Chasing No. 1: Five NFL teams in 'race' for top draft pick in 2020 ESPN logo
Thursday, October 31, 2019

Thirty-eight years ago, the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins played an epic AFC Championship Game known as the Mud Bowl. On Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in Miami, the ancient division rivals meet for the 108th time.

This time, it's the Dud Bowl.

The Dolphins are 0-7, the Jets are 1-6, and somewhere former Miami coach Don Shula has to be cringing. The loser owns last place in the AFC East, but the greater significance of the game's outcome is the effect it will have on the 2020 NFL draft in April.

The Dolphins, Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons are locked in a heated "race" for the No. 1 overall pick. The draft figures to be top-heavy with quarterbacks, increasing the value of the top picks. The No. 1 pick is pure gold, whether the team intends to pick a quarterback or not.

A closer look at the teams, their chances and the potential impact of the No. 1 pick. Teams are ranked by their FPI chances to earn the top pick -- updated on Oct. 30:

Miami Dolphins (0-7)

Next game: Sunday vs. Jets, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Average draft position: 1.6 | FPI chance to earn No. 1 pick: 66.4%

Last player the Dolphins drafted No. 1 overall and two words that describe his career in Miami: Jake Long, OT, 2008; Initial dominance.

How the Dolphins can hurt their chances for No. 1 pick: A little Ryan Fitzpatrick magic and a young bunch that plays hard and won't quit have the Dolphins looking completely different than they did over the season's first few weeks. That's a scary thought for fans hoping they secure the No. 1 pick. Miami is getting a lot closer to wins, shown by its halftime road leads in its past two games against the Bills and Steelers. The Dolphins have two games left against the Jets and a contest against the Bengals, and winning one or more could cost them an unimpeded path to their choice of quarterbacks in the 2020 draft.

Key stretch of games (remaining strength of schedule -- 28th): Circle the Week 16 game against the Bengals on your calendar, folks. This matchup might end up being coined the "Tua Bowl," or "Battle for the No. 1 pick" among currently winless teams.

Draft prospect or position need to watch:Alabama QBTua Tagovailoa. The yearlong #TankforTua campaign has not slowed down, and even Tagovailoa's injury history seems unlikely to dissuade the Dolphins from being very interested in him. The Dolphins have to get a franchise quarterback in the 2020 draft, and Tagovailoa has the accuracy, mobility, playmaking poise and demeanor to thrive as the face of the Dolphins. Other QB prospects include LSU's Joe Burrow and Oregon's Justin Herbert.

Impact of the No. 1 pick on the Dolphins: Franchise-changing. The Dolphins are undergoing an extreme rebuild aided by three 2020 first-round picks and an expected $100+ million in salary-cap space. The focus is centered on Tagovailoa because the Dolphins need the elite quarterback they have been searching for since Dan Marino retired in 2000. Since Marino's exit, 21 quarterbacks have started for Miami. There are no guarantees in the NFL, but the No. 1 pick will give Miami its best chance at changing the franchise's direction. -- Cameron Wolfe

Cincinnati Bengals (0-7)

Next game: Nov. 10 vs. Baltimore, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Average draft position: 2.7 | FPI chance to earn No. 1 pick: 22.7%

Last player the Bengals drafted No. 1 overall and two words that describe his career in Cincinnati: Carson Palmer, QB, 2003. Franchise player.

How the Bengals can hurt their chances for No. 1 pick: The Bengals could find some success with rookie quarterback Ryan Finley, who will take over as the starter for the final eight games of the season. Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said the team wants to win now despite how it might affect the odds of landing the No. 1 pick. Cincinnati kept its best players as the trade deadline passed.

Key stretch of games (remaining strength of schedule -- 29th):December could decide who gets the No. 1 draft slot. The Bengals host the Jets in Week 13. If the Bengals are still one of the league's worst teams after that game, it sets up a potentially mammoth Week 16 showdown in Miami.

Draft prospect or position need to watch:Veteran quarterbackAndy Dalton is on the way out as the Bengals will evaluate Finley for the remainder of 2019. If Finley isn't the long-term solution, the Bengals could draft a first-round signal-caller for the first time in 17 years.

Impact of the No. 1 pick on the Bengals: The right pick could change the direction of the franchise. The Bengals have suffered four straight losing seasons and are looking for their first playoff victory since 1991. Over their final eight games of 2019, they will find out if quarterback is a top priority. -- Ben Baby

New York Jets (1-6)

Next game: Sunday at Miami, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Average draft position: 6.3 | FPI chance to earn No. 1 pick: 3.6%

Last player the Jets drafted No. 1 overall and two words that describe his career in N.Y.:Keyshawn Johnson, WR, 1996. Flamboyant. Brief.

