The NFL’s current draft system clearly incentivizes tanking

2020 NFL Draft - Round 1
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The allegation that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross regarded the 2019 campaign as a full-season exercise in tanking isn’t the problem. It’s a symptom of it.

The NFL’s procedure for determining draft order creates a clear incentive to tank. Usually, it kicks in once a team is eliminated from playoff contention, mathematically or as a practical matter. It happened most conspicuously in 2014, when the Buccaneers removed roughly half of their starters at halftime of a Week 17 game against the Saints, which Tampa Bay led by double digits. The Saints came back and won, the Buccaneers lost, and the Bucs secured dibs on the first pick in the 2015 draft. (They took Jameis Winston; some would say the punishment ultimately fit the crime.)

If the allegations against Ross are true (he strongly denies them), it means he took tanking to the extreme, embarking on a potential path to the top of the draft well before his team had declared itself to be a non-contender for postseason positioning.

The possibility of short- or long-term tanking will linger as long as the NFL rewards ineptitude with dibs on the best players entering the league from college football. It therefore becomes incumbent on the league, once and for all, to remove that incentive.

We’ve kicked around possible approaches in the past for doing that. One idea, as mentioned on Wednesday’s PFT Live, would be to implement a lottery for the 18 non-playoff teams, with each having an equal shot at getting the first pick, second pick, and so on in the first round, or perhaps beyond.

A separate lottery could be held for each of the seven rounds on that basis; obviously, the most interest would be generated by round one. And the first-round lottery would become a tentpole event that would generate millions of viewers and dollars — especially as fans bet on which team will get which pick.

Another approach would be to give the best of the non-playoff teams the first pick, descending from best to worst through the first 18 selections and filling in the final 14 spots with the playoff teams. (That could potentially tempt a borderline team to pass on a quick exit from the wild-card round, opting instead for the first pick in the draft.)

Then there’s the possibility of ditching the idea that bad teams secure the right to compel the best players to join their dysfunctional organizations. Maybe the Super Bowl champion should get the first pick, as one of the spoils of victory. The worst team would pick last. Some would say that’s not fair, but it definitely would remove the incentive to lose games.

Finally, there’s the option that would be the most fair and appropriate for the teams and the players. Ditch the draft. (It’s WAY too late for that, given the Draft Industrial Complex that the league has created over the years.) Instead of a draft, teams would have a hard cap on first-contract compensation, with the worst team having the most to spend and the best team having the least. Teams would have to recruit incoming players to join the franchise, and they’d have to allocate the cap dollars accordingly.

While the naysayers will say the best teams would stockpile the incoming talent, would (for example) the top quarterback in the class choose to sign with a team that already has a franchise quarterback in place? While some teams may do a better job of persuading young players to join them instead of a competitor, a free-agency approach would remove the incentive to be bad and replace it with an incentive to be attractive to young players. Which of those two incentives is better for the game?

There surely are other potential ideas and approaches. (Feel free to put your own in the comments.) Regardless of what the league chooses to eventually do, sticking with the current system necessarily will tempt certain teams at certain times to, for example, “evaluate” young players in the hopes that those young players will cause the team to lose in the standings — and to win in the draft order.

The value of finishing poorly is undeniable. Consider the trades made every year for the purposes of climbing a few spots in round one. Last March, the 49ers surrendered two extra first-round picks and a third-round pick for a flip-flop with the Dolphins of the No. 3 and No. 12 spots in the order. In 2012, Washington gave up two extra first-round picks and a third-round pick to upgrade the sixth pick into the second pick.

In 2019, a Week 17 loss to the Giants gave Washington dibs on defensive end Chase Young with the second overall pick in 2020. If the Giants had simply lost that game, they would have won Young.

As the Ross allegations and his response to them promise to become nasty and ugly and contentious in the coming months, the simple truth is that the entire issue springs from a system that illogically rewards losing with the promise of snagging potential generational talent.

Indeed, if Flores had simply accepted and acted on the owner’s plan (if that truly was his plan), the Dolphins would have quarterback Joe Burrow — and the Bengals wouldn’t. While that doesn’t mean Miami would be preparing to play in the Super Bowl, Cincinnati definitely would not be.

So even though Ross, if the accusations are true (again, he strongly denies them), undermined the integrity of the game, violated the Sports Bribery Act, and/or set the stage for class actions in the various states that had legalized betting during the 2019 season (more on that possibility in another post), the current system creates a clear strategic reason to lose now, in the hopes of winning later. Until the current system changes, that fundamental truth will not.

121 responses to “The NFL’s current draft system clearly incentivizes tanking

  1. I don’t have any issue with a team fielding subpart players in hopes they lose. Tanking is fine. Paying a coach to throw games is not tanking. It’s throwing games and it’s different and way worse. Any owner found to have done this must be removed immediately. The game of football is literally no different than pro wrestling if this is allowed to pass without accountability.

    Again, having players who try to win but aren’t good enough is nothing like actively encouraging a coach to subvert the team to lose on purpose. It’s why I had a problem with Howie Roseman forcing pederson to do this when my eagles did it. Though was nothing like this and not nearly as bad.

