In 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers won an NBA Championship and the Cleveland Indians are headed to the World Series. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns are 0-6, and although it’d be nice to win some games, one of the big underlying storylines the rest of the season is whether the team can position themselves to have the best draft picks possible in 2017.
We'll just focus on the first two rounds, where Cleveland will have two picks in round one and two picks in round two. In each round, they'll have their own pick. In the first round, they also have the Eagles' pick. In the second round, they also have the Titans' pick.
The way the NFL Draft Order is determined is first by a team’s record, and then by a team’s strength of schedule (SOS). If two teams are tied, the team with the easier schedule will get the higher draft pick. The reason for this is because if you couldn’t get more victories despite having an easier schedule, you are considered the worst team.
Outlook on the Browns’ own picks
The Browns currently hold the No. 1 overall pick in the draft since they are the only 0-6 team in the NFL. The teams currently with the closest threat include four 1-5 teams: the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, and Chicago Bears. If we ignored their records and ranked each team by SOS so far, they would fall in this order:
- Panthers - .545
- Bears - .559
- Browns - .571
- 49ers - .571
- Jets - .588
Things will get tougher in SOS for a team like the Jets, since they still face the Patriots twice, but the competition isn’t so stiff after that. The Panthers figure to have too much talent to finish the season with the same or worse record than Cleveland. The 49ers and Bears should be right in the thick of things with Cleveland, though. One good thing is that the Bears have to play the Minnesota Vikings twice this year, which will hurt them a bit in the SOS category. The 49ers don’t have the toughest-looking schedule ahead of them, so I’d personally be most concerned with them when it comes to SOS.
Here is a “remaining” SOS chart floating around on Twitter right now:
Remaining strength of schedule (by opponent average MAVPY index) for each NFL team. The Broncos, Giants, and Ravens moved a lot this week: pic.twitter.com/7FxeaMWjZO— Ethan Young (@NFLDrafter) October 20, 2016
The AFC North is tumbling right now, and that can help the Browns moving forward from a SOS perspective. Now, if that causes Cleveland to start ripping off wins, then it’s a different story.
Outlook on Eagles & Titans
Because the Eagles and Titans are actually winning some games, it’s still too early to project where they might fall. The bar we should initially set is to hope that neither team makes the postseason.
Although the Eagles started the season at 3-0, they’ve lost two straight and seen two teams (Dallas and Washington) leap them in the NFC East. The Titans have overachieved, with a 3-3 record and right on the heels of the Houston Texans where a mere .500 record might just win the division again.
Week 7 Rooting Guide
The Titans are at home this week against the Colts. Root for the Colts to win. Tennessee’s three wins presently are not a danger to Cleveland’s first overall pick, and a loss by them would help the Browns’ second-round pick they own.
The Eagles are at home this week against the Vikings. Because Cleveland owns the Eagles’ first-round pick, there will not be a scenario in which we root for Philadelphia to win (unless a Week 17 scenario comes out where they are locked in to a spot, but a win by them would affect SOS for someone else).
The Jets are at home this week against the Ravens. We should root hard for the Geno Smith-led Jets to pull this out. Not only does it help lower the Browns’ SOS, it gives a bad Jets team another win and might negate the fact that Cleveland could very well beat them in Week 8.
You can also root for wins by Chicago, Carolina, and San Francisco. As the season moves along, we’ll expand the rooting guide even more.