2015 Staff Predictions
compiled by Vincent Verhei
This is one of our favorite features to write every year. It is also one of our most hated features to write every year.
Every group of football fans -- be they fantasy leaguers, officemates, drinking buddies, television crews, or in our case, a loose-knit collection of laptop warriors enslaved to our Internet connections -- loves to debate and discuss which teams will excel in the ensuing season, and which will suck. For our crew, it's an especially sweet time. After months of squinting at spreadsheets preparing our annual Football Outsiders Almanac (still available!), we get to put the data aside and put our knowledge to the test. It's a chance to find out if we're as smart as we think we are. The downside, though, is that our picks are on the record. Here's what we thought would happen in past seasons:
So here's your standard warning: Predictions are probably wrong. It is the intrinsic nature of the NFL -- there are so many variables and so much luck involved in a 16-game season that teams will make the playoffs or bomb for totally unexpected and sometimes baffling reasons. We can only guess.
Let's say we think the Seattle Seahawks have the best chance of any team in the NFL to make it to the Super Bowl -- 28.5 percent, perhaps, by some odds. Imagine then that 14 other teams in the NFC have a roughly five percent chance to make it to the Super Bowl, and also a team in Washington DC will play some games.
OK, so we pick Seattle to win the NFC. Even based solely on this opinion, there is a 7-in-10 chance the pick will be incorrect. So all preseason predictions are going to be mostly wrong. It is unavoidable.
As we note every year, we're going to make picks anyway, because that's part of running a football site: you make picks.
For the seventh year, instead of each picking 12 playoff teams, we're showing our individuality by each arguing our point in categories such as "team likely to beat its projection" and "who will go first in the 2016 NFL draft." (Our college writers made similar projections about the F/+ college football projections in this article last week.) However, the official FO predictions are based on the statistical projection system, even when the output looks a little strange. You can find those projections here, and as a reminder, the playoff forecast is:
AFC divisions: New England, Denver, Cincinnati, Indianapolis
AFC wild cards: Baltimore, San Diego
NFC divisions: Seattle, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Atlanta
NFC wild cards: St. Louis, New Orleans
Super Bowl: Seattle over New England
First Pick in the Draft: Washington
"Officially," we are projecting only one new playoff team in the AFC, with the Chargers replacing the Steelers. We see more turnover in the NFC, with the Eagles, Falcons, Rams, and Saints making the postseason at the expense of the Cowboys, Lions, Cardinals, and Panthers. But most readers know, it's all about probabilities, and the "pick" of New Orleans over Dallas as the second NFC wild card is really just about a tiny sliver of chance.
We often say -- even though some people don't seem to ever hear it -- that we do not believe that our statistical methods are perfect. Our subjective views are informed by our objective numbers, but not dictated by them. However, we want to make this clear: EACH OF THE OPINIONS LISTED BELOW IS THE OPINION OF THAT WRITER AND THAT WRITER ONLY. These are not "Football Outsiders predicts."
All right, let's rock.
NFL TEAM MOST LIKELY TO BEAT FOA 2015 PROJECTION
Cian Fahey: Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys' offensive line will remain dominant while their additions to the defense, especially Greg Hardy, along with the return of Sean Lee should allow them to be even better than they were last season.
Nathan Forster: Green Bay Packers. The Aaron Rodgers-led Packers have only been under 9 wins twice in seven years -- Rodgers' first year and the Matt Flynn/Scott Tolzien experience in 2013. Jordy Nelson is a good receiver, but the Packers still have Randall Cobb and will be fine. Rodgers is so good that he could probably scrape together 9 wins even if he only had Davante Adams and a bag of Tostitos to throw to.
Tom Gower: Again, a section of this column more interesting from someone who hasn't just written a series of columns going through every team in the league. Since I just picked Miami to go over a line a full win higher than their FOA 2015 projection (o/u 8.5, projection 7.5), I'll go with them.
Andrew Healy: Denver. Peyton Manning has had double-digit wins every season since 2002. If he starts 16 games -- and except for 2011, he always has -- it seems very likely Denver beats FOA's projection of 9.5 wins. Denver is stacked on defense, too. FOA actually projects Denver to rank higher in defense (third) than on offense (fifth).
