The yearly NFL Draft gives all NFL franchises an excellent opportunity to evolve their team rosters. It is a chance to bring in fresh, young talent that can either offer an immediate boost to the team or a long-term benefit based on their ongoing development. Of course, there are always drafts that don’t work out, too, with some franchises opting to take a calculated gamble on a player that doesn’t pay off.
As the NFL has expanded, both in size and global popularity, the way in which the NFL Draft rules operate has evolved over time to ensure fairness across all 32 teams. Most importantly, the finish of a team in the previous season determines the order of selection. Those who finish at the bottom of a Conference with the worst losing record will pick first in the following season’s Draft. Such works well as it gives teams a chance to have the first pick to overhaul their squad with new talent radically, either from college football or internally, via other NFL franchises.
However, there is still work to do by the NFL to either improve the way the NFL Draft works for teams financially or heighten the excitement of it for fans around the world. It’s quite possible that the NFL Draft could learn a thing or two from other sports with global popularity. Let’s look at some of the other leading global sports that could influence the way in which the NFL Draft works in the future.
In the world of soccer, as we know it this side of the pond, most of the biggest leagues have transfer windows that allow teams to buy and sell their players midway through the season as well as during the preseason. The January transfer window has created something of a phenomenon, for sure, in English and mainland Europe where fans of the biggest teams can sit down and watch “Deadline Day” unfold on January 31st. It’s where the sides battle at the top of the English Premier League (EPL), attempting to sign the missing piece in the jigsaw that helps them over the line as champions. Could the NFL incorporate a second Draft midway through the season that gives struggling sides a chance to revamp their squad if things have gone wrong?
Sticking with the same sport, could the NFL Draft take a leaf out of the A-League’s book? Australian soccer is one of the fastest-emerging leagues in the world, and you might be surprised to hear that the league has a set ceiling on transfer fees of $7,000 (AUD). The thinking behind this is that the league’s wealthiest clubs — Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory FC and Melbourne City FC — cannot outspend the other teams in the league, helping to maintain a competitive playing field. Could the NFL Draft incorporate a ceiling on drafts and trades that ensure no team with a huge financial backer can blow smaller sides out of the water? It could be another effective way to maintain that fairness.
In Texas Hold ‘em poker where a significant part of poker strategy focuses on discipline and organization in bankroll management, players must set a maximum price they can wager on their hand. Doing so centers on statistics and the probability of a hand winning. Could NFL general managers take a leaf out of poker’s book by closely evaluating the price they can pay for college prospects? By sticking to a set price, it’s a chance to improve the profitability of NFL franchises.
It doesn’t matter what game of poker you play, Texas Hold ‘em or even Omaha Hi-Lo, profitability is everything, and it should be the same with the NFL Draft as a way of optimizing transfer costs and avoiding paying over the odds for a player that may not ever fulfill their potential straight out of college football. It’s also worth noting that the online poker industry has been an inspiration for the daily fantasy sports industry, with NFL fans able to profit from the performance of their favorite players by almost acting like talent scouts. You could go one further than this and decide to allow fans of each NFL team to vote on the players their team should trade or sign in the upcoming Draft. Some people may have reservations that it would be open to rigging from outsiders, but they could restrict the vote to only those with season tickets, for example.
In the world of cricket, which has seen the game of Twenty20 become a global success, mid-season transfer windows have adopted recently, too. In the Indian Premier League (IPL), where the world’s best players of the 20-over form of cricket sign up to play, they introduced this concept last year. However, injuries and fatigue take their toll over the course of a season, with franchises left behind in the race for the title by the midway point of the season, often through no fault of theirs. During the midway part of the IPL 2018 campaign, teams were able to exchange uncapped players or had played no more than two matches prior to the midway point of the season. That not only helps the teams, but it also gives players a chance to move elsewhere if they aren’t playing in games, preventing them from getting stale and falling behind in their development. For sure, this is something that the NFL would agree that its teams and players would benefit. Yes?
One thing is for sure: there are many ways that the NFL could improve. We’re not talking about the Draft system, either. Whether it’s the incessant mid-game commercials or the unwanted Thursday-night fixtures, the NFL still has some way to go to reach its full potential.