By: Josh Shippen
We have almost reached the quarter pole of the 2020 season, and boy has it been a wild one. Injuries have been absolutely insane, the Patriots are still a dominant AFC team, and the Falcons set a record of blowing back to back double-digit fourth-quarter leads for the first time in NFL history. Now that we have a sneak preview of each team’s 2020 potential, let’s look through and take a guess at what their average 2021 NFL Draft order will look like.
Just a quick disclaimer, this is not based on carefully calculated W-L projections, this is more of just a generalization of where these teams could be by the end of the season. Trades have also not been taken into effect to be clear, no teams are going to repeat.
Sorry Jets fans, but your ownership stinks, your head coach stinks, your team stinks, and your quarterback that you spent a first-round pick on is probably going to end up out the door of the Jets organization in the near future. The best option on the table is probably cleaning house literally everywhere, and seeing if you can manage landing another good first-round pick (nice job on Becton).
- Atlanta Falcons
Yes, I am seriously putting the Falcons here, and here’s why. Who is losing to this Falcons defense. They lost by one score to the Seahawks, that’s fine Russ is the best quarterback in the league. Then you blow a 20 point lead to the Cowboys, OK I guess, they have strong position players but for goodness sake it was 20 point. Then you blow it against the Bears, the softest 3-0 team in the league. THE BEARS! This team literally had to bench their QB for mediocre play, and the Falcons still managed to blow it. On top of that, there is a factor in football, the “it” factor. To sum up, it is the ability to pull through and be clutch for your team. As much as it pains me to say, Matt Ryan does not have that factor, and this defense is not going to win. I’m not sold on the defense beating a college team much less an NFL one.
- New York Giants
This offense looks lost at sea. Even in this embarrassment of a division known as the NFC East, the Giants have managed to look more miserable than the rest of the pack. Part of this is likely due to the Giants being extremely injured, but even if they weren’t this offense has had a hell of a hard time looking like they are in sync in any facet of the team.
- Denver Broncos
Ok to be honest this probably will not turn out to be so low, but I am very worried about the Broncos having to crawl out of the hole that Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien, and Blake Bortles are digging for them. We don’t exactly know if Drew Lock is going to turn out to be a quarterback that can come in clutch, so if the Broncos approach week 8 with only 2 or 3 wins then look for them to end up with a top 5 pick.
- Washington Football Team
Washington surprised everybody in week 1 by not looking like a 100% disaster, but then we realized that the Eagles suck so that went down the drain. The front 4 shows plenty of promise, but Haskins is a bust and their roster is awfully shallow in many, many areas. It’s perfectly possible that if Haskins is benched, Alex Smith or Kyle Allen can win some games for the Football Team, but not enough to stay out of the top 5 in the draft.
- Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings stink in so many areas, starting with a quarterback that has played awful in the first three weeks of the season. From getting the Packers boot mark on their butts, to blowing a 4th quarter lead against the Titans, this team is not ready to have a winning record, much less compete in any meaningful way. The WR and RB will probably end up buying the Vikings a few wins, but I am skeptical that it will keep them out of the top 10.
- Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have looked good in spots, but they still have a fair ways away to go. For a team that was dead set on “tanking for Trevor”, this is pretty high praise. I think the Jaguars are still the worst AFC South team, but the dropoff is not as huge as we thought, and one good draft could very well move them up one or two spots in the standings. I would also like to point out that the Jaguars have not been the most solid at closing games, that could cost them a few wins.
- Detroit Lions
The Lions are a very interesting team, in the sense that there is absolutely nothing interesting about them at all. The whole team is a living embodiment of being fine, not good or bad, just fine. It’s possible that the Lions get better once Golladay comes back, and once Jeff Okudah starts playing like a third overall pick. I worry about the Lions being crushed by the Packers again, but the rest of the division is an epic tornado full of sleeping old men so it’s possible the Lions move up just a little bit from division wins.
- Philadelphia Eagles
This is awfully generous for an Eagles team that has been a hot steamy mess in 2020. One of Carson Wentz’s trademarks is that he can carry his team, even if they are massively injury ridden or the players around him are struggling. For whatever reason, this year he just cannot seem to figure out how to do that, and i’ll be real with you it’s hard to succeed when the player whois massively underperforming is playing the most important position in professional sports
- Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have a very good quarterback in Joe Burrow. He is the future of the Bengals’ franchise, and will lead them to many playoff runs, possibly a Super Bowl. The other 52 players are the problem. The Bengals’ offensive line is a wreck, the defense could be worse, but it also could be much much better. The WR core is good, but it’s also very streaky, the RB core is something to definitely get excited about, but the Bengals have not been utilizing the run as much this year so it’s impossible to tell how much he will be used.
- Carolina Panthers
This offense has had mild trouble getting into a groove, and this defense is one of the worst in the league. The Panthers will probably look better towards the end of the season, but for now their slow start will probably screw them over (I guess in this case help them out). Christian McCaffrey being out also hurts them a lot because he’s, you know, the best running back in football. But if this draft goes well, they could totally be a superpower in 2021, look out!
