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NFL Draft Tiebreaker Procedures: Strength of schedule, head-to-head, and more

The NFL Draft tiebreaking procedures are set in place to help determine the NFL Draft order at the end of each season.

The NFL Draft tiebreaker procedures are set in place to determine the NFL Draft order every season. The team with the worst record receives the first pick, while the Super-Bowl winning club gets pick No. 32 at the end of the first round. When two or more teams have identical records at the end of the season, the NFL Draft tiebreakers come into play.

NFL Draft tiebreaking procedures

Strength of schedule (SOS) is used to break any ties between teams who have identical records at the end of the season. The team with the lower strength of schedule gets the higher selection in the tie break. SOS is the aggregate winning percentage of a team’s opponents.

If the strength of schedule tiebreaker cannot be used to separate teams, then division or conference tiebreakers are applied. These tiebreakers will then be applied to determine who has which selection in the draft.

Division NFL Draft tiebreakers

If two teams from the same division are tied by both record and SOS, then the division tiebreaking procedure is utilized to break the tie. These procedures are as follows:

  1. Head-to-head record: the team with the worse record in games played against each other gets the higher pick in the draft order.
  2. Winning percentage in games played within the division: the team with the lower winning percentage gets the higher pick.
  3. Win percentage in common games: the team with the lower winning percentage gets the higher pick.
  4. Winning percentage in games played within the conference: the team with the lower winning percentage gets the higher pick.
  5. Strength of victory: the aggregate winning percentage for opponents each team defeated is calculated, and the team with the lower strength of victory is awarded the higher pick.

Conference NFL Draft tiebreakers

If teams within the same conference but not the same division are tied, the conference tiebreaking procedure is enacted. Those tiebreakers are as follows:

  1. Head-to-head record: the team with the worse record in games played against each other gets the higher pick in the NFL Draft order.
  2. Winning percentage in games played within the conference: the team with the lower winning percentage gets the higher pick.
  3. Winning percentage in common games (minimum of four): the team with the lower winning percentage gets the higher pick.
  4. Strength of victory: the aggregate winning percentage for opponents each team defeated is calculated, and the team with the lower strength of victory is awarded the higher pick.

Non-conference tiebreaking procedures

If two teams from separate conferences are tied in terms of record and strength of schedule, then a third set of tiebreaking procedures have to be used. The main difference here is that conference records are disposed of, moving up the common games tiebreaker to No. 2. There is also an additional tiebreaker using the team’s points scored and points allowed rankings for the season.

Here are the full tiebreaking procedures when teams in separate conferences are tied:

  1. Head-to-head record: the team with the worse record in games played against each other gets the higher pick in the NFL Draft order.
  2. Winning percentage in common games (minimum of four): the team with the lower winning percentage gets the higher pick.
  3. Strength of victory: the aggregate winning percentage for opponents each team defeated is calculated, and the team with the lower strength of victory is awarded the higher pick.
  4. Combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed in all games: For example, if Team A is ranked 15th in points scored and 20th in points allowed, Team A’s combined ranking would be 35. If Team B is ranked 13th in points scored and 21st in points allowed, Team B’s combined ranking would be 34. Team B’s combined ranking is better, so Team A would be awarded the higher pick.

Tyler Olson is a Senior Data and Content Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can read Tyler’s other work here and follow him on Twitter @TOlsonPFN.

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