2024 NFL Draft

How does the NFL draft order work? Here's an explainer for 2024 picks

We'll know exactly where the Bears will pick after Week 18 ends

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The Bears secured the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL draft thanks to a Panthers loss and a Cardinals win in Week 17. That’s because the Bears received the Panthers’ first-round pick as part of the trade that sent the No. 1 overall pick to Carolina last year. We won’t know where the Bears’ own pick will land in the draft order until the dust settles in Week 18. With so many teams bunched together around six and eight wins, it’s tough to predict exactly where they’ll be slated on the board.

If you’re curious exactly how the draft order is set each year, though, you’ve come to the right place. While the NBA, NHL and MLB hold lotteries to assign the draft order, the NFL follows a set of rules.

First, the NFL draft order is set by “the reverse order of finish in the previous season.” In other words, the team with the worst record at the end of the year picks first and the Super Bowl champ picks last. That’s why the Bears have already locked up the No. 1 pick. At 2-14, the Panthers have already “clinched” the league’s worst record.

Teams that don’t make the playoffs are guaranteed to earn one of the top-20 picks. But many teams in that stratum finish the year with the same record, so the league leans on tiebreakers to separate the teams who won and lost the same number of games.

The first tiebreaker is strength of schedule, or “the aggregate winning percentage of a team’s opponents.” The team with the “easiest” strength of schedule, or lowest aggregate win percentage of their opponents, is awarded the higher draft pick.

If teams with the same record also have the same strength of schedule, then divisional or conference tiebreakers take over. And if teams are still tied after that, the NFL goes through this checklist.

  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

Teams who make the playoffs are assigned to pick Nos. 21-32. Those picks are assigned thusly:

The losers in the wild card round take Nos. 21-24 in reverse order of their regular season record. The four divisional round losers take Nos. 25-28, again in reverse order of their regular season record. The two teams that lose in the conference championship games take the 29th-overall pick and the 30th-overall pick– you guessed it– in reverse order of their regular season record. The Super Bowl loser gets pick No. 31 and the Super Bowl winner gets pick No. 32.

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