How the Jets can hurt their chances for No. 1 pick: They can do real damage if the offense, in a season-long funk, starts playing up to its potential. The Jets are averaging only 11 points per game, which ranks 31st. If the offense takes a giant leap to average 21 PPG, the wins will come against a relatively soft schedule. The key, of course, is protecting QB Sam Darnold, who has been under siege the past two games. The anticipated return of left tackleKelvin Beachum (ankle) will improve his blindside protection, but that won't be a cure-all. The offense has many issues.

Key stretch of games (remaining strength of schedule -- 32nd): The upcoming stretch will tell the story of the season. The Jets' next six opponents, including two games against the Dolphins, are a combined 6-39. If the Jets are still in contention for the No. 1 pick by early December, they could be home free because the schedule gets tough for the final three games.

Draft prospect or position need to watch: The Jets have needs at just about every position, but the most glaring weakness is the offensive line. General manager Joe Douglas, a former college lineman, will make it a priority to rebuild the line. You will see at least three new starters next season, quite possibly four. Georgia LT Andrew Thomas would be a nice fit, but he might not be the best player available if the Jets have a top-five pick. If they have a chance to grab Ohio State'sChase Young, they must do it because they haven't had a pure edge rusher in more than a decade.

Impact of the No. 1 pick on the Jets: Simply put, it would be a franchise changer. Because they're committed to Darnold -- "100%" Douglas said -- the Jets can sell off the No. 1 pick to a quarterback-needy team. The pick would bring back a haul of draft picks, which could be used to address the talent-deficient roster. It would be the best thing to happen to the Jets since Joe Namath. -- Rich Cimini

Washington Redskins (1-6)

Next game: Sunday at Buffalo, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)

Average draft position: 4.3 | FPI chance to earn No. 1 pick: 3.5%

Last player the Redskins drafted No. 1 overall and two words that describe his career in Washington:Ernie Davis, RB, 1962. Traded immediately.

How the Redskins can hurt their chances for No. 1 pick: They already hurt their chances by beating Miami and one more win would probably kill their chances altogether. They will get some key players back soon -- tight end Vernon Davis and running back Chris Thompson -- so that should give them a boost and perhaps another win.

Key stretch of games (remaining strength of schedule -- 23rd): The Redskins will be heavy underdogs for most of their final games, but two home games bear watching: Nov. 17 vs. the Jets and Dec. 22 vs. the Giants.

Draft prospect or position need to watch: They drafted quarterback Dwayne Haskins with the No. 15 pick last spring and, considering he was the owner's desire, it's hard to imagine a Josh Rosen/Kyler Murray situation. The next best prospect would be Young. He's a dynamic rusher unlike any Washington has had in a long time.

Impact of the No. 1 pick on the Redskins: The Redskins need a lot of assets to rebuild their roster -- and perhaps to make their coaching vacancy more enticing. They already have a young defense (seven starters 25 or younger) but need a lot of help on offense. They could trade this pick for a haul and start the rebuilding process in earnest. -- John Keim

Atlanta Falcons (1-7)

Next game: Nov. 10 at New Orleans, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)

Average draft position: 5.9 | FPI chance to earn No. 1 pick: 1.6%

Last time the Falcons drafted No. 1 overall and two words that describe his career in Atlanta:Michael Vick, QB, 2001. Dynamic playmaker.

How the Falcons can hurt their chances for No. 1 pick: By thinking they can salvage the season and win all their NFC South games, since they have yet to face a division foe. But that's far from a reality. The Falcons have to give more of their younger players a chance to develop in the second half of the season. And, it's a tough situation to be in for coach Dan Quinn -- develop players knowing you might not be around in the future to coach them.

Key stretch of games (remaining strength of schedule -- 4th): The Falcons have back-to-back road games at New Orleans (Nov. 10) and Carolina (Nov. 17), which could very well extend their losing streak to eight straight. Atlanta hasn'twon on the road since last season's Week 17 game at Tampa Bay.

Draft prospect or position need to watch: Pass-rusher. The Falcons went basically five full games without a sack from the 9:50 mark of the third quarter of Week 3 to the 9:08 mark of the third quarter in Week 8. That's unacceptable, particularly with a disruptive defensive tackle in the middle --Grady Jarrett-- creating one-on-one opportunities for other rushers. Vic Beasley Jr., a 2015 first-round pick who led the league with 15.5 sacks in 2016, is on the way out.

Impact of the No. 1 pick on the Falcons: It's hard to say that one pick will change the whole trajectory of a franchise, but landing a defensive impact player could be the first building block in a significant turnaround. Young appears to be that franchise-changing guy who can make up for the team's draft misses in recent years. He's a no-brainer with his athleticism, first step, hands and tremendous bend. -- Vaughn McClure

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