The race for the first overall pick in the NFL Draft is officially underway! We have ourselves, several fine contestants, for this race, a crowning achievement of mediocrity and failure in America’s biggest and most influential sports league. This week, eight contestants have separated themselves as potential receivers at the end of a long racing season in approximately 18 weeks.
Who is the prize at the end of the line? It’s hard to say right now, but we will talk about five players who appear to be the trophy for these teams crossing the finish line as the absolute worst teams in the NFL. The teams on this list are the teams that were not mentioned in my NFL Top 20 series, so if you haven’t already checked that out be sure to do so.
Let’s get down to it!
8. Minnesota Vikings (0-1)
Last week: L @ Cincinnati (27-24 OT)
How long will the Minnesota Vikings be a contestant in this race? Hopefully not for long, as they have a series of offensive weapons who were simply nullified by the Cincinnati Bengals defense this weekend. Could the end be near for Kirk Cousins, who just doesn’t seem to have enough to cut it as an effective game manager anymore?
The defense surrendered some awful looks for second-year quarterback Joe Burrow to take advantage of, and the former Heisman winner made them pay for it. Between Burrow and running back Joe Mixon, the Vikings’ defense had no answer for the offense, surrendering the key 4th and 1 in overtime that set up the game-winning kick.
7. Denver Broncos (1-0)
Last week: W @ NY Giants (27-13)
The Denver Broncos easily handled business against the New York Giants, one of the worst teams in the league, on the road. The defense looks formidable, the offense worked well and played very well in structure. However, they won’t have the opportunity to continue this season playing with the lack of pressure that they faced. As a result, I think you will see a very different version of Teddy Bridgewater leading this Broncos offense than we saw last week.
You can ride defense to the playoffs with the right quarterback, but I’m not entirely sold that Bridgewater is the right quarterback. It’s also worth noting that wide receiver Jerry Jeudy will miss several weeks with a severe ankle sprain.
6. New York Jets (0-1)
Last week: L @ Carolina (19-14)
Despite some preseason injuries, the Jets were fairly impressive in their opening action against the Carolina Panthers, a team with a lot of unknowns. However, despite the early mistakes, quarterback Zach Wilson appears to be everything that you want in a franchise quarterback. Wilson was diming with some very impressive throws throughout the game.
Outside of Wilson, the defense stepped up and made some big plays. You want to see more consistent results from the skill position players on offense too. The concern coming in is that Wilson is going to need time to develop. He understands that too and has publicly recognized that. How fast can he develop? After this performance, I’d say it’s very promising that he develops quickly.
5. Detroit Lions (0-1)
Last week: L San Francisco (41-33)
Coming into the season, the Detroit Lions were projected to be among the worst teams in the league, a prime top three candidate for this racing season. After their comeback attempt over the San Francisco 49ers, it’s clear that this offense has potential to lift themselves over some of the other teams on this list and fall behind.
Jared Goff, the consolation prize of the blockbuster Matthew Stafford trade, played well in his debut, attempting the second most passes in a game in his NFL career (57). The receivers created serious separation against the zone defense of the 49ers, which Goff was able to capitalize on.
The concern is the pass rush. A pass rush is vital to the current state of the NFL. The Lions didn’t have a single player under the league average in defensive pass rush, per Next Gen Stats. A lack of a pass rush will make everything harder for this defense, as we saw with the big plays the secondary surrendered.
4. New York Giants (0-1)
Last week: L Denver (27-13)
The New York Giants put out a dismal week one performance at home, struggling with turnovers and offensive efficiency in general. Daniel Jones scored the garbage time touchdown to end the game with a quarterback scramble, making the margin seem more respectable for the box score.
Saquan Barkley averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in his first game back since week two of last season. The explosive running back may have lost a step. The receivers, highlighted by the addition of Kenny Golladay, couldn’t separate all game. The average league separation is 2.87 yards, and all of the receivers averaged below that.
