Can the Football Team finish high enough to draft the Quarterback of the Future?
Well, fellow Washington Football fans, it’s that time of year again. As usually happens sometime between late October and December, the Week 17 loss to Philadelphia eliminated Washington from the playoffs.
It may be too early for some fans, still hurting from the four consecutive losses to Philadelphia and Dallas. Others may take solace from the fact that we were still in it until the second to last week this season, or rewatch the Tampa and Seattle games, thinking about what could have been. And then there are always the old standbys to numb the pain, drinking, drugs, high-risk extreme sports and conflict-zone tourism.
But for fans of the NFL draft, the dying days of yet another failed season represent an opportunity to salvage something from the team’s losses. While they may not have lived up to our unrealistic expectations in the preseason, or even as late as the four-game winning streak, their higher-than-expected loss total places the team toward the top end of the draft order.
And for a QB-needy team like Washington, draft position is everything. On average, the ten drafts from 2011 to 2020 produced around 1.8 franchise QBs per class, depending on how that’s defined, with a high of four in 2012 (Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Tannehill) and none in 2013 and 2015 (argue all you want about Jameis Winston). The 2022 QB class is generally considered to be on the weaker side of recent drafts. By my estimation, there are two top tier QB prospects in the 2022 draft class, and teams that want a shot at them will probably need to pick in the top 10 to 12 selections, at the latest.
The good news for Washington fans is that, as a result of their poor performance, the Football Team is currently on pace to pick in the top ten, which might be just good enough to select one of the top QB prospects, if that’s the direction Ron Rivera decides to go. The not so good news is that there are a few other QB-needy teams picking ahead of us, and a few more that could easily overtake us in the draft order in the final game of the season.
With one game remaining, it is possible for the team to improve its draft position, but that would require a lot of things to go our way. As we will see, due to the nature of the draft order tiebreakers and the state of the competition for draft position, it will be challenging for the WFT to hold onto its current draft position (9th overall). We will need to get lucky to avoid some teams overtaking us. However, we might get some help from teams that have clinched playoff spots letting off the gas in Week 18.
The biggest thing the WFT could do to improve its draft position is losing the final, meaningless game to the Giants. That would be a challenge, given how bad the Giants are, and I will not advocate for an intentional tank out of principle. But there is no point ignoring the elephant in the corner.
In this article, I will work through the range of possibilities to give those Football Team fans who are still paying attention something to cheer for in the Week 18 games and beyond. Like last week, I will emphasize the WFT’s positioning to draft one of the top QB prospects, even though the team might go a different direction in the first round. Even so, true BPA fans should enjoy cheering for the highest possible draft position, regardless of which position the team ends up drafting.
Finally, before I get into it, this is a pretty long article. Fans looking for a quick guide to how Week 18 games could affect the WFT’s draft position can simply flip to the last two sections, Week 18 Scenarios and Week 18 Viewing Guide, which contain everything you really need to know, then refer back to other sections for any missing background information.
Draft Order Tiebreaks
The first factor in determining draft order of non-playoff teams is win-loss record. The WFT enters Week 18 as one of three teams with a 6-10 record. These teams are one game behind Carolina at 5-11 and are closely tailed by four teams with 7-9 records. It is possible for Washington to end the season in a tie with one or more of the seven other teams with five, six or seven wins. Consequently, tie breaks will be crucial in determining the WFT’s final position.
In contrast to playoff seeding, the first tiebreak in determining draft order is strength of schedule. It is seldom necessary to go to the second level, division tiebreakers, because strength of schedule is calculated to three digits. The bad news for the WFT is that the team with the weaker strength of schedule wins the tiebreak, and the WFT has the fourth highest strength of schedule in the league this season. As a result, the WFT would lose the tiebreak with any of the seven teams they could end up in a tie with.
Key Week 17 Game Results
To update you from last week, several Week 17 game results had important implications for the WFT’s hunt for a high draft position and resulted in some reshuffling of the draft order:
New Orleans 18, Carolina 10
Both of these QB-needy teams were potential competitors for draft position with the WFT going into Week 17. As discussed above, either team would win a tiebreak with the WFT if they finished with the same record. New Orleans’ victory takes them to 8-8, ensuring they will finish the season behind the WFT in the draft order.
