NFL Nation: DraftWatch

We are now one Sunday's worth of games away from locking in the Detroit Lions' position in the 2013 draft. They've been running No. 5 overall for a few weeks in ESPN Stats & Information's projected draft order, and I've tried to expand upon their chances for moving up or down in Week 17 in the accompanying chart.

The most important fact is that the Lions have the NFL's highest strength of schedule (SOS) at this point, according to Elias Sports Bureau. That figure won't change dramatically with 15/16ths of the season's games already decided. Remember, ties in draft order are determined in reverse order of SOS -- which means the Lions will lose most, if not all, tiebreakers should it be necessary to use them after Week 17.

As you can see, the Lions technically are in contention to draft anywhere between No. 3 and the No. 9 position based on what happens in Week 17. But of the seven teams involved, the Arizona Cardinals are the only one close to the Lions in strength of schedule.

What that means: A loss Sunday to the Chicago Bears would leave the Lions drafting no lower than No. 5, but they would need victories by the Oakland Raiders and/or Philadelphia Eagles to move higher than that. A victory could put them as low as No. 9.

For those interested in continuing your draft research,'s draft page has the top 32 prospects ranked from Scouts Inc. The top four players are linemen, and the highest-ranked offensive skill position player is West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith -- at No. 23 overall.
The NFL draft is a year-round enterprise, and so I'm sure plenty of you will eat up every word in this week's Hot Read. ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay addressed 10 key questions about the 2013 draft, and here are some NFC North-related nuggets with my comments:

McShay: "It's not a good 'TV draft.' NFL teams want great talent at every single position, but a vast majority of teams are not in dire straits and looking for a quarterback, and would rather see the depth where it is in this class: on the offensive and defensive lines."
Seifert comment: I could see that sentiment applying to all of our teams except perhaps the Minnesota Vikings. We have some deep groups of receivers and three ultra-established quarterbacks, the positions McShay is referring to by 'TV draft.' The Chicago Bears in particular should be on the lookout for offensive tackles.

Kiper: "For just 'pure sleeper' in the sense of a guy nobody has seen, I'll go with Eric Fisher of Central Michigan, who could be starting for someone at tackle next season.
Seifert comment: NFC North fans can also be MAC fans, so I'm guessing a few of you have heard of Fisher. He is a 6-foot-8 tackle who might end up on the radar of, say, the Bears or even the Green Bay Packers. Are we sure that Marshall Newhouse is the Packers' long-term left tackle? And can we trust that 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod will ever play again? Sherrod isn't ready to play now, nearly a year after suffering a gruesome broken leg.

McShay: "This [quarterback] class better resembles the 2011 class than the 2012 class."
Kiper: "Right now, I don't have a QB rated among my top 20 overall players... ."
Seifert comment: A relatively weak group of blue-chippers, led by USC's Matt Barkley and West Virginia's Geno Smith, could factor in for the Vikings. If you assume that quarterback value is artificially inflated, Barkley and Smith will be drafted higher than where they should be based on pure potential. That would leave even fewer options for the Vikings if they decide to give Christian Ponder some legitimate long-term competition.

McShay: "If you talk to front office personnel, they would agree that the defensive linemen in this draft are really an impressive group. You have the elite guys, but you have guys late in the first round, early in the second who can become a centerpiece on your defensive line for many years."
Seifert comment: I wouldn't consider defensive line an area of need for any particular NFC North team, but some key players are at least in the second half of their careers. Among them: the Bears' Julius Peppers (32), the Vikings' Kevin Williams (32) and Jared Allen (30), the Detroit Lions' Kyle Vanden Bosch (34) and the Packers' Ryan Pickett (33). The best way to look at this aspect of the draft is that NFC North teams will have an opportunity to fortify their strengths.

DraftWatch: Lions at No. 5

December, 20, 2010
Let's update our weekly look at the top of the 2011 draft, noting that the Detroit Lions have "slipped" from the No. 2 overall position to No. 5 after winning consecutive games to raise their record to 4-10. Remember, draft-position ties are resolved in reverse order of strength of schedule.

Courtesy of ESPN's Stats and Information:

DraftWatch: Lions currently at No. 2

December, 6, 2010
The Detroit Lions lost for the 10th time in 12 games Sunday, bringing us to the point when it makes sense to look ahead -- to the 2011 draft. First up: Projecting the Lions' draft position.

As you know, the first round is determined by reverse order of strength of schedule. Obviously, we won't have the final calculations until Week 17 is complete. But as it stands now, the Lions are positioned to have the No. 2 overall pick for the second consecutive year.

Our friends at ESPN Stats & Information have compiled the strength of schedule for the 10 teams with the worst records in the NFL. The percentages you see in the chart are based on each team's full schedule, including the opponents they haven't played yet. But of the NFL's three 2-10 teams, the Lions have had the statistically easiest schedule and thus have the top priority among them.

Obviously, some things can change between now and the end of the season. But we're now 75 percent of the way through the season, and I thought this was worth passing along.

DraftWatch: The Lions and No. 1

December, 31, 2009
As we’ve discussed before, ties for NFL draft order are broken using reverse order of strength of schedule. We can’t determine the final numbers until the season is over, but I think we can say this with some certainty: Detroit remains in the running for the No. 1 overall pick.

As of today, the Lions are in the No. 2 position. But if they lose Sunday to Chicago, and St. Louis wins at home against San Francisco, they would finish tied for the worst record in the NFL. Week 17 has yet to be played, so we don’t know the final strength of schedule numbers. But through Week 16, here’s the way it stands for the potential top four teams in the draft:

1. St. Louis Rams (1-14) : .525
2. Detroit Lions (2-13): .517
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-12): .558
4. Kansas City Chiefs (3-12) : .521

(Remember, strength of schedule is the combined winning percentage of a team’s opponents.)

I think you all have figured out by now that I’m no math major, so I would welcome your challenges to this assumption. Because 94 percent of the NFL’s games have already been played, I’m not sure there can be enough movement in the strength of schedule numbers for the Lions to overtake the Rams. So on the surface, that gives the Lions a decent chance of having a lower strength of schedule if they finish with a 2-14 record along with the Rams.

If that were the case, the Lions would have the No. 1 overall pick.

Sunday is going to be a busy day on a number of levels here in the NFC North, but strength of schedule will be one of the many threads we monitor. You’ll know as soon as we know where the Lions will pick in the draft.