NFL Draft: Bears stay on track for top pick, Patriots drop to No. 4

Coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots won in Week 16, decreasing their chances to pick No. 1 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft. File Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
1 of 5 | Coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots won in Week 16, decreasing their chances to pick No. 1 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft. File Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 26 (UPI) -- The Chicago Bears stayed on track to keep the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, thanks to another Carolina Panthers loss in Week 16. The Arizona Cardinals are in line to pick second.

The 2024 NFL Draft will be held April 25 to 27 in Detroit. Two weeks remain in the NFL's 2023-24 regular season. Losses in the final two games for teams with the worst records in the league will improve their draft stock. Wins could mean they lose a chance to snag an elite college football prospect.


Quarterbacks Caleb Williams of Southern California and Drake Maye of North Carolina are considered the top prospects in the draft class.

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., and tackles Olumuyiwa Fashanu of Penn State and Joe Alt of Notre Dame are among other top prospects.


The Panthers (2-13), who traded their first-round pick to the Bears in March, have the worst record in the NFL. Chicago will secure the top pick with two more Panthers losses, but could lose the chance to pick first if the Panthers manage a win and other teams continue to lose.

The Cardinals lost their second-consecutive game in Week 16 to drop to 3-12. The Washington Commanders (4-11) and New England Patriots (4-11), who are on track to own the respective No. 3 and No. 4 picks, swapped spots in the order because of their Week 16 results.

The New York Jets handed the Commanders their sixth consecutive loss. The Patriots beat the Denver Broncos to earn their second win in three weeks.

The Patriots are behind the Commanders in the draft order because their strength of schedule is more difficult. Strength of schedule (winning percentage of opponents) is a tiebreaker for draft order if teams finish the season with the same record.

The New York Giants (projected to pick No. 5), Los Angeles Chargers (No. 6) and Tennessee Titans (No. 7), who have 5-10 records, are all eliminated for No. 1 pick contention, but remain in play to pick as high as No. 2.


The Bears (6-9), Jets (6-9) and Atlanta Falcons (7-8) currently hold picks Nos. 8 through 10, respectively. The New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Las Vegas Raiders, Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings also have 7-8 records and are on track to pick inside the Top 15.

The Cardinals also have the Houston Texans (8-7) first-round pick. That pick is currently slotted at No. 16. The Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7) and Cincinnati Bengals (8-7) are on track to pick No. 17 and No. 18.

The remaining 14 spots in the first round will be determined by playoff finishes.

Some of those playoff teams could impact the draft order by sitting out starters over the final two weeks so that they are healthy for the postseason. Those diluted lineups could result in losing games.

Among the four teams with a chance to secure the No. 1 pick, the Patriots face the easiest upcoming stretch of schedule, based on winning percentage (.500). Their final two games will be against the Buffalo Bills (9-6) and Jets, who have a 15-15 combined record.


The Commanders have toughest upcoming strength of schedule (.700). They will host their final games against the San Francisco 49ers (11-4) and Dallas Cowboys (10-5).

The Cardinals also face a tough upcoming schedule, with games against teams that have a combined .633 winning percentage in the Eagles (11-4) and Seattle Seahawks (8-7).

The Patriots' upcoming foes have a .500 winning percentage. They will face the Bills in Week 17 in Orchard Park, N.Y. They will then host the Jets in their season finale.

The Panthers (.566) will battle the Jaguars in Week 17 in Jacksonville, Fla. They will host the Bills in a Week 18 finale, which could determine if the Bears own the No. 1 overall pick.

Just eight of the NFL's 32 teams are officially eliminated from playoff contention. The Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions, Cowboys, 49ers and Eagles already clinched playoff berths.

Current Top 10 NFL Draft order

1. Carolina Panthers (2-13) -- pick owned by Chicago Bears

2. Arizona Cardinals (3-12)

3. Washington Commanders (4-11)

4. New England Patriots (4-11)


5. New York Giants (5-10)

6. Los Angeles Chargers (5-10)

7. Tennessee Titans (5-10)

8. Chicago Bears (6-9)

9. New York Jets (6-9)

10. Atlanta Falcons (7-8)

Week 17 schedule (All times EST)


Jets at Browns at 8:15 p.m.


Lions at Cowboys at 8:15 p.m.


Titans at Texans at 1 p.m.

Falcons at Bears at 1 p.m.

Dolphins at Ravens at 1 p.m.

Saints at Buccaneers at 1 p.m.

Patriots at Bills at 1 p.m.

Cardinals at Eagles at 1 p.m.

Panthers at Jaguars at 1 p.m.

Raiders at Colts at 1 p.m.

Rams at Giants at 1 p.m.

49ers at Commanders at 1 p.m.

Steelers at Seahawks at 4:05 p.m.

Bengals at Chiefs at 4:25 p.m.

Chargers at Broncos at 4:25 p.m.

Packers at Vikings at 8:20 p.m.

Week 18 schedule

Dates and times TBD

Bears at Packers

Cowboys at Commanders

Broncos at Raiders

Jaguars at Titans

Texas at Colts

Bills at Dolphins

Eagles at Giants

Seahawks at Cardinals

Vikings at Lions

Falcons at Saints

Jets at Patriots

Steelers at Ravens

Rams at 49ers

Chiefs at Chargers

Buccaneers at Panthers

Browns at Bengals

Eagles top Giants, end losing streak

Philadelphia Eagles running back D'Andre Swift (0) is tackled by New York Giants safeties Jason Pinnock (27) and Xavier McKinney (29) during the second half at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on December 25, 2023. Photo by Laurence Kesterson/UPI | License Photo

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