clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NFL Draft tiebreaking procedure starts with strength of schedule

The NFL Draft order has developed a lengthier process for breaking any ties. We break them down.

A video board displays the text “THE PICK IS IN” for the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The 2021 NFL Draft is still four months away, but high drama revolves around the top of the order. The New York Jets stunned the Los Angeles Rams in Week 15 and moved into a tie with the Jacksonville Jaguars at 1-13. There are still two games remaining, and this week showed anything is possible, but there is a good chance these two teams end up tied atop the draft order.

The NFL used to have two tiebreakers for determining draft position in the first round. The first tiebreaker was strength of schedule and the second tiebreaker is a flip of the coin. Head-to-head did not matter, divisional or conference record didn’t matter, none of that. That changed in the 2019 offseason, adding tiebreakers similar to playoff tiebreakers.

The strength of schedule tiebreaker remains the top one. It simply involves counting up the wins, losses, and ties and figuring out the win percentage of a team’s opponents. The team with a lower win percentage wins the tiebreaker. The draft is meant to help bad teams improve. The thinking with the weaker SOS getting a better pick is that if team A and team B are tied and team A beat worse teams, that suggests team A is the worse of the two teams. It’s certainly not scientific, but that’s what it is.

Most teams will be separated out with that tiebreaker, but occasionally we’ll get two or more teams are tied in strength of schedule. They then move to division and conference tiebreakers. If they are not applicable or ties still exist between teams of difference conferences, ties will be broken using the following tie-breaking method:

  1. Head-to-head, if applicable
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games (minimum of four)
  3. Strength of victory in all games
  4. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed in all games
  5. Best net points in all games
  6. Best net touchdowns in all games
  7. Coin toss