With the New York Jets beating the Miami Dolphins last weekend, both teams moved to 1-7 placing Bengals squarely in control of their own destiny.
Normally when we say a team is “in control of their own destiny” we are talking about winning the division or making the playoffs, but here we are talking about the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Bengals are now officially the only winless team in the NFL. All they have to do is keep losing, and they will have the first selection in the draft, but does it really matter?
Oh, good. You are still here. I am sure a lot of people zipped straight down to the comment section to tell everyone how stupid I am for suggesting that it might not matter. So for those of you who are still reading, thanks for hearing me out.
For starters, based on the recent history of teams that start 0-8, the Bengals have just a 33% chance of ending up with the first pick of the draft. Three wins seems to be the magic number here, as there have been five teams to win less than three, five teams to win more than three, and two teams to win exactly three games to close out the season. Odds are, three wins or less will get you in the top two picks.
since 2004, the year the passing game in the nfl changed, there have been 12 teams that started 0-8.— john sheeran (@John__Sheeran) November 5, 2019
6 of them ended up with a top 2 pick. all 6 of them finished 3-13 or worse.
the 2014 raiders are the only team to finish with <3 wins and not pick in the top 2. pic.twitter.com/uVA680tUQO
But that’s just for teams who are winless in their first eight games, and that only applies to the Bengals this year. So say the Bengals do win some games and risk losing draft position. What does that future hold?
There seems to be some early buzz surrounding Joe Burrow as the best fit for the Bengals and the player they covet. So let’s assume that is who they want.
I already mentioned the 1-7 Jets and Dolphins. The Jets already have their young quarterback in Sam Darnold and the Dolphins have been heavily linked to Tua Tagovailoa. Even the phrase, “Tank for Tua” is associated with the Dolphins.
Other 1-7 teams include the Washington Redskins and the Atlanta Falcons. The Redskins just drafted Dwayne Haskins out of Ohio State last season and he just made his first start last weekend. It seems highly unlikely that they would move on from him so soon considering ownership ultimately chose Haskins and they just fired their head coach. The Falcons have Matt Ryan, a former third-overall selection out of Boston College. Ryan is 34, but still playing at a high level. I suppose they could move on from him, but Chase Young would probably be a better pick for young Thomas Dimitroff down in the ATL.
So if the Bengals manage to somehow stumble into a win in the last half of the season, barring trades it seems like they would still have a pretty good shot at their man.
There are three teams with two wins in the NFL as well. The Cleveland Browns and New York Giants both have young quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield and Daniel Jones, so if Ryan Finley scratches out a couple of wins for the Bengals and one of those teams gets ahead of them in the draft order, they are still alright.
The third two-win team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, could be a problem. The Bucs have been linked to Jacob Eason, but that may be because people are expecting them not to have a top-five pick. If the wheels fall off on their season and they end up with a high pick, it could be a different story.
So if we are to believe that the Bengals want Burrow and the Dolphins want Tua, then it is really the Bucs and potentially the Falcons who are dangerous.
The other teams could definitely look to make a trade. Teams like the Tennessee Titans, the Denver Broncos could potentially look to trade up, but they will need a willing partner.
Would they give the Browns enough to justify Cleveland passing on an offensive tackle like Andrew Thomas? Would they be willing to give the Redskins enough to justify not pairing their young quarterback Haskins with a stud receiver like Jerry Jeudy? Would anybody with a quarterback be willing to give up a pick they could use on an elite pass-rusher like Chase Young?
My point is simple. If the Bengals pull off a win or two, don’t freak out. It is okay. They could very well still be in position to get their man as long as they are picking in the top three.