2021 NFL Draft Order: What Should It Be If There's No 2020 NFL Season?

Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

2021 NFL Draft Order: What Should It Be If There's No 2020 NFL Season?

2020 NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Order: What Should It Be If There's No 2020 NFL Season?

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What happens to the 2021 NFL Draft if there’s no 2020 season? How would the NFL figure out the order? Here’s a solution that hopefully won’t be needed.


CFN 2020 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings
from the college perspective …
QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | OG & C
DE | DT | LB | CB | Safeties
Greatest NFL Draft Picks From Each School
ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC
32 Greatest Draft Picks of All-Time
Full 2020 NFL Draft Order
CFN Top 106 Player Rankings (1st 3 rounds)

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So I couldn’t sleep the other night, and that led to a meandering rant asking question after question about what might happen to the 2021 NFL Draft if there’s no 2020 NFL season.

Hopefully we don’t need to worry about any of this and there’s a delightful 2020 NFL campaign that will figure everything out for the 2021 NFL Draft. However, it’s a far more realistic issue than any football fan wants to admit. So …

How do you possibly come up with the 2021 NFL Draft order if there’s no season?

It wouldn’t exactly be fair if Cincinnati got two straight No. 1 overall picks just because the season didn’t get going, and it wouldn’t seem kosher to punish the weaker teams that didn’t have a chance to see if they’ve improved or not.

Throw in all of the trades, all of the contracts to deal with, free agency, and on and on and on, and it could be one gigantic mess.

What would be the right solution?


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I wrote in the first piece that I had no clue what the correct call is, and then I received a whole lot of thoughts and ideas.

So let’s figure this out. How should the 2021 NFL Draft order go if there’s no season to base it off of? Let’s start with a few basic assumptions.

1. It’s the NFL. It’s the league that overreacted to one bad call by implementing a challenge rule for pass interference. Don’t underestimate the ability of the NFL to try killing a mosquito with a bazooka. It’s going to make this hard.

2. It’s the NFL, and it HATES adopting anything used by other leagues or other sports. For this to all be fair and equitable, there will have to be some sort of a random way to determine the draft order. Again, it’s the NFL – do NOT expect the word lottery to be used for any aspect of this.

3. There will have to be some rationale here. The bad teams are still going to be the bad teams until proven otherwise. The whole point of the draft order is to help out the weak and the sad, and that doesn’t necessarily change just because there’s no season. But …

4. Every team will want some chance at a good draft pick somewhere. The New Englands and Kansas Citys of the league aren’t going to cheerfully accept picking at the end of every round and be punished for being great.

Let’s make this as simple and as fair as possible.

The 2005 NHL Draft example – coming off a lockout with no season – is close, but it was just too funky with a whole slew of lotteries and quirks. It doesn’t seem fair that Kansas City and San Francisco should have a shot at the No. 1 overall pick, but it’s also not right that franchises that sucked over the last several years should be automatically rewarded.

Here’s the compromise.

Determine the draft order by the average of each team’s first round draft slots over the last three years. If a team traded out of that position in the first round, it gets credit for that slot.

Reverse it in the second round to throw the teams that draft late a bone, and then go back to the first round draft order the rest of the way – factoring in previous trades made for 2021 draft picks.

That way, the team that drafts last in the first round – and in every round from 3 through 7 – gets two of the top 33 picks. The team that gets the No. 1 overall pick would then have to wait 62 selections before its next turn, but it would get three of the top 65 picks.

Basically, we’re putting a massive value on the early picks in the second round to appease the haves of the NFL world. But how do we determine the first round?

Again, let’s make this easy. Take the average position of the last three draft first rounds. That means, for example, Cincinnati would get the No. 2 overall pick in 2021 after picking 1st overall in 2020, 12th in 2017, and 9th and 2018. 1+12+9=22. Divide that by three drafts, and its average score is 7.33.

Why might this thing actually fly? Public relations and optics. Where’s the 2021 NFL Draft supposed to be held?

Cleveland.

And with that …

2021 NFL Draft Order Idea

2021 NFL Draft First Round Might Be …

Team followed by average of last three first round draft positions. For the ties, do what the NFL does now and flip a coin.

1. Cleveland (4.00)
2. Cincinnati (7.33)
3. NY Jets (7.67)
4. NY Giants (9.67)
T5. Chicago (10.00)
T5. LA Chargers (10.00)
7. Indianapolis (10.33)
8. Washington (10.67)
9. Arizona (12.00)
10. Miami (12.67)
11. Carolina (13.00)
T12. Denver (13.33)
T12. Tampa Bay (13.33)
T14. Jacksonville (14.00)
T14. San Francisco (14.00)
16. Detroit (14.67)
17. Las Vegas (15.33)
18. Jacksonville traded from LA Rams (16.00)
19. Buffalo (17.67)
20. Miami traded from Houston (18.33)
21. Baltimore (20.00)
22. New Orleans (20.67)
23. Dallas (21.33)
24. Philadelphia (21.67)
25. Minnesota (23.00)
26. Seattle (23.67)
27. Tennessee (24.00)
T28. Atlanta (24.33)
T28. Green Bay (24.33)
30. Pittsburgh (25.33)
31. Kansas City (27.00)
32. New England (28.67)

But then … reverse it for the second round.

2021 NFL Draft Second Round Might Be …

33. New England
34. Kansas City
35. Pittsburgh
T36. Atlanta
T36. Green Bay
38. Tennessee
39. Seattle
40. Minnesota
41. Philadelphia
42. Dallas
43. New Orleans
44. Baltimore
45. Miami traded from Houston
46. Buffalo
47. LA Rams
48. Las Vegas
49. Detroit
T50. Jacksonville
T50. San Francisco
T52. Denver
T52. Tampa Bay
54. Carolina
55. Miami
56. Arizona
57. Washington
58. Indianapolis
T59. Chicago
T59. LA Chargers
61. NY Giants
62. NY Jets
63. Cincinnati
64. Cleveland

And then reverse it back to the first round order for the rest of the draft, and …

Let’s really, really hope we don’t have to use this.

CFN 2020 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings
from the college perspective …
QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | OG & C
DE | DT | LB | CB | Safeties
Greatest NFL Draft Picks From Each School
ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC
32 Greatest Draft Picks of All-Time
Full 2020 NFL Draft Order
CFN Top 106 Player Rankings (1st 3 rounds)

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