Having the No. 1 pick in an NFL draft can be a franchise-changing moment. The Indianapolis Colts experienced that twice recently with Peyton Manning (1998) and Andrew Luck (2012). That's an instant foundation for years of success. Not every draft offers such a strong prospect at the top, but nearly one quarter of top selections in the Super Bowl era have gone on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The problem with the first pick is your team has to endure a terrible season to earn it. Football Outsiders predicted the Houston Texans to decline last year, but no one expected a 14-game losing streak. Atlanta (nine) and Washington (seven) also declined by at least seven wins last season, which has only happened 24 times total (excluding strike seasons) since 1970.
We won't likely see huge falls like that this season, but in our book "Football Outsiders Almanac 2014," we forecast the upcoming season with a complicated formula that accounts for everything from performance the last two years to personnel changes to injury history. Then we run one million simulations of the season, accounting for all the randomness and unknown variables that will also have an impact.
So to look at which teams are most likely to have the first pick in the 2015 NFL draft, we identified the 10 franchises that most often finished 4-12 or worse in our simulations. What's the top prize? Perhaps it's one of the top quarterback prospects entering the season, Florida State's Jameis Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota. (Check out Todd McShay's ranking of the top 2015 prospects at every position.)