  2. Not very often does one pick higher make that much of a difference in the long run. These teams that tank don’t win even when they try. This approach hasn’t proven to work at all.

  3. It’s fine as it is. Whistleblowers like Flores who could potentially bring down ownership is enough of a dis-incentive. Don’t throw away the best balancing system in world sports.

  4. Good ideas Florio. Why not a different twist – the draft order stays the same as now but instead of owning the rights to the player until the next draft say they have exclusive negotiation rights to that player for 30-90 days. After that time if the player does not come to terms with thae team within the exclusive window that player is free to sign with any team. Salary Cap, Rookie Salary cap and the like still all applies

  5. Over the past 20 years, the #1 pick doesn’t really change your team or culture. Bengals are probably the exception based on how this year went. There’s a couple picks that make your team exciting like Murray and Newton. Eli changed the Giants but he also had a lot of help around him. Luck is really the only other guy you could say changed a franchise, and he never made a Super Bowl. Drafting #1 has many more misses the than makes over the past 20 years if you consider the effect the pick is supposed to have. The system isn’t really broken. You still need to draft the right guy, and most teams don’t.

  6. maybe they could reverse it and let the best teams pick first, but give them fewer picks in the later rounds. so the worst teams end up getting more players, rather than the best players. a lot of the first and second round players end up being rubbish anyway, so getting more players might improve their chances of finding a good one

  7. If it does go the way of the draft, split the non playoff teams into tiered groups of 6 teams and let the lottery happen amongst those tiers. 1-6 has the top tier, and so on. Playoff teams just stick to business as usual as they’re obviously good enough to have make it to the post season.

  8. During Super Bowl week, you have the two worst teams in the NFL battle it out in a Pride Bowl. Winner gets the #1 pick, loser drops to #8.

    No more tanking and too difficult to scheme for #3.

  9. The draft is currently as fair as it could be and all those ideas are poor. The draft is a shot in the dark. You could get Ryan Leaf just as easily as Joe Burrow. But the potential to draft Burrow and chase and suddenly be in the super bowl is good for the NFL. Parity. None of your alternatives have parity. Why would we want the #1 pick determined by pure luck in a lottery? Some bad teams already struggle at drafting when they have high picks each year. Why would we want to punish them further? The reality is good players, even QBs can be found past #1 overall consistently, whether its josh allen, mahomes, lamar jackson. Tanking should be cracked down on and theres no perfect solution but scouting and coaching matters more than just your spot in the draft.

  10. Just make it a Top 5 lottery among the non-playoff teams and put all other draft picks in the order of teams’ won-loss record. A team that has a Top 5 pick is removed from the lottery for three years to make sure there is a rotation for the top picks. It would be incentive for teams to actually try to field a competitive team after they picked in the Top 5 and the tanking would stop as teams could slip to the fifth or even sixth pick with the worst record and that‘s simply not worth tanking for.

  11. Another approach could be to, after all is done and dusted and we have the 1st to 32nd place cast in stone, break up the 32 teams into 4 different groups (1-8, 9 to 16, 17 to 24, 25 to 32) and cast a lottery using these groups. This way the worst teams have a shot to get the best players, but tanking wouldn’t help their draft status since if you go 0-17, you may end up picking in 8th place.

  12. if the draft were a sure thing I would be more concerned. Seems like every number one is a coin flip. Let dolphins fans vote with their feet and not support their team.

  13. The draft system does reward tanking however the two teams in the race for the number 1 pick last year both won their final game which is either commendable or stupid.

  14. Would ditching the draft in favor of free agent recruitment give teams in the most desirable geographic locations an unfair advatange in landing top talent? We see this in the NBA: top players getting together in places like Los Angeles, New York, and Miami. Granted that a cap would prevent the Rams or Raiders or Dolphins from signing all the best players, wouldn’t they still have a leg up in getting effectively the top pick in the draft year after year?

  15. NBA lottery is the perfect way to so it.

    Not great odds but then intentionally tanking has some risk.

    This change should be in place next season.

  16. I don’t see this is as big a problem as you do. There is incentive to lose, but even the fanbase recognizes this and even wants it. Yes, the fans wanted the Dolphins to “tank for Tua”. Winning meaningless games at the end of a losing season doesn’t get you anything. Better to lose more and get the high draft pick.

    If you want to throw in the “integrity of the game”, that tired excuse has been used to not pay amateur athletes for over 100 years.

    Do I even need to mention how many first picks have busted? Jamarcus Russell, anyone? Tanking to get a first pick doesn’t assure you Joe Burrow or Peyton Manning. And the GOAT is still Tom Brady, a 6th round pick. Let the losers lose, and get their first pick, while the winners find gold in the 6th round.

  17. Or the Dolphins could have just drafted Justin Herbert from where they were and they would be set for a decade plus. Brian Flores would likely still have his job.

