Projected 2024 NFL draft order: Which team is No. 1?

BySeth Walder and NFL Nation ESPN logo
Tuesday, May 23, 2023

We're almost a year from the 2024 NFL draft, and 285 games lie ahead that will determine the draft order. Anything can happen. We won't know what the top 10 will look like until the end of Week 18 this season, and even then, things can change with pre-draft trades up or down the board.

But we are still projecting how the draft order might play out in those first 10 picks using our newly releasedESPN Football Power Indexfor the 2023 season, which gives each team's expected draft slot. The model's predictive ratings are based on win totals from Caesars Sportsbook, strength of schedule, past team performance and returning starters, and they are used to simulate the season thousands of times.

Analytics writer Seth Walder will pull back the curtain on the numbers to explain why each team is projected to have an early selection, while our NFL Nation reporters will dive in on how each of the teams can outperform these expectations and avoid a disappointing season. Which teams are destined for a top draft pick? Could the Cardinals -- who have their first-round pick and Houston's selection -- actually end up 1-2 in next year's draft? And which teams could surprise in 2023? Let's take a closer look at franchises currently headed toward early Round 1 selections.

Read more on 2023 FPI

1. Arizona Cardinals

Chance at No. 1 pick: 18.2%

Chance at top 10: 79.1%

Why they are here:Are the Cardinals trying to ... win? Based on their offseason thus far, it seems hard to believe they are, at least in 2023. With Kyler Murray recovering from a torn ACL, Arizona appears on track to enter the season with Colt McCoy -- the journeyman backup with a career 44 QBR -- as the front-runner to be its Week 1 starter, which is not the sign of a team attempting to make the playoffs. But no judgment here, as losing in 2023 and securing a top draft pick is the rational play for this organization. Things could continue down that path if the Cardinals trade Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins.-- Walder

How they outperform this projection:The offense would need to carry the entire team, with or without Murray. The Cardinals have the offensive talent on paper to put up some numbers. Besides Murray, they'll not only (most likely) have Hopkins but also receivers Marquise Brown and Rondale Moore, tight ends Zach Ertz and Trey McBride, and running back James Conner. If Hopkins is used to spread the defense, this year's offense could be just as high-flying as it was in the first part of 2021, when the Cardinals started 10-2. That's not to say they'll win that many games, but the offense could steal enough games while the defense figures itself out -- at least enough to be better than worst in the NFL.-- Josh Weinfuss

2. Arizona Cardinals, via theHouston Texans

Chance at No. 1 pick: 12.7%

Chance at top 10: 70.5%

Why the Texans are here, for the benefit of Arizona:The Houston roster is slowly improving, and Will Anderson Jr. and C.J. Stroud ought to provide a boost. But any team with a rookie quarterback has a low floor, especially one that finished last in EPA per play a year ago. The team lacks star power at receiver, and the defense -- despite some potential -- will probably be mediocre this season. All in all, there's some upside for Houston, but the reasonable expectation is that, once again, this team will be bad.-- Walder

How the Texans outperform this projection, at the expense of Arizona:The Texans have added playmaking potential on both sides of the ball during the draft and free agency. They acquired proven and promising talent on defense, including Anderson, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins and former Pro Bowl linebacker Denzel Perryman. On offense, they drafted Stroudwith the No. 2 pick, signed tight end Dalton Schultz and traded for right guard Shaq Mason. The Texans have more talent than they did a year ago, which should improve units that ranked 31st in total offense and 30th on defense in 2022. And since they traded their pick to the Cardinals to move up to select Anderson, there's no motivation for Houston to try to maneuver for a high pick.-- DJ Bien-Aime

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chance at No. 1 pick: 11.3%

Chance at top 10: 68.0%

Why they are here:Quarterback. Look around this roster and there's ... quite a lot to like? From receiver Mike Evans to offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs to defensive tackle Vita Vea to cornerback Jamel Dean to linebacker Lavonte David to safety Antoine Winfield Jr. -- it's pretty good! It's all the more curious why the Bucs are rolling with Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask at quarterback, presumably crushing their chances of taking advantage of a weak NFC South.-- Walder

