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Which bad teams will have a quick turnaround?


Of the 12 teams projected to reach the playoffs, half finished last season with losing records (seven if you count the tied-for-first-place Tennessee Titans). We bring you this information to inspire hope -- it may be over for this season, but a fantastic turnaround may be just around the corner.

In that spirit, we're taking a look at the teams projected to finish in the bottom five and have the highest picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. Do they have the potential for a similar turnaround? Or will this be just the start of a very long winter?

Cleveland Browns

Current record: 0-12

Best players 25 and under: Wide receiver Corey Coleman, running back Isaiah Crowell, running back Duke Johnson, linebacker Christian Kirksey, defensive tackle Danny Shelton, guard Joel Bitonio and rush linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah.

Should I be looking forward to next September? Yes!


» They should have the quarterback situation somewhat figured out. What that means, we're not entirely sure. Either Robert Griffin III will end the season on a high note, Cody Kessler will get one more look or both will make it abundantly clear that the team will use one of their myriad picks in the 2017 draft on the quarterback of the future (Hue Jackson seems willing to do whatever he can to not end this season winless, so sticking with an evaluation project does not seem likely, and Cleveland's rolling with RGIII this Sunday).

» They will have a glut of young, controllable talent on the roster. While this doesn't necessarily translate to success, the Browns are following the Seahawks' personnel model of forcing competition at every position with young, cheap players and keeping those who emerge from the dust. It's hard not to get excited about a roster where only 20 players are older than 25. So long as the team remains invested in their head coach, this is a group that can grow. Some of this requires a qualification of course. What does encouraged mean? This year's Browns team played hard and was fun to watch at times. If they play hard in 2017 and win maybe five or six games -- is that encouraging to you?

» Terrelle Pryor and Jamie Collins should get paid. Exciting? Maybe. At least momentarily. It will add a sheen of professionalism to this roster if the team locks down two potential young stars. Jamie Collins has not been stunning in his tenure with the Browns, but he doesn't have nearly the same level of talent around him. This could just be a long-winded excuse for a trade that we thought was smart at the time, but at some point the Browns are going to establish some of their bookend players in order to drive this operation forward.

San Francisco 49ers

Current record: 1-11

Best players 25 and under: Running back Carlos Hyde, linebacker Gerald Hodges, defensive end DeForest Buckner, defensive lineman Arik Armstead.

Should I be looking forward to next September? Probably not!


» With some help at linebacker, a smart veteran addition at cornerback and some schematic re-imagination, this defense has the feel of a unit that could become a "good enough" top-15 defense. A full season with Armstead and Buckner is enticing, especially if San Francisco decides to continue their defensive line rebuild in the draft this year (lots of potential in the top five). As we've seen in Carolina and New York, building a defense from front to back helps expedite the payoff.

» Kelly, should he remain, will have a less tangled path toward a quarterback he thinks will fit the roster. We know what you're saying: It worked out so well last time! Sam Bradford played decent football down the stretch in Philadelphia but certainly was not the answer in that offense, especially after Kelly jettisoned some of his best wide receivers and offensive linemen. Assuming he's learned from some of his mistakes, here's another opportunity to draft and build.

» This is an offense starving for skill position talent. Jeremy Kerley had a nice season but is not a matchup-altering wide receiver. With the exception of Joe Staley, this offensive line is not good enough to build Kelly's Philadelphia-style "power spread" into a success at the NFL level and the downfield blocking they do get from non-linemen isn't helping Carlos Hyde succeed. The silver lining? Any upgrades in the offensive line will translate directly on the field. Unlike the Browns, who seem to be in a similar circumstance, the 49ers could have another season before they completely bottom out offensively.

Jacksonville Jaguars:

Current record: 2-10

Best players 25 and under: Wide receiver Allen Robinson, wide receiver Allen Hurns, running back T.J. Yeldon, quarterback Blake Bortles, guard A.J. Cann, cornerbacks Aaron Colvin and Jalen Ramsey.

Should I be looking forward to next September? Yes!


» With Gus Bradley likely out of the picture, this roster will get a fresh set of eyes from an eager coach who will want to get his or her hands on Myles Jack, Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler. Mostly, though, they will want to dig in on Bortles and figure out why a quarterback with so much promise regressed so significantly in 2015. Perhaps it was personal and Bradley simply got caught up in something he couldn't control. But if it is schematic, it wouldn't be surprising to see a new coach try to accentuate his mobility and rebuild his confidence from the ground up.

» This was an ascending team that added more good players in the offseason. Simple as that. Good players just don't stop being good players. Though Malik Jackson theoretically "disappeared" in Jacksonville, he's still playing like a top-15 interior defender -- just not with Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. At some point, the talent around him will get enough experience.

» If nothing else, Jacksonville will have the surge of a "culture change." Regardless of what happens this offseason, there will be change with the energy of something new. Maybe it's not Bradley (though many expect it will be). Maybe it's a young new coordinator or the addition of a veteran consultant to right the ship. Either way, the team will be tied to their fans' wishes for something different.

Chicago Bears:

Current record: 3-9

Best players under 25: Running backs Jordan Howard, Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey, wide receiver Kevin White, linebacker Leonard Floyd, safety Adrian Amos, guard Cody Whitehair and G/T Charles Leno.

Should I be looking forward to next September? That depends.


» The Bears have not drafted a quarterback since David Fales in 2014. Their ignorance of the position and previously unbreakable ties to Jay Cutler have made this a strange roster. Deep and possibly playoff ready in some places (offensive line especially) and a gigantic question mark at others. If the prospect of entering the Tony Romo sweepstakes entices you -- or the hunt for any above-replacement-level veteran for that matter -- then this will be something to look forward to.

» If the Bears were somehow able to find a quarterback, I don't think this team is wildly far away from a two- or three-year Oakland Raiders-type rebuild. Finding a quarterback is a massive undertaking, but the mix of Pernell McPhee, Leonard Floyd and some other young pieces on defense makes this an interesting case.

» Would Alshon Jeffery come back? What would they have to offer him? Howard's emergence is enticing if only because he's young and still has plenty of time to draw defenders into the box. The Bears are going to have to re-think plenty about their offense and their personnel philosophy and come up with a plan in about a month before free agency starts. Do they want to keep building? Or, do they want to gamble on Kevin White, allow their best offensive weapon to walk and re-tool the system?

New York Jets:

Current record: 3-9

Best players 25 or under: Wide receiver Robby Anderson, wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, defensive end Leonard Williams, safety Calvin Pryor, linebacker Darron Lee.

Should I be looking forward to next September? No.


» The Jets are going to be in salary cap limbo this season as they try to navigate some pretty complicated weeds. Darrelle Revis has one of the team's biggest cap hits and some of their more respected veterans who are still playing at a high level (Nick Mangold) may have to take a paycut in order for the team to stay in the mix for prospective free agents.

» Their offensive line needs to be rebuilt (almost) entirely. Mangold was the Jets' best offensive linemen this year but is struggling with nagging injuries. He'll be 33 at the start of next season. Guards Brian Winters and James Carpenter may be potential building blocks or at least placeholders, but both tackle spots need to be taken care of.

» They're betting on the quarterback of the future to emerge after a redshirt season. Christian Hackenberg hasn't taken a meaningful snap since the preseason and, barring a massive rash of injuries, will not play at all in 2016. The Jets did not play him because, with four quarterbacks on the roster, they could not find the time to get him enough repetitions and bring him up to speed.


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