April 25, 2010
Roger Goodell and the NFL made all the right moves with the NFL draft this year. Despite some initial skepticism, holding the first round on a Thursday night was a massive ratings success. Letting different people (like former NFL players, children and Carl Lewis) announce picks on the weekend was a fun way to break up the monotny of the later rounds. And spreading the annual event over three days only seemed to intensify casual interest. But there's still one huge problem with the NFL draft and it needs to be remedied immediately: the drama has been killed by the ubiquity of cell phones and television cameras.
The best part of the draft used to be those few seconds before the pick when there was a mix of mystery and suspense before the commissioner would announce the player. Sam Bradford(notes) was the presumptive No. 1 pick, but could the Rams pull a stunner and go with Ndamukong Suh(notes) instead? Would the Redskins defy logic yet again and draft a quarterback or safety instead of addressing a need at offensive line? How would the Bucs begin the process of rebuilding? Most of the times, fans wouldn't have any idea. And even when we did know (like Bradford going No. 1 this year), we didn't really "know." Anything could happen.
This year we knew. Before a majority of the top picks, television cameras would capture potential draftees talking on cell phones with huge smiles prior to the selection being announced. There was Bradford talking before the No. 1 selection. There was no doubt as to who was on the other end. Suh had been on the phone for nearly a minute before Goodell announced the pick. Same thing with Gerald McCoy(notes) and Trent Williams(notes). When cameras captured those players talking on the phone, viewers knew their names would be announced momentarily. By the time the commissioner got to the podium, he was announcing old news.
It ruined the excitement of the draft and it needs to stop. There's no reason a team needs to call a player before the pick is announced. If the league is interested in that, hold the draft behind closed doors. The draft is entertainment -- a television show -- and should be treated as such. It's for the fans and having each big pick known before it happens kills the drama. Imagine if the producers of "Lost" flashed a message revealing each big payoff 30 seconds before it happened?
Luckily, this is an easy fix and Goodell is just the sort of commissioner to do it. He should create a rule that states teams on the clock aren't allowed to call to a player or agent until the pick has been announced in New York.
Problem solved. Now if we could just do something about Chris Berman.
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