This has come up several times in the last week, so I figure I'd post this guide:
(1a) The SB winner is assigned pick #32 in each round (excluding supplementals).
(1b) The SB loser is assigned pick #31 in each round.
remaining teams are then sorted by W/L percentage, regardless of whether they make the playoffs or not.
SEA will finish either 9-7 or 8-8. If they finish 9-7, they will pick ahead of all
10-6 teams, even the 10-6 teams that don't make the playoffs. If they finish at 8-8, they will also pick ahead of all
(3) Within each grouping of identical records, teams are ranked as follows:
(3a) Teams that don't
make the playoffs are ranked in increasing order of strength of schedule.
(3b) Next, teams that do
make the playoffs are ranked by the order in which they exit the playoffs.
A team that loses its first playoff game will pick before a team that reaches a conference championship, even if the latter team has a weaker SOS. If they exit in the same round, then SOS is used. [So, for example, if BAL and IND both finish at 12-4, and BAL bounces IND from the playoffs, BAL will pick after IND, even though IND had a tougher schedule.]
(3c) If SOS is tied, divisional and/or conference records are used.
(3d) If that fails, a coin toss is used.
(4) For rounds two through seven, with the exception of the SB teams, all rankings cycle within their respective groupings.
Assume the 10-6 teams are DAL, NYJ, and PHI. In round two, they would pick in the order NYJ-PHI-DAL; in round three, PHI-DAL-NYJ, and so on through the remaining rounds.
So, the relevance of this to the Pats' picks is as follows:
* There is no rule that guarantees a playoff team cannot pick higher than #21. [It just so happened last year that the 12 teams that made the playoffs had the 12 best records.]
* The Pats' pick from SEA will pick either near the bottom of the 8-8 group or the 9-7 group, unless SEA reaches the SB. [Realistically, the pick will be in the 16-20 range.]
* The Pats' own pick, before adjustments for the SB, must be between 27 and 30. After the SB, it could be anywhere from 25 (if two teams with higher picks reach the SB) to 32 (I hope I don't have to explain how this happens