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With New Draft Format, Expect the Unexpected

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"Frankly," New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was saying in a little chat about the NFL Draft, "I don't expect there to be any major differences this year from the past."

He's got to be kidding. The draft is anything but the same old thing.

In the micro sense, the Saints are picking 32nd and last in the first round as defending Super Bowl champions. That's never happened before. That's a major difference.

And the draft, once a one-day slog held mid-week and then as a Saturday-Sunday affair, migrates to prime-time over a three-day stretch. It begins Thursday night in prime time (7:30 p.m. ET) with only the first round conducted in this window.

The teams reconvene to continue the selection process with rounds two and three on Friday night and then wrap it up with rounds four through seven on Saturday.

Major differences, you will agree. This is high-speed evolution.

Once upon a time, teams showed up for the draft with almost no information on players beyond what they gleaned from newspapers (remember them?) and college football newsreels. The late New York Giants owner, Wellington Mara, often spoke of riffing through the pages of the Street and Smith's college football annual to pick out prospects in the draft's earlier days.

Now the NFL's own TV network and ESPN devote countless hours to the scouting combine, analysis of the draft-worthy players, mock drafts and speculation. Teams interview the players, work them out, test them psychologically, even take them out to dinner simply to see how they behave in public.

"I have binders and stuff on my desk you wouldn't believe. It's all good stuff," says Tom Heckert, the Cleveland Browns general manager.

Knowing when to stop digging is sometimes the biggest issue.

"To phone up the fourth cousin of the assistant trainer to find out if the guy in fifth grade, you know, please stop," Heckert says. "Look at it on film first of all. Is he a good football player? Find out if he is a good guy. Find out what is the fit for our team. Those things I think are very important to the decision making process. I think, just like in a game – paralysis by analysis. Absolutely that happens."

With a day between the first and second rounds, teams may well re-rack their draft boards, though that's an ongoing process as players are chosen.

With more time to think – that would be paralysis by analysis – some personnel guys expect more trades as a result of the extra head-scratching, or at least enough head-scratching for the NFL to seek an official shampoo as a sponsor.

"It'll be weird," says St. Louis Rams general manager Billy Devaney.

Throw in the exhilaration and exhaustion and nuttiness might abound.

"The thing starts at 7:30 and a normal first round historically has taken what, three hours? Whatever it takes, a long time," says Browns President Mike Holmgren. "Now, the first round is over at midnight and all of a sudden you start phoning people, everyone is rummy. You better have your ducks in order prior to that.

"It won't be the normal way of doing it. It will be a little different I think. The same thing will happen, you will make the calls, but when they make the calls and how you make those decisions will be kind of interesting. It will be different for everybody."

It always made great theater. Now it provides even more.

ESPN, for example, will televise 15 hours of the draft and park reporters at the facilities of eight teams. The NFL Network also shows the entire spectacle and promises added look-ins from the 32 teams through their web sites.

Many teams, like the Redskins, stage draft-day parties at the stadium. Players, coaches and cheerleaders pop in to highlight the football-themed carnival.

Once a mundane and dry affair conducted solely for the purpose of roster stocking, the draft represents the nexus of information and entertainment. The process continues to morph into the product.

"As long as TV is happy with it, what difference does it make?" Devaney says. "Who gives a rat's (tail) about whether we like it or not?"

What a Negative Ned. C'mon. Get in the spirit.

"It'll be fun," says Redskins general manager Bruce Allen. "The dynamics of the evening draft will be interesting and I hope it works for the fans."

Yeah. And for the teams as well.


Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.


"Frankly," New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was saying in a little chat about the NFL Draft, "I don't expect there to be any major differences this year from the past."

He's got to be kidding. The draft is anything but the same old thing.

In the micro sense, the Saints are picking 32nd and last in the first round as defending Super Bowl champions. That's never happened before. That's a major difference.

And the draft, once a one-day slog held mid-week and then as a Saturday-Sunday affair, migrates to prime-time over a three-day stretch. It begins Thursday night in prime time (7:30 p.m. ET) with only the first round conducted in this window.

The teams reconvene to continue the selection process with rounds two and three on Friday night and then wrap it up with rounds four through seven on Saturday.

Major differences, you will agree. This is high-speed evolution.

Once upon a time, teams showed up for the draft with almost no information on players beyond what they gleaned from newspapers (remember them?) and college football newsreels. The late New York Giants owner, Wellington Mara, often spoke of riffing through the pages of the Street and Smith's college football annual to pick out prospects in the draft's earlier days.

Now the NFL's own TV network and ESPN devote countless hours to the scouting combine, analysis of the draft-worthy players, mock drafts and speculation. Teams interview the players, work them out, test them psychologically, even take them out to dinner simply to see how they behave in public.

"I have binders and stuff on my desk you wouldn't believe. It's all good stuff," says Tom Heckert, the Cleveland Browns general manager.

Knowing when to stop digging is sometimes the biggest issue.

"To phone up the fourth cousin of the assistant trainer to find out if the guy in fifth grade, you know, please stop," Heckert says. "Look at it on film first of all. Is he a good football player? Find out if he is a good guy. Find out what is the fit for our team. Those things I think are very important to the decision making process. I think, just like in a game – paralysis by analysis. Absolutely that happens."

With a day between the first and second rounds, teams may well re-rack their draft boards, though that's an ongoing process as players are chosen.

With more time to think – that would be paralysis by analysis – some personnel guys expect more trades as a result of the extra head-scratching, or at least enough head-scratching for the NFL to seek an official shampoo as a sponsor.

"It'll be weird," says St. Louis Rams general manager Billy Devaney.

Throw in the exhilaration and exhaustion and nuttiness might abound.

"The thing starts at 7:30 and a normal first round historically has taken what, three hours? Whatever it takes, a long time," says Browns President Mike Holmgren. "Now, the first round is over at midnight and all of a sudden you start phoning people, everyone is rummy. You better have your ducks in order prior to that.

"It won't be the normal way of doing it. It will be a little different I think. The same thing will happen, you will make the calls, but when they make the calls and how you make those decisions will be kind of interesting. It will be different for everybody."

It always made great theater. Now it provides even more.

ESPN, for example, will televise 15 hours of the draft and park reporters at the facilities of eight teams. The NFL Network also shows the entire spectacle and promises added look-ins from the 32 teams through their web sites.

Many teams, like the Redskins, stage draft-day parties at the stadium. Players, coaches and cheerleaders pop in to highlight the football-themed carnival.

Once a mundane and dry affair conducted solely for the purpose of roster stocking, the draft represents the nexus of information and entertainment. The process continues to morph into the product.

"As long as TV is happy with it, what difference does it make?" Devaney says. "Who gives a rat's (tail) about whether we like it or not?"

What a Negative Ned. C'mon. Get in the spirit.

"It'll be fun," says Redskins general manager Bruce Allen. "The dynamics of the evening draft will be interesting and I hope it works for the fans."

Yeah. And for the teams as well.


Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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