Why is a draft needed?

by Peter Marus

I hear all the hype about the NFL draft, and I was thinking: in leagues that have salary caps (NFL, NBA, MLS, NHL) why are drafts for players entering the league needed?

If a team has a limit on what they can spend on salaries, why should they be limited, or even forced, to signing young talent? I know things like this puts the leagues in the press cycle in their offseason and gives the media something to do, but other than that, what's the point of the draft?

Is it to limit what a 19-20 year old is paid off the bat? Can't be that if you see what some rookies get (granted leagues are putting rookie caps on their salaries). I know they claim it's to keep competitive balance, but that's crap as well. Look at Eli Manning, John Elway, Eric Lindros, or any player that was drafted by a bad team but forced the team to trade them to a better team. Where was the leagues to stop that?

All teams in a league have a budget to spend on players. I think these teams should be given the freedom to spend it however they want. If one team locks up all the top college talent, if it's within the salary cap rules and they can afford to do so, that's their prerogative.