For most of 2015, the Buccaneers, owners of a 2-14 record in 2014 and the first pick in the draft this spring, have had the No. 1 waiver priority, based on last year’s record. Throughout the offseason, the Bucs had the first shot at any player who passed through waivers, but that’s no longer the case. As Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets, today is the first day of the season that the NFL’s waiver order is determined by 2015 record.
While four teams have 0-3 records, the Lions currently have top waiver priority, since ties are broken based on a club’s strength of schedule — teams that have faced the weakest schedules get priority. Through three weeks, the Lions’ opponents have a combined 6-3 record, while the teams played by the 0-3 Ravens, Bears, and Saints all have at least seven total wins.
Conversely, the Patriots currently have the 32nd waiver priority in the NFL, based on their 3-0 record and their strength of schedule. The three teams New England has beat have a 5-4 overall combined record. By comparison, the three opponents the Broncos have faced, for instance, are just 1-8, so Denver is at the front of the 3-0 teams in terms of priority.
While the new waiver order could pay off for certain teams in the short term, it may be even more crucial later in the season. After the trade deadline passes in October, every player is subject to waivers — up until that point, only players with less than four years of experience can be claimed on waivers. That means that there may be some veteran talent claimed off waivers later in the year, and the league’s weakest teams will have first dibs.