Broncos Path to No. 1: The best-case scenario for Denver’s draft pick in Week 7

Henry Chisholm Avatar
October 20, 2023

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Draft season has, unfortunately, arrived in Denver.

After losing five of their firs six games, the Broncos are out of the playoff hunt, so it’s time to start taking a look around the league to see where the Broncos stand in the draft order, and where they could end up if everything breaks the right way this weekend.

In this new weekly series, we’ll take a look at the current top 10 picks in April’s draft and rank all of the week’s NFL games by how important they are to the Broncos’ draft hopes, and which team Broncos fans should be cheering for.

The Broncos enter Week 7 with the third pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. By the end of the week, they could have the No. 2 pick, the No. 7 pick, or any pick in between.

Every week, the game that impacts the Broncos’ draft pick the most will be their own. Their win or loss will generally move them by a handful of picks, while any other result will move them by one or two picks, if at all. I’m not including the Broncos’ games in this list, because it’s obviously the most important and I don’t want to tell you whether or not to root for your favorite team.

Win or lose, all of the ideal results below give the Broncos the best draft positioning as of today, whether they wind up competing for the No. 1 pick or the No. 10 pick at the end of the season.

For those who don’t know, the first pick in the NFL draft goes to the team with the worst record in the preceding season. The second-worst record receives the second pick, and so on. If there’s a tie, the earlier pick goes to the team with the easiest strength of schedule. Strength of schedule is determined by averaging the win percentages of the team’s opponents. The idea is that if two teams have the same record, the worse team is the team that played the less succesful opponents.

Strength of schedule varies significantly week-to-week early in the season. For example, the Broncos had a .481 strength of schedule (great for draft positioning) entering Week 6 and a .531 strenght of schedule (not great) after Week 6.

Here’s what the Top 10 of the 2024 NFL Draft looks like ahead of Week 7:

PICKTEAMRECORDSOS
No. 1Chicago (via CAR)0-60.531
No. 2Chicago1-50.464
No. 3Denver1-50.531
No. 4Arizona1-50.561
No. 5New York Giants1-50.570
No. 6New England1-50.570
No. 7Minnesota2-40.500
No. 8Tennessee2-40.536
No. 9Green Bay2-30.434
No. 10Los Angeles Chargers2-30.505

And here’s what ESPN projects the Top 10 will look like ahead of Week 7, according to its Football Power Index:

PICKTEAMRECORDPROJ. RECORD
No. 1Chicago (via CAR)0-63.8-13.2
No. 2Arizona1-53.9-13.1
No. 3New York Giants1-54.7-12.3
No. 4Denver1-54.7-12.3
No. 5New England1-55.0-12.0
No. 6Chicago1-55.5-11.5
No. 7Washington3-37.0-10.0
No. 8Las Vegas3-37.1-9.9
No. 9Tennessee2-47.3-9.7
No. 10Green Bay2-37.6-9.4

And here’s who Broncos fans should root for this weekend, from lowest importance to most importance:

Tier 3

These games have a tangential impact on the Broncos’ draft position, if any.

12. Falcons (3-3) over Buccanneers (3-2), 11 a.m.

Atlanta plays one more game against the current one-win teams than Tampa does. Nothing else is on the line unless you think either team has a significantly higher chance than the other to fall off enough to compete with the Broncos in draft position.

10. Rams (3-3) over Steelers (3-2), 2:05 p.m.

The Rams double-dip against the Cardinals, so they’ll be a top team to root for as long as the Cards are in the race for the top pick.

11. Chargers (2-3) over Chiefs (5-1), 2:25 p.m.

Surely, the Chargers will win more games than the Broncos… right? Currently, there’s only a one-game difference between the two teams.

Tier 2

These games primarily include 2023 Broncos opponents, which impact Denver’s strength of schedule.

9. Ravens (4-2) over Lions (5-1), 11 a.m.

The Broncos have the Lions on the schedule, so a loss benefits them. Unfortunately, the Lions have other one-loss teams on the schedule—most notably the Bears twice—but it’s still in the Broncos’ best interest for them to lose.

8. Saints (3-3) over Jaguars (4-2), Thu., 6:15 p.m.

New Orleans is the Holy Grail of strength of schedule for the Broncos. This season, the Saints play the Giants, the Patriots, the Bears, and the Panthers twice. That’s five games against the five teams (other than the Broncos) with one loss or fewer. The Jaguars only play one game against those teams.

7. Colts (3-3) over Browns (3-2), 11 a.m.

The Broncos play the Browns.

6. Eagles (5-1) over Dolphins (5-1), 6:20 p.m.

The Broncos play the Dolphins this season. Plus, the Eagles play one more game against the league’s bottomfeeders than the Dolphins.

Tier 1

These games feature teams that are in direct competition with the Broncos for draft positioning.

5. Vikings (2-4) over 49ers (5-1), Mon., 6:15 p.m.

Are the Vikings in the race for the No. 1 pick? Probably not. But they’re only one game ahead of the Broncos.

4. Cardinals (1-5) over Seahawks (3-2), 2:05 p.m.

Of the teams competing for the top pick, the Cardinals seem to be the most likely to hold onto their quarterback instead of replacing him with a rookie. The odds of that are slim, but a tiebreaker was needed.

3. Patriots (1-5) over Bills (4-2), 11 a.m.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think the Pats will pull off the upset. If they do, Broncos fans should be thrilled.

2. Giants (1-5) over Commanders (3-3), 11 a.m.

Not only would the Bears pick up a win, the Broncos get a bonus since Washington is on their schedule. Maybe this game should be lower, since FPI projects Washington to fall off over the rest of the season, but I’m sticking with it.

1. Bears (1-5) over Raiders (3-3), 11 a.m.

The Bears currently have the lowest strength of schedule of any team in the race for the top pick, so they would win any tiebreaker. Getting them away from the top of the board is a top priority for the Broncos. Plus a win over the Raiders is good for the Broncos’ strength of schedule.

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