New England Patriots

Could Patriots actually get No. 1 pick in 2024 NFL Draft?

There actually is a path to the top pick for the Pats.

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The New England Patriots are showing levels of awfulness not seen from the franchise since the early 1990s.

The Patriots were shut out in a 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. It was the NFL's lowest-scoring game since 2018 and the second time New England has been shutout at home this season. The Patriots offense is averaging a league-low 12.3 points per game. The defense has played pretty well in recent weeks, but it's hard to win games when scoring just a single touchdown feels like an enormously tough task.

It's not all doom and gloom for the Patriots, though.

The team's horrendous performance likely will be rewarded with a top-three pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Right now, the Patriots own the No. 2 pick. They are one of just three teams, along with the Panthers (1-11) and Cardinals (3-10) with fewer than four wins. Therefore, the Patriots could win one of their last five games and still be guaranteed a top-three selection.

What chance do they have of earning the No. 1 overall pick? Here's a breakdown.

What the math says

ESPN Analytics gives the Patriots just under a 20 percent chance to land the No. 1 pick. (The Panthers have the league's worst record, but they owe their 2024 first-round pick to the Bears as part of the trade that helped Carolina draft Alabama quarterback Bryce Young at No. 1 in the 2023 draft).

The Patriots have about a 60 percent chance of getting the No. 1 or No. 2 pick, per ESPN Analytics.

The Patriots need help to get the No. 1 pick. For starters, the Panthers have to win at least one more game. If the Patriots and Panthers are tied for the worst record at the end of the regular season, the tiebreaker is strength of schedule. The team with the weaker strength of schedule gets the better draft pick.

New England and Carolina are actually tied with a .527 strength of schedule entering Week 14. These strength of schedule numbers fluctuate quite a bit, though, so it's something that should be monitored each week.

Patriots' remaining schedule

  • Week 14: at Steelers (Thursday night)
  • Week 15: vs. Chiefs
  • Week 16: at Broncos
  • Week 17: at Bills
  • Week 18: vs. Jets

The only winnable game left is the finale against the Jets, whom the Patriots have beaten 15 straight times. Maybe the Patriots could defeat the Steelers, who are expected to start Mitch Trubisky at quarterback in place of the injured Kenny Pickett on Thursday. But the Steelers have a very good defense led by star pass rusher T.J. Watt. It's hard to imagine New England's offense scoring more than 10 points.

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The Chiefs have had their issues offensively but does anyone think Patrick Mahomes is losing to Bailey Zappe? The Broncos have won five of their last six games and still have a chance to secure a playoff spot. The Bills have underperformed with a 6-6 record but still have a shot to reach the postseason.

It's possible that the final game against the Jets could have massive draft ramifications for the Patriots. It would be weird for Patriots fans to root for the Jets, but the No. 1 or No. 2 pick is pretty important.

Panthers' remaining schedule

  • Week 14: at Saints
  • Week 15: vs. Falcons
  • Week 16: vs. Packers
  • Week 17: at Jaguars
  • Week 18: vs. Buccaneers

The Panthers have no incentive to tank because the Bears own their first-round pick. So we should expect the Panthers to try to win every game and build some momentum going into next season. But even if the Panthers try hard to win, it's still going to be tough because that roster lacks talent in a serious way.

The three NFC South divisional matchups are probably the Panthers' best shot at another win. They played the Bucs pretty tough Sunday in a 21-18 loss. Those two teams play in the regular season finale in Carolina. Next week's matchup against the Saints could get interesting, too. New Orleans has lost three consecutive games and five of its last seven. The Falcons are the NFL's ninth-lowest scoring team at 18.8 points per game. They are a beatable opponent for the Panthers.

The Packers and Jaguars will be tough to beat. Green Bay has won three straight games and is fighting for a wild card berth. Jacksonville enters Week 14 as the AFC's No. 1 seed.

But it wouldn't be shocking if the Panthers won one of those three division games.

Cardinals' remaining schedule

  • Week 14: Bye
  • Week 15: vs. 49ers
  • Week 16: at Bears
  • Week 17: at Eagles
  • Week 18: vs. Seahawks

This is a pretty tough schedule. The only real winnable game is Week 16 vs. the Bears. There's no incentive for the Bears to win, though. Their own pick is currently No. 5 overall.

There's very little chance the Cardinals beat the 49ers or Eagles -- two of the NFC's best teams that also are jockeying for playoff seeding and division titles. The Seahawks could maybe be beatable, but Seattle likely will have something to play for in Week 18.

The Cardinals could surprise, though. They've been a much better team since franchise quarterback Kyler Murray returned from a torn ACL suffered last season. Arizona is 2-2 with him as the starter, and one of those losses was to a good Texans team by just five points.

Could the Patriots still get a top QB at No. 3?

Even if the Patriots get the No. 3 pick, there's still a chance they could select one of the top two quarterbacks in this class -- UNC's Drake Maye and USC's Caleb Williams. In our recent mock draft roundup, many experts predicted one of Williams or Maye dropping to the Pats at No. 3.

The Bears, using the Panthers' pick, could pass on a QB if they want to give Justin Fields another chance to prove himself. Chicago hasn't surrounded Fields with a ton of talent at the skill positions since drafting him 11th overall in 2021. Adding an elite wide receiver prospect in Marvin Harrison Jr. with the Panthers' pick and upgrading at left tackle with their own pick wouldn't be a bad strategy for the Bears.

The Cardinals are probably the best bet of the teams in this range of the draft to not take a QB. Murray, when healthy, is a top 15 quarterback. The Cardinals really need help at wide receiver and offensive line, so they would be a logical fit for Harrison.

The New York Giants currently own the No. 4 pick. They just gave quarterback Daniel Jones a four-year, $160 million extension. But the Giants could get out of the contract after next season with a dead cap hit of $22.1 million, per Spotrac, so it's not totally out of the question that New York takes a QB. Offensive line remains a major need for the Giants even though they've used two top-seven picks to address this group since 2020.

There's also the possibility of a trade.

Even if the Patriots finish No. 3 and the Bears and Cardinals both don't want a quarterback, they could trade those picks to a team that does want a new QB. The Bears did that last year when the Panthers really wanted to take a quarterback. Carolina acquired the No. 1 pick and gave up a massive package that included the No. 9 overall pick in 2023, a 2023 second-round pick (No. 61 overall), a 2024 first-round pick, a 2025 second-round pick, and wide receiver D.J. Moore. It must be tough to turn down that kind of trade package for a single draft pick, even if it's No. 1 or No. 2 overall.

Chances are high that the Patriots will end up at No. 2 or No. 3, but there is a somewhat realistic path to the top pick. The best way for the Patriots to make that happen is by not winning another game. And after watching their offense on Sunday, it wouldn't be surprising if New England finishes with just two victories.

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