Scott Kacsmar: Dallas Cowboys. There were a lot of options I liked for this question (Arizona, Denver, Indianapolis, Miami, and Philadelphia), but I think the Cowboys should be just above the 8-8 purgatory and in the 9- to 11-win range this season. The only thing more consistent than criticism of Romo is the quality of his play. He keeps this team in contention every year and they still have Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, and it wouldn't shock me if Terrance Williams made a leap in year three. I'm not one to act like the offensive line can cure cancer, but it's an asset and it should help Darren McFadden and company keep the running game productive. The defense will not come close to finishing first in takeaways per drive this year, and the Orlando Scandrick injury was huge, but the overall talent core looks better this year.
Mike Kurtz: Arizona Cardinals. Bruce Arians has shown an uncanny ability to make a whole lot of something with less than nothing, and a better health will make that defense terrifying.
Rivers McCown: Arizona Cardinals. I believe Bruce Arians has reached the point where we can stop doubting him, and I'm expecting a John Brown breakout season that puts this passing offense into a nice situation. If there's one thing we've learned from the bad Harbaugh 49ers prediction salad days, I hope it's that these league-adjusted numbers don't really touch on the impact of a great head coach.
Ben Muth: Baltimore Ravens. I love their offensive line and head coach and think the rest of the division looks weaker. I think this is a team that challenge for a first-round bye with 11 or 12 wins.
Aaron Schatz: I was really disappointed when the new, upgraded projection system sunk the Miami Dolphins. OK, so the idea of Miami as AFC favorites in a Tom Brady suspension world was a little bit far-fetched, but I still think the Dolphins will be an above-average team in total. Obviously Ndamukong Suh is going to have an impact on the defense and the special teams won't be as bad as they were last year. The change in our forecast came in large part because the offensive projection changed. The "quick-and-easy" system from that May ESPN Insider article looked at just 2014, but the new projection system takes a longer-term look and sees an offense that ranked 18th in 2013 and 22nd in 2012, with improvement in 2014 based on the run a lot more than the quarterback. I think reality will likely be somewhere in the middle -- a good offense, but not as good as last year, and the defense will improve despite the depth problems in the secondary. I wouldn't be shocked to see the entire AFC East go 8-8 or better despite Tom Brady being the only AFC East quarterback with a positive passing DVOA. Yay, AFC South on the schedule!
Vincent Verhei: Miami Dolphins. Ndamukong Suh all but guarantees that the defense will improve. Lamar Miller is one of the league's most underrated players. Between Greg Jennings, Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Jordan Cameron, they have a pretty good group of weapons in the passing game. And I think that Ryan Tannehill has shown steady improvement throughout his career, and could take a big step forward in his fourth season in the NFL (and just his fifth season as a quarterback).
Sterling Xie: Green Bay Packers. Based on win projection, no team got dropped more during the preseason than the Packers (granted, we still have them projected fourth in DVOA). But while Jordy Nelson isn't replaceable, his loss might bump the Packers down from a top-three receiving corps in the league to a merely very good one. Maybe Davante Adams and Richard Rodgers aren't ready for larger roles, and maybe the defense regresses closer to its 2013 levels. Still, I think 8.9 wins is a little low as a mean projection for Green Bay, and I'm certainly not ready to place Aaron Rodgers and Co. well below Seattle and New England in DVOA.
NFL TEAM MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF FOA 2015 PROJECTION
Cian Fahey: Pittsburgh Steelers. It's unlikely that the Steelers will come out of the gate strong because of Maurkice Pouncey's injury and the suspensions of Le'veon Bell and Martavis Bryant. Therefore, they're going to be playing catch-up before midseason. Bell and Bryant will return relatively early, but Pouncey is sidelined for a more prolonged period. With a defense that already lacks talent, they have no margin for error at all on offense.
Nathan Forster: Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings have finished over 8 wins only once since 2010. That season was Adrian Peterson's 2,000-plus-yard effort in 2012, a feat that he is unlikely to repeat due to his advancing age and the fact that he had to sit out nearly all of last season. Moreover, even if Teddy Bridgewater develops into an above-average quarterback, the Vikings will still need a better showing from what was a poor defense last season to just break even.
Tom Gower: We projected Washington with the fewest wins in the league, but the worst team in the league goes more like 3-13 rather than 6-10. That's a bit of a cop out, though, so I'll instead go against our bold prediction of the Rams. I don't like Nick Foles nearly as much as our projections do, and I like Nick Foles behind that offensive line even less.
