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2021 NFL draft: Second straight win ends Jets’ chances of picking first overall next year

Related: Devin McCourty plans to return to Patriots next season

ACC Championship - Clemson v Notre Dame Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

For much of the NFL’s 2020 regular season it appeared as if the New York Jets would run away with the first overall draft pick. The team struggled mightily in all three phases while starting the season 0-13 and losing the average game by more than two touchdowns — establishing itself as a serious contender to become just the third team ever to go 0-16.

Their last two games, however, saw the Jets’ fortunes and draft outlook change drastically.

Following a win against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 15, the organization suddenly found itself looking up to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the unceremonious race for the right to pick number one in next year’s draft. One week later, that race came to an end: while the Jaguars lost 41-17 to the Chicago Bears, the Jets celebrated a second straight victory.

New York, which needed to finish the regular season with a worse record than the now-1-14 Jaguars in order to draft ahead of them, beat the Cleveland Browns with a final score of 23-16. While the upset win did improve the Jets’ record to 2-13 with one game against the New England Patriots left to be played, it officially eliminated the club from competing for the first overall pick this year.

The Jaguars are locked into that first spot, with New York drafting second regardless of how next week’s game in Foxborough unfolds.

This means that Jacksonville is now on the clock, and also that the first overall draft pick — the odds-on favorite is Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence — will not end up in the AFC East after all. While the Jets still get to pick fairly high in each of the draft’s seven rounds, this is welcome news to the other three teams in the division.

Of course, those three teams will still get to meet the first rookie selected next season: the AFC East is scheduled to play the AFC South, with the Jaguars set to visit Gillette Stadium. So, while they will not play Trevor Lawrence twice a year if he indeed ends up getting drafted first overall, the Patriots will still square off against him in 2021.