With Clemson QB Deshaun Watson or Texas A&M DE looming as the likely #1 pick in the NFL Draft next April we are starting to get a sense of who will be in the running for them now that three weeks of the 2016-2017 NFL season are in the books.
1. Cleveland Browns
Cleveland seems like a perennial contender for the top pick just about every year. And with them holding the Eagles’ first round selection next year after the Carson Wentz trade the Browns will have two picks. Unfortunately for Cleveland Philadelphia looks like one of the best teams in the NFL and will likely be picking late in the first round due to their success against a weak NFL East.
Fortunately for the Browns draft position they are having to go with a third string QB due to injuries to RG3 and Josh McCown. USC rookie quaterback Cody Kessler was under center for the majority of snaps yesterday in a close loss to Miami. Cleveland also has two game against division foes Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh to look forward to as well as home games against New England, San Diego and the New York Jets and Giants. On the road they have to go to Washington, Tennessee and Buffalo.
If the Brown’s woes continue they will be the front-runners for the top pick next year.
2. Chicago Bears
The Bears are in pretty big trouble if their defense can’t do any better than they did against Dak Prescott and the Cowboys on Sunday night. And with John Fox saying that Jay Cutler is not guaranteed to be the starter it could be a long year for the Bears since Brian Hoyer in the backup.
Chicago does get the Lions at home but their offense is even more potent that the Cowboys. With two more games left against the Vikings and Packers and one on the road against Detroit left the Bears schedule isn’t very forgiving. They do have home games against the Jaguars and 49ers coming up this season so Chicago probably won’t go 0-16.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Coming into the season the Jags were the sexy pick to win the AFC South. However, the young defense hasn’t jelled just yet and they still might be another year or two away from being a playoff team. With a game in London against the Colts looming another loss could send head coach Gus Bradley packing heading into the bye week in week 5.
The Jags schedule is pretty tough with games against AFC West foes: Denver, Kansas City and Oakland still coming up. A home game with the Vikings in December is also pretty much going to be a loss. Two games against Houston are going to be tough but their other division rivals, the Colts and Titans have been up and down so far this year and could be winnable.
4. New Orleans Saints.
The Saints have the ability to light up the scoreboard with Drew Brees under center. Unfortunately they can’t stop anyone on defense. After Atlanta lit them up for 42 on Monday night it’s no longer a secret that New Orleans has major problems on defense and especially in the secondary. Luckily Brees is a gunslinger so they will eventually outscore someone this season.
The bad news is that the NFC South is pretty loaded with the Panthers, Falcons and Bucs. And games with Cardinals, Seahawks, Broncos and Rams are going to be tough. If the Saints fans can be patient the team will get a chance to load up on defense in the 2017 draft and there will be brighter days ahead.
5. Washington Redskins
Had Kirk Cousins not had a big game Sunday against the Redskins fans were ready to revolt after he got paid almost $20 million for this season. Last year the team won their division and expectations were high in 2016. But with losses to Pittsburgh and Dallas to start the year their is a lot of pressure to turn things around.
With the Browns coming to town this weekend things are looking up. Cleveland is starting their third string QB and the Skins will be a big favorite at FedEx Field. But things get a little more difficult with a road trip to Baltimore in week five. Then Washington will have to play Philadelphia twice and Dallas and the Giants once more time. Home games against Minnesota, Green Bay and Carolina down the stretch will make it tough for the Redskins to make it back to the playoffs.
Rest of the worst
6. Tennessee Titans
7. Buffalo Bills
8. Detroit Lions
9. Miami Dolphins
10. Indianapolis Colts