Pulling Kizer a bad move for Browns?
Tim Hasselbeck doesn't agree with Cleveland coach Hue Jackson benching rookie QB Deshone Kizer after a scoreless first half against the Jets.
Good morning! It's never too early, I tell you, to look ahead to the NFL draft. Even with the embers of Week 5 still burning, we already have a fascinating draft angle to beat you over the head with:
The New York Jets can't even tank right!
That's right. If the Jets' misfit roster assembly was intended to ensure the No. 1 overall pick in 2018, it already has failed. A surprising 3-2 start has left them a (slightly) better chance of making the playoffs than sitting atop of the final draft order.
How do we know that? As longtime readers know, we use ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) to project each team's most likely draft spot using the best information we have at the moment.
To be clear, what follows is not what the draft order would look like if the season had just ended. Instead, it is a prediction based on the strength of each team's remaining schedule as well other data inputs that encapsulate the team's performance to date. (Here is a fuller explanation.) We'll update this list periodically over the course of the season, one that will carry special interest given the stellar class of quarterbacks that could be available.
FPI odds of top pick: 49.0 percent
FPI odds of top-five pick: 96.3 percent
Comment: If any team's process (and results) suggest tanking, it's the Browns'. They are now 1-20 since owner Jimmy Haslam assembled an unconventional front office and endorsed analytics-based roster
building. Trading down and emphasizing draft pick volume is smart strategy, and it has helped the Browns add talent. But they have outsmarted themselves by leaving the quarterback position unattended. If they take one near the top of the 2018 draft, perhaps we'll look back in a different light. They will have acquired the talent around the quarterback first before dropping in the passer, rather than the other way around. For now, the benching of rookie DeShone Kizer is a reminder that the Browns don't have a starting-caliber quarterback on their roster -- a primary reason they are at the top of this list.
FPI odds of top pick: 32.2 percent
FPI odds of top-five pick: 91.7 percent
Comment: On the bright side, the 49ers have been one of the most competitive 0-5 teams in NFL history. They've lost four consecutive games by three or fewer points, one of only two teams to do so in the Super Bowl era. But their offense isn't inspiring much confidence after scoring 15 or fewer points in three of five games. Per FPI, the 49ers can expect the third-lowest expected points added via their offense this season. In other words, the close losses aren't inspiring much confidence. If it plays out that way, general manager John Lynch will have a chance to snag a quarterback after trading out of the spot used by the Bears to select Mitchell Trubisky.
FPI odds of top pick: 9.3 percent
FPI odds of top-five pick: 73.1 percent
Comment: The Bears almost certainly won't be in the market for a quarterback at the top of the 2018 draft. (I say "almost" because they did trade up to draft Trubisky a couple months after guaranteeing Mike Glennon $18.5 million. So, anything's possible.) That could make the Bears' spot an early pivot point in the draft, allowing them to cash in and trade down with a team that needs a quarterback.
FPI odds of top pick: 3.3 percent
FPI odds of top-five pick: 62.9 percent
Comment: Kind of high for a 2-3 team? Let's not forget that the Colts' two victories are against the Browns and 49ers, who are both 0-5. Although quarterback Andrew Luck is expected back at some point, for now FPI doesn't consider the Colts a favorite for any of their remaining games. The closest is a Week 12 home game against the Tennessee Titans, whom FPI gives a 57 percent chance of winning. New general manager Chris Ballard might well have a high pick, quite possibly in the top five, to use next spring.
FPI odds of top pick: 3.6 percent
FPI odds of top-five pick: 47.6 percent
Comment: The Giants are winless and have lost receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (broken ankle) for the season. Shouldn't they have better chances here than, say, the Colts? FPI still has some respect for their defense and favors the Giants to win five more of their remaining 11 games. Not everyone thought the Giants could improve on their 11-5 record from last season. But still, a tumble to 5-11 record and a top-five pick is beyond the endgame most of us would have expected.
6. New York Jets
FPI odds of top-five pick: 33.9 percent
FPI odds of top-10 pick: 80.2 percent
Comment: FPI gives the Jets a 0.3 percent chance to get the top pick and a 0.4 percent chance to make the playoffs. At the moment, they don't even have a 50 percent chance to land in the top five, a distressing position for anyone hoping they can get in on the quarterback draft bonanza. Instead, the Jets might well be headed into franchise purgatory: Not good enough to compete for the playoffs but not bad enough to be in play for a top-level draft pick. The Jets, man. The Jets.
FPI odds of top-five pick: 17.5 percent
FPI odds of top-10 pick: 60.8 percent
Comment: The Dolphins have endured one of those bizarre NFL starts that even good teams can struggle to recover from. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill's training camp knee injury began a chain of events that included the displacement of the franchise by Hurricane Irma, no home games until Oct. 8 and the resignation of offensive line coach Chris Foerster after a disturbing video surfaced. FPI is giving the Dolphins a 4.9 percent chance to make the playoffs. Their schedule still includes two dates with the New England Patriots as well as games against the Kansas City Chiefs, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons. Those teams are a combined 15-3.
FPI odds of top-five pick: 16.9 percent
FPI odds of top-10 pick: 57.6 percent
Comment: Oh, the poor Chargers. They have stumbled to a slow start amid national coverage of their apparently nonexistent fan base in Los Angeles. Their top 2017 draft picks, receiver Mike Williams and guard Forrest Lamp, are injured. And, well, Philip Rivers isn't getting any younger. At 35, Rivers ranks No. 26 in the NFL in Total QBR (39.6). They look like a team that will be a big part of this 2018 draft conversation.
FPI odds of top-five pick: 19.0 percent
FPI odds of top-10 pick: 59.3 percent
Comment: You wonder if the Cardinals are careening toward a franchise overhaul. The competitive window of this team, fronted by quarterback Carson Palmer (37), might have closed. FPI is giving them a 6.9 percent chance to make the playoffs in a division that includes the Seattle Seahawks and the newly competitive Los Angeles Rams.
FPI odds of top-five pick: 8.2 percent
FPI odds of top-10 pick: 39.6 percent
Comment: This position doesn't mean too much for the Bengals at this point in the season. They have won two consecutive games after an 0-3 start, and FPI doesn't see too much difference in their chance to draft in the top 10 than those of the Oakland Raiders, Rams or even the Dallas Cowboys. But FPI still gives them a better chance to earn that draft position than make the playoffs (17.5 percent).