Every site everywhere has power rankings of which the best team in the NFL is. But I'm from Seattle, so I tend to gravitate towards wanting to know which is the worst. It also seems a lot easier at certain times in the year to determine which is the worst than which is the best. Even right now we can see which tore apart its roster in free agency and which stayed on the sidelines while others made moves.
It's not that hard to see who is looking a lot worse for the wear than at the end of last year, and most of these teams were pretty worn as it was.
As of now, I can see five teams that appear to me to be in the best position to lead the NFL in suck. But there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater could all be considered franchise prospects in the draft next year ... maybe. These teams at the top could be in the best position to get a franchise-changing player in a year.
So savor this moment, Raiders. You're. Number. One!
2012 Record: 4-12
Current Estimated Cap Space: $4.5 million (Cap numbers courtesy of Over the Cap)
2013 1st-Round Draft Pick: 3rd overall
The last Raiders coach to last more than four seasons was Art Shell - during his first stint with the Raiders from 1989 to 1994. Since then, 10 have been named the Raiders head coach, including Shell for one year in 2006, and seven of those men lasted one or two years. The only time that Oakland did have a successful head coach, Jon Gruden was able to go from the Raiders to the Buccaneers and then beat the team he helped build in the Super Bowl.
Yeah, that sounds about right. The question now is whether or not current head coach Dennis Allen will even be able to make it to two full years, and it's not looking very promising.
Maybe it's not a bad thing when the Raiders dismantle their roster, but they still look like me losing in a game of strip poker: naked and ugly. Darrius Heyward-Bey becomes another top-10 draft pick that didn't work out for Oakland. Maybe that's why they traded away their first-round picks in each of the last two years. What would be the point of buying toys for your kids if they're asking you for the knock-off Stretch Armstrong instead of the real deal?
Their last first-round pick was Rolando McClain. Before that was Heyward-Bey. Before that was Darren McFadden, but before him was JaMarcus Russell. Before him was Michael Huff, and he's gone, too. Back in 2004, it was Robert Gallery. You absolutely have to build the core of your football team through the draft, and if you keep missing in the top 10, you become the Oakland Raiders. How afraid should fans be of that No. 3 pick this year? After spending two high draft picks on Carson Palmer and a third-round pick on Terrelle Pryor, will they spend this one on Geno Smith or Matt Barkley? And if they don't, are they stupid for not doing so? Is Oakland real life?
They don't have a second-round pick. They don't have money to spend. They are spending more than $20 million next year against the cap on players that aren't even on the roster, and they could still cut Palmer.
This team absolutely, positively deserves the top spot in my rankings. Congrats Oakland, you're finally No. 1! There's a little something for your resume, coach Allen.
Dumb Fact: If they draft Barkley, then that would mean over the 2012-2013 seasons they've employed quarterbacks that started at least one game for USC in 12 of the last 15 seasons. Considering the professional success of Trojans quarterbacks, that sounds about right!
2012 Record: 5-11
Current Estimated Cap Space: $30 million
2013 1st-Round Draft Pick: 6th overall
The Browns weren't the worst team in the league last season. At times, they even looked promising. But they still continue to do a great job of being the Cleveland Browns. Let's not forget that the Browns traded out of the No. 6 spot in 2011 and missed on the chance to draft Julio Jones, Aldon Smith, and J.J. Watt. They picked up the Falcons' first-round pick the next season and used it on...Brandon Weeden? That's why you cost yourself such a good pick the previous year?
And then they had the No. 3 pick and used it on a running back, a move that I will almost always disagree with. They were one spot behind the Rams, they had two first-round picks, and instead of trading up to get Robert Griffin III, they banked on Richardson and Weeden. I appreciate that they signed Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant in free agency, but those are not moves that turn you from 5-11 to 11-5.
If it turns out that Josh Gordon wasn't a flash in the pan, and that a 30-year-old Brandon Weeden can get better in his twilight years like an old Rich Gannon, and that someone on the defense can get double-digit sacks, then great. But I just wouldn't count on it. When they re-joined the league in 1999, you would have thought maybe they'd pick a new name and get a real fresh start, but it's still...Brown.
Dumb Fact: When they hired Butch Davis as the second head coach of the expansion franchise, they picked him over Mike McCarthy and Marvin Lewis. Yeah, that sounds about right!
2012 Record: 5-11
Current Estimated Cap Space: $15 million
2013 1st-Round Draft Pick: 7th overall
"I have all the confidence in the world with him being our starter." - Bruce Arians, Cardinals head coach, on free agent quarterback Drew Stanton. I want to say "truer words have never been spoken" but I think it would be more appropriate to just say "It's true that words were spoken."
Stanton, who turns 29 in May, has made four career starts in five years, all with the Lions, the last coming in 2010. He is 104-for-187 with five touchdowns and nine interceptions overall. His current competition includes:
- Ryan Lindley, who really did just put together one of the worst rookie seasons of any player ever.
