After week 3 of the 2016 NFL season we began doing a piece about who was on target to get the #1 pick in next year’s draft. In that first article we had the top five as follows,
As it stands now, Cleveland still has the inside track to the #1 pick and we aren’t going to shake things up in the top spot. So…
1. Cleveland Browns
The Browns are going through QBs like they go through coaches. This year they have used RG3, Josh McCown, Cody Kessler, Terrelle Pryor, Charlie Whitehurst and Kevin Hoganall under center since they can’t seem to shake the injury bug.
Last week against the Jets was their best chance to get a win but Cleveland came up short again. Now they face a red hot Dallas team at home before heading to Baltimore next week. When you look at the schedule it’s hard to find an easy game left. They have to play Pittsburgh twice and Ben Roethlisberger should be back in three weeks when the Steelers come to town. I don’t think the Browns will go winless but I don’t see how they don’t get the #1 pick after starting 0-8 with eight playoff caliber teams left on the schedule.
Luckily Cleveland will have two first round picks in 2017. The bad news is that one of those will likely be later in the draft because the team they traded with last year to get a second pick (Philadelphia) will be contending for a playoff spot. Deshaun Watson could be heading to Cleveland to shore up the QB spot next year.
2. San Fransisco 49ers
The Niners didn’t make our first list due to their blow out win over the Rams in week 1. We thought Chip Kelly would right the ship after losses to two thought to be good teams, Carolina and Seattle. I don’t think the 49ers will wind up with the top pick in next year’s draft because they still have some winnable games left on the schedule. With the Saints coming to town this week and the Jets at home in December followed by a road game in Chicago the Niners actually have a shot to be competitive in all of those. If San Fransisco can pull it together and get a couple of wins they will lock in Cleveland as the worst team in the NFL.
The Niners need help everywhere so there is no quick fix with a top five pick. QBs Deshaun Watson or DeShone Kizer might be intriguing to Chip Kelly but it may be hard to pass up Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett who is drawing comparisons to Von Miller.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last year the Jags were thought to be on the rise and a playoff contender. Then they get thumped by the Titans last week. Jacksonville has shown they can be competitive and played the Packers and Ravens down to the wire earlier this year before coming up short. Had they found out a way to squeak out those two close games the Jags would be at 4-3 and in the mix for the division title.
The good thing for the Jags is that their schedule down the stretch isn’t that tough. Outside of their next game in Kansas City Jacksonville should be able to hang with just about everyone. With two games left against the Texans it’s still possible for the Jaguars to win the division as long as they don’t go in the tank in December and January.
Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett might be a good fit for the Jags young defense. Although he could slide due to injury concerns Barnett is a top ten prospect who solidify the teams pass rush for years to come. LSU running back Leonard Fournette is an intriguing prospect if Jacksonville GM David Caldwell wanted to have a 1-2 punch at the position with TJ Yeldon.
4. Chicago Bears
It’s hard to figure out the Bears. The defense has been awful and they haven’t had consistency at the QB position due to injuries. Jay Cutler came back from injury and played a good game against one of the NFL’s best defenses.
Due to the streaky nature of the Bears I expect them to win a few more games so they won’t be picking first in the draft next year. Their schedule shakes out with several winnable games with the Titans and Redskins at home and trips to Tampa Bay and New York (Giants). Chicago should be able to come away with at least two wins from those four games.
Will this be the year that Bears’ GM Ryan Pace pulls the trigger on Cutler’s successor and drafts a QB in the top ten? If Deshaun Watson slides to them he would a fool not to grab the Clemson QB. Leonard Fournette in the backfield would also take a lot of pressure off of Cutler.
5. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have been up and down all year and I can’t figure them out. They got gashed by the 49ers in week one then won three straight to take over first place. Then Jeff Fisher’s squad lost three straight and now they are two games out of first place in the NFC West.
The reason I think the Rams will wind up with a top five or top ten pick is that Jared Goff has been getting first team reps in practice and I believe that once L.A. gets eliminated from playoff contention Fisher will put him until the end of the season to get ready for next year. With a rookie QB starting down the stretch you can’t set the bar too high for the team.
L.A. still has four winnable games on the schedule with the Dolphins and 49ers coming to town and trips to New Orleans and New York (Jets) later this year.
Unfortunately the Rams gave up their first round pick to move up to get Jared Goff back in April. Fans in Nashville are hoping Los Angeles lose out and the Titans wind up with a top five pick to go after a receiver like Mike Williams from Clemson.