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It's coming - you know it and she knows it. She's going to lose you for two entire days to what looks like a bunch of coiffed up men discussing the intricacies of picking teams. "Grade schoolers have the 'picking teams' process mastered," she says as she looks at you with utter disdain. "Why do you need two days?"
Oh, but this is so much more. This is the NFL Draft. This is the time where every fan of every team has a chance to draft that playmaker. The Joe Montanas, the Jerry Rices, the Ronnie Lotts; the NFL draft is arguably where championships are won and lost.
At least until September.
This is your guide for explaining your two day, man-cave , hiatus from the real world. Your rationale for the NFL network, and the BBQ, and the beer, and the drunken debauchery that will invariably ensue when your team picks that bum or that superstar. This is a guide to get her to understand just enough to leave you alone for the glorious two days where even the Detroit Lions are winners.
This explanation is not for the weary, It's for better halves who care. The ones who really want to take a step into the wicked world of man-dom. It's a perilous path, but one that leads to understanding. So if she wants to have an understanding of the process sit her down in front of the screen and have her read. It might earn you a reprieve.
(Significant Others, start reading here)
The Draft all starts with money. Loads and loads of money. The NFL brings in literally billions of dollars of revenue in television contracts and sponsorships. Television stations want the NFL because they bring in billions of dollars in advertising dollars. It all comes from people wanting to WATCH the NFL. If people want to watch the product the NFL is pushing, football games, then advertisers will want to advertise during the games. Everybody pays, the NFL wins.
Here is where we hit our first vocabulary word. Parity. Learn it - love it - use it. Parity is how the NFL gets more people to watch more games because even a downtrodden 1-15 Miami Dolphins team can make the playoffs the following year with the right moves. Everyone has to be competitive so that any team can win. If any team can win then people have a reason to tune in.
So that's how the order for the NFL teams is determined. The worst go first, and the best go last. Really, the NFL is a benevolent organization - they empathize with the poor teams that lose. It's really all about fairness. And parity is the best way to do that.
So who do the teams pick? Anyone is eligible for the draft as long as they are at least three years removed from high school. Of course, anyone is eligible but teams really want the best players and those typically come from the collegiate ranks.
Here is our second vocabulary word/phrase: Big Board. A big board is a ranking of the 250 or so best draft-eligible players. Every team has one and each team ranks the players in different orders. In other words, the 49ers may think one player is the best player while another team thinks a completely different player is the better pick. The boards are decided by a grueling year-long process where scouts drive and fly all over the country to watch games and practices. This is all done in an attempt to minimize risk - the sure bets are always the valuable ones. You don't want to pick someone first and have them be terrible.
Ultimately, this is where the draft really takes it's shape. People argue all day about whether a player will be successful in the NFL. The analysts, and fans, put each player through a microscope. They want to know how fast the prospects are, how strong they are, how smart they are, how socially adjusted they are; you try to learn everything one can about each player to minimize their risk. Millions of dollars are at stake and NFL teams do not part with them lightly.
But the intrigue doesn't stop there. Draft picks are commodities. They are unrealized potential and could be invaluable. And just like any commodity, some are more valuable than others due to their position in the draft and the players available at those positions. So often, another drama unfolds while the talking heads are debating the finer points of someone's "fluid hips."
And this brings us to our final vocabulary word/phrase: trades. Trades happen all the time. There is even a big chart that tells you which trades make the most sense. (There is pretty much a chart for everything in the NFL.) Then people debate not only the players, but the trades and whether someone got a good deal for whatever they traded away.
If this seems like a lot of arguing and talking it is. Every angle of analysis can be the key to determining who are the winners and who are the losers and yes, it takes a lot of time to talk about 256 selections in such detail.
It's all very serious, though, because all of the analysis get back to one thing, winning football games. Every team wants the best set of players to make their team a contender for the world championship. And on paper, every draft class can be the missing piece for a renewed sense of hope. It's that hope that keeps us fans coming back. Any year can be "our year." Any player can be the linchpin of a dream championship run.
And it all starts with The Draft.