Carolina’s loss gives them an unassailable lead over the WFT in the draft order at 5-11, making them a key challenger for one of the top QB prospects, given their dire need at the position. The only way that the WFT can pick ahead of Carolina now is via a trade. Our best hope here is that they address the position by acquiring a veteran before the draft.
Buffalo 29, Atlanta 15
Atlanta will need to find Matt Ryan’s replacement fairly soon, and is well placed to finish ahead of the WFT in the draft order with a tiebreak advantage. Sunday’s loss brings them to 7-9, keeping them one game behind the WFT for the time being.
LA Chargers 34, Denver 13
Essentially the same as Atlanta’s loss to Buffalo. Denver needs a QB and will win a tiebreak with the WFT. Their loss to the Chargers takes them to 7-9, keeping them behind the WFT for one more week.
Cleveland 14, Pittsburgh 26
With the loss to Pittsburgh, Cleveland stays one game behind the WFT at 7-9. Those of you who watched this game will realize that Cleveland completes the trifecta of 7-9 teams, currently one win behind the WFT, who might be in the market for a QB this draft.
Green Bay 37, Minnesota 10
With the loss, Minnesota keeps pace with the three other teams one game behind the WFT. Unlike the other three 7-9 teams, though, Minnesota does not have an immediate need for a QB (apologies to the Kirk Cousins haters) and is therefore not a direct competitor for QB prospects in the draft. However, any team picking ahead of the WFT is a potential trade partner for a team seeking to trade up for a QB, so it would be better if Minnesota stayed behind us.
Seattle 51, Detroit 29
Seattle’s blowout win over Detroit pulls them even with the WFT at 6-10. This game is not likely to impact on the race for QBs directly, because Detroit was so far ahead of the WFT they can’t be caught and Seattle traded its pick to the Jets who are not in the QB draft market. However, like Minnesota, any team picking ahead of the WFT is a potential trade-up partner, so it would be best for the WFT if Seattle’s winning streak continues for another week.
Updated Draft Order
Entering Week 18, the tentative draft order of non-playoff teams is as follows, courtesy of Tankathon:
Washington has maintained its draft position at 9th overall by losing to Philadelphia. There was some reshuffling of the teams picking just before and after the WFT a result of Week 17 wins and losses detailed in the previous section:
- Carolina moved up one spot from 7th to 6th via the loss New Orleans
- New York Jets’ second pick (via Seattle) moves down one spot via Seattle’s win over Detroit
- Cleveland moved up one spot as a result of New Orleans’ win over Carolina
Updated Quarterback Sweepstakes
The top six quarterbacks who might be available when the WFT is on the board are listed below, in two tiers. The first tier QBs (updated from last week) receive first round grades in most analysts’ early rankings. If this draft is anything like recent years, these two prospects can be expected to be drafted in the top ten, if not the top five picks. QBs in the second tier receive more variable rankings between analysts, with grades ranging from first through third round and little agreement on rank order between outlets. I expect at least one or two of the second-tier prospects to go in the first round.
Matt Corral, Ole Miss, 6’0”-6’2”, 200-205 lbs, age 23, 26 career starts
2021 stats: 3,339 passing yards, 68.4% completion rate, 20 TD/4 int, rushing 597 yds/11 TD in 12 games
Injury update: Corral left the Sugar Bowl in the first half with an ankle injury. The team has announced it is a high ankle sprain. That is a potentially serious injury which, in the worst cases, could require surgery. The injury could impact his draft stock.
Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh, 6’3”, 220 lbs, age 23, 51 career starts
2021 stats: 4,319 passing yds, 67.2% completion rate, 42 TD/7 INT, rushing 233 yds/5 TD in 14 games
Sam Howell, UNC, 6’1”, 220 lbs, age 21, 36 career starts
2021 stats: 2,851 passing yards, 62.7% completion rate, 23 TD/9 INT, 825 rushing yards/11 TDs in 11 games
Malik Willis, Liberty, 6’1”, 215 lbs, age 22, 23 career starts
2021 stats: 2857 passing yards, 61.1% completion rate, 27 TD/12 INT, rushing 878 yds/13 TD in 13 games
Carson Strong, Nevada, 6’4”, 215 lbs, age 22, 31 career starts
2021 stats: 4,186 passing yards, 70% completion rate, 36 TD/8 INT, rushing -208 yds/0 TD (that is not a typo, he takes a ton of sacks) in 12 games
Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati, 6’4”, 215 lbs, age 22, 46 career starts
2021 stats: 3,190 passing yds, 65.9% completion rate, 30 TD/8 INT in 13, rushing 361 yds/6 TD in 13 games
Check out my previous article in the series for a more in-depth breakdown of these quarterbacks.
