If the season ended today (it doesn’t), the Redskins would draft 15th in the first round. If they lose to the Giants, their pick could go up as high as No. 13, depending on the results of other games. But if they win, an unlikely but possible combination of results could push their first pick all the way up to 19th.
The first thing to look at is the records of the teams who are near them in the draft order. The Redskins are 7-8 as are the Cardinals and Packers. Because of the one and only tiebreaker for draft order, which we’ll get into in a minute, the Redskins are slotted behind those teams.
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Just behind the Redskins at 8-7 are four other teams. If the Redskins win on Sunday to and the 8-7 teams, which are the Chargers (who are at home vs. the Raiders), Cowboys (@ Eagles), Bills (@ Dolphins), and Lions (vs. Packers) all lose, the Redskins would slide all the way back to No. 19 in the first round.
Wait, what? Why would the Redskins fall behind the Chargers, who beat them, and the Cowboys, who beat them twice? Because while head-to-head results mean everything when it comes to sorting out playoff berths, they mean nothing when it comes to figuring out the draft order.
The one and only tiebreaker for draft position is strength of schedule. If two or more teams have the same record, the team with the strongest schedule picks last in that group. Everyone who has paid attention this season knows that the Redskins have played one of the toughest schedules in the NFL, with 10 games against teams that currently have winning records.
In fact, Washington played the strongest schedule in the NFL so far this year. And while the numbers will change after each team plays its final game, the Redskins can’t end up with a lower SOS than any of the other potential 8-8 teams.
That means that the Redskins would pick behind any other team that finishes 8-8. So if, say, the Cowboys lose and the Redskins and the other 8-7 teams win, Washington would pick 16th in the first round. For each loss registered by the other 8-7 teams, the Redskins slide back one more slot. If all four lose, they go to 19th.
The chances are that not all of the 8-7 teams will lose. The Chargers and Bills both need wins to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Eagles may rest starters or at least pull them early. The Lions are at home against Brett Hundley. So it’s possible that the Redskins could win and stay right where they are.
In any case, now you know the situation and you can choose to root for whatever team playing in MetLife Stadium on New Year’s Eve you want to.