Race for 2018 NFL Draft No. 1 pick: Jets the favorites, but watch out for Colts
In a season where Andrew Luck's status is up in the air, the Colts are one of six contenders for No. 1
Yeah, yeah, the New York Jets are the favorites to land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. But, come on, you've watched pro football for years and know by now that the only thing you can be sure of with the NFL is nothing at all.
There's a handful of other teams that have a distinct possibility to ultimately be "vying" for the chance to hold the first overall pick next April.
We'll be monitoring "The Race for the No. 1 pick" all season and keeping you updated on the current draft order each week as well as the high-impact matchups on the upcoming slate in terms of shaking out the top of the draft.
Before the mass uncertainty of the regular season begins, let's pinpoint the teams with the best chance to make the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, going roughly in ascending order until we get to the favorites.
Los Angeles Rams
Week 1: Rams vs. Colts
The key here is Aaron Donald. At this moment, he's not with the Rams, still holding out for a new, deserved contract extension. Coach Sean McVay hasn't ruled out the perennial All-Pro for Week 1. If he's not in the building soon though, that announcement is coming. Los Angeles' offense can really only go up from where it was in Jared Goff's rookie campaign, and with additions like left tackle Andrew Whitworth, and wideouts Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, the Rams will be more dynamic when the ball is in their possession. How much can this group improve from a season ago? They have six games against the stout defenses within their division, units that'll undoubtedly test their pass protection and the speed of Goff's decision-making skills.
Week 1: Colts at Rams
Andrew Luck is on the shelf, and a specific timetable for his return has not been provided by the team. Because he was kept off the PUP list that would have guaranteed him being unavailable for six weeks, the Colts likely believe he might be able to play before then, but this crucial situation for Indianapolis is a real mystery. And we all know how often Luck has carried the Colts in his NFL career. Ryan Grigson is out as GM, a positive development for this franchise, but the AFC South is considerably tougher than it's been recently. On defense, the Colts are lacking pass rush and star cornerback Vontae Davis will miss multiple games. The 2017 season very well may be arduous for Indy.
San Francisco 49ers
Week 1: 49ers vs. Panthers
With three-straight first-round picks spent on defensive linemen, the 49ers won't be fun to face in the trenches this season. The offense will have its fair share of difficulties despite virtuoso play-caller Kyle Shanahan at the helm. The skill positions need upgrades, and outside of Joe Staley, the blocking in front of Brian Hoyer and Carlos Hyde won't exactly dominate. Playing in the NFC West doesn't help San Francisco either. The 49ers will be more competitive than some think because of their defense, but right now, they look like a five-or-six-win team.
Week 1: Browns vs. Steelers
Another team that's infused quality talent on the defensive side, the Browns recently announced some bad news:
Garrett was as advertised in the preseason and the clear pass-rushing linchpin for Cleveland. His absence early in the season is bad news for a team with the toughest matchup on the board this week in terms of contenders for the No. 1 pick. DeShone Kizer also flashed in some exhibition games. Chances are, as a rookie quarterback in the NFL he'll labor through many growing pains in his first professional season. If the Browns nab five or six victories in 2017, it'll be an encouraging indication of improvement. The new regime led by Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta has always been planning for 2018 and beyond anyway.
Week 1: Bears vs. Falcons
How long will Mike Glennon's leash be in the regular season? After the way Mitchell Trubisky started the preseason, it was be logical to think the veteran would be supplanted by the rookie in short order, but Glennon is opening the season as the starter. For team without much of an outside pass-rush, Chicago needs as much playmaking ability on offense as it can get, and that starts with a competent signal-caller capable of efficiently distributing the ball. Trubisky will experience some rookie mistakes when he plays ... but how far into the season will that happen?
New York Jets
Week 1: Jets at Bills
Jets fans, I won't use the "T-word" in this write up. I promise. You've read that enough. Gang Green's management is smartly -- yes, smartly -- prioritizing the future over the present after its two-year stint in win-now mode. And that's fine. Losing Sheldon Richardson hurts the defense -- of course it does -- but with Leonard Williams and a healthy Muhammad Wilkerson, New York won't be easily pushed around up front. It's just that on offense, the Jets are starting journeyman backup-ish starter Josh McCown, a variety of youngsters and uninspiring veterans. GM Mike Maccagnan doesn't get enough credit for the quick fixes he made that catapulted his team to a 10-win season in 2015. Let's see if he properly rebuild.
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