The race for the No. 1 pick

J.J. Watt

The NFL regular season has just four weeks left, and teams can now be neatly grouped into three classes: contenders, teams with a shot at a top-five draft pick and teams that have a chance to win the sixth seed in the AFC.

Although it's widely expected that Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be the No. 1 pick in the draft, draftniks consider this to be a fairly deep class and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was thought of as a probable No. 1 pick heading into the year.

Which teams are in the best position to land one of these players, and what is standing in their way? Let's take a look at our standings projections and the upcoming schedule to suss out which team has the best chance to end up with the first pick.


1.  Houston Texans (2-10)


Chance of first overall pick: 59.7 percent
Chance of top-three pick: 84.6 percent
Remaining schedule (weighted DVOA rankings): at Jacksonville (-40.1%), at Indianapolis (-3.1%), vs. Denver (28.3%), at Tennessee (-9.0%)

Although the biggest game for determining the top pick will take place Thursday night in Jacksonville, Fla., it should be noted that the Texans have a few things going against them. Playing three AFC South games, even if they are all road games, hurts because our weighted rankings don't fully account for things such as Reggie Wayne's injury, Jake Locker's injury and the utter regression that has happened to Indianapolis' pass defense while Greg Toler has been out. The division is in shambles right now, and Tennessee very well could have nothing to play for in Week 17. If Kansas City continues its slide, Denver might not have anything to play for in Week 16, either.

The other problem is that the Texans have yet to even come close to actual tank mode. Gary Kubiak and Rick Smith are fighting for their jobs. Kareem Jackson and Ben Tate are playing through broken ribs. And, although the Texans have lost 10 straight, they also haven't lost by more than a touchdown since Week 6. Andre Johnson and J.J. Watt are the types of players who can carry even bad teams to a few wins on their own.


2.  Atlanta Falcons (3-9)


Chance of first overall pick: 9.8 percent
Chance of top-three pick: 43.4 percent
Remaining schedule: at Green Bay (-9.1%), vs. Washington (-21.7%), at San Francisco (17.6%), vs. Carolina (32.1%)

The Falcons have a couple of luxuries most teams on this list don't: endorsements for the coaching staff and front office despite the poor season, and a franchise quarterback. Roddy White finally looked healthy for the first time all season in Atlanta's win over Buffalo this past weekend, and, although Julio Jones isn't coming back and the defense is a mess, the White improvement alone could be enough to push Atlanta past a Packers team that still isn't sure it'll have Aaron Rodgers, as well as the tail-spinning Redskins, in the next couple of weeks.


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