What happens with 2021 draft, if there’s no 2020 season?

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No one wants to think about the possibility that the NFL won’t be able to play in 2020, but if the virus controls the calendar in a way that prevents pro football from happening, one question will be the proper order for the 2021 selection process.

It’s way down the road, to be sure. But it’s impossible to rule it out at this point, because it’s impossible to rule out anything until a vaccine and/or quick are effective treatment are developed to eradicate the coronavirus.

And so if the NFL eventually has to construct a draft order without a season preceding it, the NFL could (as suggested by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press) look to the precedent created by the NHL in 2005, after a lockout wiped out a season.

That year, the prize was Sidney Crosby — and hockey came up with a three-tiered lottery to determine who would get dibs on him. Three balls, two balls, or one ball were handed out to all teams based on performance in the three prior seasons. Teams who hadn’t been to the playoffs at all and hadn’t had the No. 1 overall pick in any of the four prior drafts received three balls. Teams with only one playoff appearance or one No. 1 pick received two. Everyone else got one.

“Half the league probably wanted everybody to have an equal chance, and the other half wanted all the teams that didn’t make the playoffs to have the only chances, weighted or unweighted,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said at the time, via Birkett. “And if you look at the statistical odds of both scenarios, what we did is about in the middle. And so actually nobody was particularly thrilled, but everybody understood that on balance it was probably the fairest way to approach it.”

The NFL has resisted generally the concept of a draft lottery, possibly to avoid shining a light on the obvious connection between losing in a lost season and winning better status in the draft. A lottery for 2021 likely would generate intense interest, showing the league that it could join the Scouting Combine, free agency, the schedule release, and the draft as key moments in the non-playing season.

Whatever the process would be, the league would have to come up with something in order to fairly determine who picks when in the 2021 draft, if there’s no 2020 NFL season. Whatever the order, the 2021 draft would be even more of a crapshoot, if there’s no 2020 NFL season.

If there’s no 2020 NFL season, there will be no 2020 college football season. Which will force teams to make decisions about prospects who hadn’t played or practiced football in nearly a year and a half.

24 responses to “What happens with 2021 draft, if there’s no 2020 season?

  1. My suggestion would be to have the Seahawks select first. Then; all of the AFC teams, then NFC East, South, North and finally, the other three West teams. I might be in the minority, but that’s my vote.

  2. I would be more worried about the players coming from college. Would they get an extra year of eligibility? Would players who were only in college 2 years because the pandemic blocked their third year be allowed to go in the draft? As far as the draft, they could either keep the same order as this year or do like a lottery for the non-playoff teams order and another one for the playoff teams order.

  3. Every team needs an equal chance to land the 1st overall pick since there is so much change in the standings from year-to-year.

  4. Why wouldn’t they just use the order from the 2020 draft? If no games are played, the Bengals still have the most recent worst record.

  5. NHL got it right, but NFL should do it backwards. Give the most lottery balls to the best teams but start at pick 32. That way you’re building suspense as teams get chosen and “eliminated.” It could be a 3 hour extravaganza and everybody would watch every minute waiting to see who wins the final no.1 pick.

  6. tb12greatest says:
    April 12, 2020 at 7:31 pm
    Every team needs an equal chance to land the 1st overall pick since there is so much change in the standings from year-to-year.

    _____________

    I didn’t research, but I don’t believe any team has ever gone from super bowl champ to 1st overall pick the next year. It has to be weighted.

  7. Can’t give every team even chances — no way the chiefs as reigning champs with 21 of 22 returning starters should have the exact same probability as the Bengals and Washington.

    At the same time, you also can’t just repeat the draft order from this year — being worst entitles to the no.1 pick, not two consecutive no.1 picks.

    The NHL had the right idea. The specifics aren’t as important, but you need to do something like that to strike the balance.

  8. It would be kind of funny to see all the teams that tanked 2019 get nothing for it.

  9. The only fair way to do it is alphabetically by team name. Yeah I’m a Bears fan, but that is just a coincidence

  10. Same draft order as 2020. When there is no season, basically all the teams stay the same. The college players entering 2021 draft from the 2020 season (There won’t be a seaskn$ won’t be any different from players in the 2020 draft from 2019 season. So, really nothing changes from this draft to next years draft In terms of talent for either the nfl or ncaa. It will be like having 2 first round picks for every team. And that will be one interesting draft lol.

  11. Make them all free agents and pay them the league minimum for two years. Then let them become free agents again and let the bidding begin.

  12. itsunclepauley says:
    April 12, 2020 at 7:41 pm

    NHL got it right, but NFL should do it backwards. Give the most lottery balls to the best teams but start at pick 32. That way you’re building suspense as teams get chosen and “eliminated.” It could be a 3 hour extravaganza and everybody would watch every minute waiting to see who wins the final no.1 pick.
    —-

    Pack it up, folks. Best idea ever.

  13. Go with a 4 or 5 year cumulative win total, correlate that with number of balls, and count backwards with the lottery system that itsunclepauley suggested.

    The Bengals, Lions, Washington, Dolphins, etc would likely be your top five, the Patriots, Steelers, Packers, Ravens, etc would likely be your bottom 5. But, you wouldn’t know until the last 2 picks who receives the #1.

  14. Use a lottery system weighed by worst teams in the last decade. The best team has a shot in 1st pick, but odds are unlikely.

  15. 1590t says:
    April 12, 2020 at 7:47 pm
    There is not a chance in hell that the 2020 season will go unplayed

    Wanna bet?

  16. Dennis Carson says:
    April 12, 2020 at 7:22 pm
    I would be more worried about the players coming from college. Would they get an extra year of eligibility? Would players who were only in college 2 years because the pandemic blocked their third year be allowed to go in the draft? As far as the draft, they could either keep the same order as this year or do like a lottery for the non-playoff teams order and another one for the playoff teams order.

    23 9 Rate This
    —————————–
    -Yes, they would get an extra year of eligibility. The NCAA gave all athletes from spring sports that were cancelled this year that extra year. Although currently an individual conferences rules could disallow that.
    -The NFL draft rule is that a player must be three years removed from playing high school football, it doesn’t matter if they play 3 years of college football. They could actually sit out for 3 seasons immediately after High School and be eligible to declare for the draft.

  17. That’s the least of my concerns right now. But when/if that time comes, the NFL will figure out how to hire new employees. Roger Goodell, love him or hate him, has been one of the most successful CEO’s in America over the time he’s been NFL Commissioner. He’ll do the right thing, as he usually does.

  18. Bill Belicheck was already planning on tanking this year so he could get the QB from Clemson. That would mess up his plan.

  19. A better question:

    What happens if the college football season is delayed until January, which some have been floating because of Universities NEEDING fans in the stands because such pays for ALL OTHER SPORTS?

  20. If there is no season then all those drafted this year who didn’t sign would also be eligible – no?

  21. If the country is in a state that the 2020 NFL season is cancelled, the 2021 draft order is the least of our problems. The economy might never be the same or take years if not decades to recover.

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