How they outperform this projection:Under Todd Bowles, the Bucs had a defense that finished 13th overall in points allowed per game last year (21.1) and allowed the ninth-best total yards per game (324.3). Tampa Bay did struggle with red zone defense, but if the defense can build off these numbers while offsetting the losses of players in the secondary -- Sean Murphy-Bunting, Mike Edwards, Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan-- it could help out an offense transitioning to a new system with a new staff and learning to navigate life without Tom Brady.-- Jenna Laine

4. Indianapolis Colts

Chance at No. 1 pick: 8.6%

Chance at top 10: 60.1%

Why they are here:Like with the Texans, playing a rookie quarterback in Anthony Richardson offers a very low floor for the Colts. To make matters worse, it's not exactly an ideal situation for him. He's walking into the team that ranked last in pass block win rate last season. Unless Indianapolis' offensive line can improve, that makes succeeding immediately a really tough ask for Richardson.-- Walder

How they outperform this projection:One of the primary factors in the Colts' collapse last season was turnovers. Indianapolis had the NFL's worst turnover differential (minus-13), but what if it can manage to turn that around? Doing so would require a healthy Shaquille Leonard creating havoc as a turnover artist at linebacker, and it would mean the quarterbacks have to play clean. But there's a recipe here that could work. Running back Jonathan Taylor and Richardsoncould comprise one of the better rushing duos in the NFL. If the Colts can combine that with competent defense (Indy was 15th in defensive EPA last season), their schedule has a lot of opportunities for victories.-- Stephen Holder

5. Los Angeles Rams

Chance at No. 1 pick:5.1%

Chance at top 10: 52.1%

Why they are here:You know that person in your fantasy league who goes entirely with the stars-and-scrubs roster? Yeah, that's Rams general manager Les Snead. Aside from defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the defense is largely a young, unproven and unheralded group. On offense, while Matthew Stafford says he feels good, it's hard not to have lingering health concerns for a 35-year-old QB who entered last season with an elbow injury and finished it on IR with a spinal cord contusion.-- Walder

How they outperform this projection:The Rams need to figure out how to score points this season, plain and simple. Their 307 points in 2022 were tied for the fewest in the NFL. If they can solve that problem, they'll likely compete for a spot in the standings beyond what would get them a top-10 pick. That starts with Staffordstaying healthy. He played nine times last season, just the third time in his career he played single-digit games in a season. Stafford has the receivers (Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson) and running back (Cam Akers) to put up points -- if he can stay on the field.-- Josh Weinfuss

6. Tennessee Titans

Chance at No. 1 pick: 4.4%

Chance at top 10: 48.1%

Why they are here:The offense is a problem. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a declining Derrick Henry at running back and not a whole lot else isn't enough to win. With both a weak offensive line and a lackluster group of receivers, it's hard to imagine this group doing damage, even in the weak AFC South.-- Walder

How they outperform this projection:Playing in this division will always give the Titans a chance to make the playoffs. It all comes down to finding balance on offense. Tennessee must find a way to improve the passing game. The key will be unlocking receiver Treylon Burks' potential. Burks showed flash last season despite struggling with injuries. He elected to stay in Nashville to train and is dedicated to not having a repeat of his rookie season. Burks will get opportunities in new offensive coordinator Tim Kelly's scheme, and the one-on-one matchups will come because opposing defenses tend to focus on stopping the run game.-- Turron Davenport

7. Green Bay Packers

Chance at No. 1 pick: 5.0%

Chance at top 10: 49.2%

Why they are here:They traded a Hall of Fame quarterback. It's a move that may well work out over the long term, but it likely will come with a short-term drop-off in performance. There are enough good players on this team -- such as offensive tackle David Bakhtiari, cornerback Jaire Alexander, edge rusher Rashan Gary and receiver Christian Watson-- that the pain could be short-lived if quarterback Jordan Love can play well right away. But that's a big if, which is why they're on this list.-- Walder

