The Indianapolis Colts had an awkward problem at the end of the regular season. If they won their last game, they would forfeit the #1 pick in the NFL draft. They won their next-to-last game, placing them at risk for losing the #1 pick.
The NFL should have a draft lottery, to avoid the embarrassing problem where a team might lose on purpose to get the #1 pick.
Under the old CBA, the #1 draft pick wasn’t necessarily a great deal. The #1 pick typically got a huge contract and signing bonus. That made the #1 pick not as valuable as it seemed.
Under the new CBA, there’s a limit on rookie contracts. It’s a slotting system based on where you get drafted. There’s some limited negotiation; if one player negotiates more than his slot, that means another draft pick must get less than his slot. That makes the #1 draft pick much more valuable. If the #1 pick used to get a contract worth $50M, but now gets only $20M, that’s a $30M windfall for the team with the #1 pick. That team now has $30M extra cap room for other players.
There are a couple of reasonable draft lottery systems. They could randomize the first five picks, with each team getting a 1/5 chance of getting each slot. They could pick a weighted system, where worse records get a better chance. They could pick an NBA-like system, where each non-playoff team has a shot at a top pick.
The #1 pick in the NFL draft isn’t as valuable as the #1 pick in the NBA draft. The #1 NBA draft pick is almost always a star or superstar, and one player is 1/5 of the team. For the NFL, one star player is only 1/22 of the team. Due to injuries, many #1 picks are never successful. The NFL should only have the worst few teams in a lottery for the first few picks, rather than involving all non-playoff teams like the NBA does.
This season, the Colts had an awkward situation, where they were motivated to lose to secure the #1 draft pick. The new CBA makes the #1 pick more valuable. That’s a good reason to start a draft lottery.