The April 23-25 NFL entry draft is already going to be like nothing the league has ever done, with general managers making picks from their homes, linked to other team officials and to the NFL via computer.
It seems likely to be a chaotic process. This week, a bold idea has emerged that proponents believe could cut down a bit on the confusion and lower the stakes.
One of the most hectic parts of the draft comes at the end of the seven rounds, when teams start calling agents about players who weren’t selected, trying to sign them as undrafted free agents, or UDFAs. Some players get several offers, so there are bids and counter-bids, mostly involving signing bonuses. It’s not unheard of for an undrafted player to agree verbally with one team, only to end up taking a better offer elsewhere when the dust settles. Some years, the Eagles don’t announce their UDFAs until they’ve actually shown up at NovaCare and signed their deals.
That process might be especially confounding this year, with scouts, personnel directors and GMs making contact individually, instead of being in the same room. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has warned of potential disciplinary action for anyone disputing or even publicly discussing his decision to go ahead with the draft as scheduled, even though major parts of the process, such as pro days, in-person prospect visits, and medical checks, have been interrupted by the coronavirus shutdown. Even if they might not be saying so, lots of teams are worried about making major draft gaffes that could resound for years.
According to a report in the New York Daily News, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Keith Colbert this week proposed to league officials on a conference call that the draft be expanded from seven to 10 rounds, to “widen a club’s margin for error.” Several agents, not bound by Goodell’s decree, have voiced support for this idea on social media. They have worried that their less prominent clients, who weren’t invited to the NFL scouting combine, might get overlooked because of their lack of exposure.
Steve Caric, agent for Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, among many others, tweeted: “I’ve actually heard this idea from numerous front office execs over the past few weeks, and it’s really a good idea.”
Of course, we’re only a couple of weeks away from the draft and it seems really late to make such a change, but these are extraordinary times. Stay tuned.
— Les Bowen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Les, will you be covering the draft from home? — Charles (@sck8182) via Twitter.