As we work our way into week six in the National Football League, things inside our preseason crystal ball begin to clear. This is the time of the year when well over half the league still has at least one eye on the big prize. Some teams more realistically than others, of course.
Fans enjoy keeping an eye on the NFL football rankings to see which teams realistically can lay claim to such lofty post-season aspirations. Born out of early season futile necessity, there is also a tendency to look at the NFL football rankings from the bottom up. This not-so-flattering pursuit, at least has the prospect of a high pick in next year’s annual NFL draft.
Here are a few teams whose focus might be trending towards an early stroll to the podium on April 25th in Nashville, as opposed to suiting up for a final game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. While somewhat presumptuous, considering we have yet to reach the mid-point in the regular season, here’s how early draft projections might begin to shake out next April.
The Not so Wild, Wild Wild West
The Los Angeles Rams are striving to make a mockery out of the NFC West. Currently traveling around the nation on a three week road trip, they do play week six in the difficult Mile High air of Denver. They’ll finish this three week adventure at Candlestick, in what might otherwise be an interesting divisional battle.
Odds makers lean heavily towards the Rams returning home unblemished to welcome the Green Bay Packers back to the LA Coliseum. By winning this next pair of games that they should win, Los Angeles will cement a spot at or near the top of the rankings, and be worthy of being tagged a Super Bowl contender.
Now’s where the conversation slips back to that City by the Bay. The 49ers had some hope of at least being a thorn in the Ram’s side this season. However, that all sank into the adjacent bay with the loss of Jimmy G. Now San Francisco is looking more and more like a bonafide contender for the inauspicious worst record in the league.
Their strongest contender for that number one selection may come from just east in the Arizona desert. The Cardinals have already started to turn belly-up, deciding to ride at least the current part of the 2018 season with their most recent top draft pick, QB Josh Rosen.
The Best, or Worst of the Rest
As for the next best contenders for those coveted early picks, teams who most prognosticators never thought would find themselves in such a pickle, currently occupy the field. Sure, Indy is going to have some growing pains as Andrew Luck gets his sea legs back under him. What about Da Raidas, with Jon Chucky Gruden wearing the headset?
No one figured the Raiders to be a one-win team after five games. Shoot, even the Cleveland Browns are currently playing 50-50 football, and potentially could be even better than that mark. Every other team in the AFC has at least two wins already.
Nothing to yet stake a claim to a ticket to Atlanta, but there is some realistic speculation that Arizona or San Francisco, or both, may not win another game. Like the Raiders and Colts, no one in their right mind would figure the Falcons to continue their woeful winning percentage either.
That pretty much leaves the hapless one-win New York Football Giants as the closest threat to the Cardinals-49ers lock on the first two picks. Now, even though they appear to have circled up the wagons in Buffalo, the Bills at the outset of the season seemed destined to that fateful bottom spot in the NFL football rankings.
Two wins later, that doesn’t necessarily appear to be the case. Fortunes have smiled on Buffalo twice over the last three weeks, but don’t count on these Bills to stampede much past five wins. The only possible thing that might keep them from being the least in the AFC East will be the New York J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets with their own rookie signal-caller manning the helm.
Again, both Buffalo and New York may already have more wins than the San Francisco and Arizona are able to amass. So then, what does all of this mean for the early rounds of next year’s draft? With the number one currently projected player in many forecaster’s eyes to be Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, a lot.
An Early Peek into the 2019 NFL Draft Crystal Ball
San Fran still has Jimmy G, albeit on the shelf. Arizona also appears to be locked in on their quarterback of the future. If both these teams out race the G-Men for the first pick, look for a little early-pick juggling act between these three.
New York still doesn’t seem to have a player they want to label their quarterback of tomorrow, and yes Giants fans, Eli is getting older by the minute. The single most glaring problem both the 49ers and Cardinals seem to have is an inability to stop anyone.
In 2019, the earliest 10 picks may well produce as many as eight defensive players. There are four interior linemen who have the coveted skill of disrupting an entire running game. Ed Oliver out of Houston and Auburn’s Derrick Brown, along with the massive Quinnen Williams from Alabama, will draw a lot of eyes at next year’s NFL combine.
The status of Ohio State Buckeye DE Nick Bosa Jr. is uncertain. However, when he was healthy Bosa was wreaking havoc in the opposition’s backfield. Two more defensive ends, Clelin Ferrell from Clemson and Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat are drawing the attention of NFL scouts as well.
Like Bosa, they have the pedigree to be an early first-round grab. Jeffery Simmons, another Mississippi State lineman, could be the fourth defensive tackle taken off the board in round one.
So, even if the Raiders and Colts continue to lose more than they win, these teams have established quarterbacks. If Atlanta decides to play like a team worthy of a low NFL football power rankings and join the race for the first pick lottery, they too are having problems keeping other teams from scoring points.
Most of these lowly bottom feeders in the current NFL power rankings suffer from a similar ailment. They rank poorly in most defensive categories. With a stable full of thirsty defensive stalwarts, look for the early picks in next year’s NFL draft to come from the “other” side of the ball.