Race to the First Pick in 2014 NFL Draft
by Trevor Whenham - 12/4/2013
The race for the most hotly-contested spot in the NFL this year is intense, deep, and constantly shifting. I’m talking, of course, about the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft. There are a lot of teams that are giving their all to prove that there is no worse team than them and that they deserve to be on the clock starting in January. Five squads have the inside track at this point. Here’s how the race breaks out:
Houston Texans (2-10)
The Texans are the leaders at the quarter pole. However, do they have what it takes to hold on down the stretch? Well, they have lost 10 in a row, so they are clearly committed to winning that top pick. Three of their four remaining games are on the road, so that will make losing a little bit easier. One of those road games is at Indianapolis, and the sole home game is against Denver, so their absolute ceiling seems to be four wins. Their next game — this weekend at Jacksonville — could prove to be the deciding factor. They have already lost once to the Jaguars, so they need to win to keep pace. The team is hard to read. They aren’t statistically incompetent. Their offense has been solid at times, and their defense is really strong against the pass. They can’t do enough to get out of their own way, though, and their attitude is a real problem at this point. They showed some real spark in four of their last five despite the losses, though, so I really feel like this team could do enough to blow their shot at the first pick. They are, at best, a lukewarm favorite to make the pick. I can’t help but feel that, despite their issues, they are going to figure things out and win a couple — if Tampa Bay and Jacksonville can do it, then why not them?
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9)
It’s amazing how fast things can change in the NFL. A month ago it seemed like the Jaguars were an absolute lock to be the top pick. In fact, the much more interesting question was whether they had a shot at going 0-16 — the ultimate accomplishment for lousy teams. Since then, though, they have won three of four and have almost looked competent. Sure, they have benefited from a weak schedule — the wins have come against Tennessee, Houston and Cleveland. They won all three games on the road, though, and they have remaining games at home against both Houston and Tennessee. They also host a struggling Buffalo team, which could be winnable. Their last game of the season is at Indianapolis, but the Colts will long since have their division clinched by then, so if they are locked into a playoff position they could be resting starters and playing well below their best. Suddenly, then, it seems like a longshot that the Jaguars will be the first team to make a pick. Strange league.
Atlanta Falcons (3-9)
Atlanta’s overtime win in Toronto against the Bills was an absolute heartbreaker. If it weren’t for that then they would have been in the driver’s seat for that top pick. They have a game at San Francisco and a home game against Carolina that they are certainly able to lose. They could also lose to Washington as well. Their next game, at Green Bay, isn’t as tough as it could be because of their recent struggles, but playing outdoors in December is not good news for the Falcons. This team is absolutely capable of losing four more games. We certainly don’t have to worry about their pride getting in the way. Behind the Texans, this is the second most likely team for the top pick.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-9)
I like the way the Bucs are finally playing, and Mike Glennon really looks like their QB of the future — for a while, anyway. Injuries are a major issue, and that could get in the way of progress for this team this year. Their next game — at home against Buffalo — is very winnable. Beyond that, things get tougher — a home game against the Niners and trips to St. Louis and New Orleans. The Saints could be resting starters by then, but there are still at least a couple of wins left. My sense is that the Bucs will win two, and that’s probably enough to get them out of the top spot. Like the Jaguars, it is remarkable that this team is in this position given where they were in the first half of the season.
Washington Redskins (3-9)
The Redskins are a real contender here, and they are only looking stronger in the race as time goes on. They have lost four in a row, and while they can run the ball well, they just can’t do anything through the air or on defense. They don’t seem to be enjoying themselves much, either. Three games — at home against the Chiefs, hosting Dallas, and at the Giants — are very likely to be losses. It’s that last one against Atlanta that could come back to get in their way. Four wins might not be enough to get that pick, so we have to hope for the Falcons.
You know, the more I think about it, the easier it is to like the Redskins in this race. That’s the problem — there is no clear winner in the race for the basement, but so many really underwhelming teams that could be dangerous.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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