July 7, 2022

The NFL has been holding a draft for more than 85 years, and in that time, the format hasn’t ever really changed: The team with the worst record gets rewarded with the top pick in the following year’s draft. 

Although that format is great for parity because it gives the worst NFL teams access to the best college players, it’s not a perfect format. The big problem with giving the top pick to the worst team is that it rewards tanking. 

One way to fix that problem would be to change the format of the draft. To keep teams from tanking the NBA uses a lottery system, and believe it or not, it’s actually an idea that the NFL has been considering. 

During an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio this week, Roger Goodell was asked about the possibility of the NFL implementing a lottery-type system and surprisingly, he said the league actually has regular conversations about possibly making a change. 

“The Competition Committee talks about it on a I would say a regular basis,” Goodell said, via Pro Football Talk. “I haven’t heard it in the last couple years, but I never say never about any of those things. It may come a time where we think it’s appropriate.”

Although the league has at least considered making a change, it doesn’t sound like a change would be coming anytime soon. 

“We think that the [current] system works really well the way it does,” Goodell said. “Our teams, as you know, they’re not into tanking. These teams work and play hard, and they play hard no matter the circumstances, and that’s something that we’re really proud of in our game.”

Of course, the NFL might be more willing to embrace the idea if it turns out that teams ARE tanking and right now, two teams are being investigated for doing exactly that. Former Browns coach Hue Jackson said he was encouraged to tank in 2016 and 2017 and that accusation was serious enough that the NFL is now looking into it

Also, let’s not forget about the Brian Flores lawsuit. The former Dolphins coach is claiming that team owner Stephen Ross offered to give him $100,000 for every game he lost in 2019. That allegation is also being investigated by the NFL and if the league finds that there’s any truth to it, that could be something that paves the way for the league to go to a lottery system in the draft. 

Under a lottery system, each team that doesn’t make the playoffs would get a ping pong ball and those balls would be placed into a lottery machine. The NFL would then pick a ball out to determine who gets each pick from one thru 18. 

The worst teams each year would have more ping pong balls to give them a better chance to get the top pick, but there’s no guarantee they’d get it. The lottery system would mean that a team with a winning record from the prior season could theoretically get the top pick (For instance, even though the Colts, Saints and Chargers finished with a 9-8 record, they’d be eligible for the top pick because they didn’t make the playoffs). 

That being said, Goodell doesn’t seem to think the current system is broken and it doesn’t sound like he’s interested in fixing something that’s not broken. 

“Our league’s never been more competitive,” Goodell said. “And even when we went to the 17 games over 18 weeks, you saw that competition right down to the final weekend, right to the final game, almost to the final play. And they didn’t have to do that, but they did it because that’s the way they compete. I’m really proud of that. I was incredibly proud of not just the quality of our game this year, but the competition and the way they all played right to the end of the game.”

Although it doesn’t sound like the NFL would implement a lottery system anytime soon, the fact that the league has at least considered it means that it’s possibly something we could see in the future. 

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