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It’s almost over, folks. We are nearly at the end of this languorous, taxing season. San Francisco will head into its final game against Seattle, as has been the norm this season, without the vast majority of its core. Here’s an succinct assessment of who’s not available from Matt Barrows:
#49ers would-be starters who won't play in Week 17:
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) January 1, 2021
The only question that remains is where they’ll sit in the draft standings at day’s end.
With a loss
This is the only meaningful or likely way for the 49ers to move up in the draft. At 6-9, they’re currently 15th in the draft order.
The main tiebreaker between teams with the same record is strength of schedule. The 49ers (.544 strength of schedule) lose most tiebreakers. There are potentially six, but more probably five spots that San Francisco can gain.
- If the Carolina Panthers (5-10, .529 SOS) beat the New Orleans Saints (11-4), there is an outside chance that the 49ers could gain a spot. It would require the Panthers’ strength of schedule to jump significantly and for the 49ers’ to drop. A Saints loss would drop both teams’ strength of schedules. That is a very unlikely scenario, but it would mean +1 spot.
- If the Denver Broncos (5-10, .567 SOS) beat the Oakland Raiders (7-8, .542 SOS), the 49ers would get +1 spot.
- If the Dallas Cowboys (6-9, .465 SOS) beat the New York Giants (5-10) and Washington (6-9, .465 SOS) beats the Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1), the 49ers would gain +1 spot. Washington is currently in a playoff spot, but if they lose and Dallas wins, they would drop back out of that playoff spot and into a high draft pick, making it a wash. Nothing changes if Dallas loses.
- If the Los Angeles Chargers (6-9, .490 SOS) beat the Kansas City Chiefs (14-1), who are resting many of their starters, including Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill, and who the Chargers took to overtime earlier this season, the 49ers would gain +1 spot.
- If the Minnesota Vikings (6-9, .508 SOS) beat the Detroit Lions (5-10, .504 SOS), the 49ers gain +1 spot.
- If the New England Patriots (6-9, .533 SOS) beat the New York Jets (2-13) or if the Patriots’ strength of schedule rises and the 49ers’ (.544) falls enough, a Patriots loss could also mean +1 spot.
That’s all of them. Currently in the 15th spot, there are about five probable scenarios for the 49ers to jump up the draft order, possibly to the 10th spot. Ninth is technically possible, but highly unlikely.
With a win
This is even more straightforward. If the 49ers win, they are very likely to hold their 15th overall draft spot. The only way they could possibly gain a spot in this scenario is if the Patriots won and their strength of schedule eclipsed San Francisco’s. There is an outside chance of the 49ers getting +1 spot if they win, but it’s the only possibility for gaining spots in the draft.
The concern here is the Las Vegas Raiders (7-8, .542 SOS). If they lose to the Broncos and the 49ers would win, the records would be even, and the strength of schedules would be very tight.
One factor that favors the 49ers is that a Raiders loss means their strength of schedule would get tougher, and a 49ers win would make their strength of schedule easier. That could be all it takes to shift that number in the 49ers’ favor given how tight the numbers are. If the strength of schedule doesn’t go their way, that’s -1 spot.
If the 49ers win: They will likely hold the No. 15 overall pick. There is an outside chance of gaining one spot, and a reasonable chance of losing one spot.
If the 49ers lose: It is probable that they will gain ground in the draft. They could technically jump all the way to No. 9, but No. 10 is the more accurate way to view their draft ceiling. There are five individual paths to gain single draft spots, but there is still a possibility of remaining at No. 15 overall. They could not lose any ground with a loss.