its history, its development and its 2019 vintage

While the free-agency officially opened its doors last Wednesday, all franchises of the NFL have in the corner of their heads the most publicized event of this offseason: the Draft. The main gateway to joining the most followed sports league in the United States, it will celebrate its 84th birthday on April 25, 26 and 27. But by the way, what is the NFL Draft what exactly is it, and how does it work? Presentation of the event and short tour horizon of this 2019 vintage.

A little history

Jay Berwanger, first player selected in the Draft in 1936

The NFL is the first American sports league to have had the idea of ​​creating a special event to recruit so-called amateur players, mostly from university. Indeed, the first « draft » as the Quebecers say took place in 1936 in Philadelphia, years before other leagues that would follow suit such as the MLB in 1965 or the NBA in 1947 (date of creation of the league) . The idea comes to us from the co-owner of the Philadelphia Eagles at the time: Bert Bell. Frustrated to have missed the recruitment of a university player in 1933, he realized that he was unable to compete with the monsters of the time (Bears, Packers, …), much more comfortable financially and therefore able to offer higher salaries to academics.

Then comes an innovative concept: to create a parity system for the arrival of new players in the league, in order to increase the chances of the weakest teams to revive the competitiveness of the league. Despite the reluctance of some teams, the league accepts the project which will see the light of day three years later. For the record, the first player in history to have been selected in an NFL Draft is Jay Berwanger, Heisman Trophy (top college player) the previous year as a running back for the Chicago Maroons. Nevertheless, he will never tread the NFL lawns because football did not interest him, judging the salary far too low!

The draft process

John Ross, Cincinnati Bengals player and 40 yard dash record holder. (Sports Illustrated)

Process yes, because the Draft today is not limited to three days in the middle of spring as it may have been the case originally. Not to mention the scouting (player observation) which takes place throughout the university season, the first event stamped ”Draft” is the Senior Bowl. It’s simply a game that takes place after the college season since 1950 and brings together the best talents NCAA eligible for the next Draft. Yes, eligibility, because to be able to hear your name being called on a mild April day, you must have left the equivalent of high school, the high-schoolfor at least three years.

This match is then followed in February by another major event, the NFL Scouting Combine. Existing since the early 80s, its principle is simple: invite good players likely to join the league in the coming year to make them pass a battery of mental and physical tests. On the program of many workshops, ranging from the simple measurement of height or weight to the famous 40 yard race, through the Wonderlic Testequivalent to an IQ test used by the league.

These test days are followed, from March, by other days specific to universities, the Pro Days, allowing in particular players who missed their Combine or who were simply not invited to prove that they have their place in the big league. Even if these three events are not the only ones to get noticed for the Draft, they can be considered as the main ways to earn your place and prove your worth once the season is over.

The three crucial days

League commissioner Roger Goodell during the 2017 Draft. (Yahoo Sports)

Let’s get to the heart of the matter: the Draft. It takes place over three days and is made up of seven rounds: the first on Thursday, the next two on Friday and rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7 on Saturday. The order of selection is defined according to the results of the season which has just taken place: from 1 to 20 for the teams which have not reached the playoffs following the ranking in reverse order; from 21 to 24 for those eliminated in the first round; from 25 to 28 for those released in the 2nd round; places 29 and 30 for the losers of the conference finals; picks 31 and 32 for the loser and winner of the Super Bowl. Note that in the event of a tie between two teams, the decision is taken by drawing lots (the system has some flaws, we grant you that).

The teams obviously have the right to exchange their choices if they wish, often to move up the order of selection and thus increase their chances of selecting their favorite player. Each team can also be assigned compensatory choices by the league if it meets different criteria (the subject being relatively complex, it is preferable to refer to more specific articles on the subject such as that of the American site OverTheCap). The choices are also framed by a time limit so that the Draft is not too long and does not end up being boring, going from ten minutes per choice for the 1st round to seven for the 2nd then five for the rest of the selections.

NB: the 1st round of the Draft lasts on average 3 to 4 hours, but is far from boring because it is often filled with twists and surprises.

