The Baltimore Ravens have the 32nd and final pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
It doesn’t seem like much of a reward for winning two road playoff games and upsetting the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
The NFL must change the way it determines its draft order for playoff teams. The league does a lot to promote parity, but it could do more by slotting all 32 draft picks based strictly on regular-season record.
The NBA and Major League Baseball set their draft orders based on regular-season record, although the NBA uses a lottery for non-playoff teams.
In the NFL, non-playoff teams pick in the order of their regular-season records, but the league deviates from that formula after the first 20 picks. The 21st through 32nd picks are decided by how far playoff teams advance in the postseason.
Eight teams had a better record than the Ravens in the 2012 regular season, so their championship run cost them at least eight spots in the draft.
Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos, who lost at home to the Ravens in the AFC divisional playoffs, were tied for the best record in the NFL.
Under the system employed by the NBA and Major League Baseball, the Broncos would have one of the last two picks in the first round.
Instead, their one-and-done showing in the playoffs allowed them to move up three or four spots.
The current system penalizes teams that get hot at the right time and rewards teams that have strong regular seasons but choke in the playoffs.
The two Super Bowl teams get the last two picks, with the loser picking first. The losers of the conference championship games pick 29th and 30th. The divisional-round losers choose 25th through 28th and the wild-card losers pick 21st through 24th. Within those groupings, the team with the lowest winning percentage picks first, and it goes from there.
The New York Giants’ three playoff absences in the last four years have put a damper on the two championships they’ve won since 2007. Perhaps they’d be able to better sustain their success if the draft order was set at the end of the regular season.
In 2007, the Giants finished 10-6 and should have picked no lower than 26th in the first round of the draft. They foiled the New England Patriots’ unbeaten season in Super Bowl XLII, and for that they were forced to pick last in the first round.
In 2011, the Giants finished 9-7 and would have picked no later than 23rd, but their Super Bowl run moved them back nine spots in the 2012 draft.
Had the Giants picked one spot earlier, they could have had running back Doug Martin. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' rookie started all 16 games, gained 1,454 yards and scored 11 touchdowns.
Instead, the Giants drafted running back David Wilson, who started just two games, gained 358 yards and scored four touchdowns. The Giants again finished 9-7 in 2012, but unlike the year before, it wasn’t good enough to get them into the playoffs.
The Giants stunned the Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs on their way to winning Super Bowl XLVI. The Packers became the first 15-1 team to fall short of the conference championship game. They should have been stuck with the last pick in the first round.
In the spirit of parity, a 9-7 team needs more help in the draft than a 15-1 team, even if the 9-7 team is better on one particular day.
A 15-1 team getting a higher draft pick because of an early playoff exit is like Donald Trump getting food stamps because one of his hotels goes out of business.
The 2011 Packers had the talent to win the Super Bowl, but couldn’t get the job done. Tough. They shouldn't have been picking four spots ahead of the Giants in the draft.
Should the NFL change the way it determines draft order for playoff teams?
The Pittsburgh Steelers became the first No. 6 seed to win a Super Bowl in 2005. Their 11-5 record would have put them somewhere between 23rd and 28th in the first round. They picked 25th, but only because they traded up from No. 32 to pick Santonio Holmes, who was the MVP of their next championship three years later.
If the Steelers hadn't overridden the NFL’s silly system by making that deal, maybe they wouldn’t have won their sixth Super Bowl in 2008.
Playoffs are what really matter in any sport, but the NFL's 16-game regular season goes a long way toward determining each team's talent level.
The NFL's current system of lining up the draft order sends the message that the regular season doesn't matter.