How is the draft order determined?
The draft order for each of the seven rounds is determined by the reverse order of finish in the previous year. For the league’s 20 non-playoff teams, picks 1-20 are assigned based on the standings at the end of the regular season; the team with the worst record picks first. Picks 21-32 are assigned based on how the playoffs unfold, with the Super Bowl champion picking last.
Don’t the Bengals have the No. 1 spot locked up?
Almost. At 1-13, the Bengals have two fewer wins than any other team with two games to play. The Bengals can clinch the top spot with a loss or tie to the Dolphins on Sunday or a loss or tie to the Browns in the regular season finale. Using each team’s true talent level, which is derived by looking at actual win rate, projected win rate based on total points scored and allowed and a regressed win rate that accounts for having played less than a full season of games, we can project the remainder of the season 1,000 times and find that Cincinnati has a 90 percent chance to land the No. 1 pick.
Could the Redskins still land the No. 1 pick?
It’s possible, but unlikely. With identical 3-11 records, the Redskins, Giants and Dolphins all have a slim chance to move up to No. 1 should they lose out and the Bengals win their final two games. In that scenario, the NFL’s draft-order tiebreakers would come into play. (The Lions, at 3-10-1, could still get the No. 2 pick by losing out.)
What are the tiebreakers?
In the event that two or more teams finish with identical records, draft position is decided by strength of schedule, measured by the aggregate winning percentage of the teams’ opponents. (The team that played the weaker schedule is awarded the higher pick.) This explains why the Giants, whose opponents have an aggregate winning percentage of .473, would pick ahead of the Dolphins (.491) and Redskins (.493) if the season ended today. The Bengals have a significantly better strength of schedule (.565) than the three other teams in contention for the top pick, which would hurt them in the case of a tie.
If two or more teams finish with the same strength of schedule, the next two tiebreakers are division and conference record, if applicable, followed by head-to-head. If the Redskins and Dolphins finish with identical records and the same strength of schedule, the head-to-head tiebreaker would be applied, and Miami would pick ahead of Washington by virtue of the Redskins’ one-point win at Miami Week 6.
Who’s the favorite to pick second?
Using the same projection methodology as above, the Giants have a 39 percent chance to land the No. 2 pick, followed by the Dolphins (32 percent) and Redskins (15 percent). The 3-10-1 Lions and 4-9-1 Cardinals are also in the hunt. The Giants, Dolphins and Redskins can all guarantee themselves a top-three pick by losing out.
The Giants host the Eagles in Week 17, while the Dolphins visit the Patriots. Both teams figure to be underdogs. The Bengals host the Browns in Week 17.
How could the order change this weekend?
The Redskins could move up to the No. 2 slot with a loss to the Giants at home and a Dolphins win over the Bengals in Miami. Washington could also leapfrog Miami with a loss and a Bengals win, depending on how the rest of the week’s results affect their respective strength of schedule percentages.
The Redskins could drop as low as the No. 5 pick with a win over the Giants and a Lions loss to the Broncos. In that scenario, Washington could be in jeopardy of falling out of the top-five with another win in Week 17 against the Cowboys. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Redskins a 97.5 percent chance of earning a top-five pick, with an average draft position of 3.2 in its simulations.
NFL Draft Picks 1-10 Through Week 15
1. Cincinnati: 1-13 (.565 opponent winning percentage, i.e. strength of schedule)
2. N.Y. Giants: 3-11 (.473)
3. Miami: 3-11 (.491)
4. Washington: 3-11 (.493)
5. Detroit: 3-10-1 (.507)
6. Arizona: 4-9-1 (.542)
7. N.Y. Jets: 5-9 (.473)*
8. Jacksonville: 5-9 (.473)
9. L.A. Chargers 5-9 (.502)
10. Denver: 5-9 (.525)
*- The Jets “win” the next tiebreaker against Jacksonville by virtue of having a worse conference record than the Jaguars.
See the full 2020 NFL draft order at Tankathon.com.
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