Stats and trivia

Peyton Manning in his Draft in 1998, alongside Colts owner Jim Irsay (left) and Paul Tagliabue (right), league commissioner at the time. (Credit: Sports Illustrated)

In football, the most important position is surely that of quarterback. If you think that the first choice of the Draft must therefore logically be a quarterback, well you are absolutely right! Since 1970 and the merger between the NFL and the AFL (whose stigma is visible by the existence of the NFC and AFC conferences), the 1st choice of the Draft has been a quarterback 23 times out of 49, or about 47% of the time ! And it’s even more blatant today because since the start of the millennium, only five first picks were not quarterbacks, a percentage of about 74% of QBs chosen in first position. We think in particular of Peyton Manning in 1998, or John Elway in 1983 or Terry Bradshaw in 1970.

And when a quarterback isn’t called, it seems like not just any player can be called. We note, still since 1970 and the merger, that no defensive back (cornerbacks and safeties), tight end, inside offensive line player (center and guard) or special team player (kicker or punter) was selected first. However, first choice does not necessarily rhyme with a great career: players like Jamarcus Russell (QB Oakland Raiders, 2007) Where Tim Couch (QB Cleveland Browns, 1999) can today be considered huge flops, despite their 1st choice status.

Conversely, being chosen in the last rounds does not necessarily mean being destined to have a bad career. At the time when the Draft had more than 7 rounds, we can talk about Bart Starr (17th round in 1956) Where Johnny Unitas (9th round in 1955), two renowned quarterbacks who made the heyday of the league. Furthermore, one can also cite Shannon Sharpe (7th round in 1990), a great player of the 90s who evolved the role of tight-end in modern football, or more recently Antonio Brownnew to the Oakland Raiders and drafted in the 6th round in 2010.

But the gender specialists remain the New England Patriots, capable of drafting the last Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman in the 7th round in 2009, or of course Tom Bradyone of the best players in history and the most successful player with six championship rings, only called up in the 6th round in 2000 by Bill Belichik’s team…

The 2019 vintage

Nick Bosa, one of the most anticipated players of this 2019 Draft (Credit: Touchdown Actu)

With the first pick, in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals select…

Difficult today to know precisely who will be the first name called by Roger Goodell on April 25th. However, several trends are already emerging. First of all, unlike the 2018 class which was announced as a quarterback draft, a trend which has been confirmed with four QBs chosen in the first ten choices and five in the first round, the class of 2019 does not see big prospects. get out of this position. Except maybe Dwayne Haskins (QB, Ohio State), whose arm strength is intriguing, or Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma), the last Heisman Trophy who chose the NFL rather than the MLB (hello the Oakland Athletics) announced close to Arizona according to certain rumors, no QB seems up to a selection in the 1st round.

Obviously, given the importance of the position, there will necessarily be some (the last draft without a QB in the 1st round dates back to 1996), but the quality of this year is more in another area of ​​the field: the defensive line and the pass rush. It is therefore no coincidence that the top three of most specialists play in this area of ​​the field; of Nick Bosa (Defensive End, Ohio State), Joey’s brother, Quinnen Williams (Defensive Line, Alabama) Passing by Josh Allen (Edge Rusher, Kentucky), the talented players are numerous and the teams with needs for these positions will enjoy themselves.

Also note a class of receivers that seems deep but without big names, except DK Metcalf (Receiver, Ole Mrs.) author of a stratospheric NFL Combine, and classes of runners and defensive backs which seem to be the weakest points of this year. However, in the Draft nothing is ever written and as history has already shown it is not necessarily the most anticipated who become the best players in history.

The NFL Draft has become more and more important since its creation and has not finished talking about it. It is now awaited by millions of fans and broadcast by the biggest sports channels. The progress of statistical analyzes pushes research even further to try to find the rare pearl. See you in a big months in Nashville, Tennessee, to find out which players will be selected by your favorite team.

Front-page image credit:

Louis Rousseau

The words « Minnesota Miracle » and « No-Call » are scratched from my vocabulary. My heart mourns the retirement of Drew Brees and the loneliness of RJ Barrett in Madison Square Garden.

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