  18. This whole thing is really much to do about nothing. How is it any difference than a coach with a bonus for winning games? That happens all the time. If it’s all about gambling that opens all kinds of integrity of the game issues. Teams could play fast and loose with that but it’s common practice. Offering money for losing is no different than any other incentive that is in contracts. For example Tom Brady refused to come out of a game they were winning big to get Gronk his incentive. That decision for sure affected gambling in the game. A decision was made for one reason to meet the objective in a contract which can cause game integrity issues.

    Get rid of all contract incentives good or bad. Giving money for loosing is just another incentive. Plus how does it even have any reflection on gambling? The spread is set based on how bad or good a team is. The spread neutralizes any issues.

  19. As much as tanking is upsetting, the current system seems to do a great job of annually providing new hope do struggling teams and new challenges for successful teams. People will take advantage of the system and tank every now and then, and while it’s upsetting, I believe the system as whole provides an overwhelming net plus.

    That said, there should be a panel that investigates allegations of tanking against transparent guidelines and punishes tankers eye for an eye by moving their draft spot from 1 to 32 for all 7 rounds. And yes, there would need to be corrections for traded picks, but that seems like a problem that can be solved

  20. People are acting like #1 overall picks are a sure thing. Garret, Burrow, and maybe Murray (Lawrence is still yet to be determined) are the only studs at #1 in the last 10 years. Nobody is envious of Mayfield, Eric Fisher, Clowney, Goff, or Winston….

  21. Very simple fix. Out of all the teams that do not make the playoffs, the team with the longest winning streak to end the season picks first. In case of ties you go to head to head, division,etc.. Your welcome

  22. Don’t forget the “Suck for Luck” campaign. And all you Colts fans and Pay-a-ton Manning jock sniffers saying tanking never happens.

  23. Jimmy Irsay certainly did it in the “Suck for Luck” days. NFL should have looked into him at that time.

  24. So you keep saying. But there’s a reason Haslam and Ross (allegedly) had to offer big financial payment to get their coaches to do this. There’s no incentive for an NFL HC to do this. The more games you lose, the quicker you get fired. Your assistant coaches won’t be considered for promotions elsewhere and your players won’t respect you.

    Drafting well is its own reward. Often times the no 1 pick is not even the best player in the draft. You take the best player available, and if you have to trade up, that option is available to you.

    Haslam and Ross are regularly considered among the worst owners in football, with no idea of how to build a SB contender. That’s my big takeaway. It’s no surprise they were implicated in this.

  25. “And the first-round lottery would become a tentpole event that would generate millions of viewers and dollars — especially as fans bet on which team will get which pick.” — Of course. Everything has to be about money, doesn’t it? Isn’t that what corrupted the system in the first place?

  26. A lottery system would essentially eliminate the need for tanking but, then you’d still have complaints from the teams who’s luck just never got picked in the higher order year after year.
    Nothing is perfect but, the league is full of integrity issues.
    Maybe they should start by cleaning up the games decided by obviously bad officiating.
    Maybe they should start by making it illegal for coaches to give their protégé wins like Bill Belichick gave Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia in 2018.
    Maybe they should start by figuring out who paid Patrick Mahomes to become completely inept in the second half of the AFC Championship game.

  27. The draft order of the non playoff teams should be first based off overall record ( best record gets first pick ) but only if they won their last two games.

  28. Great article, Florio. The Eagles did the same thing a couple of years ago, pulling starters and intentionally tanking the game. Washington won and secured the playoff berth because of it.

  29. Tanking has been around since the invention of the draft in all sports. Yet, many people, including professional sports writers at times, are shocked that tanking goes on.

    The incentive is clear and almost required in some sports.

    In hockey, there might be one Stanley Cup champion in the last 20 years that didn’t have a 1st overall pick on it and likely multiple top 5 picks. There is a documentary on the Penguins tanking for Mario Lemieux and how that set them up for decades to come. They repeated this processs with Sidney Crosby, Malkin and Fleury. Multiple cups and no one remembers the lean years when it works.

    In the NBA you have the 76ers and “the process”. In the NFL you have any number of teams but there really is no perfect answer at the moment. Even with the draft lotteries you can still guarantee yourself a top 4-5 pick.

    It is like death and taxes. You may not like it but it’s going to happen (unless you are rich and then you don’t pay taxes).

  30. The NFL is a business, and the 32 teams are individual businesses. Based on NFL revenue reports, and the valuation of the teams from year to year, I wouldn’t even consider making any changes. You don’t change success. I could write a ten-page essay on why the draft system works, but I’ll just stick to the business/money side for now. But I would add that the New England Patriots haven’t had the #1 pick for a long time, and they’ve done fairly well. In fact, their success began when a sixth-round pick (Brady) replaced the overall #1 pick (Bledsoe).

  31. If the current system is replaced by a lottery, then the power to nefariously determine the draft order will belong to the NFL rather than the individual teams.

    The players and coaches aren’t tanking. They all want to win every game. If an owner is found out to be blowing games, the resulting punishment will be disincentive enough for it not to happen again.

  32. Now every coach who ever sucked not matter their race, language, religion, height or weight is going to say they only lost because the owner told me to. No Hugh Jackson you lost because of your coaching abilities.

