With just four weeks left in the NFL regular season and Bowl season upon us in the college ranks, what better time to examine the bottom of the NFL for once, and what might happen come draft day? There are three teams who could end up with the first overall pick come May. They all got here for a variety of reasons and have very different roster needs meaning that at the moment there are many possibilities for who could be drafted with that first overall pick. So let’s start with the team who have the fewest wins this season and are the poster-boys for futility in the NFL…
Cleveland Browns (2-10)
Vs 49ers @ Seahawks @ Chiefs Vs Steelers The only winnable game left for the Browns is this week against the 49ers, but they’ve proven to be a handful for even the best teams since making the switch to Blaine Gabbert – as amazing as that sounds.
What Went Wrong
Early season promise in the passing game was quickly wiped out by repeated QB changes thanks to freak injuries to Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel’s immaturity. The Browns took a chance when they drafted “Johnny Football” and it hasn’t panned out, but not everything is his fault. The offense is not one friendly to a limited quarterback. Despite a good offensive line with a great left tackle and center, pass rushers have been able to affect far too many throws; meanwhile, the running game is dreadful thanks to woeful blocking from tight ends and receivers, and poor quality at running back. Their defense has been miserable too. They have allowed an opposing passer rating of 100.5 (5th worst), gained just 17 sacks this season (3rd worst) and allowed 4.6 yards per carry (5th worst). The Browns have failed to get anything out of 2014 first round pick Justin Gilbert – who is now returning kicks rather than covering #1 receivers – and 2015 first rounder Danny Shelton has done nothing to improve the run defense.
What They Need
Where to even start!? The offensive line is fine but they need talent everywhere else. Quarterback is the place to start, but GM Ray Farmer better be sure Paxton Lynch, Connor Cook or Jared Goff is worth the first overall pick, otherwise Farmer won’t be in town for long – if he makes it to draft day at all. If none of the QBs look like the future of the franchise, they could go with Ohio State DE Joey Bosa who would help with their pass rushing issues, but today’s NFL is a passer’s league and Cleveland haven’t had one since they got a miracle season from Derek Anderson in 2007.
Tennessee Titans (3-9)
@ Jets @ Patriots Vs Texans @ Colts That is a tough slate of games for the Titans. Houston would look like the most winnable game but it’s likely they will still be in the playoff chase, as will Indy in week 17. It’s doubtful Tennessee win another game.
What Went Wrong
Thankfully for Tennessee it’s not their first year quarterback. Marcus Mariota has had his moments of rookie trouble, sure, but he’s largely been good and is someone the Titans should be happy with moving forward. Recent investments in the offensive line haven’t worked out though: Taylor Lewan is a borderline left tackle at the moment and Chance Warmack has struggled. The running backs have been no better either as Tennessee cycled through Bishop Sankey, Antonio Andrews, Dexter McCluster and Terrance West to no avail. Defensively the Titans have been better, but still far from acceptable. Jurrell Casey continues to be a force up front, aided by the addition of Brian Orakpo. Jason McCourty – though he’s only played 4 games this year and is now on injured reserve – is a very reliable corner. Unfortunately, those three are the few bright spots on the defensive roster which has been particularly weak against the run the last few years.
What They Need
Help along the offensive line would be good. Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss has the quick feet and agility that projects to a NFL left tackle, though a project is hardly 1st overall pick material. There are options in the secondary as well such as Jalen Ramsey (FSU) and Vernon Hargreaves (Florida) but the best option – given they seem to have a QB – would be to trade out of the first overall pick for someone who does need a QB and use the extra picks to load up the roster. The AFC South is so weak that one good draft class from the Titans could see them in the playoffs sooner than the other teams vying for the first overall pick.
San Diego Chargers (3-9)
@ Chiefs Vs Dolphins @ Raiders @ Broncos A tricky slate for the Chargers given their woeful run defense and difficulty protecting Phil Rivers. Home against the Dolphins is their simplest game but they lack any kind of home field advantage as rumours continue to mount of their moving to Los Angeles.
What Went Wrong
Injuries, injuries and more injuries. It’s an annual tradition in San Diego now that the offensive line gets decimated, leading to Phil Rivers taking a beating and the running game going down the drain. Melvin Gordon – their first round pick in 2015 – has struggled to get any kind of consistency rushing the ball and while Rivers has done a brilliant job of keeping the offense respectable it hasn’t been enough. Defensively the Chargers have been horrible. They’ve struggled all year to stop the run or rush the passer. Former first round pick Melvin Ingram isn’t the player San Diego need him to be. The $50 million contract given to Corey Liuget looks like a lot of wasted money right now and as good as Eric Weddle was, his powers – albeit not his beard – are fading.
What They Need
An offensive lineman would be useful, but when everyone is healthy that would lead to selection problems. The Chargers defense has been terrible for a while now and there are a lot of strong prospects that can help, from Joey Bosa to Robert Nkemdiche (DL, Ole Miss) and Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame). As with Tennessee, they have their quarterback. If he gets protection Phil Rivers might be the best passer in the league, but what’s that worth when you’re giving up 4.7 yards a carry and a 99.0 passer rating on the other side of the ball? San Diego have to get better on defense and a front seven player – or 3 – would help them the most. Using the first overall pick to beef up the defensive front would go a huge way to helping this team.
Who Does Goodell Call On Draft Day
I think it will be Cleveland. It’s hard to believe but the Browns haven’t had the first overall pick since they took Courtney Brown in 2000 – and that was after their first season back in the league. Their remaining schedule is the hardest of the three teams, and they are still messing around with their quarterback situation, with Austin Davis being bumped back out for Johnny Manziel just one week after being given the reins. Cleveland have so many needs but quarterback is the biggest and most obvious. At the moment it seems like Paxton Lynch is the best quarterback who will be available, but the draft process has a tendency to alter the way players are thought off after the college season wraps up.