National Football League
October 26, 2011
Draft King Analysis
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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With Stanford redshirt junior QB Andrew Luck being one of the most coveted NFL draft prospects in years, there has been speculation going back to even before the season of teams that find themselves struggling out of the gate to potentially tank the rest of the season to be in position to draft Luck at the #1 spot. I've been asked about it on seemingly a weekly basis, and my opinion warrants mentioning on here.
In short: no NFL team is going to intentionally try to lose in order to gain a better draft position. There are too many people involved for that to happen, all of whom would forever be connected with the taint of either a winless season or one where their team finished dead last. It hurts coaches, it hurts players, and it hurts a team's fan base.
This isn't to say that there for sure won't be any Week 17 shenanigans, but barring a direct order coming down from an owner, I don't think it will happen. Coaches and players fight very hard to earn their spots, and failure to produce wins is something that makes all involved look bad.
Think of it from a player's perspective: in a league where contracts are almost never fully guaranteed, why should a guy go along with the notion of not trying 100% in order for the team to gain a new quarterback? What incentive is there when he could end up cut in the off-season and try to catch on elsewhere? And how about free agents to be? You've heard of "contract year" performances where guys excel in their final year before hitting the open market, and any players not giving their all with free agency upcoming would be acting very foolishly.
Tanking became enough of a problem in the NBA to where a lottery system had to be put into place, but a long basketball season is different than 16 grueling games, not to mention other obvious differences between the two sports that would make tanking difficult to do.
In short, the closest thing I think we'll see to tanking are teams having terrible seasons perhaps cite injuries to star players (who might normally play through them) as reason to not have them play. Yes, Andrew Luck is perhaps the top QB prospect since John Elway, as some have suggested, but any tanking to get him, or the right to draft him, seems low.
Plus, there is always that slight chance that Luck would go back for his redshirt senior season, though he has already said he has no plans to do that. But injury, changes of circumstances, etc. could potentially convince him to return to Stanford for 2012. It's a super long shot, but it's not impossible to think of it happening. So instead of tanking for Luck, teams could be tanking for the choice between Matt Barkley and Landry Jones -- and it's entirely possible that both of them could stay in school for 2012 as well.
It's obvious that Luck is a tremendous QB and an outstanding prospect, but the possible quarterbacks who might be near the top (and realize there's Luck, a drop, and then Level 2 begins) could end up being high choices as well, particularly with how safety rules are allowing wide receivers to go over the middle with impunity. The QB spot was important before, but quarterback in the modern NFL is more important than it's ever been, at least in my opinion.