While losing is unacceptable in any competitive sport, it’s particularly frowned upon in the National Football League. One lackluster season can result in a complete shakeup from the top all the way down to the bottom of an organization, which can result in multiple people losing their jobs. In fact, the harsh reality of the situation is that the only people in the league with any semblance of legitimate job security in the event of a disastrous season are the billionaires who own each of the 32 NFL franchises.
The only time it pays to be bad in the NFL is when the annual NFL Draft rolls around. As a refresher, the league sets its draft order based on the standings from the previous season. For the team that finishes the season with the overall worst record, the No. 1 pick in the next NFL draft is their consolation prize. This can be a good thing when a player like Andrew Luck or Cam Newton is draft eligible. But as the Kansas City Chiefs learned in 2013, having the No. 1 overall pick isn’t always a good thing.
In one of the worst draft classes in recent memory, the Chiefs used the top pick in the 2013 NFL Draft on former Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher. While Fisher has gotten better (he recently landed a $48 million contract extension) over the course of his three-year NFL career, there is no doubt that he hasn’t exactly been worthy of such a high draft pick.
With the 2016 regular season now less than a month away, the oddsmakers for the sportsbooks in Las Vegas have released their odds for which teams have the best chance at finishing the season with the overall worst record. Here’s what they came up with.
5. (tie) San Diego Chargers
The Chargers are looking to rebound from a wildly disappointing 4-12 season in 2015. Based on the moves they made this offseason (even without factoring in first-round draft pick Joey Bosa), we are fairly confident that they will be a much better team in 2016.
They quietly put together an excellent trio of pass-catchers (wide receivers Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin and tight end Antonio Gates) for quarterback Philip Rivers, and it looks like running back Melvin Gordon is primed to bounce back from a tough rookie season. Defensively, the Chargers have some work to do, but they have the talent in place to be much better this year. All said, we believe the Chargers are more likely to contend for a playoff spot than the overall worst record in the league in 2016.
5. (tie) Philadelphia Eagles
This one doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to us. To put it simply, the Eagles are far too talented to contend for the overall worst record in the NFL in 2016. Even if quarterback Sam Bradford struggles and forces the team to turn to rookie Carson Wentz, Philadelphia has one of the strongest defensive fronts in the league and what should be a solid running game to fall back on. While we doubt the Eagles make the postseason in 2016, they certainly aren’t (in our eyes) a serious contender to be the worst team in the league either.
3. Tennessee Titans
The Titans are still quite far from being a serious threat in the AFC, but thanks to a highly favorable schedule and an improved offensive attack, we doubt they will contend for the worst record in the league in 2016. Quarterback Marcus Mariota should benefit greatly from an improved offensive line and running game, and given the strength (or lack thereof) of the AFC South, the Titans could very well finish the season with an 8-8 or better record this season. Our advice: Don’t take this wager.
2. San Francisco 49ers
We believe the 49ers could seriously contend for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft — and the oddsmakers in Vegas agree. San Francisco’s quarterback situation is nothing short of dreadful, and outside of running back Carlos Hyde and tight end Garrett Celek, there isn’t really any game-changing type of talent on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensively, we love the potential of defensive ends Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, and have a lot of respect for linebacker Navorro Bowman, but the 49ers are going to flat-out struggle to slow down opposing offenses in 2016. Then when you factor in their brutally tough schedule, it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Niners win more than three or four games this season.
1. Cleveland Browns
It’s no secret that the Browns are in the midst of a massive rebuilding project. While they have some nice, young talent on their roster, this team is not built to be competitive in 2016. Their only hope at surprising everyone is to get a Pro Bowl-caliber performance out of their new starting quarterback, Robert Griffin III, and then experience a few lucky breaks. Getting Josh Gordon back after his four-game suspension will help their offense immensely, but their defense just isn’t going to be capable of keeping teams under 20 points per game. Don’t be surprised if the Browns land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.