With a loss in Week 14 to the Denver Broncos, the LA Chargers have officially seen their playoff hopes and dreams come crashing down. With Justin Herbert getting hurt in the process, it is time for the Bolts to look ahead toward the 2024 NFL Draft.
Just like the playoff picture in the NFL, the top of the NFL Draft order is also crowded with a lot of teams and there can be a lot of movement in the top-10 picks. Even though they were still in the playoff hunt a week ago, the Chargers can actually climb in the draft order in these final four weeks.
But how high can the team actually climb? That is the golden question that every Chargers fan in asking. Let's break down the top of the draft order and project where the Chargers may end up.
Where the Chargers currently are in the 2024 NFL Draft order:
- Carolina Panthers (traded to Chicago Bears): 1-12
- New England Patriots: 3-10
- Arizona Cardinals: 3-10
- Washington Commanders: 4-9
- Chicago Bears: 5-8
- Las Vegas Raiders: 5-8
- New York Jets: 5-8
- New York Giants: 5-8
- Tennessee Titans: 5-8
- LA Chargers: 5-8
- Atlanta Falcons: 6-7
- New Orleans Saints: 6-7
- Seattle Seahawks: 6-7
- LA Rams: 6-7
These are all the teams that are either ahead of the Chargers in the draft order or are within one game of the Bolts. With Herbert being out, it is reasonable to say that the Bolts are guaranteed a top-14 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and the odds of them picking 14 are pretty slim.
There are five other teams in the NFL who have a 5-8 record, including the team's Week 15 opponent, the Las Vegas Raiders. That gives the Chargers a lot of ground to climb and if things go really bad, they could potentially even leapfrog the 4-9 Commanders in the draft order as well.
Let's assume the Chargers lose out and finish the season 5-12 (after all, without Justin Herbert, that is the most likely outcome). The question then becomes which teams ahead of the Chargers have winnable games down the stretch.
The Raiders play the Chargers on Thursday, so even if they lose every other game, that obviously puts them behind the Bolts in the draft. The Jets play the Commanders, so one of those teams has to win and allow the Chargers to gain ground. Chicago has been one of the hottest teams in the league and has a game against the Cardinals, so the Bears should win at least one.
The Titans and Giants both have tough ends to the season, so projecting a win for them is hard. That doesn't make it impossible, but it seems more likely that both of those teams lose out. With that being said, the most likely outcome for the Chargers appears to be them jumping three teams that are currently 5-8.
What are the NFL Draft order tiebreakers?
In this situation (assuming the Jets beat the Commanders) the Chargers would be one of three teams with a 5-12 record alongside the Tennessee Titans and New York Giants. The league would then turn to each team's strength of schedule to determine the draft order.
As it stands right now, the Chargers' strength of schedule for all 17 opponents is .525. New York has a SOS of .516 and Tennessee has a SOS of .520. In this situation, having a lower SOS is better as it gets the team higher in the draft order.
There is room for these to change based on the final four weeks of the season but as it stands right now, the Chargers would pick after the Giants and Titans because of this tiebreaker.
As a result, making the assumptions that we made in this article, the Chargers are likely to wind up with the seventh overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. If both the Giants and Titans can shockingly win a game then the Bolts can get as high as the fifth overall pick.