While the free-agency officially opened its doors last Wednesday, all franchises of the NFL have in the back of their minds the most publicized event of this offseason: the Draft. Main gateway to join the most watched 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 it is precisely, and how does it work? Presentation of the event and short tour horizon of this 2019 vintage.
A little history
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 college. Indeed, the first “draft” as the Quebecois say took place in 1936 in Philadelphia, years before other leagues which will follow suit like the MLB in 1965 or the NBA in 1947 (date of creation of the league) . The idea came from the co-owner of the Philadelphia Eagles at the time: Bert Bell. Frustrated at having 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 at ease financially and therefore able to offer higher salaries to academics.
Then comes an innovative concept: create a parity system for the arrival of new players in the league, in order to increase the chances of the weaker teams to boost 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 be selected in an NFL Draft is Jay berwanger, Heisman Trophy (best college player) the year before as a running back for the Chicago Maroons. Nevertheless, he will never tread the NFL lawns because football did not interest him, deeming the salary too low!
The draft process
Process yes, because the Draft does not boil down today to three days in the middle of spring as it could have been the case at the beginning. Not to mention the scouting (player observation) which takes place throughout the university season, the first event marked “Draft” is the Senior Bowl. It is quite simply a match which takes place following the university season since 1950 and which brings together the best talents. NCAA eligible for the next Draft. Yes, eligibility, because to be able to hear his name being called on a sweet April day, you must have left the equivalent of high school, the High school, for at least three years.
This match was 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 are many workshops, ranging from the simple measurement of height or weight to the famous 40 yard race, including the Wonderlic Test, equivalent 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 that make it possible 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
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 unfolded: from 1 to 20 for teams that have not reached the playoffs following the classification in reverse order; from 21 to 24 for those eliminated in the first round; from 25 to 28 for those exited in the second 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).
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 the one on 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 being boring because it is often filled with twists and surprises.
Stats and anecdotes
In football, the most important position is surely that of quarterback. If you think that the first choice of the Draft must logically be a quarterback, well you are absolutely right! Since 1970 and the merger between the NFL and the AFL (the scars of which are 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 glaring today because since the turn of the millennium, only five top picks were not quarterbacks, a percentage of about 74% of QB 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 every player can be called in for them. We note, still since 1970 and the merger, that no defensive back (cornerbacks and safeties), tight-end, offensive inside lineman (center and guard) or special team (kicker or punter) were not selected first. However, first choice does not necessarily mean great career: players like Jamarcus russell (QB Oakland Raiders, 2007) or Tim Couch (QB Cleveland Browns, 1999) can today be considered huge flops, despite their 1st choice status.
Conversely, being chosen in the final laps does not necessarily mean being destined to have a bad career. At the time when the Draft had more than 7 rounds, we can speak of Bart starr (17th round in 1956) or Johnny unitas (9th round in 1955), two renowned quarterbacks who made the heyday of the league. In addition, we can also cite Shannon sharpe (7th round in 1990), a great player of the 90s who changed the role of tight-end in modern football, or more recently Antonio brown, new member of the Oakland Raiders and drafted in the 6th round in 2010.
But the specialists of the genre remain the New England Patriots, capable of drafting the last MVP of the Super Bowl Julian Edelman in the 7th round in 2009, or of course Tom brady, one of the best players in history and the most successful player with six rings of champion, called only in the 6th round in 2000 by the team of Bill Belichik…
The 2019 cuvée
With the first pick, in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals select…
It is difficult today to know precisely who will be the first name called by Roger Goodell on April 25. However, several trends are already emerging. First of all, unlike that of 2018 which was billed as a quarterback draft, a trend that was confirmed with four QBs chosen in the top ten and five in the first round, the class of 2019 does not see big prospects. emerge on this post. Except maybe Dwayne Haskins (QB, Ohio State), whose arm power 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 some rumors, no QB seems to live up to a selection in the first round.
Obviously, given the importance of the position there will inevitably be some (the last draft without 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, at Quinnen Williams (Defensive Line, Alabama) Passing by Josh Allen (Edge-Rusher, Kentucky), there are many talented players and teams with needs in these positions will have a blast.
Note also a class of receivers that seems deep but without big names, apart from DK Metcalf (Receiver, Ole Miss) author of an NFL Combine Stratospheric, and Running Classes 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 always taken more importance since its inception 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 are going to be selected by your favorite team.
Image credit in one: Whopam.com