Andrew Healy: Carolina. Even before Kelvin Benjamin got hurt, FOA projected Carolina to be 19th on offense. With Greg Olsen the only clear receiving threat and the perennially injured Jonathan Stewart at running back, the floor is very low for the Panthers' offense. FOA only projected the defense for 20th, too. I don't see them getting to FOA's number (8.0), and 4-12 is on the table.
Scott Kacsmar: New York Jets. No one does .500 in less impressive fashion than the Jets. The 2013 Jets were 8-8 with a minus-98 scoring differential, the worst ever for a .500 team. The 1961 New York Titans (later renamed Jets) were 7-7 with a minus-89 scoring differential. It might take that kind of season of close wins combined with blowout losses to get the 2015 Jets to 8-8. I just don't see it coming together with all the new parts, including a rookie head coach and some over-30 starters like Antonio Cromartie and Brandon Marshall. The Sheldon Richardson situation doesn't help. The quarterback situation might actually be better off with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting, but even if the Jets play good defense that just means Fitzpatrick can throw game-ending interceptions in a 19-16 game instead of a 28-21 game. The East divisions are playing each other and I think the Jets are the second-worst team among those eight, with Washington bringing up the rear.
Mike Kurtz: St. Louis Rams. Sure, the offensive line is great, and the defense is coming off a very good year. On the other hand, defense is inconsistent from year to year, and a great line doesn't do much for you if there's nobody competent playing behind it.
Rivers McCown: San Francisco 49ers. I don't know that our systems are designed to deal with the kind of outflux the 49ers dealt with this offseason. I wouldn't be surprised if they were the worst team in the league. I also wouldn't be surprised if the offense did enough to keep them in a few games. But between the defensive turnover, Colin Kaepernick's prospects, and Jim Tomsula being (in my opinion) wildly underqualified for an NFL head coaching job... I don't think seven wins is realistic.
Ben Muth: St. Louis Rams. Nick Foles quarterbacking a Jeff Fisher-coached team in 2015 seems unlikely to finish above .500. There are still offensive line problems. They aren't going to play Todd Gurley for a months. The defensive line is great but they can only play four of those guys at a time, and none of them are going to play quarterback.
Aaron Schatz: Oh, I want to believe in the St. Louis Rams so badly. Those fans deserve one more trip back to the playoffs before the NFL dicks them over and leaves the city. But... I just can't help but think that our projections are overrating Nick Foles because of totally fluky numbers he put up in a completely different offensive system two years ago. The offensive line is very inexperienced, and that's something I feel isn't quite accounted for properly in the new projection system. Even on defense, there are still a lot of question marks in the secondary, and losing E.J. Gaines for the season is a problem. The projection system sees the Rams as the best of the running-and-defense wild-card contenders, a group that also includes the Bills, Texans, and Jets. But I don't see any reason to believe that the Rams offense will really be that much better than the offenses in Buffalo, Houston, and (Manning-Free) New York. (The Vikings are almost sort of in the same category, but their offense is projected a little better as those other offenses, their defense not quite as good, and they are the only one of these five teams with a tough schedule.)
Vincent Verhei: Pittsburgh Steelers. This is hard. Seattle and New England are so far ahead of the pack that most other teams have pretty modest projections that should be easy to beat. Do we really think teams like Denver and Green Bay will fail to win double-digit games? I guess I'll go with the Steelers. I can see Ben Roethlisberger declining to his pre-2014 status (which is still very good, but not best-quarterback-in-football good). I still don't like their defense. And I really don't like their schedule.
Sterling Xie: St. Louis Rams. Sorry, but what about this team is so drool-worthy besides the defensive line? I don't have much faith in Nick Foles, and while Todd Gurley may be the next Adrian Peterson instead of the next Trent Richardson, a rookie recovering from a torn ACL running behind a highly inexperienced O-line doesn't sound too enticing. Really hard for me to envision this team finishing top-five in DVOA.
PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO BEAT KUBIAK PROJECTION
Cian Fahey: Tony Romo. Just by being fully healthy entering the season this year, Romo already is at a major advantage over last year. He will likely be tasked with throwing the ball more often this year too because of DeMarco Murray's departure. Romo was outstanding last year when healthy. Presuming he can stay healthy this year behind a dominant offensive line, he should be extremely productive.
Nathan Forster: Joseph Randle. Randle may not be a transcendent talent, but there are a lot of factors that could break in his favor. First, the Cowboys' high number of running back carries could be due to a conscious effort to maximize the value of the Cowboys' excellent offensive line, and it may not regress towards the mean to the same degree that KUBIAK may believe. Plus, Darren McFadden is likely to be hurt, which might mean that Randle is only stuck in a committee for part of the year.