The Giants defense had no answer for the Broncos offense, led by Teddy Bridgewater, but running backs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams were the key factors. The Broncos run offense combined for 165 yards on the ground, including Gordon’s game changing 70-yard touchdown scamper. They surrendered 420 yards on 8 drives, an average of 54 yards per drive. The Giants are in serious trouble this season.
3. Houston Texans (1-0)
Last week: W Jacksonville (37-21)
This is arguably the highest finish that you will ever see a 1-0 team place in this race. The Houston Texans have arguably one of the worst rosters in NFL history. It’s hard to remember a team struggling this badly simply to function. However, despite all the outside noise, the Texans were able to shake it all off and spoil Urban Meyer’s NFL debut as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The sensational performance came from the fact that the Jaguars were unable to generate a suitable pass rush, giving the veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor all of the time in the world to pick apart their defense. They leaned heavily on running back Mark Ingram, who averaged just 3.3 yards per carry.
They scored a lot of points in week one, but it’s not a recipe for success against higher quality performers.
2. Atlanta Falcons (0-1)
Last week: L Philadelphia (32-6)
Many analysts argue that the performance of the Atlanta Falcons this week was far worse than anyone, but I would argue that point. This team surrendered four touchdowns to the newly-anointed face of the franchise in Philadelphia, Jalen Hurts, but they had consistent pressure in his face – especially in crunch time moments. Unfortunately for them, Hurts showed off his off-season mental work and found made some veteran-NFL throws.
Offensively, the script to start the game went well. They drove down into the red zone on their first two drives. However, tight end and fourth overall pick Kyle Pitts was just about a non-factor in the teams action, catching four passes for 31 yards. With a red zone threat like Pitts, you’d like to see the Falcons find a way to utilize him in the red zone better.
Overall, the Falcons need to bounce back to stay competitive. They are very much in the running in this long racing season ahead.
This weeks winner – 1. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)
Last week: L @ Houston (37-21)
The opening performance of the Urban Meyer era was an absolute disaster for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Not even rookie phenom Trevor Lawrence could lift the Jaguars, as they were simply dominated by the Houston Texans who are arguably the most dysfunctional franchise currently in the NFL. However, on the field, they were bested and defeated miserably.
Let’s talk about some embarrassing Next Gen stats from the Jaguars performance. The only Jaguars sack of the game took Josh Allen 7.1 seconds after the snap to collect. DJ Chark led the team in receiving yards, hauling in 86 yards on 3 catches and a touchdown. However, he recorded the lowest catch percentage (25%) out of qualified receivers this week.
Trevor Lawrence was semi-impressive, throwing for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns, but threw 3 interceptions.
Who will the first overall pick prize be?
Throughout the season, we will be posting the projected top 5 NFL Draft prospects here, as potential picks for the upcoming class. These will certainly be fluid throughout the season, I’m certain, as they will be fluid to the needs of the leader of our race for the pick. For example, the Jacksonville Jaguars don’t need a quarterback, so a quarterback won’t be in the top slot.
1. EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
2. EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
3. NT Jordan Davis, Georgia
4. QB Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
5. CB Derek Stingley, LSU
Michigan Edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson holds the inaugural spot as the projected prize to the first overall pick. Hutchinson has a slight edge over Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux who is dealing with an ankle injury and missed his team’s win against Ohio State. Hutchinson projects very well into the Jacksonville scheme, and can move around the defensive line playing multiple techs.
Jordan Davis is a long shot, but is the most impactful defensive lineman in college football as we speak. He’s arguably the best defensive line prospect that we’ve seen in the last five years.
Spencer Rattler struggled in week one action with decision-making, having his own rust to shake off. He’s the best quarterback prospect in the game currently, showing a huge arm and immense ability to play a variety of schemes.
Derek Stingley is a terrifying cornerback prospect. He’s a lockdown corner on the perimeter, donning the coveted #7 jersey on the LSU defense. He’s been a bright spot despite the teams early struggles, capable of playing effective man and zone coverage.