  33. You put in a draft lottery and Lions will go 0-17 and finish w the 8th pick or something. I can see it now. Lions luck.

  34. In the NBA tanking can work at times cuz there are 5 players that play both side of the ball, it also backfires a bit… see Greg Oden, Ben Simmons, and Zion.

    It does not work in the NFL for a couple reasons the main one being the numbers of players on the field. People will point to the Bengals for tanking on Burrow I dontk nw if they did or not, but they are in the position, because of good coaching and playing good defense, not of the result of tanking. The other reason is the teams associated with tanking has SO Many holes in it, one player cant fix it.

  35. The lottery for non-playoff teams, with all 18 having an equal chance at #1, sounds like a good plan. The NFL would probably hold it at halftime during the Pro Bowl, like the NBA All-Star Game, to make us tune in to that worthless garbage.

  36. If you could get the draft scrapped and replaced with a “National NFL Signing Day”, how much of the draft industrial complex really changes?
    Combine – still exists, people need to know what the college players are like in shorts and a t-shirt and if linemen can run 40 yrds
    Senior Bowl – still need to see how scratch teams with head coaches one bad year from being fired will get on
    Pro Days – still need to find out if players can practice and prepare to throw bombs with no pressure
    Draft/Signing Day – better than the draft where we all know who will go to the first 5 picks and the 1st hour is all that’s interesting, we can make sure we only find out where the really high end players are going at the end of the show in a great big reveal, building up the ratings until a final flourish at the end. RATINGS GOLD and plenty to discuss as we wonder if team X that used it’s entire fund on 1 blue chip guy to get over the hump did a better job than a team that signed 15 solid players.

  37. Not giving the worst teams, the better picks would never give them the opportunity to improve with young talent. If you think the Bengals and Chiefs got to where they are now without the better picks in the draft, you are sorely mistaken, no Patrick M. for example. It took the Chiefs over 60 years to get back to their current status. They were one of the worst teams in the league for decades until they landed Mahones, Hill, Kelce and a Andy Reid.

  38. How about this.

    Each team gets 1,000 draft points for a loss. 32 teams * 17 games / 2 = 272,000 points league total. The average slot would go for 1,214 points (272,000 / (32*7 rounds))

    So this year the Lions would have 13,000 points the Packers would have 4,000 points. Each team can bid points for any position in the draft. So theoretically, the Packers can bid for the top spot.

    Maybe some restrictions: A minimum bid of 200 points for any slot. Every team must draft at least 7 players, so they can’t spend it all on one guy. But a team could look to retool with more than 7 players if they bypass the top slots. The draft just keeps on going until all teams make their minimum picks and teams make every pick they want to.

    Maybe you can trade points? The NFL can award comp points for free agent losses. Maybe you can carry over points from year to year. Would some team make 7 minimum picks this year to save all their points for a QB next year? And then draft the next Jamarcus Russell?

  39. Honest question Florio,

    Do you trust the NFL to NOT rig that lottery? I, for one, don’t.

  40. All interesting and good ideas. I like the idea of the Super Bowl winning team picking 1st. Make these Clowns like Haslam, Ross, Woody Johnson, and the Wilfs pay for losing. Make it just like college, Alabama and Georgia get the best players because they have the 2 best coaches and recruiters. If you don’t like it, then win and stop losing on purpose and hiring bad coaches. That would either straighten out these loser Owners or they will pay for their stupidity. You know earning your pay instead of gettinf handouts for being stupid

  41. Well, if you want to completely kill off the fanbase in places like Jacksonville or Detroit, monkeying around with the system to ensure that they never get the top players coming out of college–and hence, never have a realistic hope of climbing out of the cellar–is certainly one way to do it.

  42. The NFL is so popular because all the loser teams have the hope that their team will quickly ascend into playoff competition. Getting high draft picks is a large component of that hope. These high draft picks can possibly acquire good college players, or be flipped for even more draft picks, or proven NFL players.

    If and when your team does a mini-tank, it is appreciated by the home team fans. Other teams’ fans should understand this and realize they may be rowing in the same boat someday.

    If there is a proven major tank(take note Mr Ross and Mr Haslam), take away all their draft picks for a year or 2. No other owner will do a major tank, for at least 5-8 years, untill they forget about the last tank.

    Don’t screw with the draft. Leave as is.

  43. And it’s time to start hitting these corrupt owners in the pocket book. worst 10 teams every year, not only are you picking last in the Draft now you don’t get all the revenue streams of being owner. You get what you make at the Stadium and Ticket Sales and that’s it. Give it to the Owners whose teams are actually trying to won. You don’t like it then hire better Head Coaches and GMs.

  44. Just make the draft pre-scheduled for the next 32 years in a drawing. Every team gets every position once. Reverse the order in round 2. The year you pick first in round 1, you pick last in round 2. When you get the 32nd pick, you also get the 33rd pick. This has the added benefit of adding certainty whenever a trade involves a draft pick, and it 100% wipes out any incentive to lose.

  45. Why incentivize losing at all?

    Have a lottery with 32 balls and pull them one by one to create the draft order. Totally random. You could do it anytime. That would be exciting and it would also create a fun trade market.

