Originally an article about all sports (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/296692-what-professional-sports-leagues-can-learn-from-one-another ), I had to cut two of the sections short for length; so I figured I might embellish upon the notion within the specific sports at hand.
The NFL is having success while other sports are taking popularity hits. But there’s still room to improve.
Parity in the NFL seems to be doing its job fairly well. Playoff turnover tends to be great (that is, the number of teams in the playoffs that were not so the year prior).
After a bumpy start to the year, the half-dozen league dregs have proven themselves more able than one would have guessed two to three weeks ago (not powerhouses but at least competitive).
So where does the NFL need to improve? Here we take a page from the NBA.
A rookie wage scale would do wonders for a league where first round draft picks can command massive salaries that bog teams down for several years. If you whiff on a top three or four draft pick in the NFL, the hard salary cap means that team is unable to try to make itself competitive via the free agent market.
Unless a team has a specific player that they want without question, it is preferable to hold onto a fifth, sixth, or seventh round pick rather than one in the first three rounds.
This allows room for veterans to be signed, teams can pursue other options sooner if a player is not panning out, and teams do not feel burdened by a No. 1 pick. This means teams stuck in long term ruts (Raiders, Lions) are much better suited to turn things around and grow competitive.
A few underperforming veterans may gain some unwarranted salary bloat from this, but I would take that knock over $60 million for a guy to spend two years losing and two years riding the bench.
In addition to the idea of a rookie salary cap, I feel that taking some form of a minor league from MLB would be another good step. The practice squad is the closest thing right now football has.
Beyond this, once a player has finished college they either make the cut the first year or they have very little chance of ever making it into an NFL game. Should the UFL rise and grow more successful, it could have the potential to fill the void for ex-NFLers, guys who just missed the cut, and others.
It is hard to really picture a prop team maintaining a full 53+ man farm team but the UFL can make arrangements where perhaps they can be “loaned” practice squad players, in combination with their own means of acquiring players. This gives those players practical game experience, acts as a form of a minor/developmental league, and gives the UFL itself an extra source (albeit it prone to call-ups) of getting quality players to help foster a growing fan base.
This symbiosis seems the most practical variation of a minor league that would benefit both the NFL and the smaller league, as well as make it considerably less clunky than a true baseball-based farm system (something owners would never want to pump the required money into).
As a final afterthought, one that falls into the more personal wouldn't-it-be-fun category more than a genuine way to improve the NFL, the notion of an NBA-esque draft lottery. The top ten picks are drawn at random with worst teams getting the best chance at the No. 1 overall pick.
Obviously, the odds have to favor the league’s worst team to get the No. 1 pick. Making it equal would be unfair to the teams at the lower end of the spectrum.
With this, however, things can move around and become fluid; a lucky draw with a team gaining three, four, even five spots could help spark interest from an apathetic fan base on a losing team. Instead of a team with, say, a No. 8 overall having to trade away a big chunk of draft picks or players to pick up just a few spots, watch them start out with a No. 4 and get who they actually want.