2012 NFL Draft: 10 Teams Who Could Finish Dead Last and Draft Andrew Luck
If Andrew Luck were to lose interest in football and pursue a different career path, he would be cemented in football lore with the likes of Boobie Miles and Marcus Dupree.
Luck will likely be the first overall pick in the 2012 draft. Not in the same way Jake Locker was said to be the likely first overall pick in 2011, either.
Luck is probably the most polished QB to come out of the draft since Manning, and he may have an even bigger upside to him than Manning did when he came out. Rather than go to the Panthers as the number one overall pick in 2011, Luck elected to stay in school.
The number one overall pick is going to be widely regarded amongst bottom feeders as the "Andrew Luck Sweepstakes". For all intensive purposes, teams like the Patriots, who may have the artillery to trade up for Luck are excluded here, unless they also have a chance to have the 1st overall pick.
Here are the top 10 teams most likely to finish dead last in 2011. At least they are topping a list of some kind.
10: Minnesota Vikings
Christian Ponder probably won't come in and restore the Vikings' legitimacy immediately. A more likely scenario would be him coming and suffering through growing pains his rookie season.
He's got the receivers, but Sydney Rice's future with the team remains uncertain. Adrian Peterson will probably be able to pull the team from the wreckage, but they still make a showing on this list.
The defense is aging, the offense is falling apart, and the Vikings are in a strong division.
9: San Francisco 49ers
49ers fans are hoping Jim Harbaugh can come in and immediately take hold of the division. Is it so unlikely though that his gamble on Alex Smith won't pay off?
What if Smith struggles? What if Aldon Smith doesn't have an impact immediately?
What if Aubrayo Franklin leaves and the team can't fill the void? What if Anthony Davis continues to struggle and Michael Crabtree doesn't have the breakout year everyone is counting on?
What if Frank Gore gets hurt again, and then Anthony Dixon struggles as the feature back? What if the secondary loses Nate Clements and gets even worse than last season?
No "what if" on this list is very far fetched. The team was the third best team in the worst division ever. Three more losses on their total could knot up the first round pick for them and reunite Harbaugh and Luck.
8: San Diego Chargers
The loss of Ron Rivera is going to have a huge impact on the Chargers' defense. They managed to miss the playoffs and had the number one offense and defense for most of the 2010 season.
Odds are, they are going to regress next season. If Ryan Matthews fails to perform again, they could easily slip to a 5 win team.
No Vincent Jackson isn't going to help matters. Phillip Rivers is one of the best in the business, but he might not be good enough to save this team from falling into last place. Would they draft Luck with Rivers on the roster?
My guess is they would. Selecting Luck and trading Rivers (who turns 30 next season) would be a better move for the future. The new head coach in SD would get a fresh start with Luck at the helm.
7: Tennessee Titans
If Jake Locker is half as bad as people are making him out to be, the Titans are in for a world of hurt. Chris Johnson can't be CJ2K with nine guys in the box.
The Randy Moss experiment didn't work out, and Kenny Britt can't manage to keep his nose clean.
A brand new head coach just might struggle to excel his first season. When choosing between Luck and Locker, there is no choice. Even so, Locker should be able to pull out four or so victories next season. It's hard to imagine a team with Johnson on it being the worst team in the league.
6: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have an outstanding offensive line, a top flight receiver and that's about it offensively. Their running back situation is probably going to be in shambles next season, barring some sort of offseason move.
Even worse, they are in a two horse race with the Cardinals for worst QB situation in the league. Even if Marshall is able to avoid being stabbed by his significant other all season long, he can only do so much.
Their defense is underrated, but the team as a whole got considerably worse. Seven wins last season could turn into three if they can't run or throw the ball next season.
5: Carolina Panthers
The Panthers brought in Cam Newton with the first overall pick in the 2011 draft. Even if he has a solid rookie showing, there is still a decent chance they go with Luck next season if they have the first overall pick.
They could trade away Newton and fill other holes on the roster. Plenty of teams need a quarterback. If Newton shows that he could be a difference maker and disproves the critics, there will be a line of interested teams that extends around the building.
The Panthers are under new leadership. Their defense is almost guaranteed to improve next season with Ron Rivera at the helm. Some may think they are the favorite to lock up the number one pick. I think Cam Newton is going to impose at least a two game improvement, which would drag them out of dead last.
4: Washington Redskins
The Mike Shanahan era is not off to a resounding start in Washington. Donovan McNabb was clearly not who Shanahan thought he was, so it appears he is letting him off the hook.
The Redskins haven't been able to shower a washed up free agent on the back end of his career in money yet, due to the lockout.
The defense is actually looking like it could be decent with a few more pieces. Ryan Kerrigan has promise and could be exactly what they need up front. If they fail to bring in a QB, they aren't going to be able to win more than five games next season.
Ryan Torain is currently the beneficiary of Shanahan's offensive scheme. He's productive, but not talented enough to carry a team on his back.
3: Denver Broncos
John Fox put forth the worst team in the league last season. The Broncos are changing their defensive scheme, which won't be an easy adjustment for a defense that already struggles, to say the least.
Von Miller might not have as resounding of an impact as everyone is anticipating, especially in a 4-3. If the Broncos fail at running the ball again, they just may fail to achieve five victories in the season again.
Their passing attack was great last season, but with a QB controversy brewing, it could take a step backwards next season. Even a minor regression lands them the top spot in the draft.
John Elway doesn't seem sold on Tim Tebow or Kyle Orton. This would be a dream come true for him. The Stanford connection doesn't hurt.
2: Cincinnati Bengals
It's a miracle that Marvin Lewis still has a job in Cincinnati. The Bengals are set to lose their number one and two receivers and their quarterback this offseason. The strength of their team during the 2000s is heading out of the building, which probably means the team is headed for a decline.
They brought in A.J. Green, but he isn't going to have anyone throwing him the ball. Cedric Benson isn't going to be able to carry the entire team. The offense isn't going to move.
The defense isn't exactly elite either. The team went 4-12 last season and got significantly worse this offseason. If they aren't able to address the QB situation before the season begins, they are in for a world of hurt.
1: Arizona Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald is entering a contract year. If the team fails to tie him up long term and this is his last season as a Cardinal, you can expect them to be drafting first overall in 2013.
Last offseason was miserable for the Cardinals. They saw Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle as expendable. Oops.
Ken Whisenhunt took a huge risk by prematurely cutting Matt Leinart. He invested everything into Derrick Anderson, only to watch him implode. The team resorted to a lot of lackluster and undeveloped quarterbacks during the course of the season, but none of them show promise as the QB of the future.
The Whiz didn't bring in one quarterback through the draft. If he fails to land the prospect of his choosing through trade or free agency, the Cardinals are almost certainly going to end up in this spot. They were the worst team in the worst division last season. They could easily be the worst team in the league next season.