It’s draft time
And down the stretch we come.
Only three more days before one of the most exciting and anticipated events in the world of sports unfolds. It, of course, is the National Football League’s annual college draft, which has turned into a three-day/evening extravaganza made for television.
At one point in its existence – the first one was held in 1936 and consisted of nine rounds – this event has been comprised of as many as 30 rounds. But that was when the NFL was a much smaller league. That initial draft ironically was held in Philadelphia, the site of this year’s lottery.
In the early days, teams kept picking in order until they declined to select and the draft ended when all the teams were finished and no one chose to select anymore. It generally ended after nine or 10 rounds.
In 1939, teams went 19 rounds before concluding. It went to 20 rounds the next three years, eventually expanding to 29 and sometimes 30 rounds, the final three of which saw only one team picking each round.
It remained unstructured with as many as 30 rounds until everyone chose to bounce into or out of the draft ay any time to pass all the way to 30. The lottery was finally pared to 20 rounds in 1960.
It wasn’t until 1967, though, that the college draft became the structured event we have today. Back then with expansion in full sway, 26 teams participated in a 17-round draft.
It stayed that way until it was shaved to 12 rounds in 1977. It was trimmed to eight in 1993 before landing the following year on the seven-rounders we have become accustomed to today.
It used to be a two-day event with the first three rounds on day one and the remainder the following day. That was when the draft caught moderate attention of the sports world. With the help of television, it has become a veritable giant, an industry unto itself.
It is now a three-day event: Round one Thursday night, rounds two and three Friday evening and the final four rounds Saturday morning and afternoon. Two nights in prime time on two networks – ESPN and the NFL Network – and both outlets will draw large audiences.
By the time Thursday night at 8 arrives and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell places the Browns on the clock with the No. 1 pick in the draft, millions – maybe tens of millions – of words regarding who will do what in the draft will have been spoken.
Many of those words will be remembered when the reality hits the fan and the 32 teams actually make their selections. There will be many surprises – perhaps some genuine shockers – along the way as the fans and pundits try to figure out why and how they could be so wrong.
All the amateur experts, those intense draftniks/fans who fancy themselves as quasi general managers, those fans who thought they had everything figured out after devoting numerous hours of intense studying, will be proven wrong, All it will take is one unexpected move by just one team in the early going.
One bizarre selection can disturb the rhythm of the draft, causing teams to scrap their original plans and jump all over plans B, C, D and beyond.
Nonetheless, the mystery of what the 32 teams do over those three days later this week will serve only to whet a draft appetite that never seems to lessen.They’ll all be back next year.
Why? Because they all believe that one of these days, they’re going to get it right. And that’s the hook.