Should the Miami Dolphins win this Sunday morning, the main reason why I'll be rooting for San Diego Chargers loss is because of the additional draft value this brings the Chargers.
Before getting to how to quantify that, though, let's actually review what happened to the Chargers in weeks 16 and 17 over the past three seasons...where, you know, they won these meaningless games.
The recent history of Chargers meaningless wins
2012's meaningless wins
2011's meaningless win
2010's meaningless win
The value lost in this meaningless win
Now that we know the specifics of what winning those games late in 2010, 2011, and 2012 meant anecdotally, it's time we put an actual mathematical value to what the Chargers lost by winning.
The Draft Value Chart
The 2013 Draft
The 2012 Draft
The 2011 Draft
Contract values probably don't mean anything
It is certainly true that, historically speaking, picks towards the end of the first round have been a better bang-for-the-buck than picks at the front of the first round.( But remember, most of that analysis applied to the old CBA, where rookie salaries were drastically higher than they are under the new agreement. We don't necessarily know if this still holds.)
However, more bang-for-the-buck does not mean that it is a more valuable pick in terms of making a competitive roster. It's actually a mathematical trick that has you believe that bang-for-the-buck should require the pick to be more valuable.
Here's that trick in action:
Let's say teams must reach 100 "talent points" with their $100 payroll in order to have a competitive roster. "Talent points" here is basically some theoretical abstract way of quantifying how much a player helps a team win, and 100 is an arbitrary value I chose for neatness purposes.
Team A, selecting first in five consecutive seasons, exactly fills their talent quota by paying all $100 of their payroll to their draft selections. This team is paying $1 per talent point.
Team B, selecting 20th in five consecutive seasons, would have just 37 talent points (the value of pick 20's draft is just 37% that of pick 1's) since the relative talent levels of the selections are drastically different. Yes, Team B would have a better bang-for-their-buck in regards to their draft selections, perhaps paying just $0.80 for each talent point. However, this team would now be required to add 63 talent points in free agency at a cost of $71.4, or just $1.13 per talent point. Are any of you naive enough to believe that the inflation in free agency is so little? Just consider how many other teams would need to reach their quotas and how much money they'd have leftover, too...
Of course, the 100 talent point value I chose above was an abstraction. Depending on where that quota is, teams' dependency on free agents to fill the missing talent shifts inflation. However, based on the current prices that mediocre and objectively below-average players go for in free agency, it seems pretty clear that inflation would not allow Team B above to compete. And based on NFL front office's pretty much following the draft value chart, I'm inclined to believe that the theory above holds: even though some worse picks have better bang-for-the-buck does not matter since it forces you to fill needs in free agency at a cumulative worse deal.
And remember, even if it weren't true, there is nothing preventing the Chargers from attempting to trade down in the draft, collect some portion of the extra value added through the loss, and still have that exact same bang-for-the-buck selection anyway.
Historically, the Chargers have left a ton of value on the table by winning otherwise meaningless games in weeks 16 and 17. The one season in recent history where the victory didn't cost the Chargers much in terms of draft value, it delivered an unbelievable benefit to the team that now sits atop of the division standings.
Currently, the Chargers would select 16th in the NFL draft. If they lose out, they could move all the way up to pick 9. If they win out, but miss the playoffs, they could actually end up with the worst non-playoff selection: 20th. That's a draft value chart difference equivalent to the 8th pick in Round 2. If the Dolphins win, would you really want these wins so badly that you'd be happy if the Chargers traded the 8th pick in Round 2 to acquire them? That's what you're potentially rooting for.
It's easy for some of us to ignore that in cheering on the Chargers against the hated Oakland Raiders. For others, it's a frustrating realization that the best thing that could happen for the Chargers' competitive aspirations, should Miami win early Sunday, is a Chargers loss.