFC East supremacy. Is Taylor good enough to do that? I'm not a believer. We shall see," he wrote.
Sando provided the glass-half-full outlook, writing "the Bills finished with the sixth-lowest ranking in draft outlook, but it's realistic to think Buffalo is finally well-positioned for a stronger showing in that regard. Hiring a head coach and general manager during the same offseason means the Bills' front office is synced up. While that doesn't assure drafting success, it can help facilitate it."
Our take: It's hard to quibble much with the Bills' ranking. The roster has just two players selected to the NFL's top 100 list in running back LeSean McCoy and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. While that's not a definitive ranking by any means, it's an indication the roster could use more talent.
Opinions on Taylor are mixed. The Bills clearly aren't sold, or else they wouldn't have had him take a $10 million pay cut this offseason.
The draft, front office and coaching are all difficult to rank, because both Beane and McDermott are brand new to their positions. While most close observers of the Bills feel they're headed in the right direction, the new braintrust still has a lot to prove.