Tom Gower: I still like Ryan Mathews too much to expect him to be that much of a complementary part in Philadelphia's rushing attack, especially with DeMarco Murray's injury history and coming off a big workload. Relative to his ADP, I'm not sure, but I do like him a lot more than KUBIAK. I also like Justin Forsett to get more catches than our numbers have him with.
Andrew Healy: DeVante Parker. He was the 14th pick in the draft and a four-year starter who should be more ready to contribute than most rookie receivers. His quarterback broke out last year and the offensive line is in good shape. There is some competition for targets from other new arrivals, but Parker is the most talented receiver on the roster. His floor is around where KUBIAK has him (ranked 76th among receivers) and a top-20 season is in play. After missing most of the preseason, Parker is likely to play Week 1.
Scott Kacsmar: DeSean Jackson. Perhaps I'm letting the Seattle game get to me, but I trust Kirk Cousins' vertical passing more than I do RG3's right now. If Cousins can keep the job by not turning the ball over a ton, I could see Jackson benefit to the tune of a 1,300-yard season. Easy top-10 stuff instead of WR16. Jackson's been great the last two years in two different offenses with various quarterbacks.
Mike Kurtz: Mike Wallace. Blame Tom for this one. He really was a beast in the red zone last year, and he's moved to a softer defensive division. I see too much upside for such a low rank.
Rivers McCown: Danny Woodhead. I think it's easy to get into a post-injury lull about how important a player was when he missed most of last season. When the Chargers hit bad game scripts or third down, Woodhead will be out there. If you're in a PPR league, I'm almost positive he delivers great value for what it costs to get him. Even if you aren't, he's a real solid flex or backup play when San Diego isn't going up against a creampuff.
Ben Muth: Doug Martin. I think he ends up being a top-20 running back and starter in every league.
Aaron Schatz: As always, it's hard to pick this since I'm the one who makes the final decisions on how much playing time we give guys in KUBIAK. But I think Darren McFadden is a great example of a running back whose skills will look a lot better behind a great offensive line than they do behind an average or poor offensive line. Also, let me mention players where I think KUBIAK is absolutely right in being stronger than conventional wisdom: Greg Olsen, Anquan Boldin, Lamar Miller, and Jared Cook.
Vincent Verhei: Andrew Luck. This is usually a hard question for me to answer, but I've known I was going to pick Luck here since the moment the Colts drafted Phillip Dorsett in the first round last April. If you were to list the top 10 Colts right now, Luck would be No. 1 (duh) and then you'd probably have at least six other fantasy position guys on the list too. This team is built to throw the ball all over the place, and it's reasonable to expect Luck to further improve in his fourth season. And I know his KUBIAK projection was high (the only quarterback in the top 20 players), but you couldn't make his projection high enough for me. I'm expecting 5,000 yards here. I'm expecting close to 50 touchdowns. Given the tight cluster of running backs this year, I'd make him the first overall pick in a fantasy draft without thinking twice.
Sterling Xie: Jordan Matthews. As top options in the Eagles offense, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin both posted top-10 wide receiver fantasy seasons for the first and only times in their careers. Matthews was extremely impressive from the slot as a rookie, and with his snap count set to increase this year, there's no reason to think he can't post a prolific season similar to what Maclin and Jackson did. The only question now is where Chip Kelly will ship him after the 2015 season.
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PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF KUBIAK PROJECTION
Cian Fahey: Larry Fitzgerald. Although he remains a starter and seemingly an integral piece of the Cardinals' passing attack, the veteran wide receiver could get lost amongst all the weapons in Arizona this season. Fitzgerald is sluggish compared to what he was during his prime, while John Brown looks set to explode, Michael Floyd is still a viable starting option, and the running back talent in Arizona needs to get its touches too.
Nathan Forster: LeSean McCoy. The Buffalo Bills is a black hole for running back careers. Remember, this is a team that could not get consistent production from Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch and later relegated a running back with a 6.0-plus-yards/carry average and 2,000 yards from scrimmage to a committee role. Enter McCoy, fresh off a sub 4.0-yards/carry season and Rex Ryan, a coach whose teams have never generated offense, and you have a recipe for a disappointing fantasy draft pick.
Tom Gower: Marc Trestman's gone, and the influx of backs into Chicago means Matt Forte won't be relied on quite as much. I'm thinking rushing numbers even below the 999 yards we have him projected for and more like 45 or 50 receptions.
