Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Draft

In my two recent posts, I talked about how to build a successful by drafting players. I think it's time now to explain what a draft is, how it works and even though lot of resources are dedicated to get great players in the draft, most of them disappoint the teams and the fans. If a player drafted high in the first round of the draft is a bust, it kills the team, the best example I can think of is San Diego Chargers drafting Ryan Leaf as QB with their 2nd pick in the first round of 1998 draft. He is considered one of the biggest bust in NFL history. On the other hand, Indianapolis Colts drafted Peyton Manning as the overall no. 1 pick in the same draft and he has turned around the franchise. Just imagine what could have happened if the the teams would have picked the players in reverse order.

Let's start with how the draft works. Every year, during the last weekend of April, all 32 teams in NFL gather in NY radio city hall to select players who have been projected to be starters in NFL. NFL draft has 7 rounds. Two rounds on Saturday and remaining five rounds on Sunday. The team with the weakest record gets to select first and the team with the best record picks last. This goes on for seven rounds. Each team is given 15 minutes in first rounds, 10 in second and 5 for the remaining five rounds to select a players. The players who are projected to be selected as top 10 picks are invited to NY. The Commissioner starts the proceedings by announcing that the team is on clock, the front office-head coach, call the perspective player and invite him to come and play for him. The players accepts the offer, grab the cap and jersey and accepts the congratulations from commissioner on the stage. This honor is only given to top ten picks. Tons of sports fan are there to cheer or jeer the picks made by their teams.

The first round is considered the round of the stars. Players selected in first round are thought to be the next superstars in the NFL. Teams select players in first round with extra caution, there has lot of history of most first round picks being busts or nothing special. Teams employ background checks, interviews, IQ tests in addition to the scouting of physical skills of the players. Still there are certain positions in NFL which have high risk of failure, the biggest risk a team can take is to invest big money in their first round pick and see the money and pick go to utter waste. QB happens to be the position which has the highest failure rate among the first round picks. For every Manning and Elway there are Leafs, Couches and many more junk QBs.

Each teams assigns a value to the player they like. If the player is no longer available, they go to the next player in their list. There is lot of "moneyball" knowledge behind assigning the value on the player. Lately, teams that have won big have shown that they have used all their picks in the draft wisely. It would be interesting to see how they use the statistics in college plus the combine* numbers to select players.

* Combine is an annual event where players are invited to do workouts for the teams head coaches and GMs.

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