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NFL Draft 2017 in Philadelphia: All your questions answered

How does the NFL draft actually work? Do people watch it on television? And who the hell is Mr. Irrelevant?

"Why in the world people would watch the damn thing?" Rozelle asked. Simmons, his longtime friend, responded, "Let that be my problem."

Since then, the draft has ballooned from mid-week programming filler to a prime-time ratings bonanza that airs live over three days on two cable networks.

As the NFL sets up shop in Philadelphia, which will host the draft from April 27 to 29, here are some answers to questions non-football fans around Philadelphia might be asking themselves.

Have a question that you don't see here? Email me at, or post your question in the comments section below. Click here for more coverage of the 2017 NFL draft in Philadelphia.

How does the draft actually work?

The NFL draft is seven rounds long, broken up over three days, with each of the 32 teams in the league receiving one draft pick per round. The order is determined by the teams' standings from the previous season: The last-place team gets the first pick; the Super Bowl-winner gets the last.

During the first round of the draft, each team has 10 minutes to make its pick. That time drops to seven minutes during the second round, and drops again to 5 minutes during rounds three through six. In the seventh and final round, teams have four minutes to make their selections.

When a team makes its selection, it communicates the pick to the team's representative at the draft, who writes the player's name, position, and school on a note card (seriously) and hands it off to an NFL staff member, and the draft clock is reset for the next pick.

What if a team lets the clock expire?

If a team fails to get the note card to the runner before the clock expires, the team with the next pick is allowed to start its selection process and could take the player the previous team wanted to select. The other team is still allowed to take a pick, whenever the team decides to file it.

What about trades?

Trades happen all the time before, during, and after the draft. Teams generally set up a table that assigns a point value to each draft pick they own, which are then viewed as assets that can be paired with players, money, or other draft picks to acquire players or move up and down in the draft.

Carson Wentz was drafted by the Eagles last year with a pick that previously belonged to the Cleveland Browns. The Eagles acquired the pick in exchange for a slew of picks acquired in two separate trades.

This year, the Browns have the first overall selection. The Eagles will pick 14th after winning a coin toss with the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts finished the season 8-8, the same record as the Minnesota Vikings, who traded their pick to the Eagles in exchange for quarterback Sam Bradford.

Yes, it can get complicated.

Has a player ever refused to play for the team that picked him?

It's rare, but it happens. The most recent high-profile example is Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who forced the San Diego Chargers to trade him after the team selected him with the first overall draft pick. NFL Hall of Famer John Elway did the same thing to the then-Baltimore Colts, forcing the Colts to trade him to the Denver Broncos after having selected him with the first pick in the 1983 draft.

Basically, a college player has two choices: play for the team that drafted him, or refuse to play at all. It's incredibly rare, but if a player sits out for an entire season and doesn't sign a contract, he is automatically re-entered into the draft the next year.

What if a college athlete is injured before he's drafted?

In most cases, a player who is injured before he's drafted is owed nothing by the league. But in recent years, a cottage industry has developed around top-rated prospects expected to be taken high in the draft.

Why is the draft even in Philadelphia?

Not only has the NFL Draft become a ratings bonanza, it's grown into the league's largest event outside of the Super Bowl and opening day. So after having spent more than 50 years in New York City, the league moved the draft to Chicago in 2015 for two years to make it a more fan-oriented event.

This year, Philadelphia beat out proposals from several other cities to land the draft, marking the event's first occurrence in the City of Brotherly Love since 1961. It will also be the first time in the draft's history that the entire event will occur outdoors, thanks to an open-air theater that will sit on the "Rocky steps" of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The entire event is expected to cost between $20 million and $25 million, with the bulk of the cost being picked up by the NFL. The city is raising $5 million in private funds and will spend $500,000 on city services.

Just because Chicago landed the draft for two straight years doesn't mean it's coming back to Philadelphia next year. There's already been jockeying among owners to land the 2018 NFL Draft, with Dallas emerging as an early favorite.

When did the first NFL Draft take place?

The NFL Draft started right here in Philadelphia, in 1935 in a suite at the original Ritz-Carlton hotel at Broad and Walnut Streets.

As Inquirer columnist Frank Fitzpatrick wrote, the draft was a desperate idea proposed by Eagles owner and future NFL commissioner De Benneville "Bert" Bell, who was looking for a way for his cash-strapped team to add talent to its roster.

The idea was agreed upon by the entire league, which then had nine teams, and took place on Feb. 8 and 9, 1936, in the Ritz-Carlton hotel Bell owned.

"Neither the fans nor the players knew the draft was taking place," Bob Barnett wrote in a Pro Football Researchers Association article, "and frankly [they] did not care."

So when does this thing happen?

On Thursday, April 27, the first round of the draft will kick off just after 8 p.m. On Friday, April 28, the start time for rounds two and three is 7 p.m. And on Saturday, April 29, the final rounds kick off starting about noon.

Why does the draft take three days?

What started off as a backroom event ignored by the media has turned into a must-watch event for many football fans, which is why the league decided in 2010 to increase the number of days from two to three.

But do people actually watch it on television?

Last year, ESPN and ESPN2 averaged 3.02 million viewers for the three-day broadcast of the draft, up from 2.93 million in 2015, according to Nielsen. The first round of the draft remains the most popular day, with ESPN averaging 6.289 million viewers during its broadcast last year.

The NFL Network drew in an average of 1.28 million viewers, its highest total since the network began covering the draft in 2006.

Is there really someone called Mr. Irrelevant?

Click here for more coverage of the 2017 NFL draft in Philadelphia.