Andrew Healy: Marshawn Lynch. The end is almost always near for running backs who have run up the kind of mileage Lynch has at this point. Now over 2,000 career carries, Lynch may have another year or two, but maybe not.
Scott Kacsmar: Mike Evans. I just wasn't as impressed with him last year as I thought I would be. That huge three-game stretch in the middle of the season against some shoddy defenses worries me too. Where were you the rest of the time? Now he has a rookie quarterback who may not shine much this season in Jameis Winston. Evans is already dealing with a hamstring injury and could be in doubt for Week 1. I don't think he's ready to surge ahead this year.
Mike Kurtz: LeSean McCoy. I don't think he'll have a terrible season, but his performance last year has me worried, and if he has developed a case of happy feet, he's going to be in big trouble behind Buffalo's so-so line. It doesn't help that with their situation at quarterback, McCoy is going to be asked to carry the load. I think there is significant risk here, too much risk to peg him as the 11th RB.
Rivers McCown: Alfred Morris. There's just too many warning signs here for me. Washington's already flipped to Kirk Cousins, who I don't regard as a good quarterback. The defense hasn't taken a gigantic step forward. The coaches have been praising rookie running back Matt Jones constantly since training camp started. Do you really want to trust a two-down running back on what could be the worst team in the NFL? I wouldn't.
Ben Muth: Lamar Miller. I think he has an OK year, but KUBIAK really likes him.
Aaron Schatz: I think the hamstring is going to bother LeSean McCoy more than expected. They may have acquired him to be the workhorse, but there's a lot of depth there and they don't necessarily need to put him out there week after week if he's not 100 percent.
Vincent Verhei: C.J. Anderson. Let's just say I'm skeptical of any undrafted running back who gains 40 percent of his yardage on the season in just two games.
Sterling Xie: Latavius Murray. Our projections have Murray 17th overall among running backs, making him a bona fide RB2 in just about any league format. But when you throw out his ridiculous four-carry, 112-yard, 2-TD, performance against Kansas City, his career body of work looks pretty similar to Christine Michael and Lance Dunbar. Roy Helu was a very efficient per-play back in Washington, and while he's being pigeonholed as a third-down back, I wouldn't be surprised to see Helu wrest the starting running back job away from Murray at some point.
SUPER BOWL 50 (ARABIC NUMERALS ONLY, L IS FOR LOSERS) WINNER AND LOSER
Cian Fahey: Seahawks over Colts.
Nathan Forster: New England defeats Green Bay Packers. My personal belief is that Peyton Manning will drop off a cliff this year, leaving the Patriots in the catbird seat to repeat as AFC champions. Predicting a reprise of Super Bowl XLIX is too boring, so I guess I'll double down on the Packers because a Rodgers-versus-Brady Super Bowl would be fun.
Tom Gower: Seattle is the best team in the league, and I'm not sure who's second. The top of the AFC is a jumbled mess of flawed candidates, which means we may go back to the "whichever team gets hot and is healthy at the right time" format after a couple seasons of the best team winning the conference. How about the Broncos again?
Andrew Healy: Denver over Green Bay. Peyton Manning rides off into the sunset, not doomed to a post-career eternity of rampant underappreciation.
Scott Kacsmar: I keep getting a chunk of the Super Bowl right. I had Baltimore losing to Dallas in 2012 (Baltimore won SB). I had Denver beating Atlanta in 2013 (Denver lost SB). I had Seattle beating Denver again in 2014 (Seattle lost SB). So I get one of the participants right, but the opponent and outcome wrong. It's more probable than not some combination of last year's final four returns to the big game. So I'll go with Seattle over Indianapolis.
Mike Kurtz: Had we done this feature three weeks ago I would have been solidly on board with the Packers, but they had a raft of injuries that vaults Seattle over them in the NFC.
The AFC is a lot murkier. All of the top-tier teams have huge question marks. The Steelers' defense is terrible, the Patriots really don't have a secondary, and falling apart in the last month looks like it might be Peyton Manning's new normal. In the end, I think the Broncos are still the best team in the AFC, even if they'll be less effective in the playoffs.
Denver Broncos defeat the Seattle Seahawks.
Rivers McCown: Seattle over New England, electric boogaloo.
Ben Muth: The Seahawks beat the Ravens.
