Hats of all 32 teams of the NFL Draft

Matt, our Vegas-based writer offers betting tips on all American Sports each week. He has also provided this basic guide to American Football, in the form of a series. So that newcomers can get an understanding of the game, its strategy and key teams. This is part five of the basic guide to American football. Part one covers the basics of American Football. Part two details all of the positions and their roles on the field, while part three explains all of the American Football strategies and the most common tactics. Article four in the American Football Guide series covered how to bet on American Football this part covers the mystery of the NFL Draft.

American Football – The NFL Draft

The National Football League’s college draft is the dream of every kid who has ever put on football pads or thrown a perfect spiralling football. It is a pivotal moment for the few drafted. The fortunes of NFL teams and the communities that cheer for them sway on every decision. Every player coming into the NFL must come through the NFL draft.  The draft is deliberately constructed to disperse talent across the NFL and keep teams on a level playing field. We will examine the system and how teams and players approach this mammoth day.

The Basics

Wins and losses are tallied and compared throughout the year. The best teams jockey for position as their teams fight for playoff seatings and a shot at the NFL championship. Others concentrate on college football players they can pin their fate on.

The team with the worst record gets to pick first. There is no randomization or lottery for the position; it is all by the record and then pre-scripted tie-breaker criteria. The descending order of teams is aligned by worst record until the team with the best record picks last in the round. There are seven rounds, with each round in the same team order.

Draft picks are equity. They can be traded freely at any time, even years away. Mid-season trades often include upcoming draft picks.  Anything can happen on or before draft day as teams try to change their destiny.  Modern drafts have become huge events, drawing crowds and ticket prices to rival games.

Why is the NFL Draft constructed this way?

The Draft is a proven method of dispersing talent and revitalizing teams in the NFL. It often takes more than one year, but a team can become competitive given better talent and time. It offers hope to fans of downtrodden NFL teams. Teams realistically go through good and bad years in this model.

The Draft’s dispersion of talent creates team-wide parity within the league. Division titles, home-field advantages, and playoff favorites aren’t clinched until the last game of the season.

The #1 Draft pick

Always the hot topic post-Super Bowl, the #1 pick sways the lives and fortunes of franchises and GMs like no other. A college superstar is running full speed into his destiny. While no pick is guaranteed, the top pick is often thrown in the fire under a nation’s glaring and scrutinous eyes. From 1997-2022, ¾ of the top picks were quarterbacks. I think the timeframe is relative to the modern and future game, and that trend will continue. Looking back, it was still dominated by quarterbacks, half-backs, wide receivers, and “skill positions.”

Playing the quarterback position in the NFL is, in my opinion, the hardest thing to do in sports. Taking a college kid and putting a city on his back versus a field of hardened professionals has been the end of many promising careers. Turning around an American football franchise that could only achieve the worst record in the league is more than any #1 pick or Heisman winner can do on their own. There has never been a #1 pick to win a Super Bowl ring or league Most Valuable Player in their first year. And only one rookie to win MVP his first year, Jim Brown in 1957. Given time and aid in the form of more draft picks, a #1 can become everything dreamed of.

From 1998-2023, three #1 picks won Superbowl rings. All quarterbacks. During that time, a quarterback drafted in the 6th round, Tom Brady, won 7.

How does a team approach the NFL Draft?

Emphasized in the early picks, it is the needs of the team versus the best athlete. While the #1 pick is almost taken on their athleticism and football prowess, NFL teams must weigh their team and the draft picks throughout the draft. Since draft picks are equity, it’s a world of options. While giving up a #1 is unlikely, the top spots are on the trading block and hold immense value. They can be traded for other picks, players, or a combination.

Quarterbacks, linemen, and elite running backs dominate the first round. Excellent running backs and wide receivers can go in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Round by round, the pick must be evaluated on the talent versus need scale and weigh in the potential blockbuster trades that have been in the works. Trading an early-round pick for multiple late picks is common for teams looking to move up for top talent or down to obtain a fleet.

How does a player approach the NFL Draft?

Longshot does not describe the odds of a high school football player making the NFL Draft. With no minor league or international leagues, it is the Draft or nothing for draftee hopefuls.

Be a physical phenomenon, intelligent and focused, and escape 12 years of playing the most physical sport there is injury-free. Anyone 3 years out of high school is eligible. The athletes who are potential draft picks are in top Division 1 colleges. In the spotlight playing for conference championships and bowl games. They are evaluated all year from a distance, and as soon as they declare themselves eligible for the NFL Draft, they can be invited to private workouts and meetings. An NFL Draft combine also exists to compare prospects in a group with specific tests and drills. Speed, jumping, agility, and football IQ are all judged.

There is hope for non-drafted players. A free agent is a player without a contract. Undrafted players can become free agents and sign with whoever offers them a contract, but only after the draft, which precedes all players entering the league.

The effect on communities

Years of losing football and heartbreak have set the stage for these communities. It is the natural trend of an NFL team to go through good and bad years. A #1, top pick, or even a solid draft class predicts a change in the team’s success. When quarterback Joe Burrow was selected #1 by the downtrodden Cincinnati Bengals, it was one of the most attended drafts in history. Cincinnati sold more jerseys and season tickets than ever. Burrow paid off with a Super Bowl appearance and multiple playoff runs.

The NFL Draft has turned into a spectator event. Fans filled with fervor buy tickets and plan a weekend around seeing who their team selects. Droves of people descend with glimmers of hope in their eyes, clamoring for a chance to cheer on their downtrodden squad once again.

Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf launched attention on the draft with their fight for the #1 pick in 1989. Will their team draft a Superbowl-winning Hall of Fame quarterback or be back asking themselves the same question in a few years?

Tune in to find out.