This Would Be Patriots’ Best-Case Week 17 Scenario For NFL Draft

Breaking down New England's draft order scenarios


Dec 31, 2020

The New England Patriots will do all they can to close out their 2020 season with a victory over the New York Jets.

But a loss, coupled with a few key results around the league, could substantially boost their draft positioning.

The 6-9 Patriots currently own the 14th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft when factoring in their full-season strength of schedule. Strength of schedule is the No. 1 draft-order tiebreaker, with the team that played the weaker schedule receiving the higher selection.

Six NFL teams enter Week 17 at 6-9. Of those, four rank lower than the Patriots in SOS: the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota Vikings and Washington Football Team. Since Washington currently leads the NFC East and all playoff teams pick after all non-playoff teams, it’s slotted at No. 19 overall. (The Cowboys or New York Giants could take over that spot depending on what transpires this Sunday.)

There’s also one 5-10 team — the Denver Broncos — that has a stronger SOS than the Patriots, meaning New England would leapfrog them if both finished with identical records.

Here’s a distilled look at this current draft order:

10. Denver Broncos (5-10; .567 strength of schedule)
11. Dallas Cowboys (6-9; .465)
12. Los Angeles Chargers (6-9; .490)
13. Minnesota Vikings (6-9; .508)
14. New England Patriots (6-9; .533)
15. San Francisco 49ers (6-9; .544)

19. Washington Football Team (6-9; .465)

So, what does this all mean for the Patriots?

If they beat the Jets, it’s relatively straightforward. They’ll either stay at No. 14 or, if the 49ers lose to the Seattle Seahawks, drop to No. 15.

A loss, though, could give them a more favorable pick, depending on how the teams above them in the order fare.

Denver hosts the 7-8 Las Vegas Raiders, who were eliminated from playoff contention last week.

Dallas visits the 5-10 Giants in a game with NFC East title implications (if Washington loses to the Philadelphia Eagles, the winner of this game makes the playoffs).

The Chargers are at Kansas City. The 14-1 Chiefs have the No. 1 seed wrapped up and will be starting backup quarterback Chad Henne to rest Patrick Mahomes.

Minnesota visits a 5-10 Detroit Lions team that could be without starting QB Matthew Stafford.

The Patriots have lost each of their last three games, have scored one total touchdown during their losing streak and were missing seven players at practice Wednesday, including Devin McCourty, David Andrews, Shaq Mason and a bunch of linebackers. They also lost top cornerback Stephon Gilmore for the season two weeks ago.

The Jets are 2-13, but they’re coming off back-to-back wins over potential playoff teams in the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns (albeit a Browns team that was without its top four receivers due to COVID-19 contact tracing). Adam Gase’s club also nearly beat the Patriots in November, losing 30-27 on a last-second Nick Folk field goal.

The ideal situation for New England from a draft position perspective would involve a Patriots loss and wins by the Broncos, Cowboys, Chargers, Vikings and Washington. That would give the Pats the 10th overall pick. If the Patriots lose but all five of those teams do, as well, they’d stay at 14. They also can wind up at No. 11, 12 or 13.

Obviously, the higher the pick, the more top-tier prospects the Patriots — who have needs all over their roster — would have to choose from. Also, if they’re considering trading up for one of the top non-Trevor Lawrence QB prospects (Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance), it would be significantly easier to do so from, say, pick No. 11 than it would from No. 15. A higher pick also would yield a better return in the event of a trade down.

The Patriots have drafted just three players in the top 15 during the Bill Belichick era but hit on all of them, landing Richard Seymour (No. 6, 2000), Ty Warren (No. 13, 2003) and Jerod Mayo (No. 10, 2008). They also drafted Nate Solder 17th overall in 2011, their only other top-20 selection.

Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images
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