- Houston Texans
The scheduling gods did the Texans dirty. Chiefs in week 1, Ravens week 2, and Steelers in week 3. Damn! But Bill O’Brien is great at pulling the Texans out of holes that they dig themselves at the beginning so the Texans should be good to go right? Wrong. The Texans are missing a top 3 WR, in which they traded away for a 2nd round pick and David Johnson. This will be the first time in O’Brien’s Texans tenure that he does not have Hopkins, and with Watson being tormented by defenses that can rip through the jello that is the Texans o-line there is nobody to save the season. This is not to say that they will tank, but they will probably not make a playoff appearance.
- Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are a very strong team, but look at this division. With the 49ers, Kyle Shanahan is one of the best coaches in the NFL, the Rams randomly decided to be good on offense again, and the Seahawks have the best quarterback in football. Kyler Murray is not ready for the playoffs yet in this division, he still makes plenty of rookie mistakes, and the defense although better, is not where it needs to be to compete. Give it one more year Cardinals fans, you guys are so close to getting to a Super Bowl.
- Indianapolis Colts
Philip Rivers is done, and it is going to affect how this team ends their season. TY Hilton doesn’t look like TY Hilton, the rest of the WR core is pretty damaged, but there are plenty of other positives to look at for this team. The defense has some good pieces to build around (Darius Leonard), and players such as Jonathan Taylor, Mo-Alie Cox, and Parris Campbell look like a great offensive squad to build around. If they had a quarterback that didn’t like to throw picks at the 5 yard line, then this team might be ready, but I am not sold.
- Miami Dolphins
I am kind of stumped on the Dolphins. I have no idea what to think of Tua, and Fitzpatrick isn’t the long term answer. The GM has frankly been a little overrated over the offseason, considering that most of these big name acquisitions aren’t playing up to snuff, and this team still doesn’t look that close to being ready. On the other hand, Brain Flores is an incredibly underrated coach who led an offense that, let’s not forget, was marked in the beginning of 2019 as possibly the worst offense of all time. And yet Flores managed to lead them to five wins. Since this team is such a mystery, I think the most reasonable scenario is that we see a 7-9 team, and then we wait in suspense for next year to start.
- Chicago Bears
There are two reasons Bears fans should calm down about their team being 3-0 and take a more sober view of their season. 1, the Bears won’t play a fruitcake defense every single week (Lions, Giants, Falcons give me a break), and we have never seen Nick Foles play a full season. Don’t get me wrong, the Bears have a solid defense, and their offense is only kind of sad. This is an 8-8 team that looks like it could use a quarterback, and then it’s possible it could be ready for contention.
- Cleveland Browns
Are the Browns figuring it out? That is truly the $64 question. The Browns have laid out 2 pretty great offensive performances, and one absolute stink bomb. We have seen this hype train try to take off multiple times, only to see the train burst into an epic ball of fire at the 1 yard line. They will probably have good moments, and bad moments as the season goes along. Look for them to do decent for the rest of the season, MAYBE make the playoffs, and then have a massive hype balloon follow them around for the whole 2021 offseason.
- Los Angeles Chargers
I love the Justin Herbert experience. Some of you might be saying hold up a second, Bengals way down at 10 while Chargers are at 17? What’s going on here Herbert is clearly not as good as Burrow. It’s simple, the Chargers have a better coach, offensive line, WR’s, RB’s (arguable), offensive line, defense, special teams, and management. Herbert will have a solid rest of the season, and so will the Chargers, but I wouldn’t take them all the way just yet.
- Las Vegas Raiders
Yeah I know, 2 AFC West teams right next to each other, pipe down and reread the disclaimer at the top. I feel like I am finally sold on the Raiders experience. Their two rookie receivers are great pieces to build around, Josh Jacobs has been a top 5 running back this year, and Darren Waller is possibly one of the 3 best tight ends in the league. But Carr is the jenga piece that doesn’t always fit in just right. He hasn’t screwed this team over at all this year, but I don’t feel like he has done much to really boost this team to contention status.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I would call this some really high praise for the Buccaneers, I know it’s only 19 but they have a 43 year old quarterback at the helm for heaven’s sake! Arians should be lauded for what he has managed to do with this offense, but let’s not go penciling them in for the Super Bowl anytime soon. The Bucs are pretty good at drafting players over the past couple years (except Robert Auguyo but everybody on Earth called that), so if they land 2021 they could be a juggernaut next year
- Pittsburgh Steelers
Everyone talks about the AFC being the Chiefs, Ravens, and Steelers. Forgive me for my naiveness but I do not see it.. This defense is one of the best in the NFL, maybe THE best, but i’m not excited about this offense. James Conner looks slow, his YPC got really boosted in week 2 by a long 50 yard run, their WR core is very good but it’s just not there yet, and their QB has frankly been overrated for looking like himself. Roethlisberger will not be able to get this offense moving the same way a Rodgers or a Mahomes figure ever could, and that is ultimately what is going to make the difference.
