New England Patriots

Could Kyler Murray's return help Patriots' 2024 NFL Draft positioning?

Will Kyler Murray's return cost the Cardinals the No. 1 overall pick?

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The Arizona Cardinals have lost six consecutive games and own the NFL's worst record at 1-8. If the season ended today, they would have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

But there are still eight weeks left in the regular season, and the first round draft order could change fairly dramatically between now and Week 18.

One storyline that has the potential to significantly impact the draft order is the return of Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who is expected to start Sunday when Arizona hosts the Atlanta Falcons. Veteran running back James Conner, who's averaging 5.4 yards per carry, also could return fairly soon after missing the last four games.

Murray tore his ACL in a Week 14 matchup against the New England Patriots last season. He hasn't played since.

Speaking of the Patriots, they are among the teams jockeying for position with the Cardinals atop the draft board. If Murray comes back and plays well -- he was a top 15 QB before his ACL injury -- the Cardinals might end up with three or four wins by season's end. That scenario would be great for the Patriots, who sit at the bottom of the AFC standings at 2-7.

Arizona has a couple winnable games coming up before finishing with a few tough opponents over the final four weeks. Here's the Cardinals' remaining schedule:

  • Week 10: vs. Atlanta Falcons
  • Week 11: at Houston Texans
  • Week 12: vs. Los Angeles Rams
  • Week 13: at Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Week 14: Bye
  • Week 15: vs. San Francisco 49ers
  • Week 16: at Chicago Bears
  • Week 17: at Philadelphia Eagles
  • Week 18: vs. Seattle Seahawks

It's not going to be easy for them to reach three or four wins. The Cardinals are, frankly, a really bad team. However, three of their losses have come by one score, and they've played pretty tough against playoff-caliber opponents such as the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys. If Murray plays like he did in 2020 and 2021, all of a sudden the Cardinals offense could be decent, especially if Conner also comes back.

Of course, even if the Cardinals win a couple more games, it won't mean much if the Patriots win games themselves. New England has a couple winnable matchups coming up, including games against the Indianapolis Colts (Week 10), New York Giants (Week 12) and Los Angeles Chargers (Week 13).

However, the Patriots do have the second-toughest schedule left of all 32 teams -- their remaining opponents have a combined .551 win percentage. So it wouldn't be shocking at all if the Patriots were still at the bottom of the conference at the end of the season.

Patriots fans, at least younger ones, don't have much experience watching the bottom feeders' records late in the season. New England hasn't owned a top seven pick since it drafted Richard Seymour at No. 6 in 2001. But with where the Patriots are in the standings, the outcomes of the games involving the teams around them in the draft order will be just as impactful as their own.

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