The Jacksonville Jaguars have been given the best chance to be the league's worst from the 2021 season. Following a Week 1 loss, 37-21, to the Houston Texans—a divisional rival who was predicted by many to be one of the worst teams in the AFC if not the entire NFL—ESPN's Football Power Index ranks the Jaguars as the worst team in the league and in the best position to hold the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The ESPN FPI—it's important to note—doesn't simply set a predicted draft order based on league standings following a slate of games. In other words, this isn't just a, "if the draft happened today, here's who would draft where based on current records" simulation. According to ESPN, "each week during the season, the FPI projects the draft order by simulating the remainder of the season 10,000 times. Game probabilities are based largely on the model's ratings for individual teams in addition to game locations. The order is based on the records the model believes the teams will have after 17 games, and the order is based on each team's average draft position in the simulations."
With that in mind, the Football Power Index predicts the Jaguars—who on average draft in the 6-7 range—have a 17.5% chance to end up with the No. 1 overall pick, and a 57% chance to draft in the Top 5.
The Jaguars, infamously, went 1-15 last season, leading to having the No. 1 overall pick this past April. The club selected Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence, long assumed to be the No. 1 pick whenever he came out for the draft. He was named the starter for the Jags after the second preseason game and went 28-51 for 332 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Having the No. 1 overall pick one year can help change a franchise. Having it two years in a row? In theory, that indicates your club is in a much worse place than originally feared. However, history shows it can work out for a team more often than not.
The NFL has held 86 drafts in the league history. Spanning that time, there have been only seven occurrences of the same team having back-to-back No. 1 picks. The first time it happened, in the first two years of the draft, the Philadelphia Eagles drafted a player No. 1 overall only to trade them to the Chicago Bears before the season began.
In 1939 and 1940, the Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) drafted first overall in two straight years, a part of a 10-year streak of losing seasons. In 1976 and 1977, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the No. 1 pick, drafting two franchise-changing players; Lee Roy Selmon, who won NFL Rookie of the Year and MVP on a bad team, then Ricky Bell, the running back who led the Bucs to an NFC Championship.
Tampa Bay received back-to-back No. 1 picks again a decade later, when they tried to take Bo Jackson in 1986 and were infamously turned down by the superstar running back. They tried again in '87 with quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who did little with the Bucs.
The Cincinnati Bengals selected Dan Wilkinson first overall in 1994, a good player on a bad team, leading to their selection of Ki-Juna Carter first overall a year later.
The latest team to have back-to-back No. 1 overall picks is the Cleveland Browns, who held the notorious "honor" in 1999 and 2000, then again in 2017 and '18. The former occurrence saw them shoot their shot with quarterback Tim Couch—who eventually led them to a playoff appearance—and Courtney Brown, who was plagued with injuries.
The latter occurrence though delivered the Browns two players who became building blocks on a long-term project; Myles Garrett and Baker Mayfield, a defensive and offensive star who have put the Browns back in the playoffs—and more—contention.
As for the Jaguars, Head Coach Urban Meyer and that No. 1 pick, quarterback Trevor Lawrence, are promising to not be in that position again any time soon.
"I've been warned for a long time that this is a marathon, not a sprint. So calm down, relax, and—not relax, but onward, soldier. Move on, and let's go Monday. Get back to work. We're still a work in progress, as you see. I did not anticipate that [loss]. I thought our guys worked really hard. I believe deeply in this team, and we worked our tails off. Line up and go again," promised Meyer after Sunday's loss.
"We're going to continue to work. There's only one answer. That's the great thing about this sport. It's not that we have to make a secret pass call or protection call. Just work. That's the greatest thing about the game of football. Go out and work. And that's what we shall do.”
Added Lawrence, "I know I'm going to respond well. I'm made of the right stuff, so I don't have any doubt about that. But it's frustrating, and I hate losing. I hate losing. So we're going to get better. But that's all you can do is watch the tape, learn from it, get better, and move on. We've just got to stick together. That's the main thing. That's kind of in the past. That's over. It is what it is. We've got to move on to next week and stick together. So it's going to be good."
The Jaguars welcome the Denver Broncos and then the Arizona Cardinals into TIAA Bank Field the next two weeks, teams expected to end up with the 22nd and 23rd picks respectively in next year's draft according to the ESPN FPI.