The draft has become such a huge part of the pro sports calendar, it seems impossible to think of a world without it. But would life really be so bad if the draft was abolished? Players would be free to go to the teams they want to go to, and not feel like they are just being farmed out to whatever team played the worst the year before. So should we just abolish the draft?
Imagine your job is just like the NBA draft. There are only 30 potential employers, each with varying degrees of competence. Not that it matters much to you because you don’t get a say in which company you join, they select you whether you like it or not. Then, the better you are, the more likely it is that you’re going to be working for a less competent company than you’d prefer.
The companies are all over the United States and Canada, but no matter where you are living now, you have to relocate. Whoever gets picks earliest in the draft gets paid more, even though the better companies are the ones who get to pick last.
Then for the next six years, you will essentially be owned by the company that selected you. There is no way for you to leave, unless the company decides they don’t want you around any longer. Plus don’t forget that in ten years you’ll be shown the door because ‘you’re too old.’ Does that seem fair to you?
Although it’s a little more complicated than that, that’s basically what all young draft players are facing in whatever major league sport they excel at. It seems that the main reason to continue with the draft system for the majority of sports franchises is to maintain control over the athletes.
Owners get to take control of the rights of players for as long as possible, even though they can potentially become a franchise player in that initial six-year period. Players don’t really have any choice, but if they did, we’d see a totally different league.
If players were given the freedom to pick where they play, then we would see a totally different league. The draft is in place to ensure that the league remain competitive but does it though? In the 19 years since Tom Brady was drafted, not one single NFL team with the number one pick won the championship.
Poorly run teams appear to be rewarded for being so badly run by getting the best opportunity to pick the up-and-coming talents from the college system. Why would the players want to go there though when they know how badly run they are?
The draft hasn’t proven itself to be effective, and poorly run teams largely remain poorly run. It was well documented that Zion Williamson wanted to play with the Knicks for the 2019-20 NBA season, but he ended up being drafted to the Pelicans. The Pelicans drafted Davis in 2012 as their number one and still didn’t make an impression on the championship picture.
There are some alternatives to enlisting in the draft system. Carter Stewart, a pitching prospect from Florida, has chosen to move to a Japanese team rather than be selected in the draft. Stewart is said to have signed a six-year deal with the Japanese team for over $7 million, more than he would have earned as a draft.
Because his contract is six years, it means that when he is 25, Stewart can return to the United States as a free agent and sign for any MLB he wants. Will young players in the future decide they should avoid the draft altogether, make money somewhere else, and then return as free agents? Stewart’s choice at least proves there are options for young players other than signing up to the major leagues and being underpaid.
The draft will likely always remain a part of pro sports in North America. If this was any other job, the players could choose what company they work for and in which city. Is it time professional athletes got their freedom back?