Here is how the Detroit Lions still can get a top-five pick in 2021 NFL draft

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

The New York Jets spent three months tanking for Trevor, and then lost Lawrence — in all likelihood — with one totally unexpected win.

The Jacksonville Jaguars supplanted the Jets at the top of the draft order (and the bottom of my power rankings) in a crazy weekend in the NFL.

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The Jets and Cincinnati Bengals upset probable playoff teams. The New England Patriots locked up a non-winning season for the first time in 20 years. And the Detroit Lions got curb-stomped by the Tennessee Titans, 46-25, in their worst defensive performance of the season.

The loss kept the Lions at No. 11 in the current draft order and set the stage for a compelling final two weeks. If the Lions lose their final two games, Saturday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and next week against the Minnesota Vikings, they should have no trouble moving into the draft’s top eight and could crack the top five.

That’s a best-case scenario for the tank crowd, but here’s how it could happen with 10 four- and five-win teams still jockeying for draft position and a tip of the cap to Tankathon.com for the current order:

Nos. 1-3 Jets, Jaguars and Bengals

Chances are incredibly high that the Jets, Jaguars and Bengals will have the first three picks of the draft, though the Lions still could finish ahead of the Bengals, who have a winnable game against the Houston Texans this week and then close the season against the Baltimore Ravens.

[ Lions’ decision to fire Coombs was about more than Sunday’s rogue play call ]

No. 4 Carolina Panthers

If you’re rooting for the Lions to move up in the draft order, you want Matt Rhule’s team to win at Washington this week. The Panthers, like the other 4-10 teams, the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans, have a stronger strength of schedule than the Lions, which means the Lions would pick higher in the event they finish with identical records. If the Panthers lose this week, they probably will pick third or fourth as they close the season against the New Orleans Saints.

No. 5 Atlanta Falcons

Head-to-head does not matter when it comes to draft position, so the Lions need the Falcons to win one of their final two games to climb past them in the final draft order. You’re better off rooting for the Panthers to beat Washington, though, as Atlanta closes the season against the Kansas City Chiefs and Buccaneers.

No. 6 Houston Texans

The Miami Dolphins actually own this pick, by virtue of last year’s Laremy Tunsil trade, so the Texans have no reason to play for draft positioning. If they beat the Bengals this week, which they should, they will fall below the Lions in the draft order.

No. 7 Eagles, No. 8 Cowboys, No. 10 Giants

I lumped these three NFC East teams together because they play a sort of round-robin draft tournament here the next two weeks. Bottom line, the Lions move up in the draft order whenever one of those teams wins, so for your rooting interests, in the most likely scenario, you want the Cowboys to beat the Eagles this week, the Eagles to win Week 17 against Washington, and the Giants to beat the Cowboys in the season finale.

Worst-case scenario for the Lions would be the Cowboys winning out. If the Eagles also lose in Week 17, and the Giants lose in Baltimore this week, that means the Lions would move up only one spot in the draft order.

[ Firing Brayden Coombs may not sit well with Lions. But there’s a bigger problem ]

No. 9 Los Angeles Chargers

Two weeks ago, the Chargers seemed like a lock to be picking ahead of the Lions, then they beat the Falcons and Raiders, and if they can win a third straight game Sunday against the lowly Denver Broncos they will slide past the Lions in the draft order. With a Week 17 road trip on tap to Kansas City, that might be the Chargers’ last chance at a win.

So there you have it. That’s all you need to happen for the Lions to land another top-five. 

This week’s power rankings

1. Chiefs (13-1)

2. Packers (11-3)

3. Bills (11-3)

4. Titans (10-4)

5. Saints (10-4)

6. Seahawks (10-4)

7. Steelers (11-3)

8. Browns (10-4)

9. Ravens (9-5)

10. Colts (10-4)

11. Dolphins (9-5) 

12. Rams (9-5)

13. Cardinals (8-6)

14. Buccaneers (9-5)

15. Bears (7-7)

16. Raiders (7-7)

17. Washington (6-8)

18. Vikings (6-8)

19. Patriots (6-8)

20. 49ers (5-9)

21. Chargers (5-9)

22. Giants (5-9)

23. Lions (5-9)

24. Cowboys (5-9)

25. Broncos (5-9)

26. Texans (4-10)

27. Eagles (4-9-1)

28. Panthers (4-10)

29. Falcons (4-10)

30. Bengals (3-10-1)

31. Jaguars (1-13)

32. Jets (1-13)

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.  

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