The NFL Draft, now being held during prime time for the first time ever, has become the perfect microcosm of the American Dream.
As football fans, we’ve spent the last three-to-four years watching the current draft crop toil in the trenches of the collegiate ranks, and Thursday, Apr. 22 is the opportunity for each player across the nation to reap validation for their NCAA career.
The anticipation during the months leading up to the draft can be excruciating.
Given the Senior Bowl, the critical player combines, the interviews with the media, the college-hosted pro day workouts, and the constant challenge to stay out of trouble up to the moment NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell begins reading names from a podium at Radio City Music Hall at around 7:30pm EST, one can safely say that fans, players and agents are all relieved that this day is finally about to come.
Many factors can affect a player’s draft stock. Many of these factors are player-induced, but sometimes, the system or scheme the prospect played in school, the reputation of a player’s agent/representative, or even mere perception from the vantage point of many an NFL team’s war room can cause a Top 10 pick to plummet out of the first round, causing that NFL hopeful millions of dollars in signing bonus money.
Unlike the NBA and MLB draft, the NFL draft is, to borrow an old phrase, like a girl’s skirt: short enough to be interesting, but long enough to cover the territory. The NBA draft, all of two rounds, only selects 60 amateur athletes, and is already over before many of us get home from work (at least on the west coast).
On the other hand, the Major League Baseball draft lasts dozens of rounds, and 99 percent of the players drafted are people we have never heard of, never seen play before, and have no vested interest in.
The NFL Draft lasts seven rounds. Each team has enough picks to fill many holes on their teams, and the constant trading of picks and players for picks keeps fans, pundits and GMs on their toes throughout the entire process.
This aforementioned maelstrom of activity will yield a few surprises before the draft concludes on Saturday, Apr. 24. Let’s take a look at the first round pick-by-pick, featuring the likely choices, followed by a possible surprise selection that might raise some eyebrows if a team panics when their targeted player isn’t available when their pick comes around.