- John Skelton, who was not much better.
- Brian Hoyer, who actually has a legitimate chance against the other three.
- A rookie.
It's that last one that really becomes imperative. Barkley might scare some teams away, especially a team that last took a chance on a USC quarterback, but what choice do they have? The Cardinals had a really good defense last season, then they got rid of defensive coordinator Ray Horton, so they could be in an even worse position if they continue to suck all the way to garbagetown at quarterback again.
If Arizona thinks that they should go into the season with those four quarterbacks, then they are clearly still Arizona and they deserve a top-three ranking on my list.
Dumb Fact: I compiled a list of every player drafted in this century. Pro Football Reference has a stat called "Career AV" that is meant to give some value to every player. So Tom Brady has the most Career AV of any player drafted since 2000, and there have been more than 3,000 players drafted since the '90s. In that time, Lindley is the ONLY player with a negative Career AV, posting a -4. Yeah that sounds about right!
2012 Record: 6-10
Current Estimated Cap Space: $15.5 million
2013 1st-Round Draft Pick: 8th overall
The Bills' current depth chart at quarterback:
1 - Tarvaris Jackson
2 - Aaron Corp
Am I supposed to say anything else?
Dumb Fact: Corp couldn't get playing time at USC, so he transferred to the FCS Richmond Spiders and started 11 games as a senior. He threw 13 interceptions at that level, including multiple picks in games against the likes of Wagner, New Hampshire and Delaware, and four interceptions against UMass. Did they even have Marcus Camby in 2011? He's now one of two quarterbacks on the Bills roster. Yeah that sounds about right!
2012 Record: 6-10
Current Estimated Cap Space: $13.4 million
2013 1st-Round Draft Pick: 9th overall
It would be really easy to not pick the Jets here. To pick a team that had a worse record last season, or wasn't a couple of years removed from being really good, or didn't play in the AFC, where you can rack up a .500 record with relative ease. But what won't be easy is watching the Jets try to quarterback an offense in 2013.
Mark Sanchez is terrible, but it would cost the Jets money to cut him. Tim Tebow is still there. David Garrard is there? Greg McElroy could still win the job. They even have Matt Simms, the son of Phil you didn't know about. It's an episode of the Bachelorette where nobody wins, especially not the Bachelorette.
New York is paying Santonio Holmes $9 million. Their best player doesn't want to be there anymore. Their highest-paid player is MLB David Harris ($13 million), and I mean, David Harris? Really? Rex Ryan has survived into 2013, and I find it hard to believe he'll make it into the next one.
The Chiefs look talented and have the top pick. The Jags have a new head coach and a No. 2 pick. The Jets are just tired, old, overpaid, and likely won't get a difference-making rookie in the draft. Maybe the best thing that could even happen to New York is a terrible collapse to 2-14 and a top pick next year. They could definitely get their wish.
Dumb Fact: The Jets interviewed Jim Harbaugh in 2009 but went with Ryan instead. Harbaugh has so far shown more skill building a successful franchise and made the Super Bowl sooner, but at least Ryan has more fun with the media in New York. Yeah that sounds about right!
It wouldn't be right if the Lions weren't in the top 10. They're kind of like the Vikings of last year, but crappier. They have talented players around the roster, but they have just Lionsed the potential shown in the beginning of 2011, and it really feels like some teams lose because they believe that's what they're supposed to do. If they can get a legitimate pass rusher in the draft though, they could fall behind the Vikings on this list.
Boom or bust. The successes of Pete Carroll and Harbaugh have overshadowed the memories of guys like Butch Davis, Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier. Spurrier was a gimmicky offensive guru that quickly retreated back to college, so is Chip Kelly going to be coaching at the University of Tennessee in two years?
The Mike Wallace contract is exactly what bad teams do.
Still flawed, the Chiefs will make the playoffs in the AFC. But, in the AFC. Four of the top five teams on this list are in the AFC.
11. Tennessee Titans
Imagine a healthy Titans team. It's not that bad.
You want to put them lower on this list because they're one of the most exciting teams in the league, but part of what makes them exciting is that they have the worst defense in the NFL. They didn't add anyone of significance, they don't have a second-round pick, and they will likely get a defensive player that contributes as a role player in 2013. If anything happened to Drew Brees, the only quarterback currently on the roster, then the Saints would go straight to stenchburg and not collect $200, but they might collect Jadeveon Clowney.
When the Bucs don't collapse in the second half of the season, they can drop down this list.
As criticized as he was, Cam Newton has put together one of the best two-year starts of any QB in history. The rest of the league glosses over the Panthers four-straight wins to end the season. Carolina has a shot at a Wild Card or even the division, but why would they do that? It would drop them down this list!
15. St. Louis Rams
Well, they traded off of RG3 for the right to pick some extra players in the first round. The only question is whether or not they can stop drafting like the Rams of old. They'll desperately need to hit big because they have to play in the NFC West and are still unsettled at running back and receiver. They are also hoping Jake Long can bounce back to the player he once was. I don't imagine them moving down this list very far this year.
