Which NFL Team Will Pick First at the 2021 Draft
The 2020 NFL season is four weeks old. Things are starting to take form, and it’s becoming clear who the true title threats are, as well as which teams could contend for a playoff spot.
On the opposite side of things, it’s also, unfortunately, clear which NFL teams could “earn” the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Not every team in contention necessarily wants or needs the draft’s top prize – Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence – so it’s worth wondering what their motivation will be in reference to tanking.
That said, we’re starting to see pieces to the puzzle come together, and if you can see the end result ahead of time, you might be able to cash in at the best NFL sportsbooks.
Before you bet on which NFL team will pick first in the 2021 NFL Draft, let’s break down the most likely teams to finish dead last in the standings this season.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3)
Despite starting the year off at 1-0, the top NFL betting sites had the Jaguars owning the best odds (+330) to finish with the worst record this year, which would land them the top pick in the draft.
Jacksonville has dropped three games in a row since winning in week one, but it’s tough to say it has much to do with their quarterback play.
He ranks among the league’s best when protected, after all.
Highest completion % when kept clean:— PFF (@PFF) October 3, 2020
1. Russell Wilson – 81.4
2. Philip Rivers – 80.8
3. Jared Goff – 80.6
T-4. Teddy Bridgewater/ Gardner Minshew – 79.3 pic.twitter.com/vm6dPcikYb
Gardner Minshew II doesn’t look like a traditional franchise passer, but he impressed as a rookie last year, and through four games, he’s posted admirable numbers. The second-year quarterback has over 1,100 passing yards, eight touchdowns, and a 72% completion rate.
He hasn’t been flawless, but considering his defense has allowed 30+ points in three of the last four games, perhaps the quarterback position isn’t what ails the Jags the most.
Regardless, that bad defense is going to hurt Minshew going forward, and it’ll contribute to fewer than desired wins. It just might land Jax the #1 pick, and if the Jaguars are in that spot, I can’t imagine them picking the mustached man over one of the best passing prospects in recent history.
New York Jets (0-4)
The same goes for the Jets and Sam Darnold. Darnold isn’t all bad. Just look at this throw he made in a game this year.
Darnold is a gamer, but he was turnover-prone coming out of USC, and playing under Adam Gase may have damaged him for good. Even if he turns it around at some point, the odds aren’t great that it’s in New York.
The Jets have surrounded Darnold with zero viable talent. They’ve overpaid a regressing running back, and they have yet to pull the plug on one of the worst coaches in the game.
New York also traded away their best defensive player, and that side of the ball won’t be doing Darnold any favors anytime soon. All of this was easiest to see in week four, when the Jets were in position to take out a struggling Broncos team that had Brett Rypien as their starting quarterback.
And they couldn’t do it.
If the Jets can’t win that game, when can they get a win? I don’t know if we need to seriously consider 0-16 bets here, but I also can’t argue against it with all that much confidence.
New York is going to struggle to compete all year, let alone win. If they’re looking at a 3-13 season (or worse), they’ll be right there in the mix for the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. And as talented as Darnold truly is, it’s really hard to see this organization standing by him and refraining from plucking Lawrence off the draft board.
Detroit Lions (1-3)
Matthew Stafford and co. have been unable to repeat last year’s early-season success. The funny part is we probably shouldn’t have cared, as even when Stafford was on a career-year pace, the Lions were still barely a .500 team.
Stafford is healthy, but he isn’t dealing quite like he was in 2019, and suddenly Detroit has a lot of thinking to do at 1-3. Matt Patricia is undeniably on the hot seat, and could easily be gone after even one more loss.
And as the losses pile on, the Lions get closer to considering their next step under center as a franchise. Stafford remains a rock-solid NFL starting quarterback – and he’s hardly the problem with this team – but he’s also going on 33.
If the Lions decide to rebuild, being in position to snag Trevor Lawrence at 1st overall in the 2021 NFL Draft would be a pretty good time to do it.
Atlanta Falcons (0-4)
Maybe the end is near for Matt Ryan and this Falcons team, too. Dan Quinn has to be close to getting canned. Even if Falcons owner Arthur Blank doesn’t hand him a pink slip mid-season (something he’s never done), it’s unlikely he’s back in 2021.
Atlanta has gotten off to slow starts ever since they collapsed in their latest Super Bowl appearance. Quinn has undoubtedly been surviving on the good graces of that near-title run, but his teams have been abysmal ever since.
The Falcons should be far better on defense under Quinn, who was at least partially responsible for the Legion of Boom in Seattle. Instead, the Falcons have been a floundering disaster, swallowed up by inconsistency, injuries, and atrocious defense.
Atlanta seemingly has the offensive goods to match wits with anyone, but Ryan is no young pup (35), and Julio Jones may be starting to show his age, too.
Could now be the time for the Falcons to blow this roster up, get a new coach, and snag a generational arm talent with the top pick? Maybe, and it isn’t that crazy to imagine this team getting there.
New York Giants (0-4)
The G-Men seemingly already have their guy in Daniel Jones, as they reached for him last year to replace Eli Manning.
The good news is Jones is talented, and bringing him into town finally turned the page on a guy that had been regressing for years. For that, New York has to thank Jones, and even past-his-prime GM Dave Gettleman.
The latter is probably going to be shown the door this offseason, though. His draft classes haven’t panned out, and with stud running back Saquon Barkley (easily his best pick) going down with a torn ACL, it would make sense for the franchise to cut bait now.
New York is bad enough to finish dead last in the NFL this year. Their defense got a little better, but they don’t have much of an offensive punch, and you can’t point out many winnable games on their schedule.
The question, of course, is do they want to be there, and will they snag someone like Lawrence while they quickly move on from Daniel Jones?
Washington Football Team (1-3)
One franchise seemingly eager to make a big change under center is Washington. This is a franchise forever marred in dysfunction, so giving it a nice holt with an actually enticing quarterback prospect is a fun idea.
Washington hasn’t gotten the quarterback position right for years, and Ron Rivera probably deserves better. It’s been made pretty clear that Dwayne Haskins isn’t the guy, so unless he just blows up out of nowhere, the Washington Football Team is likely in for a lot more losing in 2020.
Unless, of course, the team moves on from Haskins immediately and turns back to veteran game manager, Alex Smith.
That sounds like fun, but it also may defeat the purpose. If you’re going to be bad, why not dig deep and be as bad as possible? It just might get Washington to the bottom of the league, and it just might land them Trevor Lawrence.
Who Will Get the 1st Pick in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Could other teams with bad records also contend for the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft? Absolutely. Not mentioned are the 0-4 Texans, for example.
That being said, I think the teams broken down in this post have the best chance of finishing with the worst record in football and may have incentive to do it.
Of the lot, the team destined to finish with the worst record in the NFL this year – and land the first pick in next year’s draft – has to be the Jets.
New York has shown very little fight, and they don’t have the coaching or talent to climb out of this hole. They also would probably not mind moving on from Sam Darnold, which would create interest in getting Lawrence, as well as incentive to plummet down the standings to get this pick.
The Jets are the favorite to make the free fall, even though I don’t even think Darnold is a bad quarterback. Still, Jets fans need hope, and Darnold – as well as everything else within this franchise – just aren’t cutting it.
Mailing it in for 2020 to get Lawrence at least gives the Jets something to look forward to.
Agree or disagree? You can let me hear it in the comments below, and/or place a bet yourself at the best NFL sportsbooks.