Let’s begin this with a disclaimer: it’s still mid-October, and most teams have played six games, while some have played five. There are 11 weeks of football left, which is more than enough time for good teams to become bad, bad teams to experience a sudden, unexpected revival, and for bones to break and bruises to blacken.
And let’s follow that with a statement of grandeur: the first overall pick next April–also known as Andrew Luck–may be more valuable than any first-round pick in the history of the NFL. That’s not based just on Luck’s talent or his future as a franchise quarterback, although both of those intangibles are expected to be superior to any quarterback taken with the top pick in recent memory.
It’s grounded in the fact that as of right now we’re two games shy of the halfway point in the 2011 season, and the NFL’s basement is crowded with teams that either simply wouldn’t take Luck, or would be extremely hesitant because of a hefty recent investment in another quarterback.
There are currently 13 teams with two or fewer wins. While there has been one outlier (the four-win 2003 Chargers) the average amount of wins for the worst NFL team over the past decade is 1.7. Earlier this week 18 to 88 went back even further to break down the probability of being the first team on the clock:
Teams with 0 or 1 win are almost guaranteed the first pick. Teams with 2 wins get the first pick 60% of the time. Their average draft pick is 1.5. 3 wins are worth the second pick about half the time (54%) and the second or the third pick 85% of the time. On average, their pick is 2.2. 4 wins: 12 teams have gotten as high as the first pick and as low as the seventh, but usually land between third and fifth (74%). They average pick 3.9. Teams with 5 wins receive between pick five and eight 84% of the time. Their average pick is 6.6.
There are teams that fall in that two-win range now that likely won’t be there for much longer. If the season was six games long the Rams would currently hold the top pick, but the addition of Brandon Lloyd and the return of a healthy Mark Clayton this week should lead to at least three wins. The almost equally bad Browns are still on St. Louis’ schedule, as well as two games against the Cardinals.
Even if Sam Bradford continues to sputter with his new toys and the Rams continue to suck, Luck still won’t be in St. Louis next year. A team that spent a first overall pick on a player who they view as their franchise arm and made him the highest paid rookie in NFL history isn’t investing in another franchise arm just two drafts later.
But that scenario isn’t unique to St. Louis.
For the purposes of this post, all the teams with two or fewer losses are listed, even though there’s no conceivable way that some teams (Cowboys, Eagles) will be on this list two months from now. Miami has the most glaring need for Luck, followed by Indianapolis due to the uncertainty surrounding Peyton Manning’s future.
The collection of bad teams that will continue to be bad is deep. And similar to St. Louis, many of those teams have paid a sizable fee for a quarterback recently. Three of the teams listed above spent a top-15 pick on a quarterback last spring (Carolina, Minnesota, and Jacksonville), with the Panthers taking Newton first overall.
John Elway seems to secretly view Tim Tebow as the devil while the rest of us see him as Jesus, so if the Broncos fall Luck seems likely to become the second best Stanford quarterback to play football in Denver. But that’s still just three teams out of the eight with one win that can sleep until draft day and then mindlessly scribble Luck’s name on their draft card, which is a lopsided ratio for a supposed once in a generation quarterback.
It’s a ratio that could lead to a Luck auction in a league where trading for the top pick is now much more appealing because of the rookie wage scale established during the lockout, and the winning bid could be larger than the trade that landed Elway in Denver 18 years ago after he refused to play for the Baltimore Colts. On the same day that Carson Palmer was absurdly deemed worthy of potentially two first-round picks, Peter King told Chris Russo of SiriusXM’s Mag Dog Radio that three first-round picks would be fair value for Luck, which is a massive, historic price.
If the Dolphins continue to look like the London Silly Nannies, then order will prevail over madness next April. If not, the 2012 draft will look something like this…
Of course, Luck could see this developing mess and pull a power-play by staying in school for one more year. But if he does declare, what seemed like an easy decision may actually become quite difficult.