Getty Images

I hate being the bearer of bad news, and I'm an advocate for the phrase "never say never." But if your team has started 0-2 this season, history tells us they're probably not going to make the playoffs. 

Since 1990, when the NFL playoff field expanded to 12 -- and of course it's 14 teams now -- only 11.6% of the teams to start 0-2 ultimately made the postseason. Even if you shorten the sample size with recency in mind, the rate is essentially the same. Since 2007, only 10.1% of the more than 100 teams to begin a season 0-2 have made it to the postseason. 

And last year -- you can probably guess where I'm going with this -- all 11 clubs to go 0-2 out of the gate missed the playoffs. 

Therefore, you can join me in evaluating draft prospects before October! It's fun, I promise. Below you will see three prospects you should follow closely over the next few months to get ahead of your friends for April's draft. 

New York Jets

Top 5 prospect

Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

Jets head coach Robert Saleh has seen some stuff. And by stuff I mean some alpha pass rushers wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

His NFL coaching career started with the Texans with Mario Williams on the edge. He was then in Seattle during the Chris Clemons and Michael Bennett era. He coached rookie-year Yannick Ngakoue and, of course, had a front row seat to Nick Bosa's phenomenal debut season in the NFL in 2019. 

He's going to want another alpha rusher. And this is not to say Carl Lawson can't be one. And the contract he signed with the Jets proves they're high on him. But Thibodeaux has Bosa-esque upside with Myles Garrettian physical capabilities. He could completely change New York defensively in Saleh's system. 

Top 10 prospect

Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

Elam is tall and ultra-disruptive on the outside. He's precisely what the Jets need at the cornerback position, a spot that frankly has been barren since Darrelle Revis left and Antonio Cromartie aged out of his prime. The Jets faced 605 pass attempts in 2020 but had only 10 interceptions. They do not have a pick through two games. Elam can provide the Jets cornerback room with some swagger. 

Outside of an early penalty, Elam held his own against Alabama last Saturday and had had four picks and 15 pass breakups combined in the first two seasons of his Gators career heading into this season. 

Top 20 prospect 

Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

New York spent on Corey Davis and Keelan Cole in free agency. They drafted Elijah Moore at the top of the second round in the 2021 draft. Denzel Mims was a second-round pick the year before. Call me crazy -- I've heard it before -- they need more receiver help at the beginning stages of the Zach Wilson era inside MetLife Stadium. It's just the name of the game in today's NFL, especially if you have a first-round quarterback on a cheap rookie deal. 

Wilson brings the best blend of suddenness, leaping ability, speed, and YAC skills of any receiver in this draft class. The Jets would not regret drafting Wilson for Wilson. Believe me. 

Indianapolis Colts 

Top 5 prospect

Derek Stingley, CB, LSU

Colts GM Chris Ballard has a thing -- a rightful thing, I may add -- for freaky athletes. He prioritizes them in the draft. Stingley's going to jump through the opening in the Lucas Oil Stadium roof at the NFL Combine and run the 40-yard dash in about three blinks of an eye. All at like 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds with arms that hang to his knees. 

Indianapolis quietly plays sound defense. They have superstars on the defensive line -- DeForest Buckner -- and in the linebacker group -- Darius Leonard. What the unit has been missing is a star in the secondary. Stingley can be that guy, just like he's been at LSU since he was locking down SEC receivers as an 18 year old in 2019. 

Top 10 prospect

Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

If Hutchinson tests as well as landing at No. 2 on Bruce Feldmans "Freaks" list would indicate, he could land inside the top 5. He's that polished as a rusher with NFL defensive end size and power. The athleticism would be the final checked box making him a supreme prospect, one likely adored by Ballard and Co. in Indianapolis. 

Yes, they just picked Kwity Paye in the first round in April. But you cannot have too many efficient outside pass rushers in today's NFL. Just can't. And after Paye, Indianapolis is thin on the edge. 

Top 20 prospect

Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

The lack of high-caliber receivers has limited the Colts during the Frank Reich era. And Olave is close to being NFL-ready because of how well he runs a variety of routes -- like many Ohio State receivers coached by Brian Hartline. He probably won't ever be an All-Pro, but the floor is high, and Indianapolis has needed to raise the floor of its wideout room for years now. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Top 5 prospect

Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

As a major advocate of prioritizing positional value in the draft you can probably guess that safety in the top five is not a dream scenario for me. However, I believe the value of the safety position is increasing every single season, mostly because they're asked to carry so many responsibilities on the field. They're kind of becoming the iPhone of the defense, the device that handles the main tasks previously monopolized by the calculator, flashlight, and camera.

And Hamilton is the iPhone 13, pre-loaded with iOS15. He's far more athletic than his frame would indicate, and he ranges from the deep middle as well as he strikes downhill on an outside run. The Jaguars defense is still, well, yeah it's bad, a unit devoid of true game-changer. Hamilton can be one. 

Top 10 prospect

Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

Maybe in your head you'd flip-flop Hamilton and Neal. Be my guest on that. Either way, they both must be top targets for Jacksonville in the draft. The franchise tag doesn't just magically morph an average player into a quality one. Cam Robinson is Cam Robinson, an at times decent but mostly unreliable left tackle. 

Neal has mammoth size and athletic gifts for that size. He's the premier tackle prospect in the class -- at time of publication -- therefore to maximize the production of the Trevor Lawrence era, the Alabama blocker has to be near the top of Jacksonville's board. 

