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Caleb Williams Sparks Debate on US Sports Draft System
Is the NFL Draft System Really a 'Fair Game'?
Caleb Williams, QB for the USC Trojans and a potential No.1 Overall Pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, along with his father has recently suggested a flaw in the NFL Draft system. The Heisman quarterback has stated that he is not willing to play for a losing team, and is willing to opt out of the upcoming draft. Today’s article will look at how the US Sports drafting system works and why it has become a controversy.
The USC Trojans are off to a hot start in their season going 4-0, following their successful season from last year (11-3). In the center of their playbook is QB Caleb Williams, a reigning Heisman winner and a potential No.1 Draft pick in the upcoming 2024 NFL draft. While being the No. 1 pick in the draft is every footballer's dream, the current structure of the draft may make it a double-edged sword.
Caleb Williams 2022 Stat (USC) vs. Patrick Mahomes 2015 Stat (Texas Tech)
Passing: Williams (4,537 Yds) vs. Mahomes (5,052 Yds)
TD: Williams (42) vs. Mahomes (41)
INT: Williams (5) vs. Mahomes (10)
NFL Draft System
The NFL's draft system prioritizes parity. This means that the team with the poorest performance gets the first pick. And while this can be beneficial for the team, it may not always be the ideal situation for the player.
Carl Williams, Caleb's father, has been quite vocal about his reservations. Drawing comparisons from other sports, he rightly points out that top talents in other fields don't necessarily get pushed into the worst-performing institutions. He's not wrong. A top-performing engineer or accountant is not restricted to the worst firm. Football, along with other US sports with its unique draft system, offers less choice.
Adding to the complexity is the fact that the Arizona Cardinals and the Houston Texans, two teams that are not performing at their peak, have higher chances of getting the first pick. If the Cardinals have it, Caleb would essentially replace Kyler Murray. This brings back the point of Kyler's struggles, emphasizing the importance of the team's culture and setup in a player's career.
Carl Williams states “The way the system is constructed, you go to the worst possible situation. The organizations matter. He's got two shots at the apple. So if there's not a good situation, the truth is, he can come back to school.”
With this system, there’s been issues in other sports leagues as well like the NBA, with teams purposely ‘Tanking’ in order to secure top lottery picks. The Dallas Mavericks of the NBA has recently been fined $750,000 for sitting their star players in order to purposely lose games. The NBA has looked into this issue and addressed a ‘Player Participation Policy’ in order to prevent further cases.
Fixing the System
So then what happens when you try to fix the current drafting system? One of the most important aspects is parity. You have to allow the league to be in a balanced state so that any team can be a contender for the No.1 Spot. Providing poorly performing teams with a high draft pick allows them to rebuild a winning squad, a benefit for both the team and its fans.
If you take this away, you soon have a large gap amongst the teams. Good teams will constantly get better and richer, whereas underperforming teams won’t have the leverage to get better. The league will soon be dominated by top teams, with half the fans leaving their favorite teams. The NFL obviously doesn’t want this to happen.
“The problem we're trying to solve is that there are rich teams and there are poor teams. Then there's 50 feet of crap, and then there's us…It’s an unfair game.”
-Billy Beane (Moneyball, 2011)
The same problem can be found in other sports leagues like the EPL. The EPL doesn’t have a drafting system like the US Sports leagues, allowing teams to sign any players, so long as they have the money. Thanks to this, teams like Manchester City and Newcastle UTD has managed to bounce back in to the top spots of the league, backed up by Oil money. This goes back to the issue stated in ‘Moneyball’, where rich teams manage to stay as the top dogs, leaving poor teams at the bottom of the league.
Number of Teams That Have Won the League Since 1992:
EPL (7) vs. NFL (15)
2022-23 EPL Standings vs. Squad Value:
1.Manchester City (€1.05 Billion)
2.Arsenal (€890.00 Million)
3.Manchester United (€795.70 Million)
4.Newcastle (€494.30 Million)
5.Liverpool (€879.00 Million)
19.Leeds United (€318.00 Million)
20.Southampton (€397.00 Million)
Williams and his father are not wrong for their words. In fact, a player should definitely have the power to choose a team that he/she wishes to play for and not be thrown under the bus. If Williams is willing to opt out of the 2024 NFL Draft, that is his choice and should not be scrutinized for making a decision that could change the landscape of his career.
However, we also have to understand what the league is trying to advocate in terms of making a competitive field. Players like Joe Burrow have managed to resuscitate a once 2-14 Bengals team to a Super Bowl appearance in 2022, and teams like the Detroit Lions are successfully rebuilding as a playoff contender team, thanks to the current draft system.
It’s always fun to watch teams like the Kansas City Chiefs roll back to their dominant seats, but it’s definitely more fun to watch the underdog teams making a definite statement in the league. This makes the league itself a much more dynamic field for any fanbases to support and cheer for.
“Any team has a chance to win it all”. The true motto for today’s US sports
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