Other Top Prospects
If none of the top QBs on their board are available when the WFT picks and/or Rivera and the Marty’s don’t feel that the best QB available is worthy of a high first round pick, they might instead select one of the elite talents at another position. This week, I’ve listed all the prospects that ESPN gives a score of 90 or greater, rather than just focusing on a few key prospects. ESPN describes this rating as indicating, “Player demonstrates rare abilities and can create mismatches that have an obvious impact on the game.” I also included Jaylen Burks, because of a lot of outlets rate him higher than ESPN.
This should capture most of the players that people feel would be worth the WFT picking in the top 10. DL prospects are grayed out because there’s little chance we pick them, as are QBs because the focus here is on other positions.
WFT’s Competition for Top QB Prospects
Teams Drafting Ahead of Washington
Detroit (2-13-1), currently picking 2nd. Detroit could seek Goff’s replacement this draft, or they could roll with him for another year and hope to select one in a stronger QB class next year, while addressing other needs in the first round. QB need level – Medium
Houston (4-12), currently picking 3rd. Houston has seemed like a prime candidate to a pick a QB due to DeShaun Watson’s legal situation for most of the season, but rookie QB Davis Mills’ recent progress might allow them to address other positions. QB need level – Declining
Giants (4-12), currently picking 5th and 8th. Danny Dimes does not appear to be a long term solution, but the question is whether the Giants are ready to admit their mistake this soon. QB need level – Medium
Carolina (5-11), currently picking 6th. Their starting QB is Sam Darnold. I still can’t believe some people wanted the WFT to sign him. QB need level – High
Teams that Could Overtake Washington
Atlanta (7-9), currently picking 10th. Atlanta will need to find Matt Ryan’s replacement eventually, but he may have a few more seasons in the tank. QB need level – Moderate
Denver (7-9), currently picking 11th. Teddy Bridgewater is holding the fort as a serviceable bridge option, but Elway will need to continue the hunt for the QBotF since Drew Lock didn’t pan out. QB need level – Moderate
Cleveland (7-9), currently picking 13th. Baker Mayfield is the most up and down QB in the NFL. Fans who watched the Pittsburgh game will understand why Cleveland might consider moving on. QB need level – Moderate
Teams that Could Trade Up Ahead of Washington
Philadelphia (8-8), currently picking 14th via Miami. At some point they will have to admit that Jalen Hurts is not a franchise QB, but they are likely to roll with him for at least another year. QB need level – Moderate
New Orleans (8-8), currently picking 15th. Does anyone really think Taysom Hill is a franchise QB? QB need level – Medium to High
Pittsburgh (8-7-1), currently picking 17th. With Ben Roethlisberger announcing his plan to retire, and no obvious successor on the bench, the Steelers suddenly have a major need at QB. QB need level – High
Green Bay (13-3), currently picking 25th to 32nd. Aaron Rodgers could be playing somewhere else next season, and what little we have seen of 2020 first round pick Jordan Love is not encouraging. They would have to offer a massive trade package to get into the top ten. QB need level – Hard to say
Seattle (6-10), no first round pick. Russell Wilson might be traded in the offseason, creating a major need at QB. If they do end up drafting a QB they are likely to do it with draft picks acquired in Wilson’s trade deal. One team that Wilson has agreed to waive his no-trade clause for is the New York Giants, who currently hold the 5th and 8th picks. QB need level – 0 now, possibly High by draft day
Week 18 Scenarios – Where Could the WFT End Up in the Draft Order?
Now that we have reviewed the current draft order, and what’s at stake for teams holding high draft positions, and our competitors for the top QB prospects, let’s have a look at where the WFT could end up in the draft order at the end of Week 18.
To do this, I have put together three scenarios. In the Best Case Scenario, the WFT loses to the Giants and every team they are competing with for draft position wins its final game with one exception. In this scenario, Chicago has to beat Minnesota to keep them from pulling ahead of the WFT by virtue of the tiebreak. In the Most Likely Scenario, the favored team wins each Week 18 matchup, including the WFT beating the Giants. In the Worst Case scenario, every game that can work against the WFT’s draft position ends in an unfavorable result.
