Could the US NFL draft pick system be introduced to football?

The National Football League (NFL) uses a draft system to recruit newly eligible college American football players. The draft is the most common method common source of player recruitment within the NFL. Players that have been out of high school for at least three years are eligible and although the rules do not explicitly state that players have to have been to college – nearly all players selected in the NFL draft played college football.

The present rules state that there are 7 rounds of the draft; with any expansion team (brand new team) getting the first pick in round 1 followed by the teams based on their end of season record starting from the bottom with the Superbowl losers getting the penultimate pick and the Superbowl winners having the last pick. The order typically stays the same for the remaining six rounds. However, if teams finished with identical records then the order is cycled for each round.

It is somewhat difficult to know how the draft system could be incorporated into English/European football. There are a number of issues here such as the fact we are dealing with a different sport that is organized in a different way. In America high school and college sport is a big deal – because they are future NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS… stars. However, in England talented football players are snapped up by football clubs by a young age with a view that becoming professionals at that football club.

Then there is the transfer system to be considered. In America players are signed that are free agents (through the draft system) or traded (exchanged) with other players – so transfer fees aren’t involved – but high wages are. However, then again there is wage capping going on in the US – whereas there isn’t in England.

So with that all in mind any adapted draft system could only really apply to the free transfer market and with dealing with players that are still amateurs that are now free agents. Therefore, there is no real value to apply any draft system to general free transfers or potential free transfers. This can only work if it is applied to players before they are professionals.

The players that would be in question would be those that have been released from clubs before they have been offered a professional contract. But here perhaps lies the problem; players that have been released are not highly rated at least not in the opinion of a youth coach somewhere. In contrast the players in the NFL draft are highly rated and the best youngsters would be within the draft.

So in order to have an equivalent system then youth players couldn’t be signed automatically to the professional club – but instead would enter the free market system; where any club would be free to sign them. However, that system would have a major flaw in that if that were to happen – where would the incentive be to train up a young player?

Therefore, why not take it back further and look at players that are recruited to the club in the first place. The present rules have location restrictions on signing players below a certain age; which in some way is a bit unfair and puts a lot down to luck. Why does it matter which part of the UK players are from and why do clubs need to have catchment areas?

Then there is the issue of how teams that follow lower down in the league can be given an advantage and whetever or not any adapted draft system should be introduced exclusively to the Premier League or across all the professional clubs in England. There is of course the argument that there may be more need for it down the football league – due to the fact that there is a lot less money.

However, it is common for changes to be implemented into the Premier League and then gradually spread throughout the leagues. There are currently many people who claim that England isn’t producing the talent at the moment; It’s debatable if that is true given the emergence of players like Jordan Henderson, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.

But should a youth player sign for Chelsea just because they happen to be close when in the long-term it may not be the best club for their career. Take the example of Ryan Bertrand at Chelsea; a very talented young left back that should be challenging the likes of Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines and Kieran Gibbs for a place at left back in the England team. However, instead he has found himself on loan to Championship clubs for several seasons and unable to progress.

Imagine for a second that there was a draft system that benefited teams lower down in the table much like the NFL draft and Wigan picked him up instead. Then at this time Bertrand could be getting regular games in the Premier League and challenging for a place in the England team.

So should we look to adjust the Premier League and introduce some sort of adapted draft system? Maybe there isn’t a lot wrong with the current system – but one of the reasons for the draft system is to try and stop contract wrangles for the best youth players. There were rumours around that Manchester United had offered Phil Jones £80,000 per week. Surely Jones doesn’t need to be earning that sort of money at 19 years old. However, it may simply not be possible to adjust the draft system for the Premier League.

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