The New York Jets have made numerous roster moves that suggest they are looking to secure the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. There are several notable college quarterbacks that could be available next spring, and the Jets seem to think they can find their franchise quarterback at that point.
The Jets are not the first team, and won’t be the last team that is aiming for the top pick in the draft. Players won’t be purposely trying to lose games, but front offices and coaching staffs can potentially set themselves up well. Aside from trading and cutting decent players, Pro Football Talk pointed to an example like the 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers benching players in the second half of their season finale while leading the New Orleans Saints 20-7. They lost and secured the pick that would turn into Jameis Winston.
PFT raised that example in a discussion about adding a lottery to the draft. Concerns about tanking are not a new thing, but the Jets maneuvering has people thinking it is becoming a little too obvious. The Indianapolis Colts tanked for Luck, but they “lucked out” in some ways with Peyton Manning’s neck injury ending his season.
The NBA instituted a draft lottery, but since changing to a weighted system (worst teams get the most chances), tanking remains an issue. The Los Angeles Lakers were an example of that. Of course, a counter is the Brooklyn Nets securing the most ping pong balls for the Boston Celtics due to a previous trade. But tanking remains an issue in general.
PFT suggests going to a non-weighted system, which would mean that every non-playoff team would have the same odds at claiming the top pick. That would disincentivize teams from trying to secure the most losses. The Jets might still have unloaded some of their bigger contract players, but they wouldn’t have nearly as much incentive, knowing they’d still be pretty bad with Josh McCown at quarterback.
Is tanking a concern in the NFL? I don’t know that it is nearly as big an issue as PFT would argue. I do think the Jets are trying to tank, but even before some of the moves, how many Jets fans actually thought their team was going to be a playoff contender? That has more to say about the Jets front office incompetence in recent years than anything else. It will potentially hurt ticket sales, but if the fan base latches on to one or two notable names in next year’s draft, you could argue it might not be a big problem for a lot of fans. Well, not as big a problem as the Jets general incompetence.
A lottery has not stopped tanking in the NBA, and I don’t know that an unweighted lottery is really the best solution to competitive imbalance. What do you think?