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NFL Draft

Football Terms – Draft Coverage

The NFL Draft is a yearly event in late April where the 32 NFL teams select incoming amateur college football players. Selecting a player as a draft pick gives that team exclusive rights to sign the players. While a few top-rated players have refused to sign with a team (John Elway) and have subsequently forced a trade, it is a virtual certainty that a team which drafts a player will sign that player to their squad.

The National Football League has had a draft since 1936. There have been many changes in format over the years, though the basic rules have remained the same. In 1965, the NFL Draft was moved to New York City, where it remains until this day.

In 1980, ESPN began broadcasting the NFL Draft. These days, ESPN broadcasts full coverage of the NFL Draft, and the event has become the major day in the NFL offseason, with a hype greater than many championship events in other sports.

When ESPN first approached NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle about broadcasting the draft, Rozelle was dumbfounded that anyone would be interested in watching. Happy to have the extra exposure, Rozelle gave the cable sports network unprecedented access to the draft process. The event’s popularity has exceeded everyone’s expectations.

NFL Draft Order

Teams draft in the inverse order to their record the year before. That is, the team with the worst record drafts first in every round. The team with the best record drafts last. The only exceptions to this rule are the two Super Bowl teams. The team that won the Super Bowl always picks last in the round, regardless of record. The team that lost the Super Bowl picks second to last, regardless of record.

Of course, draft order often will radically switch before and during the draft due to trades. NFL teams can trade their draft picks years in advance, though most teams do not trade a pick beyond one year in the future (because of the exigencies of the NFL, it would be foolish for a team to assume they will not have a very high draft pick five years in advance; therefore, they are unlikely to trade a pick which might be the top overall selection.) Usually, trades happen on draft day, when a team has a player they want to select, and therefore that team is more likely to trade future considerations for the player they have targeted.

Draft Boards

Every team has its own draft board. Though there is a rough pecking order of where players are supposed to go, each team has their own criteria for ranking players. Some teams put more of an emphasis on athletic talent, while others put emphasis on character, leadership or work ethic. Some teams regard speed as the winning factor in football, while other teams depend on size and strength. Also, there are teams that want "the best player available", while other teams rank according to needs.

Drafting For Needs

Once example of how two draft boards can be different are the different personnel sets required by different offensive play schemes and defensive play schemes. For instance, the Dallas Cowboys look big, strong offensive linemen. They put a premium on finding large linemen who can push the opponent around the field.

On the other hand, some West Coast teams (like the current Denver Broncos or the San Francisco 49ers of ten years ago) prefer smaller, quicker linemen. This allows for more mobility in the linemen, who might be asked to run outside on screen passes, to block on more passing plays or pull and trap the defense on running plays. Because of this, the Dallas Cowboys might rank a large lineman higher, while the Denver Broncos might rank a smaller offensive lineman higher.

When it comes draft day, teams claim to "follow their draft boards", though many times they draft for need. As you see, though, teams might weight their draft boards due to need or pre-conceived notions of how a player fits their system, so teams might draft for needs and follow their draft boards at the same time.

Depending on how the draft develops, certain highly-rated players might slide down in the draft. This might simply be because 10 teams in a row don’t want a smaller lineman, or because they don’t want to spend a 1st rounder on a running back or quarterback, due to team needs. In this way, one or two players slide in every NFL Draft.

NFL Combine

The NFL Combine is one part of how a team evaluates talent for the upcoming NFL Draft. Click on the following link to read more about the
NFL Combine.

Scouting College Players

NFL teams (besides the Cincinnati Bengals) have large scouting staffs. Some of these scouts are allotted to scout upcoming NFL opponents. A large number of them are sent to scout college talent. Therefore, the first process in evaluation for the NFL Draft is the old-fashioned team scout. These men are sent around the nation to watch and report on the top players at the top programs, as well as a few of the top players at lesser programs.

Teams also collect footage of the college football players, so they can take a closer look at the player’s mechanics and work ethic. Some players are said to have "motors", because they don’t take off plays. Others will look great on one play, then take off the next several plays. This is usually because of a lack of conditioning, though it might betray a lack of focus.

NFL Draft Review

In the end, the NFL Draft is an exciting day for fans, players and team personnel alike. ESPN will post reporters near the "war rooms" of key NFL teams, while reporting and interviewing people from each organization. A certain number of potential high draft picks are brought to New York City to stay in the "green room". New York Jets and
New York Giants fans are on hand to cheer or boo picks as they see fit. NFL Draft Day becomes a major television spectacle.

Fans love it because it’s the day of infinite possibilities, when the local team could wind up drafting the hot college prospect they’ve been watching produce for years. Or the team might add a sleeper pick in the late rounds who might turn out to be the next Tom Brady or Terrell Davis. Every teams a winner (or so they think) on NFL Draft day.

Football Terms Starting With “N”

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