The outcomes of the three scenarios are shown in the following table:
The WFT can end up picking anywhere from the 7th overall pick, if everything goes our way, to the 13th pick, if every Week 18 game goes against us. In the Best Case scenario, we end up picking 7th with one team with a major need at QB picking ahead of us (Carolina), as well as two other teams that could be in the QB market (Giants, Detroit; scratch Houston due to Davis Mills’ progress). In the Most Likely and Worst Case scenarios, the Giants get another pick ahead of us via Chicago and up to three more potential competitors for QBs move ahead of us (Atlanta, Denver, Cleveland).
Unfortunately for the WFT, the most likely scenario is that we lose ground in Week 18 compared to where we currently are now (9th overall). In fact, the only difference between the Most Likely and Worst Case scenarios is that in the latter Chicago upsets Minnesota.
In order for the WFT to hold or improve its current draft position, several Week 18 games will have to end in upsets (see the Week 18 Viewing Guide section for details). The biggest difference between the Best Case and the other two scenarios is Washington losing to the Giants, which keeps us ahead of the four teams currently sitting at 7-10. I’m not suggesting that WFT fans should cheer for a loss to the Giants. I’m just explaining the implications of the final game for our draft position, which are huge.
Week 18 Viewing Guide
Seattle (6-10) at Arizona (11-5)
Seattle’s pick is held by the Jets. While the Jets are not in the QB market, it would be better if they were picking behind us to eliminate a target for teams trading to get ahead of us. Seattle wins the tie breaker, but a Week 18 win coupled with a WFT loss would allow us to overtake them. Root for Seattle to pull off the upset.
New Orleans (8-8) at Atlanta (7-9)
An Atlanta win knocks one QB-needy team out of competition for draft position with the WFT. New Orleans is already behind us, regardless of the result. Root for Atlanta to win.
Kansas City (11-5) at Denver (7-9)
The Broncos have a need at QB and would win the tie break with the WFT if both teams finish at 7-10, which is the most likely scenario. Root for the Broncos to upset the Chiefs.
Cincinnati (10-6) at Cleveland (7-9)
Baker Mayfield’s future in Cleveland is uncertain, making the Browns a potential competitor for QBs in the draft. Mayfield is out for the season which could be a blow to Cleveland’s chances for the upset. However, Cincinnati could rest their starters for the final game, since they have won the division, which might help to make up some of the difference. Root for the Cleveland upset.
Chicago (6-10) at Minnesota (7-9)
Chicago’s pick is held by the Giants. This one is tricky because our preferred winner depends on whether the WFT wins or loses to the Giants.
If the WFT beats the Giants to finish at 7-10 then we need Minnesota to win to keep them one game behind us since they win the tiebreak.
If we lose to the Giants, to finish at 6-11, then we need Chicago to win, which ties Chicago and Minnesota at 7-10, one game behind the WFT. If Chicago were to lose in this situation, to finish at 6-11, then they pull ahead of the WFT by virtue of the tiebreaker.
Unfortunately, the WFT game is played at the same time as this one. It is more likely that the WFT wins then loses to the Giants, so root for our old friend Kirk Cousins to end the season with a win.
The Washington Football Team’s draft position can rise by as many as two spots or fall by as many as four depending on the Week 18 game outcomes. The biggest single piece of that puzzle is still in the WFT’s control. A loss to the Giants in the essentially meaningless season finale would ensure they stay ahead of four 7-9 teams which could otherwise overtake them in the draft order with Week 18 losses. While it wouldn’t be right to cheer for a WFT loss, I can’t see any harm in celebrating a massive improvement in draft position if that’s how things turn out.
A lot can also change as a result of games played by other teams. In particular, Week 18 wins by Atlanta and/or Denver would give the WFT a draft position advantage over potential direct competitors for the top QB prospects. Even the Chicago/Minnesota and Seattle/Arizona game outcomes can have subtle impacts on the WFT’s final draft position.
While it might not compare to the excitement of watching a tight playoff race, hopefully following the battle for draft position can give WFT fans something to look forward to in the final week of an otherwise wasted season. Then we can get serious about mock drafting.
Acknowledgement: This article benefited from James Dorsett’s expert editorial assistance.