April 23, 2009

THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS HOMO ECONOMICUS:

The NFL draft must be mocked (Gregg Easterbrook, 4/22/09, ESPN)

With the NFL draft approaching -- oh, you hadn't heard? -- it's trendy for sports pundits to say the teams at the top wish they had lower selections, owing to the outrageous bonus demands of top choices and the media pressure that comes with choosing high. This isn't a new problem! Eight years ago, TMQ made this very point. The free market must not be entirely rational if Wall Street executives and high NFL draft choices are so overpaid compared to how they perform. Including this year, it's usually not even clear whom the team holding the first selection should choose -- the last consensus No. 1 choice was Carson Palmer in 2003. Two college professors have gotten ink for proposing that teams with high selections should trade them straight-up for lower selections. This year the buzz question has been whether the Lions, holding the first choice, should simply refuse to pick -- putting the Rams on the clock and allowing the Lions to go second, thus saving maybe $5 million in bonus money.

Perhaps if the Lions refused to pick, then the Rams would refuse to pick and the Chiefs would refuse to pick and the Seahawks would refuse to pick. In an everyone-passes scenario, how far down would you have to drop to find a team willing to choose first? My guess is you'd get all the way to choice No. 17, the Jets, to find a team that would volunteer to choose first and pay first-selection money. Then again, the way PSL sales are going for the new New Jersey stadium, even the Jets might pass.

But no team holding a top choice will ever pass or trade down straight-up, for a reason college professors and sports pundits overlook: public relations. Public image has monetary value for businesses -- the money a team would save by deliberately surrendering a high draft choice would be lost in negative public relations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 23, 2009 11:16 AM
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