You fired Norv Turner? Sorry, that means that you will have to plummet in these rankings! San Diego also got younger by moving on from Quentin Jammer, Takeo Spikes, and Shaun Phillips. There might be some adjustment period but there are talented players on this team and they play the Raiders twice. San Diego and Kansas City will dogfight for a Wild Card. Only one can be a true dog.
17. Dallas Cowboys
"Yeah, just give me a Doug Free."
"If you want a Doug, kid, you're gonna have to pay for it."
That's all. I just wanted to say that once.
18. Chicago Bears
Da-Bears? More like Da-Vinci Code. Because this is...well, you see the thing about the Da Vinci Code and the Chicago Bears is...you want to make a connection here, an analogy, and this is where the analogy goes.
The Bears are slightly better than average at the moment. I guess that book was slightly above average but it sure was a lot more popular than it probably warranted.
"The Office. The Harlem Shake. The Pittsburgh Steelers."
"What are three things that were once immensely popular that have seen the end of their run?"
20. New York Giants
The Giants suck, so let's go ahead and just send them next year's Lombardi Trophy now.
There's a significant chance that, even with the loss of Percy Harvin, the Minnesota Vikings are going to be better next season. And they have 12 draft picks. But are they better enough compared to the rest of the NFC?
How many games will Griffin start? How much can they improve a bad defense without a first-round pick this year or next? The best thing going for Washington is that they play in the NFC East, and the best thing going for the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants is that they only have to be better than the Redskins.
I don't know if their defense is better, but it's certainly different, which gives them a chance to be better, which is good because it was pretty bad. Better players, better defense, Papa Luck's.
24. Houston Texans
Why are the Texans ahead of the Bengals on this list when they keep beating Cincinnati in the playoffs? Because that's how I feel.
Strap on your "What's that now?" helmets because the Bengals could very well be the best team in the AFC North and they could stay that way for a while, competing for the AFC and all that noise. What's that now?
26. Atlanta Falcons
The bulk of what the Atlanta Falcons were last year hasn't changed. This is about where I would have placed them last year. There ya go.
27. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are poised to be the Florida Marlins of the NFL.
Now we get into the heart of the teams that will have to do really crappy if they want to get higher on this list.
Positives: The Packers still lack a run game, and thus far haven't added any free agents in that regard, though they are looking and probably will. They also lost Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson wasn't what he was expected to be and the run defense is questionable.
Negatives: Aaron Rodgers just wins. Don't forget that this team has won 26 regular season games over the last two years and won a Super Bowl the year before that. They have little chance of moving up this list.
Positives: Better hope that Danny Amendola doesn't get hurt. Do you have any idea who the other receivers are? No seriously, do you? Matthew Slater, Donald Jones, Andre Holmes, Jeremy Ebert, Kamar Aiken. And that's an offensive problem for the Patriots, where typically their issues are on defense. And that's still a problem, too.
Negatives: They have to get through the gauntlet of the Dolphins, Jets and Bills. Tom Brady and the Patriots have no problem securing 12 wins and a first-round bye. It's only two steps to the Super Bowl from there, which means they won't be moving up this list. Sorry guys.
30. Denver Broncos
Positives: The front office will call in the Broncos' draft picks with Zach Morris cell phones, giving pause that they might screw up all their draft picks.
Negatives: Probably the best team in the AFC last year. As long as they replaced the guy that started celebrating the win before he covered Jacoby Jones, they should be alright. Oh they didn't? Good news, Broncos fans!
Positives: The 49ers are a little older, lost a few key players, and lack depth right now. We probably took Alex Smith for granted a little bit, so they should hope Colin Kaepernick can stay healthy. San Francisco should definitely be good again, but it will probably be a different kind of good.
Negatives: The absolute peak of this 49ers squad is as good as any in franchise history. They can play the best defense in the league, they can play a scary good offense and they added Anquan Boldin to that. They haven't even used their 14 draft picks yet.
32. Seattle Seahawks
Positives: Classic Seahawks to wind up in last place on another list. Way to go, Pete! Is Russell Wilson for real for real? Can Percy Harvin stay healthy? Do they now have a consistent pass rush? How will they play with a target on their backs? It's a position they have so rarely ever been in before.
Negatives: This is the best team that Seattle has ever had. Ugh. Better than the Walter Jones-Steve Hutchinson-Shaun Alexander-Matt Hasselbeck Super Bowl team, without question. They're so complete from front to back, and after nearly going to the NFC Championship, they don't lose a single key player while adding Harvin, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and some rookies. They've already proven that they can do quite well after the first round anyway. Seattle's biggest obstacle is the 49ers and the NFC West. Even after a 4-4 start last year, they fell just half a game short. The Seahawks, once again, stand no chance of being first...on a list like this.