  46. I was brainstorming how to keep the draft but disincentivize losing. This thought isn’t refined, but it is something along the lines of rewarding a team’s record against winning teams. Strength of schedule is a simple enough statistic. So maybe if you miss the playoffs but have a good record against winning teams you are awarded a higher draft pick

  47. Absolutely not. A team that misses the playoffs on a tiebreaker should not have a shot at the #1 overall pick. The imbalance in the league would be ridiculous. Teams stuck with our rosters would remain poor for years, just because they draw unfavorable draft position in consecutive years.

  48. The hard cap for rookies thing, while interesting, mimics college football too much which has a disturbing lack of parity. Youd see the same 4 teams in the championship games for the next 20 years just like college because the elite talent would forego initial salaries to win a title early and then go for a money grab on a bad team for their second contract.

  49. What about the NHL system with a weighted lottery for draft order? If I remember right though they only allow a team to drop three places from their finishing order, i.e. worst record can only draft no worse then 4th. And you can only ‘win’ the #1 pick once every three years.

  50. Lotteries don’t have much effect on ‘tanking’. The NBA has provided plenty of data. Removing the draft would shift the NFL towards MLB where bigger cities with larger markets would gain a competitive advantage over smaller market teams.

    The reality is that this isn’t as big of a deal as the media makes it out to be. Teams lose a significant amount of their game day income when they tank. As long as the tanking is limited to the FO rebuilding and not head coaches trying to lose the NFL will be fine. If the Bengals can survive than anyone can.

  51. Or, do nothing. Joe Burrow is the exception. A significant percentage of 1st rounder, yes even top 10, are busts or just average players.

    Unfortunately there’s still the perception that securing that 1st pick in the draft will cure all your team’s ills.

  52. This is easy to fix. Give best team to just miss the playoffs 1st pick. Jags would have last pick before playoff teams.

  53. Not as big of a problem as the horrendous officiating. Institute a life time ban if caught doing it. Hopefully the integrity of the game benefits because of gambling and not the opposite.

  54. If true, then this is worse than the Black Sox scandal; the players had no financial incentive to tank and if they did throw games, they (probably) did so without their knowledge or consent.

  55. A draft lottery is the only way to settle it fairly. It needs to be done with full disclosure and witness by the public, unlike the NBA draft lottery which has been done behind the scenes and rigged for years.

  56. You’re overthinking this. Bad teams need an infusion of the best players, so it still makes sense for them to get high picks. But you could do a weighted lottery for all non-playoff teams for the first few picks, and make it so you cannot drop more than 3 spots from where you finished the season. It’s more unlikely you would tank a season just to guarantee you have a top-4 selection.

  57. Give the top pick to the Jets every year. It’s not like they’re ever gonna get it right.

  58. Free agency instead of a draft would be a disaster, especially for teams that are perennially challenged to make the playoffs. In addition, it would turn the entry into a chaotic mess. Plus, then you open the door to a premature transfer portal (I signed here because so-and-so was coach – if he’s gone, so am I). The NBA draft doesn’t incentivize tanking – teams may tank. but they aren’t guaranteed a top 3 pick. Any pro draft is imperfect, but the NFL version is more imperfect than most. Easy to improve, but will they? What does Vegas (the sportsbooks, not the Raiders) think? That’s really all that matters now.

  59. I will repeat this….players aren’t stupid. You can tell which teams mail it in, and when. The Giants actually put up a decent fight when they were 4-7. Sure, it wasn’t great, and the roster was bad, but the players were playing hard. Then —something— happen, which magically coincided with Judge blatantly throwing offensive series in the garbage after Jones went down. Now it makes sense why.

  60. hellooooooooooobrooklyn says:
    February 3, 2022 at 9:03 am
    If true, then this is worse than the Black Sox scandal; the players had no financial incentive to tank and if they did throw games, they (probably) did so without their knowledge or consent.
    The players have no incentive to tank period. Lose games so that you can be replaced by a better player next year? Imagine being the QB of a team tanking so they can get the number 1 pick to draft………….a QB.

  61. Its impossible to stop tanking. Even if they had some kind of weighted lottery like the NHL or the NBA, teams will still tank to get more chances at winning the first pick. Just enforce existing rules better.

  62. I don’t hate the idea of all 32 teams recruiting their draft classes; the issues are just unforeseen. I assume teams with the most popularity, biggest markets, most opportunities for outside money, and weather would have an advantage. I mean, if you were the best QB in the nation, and you got to pick what team you went to, and the 3 teams with the most rookie cap space were Cleveland, Miami, or Los Angeles, you’re not going to Cleveland if all else is the same. Or, a lot of players may have been huge Raiders fans growing up…they’re not going to be attracted to being a Washington Commander. The current system does seem to give the best odds for team parity.

    It would be fun for the NFL to war-game these scenarios at their annual meetings, or at a special draft event.

    On the whole, I think this is probably isolated, there will be an investigation and fines, and nothing will change. Things go on all the time in government, business and sport that are not uncovered. That doesn’t make it right, but it’s human nature, and I’m not sure scrapping a long-standing draft process will fix that, as it’s almost impossible to devise a system that someone won’t figure out how to game.

