We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: There is no offseason when it comes to making sharp NFL picks. You have to be on the ball when it comes to the NFL Draft, which begins on April 30 in Chicago.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are about to be rewarded for their epic awfulness. By finishing last in the 2014 NFL standings at 2-14 (7-9 ATS), Tampa Bay “earned” the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft – which has been moved from Radio City Music Hall to the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, because of money. Will the Buccaneers select someone who can help them beat the NFL odds in 2015? The Magic Betting 8-Ball says… Do the Handicapping.
Regressing to the Bank
Let’s start with some data. Here’s how the last 10 teams who selected first overall managed the following season:
2014: Houston Texans (DE Jadeveon Clowney) 9-7 SU, 9-6-1 ATS
2013: Kansas City Chiefs (OT Eric Fisher) 11-5 SU, 9-7 ATS
2012: Indianapolis Colts (QB Andrew Luck) 11-5 SU and ATS
2011: Carolina Panthers (QB Cam Newton) 6-10 SU, 9-7 ATS
2010: St. Louis Rams (QB Sam Bradford) 7-9 SU, 10-6 ATS
2009: Detroit Lions (QB Matthew Stafford) 2-14 SU, 4-10-2 ATS
2008: Miami Dolphins (OT Jake Long) 11-5 SU, 8-8 ATS
2007: Oakland Raiders (QB JaMarcus Russell) 4-12 SU, 6-10 ATS
2006: Houston Texans (DE Mario Williams) 6-10 SU, 7-9 ATS
2005: San Francisco 49ers (QB Alex Smith) 4-12 SU, 8-8 ATS
Very interesting. The last five teams to pick No. 1 overall were profitable afterward, and only three of the 10 clubs on this list finished in the red. Some of this can be explained by simple regression to the mean: Teams who do very poorly one year are likely to improve the next. But there’s no question that having access to the top players in college can do wonders for your roster. There are six Pro Bowl players on this list, plus 2010 Rookie of the Year Sam Bradford. We’ll give Fisher and Clowney some more time to develop.
The CFL Is Calling
No hall pass for the other guy on this list. JaMarcus Russell (65.2 career passer rating) turned into one of the epic busts of all-time; after an outstanding college career at LSU, Russell held out through his first training camp with Oakland and never really developed after that, his progress mired by injuries, poor conditioning, and purple drank. Playing for a Raiders team with one of the worst-rated front offices in the league didn’t help matters.
If you’re already thinking about Jameis Winston, we don’t blame you. The comparison with Russell might be a bit too easy, given the ethnicity of the two quarterbacks, so let’s just throw some other first-round QB busts out there: Art Schlichter (1982), Todd Marinovich (1991), and Ryan Leaf (1998). These are your NFL poster boys for “poor intangibles.” Russell is a saint by comparison – his charges for possession of codeine syrup were eventually dropped.
The Tebow Dilemma
Which makes us wonder how Winston has managed to rise all the way to No. 1 on just about every 2015 mock NFL Draft board. Playing for the Florida State Seminoles no doubt has something to do with it. And truth be told, Winston is a bigger on-field talent than the other potential franchise savoir out there, former Oregon Ducks QB Marcus Mariota. But Winston’s off-field behavior has him pointed in very much the wrong direction.
Having said that, quarterbacks who played out of a spread formation in college can also turn into busts – think Tim Tebow (2010). The Buccaneers aren’t likely to alter their conservative approach under head coach Lovie Smith, just to suit Mariota’s talents. It doesn’t look like the Tennessee Titans (2-14 SU, 3-12-1 ATS) are interested at No. 2, either. Could Mariota slide all the way to the New York Jets (4-12 SU, 6-9-1 ATS) at No. 6? If so, the Jets might be your easiest NFL pick for 2015.