Aaron Schatz: Seahawks over Colts, because I think the Colts will use their easy schedule to get the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Seahawks are the clearest, most obvious choice for the best team in football right now. If you want the best chance to be right instead of just interesting, you pick them to win the Super Bowl. (And yes, I know what I said about the Rams' offensive line above... but the Seahawks have better offensive players to try to overcome the line problems.)
Vincent Verhei: Seattle over Denver. I am not happy about Seattle's crap-against-the-wall offensive line, and I can envision the end coming hard and fast for Peyton Manning, but Green Bay, New England, and Indy are the only other teams I could even seriously consider. But if the NFL is smart they'll rig the season to get the Pats and Seahawks back in the championship and then put the Super Bowl on PPV. They will then take in all the money on Earth.
Sterling Xie: Philadelphia over Indianapolis. Has a terrific chance to look foolish by midseason, but I'm all-in on the Chip Kelly bandwagon.
WITH THE NO. 1 PICK IN THE DRAFT, [TEAM] SELECTS [PLAYER]
Cian Fahey: Washington selects California quarterback Jared Goff.
Nathan Forster: The Jacksonville Jaguars select Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa. Blake Bortles does not seem to be particularly good and the Jaguars have no notable players on defense. Plus, after drafting Dante Fowler and losing him for the season in what seemed like minutes after they turned in the card, they've been struck by the "Jim Schwartz publicly supports analytics but does not follow its recommendations" curse. The Jaguars will probably not be willing to give up on Bortles, so I'll give them Bosa, who fits the archetype of the large, productive defensive end that goes high in the NFL draft.
Tom Gower: The Washington Snyders would love to select a quarterback, but without one worthy of the top pick they instead take... hmm, probably not an offensive tackle with Trent Williams and after taking Brandon Scherff, so I'll give them Robert Nkemdiche, defensive line, Ole Miss.
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Andrew Healy: The Cleveland Browns select Cardale Jones. In contrast to the other leading candidates, the Browns have a hard schedule (ranked seventh according to FOA). It is also hard to top McCown/Manziel as a potentially bottomless pit.
Scott Kacsmar: I have five teams finishing at the bottom at 4-12. I don't even want to figure out the tie-breaker scenarios for that, so with the No. 1 pick in the draft, the Cleveland Browns select Cardale Jones, quarterback, Ohio State.
Mike Kurtz: Cleveland selects Cardale Jones, quarterback, the Ohio State University.
Rivers McCown: The Cleveland Browns select Joey Bosa, defensive end, Ohio State.
Ben Muth: The Redskins take California quarterback Jared Goff.
Aaron Schatz: Washington selects Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, whose stock sinks gradually throughout the college season and then climbs all the way back in the workout season next spring. He's tall! He has a strong arm! Also, QBASE will hate him, his NFL career will be awful, and Washington fans will be tortured for years by "what could have been" when they watch Joey Bosa playing across from Khalil Mack in the NFL's best pass rush.
Vincent Verhei: For four years now, I have picked either Cleveland or Oakland in this spot. Now, though, I think the Raiders have enough superstar potential that I can't honestly expect them to be the worst team in the league anymore. As for Cleveland, stories like this and this and this point out that the Browns are still a twisted carnival sideshow masquerading as a football team. That makes them a very tempting pick, as does their insistence on playing Josh McCown while the best quarterback on the roster is trying to play wide receiver. (That is not hyperbole, by the way: Terrelle Pryor's passing DVOA of -32.1% in his only season as a starter is better than what Josh McCown has done for most of his career, and that's not even counting Pryor's value as a runner.) I'm actually talking myself into picking the Browns again just sitting here, but then I remind myself that this organization was also a blazing madhouse last year, and Mike Pettine still found a way to win seven games. And I believe in Mike Pettine. So I can't argue that Cleveland is the NFL's bleakest franchise, not when the outfit in D.C. extended their quote-unquote franchise quarterback, then benched him, and then torpedoed any trade value he might have, just to keep him and risk guaranteeing a big payday in 2016, all in less than five months. So here we go: with the No. 1 pick in the draft, the Washington Redskins select Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones -- who then threatens to sue the team, the league, the NCAA, the Big Ten, and anyone else he can think of that will let him go back to school and keep his career as far away as possible from Dan Snyder.
Sterling Xie: Washington selects Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones. He's already taken a big step towards going No. 1 overall by beating out J.T. Barrett, and it's hard to imagine Jones looking bad around an uber-talented cast.