Race for the 2018 NFL Draft No. 1 pick: Giants at 49ers has huge implications
The Giants might fire their coach if they lose this one, but they would move closer to getting the No. 1 pick
On one end of the spectrum is the Los Angeles Rams. On the other end is the New York Giants. The former had, by many metrics, the NFL's most stagnant offense in 2016, a unit that couldn't get out of its own way. Now, the Rams are 6-2 and have the most explosive offense in football.
The latter was a defensive juggernaut last season, and although the offense fizzling down the stretch might have indicated reason for future concern, the additions of Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram were supposed to morph Eli Manning's crew into serious Super Bowl contenders.
These two clubs, in 2017, exemplify the modern-day NFL. Just when you think you have a team figured out ... well, yeah, you don't. Injuries certainly don't help. The Giants are on the verge of making major changes.
Before I start ... let's look at the current 2018 NFL Draft order. I'm now using the official draft order, which will still change a lot.
- San Francisco 49ers (0-9)
- Cleveland Browns (0-8)
- New York Giants (1-7)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6)
- Indianapolis Colts (3-6)
- Cincinnati Bengals (3-5)
- Cleveland Browns from Texans (3-5)
- Los Angeles Chargers (3-5)
- Denver Broncos (3-5)
- Chicago Bears (3-5)
- Baltimore Ravens (4-5)
- New York Jets (4-5)
- Oakland Raiders (4-5)
- Arizona Cardinals (4-4)
- Miami Dolphins (4-4)
- Atlanta Falcons (4-4)
- Green Bay Packers (4-4)
- Detroit Lions (4-4)
- Washington Redskins (4-4)
- Seattle Seahawks (5-3)
- Tennessee Titans (5-3)
- Dallas Cowboys (5-3)
- Buffalo Bills (5-3)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3)
- Carolina Panthers (6-3)
- Buffalo Bills from Chiefs (6-3)
- Los Angeles Rams (6-2)
- Minnesota Vikings (6-2)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)
- New England Patriots (6-2)
- New Orleans Saints (6-2)
- Philadelphia Eagles (8-1)
These Week 10 games have the most bearing on the race for the No. 1 pick.
Giants at 49ers
While the powers that be in the Giants organization have been shrewdly methodical and anti-knee jerk for a long time, it's far from crazy to assume a loss to the winless 49ers would end the Ben McAdoo era for the G-Men. Speaking of the 49ers, they're currently holders of the No. 1 pick, a prize that must look mighty appealing to Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch at this juncture now that they don't have to take a quarterback with that selection (#TradeDown).
On paper, the Giants probably have more overall talent, but this is definitely not a game played on paper.
Browns at Lions
Maybe the bye week is what the Browns needed? I don't know. At least there's some positivity with the return of Josh Gordon, although his return to the field won't happen for a few more weeks. I don't know if Cleveland made all the right selections over the past few years, and they're still loaded with picks in 2018, but I hope the win-loss column in 2017 doesn't drive ownership to make a rash decision and start all over.
The "moneyball" -- or "get as many picks as possible and clear out the salary cap" -- philosophy is smart for a total rebuild. If the Ivy League front office is intelligent enough to realize that, it should know NFL games are loaded with randomness, and this team wasn't supposed to start winning enough games for those wins to really matter for at least another season. Let's hope owner Jimmy Haslam realizes all that too. Heck, Cleveland has lost four games by three points already. Anyway, the Browns travel to Detroit to face a red-hot Matthew Stafford, who recorded a 132.4 passer rating against the Packers on "Monday Night Football" in Week 9. This looks like another loss for the Browns, but crazier things have happened.
Jets at Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are another team that, before the season, was a trendy pick to make a deep playoff run. Now, with injuries mounting -- and Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback -- and a porous defense, Tampa Bay has resembled a team in the running for a top-five pick, not a wild card. And weren't the Jets supposed to be like the worst team ever? Whoops. And, really, it seems like Sam Darnold is more likely to stay at USC another year, and even if he enters the 2018 draft, he doesn't look nearly as worthy of the No. 1 pick as he did in 2016.
I'm all about this Journeyman Quarterback Bowl though. I hope -- and wouldn't be shocked if -- Josh McCown and Fitzpatrick light it up with 300-plus yards each with some touchdowns and some ghastly picks sprinkled in. This has "sneaky fun game" written all over it.
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