The majority of the NFL's Week 4 games will be played after the calendar flips to October. The air will be crisp. Leaves will be on the ground. Halloween decorations and scary movies will take over for the next four weeks. And football weather will be in full force.
For some teams, their seasons are practically over before they ever really got off the ground.
The middle of the pack is vast. The majority of the league—18 teams—either won zero or only one game through the first three weeks of play. In a handful of instances, certain franchises already look like a lost cause.
While 15 weeks of play remain, these specific rosters simply aren't built to compete at a high level, and their respective general managers and scouting staffs should already have one eye toward the 2023 NFL draft.
Next year's class already looks special with elite talents found at the top, particularly at quarterback after the worst positional class of the last 25 years.
A losing season can be painful in the meantime. However, the worst a franchise can be is stuck in the middle. Five specific teams have a rough few months ahead of them, but they should be positioned well once everyone is fully immersed into the draft cycle.
As of now, the following squads are best positioned, in order, to claim next year's No. 1 overall pick and change their organization's future.
1. Houston Texans
The Houston Texans struggling to start this season comes as no surprise whatsoever. The fact they nearly beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 may be more surprising than Houston's actual 0-2-1 record.
The Texans are in their second year of a strip-it-to-the-studs rebuild. A significant portion of the roster—as in 23 players—aren't under contract beyond this season. The team's building blocks consist of left tackle Laremy Tunsil, right tackle Tytus Howard, guard Kenyon Green, cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. and safety Jalen Pitre. The final three were selected in this year's draft class. Rookie running back Dameon Pierce and wide receiver John Metchie III can work themselves into that discussion as well.
Basically, general manager Nick Caserio has a blank slate as the team moves beyond this season.
The starting point is obvious: Quarterback must be addressed.
Davis Mills has gotten an opportunity to show he's a capable long-term option. While it's still early in the process, a winless record so far combined with his limitations as a passer appear to have the team destined toward a quarterback selection with its top pick. Mills' missing ingredient involves an inability to carry the offense, particularly in crucial situations.
As Sunday's loss to the Chicago Bears' showed, the second-year quarterback threw a game-ending interception. To be fair, a Bears defensive lineman tipped the pass, though linebacker Roquan Smith had a bead on the pass from the start and was already driving on the ball to break it up one way or the other.
A season ending with the league's worst record and the first selection indicates Mills hasn't grown beyond what the team saw during his rookie campaign.
Whereas Ohio State's C.J. Stroud now has the inside track to be the first name called once the 2023 NFL draft begins. Last year's Heisman Trophy finalist has been deadly efficient in the Buckeyes' first four games with an impressive 16-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In 16 career starts, the underclassman completed 71.6 percent of his passes. More importantly, the 20-year-old has the requisite size (6'3", 218 pounds), natural throwing ability and unflappable mentality in the pocket to be a true franchise quarterback.
Once the Texans finally have a long-term answer behind center, the entire organization can finally build toward something substantive.
2. Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks already experienced their Super Bowl this season when the franchise's prodigal son, Russell Wilson, returned to the Great Northwest in Week 1 and his old team eked out a 17-16 victory. During the subsequent two weeks, the Seahawks looked much closer to the team most expected with the San Francisco 49ers' dominant victory in Week 2 and the inability to topple another bad team Sunday in the Atlanta Falcons (more on them in a bit).
While the divorce between Wilson and the Seahawks seemed inevitable as the two sides grew apart, the organization did what it could do to maximize the return value when trading the franchise's all-time leading passer. Seattle has a pair of first-round picks, though the first is likely the most value since the Seahawks look like a bottom-three squad.