NFL

NFL 2022: Falcons & Seahawks likely to be in race to the bottom for number one draft pick

By Sports Desk August 23, 2022

The new NFL season is right around the corner and, amid the battle for the playoffs and eventual success in the Super Bowl, there's also the fight that nobody wants to admit they may like the idea of.

The team with the worst record in the NFL in the 2022 season will secure the first pick of the 2023 NFL Draft – theoretically allowing the worst teams to pick the best players, continuing a cycle of maintaining competitiveness across the league.

For the past two seasons, that opportunity has fallen to the Jaguars but, while 2022 may not be a fully enjoyable season in Jacksonville, there is at least hope that they can rise off the bottom after two seasons with a combined record of 4-29.

So, if not the Jaguars, then who? Stats Perform has crunched the numbers and given an assessment of four teams who could be in the hunt for the number one pick.

Houston Texans

There are few teams who head into 2022 with such a bleak picture across the entire team and Davis Mills, the quarterback tasked with helming the offense, has weak wide receiver options and an offensive line unable to provide him with much safety.

Last season, Houston were ranked dead last for the total number of first downs (266), and red-zone drives (37), as well as holding the worst yards-per-game average at 278.1 and the highest percentage of three-and-out drives (28.2)

Their first down efficiency, the percentage of first downs picking up four or more yards, was 42.9 per cent, again the worst across the league.

Defensively, things were not much better. When it came to stopping big plays where opponents gained 10 or more yards, the Texans were bottom of the class with 257 given up and allowed the most successful plays in the red zone with 55.9 per cent.

The Texans' opponents averaged 384.4 yards per game in 2021, which was the second-worst tally in the NFL - and Houston also ranked 31st for the average margin of defeat (17.15 pts).

Atlanta Falcons

Having traded away the greatest quarterback in their franchise history in Matt Ryan, the Falcons head into unchartered territory in 2022, but the signs are far from promising.

Marcus Mariota, entering his seventh year in the NFL, has been named as the Falcons' starting quarterback for the forthcoming season ahead of rookie Desmond Ridder, but has enjoyed limited playing time in recent years.

Getting up to speed with the offense will be even harder without Calvin Ridley, handed an indefinite suspension for betting during the 2021 season, though tight end Kyle Pitts and rookie receiver Drake London offer him two physically imposing targets.

Atlanta have also had problems retaining the ball, with the Falcons recording 30 fumbles last season, the most in the NFL - conceding possession on 11 occasions.

Things are worse on defense. In the 2021 season, the Falcons gave up an average of 364.4 yards per game and conceded an average of 27 points per game - the third-worst mark in the NFL behind only the New York Jets (29.6) and the Detroit Lions (27.5). Atlanta's is a talent-poor roster that looks primed to put them in contention for the first pick and a potential shot at a franchise quarterback.

New York Jets

The Jets' situation looks bleak before even diving into the stats, with the franchise 0-6 against division opponents in 2021 and having an overall record of 4-13 last season – only the Jaguars and the Lions held a worse return.

Positive moves were made in the 2022 NFL Draft, New York landing cornerback Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner, wide receiver Garrett Wilson and defensive end Jermaine Johnson in the first round – but getting immediate contributions from all three may be asking too much.

The Jets were comfortably the worst defensive team in the NFL last season, conceding an average of 397.6 yards per game, the highest in the NFL, and 29.6 points per game totalling 504 overall – the most by some distance ahead of the porous Lions (467).

Vulnerabilities were present across the field, with the Jets giving up an average of 138.3 rushing yards per game in 2021, the fourth-highest in the league, and 259.4 receiving yards per game, the third-highest total.

The Jets will be desperate to improve a turnover differential of minus 13. Doing so will be contingent on 2021 second overall pick recovering from his preseason knee injury and staying healthy and avoiding the poor decisions that were prevalent in his rookie year. He threw 11 of the Jets' 20 interceptions last season. 

If Wilson fails to make those strides, the Jets could be debating whether to replace him with one of 2023's top quarterback prospects with the number one pick.

Seattle Seahawks

Losing Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos is a hit likely to send the Seahawks to the NFC cellar, as their 2012 third-round pick was responsible for moments of magic that kept Seattle's head above water in recent years.

The strength of Pete Carroll's defense had defined his reign in Seattle, but the Seahawks have gradually declined to become one of the league's worst teams on that side of the ball. Seattle conceded an average of 379.1 yards per game in 2021 – the fifth-most in the league.

Seattle have particularly struggled defending the pass, giving up 265.5 yards per game through the air in 2021 – putting them behind only the Baltimore Ravens.

Neither of Wilson's replacements have previously shown any indication of elevating an offense to a level to mitigate the defensive struggles as the franchise legend did so often during his storied spell in Seattle.

Indeed, neither Drew Lock nor Geno Smith can be considered capable of filling the void left by the nine-time Pro Bowl QB.

Lock's interception percentage of 2.8 since entering the NFL in 2019 is the ninth-worst in the league in that time. Both Lock (6.54) and Smith (5.88) were among the five worst quarterbacks (min. 50 attempts) by pickable pass percentage last season.

Simply put, the Seahawks do not possess the quarterback play to allow for the defense to be as bad as it is. It's a transition year in Seattle, and the Seahawks could soon be transitioning to Wilson's long-term replacement with the top pick.

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    Draw - 28.5%
    Montreal - 31.9%

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