Chiefs, Jaguars left in race for No. 1 draft pick

The joke running through Jacksonville these days carries the

same punch line as the one in Kansas City:

”Our team is so bad it can’t even stink in the right

year.”

The Chiefs and Jaguars will vie for the top pick in the NFL

draft in separate games Sunday. But the value of ”winning” the

race to the NFL’s worst record is debatable in a year without a

clear, franchise-changing prospect.

There’s no Andrew Luck in this unlucky draft.

No Robert Griffin III, either.

Just a collection of talented young players who could fill holes

at left tackle or linebacker or defensive end, but hardly push the

needle for teams in desperate need of massive overhauls.

The Chiefs and Jaguars are both 2-13, but the Chiefs hold the

tiebreaker for the No. 1 spot because of their weakness of

schedule. The only way Jacksonville can jump them is if they lose

to the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City beats the Denver Broncos,

who are playing for an opportunity to secure home-field advantage

throughout the playoffs.

That would give the Jaguars the worst overall record by

themselves.

”You don’t want to be in this position,” Jaguars coach Mike

Mularkey said. ”Just like we didn’t want to be in that position in

Atlanta when we drafted Matt Ryan (in 2008). But if you pick up the

right guy, it can make a huge difference for you and get you out of

that position.”

The Jaguars have never drafted first overall. They had the

second choice in their expansion year of 1995 and again the

following season. But they’re also the only team in the NFL to pick

in the top 10 each of the last six seasons, counting the upcoming

draft.

That’s a big reason why general manager Gene Smith, the

architect of their past four drafts, might not be around to make

their choice, regardless of whether it’s No. 1.

Kansas City is in similar shape.

The Chiefs have never had the No. 1 pick as members of the NFL –

they chose Hall of Fame defensive tackle Buck Buchanan first

overall in 1963, when they were still a part of the AFL. The

closest they’ve come since the merger is second overall in 1978,

`79 and again in 1988.

That’s a big reason why GM Scott Pioli could be on the way out,

too: Pioli’s Chiefs could be historically bad.

One thing Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel isn’t thinking about is how

valuable a loss to the Broncos would be in relation to the first

overall pick.

”I think you play to win,” Crennel said Wednesday. ”Whether

you win or lose, that’s what everybody looks at and that’s what

counts. Nobody puts an asterisk in that win-loss column, saying

they lost because they wanted the first pick, something like

that.”

The Chiefs and Jaguars are both desperate for a quarterback in a

year in which the crop of players at football’s marquee position is

thin. West Virginia’s Geno Smith, USC’s Matt Barkley and North

Carolina State’s Mike Glennon are considered the top talents

available, but most analysts have been putting their value

somewhere in the mid-20s of the first round.

That means the Chiefs and Jaguars would be reaching for a

franchise quarterback.

”This year, there’s no strength at the top,” ESPN draft

analyst Mel Kiper said on a recent conference call with reporters.

”You don’t have the quarterback, you don’t have the running back,

you don’t have the cornerback or safety.”

Not like last year, when Luck and Griffin were available.

The Colts managed to snag the former Stanford quarterback with

the first overall pick, giving them a flawless bridge from their

Peyton Manning past to their Luck-filled future.

Now, after losing 14 games last season, Indianapolis is back in

the playoffs.

That’s right where the Redskins could be this weekend after

choosing Griffin, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, at No. 2.

Washington needs to beat the Dallas Cowboys or have the Vikings and

Bears both lose Sunday to get into the postseason.

Just how valuable is that franchise quarterback?

”It’s hard to win in this league if you don’t have one,” said

Bruce Arians, who served as the Colts’ interim coach until Chuck

Pagano’s return this week.

The gap between choosing first and second has proven sizeable

some years. In 2009, the Lions landed Matthew Stafford with the

first overall pick. The Rams at No. 2 wound up with offensive

tackle Jason Smith, who has started just 26 games and is already on

his second team.

It was a similar story in 2004, when the Chargers picked Eli

Manning first and then shipped him to the Giants. Oakland had the

second pick and grabbed offensive tackle Robert Gallery, who has

been a productive player but far less valuable than Manning, a

two-time Super Bowl MVP.

Whoever is in charge has to get it right, too, for the first

pick to matter.

The Raiders failed to do that in 2007, when they chose JaMarcus

Russell first. He was out of the league after three years, while

the Lions’ second overall pick, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, just

broke Jerry Rice’s record for yards receiving in a single

season.

Smith and Pioli may be out of jobs come Monday, though, and who

the Chiefs and Jaguars will have orchestrating their draft is about

as clear as whom they’ll select.

Perhaps that’s why Crennel was channeling his inner Herm Edwards

on Wednesday.

”We play to win the game,” he said, when asked about a loss

guaranteeing the Chiefs the first overall choice. ”That’s the only

way I know how to do it.”

AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Jacksonville, Fla., contributed to

this story.

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