(Why the NFL Draft Drives Economists Crazy, Reed Albergotti, Wall Street Journal)
For a league that does many things well, the first round of the NFL draft is a mess.One thing that struck me about this article was that everyone was ignoring what the draft is really about. Yes, there's the fluff about 'stars of the future' and 'building your team for tomorrow' and all of the sappy stuff you see on ESPN and all of that is somewhat true. But the MAIN reason for the NFL draft is to fire up the fan base in the off-season and make a little money while doing it.
The league gives its worst teams first crack at incoming college talent in the name of parity, but instead of giving bad teams a leg up, it often forces them to draft players they don't really need at prices they can't afford. Many top picks hold out of training camp before they sign, only to end up with enormous contracts that have little to do with their true value to a football team.
What's more, as this page reported Wednesday, NFL teams have a 50% chance of blowing a first-round pick entirely—the sort of costly gaffe that can set a franchise back for years.
There's no shortage of potential draft fixes: Players and their agents would like a more free-market system, similar to European soccer, in which transfer fees in the hundreds of millions are handed out like drink coupons. "Why don't we just abolish the draft and have everyone become a free agent just like any other workaday world?" asks football agent Steven Feldman.
Move to an allocation or lottery system and there's not going to be near the run-up one sees to the first pick of Round One. There won't be any renting out of Radio City Music Hall, there won't be a draft-day party at Reliant Center, and their won't be well....much of anything really. Using computer algorithms for Doctors, an industry where a 'draft bust' could have life and death consequences, is one thing, taking away the potential for failure out of the NFL draft is another animal all-together.
Want proof? Take a look at the most talked-about pick last night: The Broncos trading up to pick NFL maybe-QB Tim Tebow. Do you really want to take away that element?
If the financials are a concern then I have a solution that everyone but the players and their agents are going to like. Have all rookies enter the league at a pre-determined entry salary. Not for long mind you, only for two years so that their play can be evaluated before teams are required to throw Millions of dollars their way. At the end of two years, the teams & the player can either come to terms on a new contract or the player becomes a free-agent with another team being forced to give up a compensatory draft pick to the team that did not sign the player. Alternatively, if the team decides to not pursue contract negotiations then the player is a free agent outright. I'm not suggesting this is a perfect system, but it would take away the element of gambling from the player evaluation process. You'd still have the potential that a team could blow it, (Cheap teams or teams with bad management being the most obvious) but at least that risk could be mitigated somewhat.
In professional sports as a whole, top draft picks now consider their Multi-Million dollar signing bonus to be a birthright, making pro-sports one of the few industries where employees can earn a Millionaire's salary with zero accomplishments. As I said, players and agents would hate this rule, because it would mean that they actually have to produce before getting paid.
Sort of like you and I right?