NFL Draft Lottery Could be the Response to Tanking

Tanking isn’t prevalent in the NFL like it is in the NBA. Teams in the NBA tank every single year, and there are not any signs that will end anytime soon. You can argue that there has not been a speculated case of tanking in the NFL since the Indianapolis Colts did for Andrew Luck back in 2011 after losing Peyton Manning to a season-long injury.

All signs point to the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills attempting a tank for 2017, a season that precedes a very highly-touted quarterback draft class. Seems fitting being that both franchises appear to lack a long-term answer at QB.

During the summer, it looked like the Jets were the only team that wasn’t making winning a priority for the 2017 season. But following a flurry of moves by the Bills, that involved trading away multiple talented players for future draft picks, it looks like they’re following right along. Coincidentally, both teams play each other to start the season. What a barn burner that is shaping up to be.

This is a unique situation for the NFL. Naturally, the question has to be asked. How will the league respond? As I previously stated, tanking has never been very common in the NFL. However, if you look at the sports landscape and look at some franchises that followed the model of selling off players for future assets, clearing cap space and setting themselves up for high draft picks, it’s looking more and more like an accepted way to go about building a team.

Take the Houston Astros, who followed this message a few years ago and now they are one of the best teams in baseball. Look at the Philadelphia 76ers, who did the same a couple years later and now have one of the most talented young cores in the NBA. An argument can be made that the Cleveland Browns have used a similar strategy with their heavy emphasis on analytics, a concept that the NFL has been trying to resist for years.

The Browns, while just winning a game a season ago and look to potentially max out at 5-6 wins in 2017, have assembled a good collection of talented young players. On top of that, they still have several future draft picks that will enable them to continue building with players at the top of the draft. This past offseason, they made what can be considered the most “NBA trade ever” when they took on Brock Osweiler and that gaudy contract from the Houston Texans in exchange for a 2nd round pick. These are the deals that get made in the NBA every single year.

So, back to the original question – what does the NFL do about it? My answer – I think a draft lottery is coming.

The NBA Draft Lottery has become an event. More importantly to the league, it is a national television event. As the NBA is vigorously fighting to close the popularity gap between itself and the NFL, the lottery is an event the NFL simply doesn’t have. I have to think a time will come at the owners’ meetings when they say enough is enough and start coming up with a plan for an NFL version of the draft lottery.

Let’s be real. The NFL tries so hard (if not too hard) to become a year-round sport. As nauseating as I find their attempts to do so, implementing an NFL Draft Lottery will certainly help them fit that description.

Implementing an NFL Draft Lottery will essentially accomplish two things. In addition to creating another must-watch national television event during the offseason, its also a response to teams attempting to tank. The latter was the exact reason the NBA implemented a lottery over thirty years ago. Will the worst teams still have the best odds or ping pong balls? Absolutely. But attempting to be the worst team in the league will no longer guarantee getting the #1 overall pick in the draft.

The structure for it could be a lot of fun. Like the NBA, every non-playoff team would be part of the drawing. Just imagine the storyline associated with that mediocre team that is talented enough to 7-8 games but lacks a franchise QB. In the NFL, winning 7-8 games generally nets a draft pick somewhere in the high-teens, a spot where it can be very difficult to draft a future franchise quarterback. Now if they strike gold in the lottery, that team can either accelerate their rebuild or fill a gaping hole in a way that was not possible before.

It may seem like a long shot now. But I guarantee this idea at least will be discussed before too long. If I were to bet on it, I think we have an NFL Draft Lottery within the next few years.


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Author: Casey Gillespie

Editor in Chief, Eye off the Ball.

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