2011 NFL Draft: Could This Be the Last One?

Josh McCainSenior Writer IMarch 21, 2011

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 02:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks on in the third quarter against the Miami Dolphins on January 2, 2011 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Profootball.com, along with Chris Mortensen of ESPN, are reporting that if Tom Brady's (along with Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and a host of other NFL players) lawsuit is successful, then the NFL draft could be no more.

The main purpose of the suit is to get an injunction against the lockout, but there is also language in the suit that labels the NFL draft as a practice by the NFL violates United States' Anti-Trust Laws.

The draft started in 1936 to create a more organized and fair way of signing young talent out of college. 

Being based on how successfully a team performed the previous year, it allows the more desperate teams a chance to improve themselves with high picks—and with that, a seemingly a better chance of drafting the best young talent available.

This has been so successful that all the major American sports do it as well.  The NBA, MLB and NHL all have college drafts (with the MLB having a high school draft as well).

The implications for the NFL are great, given that the NFL draft has become a spectacle all to itself, that is almost as big as any major championship game.

If the players lawsuit is successful, that could all go away and could very well affect the other major sports as well.

If Judge Nelson feels that the NFL is indeed violating anti-trust laws with its draft, then there would be nothing stopping the players unions in the other three sports from filing such suits when their CBA's have expired (the NBA's expires at the end of this season).

Further implications (than just the other major sports leagues) would be with colleges themselves.

Without a draft, what would be the guidelines for a player entering the league?

The NBA, in their last CBA, set forth rules that a player must complete one year of college before being eligible for the draft, and the MLB has no such stipulation. With their farm systems, they have no problem with drafting kids right out of high school.

Universities already have a hard-enough time with keeping kids in school with the draw of big money from professional sports.

With drafts being abolished by the courts, I find it hard to imagine that age requirements wouldn't soon follow.

Why would a kid want to go play quarterback for Florida State when the New England Patriots offer him several million to back-up Tom Brady?

A lot of people on various sports sites think that without a draft, rookie wages would go down and not need a cap; most veteran players would probably agree with their analysis.

However, I think having no draft at all would hurt veteran players.

The mantra for the last decade or so in the NFL is to build through the draft and get young.

Why trade back when you can throw money around to get the best young players?

I think this would hurt wages of the veteran players, not help them.

Right now, there are teams in great need of skill position players.

This year was going to be a huge year for free agency, but without a foreseeable end to the lockout, the draft will take place before free agency.

Teams will now look to the draft (rather than to free agency) first to fill holes; therefore, when there is a new CBA, a lot of positions are going to be filled with younger talent and there won't be as large a market for certain free agents. They'll be offered less money as a result.

This would be a similar scenario if there was no draft at all. Teams would look to the younger college players first, and to the veterans second.

The rookies would be in higher demand (though not proven) than the veterans.

A Hypothetical Scenario

So for a moment, let's look forward to 2012 and let's assume that the players win their suit and there is no draft.

Andrew Luck was the consensus No. 1 overall pick for this year before he decided to stay in school.

Let's assume that he'll have a great senior year and still be the No. 1 pick in 2012.  Only— hypothetically, there wouldn't be a draft and just about every team in need of a quarterback (or with an aging quarterback) will be after him.

That's probably 25 out of the 32 teams.

Luck, being young and having a great amount of skill set will draw all of the attention and veteran free-agent quarterbacks won't.

Where this is going to drive Luck's price up (along with other rookie QBs), it will drive the price of veterans down.

One last thing. I think abolishing the draft would also destroy a lot of the parity in the NFL. 

Teams that don't or can't spend a lot of money in free agency and build though the draft won't be able to do that anymore.

They'll be forced to compete with big spenders like Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder to get the best young talent.  

No more will the Lions, Bills and Panthers have first shot at the best talent in the college pool. No—the Patriots, Colts and Steelers will have a chance to snatch up highly prized prospects too.

If you're a hot young college player coming into the NFL, are you going to want to sign with Buffalo or Detroit? Or are you going to set your sights on winning teams, or at least teams that will pay you more money?

I think the players have a lot on their side in the battle with the owners, but in the process of fighting for what they believe in, they need to be careful not to destroy the league that has not only made the owners rich, but made them wealthy as well.