The changes to the NFL Draft that owners agreed to in March are the first step to improve a broken system. By adopting rules that say no team that makes the playoffs will draft ahead of non-playoff teams, the NFL clearly wants to create parity on every level. However, more changes should be made.
This year’s draft features two unfair instances in its order. When the first round begins on April 25, the San Diego Chargers, who won the AFC West and earned a berth in the playoffs will pick 16th, ahead of five teams who did not play in the post-season. Also, New England, who did not make the playoffs, have the 23rd pick this year because they finished with an 11-5 record, better than three playoff teams.
These disparities occurred because the old ordering system placed teams by their final record, unless they reached their conference championship games.
In the new system, playoff teams will be seeded in the draft in the order in which they are eliminated and each group of losing teams will be ordered by their record. Under this system, the Patriots would draft 20th and the Chargers would draft 25th.
Even though the NFL Competition Committee recommended the changes that will be implemented next year to ensure this does not happen again, the league should go a step further by taking a page from the way teams’ opponents are scheduled.
The schedule’s basis rests in each team’s standing in their division at the end of the season, so the draft should reflect teams’ divisional results as well.
For example, the last place teams in each division, who play the other last place teams in their conference the following year, should receive the top eight picks in the draft. Their overall record would determine those teams’ draft order.
The third place teams would follow in picks nine through 16 and the seeds for playoff teams would mirror the new plan. As for the playoff teams, wildcard teams should pick before division winners, unless they go to the Super Bowl.
These changes could help the NFL ensure parity not only through the league as a whole, but also bring equality to each division by helping weaker teams with higher draft picks. By ensuring teams have the best chance to improve yearly, the NFL gives fans of underachieving teams hope and a reason to buy tickets for the following season.