NFL draft should be moved up, not back
April, 4, 2014
By Paul Kuharsky | ESPN.com
Allen Kee/ESPN ImagesRadio City Music Hall's availability shouldn't be as important to the NFL draft as when it takes place.The NFL pushed the draft back this year because Radio City Music Hall was booked up with "Heart and Lights," a spring show featuring the Rockettes slated to run from March 27 through May 4.
The production was scrapped just a week before the curtain was to rise. Producers told the Rockettes "additional work is needed" before the show was ready to be seen by audiences.
So 256 college football players will still have their names called at the NFL draft, but on May 8-10 instead of later this month.
Additional work is needed on the NFL's calendar, too.
The draft has historically been set in late April. No matter when Radio City is available to the NFL in 2015, the draft shouldn't stay where it is.
The annual dispersal of college players needs to be moved up, not become a May fixture while the league tries to spread out its offseason in a way to maximize ownership of sports headlines year round.
Teams don't need more time to consider prospects and shuffle draft boards. And it would benefit the league and its teams to have markets introducing and discussing their new players sooner rather than speculating for too long on who they will be.
The pushed-back draft this year and even the traditional setup beg personnel people to overanalyze to a ridiculous degree.
The most disciplined general managers will not add rounds of draft meetings for their scouts, will not spend the additional half a month tinkering with grades, will not stare at their boards for 14 more days.
"I would have preferred it be moved up this year," one NFL decision-maker told me. "The sooner we can get our rookies in, the better chance they have of contributing in year one. Now they don't get a chance to get acclimated. They get drafted and go right into OTAs.
"No chance to breathe. No chance to get their ducks in a row with housing, etc. No chance to get them a workout routine and send them home for two or three weeks to get into shape for our OTAs."
Said a second NFL decision-maker: "I think if it was not moved too far up, it would be good. It just has to work in conjunction to free agency. You are right about the potential for overanalysis."
The NFL is undecided on what it will do with next year's draft. A spokesman told me all options are on the table.
Actually, one option might be out: Radio City in April. Reports suggest "Heart and Lights" will be slated for the same window in 2015 that it vacated in 2014.
The NFL should accept that its draft might need a new venue, not a second year of a convenient excuse to overflow into May.
In 2005, the draft was held at New York's Javits Center. It's where Aaron Rodgers endured his interminable greenroom wait until the Packers chose him 24th. Rodgers has had a pretty good career despite not walking across the stage where the "Christmas Spectacular" plays.
Some have called for the NFL to take the event to other cities.
The "where" is much less of a concern than the "when" for teams. Any venue can be dressed up to give players a memorable experience and look good for TV.
This year's scouting combine wrapped up on Feb. 25. That's 72 days from the end of the combine to the start of the draft.
The NFL plays 59 percent of its season in a similar span.
As for the hype machine ...
Hey, we do a nice business here at ESPN covering the lead-up to the draft. We do a nice business at rookie camps and OTAs and training camp, too.
The coverage isn't going to change, just what all of us are covering.
I can't be convinced a longer period of speculation that adds amplitude to the fibbing and posturing and misdirection that precedes the draft is good for anyone. Even agents seeking to sell their guys can find the additional waiting tiresome.
Show us the draft class sooner. Let us get to know these guys and start to see what they can do. Let them get to their new home earlier instead of lingering in limbo longer. Let that decision-maker have a better timetable to maximize the chance at first-year impact.
I propose April 9-11, 2015.
After it's over, let's take all the draftees to see the "groundbreaking technology" and "state-of-the-art puppetry" of "Heart and Lights."