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The world we live in today is nothing like what we have seen at any point in our lives, that has brought the world of sport to a total standstill. Thankfully, we have relief in the early hours of Friday as the NFL Draft returns to open the 2020 season, whatever it turns out to be. The draft is the traditional curtain raiser as players leaving college get picked by their new professional teams. We’ve had the draft since 1936 yet this year’s is going to be the most unique one of them all, no prizes for guessing why. Since the late 1970s, the draft has grown from a small league event, to a primetime TV show and now to a nationwide frenzy, with hundreds of thousands attending the event to see if their team can turn their fortunes around with the players of the future. This year though, the draft will be entirely virtual, team staff are on conference calls with each other and their General Managers (GM), who in turn are speaking to other teams and the commissioner of the league, Rodger Goodell, who’ll be announcing the picks from his basement. To get you ready for the weirdest draft the league has ever seen, we’ll run through how the draft works and the big stories ahead of Friday.
The draft is the great leveller, at least in theory. Each team gets to pick players that are coming out of college football and into the pros. The order for the draft is decided based on the record of the teams the season before, with the worst team getting the first pick and the Super Bowl champions getting the last pick. The draft lasts for 7 rounds and has 255 picks (with multiple compensatory picks in rounds 3-7). That means, at least for the first round this year, the Cincinnati Bengals turn their 2-14 season into the top pick whilst the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs have the last pick of the round, pick 32. This of course means that the worst teams have the best chance of drafting the best players and turning their fortunes around. Three years ago, the Chiefs used the draft to select Patrick Mahomes, the biggest step to them winning the Super Bowl. Last season, the Cardinals used the first pick to select Kyler Murray, who had an impressive first year in the league, and it wouldn’t be a draft article without mentioning that Tom Brady was selected 199th in the 2000 Draft, before leading the Patriots to six Super Bowls. Picks can be swapped between teams as well, which is why the Miami Dolphins enter the draft with 14 picks, including three in the first round. Whilst the Bills, Bears, Colts, Rams, Steelers and Texans have no picks in the first. The best way to improve your team and lead them to success is through the draft. We at University are going to go out into the world enter a hectic and challenging job market, especially now. Those drafted in the first round will become millionaires overnight, last year’s first overall pick Kyler Murray signed a four-year contract worth over $35 million. Now that the draft has been explained, here are some of the things to look out for on Friday:
The Bengals and the First Pick – The biggest event of draft night will always be the first pick, and this time the first team on the clock is the Cincinnati Bengals, who finished with a 2-14 record last season. Again, the pick is not expected to be a surprise though, as it’s highly expected that quarterback (QB) Joe Burrow will join the team from his state. There have been rumours about whether he wanted to go to Cincinnati, but those rumours have died down and it would be a huge shock if the Bengals didn’t get the Louisiana State University talent.
The Lions at Pick Three – We often talk about teams who want to trade up to land their preferred star, what we don’t mention as much is for them teams to trade up, there has to be a team willing to trade down. This year, all focus is on Detroit and the third overall pick. The reason teams trade down is because they can get more lower picks and think they can get who they want with these lower picks anyway. Currently, all pundits have the Lions set on cornerback Jeffrey Okudah. However, all the teams who are looking at a QB might see pick three as the best place to trade up to, and the Lions might believe they can get Okudah with a lower pick. The Lions will still demand a king’s ransom for the pick, with some suggesting Miami would have to give up all three of their first rounders this year to move up them two vital spots. If any team gets up to three, they’ll be able to draft the QB of their dreams. Whether anyone wants it or not, the Lions will be convincing teams such as the Dolphins and Chargers that others are interested, to see if they can scare them out of their picks.
Tua – All of last season, we talked about which team was going to ‘Tank for Tua’, which team was going to spoil their season just to get him. Now instead of teams being desperate for the Alabama QB, nobody knows who will take the risk. Tua suffered a dislocated hip partway through the 2019 season and doubts about his fragility have only grown from there, with many pundits calling him brittle. It’s a genuine mystery whether the Dolphins will take him with pick 5, the Chargers at 6 or whether a team like the New England Patriots may trade up to get him in the teens. Where Tua goes and how his career pans out from here may be one of the big talking points we’ll see in the NFL this decade, and the story begins on Friday.
New England Quarterback – It still feels incredibly odd to write this, but Tom Brady is no longer a New England Patriot, the greatest player they’ve ever had, and arguably the best the league has ever had, is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. After a disappointing play off defeat to the Tennessee Titans, the rebuild is on for New England. Outside of Gillett Stadium, there doesn’t seem to be much love for either Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham. Despite nothing coming from the team over a new QB, that hasn’t stopped any speculation that they’ll get (what they hope is) the next Brady in the draft this year. Jalen Hurts and Jordan Love have both come up multiple times, and some even suggest they might trade up for Tua. No matter what, New England’s decision to draft or not draft a QB will be part of post draft analysis and probably the entire 2020 season.
Booing the Commissioner – Every year, one of the most loved traditions amongst the fan base attending the draft is to boo Commissioner Rodger Goodell every time he comes on stage. Like a panto villain appearing, the boos are like clockwork, and his awkward attempts to not listen to them are part of what makes the draft great. Unless his children and wife get involved, there will be no booing of the Commissioner at the draft this year, but fear not. This year the NFL are hosting a ‘Draft-A-Thon’, where people will be able to donate to six American charities that are all assisting in the fight against COVID-19 (the charities and how to donate can be found here: https://relief.nfl.com/). One company who are jumping on are Budweiser, who are donating $1 to the Draft-A-Thon for each video they get booing the Commissioner, up to $500,000. It’s a great initiative from the company and the league will take it in good faith, even if the Commissioner will probably avoid looking at #BooTheCommish on Twitter.
The NFL Draft gets underway at 1am on Friday, with Sky Sports Action starting their coverage at 10pm on Thursday. The NFL’s Draft-A-Thon will start on Friday morning (though they have not confirmed the start time) on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.