  63. Yes, I definitely want Goodell reaching into a bin to grab a (definitely not frozen) ball to determine who gets the “best player”.

  64. It’s not very smart to do something so egregious as throw games to move up a few spots in the draft. If you analyze the Top 10 picks over the last 25 years in terms of overall hits/misses, I would be willing to bet there isn’t that much of a difference between #1 and #10.

    It’s not like we are talking the difference between drafting 1st or 32nd. All of the teams that consider tanking are terrible- we are basically talking the difference between drafting 1st or maybe 5th. Is that really worth the risk of getting caught?

  65. The irony of the tanking concept is that the Lions had the number 1 pick wrapped up this year if they had lost to the packers and sure enough they screwed that up too.

  66. Tanking doesn’t make sense for the current head coach or pending free agents from that team. Tanking gets the current regime fired & the team’s free agents just had a season in which they tanked, which effects their potential payday for the worse.

  67. Pretty easy to prove. Does Flores have documents? Emails? Texts? A signed contract? If not then his claims are baseless even if they’re true. Remember it’s about what you can prove in the court of law.

  68. I say go for it! Tank your season, who cares? If you are in play for the first pick you stink anyways. And good luck with the draft lottery.

  69. No draft lottery, please! As you see with the NBA, teams can literally be locked out of relevance for 30-40 years. And then players like Labron decide to create super teams and bring his friends along. It’s horrible! There has to be a better way, like making better character assessments of owners and not just looking at their money!

  70. Hard pass. Ask England, Spain, Germany, Italy how they like having only 4-5 teams each year that can actually compete for the (soccer) title (Leicester City notwithstanding). For most teams, the ask is to finish in 17th place or better.

  71. A draft lottery system is just as unfair to teams that are truly bad. They are bad teams because they don’t have top top tier player (usually a QB). And if they are unable to draft at the top, they may never get it. It’s not true that the NHL can’t pick first 3 years in a row. I believe it was Edmonton that drafted first 3 years in a row. Unless they have recently changed the rules.

  72. What is “tanking”…
    1] playing younger players when out of the hunt?
    2] resting players during a grueling 17 game+ season?
    3] playing a “bullpen game” with a non-divisional rival?
    4] playing injured players when there are healthy subs?

  73. There are different levels of tanking and it’s impossible to stop all of them. Struggling teams trading stars for picks, or eating salary cap hits of bad contracts to get them off the books faster is good business. Yes, the immediate on-field product suffers, but it sets the team up for better things.
    A coach calling a QB sneak on a 3rd and 9 from your own 5 is something different.

  74. Tanking is a problem, but a small one. All Florio’s solutions create bigger problems. Getting rid of the draft altogether and turning the NFL into college is the worst idea I’ve heard. Oh yes, let’s make it so the league revolves around five teams EVERY year. Hope you’re a fan of one of those five teams… Don’t ruin a good thing by trying to over-correct a minor issue that ultimately keeps the league competitive and interesting.

  75. Then there’s the possibility of ditching the idea that bad teams secure the right to compel the best players to join their dysfunctional organizations.


    This already exists…’s called pulling an Eli

  76. The funniest thing of all is that tanking is pointless in the NFL. Here’s the list of first overall picks since 2010:
    2021: Trevor Lawrence
    2020: Joe Burrow
    2019: Kyler Murray
    2018: Baker Mayfield
    2017: Myles Garrett
    2016: Jared Goff
    2015: Jameis Winston
    2014: Jadeveon Clowney
    2013: Eric Fisher
    2012: Andrew Luck
    2011: Cam Newton
    2010: Sam Bradford

    How many game-changer or even pro-bowlers are on this list. Burrow and Garrett appear to be stars. Newton and Luck were flashes in the pan. Bradford, Clowney,, Winston, Goff, and likely Mayfield are big time disappointments. The jury is still out on Murray and Lawrence. Meanwhile Brady, Rodgers, Roethlisberger, Mahomes, Brees, Allen, and Herbert were not the first QB taken in their year. Who will become a superstar is not easy to determine. Teams that tank just reinforce their losing culture, which for many franchises runs for decades. Teams that do all they can to win every year just keep winning despite drafting later. Tanking is a loser’s mentality.

  77. Mike – since you asked for some other ideas, here is my submission to address this – it is more of a hybrid approach. The 14 playoff teams would draft in the opposite order of finish as is done today. The first 18 non-playoff teams would: 1) Have a hardline compensation cap that gets disproportionately consumed the higher the draft choice (this was mentioned as a solution in one of your options) – here it is only part of the solution; 2) Implement a variable draft order with the 18th worst team having the first choice – but they can choose which pick they want out of 1-18. However, they will then receive the inverse pick in the next round. So, in Rd 1 if they choose pick to draft #1, then for Rd 2, they will be assigned draft pick #50. And flip the order like that every round. Or, an alternate to that would be – Team #18 gets the first choice in round 1 as to which pick they want, but they only choose their 2nd round position after the previous 17 have made their choices.

