The NFL has reached its final four weeks and there is still a lot to be decided. While we have focused on the playoff race over the past few weeks, today we take a look at the other side of the standings, and focus on the race for the top five overall picks in the NFL draft.
The race for Trevor Lawrence
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is one of the most exciting quarterback prospects of recent memory, and will no doubt be the top pick in the 2021 NFL draft. The prospect of landing Lawrence, and potentially locking down the most important position on the field for the next decade, makes the difference between the top pick and the second pick much bigger than usual this season.
The current leader for the top pick is the New York Jets, who showed an expert display of tanking in Week 13 when they blew a late lead to the Oakland Raiders on a hail mary pass in the last second. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams received heavy criticism for calling a Cover-0 blitz that left no deep safeties on the play, and was fired the next morning. New York is now 0-12, in prime position to win the Lawrence sweepstakes.
Just behind them is the 1-11 Jacksonville Jaguars. The Mike Glennon-led Jags had a real chance of knocking the Minnesota Vikings wildcard hopes down a peg. They even caught a break when Vikings kicker Dan Bailey missed a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation. Unfortunately, Glennon threw an interception around mid-field in overtime, setting up the Vikings for another game winner in the extra period. This time, Bailey converted, and the Jags lost 27-24.
Jacksonville needs the Jets to win a game to have a chance at the top pick, and then it will come down to tiebreakers. Both teams have four remaining games against teams fighting for a playoff spot, and it is likely that each could end the season without another win.
The race for the top 5
The first overall pick seems destined for New York or Jacksonville, but there are other teams jockeying to fill out the rest of the top five. Six teams have three or fewer wins on the season entering Week 14, and here are where they are currently slotted in the draft order, per Tankathon.
Cincinnati, who had the top pick in the 2020 draft, and Dallas meet in Week 14 for a game with huge draft implications. The Bengals are without their starting quarterback Joe Burrow, though, so the advantage may still be with Andy Dalton’s Dallas Cowboys against his former team.
Los Angeles plays against the Atlanta Falcons this week, then finishes off their season with a round robin in the AFC West. Games against the Falcons and Denver Broncos are winnable, so it is possible that they play themselves out of a top five pick.
The weirdest team in the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles, just benched quarterback Carson Wentz for rookie Jalen Hurts. Hurts will either fall flat and lose whatever games he plays — setting the team up for a prime draft slot — or he may light a fire under a lifeless team and win enough games to push them back in the order.
If these teams slip out, a group of four-win teams including the Carolina Panthers, Falcons and Broncos will have a chance at a top five pick, and the Miami Dolphins, who own the first round pick of the four-win Houston Texans.