I know what you're thinking.
"A DraftWatch post? When we're 1-1? And we aren't expecting to be anywhere near the bottom of the pile at the end of the year?"
It's true, keeping an eye on draft positioning this early in the season when your team won't be figuring into whatever sweepstakes the 2013 NFL Draft would become seems like an exercise in self-flaggelation, an awful lot of effort for not much return. Nonetheless, I could find a handful of reasons why to continue with the DraftWatch this year:
1) There are 31 other teams in the league, and it's good to know where everyone stands.
2) It serves as a quasi-power ranking, since a team with a 2-0 record is ranked below a team with a 1-1 record, who is ranked below a team with a 1-1 record who's had weaker competition.
3) First-round draft picks are often used as trading chips, so it's just as much about keeping track of that as anything else. Woe unto us if the Cardinals manages to grab the Dolphins' first-round pick, for example.
4) Everyone seemed to really enjoy last year's posts, and this is pretty much the only way I can contribute to this place aside from snarks about the commercials during the games.
5) I want to see if I can shoehorn a They Might Be Giants song into each one of these posts. One down, fifteen to go.
On that note, here is how the first round of the NFL Draft would look right now:
(Draft order is determined thusly: Teams are ranked in reverse order of their win-loss record. When multiple teams tie for the same record, Strength of Schedule is the first tiebreak; the team with the weaker schedule is ranked first. If that is also tied, divisional record is the next tiebreak; worse divisional record breaks the tie. If a tie persists, a coin flip will be the final determining factor. Strength of Schedule accounts for all 16 opponents on a team's schedule, with divisional opponents counting twice.)
1. Raiders (0-2, 14-18 SOS)
2. Jaguars (0-2, 15-17 SOS, 0-1 Div.)
3. Chiefs (0-2, 15-17 SOS, 0-0 Div.)
4. Browns (0-2, 16-16 SOS)
5. Titans (0-2, 17-15 SOS)
6. Saints (0-2, 19-13 SOS)
7. Colts (1-1, 12-20 SOS)
8. Steelers (1-1, 13-19 SOS)
9. Bengals (1-1, 14-18 SOS)
T10. Dolphins (1-1, 15-17 SOS, 0-0 Div.)
T10. Broncos (1-1, 15-17 SOS, 0-0 Div.)
12. Ravens (1-1, 15-17 SOS, 1-0 Div.)
13. Bills (1-1, 16-16 SOS, 0-1 Div.)
14. Panthers (1-1, 16-16 SOS, 1-1 Div.)
T15. Packers (1-1, 16-16 SOS, 1-0 Div.)
T15. Buccaneers (1-1, 16-16 SOS, 1-0 Div.)
17. Bears (1-1, 17-15 SOS, 0-1 Div.)
T18. Vikings (1-1, 17-15 SOS, 0-0 Div.)
T18. Patriots (1-1, 17-15 SOS, 0-0 Div.)
21. Cowboys (1-1, 17-15 SOS, 1-0 Div.)
22. Giants (1-1, 18-14 SOS, 0-1 Div.)
23. Jets (1-1, 18-14 SOS, 1-0 Div.)
24. Lions (1-1, 19-13 SOS)
25. Seahawks (1-1, 20-12 SOS, 0-1 Div.)
26. Rams (1-1, 20-12 SOS, 0-0 Div.)
27. Chargers (2-0, 10-12 SOS)
28. Texans (2-0, 12-20 SOS)
29. Falcons (2-0, 15-17 SOS)
30. Eagles (2-0, 16-16 SOS)
31. 49ers (2-0, 17-15 SOS)
32. Cardinals (2-0, 20-12 SOS)
The Rams received the Redskins' first-round pick thanks to the trade in this year's draft which allowed the Redskins to pick second and get Robert Griffin III.
Much like when the Lions and Bills jumped out to good starts last year, I don't think anyone anticipated the Cardinals (the Cardinals!) ranking at the top early in the season.
What you're also seeing here is a bit of a paradigm shift in the NFL in terms of divisional strength. While the AFC North sent three teams to the playoffs last season and features two perennially strong teams in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, they're currently one of three divisions of the AFC where the combined record is a mediocre 3-5. The strongest AFC division, the AFC East, is only one game better as all four teams in the division sport a 1-1 record. Meanwhile, the strongest team in the league is none other than our own NFC West; thanks largely to the fact that it's the only division right now with two 2-0 teams, we've got a combined record of 6-2. This figures heavily into the reason that you don't see any NFC West teams in the draft until the Seahawks at #25.
Because Strength of Schedule is such a key component to draft positioning, it's a good idea to know who's playing whom. Aside from the divisional opponents, here's how the league schedules look this year:
AFC North: plays AFC West and NFC East
AFC South: plays AFC East and NFC North
AFC East: plays AFC South and NFC West
AFC West: plays AFC North and NFC South
NFC North: plays AFC South and NFC West
NFC South: plays AFC West and NFC East
NFC East: plays AFC North and NFC South
NFC West: plays AFC East and NFC North
2011 Divisional champs: Baltimore, Houston, New England and Denver in the AFC; Green Bay, New Orleans, NY Giants and San Francisco in the NFC
2011 Divisional 2nds: Pittsburgh, Tennessee, NY Jets and San Diego in the AFC; Detroit, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Arizona in the NFC
2011 Divisional 3rds: Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Miami and Oakland in the AFC; Chicago, Carolina, Dallas and Seattle in the NFC
2011 Divisional doormats: Cleveland, Indianapolis, Buffalo and Kansas City in the AFC; Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Washington and St. Louis in the NFC
That's pretty much all the information there is to know at this stage of the season. Obviously, in the coming weeks the giant 20-team logjam will begin to shake out, and we'll have a better idea of who the contenders, the pretenders, and the dear-God-just-let-it-enders really are. See you guys next week!