- New Orleans Saints
The Saints are pretty good, but Brees looks out of gas. On MNF against the Raiders, Brees was missing pretty easy throws a few times, and threw an interception at one point that just does not look like a Brees throw at all. The Super Bowl window has not disappeared, but it has for sure shrunk an insane amount. I think if Kamara can carry the offense, and Michael Thomas comes back, then the Saints will be competitive in January. Otherwise, I am ready to throw in the towel on the Drew Brees experience.
- Los Angeles Rams
Frankly we were all clowns for doubting that Sean McVay wouldn’t pull this Rams team back together. McVay has somehow got this offense reenergized, with players like Darrell Henderson, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp playing like absolute superstars. Jared Goff is also back, throwing much better than he did last year. I’d say he has moved up from about the 16th-20th QB in the league, to the 10th or 15th. The Rams are good, and should not be overlooked in big matchups
- Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are in a division that has the interest of the fattest, loudest, wettest fart you’ve ever heard. It’s loud, and everyone is perfectly aware it’s there, but it stinks to high hell and everyone wants it to go away. The Cowboys will cruise to ten wins off of their milktoast division, and even though they are not as good as their record will probably say they are, they do have some really nice players out there that they can build around, especially on offense. So let’s all sit back, relaxe, and have fun watching them on prime time 17 weeks straight.
- New England Patriots
The Patriots had a great offseason, Cam Newton looks like he is going to work out. The Patriots might not be the same dominant superpower that they have been in the past, but they are certainly a force to be reckoned with, and should be taken seriously in any matchup.
- Baltimore Ravens
They’ll probably end up around 13-3, but Lamar Jackson needs to show that he can win a game that has even a little bit of competition in it. The games that he loses aren’t even close, it’s not like they hang with these teams. They scored 20 points on Monday Night, and even that is a poor reflection of just how much of a letdown this team is in a big spot. They’ll probably end up losing in the first round of the playoffs, earning them the 24 spot on this list.
- San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Shanahan should be uttered in the same breath as Bill Belichick and Andy Reid. Even with 12-13 starters out he can still find it in him to win 36-9 against the Giants. Before all you people start honking about how the Colts also scored 36 points on a bad team and they are much higher, think about this. The Colts don’t have all their starters out, the Jets are a much worse team than any of the other 31 NFL teams, and the 49ers still look like one of the best offenses in the league.
- Tennessee Titans
So much for Ryan Tannehill being a one-hit wonder. Here’s what I have taken away from the last year and a half’s worth of the Titan’s experience (2017 Vikings pay attention). If you have a quarterback in a system, and the system works, just go with it! Forget the name of who’s behind center and just keep winning games. Is Keenum good in the Vikings system? Fine keep him. Is Minshew good in the Jaguars system? Fine keep him. Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry make up one of the better NFL offenses, and with the addition of maybe a couple pieces on defense, and another good WR2, they could be ready to make the big game in 2021.
I know that the vast majority of you Bills fans reading this blurb probably just skipped the other 28 teams just to see what I wrote about your team, so before you read this go check out my Falcons blurb so you can have some context. There is a strikingly different Bills team on the field this year. I am used to seeing a Bills team carried by the defense, but Josh Allen made the ultimate step this year, this year it is the offense carrying the game. He has that “it” factor now, his team is ready to compete. Allen’s strides are much less tangible than other QB developments we have seen, you can see that his team is much more confident in his ability to be great at games, and to win. That’s not something you’re getting with quarterbacks like Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, or even Lamar Jackson. The Bills should be considered a super Bowl contender, and Josh Allen should now be talked about as one of the elite quarterbacks.
- Seattle Seahawks
I wouldn’t worry about Seattle being behind Green Bay, I think the two are interchangeable. Russell Wilson plays out of his mind every single year, and he’s doing it again this year. If (and that’s a really big if) he plays at the same pace that he’s set for himself, he will have 74 total touchdowns this year. 74!! That is so insane, that would mean he moseys on right past the 60’s, and just pops a 74 for giggles. On the other hand, we have seen that Russell Wilson carrying a team is just not enough to get them to the big game, the rest of the team has to do their job. Since they are indeed doing that this year, I suppose they are one of the best candidates to get to the Super Bowl this year, and to win it.
- Green Bay Packers
Here’s how you can tell that Aaron Rodgers is playing so out of his mind. The Saints, who were lauded as possibly the best offense in the NFL, have been pretty dull and people are blaming it on the loss of Michael Thomas. Hed up a few states, and Aaron Rodgers is blowing opponents out of the water, and his WR1 and 2 are Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Allen Lazard. Maybe the Packers should piss off Rodgers with a first round QB behind him every year, you could get at least 10 years more of this All-Pro caliber play right?
- Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (or EEEElaire as the MNF announcer liked to pronounce it). Tyreek Hill. Travis Kelce. Mitchell Schwartz. Andy Reid. This is the best team in football, and I was a fool for saying that the Ravens would win on Monday. Mahomes continues to show people that when it really comes down to it, any team that tries to oppose Mahomes in a big spot is just going to get mercilessly slapped around until the end of time. The Chiefs are a prime candidate to be penciled into the Super Bowl, and to pick last overall in the draft as long as Mahomes is the starting quarterback.