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2023 NFL Draft order: What’s on the line for Lions in Broncos vs. Rams

Breaking down the 2023 NFL Draft order implications for the Detroit Lions when it comes to Broncos vs. Rams.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Denver Broncos C. Morgan Engel-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions’ playoff odds are far from completely dead, but the team’s uninspiring performance on Saturday against the Carolina Panthers has some fans looking forward to the 2023 season. While I’m still focused on the final two games of the season, I am also a people pleaser. And so if you’re onto the 2023 NFL Draft, I’ve got you covered.

There is still plenty on the line for the Lions when it comes to next year’s draft thanks to the complete failure of the 2022 Los Angeles Rams. Detroit still has one remaining pick left from last year’s Matthew Stafford trade—the Rams’ 2023 first-round pick. As of right now, that pick slots in fourth in draft order, but that could change pretty dramatically on Sunday.

That’s because the 4-10 Rams face off against the 4-10 Denver Broncos in a pivotal game for two teams who won’t even be playing. The Lions own the Rams’ first-round pick, while the Seahawks own the Broncos’ first-round pick.

So what exactly is on the line for the Lions? Let’s start by looking at the current draft order:

  1. Texans: 2-12-1 (.496 strength of schedule)
  2. Bears: 3-12 (.565)
  3. Broncos (owned by Seahawks): 4-10 (.488)
  4. Rams (owned by Lions): 4-10 (.506)
  5. Cardinals: 4-10 (.516)
  6. Colts: 4-9-1 (.510)
  7. Falcons: 5-10 (.458)
  8. Panthers: 6-9 (.454)
  9. Raiders: 6-9 (.464)
  10. Saints (owned by Eagles): 6-9 (.498)
  11. Browns (owned by Texans): 6-9 (.520)
  12. Packers: 6-8 (.536)

What’s on the line is very simple: if the Rams lose, that pick jumps a spot to No. 3. If they win, the pick drops all the way to No. 7.

But beyond that, we can already start to surmise the limits of where the pick will end up with just two weeks left in the season.

If the Rams lose and fall to 4-11, their pick could still be as high at No. 1 overall and it can’t fall any lower than 11, seeing as they could max out at six wins. Theoretically, they could fall to 12, but the Packers’ strength of schedule isn’t likely to shift that dramatically.

If the Rams win and move to 5-10, that pick can only be as high as No. 3, and it could drop down into the 12-14 range if they win out. Theoretically, they could still get to seven wins, and there are seven-win teams all the way down to Pick 18. However, some of these teams will beat up on each other, and the Rams’ medium strength of schedule (.506) is likely to keep them above teams like the Patriots (.522 strength of schedule), Steelers (.534), Jets (.534) and Lions (.540), even if any of those teams lose out.

The best news out of all of this is that Rams’ final two games are going to be difficult. With no Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, A’Shawn Robinson and likely Aaron Donald, the Rams will go on the road against teams still playing for something: the 8-6 Chargers and 7-8 Seahawks. (NOTE: The Chargers can clinch a playoff spot on Monday with a win, but they’ll likely be jockeying for playoff position.) If the Rams lose those two games, their pick won’t be any lower than No. 7, even if they beat the Broncos on Sunday.

And here’s the most important and exciting note of all: If the Rams lose out, their pick will finish between first and third overall (unless the Cardinals lose out and their strength of schedule shifts dramatically).

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.