Broncos Given Fourth-Best Odds of Landing No. 1 Overall Pick in 2021 Draft
The 2020 NFL season feels like it's just kicked off. With no ramp-up to the regular season via a normal training camp or preseason games, the 2020 season has felt a bit abrupt for many.
However, just as quickly as the season started, the Denver Broncos’ odds of securing a playoff berth seem to have faded.
Obviously, the 2020 season is not over, and the story of this iteration of the Broncos is yet to be fully written, but the first chapter will no doubt start with the rash of injuries this squad has suffered. With such projected starters as Courtland Sutton, Von Miller, Drew Lock, A.J. Bouye, and Phillip Lindsay (among many more, not counting opted-out Ja’Wuan James) already missing time or being out for the season, what many fans expected to be a competitive football team in 2020 is a shell of what it could have been.
Injuries are a part of the game and there is a large portion of randomness or simply dumb luck that goes into which teams suffer a rash of injuries. There are always the usual suspects where questions must arise surrounding a team’s medical and training staff (*cough* Chargers and Washington *cough*).
But for the most part there, it's random twists of fate that see teams suffer injuries and why. The 2020 Broncos are snake-bitten on the injury front without a doubt.
That doesn’t mean the season is over. Far from it. Yes, the Broncos are down 0-2 with Tom Brady and the Tampa Buccaneers coming to town Week 3 but a win in Denver for the home squad is far from improbable.
It would be easy for a team to lie down after the rash of injuries they suffered, but down 26-16 following a special teams safety, the Broncos stormed back in Pittsburgh last week, hung tough, and made it a respectable 26-21 loss. With a solid and disciplined defense led by Vic Fangio and an offense that can’t be much worse than what Broncos Country has suffered over the last few seasons, Denver is not ready to tank away 2020 just two weeks into the season.
Unfortunately for the Broncos, though, current models conducted by Football Outsiders via their DVOA Odds Report give Denver long odds to make the playoffs this season. However, the Broncos have become one of the odds-on favorites to land a top-5 selection in the 2021 draft and are in the running as one of the most likely teams to ‘earn’ the first overall pick.
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The Broncos currently have the fourth-best odds of landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft via Football Outsiders at 10.3%. The Broncos are behind the Miami Dolphins (12.1%), the Cincinnati Bengals (12.6%), and the Carolina Panthers (16.5%) with the New York Jets (8.5%) rounding out the top-5.
Denver is also scheduled to play three of the four of these teams; playing at New York in Week 4, vs. Miami in Week 6, and at Carolina in Week 14.
Denver may not end up with the first overall pick and given how early it is in the season, a lot can and will change. However, Denver’s odds for securing a top-5 pick are extremely high, with current DVOA Odds having the team selecting in the top-5 in 40% of their models.
It is a bit sad and disappointing to be talking about the 2021 draft only two games into the 2020 season, but alas, this Broncos team has dealt with such a magnitude of injuries that these discussions were inevitable as the team limped out to an 0-2 start. What would a top-5 overall selection mean for the Broncos?
Could that mean the end of Vic Fangio in Denver? Would GM John Elway be ushered out of the team’s front office? Would that mean the end of Von Miller’s time in the Orange and Blue?
Perhaps even more interesting, what would that mean for quarterback Drew Lock? Would the Broncos entertain selecting a quarterback such as North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, or Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence?
With a potential rookie first-rounder having five years of a cost-controlled contract vs. Lock having just two seasons left, on top of Lock now suffering injuries in back-to-back seasons to start his career, there are practical reasons why the Broncos would look hard at their options with a top-5 pick on the table. Fortunately, all these questions will be answered and with a bit of nuance, decisions will be made.
The Broncos’ 2020 season is not over. Not by a long shot. What this team will do is still in the hands of the coaches and players. However, after suffering such a stupefying number of injuries to impact players and significant contributors, many believe this Broncos team is destined for a difficult season and angling towards a top draft selection.
If the Broncos don’t like the fact that they're standing at 0-2 and currently have some of the highest odds for a top pick in the 2021 draft, they have two options; they can either make excuses and continue to lose, or they can buckle down and find a way to win.
If Denver does indeed bottom out this season and earn a top selection in 2021, these hypothetical questions will become real-life problems the team will have to face, but until that time comes, they're in fact just hypotheticals.