The 2021 Draft is set to be held in Cleveland from April 29 to May 1. Although it’s unclear how much will be held in person after last year’s virtual draft, the first-round draft order is coming into focus.
Following the end of the regular season, the first 18 picks are locked in, and the final 14 selections will be finalized as each round of the playoffs finish (details on how that works below). Of course, there could be more trades before the start of the draft (if not during it), but here’s where each team is slated to pick when the first round starts on April 29.
Here is the rundown of where each team will be picking in the first round with their 2020 regular-season record in parentheses.
Finalized Draft Order
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15)
2. New York Jets (2-14)
3. Miami Dolphins (via 4-12 Houston Texans)
4. Atlanta Falcons (4-12)
5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1)
6. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1)
7. Detroit Lions (5-11)
8. Carolina Panthers (5-11)
9. Denver Broncos (5-11)
10. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)
11. New York Giants (6-10)
12. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)
13. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9)
14. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)
15. New England Patriots (7-9)
16. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8)
18. Miami Dolphins (10-6)
Rank of Playoff Teams by Record
19. Washington Football Team (7-9)
20. Chicago Bears (8-8)
21. Jacksonville Jaguars (via 10-6 Los Angeles Rams)
22. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
23. Cleveland Browns (11-5)
24. Tennessee Titans (11-5)
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)
26. Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
27. New York Jets (via 12-4 Seattle Seahawks)
28. New Orleans Saints (12-4)
29. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
30. Buffalo Bills (13-3)
31. Green Bay Packers (13-3)
32. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2)
How is the draft order determined?
At its most basic level, the NFL makes its draft order by ranking teams from worst to best. That means ranking teams first and foremost by their regular-season record.
For the non-playoff teams, that’s easy. The first 18 selections are ranked by record, and the tiebreaker goes to the teams with the easiest strength of schedule. For example, the 4-11-1 Bengals had a .529 strength of schedule, while the 4-11-1 Eagles had a .537 mark. That reflects more poorly on the Bengals that they ended up with the same record, so they earned the fifth pick, while the Browns will pick sixth.
Things get slightly more complicated for the 14 playoff teams. Unlike the NBA, where the regular season determines the draft order, the earlier a team is knocked out of the NFL playoffs, the earlier they will pick in the draft.
Picks No. 19-24 go to the four teams knocked out in the Wild Card Round, ranked by their regular-season record (tiebreaker is once again strength of schedule). Picks No. 25-28 go to the teams who lost in the Divisional Round. The 29th and 30th picks go to the teams who lost in the conference title games, while the final two picks belong to the Super Bowl teams.