The NFL Draft is one of any pro football fan’s favorite times of the year. It’s the point when hope springs eternal for every team. Teams will be choosing from the best collegiate players and filling their rosters with brand new talent. The current three day long process comprises seven rounds with each team given one spot in each round. The position in each round is determined by how each team finished the season. The team with the worst record picks first in a round and it works it’s way back until the team that won the Super Bowl picks last in that round. Teams can trade picks to other teams, including picks from future drafts. Now I’m sure that most of you are saying, "Thank you Captain Obvious, I KNOW how the draft works!" But I only bring it up to offer an alternative to the current draft format.
I was reading some fantasy football stuff before last season because I was going to create a league with my colleagues. A question came up about whether or not we should have a snake draft or auction draft. I read some other sports writers discussing the auction draft and they said it was so much better than the snake format. Of course I started thinking, "What if the real NFL Draft was auction style?" So now, I present to you, my idea for the NFL Auction Draft.
Each team will be given auction "points" with which to bid on players. How many points are determined by how each team finished. The team with the worst record will get the most points and the Super Bowl team will have the lowest number of points. Basically it would work just like the slotting method used currently. The exact amount of points is irrelevant to the discussion (I didn’t really feel like developing a working scale for the post). For the sake of discussion, let’s assume the NFL has a system to where each team has enough points to theoretically last each round. The draft will still be seven rounds long.
As the draft begins, the team with the first slot will nominate a player to bid on. Once the player is nominated, each team will be given a certain amount of time to place a bid and/or counter bid. The bids would be by secret ballot. A bid counter would be visible to all teams so they know the amount of the current bid. After a certain period of time, say ten minutes, the commissioner would call for a final bid. This would keep teams from making a last second bid to trump another team. After the point totals have been tallied, the commissioner will announce which team won the bidding and award the player to that team. The team that won the bidding for that player loses the amount of points used for the winning bid for the remainder of the draft. The team in the next slot will nominate another player and the bidding process will begin again. After the last slot makes a nomination and the bidding on that player ends, the round ends. The second round begins the same way as the first and so will each subsequent round. The only difference is that some teams will have spent points in the first round and won’t have as many points to bid in the second. At the end of the seventh round, any players not nominated for the draft will become free agents, just like the current process. Players can be traded for points, but teams cannot trade for points in a current or future drafts. Let's look at the 2012 Draft as an example. Indianapolis gets the first slot and they nominate Andrew Luck. After the ten minutes is up, the commissioner announces that the Miami Dolphins had the highest bid and won the rights to Andrew Luck. The Dolphins draft Luck and lose the points they used in the bid. The St. Louis Rams have the next slot and nominate Matt Kalil. Minnesota nominates 'player X', Cleveland nominates 'player Y' and so on. That's a brief glimpse of the process. On to the pros and cons.
The biggest advantage to the auction format is the amount of strategy involved. Teams will have to evaluate what needs are most important, which players they will target and how they will go after them. They will also have to have contingency plans for if they get outbid. Teams will also have to formulate a strategy to "bluff" and try and get opponents to overbid for players. Teams will have to have a strategy on who they decide to nominate in each round as well. Watching teams bid against each other would be good entertainment also (imagine how much more fun drafts would be in Madden too).
Another advantage to this format is that every team will have some chance to acquire a top rated player. For instance, there are several teams that would love to draft Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in this draft. It’s all but a certainty that Luck will be the number one pick and Griffin will fall in the top five. An auction format will give any and every team a chance to bid on one of these players. So a team like the Dolphins or Redskins would have a shot at Luck or Griffin without limiting future drafts in trades.
Another advantage of this format would be that teams would have more versatility about how they run their draft. A team could have a strategy where they target only two or three of the top prospects and go for that. For example, the Dolphins could try to acquire Luck, Kalil, and Blackmon. They will use all of their points to get those three players. Or a team could have a strategy where they don’t bid on the top tier players, but attempt to get more of the lower tier players. For example, the Dolphins could target several of the mid round prospects and try to get 10 of them. A team can be very versatile in this format.
The biggest disadvantage of this format is also one of the advantages: every team has a chance at every player. As it stands right now, the Patriots have zero chance to get Andrew Luck. Given the rivalry between them and the Colts, it’s doubtful it would happen, even if it were necessary. But let’s say Brady decided to retire unexpectedly after this season. In the auction format, the Patriots would have a chance to get Luck or Griffin. While it would be likely that another team with more points would outbid them, there is always the chance. It could be a case of the rich getting richer.
Another disadvantage is that parity, one of the selling points of the NFL, might be damaged. Not every team is operated intelligently. Some teams always tend to be bottom feeders while some teams always manage to stay at the top every year. An auction format might create more disparity between the well ran teams and the ones that can’t get out of their own way. Working in conjunction with the first disadvantage, smarter teams could run up the price on certain prospects, allowing good prospects to fall to them since other teams may have used up more points than they really wanted to.
Another disadvantage is that it’s possible that a team could go an entire draft without acquiring any new players. It would be unlikely, but it is within the realm of possibility. I’m sure some Dolphins fans will complain about whoever we draft in 2012. But can you imagine the backlash if we walked away from a draft completely empty handed? If this happened, a team expecting to get some players in the draft to fill needs could be put at a competitive disadvantage and that would affect the quality of the game.
So there you have it. While I find the current draft process extremely entertaining, it can never hurt to think about it from a different perspective. I don’t know how an auction style draft would actually go over with teams and fans, but it would definitely be entertaining if nothing else. So what do you think? How do you feel about an auction draft format for the NFL draft?