    This would force them to consider multiple consequences and variables that include overall draft position, and higher than normal cap consumption for higher draft picks.

    Just my immediate thoughts.

  78. You missed the most obvious and simplest solution – “The wheel”

    It was first suggested for the NBA a few years ago. Its the fairest option that still include a draft.

    On a side note the downside of eliminating the draft is that new players would collude to join teams together and it would greatly favor popular markets. There is no way on earth the NFL wants to put up with that.

  79. Keep the draft, lose the draft order, go to an auction for draft spots instead.

    Each team gets a number of “draft dollars” (think points on the Jimmy Johnson chart for trades) based on their record. As the draft proceeds, for each draft slot, teams place a bid for that slot (think Ebay), team that bids the most gets the slot and picks.

    That way teams with the worst rosters get the most draft capital, but also get the most flexibility. If they want to pick more 2nd-3rd round types, that is their choice, rather than one top-of-the-draft person. Teams with little capital because they have been successful can, if they choose, go “all in” on a need, like a quarterback. Make the contracts depend on the size of the winning bid.

    If you do it live, pick by pick, it would be great TV. Less waiting for people to announce something they have already decided, more actual drama and decisions. Teams know what they are bidding for, too – you buy that slot because you know who you are drafting. And it rewards intelligent investment of resources.

  80. It’s so easy to tank without saying it. You need to lose the last two games, owner goes to GM lets evaluate the backups the last two weeks, GM goes to coach start these players we need to see what we have for next season.

  81. I don’t like a lottery system. Bad teams do need a chance to get better through the draft. But the way to avoid tanking is to have the draft position based on the average of their last 3 years. Like, if the last 3 years they drafted 2, 5 and 5 then their position for the next draft would be 4th. No one is going to tank for 3 years! If there’s a tie, then they could do a dice roll or coin toss.

  82. Perhaps someone should start a draft site . You could call it Tankathon . Oh wait someone did that.

  83. The media needs to stop talking about coaches on the hot seat for losing. Apparently some get paid very well. To lose.

  84. All-American Voltron says: “During Super Bowl week, you have the two worst teams in the NFL battle it out in a Pride Bowl. Winner gets the #1 pick, loser drops to #8.”

    Right. So the QB is trying to win for his team to get the #1 pick so they can draft a QB replacement….


    Offensive Players Lottery – the team with the lowest YPG on offense will pick first.
    Defensive Players Lottery – the team that gave up the most YPG will pick first.

    Special Teams Players will all be free agents.

    Think of expanding the draft to two weekends, which will mean more ad dollars.
    YPG is an overall and measurable team statistic.

  86. Remember “Suck for Luck”? This has been going on for a while. The draft is a crapshoot regardless what system you have. However, many years there is a clear best player or two and the incentive to tank is clear. While some teams are just better talent evaluators and drafters than other teams, the only way to remove the element of tanking is to have a lottery. Whether it’s a ranked lottery with extra ping-pong balls for the worst records, or a tiered lottery breaking the 18 non playoff teams into groups of six, or just the lottery for the worst five or six teams. The result of the draft will still be hit and miss but the result of the end of seasons will be that fans won’t be paying full price to watch teams intentionally play to lose.

  87. What also must be handled are teams who can’t advance their playoff position that rest players. That is essentially throwing games right there. The league needs to make sure EVERY active player has an insurance policy if they are injured that covers their current signed and active contract. This way a player only has to pick up a rider to cover potential earnings. So if a player is injured in a “meaningless game” he is still set for his career. Teams would then be exempted from having to pay out the terms that the player does not play. Teams would just have to cover half the cost of the insurance policies with the league covering the other portion for each team.

  88. QBs have a high bust rate.
    It’s not like the NBA.
    Imagine tanking for these first QBs selected:
    Jared Goff
    Sam Bradford
    James Winston
    Baker Mayfield
    ? Trevor Lawrence?

    First QB taken but not #1
    Blake Bortles
    Mitch Trubisky

    As you can see that’s a high bust rate.
    No need for a lottery

  89. Who cares it’s not like it’s a foolproof plan remember for every Manning or Burrow you also get a Jamarcus Russell….

  90. Some ideas:

    – each team gets 1 rookie free agent signing per year. Deadline is one month before the draft to sign (you get a second media day for “NFL signing day”!). Probably would need some salary caps though, probably all would be equivalent to 1st pick of 1st round. That would solve quarterbacks-to-bad-teams. You could disincent a bit of front picking by exempting that free agent from being franchise tagged.

    – first round only is flat lottery for non-playoff bound. 2/3/4 etc is record-based.

  91. If you want any kind of parity at all in a sport, there has to be some kind of draft. Otherwise, the advantages of the biggest-market teams would permanently overshadow the other teams, and the resulting dominance on the field would cement their appeal. Look at college football. It’s the same few “powers”, just about permanently.

    Of these ideas, the 18-team lottery seems to have the most promise, but even there I could see the outcome being a lot of teams that get stuck for decades in the lower tier. Look at the NBA – there are upper, middle and lower classes of teams that have gotten really baked in, with only a few exceptions, and most of those exceptions are teams manufacturing short-term win-all rosters (Golden State, Brooklyn, etc.).