How they outperform this projection: Can a defense that's loaded with first-round draft picks actually live up to its billing? It didn't last year, at least not for the first half of last season. The Packers can't expect Loveto carry this team right away like Aaron Rodgers did for most of his career. It's on defensive coordinator Joe Barry to get his side of the ball ready to be strength of this team right out of the gate. Said Barry this offseason: "We don't have time to waste 10 weeks." -- Rob Demovsky

8. Washington Commanders

Chance at No. 1 pick: 4.4%

Chance at top 10: 47.3%

Why they are here:There's a fairly good chance that Sam Howell and/or Jacoby Brissett will represent an upgrade at quarterback over what the Commanders got from Taylor Heinicke and Carson Wentz last season, but this team is still largely an unknown on offense. They were strong defensively a year ago and should be again on paper, though defense is harder to predict from season to season and therefore matters less when looking forward.-- Walder

How they outperform this projection: The offense must become more productive under new coordinator Eric Bieniemy, hired in the offseason to replace Scott Turner. It has not finished in the top half of the NFL in points or yards since 2017 -- and was never higher than 20th in either category under Turner. The Commanders also have to hope Howell or Brissettcan be effective. But they have talent at receiver and running back, and they have an experienced defense that has been top 10 in both points and yards allowed in two of the past three seasons. Those factors could be enough finish better than ESPN's FPI is projecting. -- John Keim

9. Las Vegas Raiders

Chance at No. 1 pick: 3.1%

Chance at top 10: 41.0%

Why they are here:Defensive weakness and perhaps upside limitations on offense with Jimmy Garoppolo under center stand out here. The good news is that the defensive variance we've mentioned with other teams works both ways. We're less sure a bad defense from last year will remain bad this year, which is helpful for the Raiders in this case. Garoppolo doesn't inspire a ton of confidence but has a track record, and there are reasons to like this offense.Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers form a really nice 1-2 receiving punch, and the offensive line should protect the QB reasonably well.-- Walder

How they outperform this projection: Argue all you want about whether Garoppolois a better quarterback than the departed Derek Carr, but there is no debate that Garoppolo is a better fit in coach Josh McDaniels' offense, given his experience in it from their days together in New England. Hence, the learning curve under center will be nowhere near as steep as it was in 2022. Throw in All-Pros in Adams and running backJosh Jacobs, an offensive line that got better as last season wore on and a pass rush that should be improved with the addition of first-round pick Tyree Wilson, and the Raiders should win enough games to stay out of the top 10 picks. Even if fans might clamor for a pick that could bring the Raiders USC quarterback Caleb Williams next spring. -- Paul Gutierrez

10. Chicago Bears, via theCarolina Panthers

Chance at No. 1 pick: 4.2%

Chance at top 10: 45.1%

Why the Panthers are here, for the benefit of Chicago:Just like with the Texans, a rookie a quarterback throwing to a weak receiving group is a tough sell and certainly presents serious downside. But this is far from a barren roster, and the defense boasts serious talents like cornerback Jaycee Horn, edge rusher Brian Burns, defensive tackle Derrick Brown and linebacker Frankie Luvu. The Bears (who are projected to have their own pick at No. 11) would be happy with this outcome.-- Walder

How the Panthers outperform this projection, at the expense of Chicago:The Panthers were horrible at quarterback last season with Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and PJ Walker combining for 16 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions, and they still were in position to win the NFC South before Tom Brady's fourth-quarter comeback in Week 17. Now they add Bryce Young, the top pick of the draft, to an offense that returns its starting line and has upgrades at running back (Miles Sanders), wide receiver (Adam Thielen, DJ Chark) and tight end (Hayden Hurst). So Carolina can't help but be better. Add to that a veteran coaching staff led by Frank Reich, a defense with top-10 potential and a weak division, and the playoffs are a distinct possibility.-- David Newton

Related Video