Earlier in the week, we broke down the Detroit Lions’ draft position after their Week 16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They currently sit with the seventh overall pick, atop all 5-10 teams due to their easy schedule. With the right amount of luck, that could turn into as high as the third overall pick by the end of the regular season.
Of course, if the Lions decide to win, and Lady Luck isn’t on their side, they could also drop out of the top 10 completely, and as low as 13.
So we know that possibilities, but how likely is each one? Which draft pick position is most likely for Detroit come April’s draft?
Luckily, there are a bunch of math majors across the world that are much smarter than me and have developed prediction models for just this sort of thing. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
As far as I can tell, this is the only website that gives a percentage probability for all possible draft order spots for every NFL team. Their methodology is a bit vague, saying simply “all future unplayed games are assumed won/lost with a probability based upon relative team strengths.” However, this is a good place to start.
Here’s which draft picks PlayoffStatus.com believes are most likely to land with Detroit:
3rd: less than 1%
13th: less than 1%
What’s interesting here is that their model seems to suggest the Lions have a very good chance to win on Sunday. Their model gives Detroit a 49% chance of picking either 10th, 11th, or 12th, which can really only happen if the Lions win. On the other hand, they give Detroit just a 47% chance of picking fourth through seventh, which can only happen with a loss.
Either way, it appears the Lions’ most likely landing spot is sixth with a loss and 11th with a win, per their model.
Football Outsiders doesn’t give a pick-by-pick breakdown, but simply notes the probability—based on their DVOA metric plus a simulation of 30,000 outcomes—a team has a top-five pick.
They’re giving the Lions a 15.9 percent chance of a top-five pick, which is almost exactly along the same lines as PlayoffStatus.com (16%).
Ethan Douglas and Dane Brugler have been running a weekly draft order predictions article for the past couple of weeks. Their projections are based on 1,000,000 simulations. Here’s what they take into account in those projections:
Each team’s EPR, home field advantage, and rest advantages. Each team’s EPR is a prediction of how many points we’d expect that team to beat an average team by on a neutral field. You can read more about EPR and the model here.
Per this model’s projections, the most common spot the Lions finish at is seventh, with their overall average at 7.5.
As for probabilities, they offer just the chances of landing in the top three, top five or top 10. Here’s that breakdown:
Top 3 pick: 0.4%
Top 5 pick: 20.2%
Top 10 pick: 80.0%
This model is obviously a little more optimistic about the Lions’ draft position, giving them a four percent better chance of landing a top-five pick than the previous two models.
I’ve saved the best (see: most optimistic) for last. ESPN’s projection model runs 10,000 simulations based on their FPI metric.
Per their model, the Lions’ average draft position after their simulations is 7.0, a good 0.5 higher than The Athletic’s projections. Their probabilities are also much more optimistic about Detroit capturing a top five or top-10 pick.
Top 5 pick: 28.3%
Top 10 pick: 84.3%
Putting it all together, it all really depends on what you think happens on Sunday. If the Lions lose to the Vikings, the seventh overall pick is the most likely scenario. Given that Detroit is pretty beat up, playing horribly right now, and may not have the services of Matthew Stafford, it feels like a pretty good bet.
However, the Vikings have only pride to play for, and it’s unclear what their plans are with their starters. If Detroit pulls off the upset (Vikings currently favored by 6.5), they’ll almost certainly fall out of the top 10 and likely a little further than that.