Top 20 prospect

DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M

Davon Hamilton. Malcom Brown. Jay Tufele. The top of the Jaguars defensive tackle depth chart. Not great, Bob. Leal has been super disruptive in the SEC because of his unique body type that allows him to align anywhere and do work. He boasts an NFL-veteran-esque collection of pass-rush moves too, and he's plenty powerful. 

New York Giants

Top 5 prospect

One of the top quarterbacks

I don't want to pigeonhole the Giants into thinking they can only pick one specific quarterback. And I'm not going to pretend that right now I know who would be the exact perfect fit in New York next season. Also, too, Daniel Jones looked reasonably impressive against the Washington Football Team in Week 2. But his success against that franchise is well-documented. 

Even if there's a glimmer of hope for the future of Danny Dimes -- that nickname has kind of lost its luster, hasn't it? -- New York's scouting department needs to going full throttle on all the top quarterback prospects in the 2022 class. Get to know them everything about them. 

Top 10 prospect

Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

This pick is likely contingent upon Dave Gettleman hanging around as GM with the Giants for the 2022 season. Why? Because he has long been enamored with lengthy, physical outside cornerbacks, and that's precisely what Gardner is. He needs to scale back the aggression down the field once he's in the NFL -- or he'll be a penalty magnet -- but the hip fluidity, length, and press-man skills will make him a coveted prospect in the draft. 

Top 20 prospect

Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

The center position has plagued the Giants for years. Billy Price is just not going to cut it on the inside. And we all know how damaging interior pressure can be on any quarterback, particularly a young one with a propensity to turn over the football like Daniel Jones.

Enter Linderbaum, an Iowa-schooled road-grader with insane leverage, phenomenal feet, and an upward-pointing arrow in the strength department. 

Minnesota Vikings

Top 5 prospect

Derek Stingley, CB, LSU

Stingley is so good I had to mention him twice. The Vikings don't have the best history at the cornerback position in the first round, but if somehow Mike Zimmer makes it to the 2022 offseason as Minnesota's head coach he needs to look in that direction early in the draft.

The LSU superstar can step in, take a deep breath, and be early-career Xavier Rhodes for a Viking secondary that has been very porous over the past few seasons.

Top 10 prospect

Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

I didn't get specific at the quarterback spot with the Giants, but I will here with the Vikings. Because Willis would give Minnesota a completely different dynamic at the quarterback position. Don't get me wrong, I understand that Kirk Cousins is a relatively high floor quarterback. Willis can be high ceiling. He wouldn't necessarily have to get on the field in his rookie season, and maybe he shouldn't. 

Top 20 prospect

Adam Anderson, EDGE, Georgia

The Vikings fancy themselves a team that can develop raw but supremely gifted pass rushers. In reality, they've really only done it with Danielle Hunter, but the willingness continues. 

Anderson needs to pack on a fair amount of weight once he gets to the NFL. Minnesota will be fine with that. What we saw from him around the corner in 2020 in a very limited sample size was spectacular.

Detroit Lions 

Top 5 prospect

One of the quarterbacks

I'll be short and sweet with this one. The Lions will respect Jared Goff after this season, giving them steady play on a clearly rebuilding team light years away from being a contender. By 2023, Detroit can save nearly $21 million if golf is released and that would be the perfect time to insert a young ready-to-go quarterback. So do your homework on Spencer Rattler, Sam Howell, Malik Willis, and Carson Strong.

Top 10 prospect

Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC

Jackson is one of the more fascinating prospects along the defensive line in this class because of his inherent talent. He's listed at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds with tentacles for arms and smooth athleticism when wrapping the edge on his way to the quarterback. The Lions pass rush is anemic, and it's rarely a foolish idea to add a top 10 talent at defensive end when you're at the ground-floor of a roster reconstruction.

Top 20 prospect

Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

Remember how all offseason everyone was obsessed with the fact that the Lions lost their top three receivers from the 2020 season? Of course someone has to catch passes this year, and maybe Quintez Cephus proves he's worthy of being retained well into the future. But the wideout spot has to be addressed, and addressed early in next year's draft by Detroit. 

Burks has proven he can produce in the SEC. And he has an NFL body at 6-3 and around 225 pounds. 

Atlanta Falcons

Top 5 prospect

Carson Strong, QB, Nevada

Yes, a specific quarterback for the Falcons too. I'll explain. Because of the strange Matt Ryan contract restructure last year, he's essentially locked into being Atlanta's quarterback through next season. After that? His illustrious tenure with the franchise will probably come to an end. And Strong is a Ryan-esque, poised pocket passer with subtle scrambling skill. He would be the perfect quarterback to be molded by and learn from Ryan for his rookie season.

Top 10 prospect

DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M

Let's get Grady Jarrett some help on the interior, Atlanta. It's time. Leal could learn All-Pro nuances from Jarrett early in his career before ultimately taking over as the alpha inside rusher for the Falcons defense that's struggled to consistently generate pressure for many years now. 

Top 20 prospect

Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State

There's not a major projection with Ohio State edge rushers. They're insanely well coached, learning the intricacies of winning with their hands along with their athletic gifts. Harrison isn't as naturally gifted as the Bosas or Chase Young, but he's been a productive defender for a few seasons now and would be a sensible pick for Atlanta next season. The Falcons outside rushers right now simply do not threaten opposing offensive tackles. 

2021 NFL jerseys now available

The new NFL season is here! Win or lose, you can shop jerseys, shirts, hats, and much more to support your favorite team. Shop here and show your colors.

We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.