It seems like an age away yet – but the 2018 NFL draft will be around quicker than it takes Martellus Bennett to trash his latest ex-team. Question is, who will be first up on that podium come late April?
In the lower echelons of the league, the Colts, Bengals, Chargers, Broncos, Bears and Bucs have all struggled, but also all have produced some solid performances and have reasons to be optimistic. That leaves three teams who are pushing hard for the title of the worst team in the NFL right now.
San Francisco have waited until week 10 to get their first ‘W’, the New York Giants (who gave them that first ‘W’) have dropped off a cliff from last years playoff team and the Cleveland Browns… who else?
San Francisco 49ers (1-9)
The post-Harbaugh Niners have been in free fall for a few seasons now and only got their first victory of the season last week. 2017 has seen the much-coveted Kyle Shanahan installed as Head Coach and new GM John Lynch, and they have been busy so far in restructuring the roster. Standout linebacker Navarro Bowman was jettisoned to Oakland (which is a familiar landing spot for ex-49ers) and the club traded with the Patriots to bring in hot-property at QB in the shape of Jimmy Garroppolo. Add in the draft picks of DE (and Stanford classmate of Lynch) Soloman Thomas, LB Rueben Foster – who in four games has amassed 32 tackles and third round QB C.J. Beathard and San Francisco have some good talent at key positions.
Injury concerns or not, I still maintain Reuben Foster was the pick for #Dolphins at 22. Explosive, three-down LB – the modern day prototype at the position. Has played well as a Rookie! #FinsUp #GoNiners pic.twitter.com/QVz9i4QTFh
— Tom Like (@TomLikeNFL) November 13, 2017
Beathard has been a solid player this year. He’s not produced DeShaun Watson-type numbers, but then again he doesn’t have WRs like Will Furrer and DeAndre Hopkins. His fate seems already sealed though as when Lynch traded for Garroppolo, he wasn’t trading for a clipboard holder; Jimmy G will start at some point soon and with a bye-week in week 11 to get ready, Beathard may be watching from the side lines against Seattle.
With the Seahawks, Bears, Texans, Titans, Jags and Rams to close out the season, I can only see the 49ers picking up one or (maybe) two more wins – prediction: two wins from the three games against Houston, Chicago and Tennessee see San Fran finish at 3-13.
New York Giants (1-8)
Wow. Nobody saw this coming did they? If, back in August, you had to pick a New York team to be 1-8 in Mid-November, I’m betting the house that you would’ve pointed towards the Jets. The Giants however have nose-dived from last years 11-5 Wild Card unit to a team that might well finish 2017 with the hyphen of 2016’s record moved one space to the left.
I watched the game against the 49ers on Sunday, and there are bright spots – Sterling Shepard at WR and Evan Engram at TE (with the latter making a run for Offensive ROTY honours). But there are a lot of storm clouds also. Where shall we start?
How about HC Ben McAdoo? This was an appointment that raised a few eyebrows a couple of years ago, and since the ex-OC has taken the reigns, the Giants actually have a worse points-per-game average than under Tom Coughlin. He received the dreaded support message from management earlier this week, which generally means that he’ll be out come the NFL’s annual black Monday after the regular season draws to a close. Not that the Giants fan base will be too upset – they have already mentally moved on from McAdoo.
Quarterback Eli Manning is struggling behind a porous offensive line, and doesn’t help matters by hitting the turf with minimal (or no) contact as soon as he senses pressure. Manning is now in his 14th season, and with the Giants facing a rebuild and heir-apparent Davis Webb waiting in the wings, it may not be too much longer before Eli joins Peyton in retirement. Fifth year RB Orleans Darkwa has averaged 5 yards a carry, but the biggest name on the Big Blue offense has proven a disappointment/distraction once again. There’s no doubting Odell Beckham Jr’s incredible physical skill set, but after last years kicking net fracas, 2015’s loss of discipline in the Panthers game against Josh Norman and this years injuries, Beckham has quickly emerged as someone NOT to build a franchise around.
Defensively, the Giants have one of the best in the game with Safety Landon Collins, and Olivier Vernon at DE is one of the most u
nderrated pass rushers in the game at the moment. On the other side of things Jason Pierre-Paul hasn’t hit double digits in sacks or fingers since his firework mishap in 2015. The defense features some quality – Janoris Jenkins, ‘Snacks’ Harrison and Eli Apple – but the unit has played under the benchmark it set itself last season and have conceded 238 points in nine games so far, including 82 over the last two weeks.
The rest of the schedule is not exactly kind – Washington (twice), Arizona, Oakland, Philly, Dallas and Kansas City up next. On paper, it’s hard to see where the next win is coming from. Giants fans may have to wait for the 2018 schedule for that… prediction: Giants have one more upset in them – possibly against the Cards – but limp in at 2-14.
Cleveland Browns (0-9)
No ‘worst team’ article is complete without the Browns, is it? Poor ol’ Cleveland, who always seem to find a way to crash and burn. This years low point (so far) was probably the ‘Carry On Cleveland’ style attempt to trade for Bengals back-up A.J. McCarron, which was ruined by Cleveland front office staff popping champagne corks when they should have been completing the necessary paperwork with the league office: result = no trade and A.J. stays a Bengal. Recent history also contains ‘that’s so Cleveland’ moments featuring Josh Gordon, Johnny Manziel and the premature sacking of a guy named Belicheck. Whatever happened to him?
But, like the Niners, there are bright spots for the Browns. The 2017 draft class included a good young quarterback in DeShone Kizer, big-play capability in DB/PR Jabril Peppers and overall number one pick, DE Myles Garrett – who opened up his NFL career with a sack on his very first snap. Not bad. So far, he has four sacks on the year – which is very respectable considering he has only played in four games. The Browns will be happy if he plays for ten years and averages a sack a game…
Coach Hue Jackson is good. He’s also assembled a strong coaching set-up that features NFL veteran coaches such as UK-born Al Saunders and Bounty-gate bad boy Gregg Williams (I’ll let that go one day, promise). Also on the staff is Special Teams coach Chris Tabor, who oversaw Chicago’s excellent special teams units between 2008-10. As long as the front office can keep this staff together, Coach Jackson stands a good chance of turning the Browns around. If only they didn’t play in the uber-competitive AFC North. Cleveland are currently winless – although four of their nine losses have been by three points. Down the stretch, they face Jacksonville, Cincinnati, the Chargers, Green Bay, Baltimore, Chicago and Pittsburgh.
I can’t see victories coming from the Steelers or Jags games, but with the other five, it all depends which side turns up (especially the Ravens). I’ll put my neck out here and say that the Browns will pick up two wins – and if you really want me to be specific, I’ll take them over the Chargers and the Bengals. Although the most Cleveland thing ever would be for A.J. McCarron to come off the bench to lead the Bengals to victory… prediction: Browns avoid the number one pick in 2018 by logging a 2-14 season.
So there you have it – all a bit of fun, but I’m hereby announcing that the absolute worst team in the NFL in 2017: the New York Football Giants.
Enjoy your number one pick, G-Men.
Follow Marc White on Twitter @MarcWhite5.