I had just sat down to eat lunch in the press box at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday when an image on the large video boards inside the seating bowl caught my eye.

Cincinnati Bengals rookie Joe Burrow was on the ground, and it didn’t look good. The quarterback’s hands repeatedly returned to his helmet in the universal sign of distress. By the time players from both teams began surrounding him on the field, it was clear the injury was serious.

My first thought was likely the same as nearly everyone else witnessing the scene. I hope this isn’t as bad as it looks (it actually proved to be worse), and I hope Burrow is able to come back soon.

My next thought actually surprised me. It’s time to abolish the draft.

I know what you’re thinking. The first time I heard the idea, I immediately rejected it. It’s a radical departure from the way we’ve always looked at professional sports.

But the more I’ve considered the idea, the more I believe it could actually help take the NFL to even greater heights.

There would have to be guardrails in place for certain. The players’ union likely would fight to retain the rookie pay scale and provide some protection for veterans. And there would certainly be teams that try to cut costs by releasing as many tenured players as possible and replacing them with younger players and more cost certainty.

But I believe the competition on the field would be enhanced.

Imagine for a moment that Burrow was free to sign with any team of his choice (who could fit him under the salary cap) after his record-setting Heisman Trophy-winning season at LSU. How dangerous would he look under center for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots? How hard would the Chicago Bears have worked to secure his services to provide some much-needed relief to one of the league’s best defenses? Would Cincinnati still have won out for the former Ohio high school star?

The intrigue would have added even more offseason headlines for a league that craves constant attention.

If some sort of rookie salary cap remained in place – a structure similar to the NBA’s max contract system – there wouldn’t be much of a monetary advantage to any franchise. As long as a team can fit the max salary under its cap, it could make the move.

That would put even more importance on general managers and coaching staffs. Much like college programs, they’d need to woo draft prospects and sell them on their vision. Everything from the offensive scheme to the quality of the local school system could play a role in a player’s decision.

Teams that are organized best and can provide the most support will have the best chance at success. That’s the way it works everywhere else in the free market. Why not the NFL?

The benefits would be multifold. Star receivers like Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson no longer would be forced to play long stretches of their careers without quality quarterbacks. Teams just missing that all-important piece under center will have more options to fill the hole. And, most importantly, there will be no more need to tank.

To be clear, I don’t believe players and coaches tank now. It’s self-destructive. Sure, the team will eventually benefit from a higher draft pick, but many of the people who helped them “earn” it won’t be around to enjoy it.

With rookies being recruited to teams instead of drafted, there’s no need for front offices to stack the deck against the current coaches and players. Just field the best team possible every year. Who could argue against that?

It won’t be a perfect system. That doesn’t exist.

But isn’t a league where every team is allowed to maximize its resources more interesting than one that routinely rewards failure?

It’s a shame fans won’t be able to watch Burrow play the rest of this season in large part because the team that drafted him didn’t bother to protect him with an offensive line.

Here’s to hoping someone worthy of the No. 1 overall pick won’t have to deal with such concerns in the not-too-distant future.

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