Even if you’re one of those dopes who wrote off Sam Darnold after a below-average performance against Washington State last Friday – hopefully, you at least took into account he was down three starting offensive linemen – the NFL hasn’t.
Darnold’s still priority #1. If he comes out – and the latest word is that he’s strongly leaning that way – Darnold is the heavy favorite to go 1st overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. Let’s look at the teams in contention:
Cleveland Browns 0-4. They were competitive in a Week 1 loss to Pittsburgh, and haven’t been as impressive in losses to Baltimore, Indianapolis and Cincinnati. This week’s game could go a long way to determining the #1 pick: The Jets visits the Browns. If Cleveland falls to 0-5 and the Jets are 3-2, it seems highly unlikely there will be a four-game turnaround over the final 11 games. The Browns winnable games the rest of the way? Maybe vs Tennessee (if Marcus Mariota is hurt), vs the Vikings (does Case Keenum travel?), vs the Ravens. Even though the Browns passed on Carson Wentz two years ago, and Deshaun Watson last year, Sam Darnold has bigger upside than both.
San Francisco 49ers 0-4: Have lost three games by a total of eight points, and two were on the road. Much closer to being respectable than the Browns. Winnable games left: At Indianapolis this week; vs the Cardinals, at the Bears. I took a flier on over 4.5 wins, but that seems like a longshot now.
New York Giants 0-4: We can all agree this won’t continue, right? They’ve lost two straight games on a last-second field goals. But they still have to play the AFC West and the NFC West, so a home game vs the Chiefs isn’t a gimmie, nor is a home game against the Rams. Still, they should be able to win 5-6 games. I do think we’ll see Davis Webb at some point this year, maybe in a blowout … maybe if Eli continues to be terrible.
Chicago Bears 1-3: Mitch Trubisky is going to start this week. He’s their #1 pick from 2017. I can’t imagine they’d draft Darnold #1, but landing the first pick would be huge because they could get such a haul for it. Unless Trubisky is an unmitigated disaster over the next 12 games, and then John Fox is fired and GM Ryan Pace gets tossed overboard, too. Then, anything could happen.
New York Jets: 2-2: Please stop winning. Thanks. Signed, everyone.