The NFL has reached the end of the first quarter of the 2011 regular season and teams like the Packers, Lions and Patriots are gearing up for possible playoff berths. On the other side of the tracks, teams like the Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings and Miami Dolphins all held serve this weekend in the growing battle for the number one draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Although things could change between now and April 2012, Andrew Luck remains the prize at the end of the rainbow for the worst teams in the league. Franchise quarterbacks do come along every few years, but Luck finds himself in the discussion as the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning came to the NFL from Tennessee. It's hard to compare a college kid to a future Hall of Fame QB, but it has teams salivating at the chance to build their franchise around him.
Week four saw our first Andrew Luck Sweepstakes matchup as the 0-3 Kansas City Chiefs hosted the 0-3 Minnesota Vikings. While the Chiefs have been getting blown out fairly consistently, the Vikings have hung tough and lost some heartbreaks. The Vikings once again found themselves on the short end of the stick as they lost 22-17 in what can best be described as a fairly ugly game.
As far as I can tell, head-to-head losses do not count as a tiebreaker in draft pick selection, but this loss does give the Vikings a game in hand on the Chiefs as the season moves along. The Chiefs are still in the thick of this, but they have their work cut out for them. The problem for Minnesota is that at some point Donovan McNabb will likely secure a couple ugly victories and that could cost them their franchise QB.
Thanks to the summer scheduling of Monday Night Football, the Indianapolis Colts met up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game MNF used to showcase Josh Freeman and the young Bucs. Unfortunately for viewers the Colts had a bit of a repeat of last week against the Steelers and uglied the game up enough to keep it close. Fortunately for Colts fans, the Bucs escaped late with the victory, sending the Colts to 0-4.
The Miami Dolphins dropped to 0-4 with a 26-16 loss to the San Diego Chargers and had to bring in Matt Moore at QB after Chad Henne went down with a shoulder injury. There is no word yet on the severity of the injury, so we'll have to wait and see how this impacts their Suck For Luck chances. One possible wild card in all this is if the team decides to fire Tony Sparano in the coming weeks. He is firmly on the hot seat and a new coach could give the team just enough jolt to get a few ill-timed wins. Consider the Dolphins the wild card for that number on pick.
The St. Louis Rams also joined the pack at 0-4 with a home loss to the Washington Redskins. They face a tough schedule the next few weeks and could easily be 0-7 before things get remotely easier. While the Dolphins are the wild card in the race for number one, the Rams are arguably the biggest wild card in terms of what they would do if they ended up with the top pick. They have Sam Bradford, which I've got to think means they deal away the pick. I suppose they could trade Bradford but I just don't see it happening. It will be one crazy market for that pick if St. Louis gets it.
Now that we're a quarter of the way through the season, it's time to assess the standings for the top pick. This does not factor in tie-breakers at this point:
1. Indianapolis Colts - 0-4
2. Minnesota Vikings - 0-4
3. St. Louis Rams - 0-4
4. Miami Dolphins - 0-4
5. Kansas City Chiefs - 1-3
6. Carolina Panthers - 1-3
7. Philadelphia Eagles - 1-3
8. Denver Broncos - 1-3
9. Arizona Cardinals - 1-3
10. Jacksonville Jaguars - 1-3
11. Seattle Seahawks - 1-3
If I had to make final projections of the top five picks of the draft at season's end, here is how I see it stacking up:
1. Indianapolis Colts
2. Seattle Seahawks
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Kansas City Chiefs
5. St. Louis Rams