    The game is ultimately an entertainment product, not a typical corporate provider of jobs. The artificial constraints of the draft have downsides – teams closer to the top will chase the top, but teams closer to the bottom will chase the bottom – but it also creates an inherent balance.

  92. I’m most annoyed at those teams selecting in the top ten year after year without showing any improvement (hello Detroit,Jacksonville, Jets). I would like to see a limit set on the number of consecutive years a team could pick in the top ten (e.g.2).Let’s not continue to reward poor ownership and front offices.

  93. When a franchise is basically forced into getting one position right (QB) to have any chance of sustained success, this is what you get. Every fan understands why a team would tank to just even have a chance to draft one of these guys. It doesn’t always work out, but you at least have to give yourself a chance if you’re Miami, Jacksonville, or any other QB starved franchise. There just aren’t enough special QBs to make the league more competitive.

    I’d like to see all these rules that have been made to favor offense and QBs to get rolled back, so maybe you COULD actually build a championship team around an average QB. No more taunting penalties, no more breathing on a QB wrong resulting in 15 yards, no more automatic 1st downs for DPI. There’s just too many free 1st downs given out by refs, to keep the most “marketable”players on the field scoring points.

  94. Its not supposed to. That is the point. They have rules in place that punished one for doing it so the problem is already solved. Hey, end of year, 10 playoff coaches sit their best players so they dont get hurt. Are they tanking? I learned a long time ago dont create a rule you cant enforce.
    Money for tanking can be proven and can be punished.
    A coach playing lesser players or not coaching so great that day, lots of luck with that. Make the rule fit what you can control.

  95. Draft lottery: In order to determine draft position best team gets 1 chance, worst team gets 32 chances and accordingly all teams in between get the number of chances according to the way that they finish the season. What an event this would be for the NFL.

  96. You know what else incentivizing the losing teams does? It keeps the fans of those bad teams interested! Obviously fans of good teams are interested, but the ones of bad teams remain hopeful and engaged. I would guess that’s a big part of why the NFL is king. Your favorite team has a chance of turning it around pretty quickly. You change it so the same small handful of teams are the only ones relevant, I’d wager the popularity of the sport drops…

  97. Do what the fantasy drafts do. Randomize the draft order and reverse it each round. High draft picks rarely make bad teams better anyways.

  98. carboni209 says:
    February 3, 2022 at 11:53 am

    Offensive Players Lottery – the team with the lowest YPG on offense will pick first.
    Defensive Players Lottery – the team that gave up the most YPG will pick first.

    Special Teams Players will all be free agents.

    Think of expanding the draft to two weekends, which will mean more ad dollars.
    YPG is an overall and measurable team statistic.

    0 0 Rate This
    That would be funny if the 12-4 and 7-10 seahawks picked first two years in a row despite good scoring defense and not that bad teams because they had an abhorrent defense in one metric.

  99. I like the lottery idea and then making it so you have to get to a certain amount of wins to get more chances in the lottery like any team that has 0 to 3 wins gets 1 chance then 3 to 5 gets 2 chances then 5 to whatever the highest win total is for non playoff teams gets 3 chances. Or you just do it as 0 to 4 gets 1 and any team with 5 or more wins gets 2 chances which is probably a better idea.
    The other thing would be that if an owner gets caught tanking the owner had to sell the team or the team is penalized with at least 3 years of no picks in the first 3 rounds of the draft. How do you prove it who knows but there needs to be a better system.
    If I was coming out of college and I knew that I was gonna be stuck having to waste my first 4 to 5 years playing for the jags, jets, browns used to be Cincy, Washington the dolphins Vegas or Houston I wouldnt even wanna leave college. I wonder how many Qb’s that had high expectations that went to one of these dumpster fires got labeled a bust because they were stuck playing on one if these trash teams? How many would of been as great or better as everyone thought they would be if they went to good organizations instead to start their careers??
    Also, my friends and family that follow the NFL and myself are tired of watching good players get stuck on terrible teams. Look at the browns how many top 5 picks did they waste and how many of those kids did that team ruin before they kind of turned it around?? The jets is another one the Giants even. Lawrence is probably thrilled Pederson took the Job. Look how good Wentz and Foles looked when he was there. Even Hurts, he looked like he was going to be a lot better when Doug was there before they started to ruin him with Sirriani. I don’t think I have ever seen a coach outside of the teams mentioned above so clueless when it comes to game planning and calling plays. He is just I don’t think there is a word I can use to describe how terrible of a GameDay gameplanning coach he is.

  100. Lottery won’t work, if you’re an inferior team that doesn’t mean you can’t trade up. Let’s say team 18 had a guy, but doesn’t want to nab him until pick 18, they will be more than happy to trade down with the worst team for 2 picks. What’s been solved?

  101. The Browns and the Lions have been tanking/losing for years and getting premium players. It doesn’t seem to have helped them any. They still haven’t made an impact in the NFL.

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