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Draft Smackdown

Alan Milstein, guest-blogging over at The Sports Law Blog, puts the smackdown on the NFL draft.

Oh those NFL schedule makers. How do they do it? The final week in the NFL pits Houston against San Francisco with so much at stake one can barely watch the game. The loser, of course, wins the Reggie Bush sweepstakes, a prize more valuable than any division crown. In this season of watching fans root for their team to lose, it’s time to challenge the bedrock assumption of the American professional sports monopolies: the necessity of a college draft with the worst teams getting the top picks.

The rationale has been the subject of so much propaganda no one challenges the concept: We do it for the fans; otherwise the same teams will get all the best players and win every year and the smaller market fans will have nothing to root for.

Bull.

Well, while it may not have been as exciting as a relegation match in soccer, at least there was some reason to watch the 'Niners and the Texans.

It's well-known that revenue imbalance (i.e. imbalance in fans' willingness to pay for sports) leads to competitive imbalance in sports (pro and college!) and in the absence of transactions costs, players tend to move to the teams that "value" them the most. In other words, whether a team's owner obtains value from profits, "consumption" of the team, or some combination of these two things, players tend to play where they have the highest marginal contribution.

The draft, as Alan points out, limits the number of teams that can negotiate with each player. It does not, however, determine where the highest marginal contribution is and it does not limit the number of teams that can try to get the player. So teams still negotiate to land players/draft positions - they don't negotiate much with the players, but with themselves.

In other draft news, Maurice Clarett is apparently wanted on armed robbery charges.