The Suck-for-Luck Draft Lottery

The tanking Indianapolis Colts could be responsible for drastic changes in the NFL draft. As NFL rule changes turned the league pass happy and QB centric, teams have moved away from the age-old strategy of grooming young QBs. If a team can win now and then an injury can place them at the top of the draft, parity becomes a parody of NFL follow the leader. Suck-for-Luck could change the NFL forever.

The NFL has compromised parity by relaxing rules in the passing game. Watching the Colts tank each week has made the fans of teams hoping for a chance to draft Andrew Luck wonder how a team a team could go from 10-6, to the worst team in the league in one season. Prior to this season, the Colts reeled off 9 consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins. The easy answer is the injury to Payton Manning but the reality goes far deeper.

Manning has been a great QB, there is no questioning that but when a team must rely on a single player to go from the playoffs, to losing every game, there is something drastically wrong in the NFL. Manning got the Colts off to a fast start each week by throwing the ball. They used lineman who excelled at pass blocking and the running game consisted of draws and misdirection. They designed a defense to play with a lead, and chose smaller, faster pass rushing DL to rush the opposing passer along with cover DBs.

Manning went down, and this strategy blew up when their back-up QB could not duplicate Manning’s passing attack. Indianapolis designed an entire team around the talents of one player. Rule changes have created a game dominated by one player and turned the league into teams that have great QBs and teams that do not.

Parity, intended to give struggling teams the opportunity to select the best college talent goes out the window when losing a great QB, makes a good team exceptionally bad. All of a sudden, a perennial winning Colts team can lose a QB and be in position to select another great prospect in one season. Well-coached teams without that special player remain the middle of the pack, drafting out of the range of the best QB talent.

Rule changes have created an upper echelon of great teams needing only to lose a single player to be in position to select high in the draft. Because of this lack of QBs, middle of the pack teams continue to struggle and must get horrendous or miraculously stumble on a Tom Brady. Teams could actually begin to lose games intentionally or create short-term strategies that will guarantee higher draft picks if they lose one pivotal player.

This has happened before in professional sports. Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal turned the NBA into a league dominated by the presence of a single player. The NBA began to fear teams were actually tanking at the end of the season in order to ensure a higher draft pick. The league countered by instituting a draft lottery. The worst 12 teams in the league have more chances at the number one pick in proportion to how poorly they perform. A QB centric NFL is leading to an NFL draft lottery.

The NFL might jump at the exposure it could get from televising a draft lottery several weeks prior to the draft. The thought of such a lottery, never imagined in previous years, becomes a reality in a QB centric league. Owners of marginal teams could demand an equal opportunity to draft at the highest level. Resentment over the Colts going from Manning to Luck would be enough to expose the idea of parity as a farce. Even though there is no guarantee Luck or any QB could reach Manning’s level, teams will draft them anyway as was seen by the four QBs taken in top of the 2010 draft.

The rookie salary cap increases the chances of the lottery because the set prices for draft picks does not as severely penalize teams for making poor choices. Teams in need of the pivotal player will take chances and there will be a run at the QB position in every draft. More teams will follow the Colts and create strategies based on instant rewards without worrying about grooming for the future.

The Colts have opened a complex issue, if this writer is aware; others have noticed the same trend. Don’t be surprised if the name Andrew Luck is not remembered for being a great QB, but is synonymous with being responsible for the creation of an NFL draft lottery.