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If the NFL Had a Draft Lottery

Courtesy of Kirby Lee – IPTC

Football is the number one sport in the United States, yet the NFL goes into a complete shutdown after February, once the Super Bowl is over. The league has been trying over the last several years to implement new strategies for the offseason to keep football at the top, even when no games are being played. Free Agency, while exhilarating at times is not the most magnificent spectacle for football, especially when compared to the NBA’s free agency. The Combine has been televised for the last 15 years, raking in a large viewership, but it isn’t exactly the most thrilling event to watch for more than a couple of minutes. The draft is the biggest event of the season because it decides the fate of franchises for the years to come, but it could be better.

In the NFL, tanking is becoming more prominent. Teams see that they are underperforming and will trade away players and assets for a higher pick, trying to get the most value, or in this case, the worst record to solidify the highest pick they can. That does not exactly make for great television when some teams are playing poorly or unmotivated, especially late in the season when teams start to get eliminated from playoff contention. A lottery will try to even the playing field and make for better competition throughout the season.

After watching the NBA Draft Lottery, teams that tanked, like the Phoenix Suns, saw their pick drop out of the top five, while a team like the Lakers who ended with 18 more wins, shot up to the fourth overall pick.

I set up a simulation that would give us an idea of how the NFL Lottery would have looked this season. For the best results, I kept the same odds that the NBA now has with the top three teams possessing the worst records having a 14% chance at the first overall pick. It is also only fourteen teams to keep it consistent.

On the left side, there are the odds for each team, and the right side is what happened after a single simulation:

ODDSLOTTERY SIM
ARIZONA CARDINALS – 14.0%DETROIT LIONS
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS – 14.0%BUFFALO BILLS
NEW YORK JETS – 14.0%JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
OAKLAND RAIDERS – 12.5%ARIZONA CARDINALS
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS – 10.5%SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
NEW YORK GIANTS – 9.0%NEW YORK JETS
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS – 6.0%OAKLAND RAIDERS
DETROIT LIONS – 6.0%TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
BUFFALO BILLS – 6.0%NEW YORK GIANTS
PITTSBURGH STEELERS – 3.0% PITTSBURGH STEELERS
CINCINNATI BENGALS – 2.0%CINCINNATI BENGALS
GREEN BAY PACKERS – 1.0%GREEN BAY PACKERS
MIAMI DOLPHINS – 1.0%MIAMI DOLPHINS
ATLANTA FALCONS – 1.0%ATLANTA FALCONS

The draft order is immediately shaken up and looks entirely different than what happened in reality. The teams with the eighth and ninth picks got the first two picks, respectively. This lottery would bring more trading and excitement prior to the draft, and I believe this could be a real opportunity for the National Football League to explore in the future.

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