A Look at the "Disaster Draft" Strategy For All Four Major Leagues

Published on November 15th, 2023 12:20 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

Team Rescue Draft - Illustration of a NBA Draft meeting, with ex-ballers wearing suits. It's an interesting question - what would happen if a team suffered some sort of tragedy that killed or permanently disabled a number of its players? How would the leagues handle this situation?

What would happen, for instance, if a carload of players from a Major League Baseball team got into a major accident, killing all of the occupants of the car"?

What would happen if some sort of illness resulted in a number of players from a team becoming permanently disabled?

The answer - disaster drafts.


If a commissioner determines that a team has suffered a "disaster" but can still move forward, the "disaster draft" will take place.

If a team is determined to not be able to continue play that season (perhaps most of the team dies in a plane crash), the commissioner of the league can determine that the team's season will be cancelled.

Let's look at how the "disaster draft" scenarios work for the four major North American sports leagues:


If a team loses at least five of their players during the season due to death, dismemberment or permanently disability (or six players in the offseason), the MLB Commissioner can choose to hold a Restocking Draft.

All unaffected teams must make five players available from their active list, and this list must include one pitcher, one catcher, one outfielder, one infielder and one player from any of those positions.

The impacted team can select as many players as they lost, but they will only be able to select one player maximum from a team.


If a NBA team has five or more players that suffer death or dismemberment during the course of a season, a special "disaster draft" will be held. Other NBA teams can protect five players, and no more than one player can be taken from a team.

The small number of protected players means that there would be some incredible talent made available.


The NFL has procedures in place for a "near-disaster" and "disaster".

In a disaster, which is defined as a team losing 15 or more players to disability, the team's season would be cancelled and they would automatically receive the #1 pick in the next draft. In addition, a special draft would be held before the start of the next season - unaffected teams would be able to protect 32 players, and the impacted team wouold be able to select from the unprotected players.

In a "near-disaster", which is defined as a team losing less than 15 players due to disability, the impacted team would receive preferential waiver rights for the rest of the year.

If a quarterback is one of the disabled players in the "near-disaster" scenario, unaffected teams would be able to protect two quarterbacks, and the impacted team would be able to draft as many as two QBs, with the quarterbacks returning to their original teams at the end of the season.


If a team loses five or more players due to death or disability, impacted teams are able to select players from other teams, "using a special insurance fund".

Once the impacted team has at least 1 goaltender and 14 players, a special draft would be held involving the teams that didn't have any players taken from them, with these teams being able to protect 1 goalie and 10 other players.

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